Kathmandu, Nepal Report of what it's like to live there - 08/03/22
Personal Experiences from Kathmandu, Nepal
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
No. I lived in Europe before.
2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?
Home is the west coast of USA. The trip takes about 24 hours total. The connections are in Doha or Dubai. I have not flown east to the USA since those flights aren't as common. The travel to USA is a little rough, but doable.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What years did you live here?
5. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
My housing is a townhome style - very vertical with four floors. Houses vary from townhouses, apartments and medium/large homes. Some townhouses have small yards and the bigger homes typically have green space. Every house is little quirky, but they are safe and safe for earthquakes.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Most items made/grown in Nepal are very affordable, I can get my vegetables for less than $10 a week, and fruit isn't much more. It is wonderful! Anything imported will be more expensive. If you want high quality meats, that can get a little more expensive. But overall it is very affordable compared to the USA.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Make sure you ship all of your favorites, especially anything liquid. I wish I would have brought more canned goods, nuts, almond milk, soda/energy drinks. Some of the canned goods are more expensive and lower quality. I've never seen almond milk here. The dairy options are limited or not to my tastes. We brought cheese with us on our flight (but you can get some good cheeses here, sometimes it is more expensive) and we make our own yogurt.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
There are many restaurants to pick from, I have been happy with all of them and haven't gotten sick. Most restaurants are good enough, only a few are top notch in my opinion. There is a good take-out service, Foodmandu, that has many options. I tend to not use Foodmandu as much because I prefer food fresh and hot and sometimes it can take a little while to get food if you order during high traffic times. We've learned what travels well and what doesn't. Compared to the States, prices are low and you can get a lot for your money.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
I see some mosquitos in our house during monsoon season. They are small and it isn't a problem. We see bugs and spiders a bit more than I did in the USA but it isn't bad.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
I am lucky and can use the diplomatic mail system (DPO and pouch). I have never sent anything through the local post, but I have heard that it can take months!
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Very affordable and one of the best perks of living in Kathmandu. Nannies, housekeepers, drivers and chefs are commonly employed by our community. A full time nanny can be $250-300 a month. I love our nanny and driver, they are so wonderful at their jobs and so kind. I think the household help is well trained and very helpful.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
I use my home gym mostly so I am not sure.
4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
Cash is used 95% of the time. For large purchases, credit cards are used and I'm noticing more and more places accept credit cards, but sometimes they add a fee. We use ATMs, they are safe, but I am sure some aren't. It's best to ask around to find out. We try to use Nabil bank ATMs most of the time.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
There are many churches: Catholic, Prostant, Jewish, Islam and Mormon. I haven't attended any though.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
It would be nice to have some. I don't know any Nepali and I get by fine without it. Young Nepalis typically speak English, the older generation not so much. There is a lot of broken English. My frequent spots speak English very well.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
YES! The sidewalks are terrible, if they exist. Crossing a street is an experience. There are very few traffic lights and everyone kind of goes anywhere, it is organized chaos on most streets. Many streets are unpaved with holes. Quality of life would be terrible for anyone who needs smooth walkways.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Buses and taxis are available here and both are safe. I've never taken a bus because they are jampacked and I don't know where they are going :). Taxis are safe- but you have to negotiate your price. They have an app for taxis, Pathao, which is kind of like an Uber, making it much easier since you don't have to haggle the price. It is good to keep your guard up when riding taxis, just like in any big city.
2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
Small cars are good, anything that is good for off roading is great. We have a 4x4 and it is a comfy ride. Small cars are good because the roads are narrow. A medium sized SUV would be great to have here!
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes it is, but high-speed can vary. We commonly have slow internet and have to reset. It didn't take too long to install.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
You can get a phone plan here, and I think it is affordable (don't know exact price since my employer pays for mine). I retained my U.S. phone plan to keep my number and communicate with family/friends.
1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?
Vets are good here. We brought our cat and didn't have to quarantine him. There are a lot of stray dogs and cats so I wouldn't let my pet outside unless you are with it or you have a fence. I'm sure rabies is common here, as are other harmful bugs.
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
Many spouses/partners work at the embassy or telecommute for U.S. companies. I think it is hard to get jobs on the local economy because of restrictions and also language skills.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
There are a few places, but officially it can be hard to volunteer as a foreigner.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Business attire is what my work calls for. Publicly, the dress code is casual. You will stick out if you are wearing very nice outfits.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Mostly crimes of opportunity like pickpocketing etc. You'll need to be careful in high tourist areas. Just be smart and have a good bag and try not bring anything too valuable. I think it is very similar in other big cities. You should also be very careful when drinking at bars and clubs.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
The quality of medical care is low, they offer a lot normal basic care, but the facilities don't look very clean. I think surgeries would require medical evacuation and maybe for more high quality care you could go to Dubai or Bangkok. I know that expat pregnant women leave and have their babies in their home country or Bangkok.
3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?
Air quality is bad. It is the worst from mid-November to May. There are many red days during this time. During monsoon season it improves much more, most days are green or orange and the skies are blue! It is great! Luckily, I have air purifiers at my work and home that we run 24/7. You can also seal cracks and cover windows to prevent poor air from getting inside your home. You learn to live with it and mitigate it as much as you can. Since we are only living here 2-3 years, we are fine. I think living here long term would give you more symptoms. Our family didn't have any issues when the air was bad.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
If you have asthma, the air could affect you. Having a food allergy would be hard here because you can never be too sure. It would depend on what you are allergic to.
5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
No winter blues here, but during the winter months it can be annoying not to see a blue sky and see the dirty air. The weather is wonderful in the winter 60-70F degrees. I get irritated with traffic and that can make me moody/not want to get out.
6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
I love the weather here! You have monsoon season where it rains every day for months, but it usually doesn't rain all day. Summers are terribly hot, winter is warm. You actually have four seasons of temperature that is really lovely. The mountains/elevation make it very comfortable almost all year.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
There are a few options for schools. I have not had a lot of experience with them, but I have heard opinions from others. For high school, most kids attend Lincoln School, which works for many people. They do not offer an IB program, only AP, so that is something to consider. They have a great environment for learning and look at the student individually. I know that many people do not like how far away Lincoln is, but it doesn't stop anything from attending. There is also a French school and British school. I know someone in preschool who likes the French school.
2. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?
Yes, but not that many. The French school is an option. Lincoln is very expensive for preschool (about $10,000). The French school is much cheaper. Since nannies are so affordable here, many don't send their kids to preschool/daycare.
3. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Yes, there is a dance studio, a few climbing walls and Lincoln offers a lot too. I think it would be fun to be an elementary kid here.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Morale is good. I think the expat community was a lot bigger before Covid-19, but it is coming back.
2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
I normally socialize with work colleagues so I am not sure.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Singles - maybe. It would depend on what other expat singles are around. If you are a Westerner, I would imagine it would be hard to date locals (not impossible). Great for couples and families. It would be fun as a couple because you could travel more easily (than with kids) and could go on some great multiday hikes. Families can also do the same, but some hikes could be too difficult depending on our kids' age.
4. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?
I think it is easy to make friends especially if you can clearly communicate. Nepalis are very friendly. There is a caste system here so racism and prejudices exist.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
yes! Nepalis are very LGBT+ friendly. I know many LGBT+ individuals are very happy here.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
For many Nepalis, women are seen as less than men, it can be frustrating when a man does not want to speak with me because I am a woman.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
The people! I love their kindness and smiles! Treking, traveling to areas of the country (Pokhara, Chitwan and other villages). Traveling in the region. Seeing the mountains. Many people I know hiked to Everest basecamp!
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Yes! I love shopping Nepali-made items!
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Having household help, restaurant options, safety.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
I traveled to this region before so I had an idea, but it can be hard getting used to a dirty city without green spaces.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Nice shoes, snobbery, and coats.
4. But don't forget your:
sense of adventure, rain boots, umbrellas, hiking shoes and gear and open attitude. Don't try to make Kathmandu something that it isn't, embrace the chaos and funny things and see the city and its people.
5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
I haven't read any.
6. Do you have any other comments?
Nepal is great, it isn't very hard to live here if you have the right attitude. It is a developing country so it needs improvement, but it can be a lot of fun!