Responsible Travel Guide to Kathmandu, Nepal

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I’ve always been an empathetic person striving to find a way to make a difference, but it has taken me a long time to figure out my way of doing that. Changing habits and normalcies is difficult for anyone, naturally. If it wasn’t, I think a lot of people would change their harmful behavior. And, perhaps it’s that they just don’t know how certain things harm others, the environment, animals, and society. On the other hand, I think the world has been shifting somewhat. We’re carrying our reusable bags and our reusable water bottles, we’ve got our metal straws on our person, we’re shopping at farmers’ markets. But, do those habits extend when we travel or do we just do what’s easy? Kathmandu is the capital city of Nepal and it is overwhelming so I’m here to show you that responsible travel in Kathmandu is completely possible and honestly quite simple when you know what to look for.

You’ve fallen in love with the people of Nepal, so let’s support them financially and socially, right?


Ethical Shopping

Everyone wants something amazing to take back home to remember their time in a new place. Trust me when I say, you’re going to want a piece of Nepal to take back home with you.

As with any other major city, the options for souvenirs and shopping in Kathmandu is absolutely endless. I’m a very budget traveler (except maybe when it comes to the eating, oops!) but I also want to use my dollars wisely. It can be tempting to buy a pair of elephant pants for $3. I get it. I’ve done it.

Fast fashion is a big problem though and those cheap pants will fall apart and you will have contributed to this big problem with really no long-lasting asset for you.

I was surprised to find that Kathmandu has plenty of local organizations that make ethical shopping easy and accessible.

Local Women’s Handicrafts

Local Women is a fair-trade textile and handicraft organization in Kathmandu focusing on empowering and educating marginalized women using sustainable methods. All of the products are ethically produced, provide fair wages and working conditions for the women.

Beni Handicrafts

Beni Handicrafts collects wrappers off the street along with other rubbish and turns them into beautiful and functional products by women forced to move into the city from the outlying hills.

Ekadesma

Ekadesma designs, makes, and sells their products made entirely from natural fibers and weaved by local disadvantaged women.

 

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HUB

HUB is an interactive space in the heart of Thamel that houses the concept of conscious living. It does that by bringing together the two privately owned social businesses – kar.ma COFFEE and Social Tours in one open space.
Kar.ma Coffee works with over 650 small coffee farmers across Nepal, and around 32 different artisan groups in Kathmandu valley. It works through the entire supply chain of coffee and beyond. HUB provides the exposure and business front to all of this work – benefiting hundreds of stakeholders.
responsible travel in kathmandu

Here is a more in-depth look at ethical shopping in Kathmandu from The Altruistic Traveller.


Sustainable Accommodation in Kathmandu

When considering where to stay in Kathmandu, do your research. There are definitely plenty of options ranging drastically. The good thing is the prices are mostly all affordable. While I think we’ll start to see more and more of this in the future, there are a few spots that have been paving the way in terms of sustainable accommodation in Kathmandu.

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Traditional Comfort

I didn’t get to stay in Traditional Comfort myself but I was there several times as a few of my friends were staying there and I have to say -I was quite jealous. The detail is amazing and stunning.

Local craftspeople from Patan and Bungamati have hand crafted every detail in the building, from the dark wood carved beams to the bronze fixtures in the lobby to the decorative tile-work in the bathrooms.

Kantipur Temple House

Kantipur Temple House is located on the edge of Thamel and really embodies sustainable accommodation. The property is run on solar power, there is no television or air conditioning, the food is grown in the garden, there is a “no plastics” rule on the property


Best Restaurants in Kathmandu

I’ve already discovered that there are some great vegan options in Kathmandu which are ethical in their own right but there are still plenty of restaurants do amazing things socially that are worth highlighting.

The Cafe With No Name

This cafe supports Our Sansar – a volunteer-run organization helping street children via clothing, housing, rehabilitation, education, life skills training and more.

Cocina Mitho Chha

responsible travel in kathmandu

After arriving in Kathmandu after almost two straight days of travel with hardly any sleep and jetlag hitting hard, I was hungry. It was fate that close to my hotel, we found Cocina Mitho Chha.

It was honestly the perfect introduction to Kathmandu and Nepal. Tucked away on a side street it was a beautiful oasis in a congested and in your face city. I had my first momo experience (and I’m now forever hooked), the service was great, and their mission is amazing.

Cocina Mitho Chha is a social enterprise with the purpose of educating the youth in Nepal. They offer children from orphanages, the mountains, and low-income families opportunities for a better future. The funds from the Bed & Breakfast, restaurant, and local Nepali food cooking classes go to fund the running of the school and scholarships.  They train the youth in the hospitality sector including hotel management, cooking, bartending, housekeeping, and hospitality English classes.

responsible travel in kathmandu

Sarangi

Sarangi is a vegetarian restaurant (with vegan options) and was created to help musicians who used to earn a living by going from village to village and playing. Their art form is dying due to technology but Sarangi was created to make sure it doesn’t.

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Let others know how they can leave a positive impact in Kathmandu!Click To Tweet

Responsible Tours and Classes in Kathmandu

Want to explore Kathmandu but not sure where to start? Why not try a Kathmandu city tour through one of these socially responsible companies.

Backstreet Academy Tours

On my last day in Nepal, I woke up at 5 am to get ready and head to Thamel for my 7 am breakfast walking tour that was promised to take me to spots a non-local would never even existed let alone how to actually get to them. The name of this company is perfect because the guides really do take you down the backstreets, the alleys, and tiny doorways you have to duck and suck in to get through. Then, they fed you delicious food.

responsible travel in kathmandu

responsible travel in kathmandu

responsible travel in kathmandu

Check out all of the Backstreet Academy Tours.

Urban Adventures

I’m a fan of Urban Adventures tours, a branch of Intrepid Travel, as they are focused on responsible tourism. They’re a fantastic option for taking a tour in Kathmandu with lots of choices!

Welcome to My Yard Tours

This nonprofit is changing the lives of street-connected and at-risk children, young people and families in some of the worlds most disadvantaged communities so that children and young people can be safe, be inspired, have choices and opportunities and enable positive futures.

You can join several different half-day city walks and get an in-depth guide to Kathmandu from a local while helping at-risk children and their families.

Social Tours

Social Tours has been leading the way in responsible tourism in Kathmandu and all of Nepal. With countless tour and trek options, Social Tours is a great option.

While in Kathmandu, I took a cooking class with several other bloggers. Their cooking class is a “pay what you wish” program which is, in a sense, a social experiment to see what something like this is worth to people.

Two local women lead the three-hour cooking class in which they take you to the local market to pick up ingredients and then demonstrate and teach you how to make the dish yourself. Then, you get to eat your creations!

responsible travel in kathmandu

responsible travel in kathmandu

Seven Women

After starting in 2006 when the Founder met seven disabled women working in a tin shed, Seven Women has helped over 5,000 marginalized women by educating, training and employing them. You can participate in a 10-day immersion trip, a 10-day trip with a purpose, or classes in Kathmandu including a cooking class, a language class, and a handicraft workshop.


Other Social Enterprises in Kathmandu

There are tons of social enterprises in Kathmandu doing some amazing things. Here are some I’d really like to highlight. For a more in-depth at more social enterprises, check out these wonderful organizations.

Seeing Hands

Seeing Hands is a social enterprise that provides training and employment opportunities in massage therapy for visually impaired people. Seeing Hands has four massage clinics across Nepal with professionally trained blind therapists providing massages to guests.

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Circus Kathmandu

In 2010, 13 Nepalese people were rescued from trafficking and turned to contemporary circus. By using the skills they learned through conditions of modern-day slavery, they paved a new path out of stigma and poverty and turned it into a future of artistry, strength, and inspiration.

We work with NGO’s as advocates and workshop leaders to facilitate discussion on various social issues within communities. We know our unique form of engagement grabs people’s attention and supports thinking about social change in a different, solution-focused way. We work at grassroots level with people who can make change happen – the same people who are most adversely affected by issues such as trafficking, women’s health and equality, who stand to gain the most by change – the targeted families and communities themselves.


General Responsible Travel Tips

  • Be prepared. The water in Nepal is not safe to drink. Plastic water bottles are seen littering the streets and rivers everywhere and if you forgot your reusable water bottle, you’ll contribute to the problem. A reusable water bottle + filter combo is your easiest option but you could take along a Lifestraw or water purification tablets instead.
  • Don’t give money to beggars. It breaks my heart that I essentially have to act like I don’t care at all when a child begs me for money. It wasn’t really an issue except for a couple of places but they were relentless. This is a tough decision but the reason behind not giving is because children will often not go to school or will be pulled from school to beg for money. This only attributes to the vicious cycle. There are plenty of ways (see all the above in this post) to assist street children and at-risk youth.
  • Ask before snapping photos. When taking photos in public, I don’t worry about people being in it if the focus isn’t on one specific person or a couple of people. However, if you are focusing on one, or a couple, people please make some kind of motion or ask if it is okay to take their photo. It is just extremely rude otherwise – don’t treat people like they’re in a zoo.
  • Don’t take photos of children. Again if it’s just in a public place and children happen to be in my photo, I don’t worry about it. But, I have a pretty hard rule about not taking photos of children specifically.
  • Don’t haggle just to haggle. There are certain areas where haggling is normal and expected but don’t do it just to be a jerk and get a $2 item for $1.50. That $.50 goes way further for them than for you.
  • Respect the culture. Use temple etiquette, dress appropriately, learn a bit of the language, and so on.


Do you try to travel responsibly? What measures do you take?

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responsible travel in kathmandu
responsible travel in kathmandu

Traveler. Freelance Writer. Blogger. Vegan. Risk Taker. Voice for the Voiceless.

12 Comments

  1. Juliann

    July 17, 2019 at 9:06 AM

    Great tips, Ashley. I try to support the local economies whenever I travel and have made it a habit to buy a piece of jewelry and a piece of art from locals everywhere I go. Naturally, I like to eat local foods and support local businesses, but I need to be more deliberate about choosing places to stay that are environmentally-friendly. That’s the biggest struggle for me.

    • Ashley Hubbard

      July 19, 2019 at 10:06 PM

      Hotels can be a struggle for sure especially due to greenwashing in the industry.

  2. Olivia

    July 17, 2019 at 4:07 PM

    These are really great tips! It’s so important to source where your tourism dollars are going when you travel. I’ve never been in love with the idea of haggling, so I have to agree with your sentiment!

    • Ashley Hubbard

      July 19, 2019 at 10:06 PM

      Me either – I’m so bad at haggling haha. I’d rather just not.

  3. Heather

    July 18, 2019 at 6:50 PM

    The cooking class with a “pay what you wish” theme is an interesting idea. I hope that people would pay well for a 3-hour cooking class that includes your meal. What a really cool thing to do. I love to do food tours but am starting to want to do cooking classes when I travel to learn to make the travel dishes I love. I also like that there are so many organizations that help the disabled and the victimized. I agree that giving the kids money is contributing to a vicious cycle. It is SO immensely hard when you see their eyes. I came across this in Peru!

    • Ashley Hubbard

      July 19, 2019 at 10:06 PM

      I hope everyone pays well as well! I’m hoping since it is through a socially responsible company that people are already conscious about things like that. Regardless, $15-20 is an acceptable amount for this course in Nepal, in my opinion.

  4. Sarah

    July 19, 2019 at 7:52 AM

    This guide is AMAZING, Ashley! Seriously I never could have found all these places on my own. We really only had 2 days in Kathmandu when I was there. One was a full on day tour of the temples, and the second we got massages and showered like 5 times and were just exhausted haha. I always thought I wouldn’t want to spend much time in Kathmandu when I return to Nepal, as I found it crowded and dirty. But I think you’ve just changed my mind! I would definitely use this post to guide me in choosing the best hotels and things to do in Kathmandu!!

    • Ashley Hubbard

      July 19, 2019 at 10:04 PM

      I can understand the initial thought about Kathmandu being crowded and dirty – because it definitely is! I definitely found that it’s so much more though too! I hope you’ll get to explore it more one day! 🙂

  5. Julianne

    July 20, 2019 at 2:12 PM

    What a thorough guide! You’ve saved future travelers a lot of potentially hard work figuring out where to spend their hard-earned dollars. I also agree with your point about children and begging — it’s hard to walk by, but like you said, children can be pulled from school to beg and that’s a horrible cycle. Easier said than done, though, for sure (especially when you’re in the process of walking by). Loved learning about Cocina Mitho Chha and how they offer children from orphanages, the mountains, and low-income families opportunities for a better future!

  6. Cat Lin

    July 21, 2019 at 10:03 AM

    I feel like traveling to Kathmandu eye-opening.And it sounds uplifting too that you are extending a helping hand while being on a vacation. It’s a good thing that they are able to put up social enterprises that boosts their Tourism. These are great tips. I agree with your stand about giving money to beggars especially children. I’d rather give them food.

  7. Eileen

    July 24, 2019 at 2:54 PM

    Great tips. I agree with all of them. It really turns my stomach when people take photo of kids – I worry they can’t fully consent and are easier targets to snap pics, you know? The haggling too – or people who brag about how ‘cheap’ a destination is, then get mad when street food is $3 over a usual $1 or something. Mindful travel with a focus on empathy and respect is always key.

  8. Andi

    July 30, 2019 at 9:10 AM

    Ashley, I am so impressed with all the posts you have written about Nepal – there is no shortage of blog content about this corner of the world, but I have not found it interesting or useful, but your posts tell me something that I didn’t know and helps guide me. I think I already mentioned that I had never considered visiting Nepal before, but now I am getting curious. I appreciate this post because it is SO hard these days to know where products are made and sold and I hate going somewhere in the world and buying something that is supposed to be local and it turned out it was made in China, Vietnam, you know the usual places!

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