This is our gay guide to Nepal based on our experience traveling around the country as a gay couple, from Kathmandu to Pokhara, with a colossal Annapurna trek adventure in between.
The gay beacon of South Asia!
Nepal ranks as one of our favorite destinations. Not only does it have some of the most incredible scenery we've ever seen, but it's also a very gay-friendly country – at least by Asian standards…
It may come as a surprise, but Nepal has for years been a beacon for LGBTQ rights across what is a very conservative part of Asia. Nepal's constitution in 2015 introduced a whole set of anti-discrimination laws to protect its LGBTQ community, and Pride parades have grown massively in popularity over the past decade.
We fell in love with Nepal because trekking in the Himalayas is one of the most unforgettable adventures we've ever done together. Alongside this, the Nepali people were nothing but welcoming and super courteous to us, which just made it even more special. Take it from us, a trip to Nepal is nothing short of a magical exploration into nature that will blow your mind and quickly make you want to return for more!
Gay hike to Everest Base Camp
For the ultimate hiking gaycation, join a gay group trek with Out Adventures to Everest Base Camp. It's a fantastic way to connect with other like-minded fabulous trekkers as you take in all those breathtaking views of the Himalayas. Honestly, it's a once-in-a-lifetime experience you shouldn't skip out on!
Gay rights in Nepal
Our first impression of LGBTQ rights in Nepal – upon receiving our landing card (see the photo of it below), we noticed in the section to declare your gender, a third “OTHER” box was offered! For a country in South Asia to offer something like this, we were shooketh!
Remember, this is a region of the world where if you're gay, you're pretty screwed! Most countries in South Asia have an archaic anti-gay law in place, namely the Maldives, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Afghanistan. In the latter, the punishment can even be capital punishment!
Only Nepal, India, and Bhutan have repealed their archaic anti-gay laws in South Asia. However, Nepal has taken one fabulous step further and introduced a comprehensive set of anti-discrimination laws into its constitution to protect its LGBTQ community. It still has a long way to go, of course, but when you compare it to almost all of its Asian neighbors, it's quite easy to see why we rate Nepal as one of the most gay-friendly nations in Asia.
Is Nepal safe for gay travelers?
Yes, it is. Whilst Nepal is a very conservative nation, tourism is so important for the economy that it has made large swathes into attracting the pink pound. And it's done an impressive job! We felt extremely welcome traveling as a gay couple in Nepal. We never had problems getting a double bed, and only ever encountered warm friendly people, curious to know more about us.
The worst we ever encountered was being asked (many times!) if we are brothers…
We do stress the fact that this is our perspective as gay foreigners traveling in Nepal. For the local LGBTQ community, things are different. Nepal remains a very conservative nation and many gay local guys we met were either in the closet or leading a double “bisexual” life to please their families. We urge you to read our interview with Tilak from Kathmandu to find out more about what it's like growing up gay in Nepal.
Gay tours in Nepal
There are several excellent gay tour companies offering group trips in Nepal. We love doing these on our travels because as well as having someone else sorting out all the logistics, it's an excellent way to quickly make new fabulous friends. Solo travelers, in particular, should check some of these out:
1. Everest Base Camp Gay Trek with Out Adventures
This two-week excursion includes plenty of time enjoying the best sights of Kathmandu before embarking on a trek to Everest Base Camp – the ultimate bucket list item! Hiking through the Himalayan mountains and spotting ancient monasteries is just part of this incredible experience. You'll also get to connect with other like-minded gay travelers in a small group setting, who'll soon become fast friends. Your memories of this tour will be just as epic as your photos!
2. Nepal & Bhutan Exploration with Brandg
Brandg is another gay travel company we love who are also offering a gay tour to explore both Nepal and Bhutan. This trip includes time hitting up Kathmandu's top sights – like Bhoudanath Stupa and Swayambhunath – along with beautiful Bhaktapur. After seeing the best of Nepal you'll then head to Thimphu, the capital of the Kingdom of Bhutan before visiting the Motithang Takin Preserve and the monastic retreat of Paro Taktsang, also known as the “Tiger’s Nest”.
BrandG is offering our readers an exclusive 5% discount valid for this tour. Click the button below to find out more.
3. Nepal and Bhutan Himalayan Adventure with Out of Office
Out of Office also organizes a tour to discover the best of both Nepal and Bhutan with their Himalayan Adventure group trip. After four days exploring Kathmandu and the surrounding highlights, this LGBT tour heads to Thimphu, Punakha and Paro in Bhutan. While this tour overlaps with many of the highlights of the previous one, it also focuses more on the mountains, stupas, fortresses and monasteries found in the Himalayas.
4. Golden Triangle and Kathmandu with Out of Office
If you want to explore India's “Golden Triangle” as well as Nepal you can do so with this private tour which visits Delhi, Agra, Jaipur and Kathmandu. Compare the sights you see on trips to the Taj Mahal, Jaipur's Amber Fort, Delhi's Red Fort and Kathmandu's stupas. The best thing, this trip can be catered to your travel availability but is still very affordable, especially considering the special attention you'll be getting throughout!
5. Zoom Vacations Nepal Gay Tour
Zoom Vacations offer a short but sweet three-day sightseeing tour of Kathmandu, which is designed to be an optional add-on to their India Holi Festival tour in March. You could either combine the two or do the three-day Kathmandu tour if you only have a short time to spend in Nepal. The tour means you'll have a personal guide to the most famous sites in Kathmandu, like the Boudhanath Stupa, the temple dedicated to Lord Shiva on the banks of the Bagmati River, and a trip to glorious Bhaktapur.
Top experiences in Nepal for gay travelers
Nepal is a destination for gorgeous landscapes and culture rather than gay partying. Whilst there is a small gay scene in the capital, Kathmandu, we found that the real beauty of the country lies is in its people, those jaw-dropping Himalayan mountain vistas, and incredible temples. We've therefore focused more on these in this section:
Nepal's capital city is loud, colorful, messy, chaotic, and totally captivating. Thanks to the many tourists who head here as the base to trek to Everest or do the Annapurna circuit, there's also a small but fun gay scene. Don't miss out on Kathmandu's most famous sights, like the Boudhanath Stupa and Swayambhunath Temple complex, complete with holy monkeys!
The Annapurna Circuit is THE most unforgettable trek we've ever done! We'll never forget the feeling of waking up at 16,000 feet at 4 am to try to reach the summit before midday… The entire trek is around 145 miles (230km) long and crosses two different river valleys whilst circling the Annapurna Massif. The highest point is the summit Thorong La Pass – sitting proudly at an altitude of 17,769 feet (5,416m).
Bhaktapur is a UNESCO World Heritage Site city in the east corner of Kathmandu Valley with the best-preserved palace courtyards and old city center in Nepal. Sometimes called “the city of temples”, it is famed for its rich cultural heritage, architecture, craft, and artworks. Visiting Bhaktapur is like stepping back in time to see ancient Nepal. We highly recommend it at least for a day trip from Kathmandu.
Everest Base Camp
Many visitors to Nepal come here to hike the bucket-list destination of Everest Base Camp, one of two base camps used by mountain climbers who are ascending Mount Everest (the other is located on the China/Tibet side of the mountain). Nepal's south side base camp is the most popular, taking between 6-9 days to hike from Lukla, with days of rest to acclimatize.
Chitwan National Park
If you think Nepal is only about snow-topped mountains then you'd be sorely mistaken, especially once you've seen the sub-tropical lowlands of south-central Nepal. This is where Chitwan National Park is located, the first national park in Nepal and also a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1984. Visiting Chitwan means you might spot some of the diverse wildlife that lives here, with animals such as the Bengal tiger, Indian leopards, sloth bears, otters, foxes, honey badgers, rhinos and even sometimes elephants calling the area home!
Pokhara is the second-largest city in Nepal in terms of population, and the tourism capital since it's the base for most hikers who are heading to the Annapurna Circuit. The city itself is also beautiful, situated on Phewa Lake with two hilltops where you can enjoy the views and perhaps visit the gorgeous Pokhara Shanti Stupa, a peace pagoda on the Anadu Hill.
Pride and other gay events in Nepal
Nepal has a few gay Pride events taking place throughout the year. The official Nepal Gay Pride March Day is on 29th June and involves a parade making its way through the streets of Kathmandu.
Another Nepal gay Pride event takes place every August/September, organized by the excellent Blue Diamond Society. This event coincides with the Gai Jatra cow festival and also involves a colorful march through the streets of Kathmandu in which the LGBTQ community demands equal rights and also pays respect to those who have died in the past year.
Gay travel agents in Nepal
Out Adventures is a fantastic gay tour company. As well as the Everest Base Camp tour we've already mentioned above, they also offer a bespoke service where they'll customize and tailor an itinerary according to what you want to see and do. If you're tight on time and want someone to organize everything for you from start to finish, we highly recommend having a conversation with them asap!
Culinary highlights of Nepal
If we're being honest, we didn't come to Nepal expecting to be blown away by the food, but blown away we were! The main staple is dal bhat, which is simply “rice and curry”. But the thing is, they always taste different as there is no uniform recipe for them, so every meal in Nepal is like a new culinary discovery! There is also a whole bunch of other delicious traditional Nepali foods to try out. We've set out our favorite ones right here:
Dal bhat literally translates to lentil soup and boiled rice and that's what it is. But it's actually far more than that. Dal bhat is eaten by Nepali people at least once a day, usually served with onion, garlic, ginger, chilli, tomatoes, tamarind, and lentils or beans. It always contains herbs such as coriander, garam masala, cumin, and turmeric but otherwise, every plate of dal bhat is different depending on local ingredient availability, the season, family recipes, etc. etc!
Momos are the Nepali version of dumplings, one of the most famous and delicious foods from the country! They're little steamed parcels of dough filled with meat or vegetables and, of course, plenty of spices. You can find momos all over Nepal, from street food stalls to fancy restaurants and every home kitchen. We personally can't get enough of these yummy snacks and recommend anyone in Nepal make it their mission to try them.
For those with a serious sweet tooth, sel roti is a gift from the heavens. Well, a gift from Nepal at least. Sel roti is a circular shaped- sweet deep-fried rice bread that's kind of like a mix between a bagel and a donut. It's usually made for Nepali festivals, weddings and other important events or ceremonies but you can still find them being sold at other times – yay!
On cold mornings in the Himalayan mountains, there's nothing better than a delicious warming bowl of Nepali kheer. It's essentially a rice pudding, but elevated (get it!?) to new heights with the addition of spices like cardamom and saffron along with toppings such as coconut, pistachios, cashews or dried fruit. Along with being a yummy breakfast, kheer is often a star at Nepali weddings and other ceremonies.
No, we're not talking about the singer! Dhido (sometimes also called dhindo) is a simple Nepali dish made by mixing flour with boiling water to create a thick, sticky paste that's the perfect tool to get other yumminess into your mouth. Dhido is usually served with soups or other saucy dishes, so you can roll it into a ball and dip it into the liquid. It used to be rather looked down on as low status as it's cheaper than rice, but nowadays dhido is making a comeback and is seen as very nutritious.
Plan your trip to Nepal
We've put together some handy hints and tips to help you plan your own trip to Nepal. Read on to find out everything the gay traveller should know before they go.
How to get there: Most travelers to Nepal will fly into Kathmandu's Tribhuvan International Airport as it's the easiest way to get into the country, or you might choose to fly direct to the Pokhara International Airport if you're heading to Annapurna. You can also travel overland from India or China, although some border crossings are only for Indians and Nepalis so it can be a bit of a hassle figuring it out. If you do arrive at the international airport in Kathmandu it takes about half an hour to get into the city center via bus or taxi. We like to pre-book a private transfer from the airport, so we know we don't need to deal with public transport in a new country where we might not understand the language, especially when arriving late at night.
Visa requirements: Residents of most countries can apply for an e-visa ahead of time or get a visa on arrival for visits of 15, 30, or 90 days in Nepal. Make sure you check your own personal visa requirements before finalizing any bookings.
Getting around: The fastest way to get around within Nepal is flying, but you can also get buses, taxis, private car hire, rickshaws and motorcycle hire. Check out this guide for more information on transport within Nepal.
Power Plugs: The power sockets used throughout Nepal are a mix of the standard “Euro” plug and type D which is mainly used in India, Sri Lanka, and Nepal. We suggest bringing a universal travel adaptor with you to ensure you'll be able to use your electronic devices.
Travel insurance: Don't head to Nepal without organizing your travel insurance ahead of time! We have been using World Nomads travel insurance for years and would definitely recommend them to others because they provide excellent affordable cover. This ensures you will be able to get money back for things like missed flights, lost luggage, illness, or injury, which can totally spoil your holiday otherwise.
Vaccinations: It's recommended that all travelers to Nepal have received routine vaccinations for things like measles, mumps, and chickenpox, along with vaccinations for hepatitis A, hepatitis B, Japanese encephalitis, malaria, rabies, typhoid, and yellow fever. Make sure you speak to your doctor and check the CDC website for more information before you make plans to visit.
Currency: The currency used in Nepal is the Nepalese rupee, which uses the currency code NPR. It's often written as Rs (plural) or (Re) singular. $1 (US) converts to around 118Rs, €1 is worth around 141Rs, and £1 converts to about 163Rs.
Tipping culture: While tipping isn't generally expected everywhere in Nepal, it is how many tour guides, porters and others working in the hospitality industry make ends meet, as wages are quite low. Some restaurants will include a service charge on the bill, in which case you don't need to tip, but otherwise, we would suggest leaving a five to ten percent tip (or some small change) wherever you experience good service. Here's a guide with more detail on tipping in Nepal.
Internet access: It is possible to access the internet in Nepal as most hotels, hostels, restaurants, and cafes will have wifi, although it's not always the best in terms of reliability. Don't expect super fast internet connection here! If you will be needing reliable access for work or something, then we recommend bringing a portable WiFi device with you.
Accommodation: We always use Booking.com when organizing our accommodation while traveling as they have the best prices and often free cancellation – which is a godsend when you like to be spontaneous! Their online customer support is also excellent and available 24 hours a day, so make sure you check them out for your own trip to Nepal.
Sightseeing and adventure: We also use GetYourGuide to find all the fun things to do and the best tours while in Nepal. It's really easy to book activities online and there will always be something you enjoy, no matter your tastes. They also offer wonderful 24/7 online customer support.
When to visit: Spring and Fall (Autumn) are the best times for visiting Nepal so that you can avoid the coldest temperatures in winter as well as the monsoons of summer. However, if you want to travel in the off-season then prices will be lower and you won't have to deal with as many crowds. It's up to you which option most appeals.
Safety tips for gay travelers to Nepal
Is Nepal safe for gay travelers? The short answer is YES, but it's always smart to take precautions when heading to a foreign country. Make sure you follow these safety tips and you are unlikely to encounter any problems while traveling in Nepal.
- Check official government advice before you go. We recommend checking the US Travel Advice for Nepal and the UK Foreign Office Travel Advice for Nepal websites. It's also a good idea to register your travel plans so the government is able to send you any alerts about recent events or problems.
- Although homosexuality is legal in Nepal, avoid public displays of affection in rural areas. In the main touristy areas and big cities, you shouldn't encounter any problems. However, in more remote rural areas we recommend being a bit more cautious and discrete.
- Avoid excess alcohol and drugs. It's far more likely that you will be taken advantage of, scammed or even robbed if you are obviously intoxicated. Sure, have a few drinks and a good time, but if you're going to get wasted, it's probably better to do that in a familiar environment.
- Don't wear valuables in public. Or as they say in Colombia, “No Dar Papaya!” – ie ‘don't show your papayas in public' – got it?! Pickpockets operate everywhere, and the flashier your belongings, the more attractive you are as a target. Therefore it's best to just leave anything valuable in your hotel safe and only take out with you what you need for each day.
- Invest in a good money belt. If you must carry around large amounts of cash, your passport and credit cards, we recommend putting it in a money belt that is hidden under your clothes, out of sight and therefore harder to steal.
For more inspiration:
- Read about gay life in Nepal in our interview with local boy Tilak
- Find out how to organize your Indian visa while you're in Kathmandu
- Use our gay India travel guide to plan your next trip
- Find out about gay life in Delhi in our interview with local boy Raj
- And don't miss our interview with Prince Manvendra – the first openly gay prince in the world!
- Read about why Kerala in India is called “God's own country”
- As well as what it was like for us exploring the holy city of Varanasi