If I told you Nepal with kids was easy, I’d been lying. Nepal has been the most challenging place we’ve ever taken the children, and that includes India, but it’s been worth it 1 million times over. They got sick less in India and didn’t have to climb any mountains. So here for you, in case you’re as crazy as us, is our run down on why Nepal with kids is the best of ideas, and the worst of ideas. You will never find another country so rich in culture, history, adventure and natural beauty, as Nepal. It’s simply stunning. Another bonus of travelling in Nepal, we met and had a chat with the very gorgeous Prince Harry. He was also in Nepal to help drive tourists back after the earthquake. This country deserves our support, I would encourage everyone to get out there and spend your tourist dollar just as soon as you can.
Nepal With Kids, 1 Month Trekking, Everest, Kathmandu and Pokhara After the Earthquake
Kids Getting Sick in Nepal
In one month, we have had night-time vomiting 5 times. Once both children did it on the same night giving us a constant bathroom relay of Dettol and buckets, all night. This has never happened to us or them before in our 3 years of travel. At home in London, yes, but never on the road.
There has also been diarrhoea, regularly, with some extreme emergencies. This has never happened to us before either.
Chef hasn’t been too good, but thankfully, I’ve been fine, maybe because I’m the family clean freak and won’t put anything near my mouth unless it’s been incinerated, washed, wiped and hand gel-ed. I also stay vegetarian and stick to local Nepali dishes.
We never managed to pin-point what was making them sick, but the problem was at its worst in Kathmandu, a city globally notorious for tummy trouble. ( Don’t even think about visiting this part of the world without Travel Insurance, this is the one we use)
When we arrived in Nepal we were pretty blazé about food, they ate the things they normally eat in India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, anywhere in Asia. Once the first round of vomiting started we cut right back to heavily cooked foods, pre-bottled, chemically treated or boiled water and big brand name soft drinks only. We bought Dettol soap, hand gel and wipes and used them regularly ( something we hardly ever do), yet they still got sick. It seemed that no matter what they did, these kids of mine were intent on putting the wrong things in their mouths.
Even after prolific warnings D still put away a bowl of complimentary peanuts towards the end of our month, he was up all night. They would still drink directly from cans without wiping them thoroughly. They would just have to order a hamburger rather than dal. It’s been incredibly difficult to keep them away from everything that might set them off again, but they want to take the risk to order foods they love. They’re old enough to make their own choices and learn from them, sometimes.
But even with the intermittent vomiting and diarrhoea, they’ve been OK, still cheerful, not massively under the weather. They still see the beauty in their surroundings, marvel at what’s going on and play and chatter between themselves. It’s not been a “biggie” as I’m fond of saying.
Air Pollution in Kathmandu and Kids
The air pollution in Kathmandu is pretty bad.
Around Thamel, the backpacker area, it seems OK, it’s only in traffic that you really notice it. You can easily buy masks from local shops or the huge Thamel “Supermarket” and trekkers’ provisions shop.
I wouldn’t bring kids with respiratory problems to Kathmandu. We had a few bad air days in Pokhara too before the air cleared. The mountain air , by contrast, is incredible.
No Power, No Water, No Heat
Power cuts happen every day in Nepal, to fairly predictable schedules. It’s more the case that sometimes the power is on, rather than sometimes it goes off.
Most bigger shops, guest houses and restaurants have variably-good back-up in the form of generators and solar power.
Our guest house in Kathmandu ( Stupa Guest House, click through to get rates ) did a brilliant job of keeping us lit and powered up. Sometimes we used battery packs and torches, but we managed.
The fuel embargo is officially over now, it didn’t impact us in any way other than sharing public buses with large fuel containers occasionally. There are still fuel queues for locals.
Hot showers are hard to find, the above guest house had a back-up gas shower that always worked even when the lights went out.
On the treks you can buy a hot shower from about $3 US each in most guest houses. The higher you go the more expensive that gets. None of us has had more than half a dozen showers in the last month, we’re not skanky, that’s normal for trekking.
Similarly, you can’t charge your electrical equipment in most trekking guest houses. Some charge $2 per charge, others $2-$5 per hour. It was free to charge in our Kathmandu guest house and in Pokhara we found a café that was happy for us to stay and charge devices so long as we ate there. A Solar Charger ( UK link) ( USA link here) would be a fabulous thing to have. We have a full post on travel gear for Nepal and for trekking.
In the mountains there is no heating in bedrooms and almost zero insulation. The restaurant/kitchen of your tea house will have a wood burner but at bed time you just dive under the blankets. The kids had sleeping bags, we didn’t, we all managed fine, we weren’t cold in bed.
Taking Kids to Altitude in the Himalayas
We flew from Kathmandu to Lukla at 2,843m. Flying into altitude isn’t a great idea and I was worried that the children would be affected when we got off the plane. Even though Lukla isn’t massively high, I was still concerned.
You can read about the white knuckle flight to Lukla and landing at the world’s most dangerous airport by clicking through. The kids coped far better than their mum did with the whole tiny plane thing.
When we got off in Lukla, D and I had slight headaches but as we descended during that afternoon of trekking they went away, never to return.
We had no further altitude issues at all. D eventually made it to 3,800m and stood at Tangboche Monastery triumphantly regarding Everest with me.
Kids seem just as likely as adults to develop altitude sickness, although research is hard to find. The first response to altitude sickness is to descend. Always have that option and know the symptoms to look for. There is no way I would take very young children, who couldn’t communicate their physical experiences, to altitude. But why listen to me right? Who am I, just a mum with a deep interest in mountains, a few high altitude treks under my belt and a background in hospital medical science. I’m not an authority.
Bad Dreams and Nightmares
Most people tend to have very vivid dreams at altitude.
One of my children suffers from night terrors intermittently, this was certainly amplified at altitude. The dreams have been improving with age and I couldn’t remember the last time he had a night terror, but he had 2 while we were high. The rest of the family had strange dreams too.
Trekking in The Himalayas with Kids, Why It’s Great
The only way to see this part of the world, the high Himalayas, is to walk. It is without doubt, totally, indescribably, breath-taking. Both visually and spiritually.
Your children will witness unique cultures that few people experience or understand along with abundant local animals and plants.
They will come away with a new idea of what is humanly possible as they witness porters carrying loads of up to 100Kg at altitude for many days and see how locals scratch a living from the soil and livestock.
They will develop a new idea of what they are physically and mentally capable of.
Walking can either be a silent meditation or an opportunity to talk, with family, with other trekkers from diverse backgrounds, or with locals. You meet the most interesting people up mountains.
You will never see anything as beautiful as sunrise in the snows of the Himalayas.
Heights, Scary Bridges, Precipitous Drops, Landslides, Yaks and Other Dangers of Trekking
There are dangers in the mountains, probably the biggest is yak and donkey caravans. If you’re standing on the cliff edge side of the path when they come through, you’ll more than likely be pushed off.
We crossed precarious bridges hundreds of metres above the valley floor, sometimes in high winds, rain and snow. There were landslides where the path had been taken out, some easy to cross, some very frightening.
There was wet, deep mud, full of donkey shit that went on for hours and hours. No turning back, no alternate route, you just keep going.
My kids never showed any fear. They crossed the bridges with way more ease than I. Our Sherpa guide, Nima, kept a very watchful eye on them, grabbing them, keeping up with them, protecting them. He was calm and confident and I don’t think I could have done it without him.
I have a post about those bridges, if you’ve seen the movie “Everest”, or even just the trailer, you’ll know the bridge we had to cross. But they’re not all that bad. Chef has video of me panicking, singing and swearing my way across the big one.
Long Bus Rides in Nepal With Kids
The bus rides go on and on, snaking around mountains on precarious paths. The bus journey back from Everest to Kathmandu was 13 hours and the most frightening of my life. The kids had no fear at all.
The buses, public and tourist, have plenty of leg-room, are pretty comfortable, but the risk of motion sickness is huge.
I dosed the boys with an antihistamine travel sickness medication before departure and had no trouble at all while those around us vomited into blue plastic bags.
After that first mega road trip the bus from Kathmandu to Pokhara is a breeze, nothing frightening and only 8 hours. The tourist buses on this route leave in convoys and stop regularly for food and toilet breaks, some of the best food we’ve eaten in Nepal was on these road-side breaks. Ear plugs are a good idea on bus trips, and a good book.
We’ll be posting about these buses soon.
What Can Kids Eat in Nepal
Menus in Kathmandu and Pokhara are extensive and diverse. If you have a mind to, you can order just about anything you like, but I’d urge caution. Sticking to well-cooked Nepalese foods is a good idea.
Nepalese food isn’t very hot, mo mos, thukpa and dal baht are normally fairly bland and contain plenty of vegetables. Vegetable curries are available and, low down, chicken curries should be OK to eat.
On treks your diet will become more limited, don’t touch meat up there as it all has to be carried up. Protein comes from eggs and dal soup as part of dal baht. Other than those staples, my boys ate a lot of fried potatoes with veg, you eat what they can grow locally and once you’re high, that’s mostly potatoes.
Trekkers drink flask after flask of hot tea, black, milk or variations on lemon, ginger and honey. Tea is safe, warms you up and keeps you hydrated at altitude. Soft drinks, chocolate and biscuits are available, but cost more and more the higher you go.
Find a full posts on Nepalese food and food for treks here.
I Don’t Want to Scare You Off.
This last month has been one of the most wonderful of my life, being in those mountains with the kids has been magical but it has been hard. I think in many ways harder on me than on the kids.
I’m the stress head around here, I suffer from anxiety and obviously I worry about the boys more than I worry for myself, I’m a mum.
Their father has been cool the whole time so my view IS an exaggerated one. But as always, I tell it like it is, for me and for them. If I say that I’d do it all over again tomorrow with them, but the kids would hate me for it, does that give you a better idea? They found the walking less than fun, sometimes, but they did it and have incredible memories and self-esteem to hold onto for the rest of their lives. Other times they ran on ahead, chatting, skipping and hopping from rock to rock in a crazy Himalayan parkour. The biggest challenge for them was being away from their computers for 12 days straight, and I think that would be their biggest issue about doing it again.
I will be back in Nepal and the Himalayas just as soon as I can. I’m not sure the kids would choose to come with me just yet, but they did it and they were awesome. Thanks for doing it with me kids, particularly D on our tough day trek to Tangboche Monastery and back, you were great company and huge encouragement when I found the going hard.
UPDATE: 2017 will see D and I heading to Everest Base Camp. He will be 12. He’s agreed and is keen to go. So next post, EBC with kids!
Please remember that the people of Nepal are some of the best in the world, they need the tourists to come back NOW, 11 months after the earthquake. There is no reason to delay, Nepal is open and absolutely fine to visit. Want to see what gear you really need for Nepal, with kids or without?
This post contains affiliate links, they cost you nothing. We were not sponsored by Stupa Guest House we just loved staying with Ram and family.