Sunday, March 2, 2014

Tourist Giving Guidelines

When I lived in the US, I was just above the 48 million people who struggle from one day to the next. I had security in the US, but it seemed the wolf was always nearby. So, when I got to India and Nepal I felt so rich. My meager retirement that was hardly above minimum standards suddenly made me wealthy. I didn’t know how to act. Like many tourists I see coming to Nepal, I did not use my sudden wealth properly. 

After almost three years of being here and seeing so many others make the same mistakes I did, I am writing some simple guidelines to help tourists manage their money better and not be taken for the fool by the local people. 

My most noteworthy blunder was in India, which I wrote about in my eBook, Nepal: A Tourist’s Manual. An old man came up to me with an empty eye drop bottle and an obvious need for eye drops. He asked me in his simple way to help him. Since I am a widow I have a soft spot in my heart for little old men; I reached into my purse for a 500 rupee note and handed it to him. Afterwards I found out that the eye drops cost around 30 rupee and a doctor’s visit at any local hospital would cost around 15-20 rupees. Even eye surgery would cost only a few hundred dollars. A crowd had gathered and at one point I was even more confused and wondered if I had given enough. They were actually laughing at such a sight. 

Not knowing the social norms is a disaster waiting to happen, but Nepal is a country that is difficult to find information about. Yes, there is considerable written, but who is the bulk written by? Tourists who are only here for a few short weeks. The Nepali give no clues and only hope you are as naive as I was in India. 

Here are a few guidelines to know how much to pay:

Village Home-stay: When you get here you will be invited to countless villages to stay with your new, Nepali friends. It sounds inviting, but how much to pay? Your new friend will likely tell you it is completely up to you. It is important that you find out in advance how much he expects from you. You can ask how much the last person paid then explain to him how much your daily budget is. “My budget is up to 1,500 NRs. per day,” you can explain. “If I go to your village and pay 300 NRs. for the bus fare each way and stay there for two nights that would only leave me 1,200 NRs. per day. Would 750 NRs. be OK with you and your wife?” Be very clear in advance as to how much money is to be paid. When he looks disappointed, ask him if the toilet is inside. Seriously, how much should a person pay for a room without glass in the windows and a toilet you have to get to from outside? 

That would leave you enough for a gift. You might notice they don’t have any rechargeable lamps, which would make an excellent gift, but keep the price to be within that budget you’ve explained. Otherwise, you will be doing exactly what I did with the Indian man needing eye drops. Note that you should also bring something for the wife, but the mother-in-law will be entitled to it. Bring two scarves, one for the wife that should have red on it and one for the mother-in-law that can have red if the father-in-law is still living. Widows do not usually wear red. Do ask about the color because some castes have different rules. You could also give something from your country, but not worth more than 300-500 NRs. each. Another gift possibility would be a couple of necklaces purchased near temple sites -- not from the touts. Buy the ones that have little glass beads with several strands of string. They cost about 100 NRs. and maybe a package of tikas for about 10 NRs. These little packets of tikas are also great gifts for the young girls. 

Birthdays and other celebrations: If your new friend is having a birthday you will enjoy sharing in with him, but how much to spend on a gift? If I were invited to a birthday celebration of a new friend back home I would try to spend at least $20. Many tourists use that same scale here and spend over 1,000 NRs. That is way too much and is not necessary. You can get him a rechargeable lamp for about 500-600 NRs. (avoid all Chinese products). Other suggestions are socks, T-shirt, an English book, etc. But something worth 500-1000 would be fine. You can also give a used gift from something you brought from home and find you don’t need. There are many celebrations such as a child’s first solid meal. For these celebrations you can bring a small toy, as well as 200-500 NRs. 

Dinner: If you are invited to dinner it is customary to bring some fruit, that’s all. I like to get a cloth bag from the mini market just to keep a few plastic bags from being used on the planet. I put one kilo of fruit in the bag. I generally do not eat the fruit with them because of the hygiene issues.

Spiritual Healings, Astrology Readings, etc. Healing, psychic readings, reiki attunements and such are very expensive in the West. The Nepali know that and try to match the prices here, but it is not necessary to pay so much. I've gotten astrology charts and readings and spiritual healing sessions for well under $10. Some of the established yoga places in Thamel charge quite a bit, but it isn't necessary to pay so much unless you like that kind of place.  

Other times: There are other times that you will be asked to give that are not appropriate at all. When you are at the airport or bus station there are many men standing around trying to get you to let them ‘help’ you. This man will ask you for $5 even if he did little more than put your suitcase in the taxi. When this happens, turn to him and explain that you had just used your time with him to help him to practice English. “If I pay you to put the bag away for me I will have to charge you for the English lesson. I charge 40 Euro for English lessons.” Laugh and then ignore him. 

Giving more than is appropriate is as bad as not giving anything. Also check my blog post about "How to be a good tourist."

Did you know I wrote an eBook filled with tips on getting the most out of your visit to Nepal?

Satisfaction Guaranteed: NO FINE PRINT. If you don't truly love Nepal: A Tourist’s Manual, please send for 100% money back. If you are not completely satisfied just send your purchase information along with a note to:

Nepal: A Tourist’s Manual-For more information check out our website. If you enjoy this blog and the website you will enjoy the 299 page eBook. It is a well illustrated, easy read with over 1,000 tips to help you get the most out of Nepal.

Visit my website: Nepal: A Tourist's Manual


  1. This blog shared very informative and interesting stuff. I liked this one. You explained everything in a perfect manner. Thanks for your efforts and keep sharing.

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  2. Serious lover of your blog, a considerable number of your blog posts have really helped me out. Looking towards updates! Painter Nepal, Painting cost Nepal

  3. last month I was in Nepal, I met my 2 porters and they're brothers. They're very kind. That made me very close to them. They also support themselves by working as a math tutor and working as a porter during the high season of trekking. They told me this coming January they will start taking Master Degree in Mathematics. I have been thinking maybe I should send some money maybe twice a year, around 500$ to help them with their school. But I'm worried if that's a good idea or maybe they will feel offended . Can you please give an advice. Thanks a lot

    1. I think this is a great idea. So many just need a leg up, but they can become a lazy dependent if you don't set some guidelines. I would suggest that they send you their transcripts and school enrollment forms. Some will be in Nepalese, but you can usually tell what the paper is for. A lot of the official forms are in English. No one makes 100% on the finals or even 80%. It goes tier 1 tier 2 and those that fail. Tier 1 grades are around 70%. Horrible school system here in Nepal.

      I would give them support but keep them on a short leash. Then they would need to provide you all the documents that shows they completed the semester. But another thing is that they don't get the results of their final for a year after they take the test. My suggestion is for the young Nepali to be responsible by providing you all the documents to make sure you know they are studying. I'd also send the money to the school instead of them.

      Good luck. I hope it works out well for you.

  4. Hi, nice to read your post tourist giving guidelines and for all the tourist in nepal I think you guys really need to think about it cause all the things she had written is true and couldn't be ignored but for Kathmandu I have something more that I want to inform you if you travel to Kathmandu, Nepal; you don't have to give any penny to beggars if they are blocking your way or surrounding. You can scold them or call for help the persons nearby actually 95% of beggars are not from Kathmandu and you don't have to worry of as you face in India. Ya you need to always stay in registered guest house or hotels cause there you won't be cheated for fares and facilities but also ask all the questions that you want before stay. If you are travelling by feet to some places have a good view of map and incase of confusion don't hesitate to ask the people for the way to your destination I prefer you not to be shy of. But if you are travelling by local taxi or rickshaw always ask the hotel staff where you stay to help for the fares cause there, its the main problem I have seen for tourists they can ask you upto 2-5 times up than they need so please have some informations that how much it will cost you if you travel by ...  ...  from the hotel you stay in case if you know the route you can travel by local bus but I suggest you to use tourist vehicles it's safer than the lical ones. The second thing if you are using a guide ask for the professionals one to know about him you can ask some questions to know if he/she is perfect to travel with. Don't hire a simple guide who will just describe you as you can read in your travel books they will only mislead you. Hope you guys understand. Be sure that Kathmandu is a safer place for tourist but also be careful for pickpocketers thieves and road accidents its not a huge problem there are only few finger countable cases of it but also who knows may be some days are bad for us. Always remember to note down the vehicle no if you can message it to your friends before you get in and don't forget to pick all your luggage before and after you use any transportation vehicles. And lastly that you can ask for anyone nearby for help don't be shy, nervous or be afraid of any one if you are not doing things out of law. But also I suggest you to travel always with safe and secured.

    And to the anonymous writer I don't think you need to help to the students cause they can manage their livings and education fares but also it's your choise and their will you can ask them.

    With lots of love to the author of this blog post 'the tourists manual'  and to all the visitors of nepal.
    Milan Maharjan

    1. Thank you so much for your comment. I am so sorry, but the settings for this blog site was turned so I never got notification on comments. I thought no one commented and now I see a lot.

      Milan, you are so right. One one hand you have to watch out for cheaters, but on the other you can get help from anyone. I've seen it happen where a random woman helped me with a rickshaw driver and he obeyed her like a child. It's a fascinating society.

  5. Very nice post. Thanks for the tips. I am sure all of them will come in handy during our upcoming trip:)