Before departing for my trip to Nepal, I struggled to find resources on solo trekking. I had read that Nepal is a safe travel destination for women, but I couldn’t find anything written by single female hikers. I felt apprehensive. Some reassurance would have been nice.
I decided to go for it anyway.
What did I learn?
Nepal is not only a safe country to go to as a solo female trekker, but people are friendly and helpful. For hikers who are new to international travel, Nepal is a good place to start. It’s easy to find English speakers, and you don’t really need much street smarts to get by here. While shopkeepers in Thamel might try to overcharge you by a dollar or two, it is unlikely that someone will try to mug you or anything like that. This is a place where it is OK if you get lost and need to ask for help.
Like I said, Nepal is safe. However, expect to be overwhelmed for your first few days. Things are much more hectic than at home. Get used to no street signs, crazy drivers, and trash everywhere. Hopping on trail feels calming after leaving the disorganization of the city.
I did find that in Kathmandu it was easier for me to ask women for directions. Men would always be willing to help me, but then they would usually try to flirt with me and I would have to make up excuses to not have a cup of tea with them or not to give them my Facebook information. This wasn’t an issue for me in the mountains, just in the city.
While it would be unusual for a Nepali woman to be on trail alone, locals are used to foreign women displaying their independence. People did ask me daily if I was alone, and I got the impression that they felt pity or concern for me more than anything else. There were many times I tried to explain that I enjoy hiking by myself.
What regions to go to:
In the Annapurnas, I made friends pretty quickly whom I stuck with for most of the hike. I really only had a few days of trekking truly alone. Regardless, I never had any negative vibes while hiking the Annapurna Circuit or Base Camp. In regards to safety, I wouldn’t hesitate to travel here alone. In the Everest region, I was alone more frequently by choice. Same story. I felt safe here all the time.
While trekking in Lang Tang National Park, I had a several occasions where I wished I wasn’t alone. Before heading there, I had read about a few foreign women who were murdered and went missing in the region. This likely contributed to me feeling sketched out at times. I had one local man seem genuinely angry at me for being alone. Other than that, I don’t have any tangible examples of why I felt weird about being solo in Lang Tang. Considering that thousands of people visit the area annually, several murders in the past decade really isn’t that many. I would consider trekking solo in the Lang Tang region again, but I would prefer to have a hiking partner.
Additional safety tips:
- Make it to your destination well before sunset. Know what time the sun goes down, and be realistic with how far you can hike. It’s OK to stop early and fall short of your destination for the day. It is more difficult to spot trail signs and find villages in the dark than in the day time.
- Be conscientious of altitude. Make sure you are well hydrated, fed, and rested. This is the best way to prevent acute mountain sickness.
- Trust your intuition. I am usually honest when people ask if I’m hiking alone, mainly because I’m such an advocate for females pursuing their wilderness ambitions and I try to do a small part to normalize that. However, if my intuition is giving me warning signs then I will lie. I often don’t have a specific reason either. Just having an off feeling is enough to justify lying. If you are not a very convincing liar, you can practice doing it on people who are hiking the opposite direction as you. It’s sufficient to say, “My partner is behind me.” Then keep walking. This way, you don’t have to worry about being caught in your dishonesty and you will be more self-assured if you ever do get sketchy vibes from someone.
- If you feel like you need a guide or porter, then hire them. Guides can be hired for around $25 a day and porters for $10 a day. Flying to the other side of the world for a hiking trip is huge! If you are not confident, then you don’t have to hike alone. Also remember that it’s easy to make friends with other trekkers while on trail.
- As always, let someone reliable know where you are going and for about how long. If you have overly concerned loved ones, consider using a SPOT GPS device to let them know where you are.
Do you trek solo? Are you a female traveler? Have you been to Nepal?