Staying healthy when you go to Nepal

Nepal is generally regarded as a safe country when it comes to tropical diseases. However, it's still important to read what WHO or other travel related medical representatives advise.

Typical street in Kathmandu
Typical street in Kathmandu

In particular rabies can be an issue in Nepal due to the number of stray dogs in the big cities and rural areas of Nepal. That said, there have been no recent cases of tourists getting rabies. But, there have been cases of dog bites and private hospitals seriously overcharging tourists for emergency rabies vaccinations. Getting a pre-exposure series can help.

Keep the following things in mind before traveling to Nepal.

Have a medical consultation: See a specialist in travel related diseases at least 6 months before you travel to Nepal - this is especially true if you have never traveled outside your home country before as some vaccination take up to 6 months for a full course!.

If you don't know where to find one consult your General Practitioner. Today many countries have tropical disease clinics in large cities.

Routine Vaccinations and immunizations: These include chickenpox, polio, measles/mumps/rubella (MMR), diphtheria/pertussis/tetanus and influenza. These vaccinations are largely routine even if you do not travel. Do consult your doctor about your immunizations as some of these disease are still active in some countries.

Getting good travel insurance for Nepal is essential before you go.

Vaccinations for Nepal

The following vaccinations / immunizations are generally advised for travel to Nepal. Please note that outbreaks occur at any stage. Again, consult a tropical medical practitioner before you go. Keep in mind that some of these vaccination need to be taken over the course of several months. So see a consult at least six months before leaving.

Vaccination Recommended Optional
Hepatitis A: exposure might occur through food or water and it's a generally recognized vaccination for developing countries - vaccinations can take place over several months. Yes  
Hepatitis B: contact is especially likely for those who might be exposed to blood or body fluids. Sexual contact with the local population. Exposed through medical treatment, e.g. accidents - vaccinations can take place over several months   Optional
Typhoid: exposure can occur through exposure to food or water and this is a generally recommended vaccination for developing countries. Yes  
Tetanus/Diphtheria: A bacterial infection present in soil and dirt. It can occur worldwide, including in Nepal . Infection can enter the body via cuts to the skin. For people who are not immunised, an infection can have the potential to cause problems affecting the nervous system. Yes  
Rabies: contracted through animal bites. Children, expatriates, outdoors/ wilderness/inner city or those traveling long-term are of especially high risk. Rabies may be present in domestic animals e.g. dogs/cats as much as wild animals. Yes  
Cholera: there have been occurrences in Nepal however the risk of contamination is very low in travelers. Medical professionals or those living in high risk areas should consult with their doctor about possible vaccinations.   Optional
Malaria: there is no known vaccination for Malaria (see below for preventative measures.) Preventative only  
Dengue: there is no known vaccination for Dengue fever. Although there have been a few cases the risk of contamination is very low. Preventative only  
Japanese Encephalitis: if you are planning to visit rural areas, spend a lot of time outdoors or in an area where outbreak occur you will need to consider this vaccination.   Optional
COVID-19: to enter Nepal without quarantine a COVID-19 vaccination is currently needed. Yes Optional

Preventing Malaria in Nepal

There are Malaria outbreaks in Nepal. However Kathmandu and many of the himalayan treks are free from Malaria.

The Terai region of Nepal is known to have occasional outbreaks of Malaria. There is no vaccination for Malaria only preventative measures.

Ways to prevent contracting Malaria in Nepal:

  • Take a prescription anti malarial drug (Chloroquine is NOT an effective anti malarial drug in Nepal)
  • Avoid mosquito bites by using insect repellent, wearing long pants and sleeves.
  • Sleep in air-conditioned and/or use mosquito proof bed nets.
  • Eat well and prevent yourself from becoming exhausted and constantly tired.

Again the chance of contracting Malaria in Nepal is deemed to be low even in Malaria effect areas like the Terrai region.

Do speak to your tropical disease specialist and GP about anti-malarial's as some do have adverse side effects.

Preventing Rabies in Nepal

Rabies is an issue in Nepal. Stray dogs are the largest culprit followed by wild animals that come into contact with people e.g.. monkeys.

There are post bite Rabies vaccinations available in Nepal in the major cities. However, the cost is high in private hospitals. If you have the time before going and rabies is a concern to you then getting a series of pre exposure vaccinations is possible - do note that the course can take up to 1 month or the course of three injections.

Preventive rabies methods in Nepal generally mean for you to stay clear of stray dogs - this is a huge issue as many stray dogs are attracted to tourists who often pet or feed them. Stay well clear is the only solution. Likewise with monkeys who can often approach you looking for food or are attracted to an shiny items you may have.

More vaccination resources for travel to Nepal

Below are several other vaccination resources for travel to Nepal. Do be aware of your own regions medical limitations, regular immunizations and preventative advice. Again, consult a qualified travel medical specialist before going to Nepal.

Vaccination information resources for travel to Nepal:

General health advice for travel to Nepal

Respiratory, sinus, chest, ear, nose and throat infections are common place in Kathmandu due to high pollution and or dust in the Kathmandu Valley. Many people wear dust masks to reduce the inhalation of dust when walking around Kathmandu city. Consult your doctor about your preferred treatment in the event of contracting any of these ailments.

Water filtration system used in Nepal
One of several water filtration systemd used in Nepal

One of the most common ailments tourist have in Nepal is diarrhea. Bad hygiene and food handling is the biggest cause of upset stomachs. Disinfectants are largely not in use throughout Nepal. Stay well clear of street food which is often days old, contains high levels of old cooking oil and is not sanitary compared to other Asian countries. Eat in clean looking restaurants and when in doubt, ask to see the kitchen area! Oral rehydration sachets for diarrhea are widely available in Nepal.

Do bring your own prescription medicines if taking any. While medicine is available in Nepal it may not be the same brand or quality.

Do bring iodine tablets, chemical water treatment and/or portable water filters if you are unable to purchase bottled water or are traveling / staying in remote areas (available in Nepal).

Do bring hand wipes or alcohol-based hand sanitizer running water is not always available to wash hands with (available in Nepal).

Do carry a supply of tissues as toilet paper is not often used in public bathrooms in Nepal or on treks. Hotels usually do supply some (available in Nepal).

Wearing a facemask is important since the COVID-19 pandemic. Similar to the rest of the world, it is recommend to lower the transmission of the virus.

Do sort out any dental issues you may have before going to Nepal. There are dentists in Nepal (Kathmandu) in particular who do come recommend. However it would be a better option to have work done before arriving.

Finally, get good travel insurance for Nepal! Private hospitals are available in the big cities but they are not cheap! It is well known that tourists are overcharged for medical facilities in Nepal. Do read about what I recommend and use myself for travel insurance in Nepal.

Get the Best Nepal Guidebook

Without question you can use this website to plan out your trip to Nepal for free. The above map is just one of over 100 from my Nepal guidebook. There's is however a big difference in using a website and having a dedicated guidebook.

When I first came to Nepal 10+ years ago I was very disappointed with the big brand guidebooks on offer. So, I set about writing my own. It's is far better! Check out the details below and you'll see why, I promise.

Nepal Guidebook

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