The following Responsible Travel Guide to Kathmandu is a guest post from Bianca at The Altruistic Traveler. For more wonderful travel stories and responsible tourism tips be sure to check out her blog!
In Nepal they greet each other using the word Namaste, meaning an acknowledgment of the soul in one by the soul in another. Namaste represents the energy that you feel when you visit this part of the world. Nepal is a paradise. The atmosphere, the landscape, the people – all that encompasses this great land was, for me, magical.
I met many a traveller who resonated with me on the idea that Nepal was truly a magical place. Their experiences unforgettable. Stories of conquering mountains, connecting with locals and indulging in hearty Dal Bhat, the staple cuisine with its roots in the Nepalese countryside.
Although this magical place has experienced its fair share of hardship over the past few years, the resilience of the people and the land is inspiring. From earthquakes to floods, sanctions and drought, Nepal stands strong, full of hope, opportunity and the kindness ingrained in it’s people.
When we see hardship, like that which Nepal has gone through, we often wonder how we can help, how we can make a difference. Luckily, we can help by doing what we love most: travel! Sustainable tourism can play a large role in our aid to Nepal, and in this article I’ll offer some guidance on social enterprises and endeavors which you can use to plan your responsible travel in adventure, should you ever plan to journey to the land of the Himalayas.
Sustainable Tourism in Nepal
Choosing an experience where you know your money is being invested back into the local community can make a huge impact on the lives of others. Whether it’s community-based tourism or ecotourism, many companies offer far more ethical alternatives than others.
Welcome to my Yard – The Welcome To My Yard tour is a walking day-tour of Kathmandu, with profits going to support the work of the organization. The social enterprise provides community-based support, practical education, training and savings schemes for at-risk youth and families in the community. Take a half day or full day tour through the backstreets of Kathmandu, finding hidden locations and local tips and insights from a Kathmandu resident.
Seven Women – Seven Women is an organization empowering women through education, skills training and income generation. Participate in a cooking class and tour of the Seven Women headquarters, where you’ll learn traditional Nepali dishes and fund training for women in hospitality at the same time! The organization also offers craft lessons and language skills training, each supporting the project’s mission. If you’re interested in joining them you can book a tour via their website.
3 Sisters Adventure Trekking – This trekking group works in partnership with Empowering Women of Nepal (EWN) to promote and empower women through sustainable tourism. EWN educates and provides practical skill-based training programs to the women, while 3 Sisters Adventure Trekking guarantees field experiences, and employs interested trainees on paid apprenticeship programs.
I Like Local – An online platform where you can connect with local guides or meet locals for unique travel experiences and activities. The website acts as a free platform to help locals offer their experiences to tourists. You can find all sorts of rare experiences on here, including trekking with a local, staying on a tea farm or making your own Nepalese souvenir with a women’s fair trade organization.
Nepal has a number of restaurants that operate as social enterprises, giving visitors the chance to support local community projects while they dine. Here are a few of the best sustainable travel restaurants in Kathmandu.
Sarangi – This vegan and vegetarian restaurant provides job opportunities to the Gandharba people, one of the lowest ranking castes of Nepal. The profits from the restaurant are invested back into community projects helping to empower the Gandharba and support sustainable development in their villages.
The Cafe With No Name – This cafe tucked quietly in a small laneway in central Thamel supports the NGO Our Sansar, working to alleviate poverty and empower communities. Their project in Nepal focuses particularly on relieving the plight of street children through educational and skills training programs.
The Village Cafe – Located in Lalitpur, this cafe supports women’s empowerment by providing training opportunities to marginalized women in the community. The ingredients of the cuisines are grown and prepared by the women home-based workers of the nearby villages.
ROKPA Bakery – The ROPKA Bakery is located nearby the famous Boudhanath Stupa and works as a social enterprise funding ROKPA’s community projects, including child welfare, poverty alleviation and women’s empowerment.
Sustainable Shopping in Nepal
There are many places throughout Nepal that sell products that are likely to be derived from some sort of unethical labour. Choosing to shop fair trade in Nepal means that you are contributing to a future of fair wages and human rights for all.
Local Women’s Handicrafts – A fair trade textile and handicraft collective in Kathmandu, focused on empowering and educating disadvantaged women using sustainable methods. The shop, located in Kathmandu, offers a variety of products from clothes to bags and jewelry, all produced by women here in Nepal with profits invested back into local women’s community projects.
Timro Concept Store – Think one-stop-shop for all your fair trade needs. As many local producers do not have the funds or resources to have a shop in town, the Timro Concept Store is giving these producers a place to shine. Located in Jhamsikhel, the store showcases over 30 fair trade producers, with products that range from handicrafts, to apparel, and food based goods.
Kolpa Store – An environmentally conscious social enterprise in Jhamsikhel that sells locally made everyday household and personal goods. The store promotes handmade products and the three R’s – reduce, reuse and recycle, with profits from the store supporting the empowerment of women and the differently abled.
Dhukuti – A store located in Lalitpur, which sells hand crafted products from all over Nepal. The products are produced by the Association for Craft Producers under certified fair trade standards. The shop is perfect for finding gifts to bring home as they stock a range of products including cotton textiles, copper, carpentry, ceramics and more.
For more information on being a sustainable shopper, check out our Ethical Gift Guide! Full of amazing companies that help give back!
Eco-friendly Accommodation in Nepal
The environmental impact of the hospitality and hotel industry is quite astounding, so choosing a hotel or guesthouse that are eco-conscious can help reduce the impact you are making. Alternatively, choosing accommodation that has a social impact can also help to make your travels more responsible.
ROKPA Guesthouse – The ROKPA Guest House is located just a few minutes from the Bodhanath Stupa and is a hotel with a social impact arm. The profits from your stay at ROKPA will help to contribute to some of it’s major projects in Kathmandu, including health and education programs. The hotel trains and employs marginalized youth in the community, providing job opportunities in the area of hospitality.
CommunityHomestay.com – Community Homestay runs homestay programs all over Nepal as a way to generate income for marginalized families in remote communities. The social enterprise trains families in the area of hospitality, many of them run entirely by women. The homestays help to provide sustainable development, both economically and socially, to these communities with the aim to expand into more areas of Nepal.
Annapurna Eco Village – A family run mountain resort providing a traditional Nepali cultural experience with the comfort of modern day western style amenities. The Eco Village is working hard to reduce waste and provide alternative waste management systems in a region that is lacking in these types of resources. Read more about their environmental initiatives here.
Tiger Mountain Pokhara Lodge – An award winning lodge, renowned for their responsible tourism efforts that include sourcing local, organic food, supporting community groups and conservation efforts, and reducing their environmental impact. The lodge is also a member of Pack for a Purpose, a platform that promotes the concept of travel philanthropy.
How to Find a Volunteer Organization in Nepal
When traveling to Nepal you will generally meet two types of travelers, those who are trekking and those who are volunteering.
There is estimated to be upwards of 15,000* NGOs operating in Nepal alone, hence the number of volunteers entering the country to support development endeavors. While some volunteer opportunities are warranted there is much to learn about volunteering in Nepal before you decide to embark on a mission to “change the world”.
In recent years the concept of voluntourism has received a lot of negative connotation, especially in the area of orphanage tourism. According to Next Generation Nepal, an NGO working to prevent child trafficking, there are over 16,000 children living in “orphanages” in Nepal, yet at least two thirds of these children are not orphans. Traffickers are exploiting marginalized families in order to feed what has now, for some, become a lucrative business.
As a volunteer it is important to research before you consider volunteering in Nepal, and determine whether your time will in fact, be worth more than your money. Perhaps investing into local community projects, community-based tourism or supporting a reputable charity will make more of a positive impact than volunteering with vulnerable children.
Below are some resources to help you make your volunteer experience an ethical one :
If you have any more advice on responsible travel or volunteering in Nepal please drop us a comment in the section below.