Is it safe in Kathmandu, Nepal – Detailed insights by a local expat

When travelling to Kathmandu you will probably be asking yourself whether Kathmandu is safe. 

I have lived in the city for 4 years now and I can give you insights into whether or not Kathmandu is safe for tourists and female solo travellers. 

In all honesty, Kathmandu is an amazing city and I have never ever felt unsafe. There are some caviats though and some precautions you should take. 

Read on the learn more!

First things first: safety in Kathmandu 

Like I mentioned before, I have always felt very safe in Kathmandu. 

I love going on walks through the busy markets of Kathmandu or the winding streets of Patan. I have never ever felt unsafe, ever. 

My biggest problems with this city are the traffic, the state of the pavements and the pollution. Other then that? It is a great place to visit and live. 

What about non-touristy places?

Even those are very safe. I remember walking to Kirtipur with my husband one weekend. We were trying a new route and walked by the river through – what in other countries would be, a dodgy industrial estate. There were some men working on a truck. When we passed they looked up and asked us where we were going. Normally my heart would start to race but I knew they were just trying to help us. They thought we were tourists and that we were lost and were more than happy to show us the way to Kirtipur. 

Honestly, Nepali people are super helpful and when they start a conversation with you, 99 times out of 100 it is because they are genuinely interested in you, highlighting that Nepal is safe for solo female travelers. 

Crime rates in Kathmandu 

Crime rates in Kathmandu are super low. Especially for violent crime. Even petty crime is pretty low compared to other cities in Asia. 

When looking at the crime rates on Numbeo you can easily see that most crimes are either drug-related or fraud-related. 

And you can really feel this when travelling to Nepal. 

Walking home alone at night is very safe.

I also never had anything stole in these past few years. In fact I have forgotten my phone in a taxi a couple of times as well as at a bar or in a restaurant and I have always gotten it back. Nepali people are overall very honest. I know that if I leave my phone on a table and come back half an hour later it is either going to be still there or the restaurant will have stored it for me. The only other place where I have ever lived where this was true was in Dubai. 

Is Kathmandu safe for female solo-travellers?

impact of voluntourism in nepal

Sadly in today’s world, when you are a solo female traveller you will need to do some research into the city you are travelling to just to make sure you can visit the city safely or are staying in a safe area. 

Now, as a female traveler you will be happy to hear that Kathmandu is very safe for solo-travellers. I have many friends that feel safe taking a taxi from Thamel back home or even do night runs in or around the city, underscoring that solo travel in Nepal is safe for solo female travelers. 

Sure you still need to keep your eyes open and be vigilent (that’s just what we women need to do anywhere and everywhere) but I would not say it is more or less unsafe than most European cities I visited on my own. 

I think I heard only one instance where a group of young men followed two girls through Thamel, but they were just laughing and never got close – just spooked the girls. Sure that’s appaling behaviour and honestly pretty freaky, but it’s the absolute worst you will experience and I would be surprised if you do! 

What are safe areas to stay in Kathmandu?

As I mentioned before: Kathmandu is safe, affirming the statement “is Nepal safe” for solo female travelers and Americans alike.

However you will probably want to know what the best areas are to stay in Kathmandu. I have written a complete guide on the best areas to stay in Kathmandu. These are all very safe areas. 

  1. Thamel: the tourist heart of Kathmandu.
  2. Patan: my favourite area, full of gorgeous temples.
  3. Boudha: perfect for spiritual travellers interested in Buddhism.
  4. Durbar Marg: bit more upscale and luxury.

You can read my complete guide here. 

Are there lots of earthquakes in Nepal?

nepal volunteering guide

Before you travel you might also want to know more about national disasters like earthquakes in Nepal. 

The last major earthquake in Nepal was in 2015, which might concern some regarding safety, but statistics since then show improving infrastructure and continued efforts to ensure it’s safe for travel.

There was a 5.7 quake in 2022 and a 5.7 quake in 2023. Overall we did not really feel these earthquakes in Kathmandu. In fact, I slept through the one in 2023. My husband was awake playing a game and he was pretty scared – but there was no damage in the Kathmandu Valley. 

We have smaller quakes every now and then. We can have 3 quakes in a matter of weeks and then none for extended periods of time. 

I don’t think you should worry about earthquakes when visiting Nepal as the chances of you getting cought up in one are pretty slender. In other words, nepal is safe to visit.

Is it safe to drink the tap water in Kathmandu?

No it is not safe to drink the tap water in Kathmandu. Water can be contaminated which can give you a bad stomach. It is best to drink and even wash vegetables in jar water or bottled water.

If you go trekking it might not be the worst idea to get a water filter straw like lifestraw just so you can drink literally anything and everything!

Is transportation in Kathmandu safe?

When we are looking at the safety of transportation in Kathmandu and in Nepal as a whole I want to split my answer into two parts: road transport and air transport. 

Road transport: cars, jeeps and busses 

Is it safe to take a bus from Kathmandu to Pokhara? Yes kind of. Busses are overall quite safe. Accidents do happen mainly due to the fact that roads are pretty bad or very narrow and the fact that a lot of bus drives drive like crazy.

I have never really felt unsafe in a bus but I do have a golden rule never to take a bus at night. A lot of roads through the Himalayas will have the rock face or hill on one side and a steep drop into a river on the other side which to me means that driving at night is asking for trouble, though with the right precautions, Nepal remains safe for travel.

I have taken busses to Pokhara and taxis and jeeps to Sauraha before. They are tediously slow which is why I prefer to fly. 

Buying tickets is a bit of a hassle although I did notice 12go Asia is offering more and more bus tickets in Nepal now so that might be a good shout.

Air transport: is it safe to fly in Nepal 

Another way to get from Kathmandu to your trekking or safari destination is by air. There are lots of internal flights leaving from Kathmandu airport. Now, sure, these flights are short but pricey, but the drives can be very long (flight to Pokhara is 45 minutes, the drive anywhere from 8 to 12 hours). 

I would recommend you book through Buddha Air. They haven’t had a passenger plane crash ever while other airlines have had some pretty bad crashes with lots of casualties over the years, making air travel to Nepal safe for Americans and other tourists.

I always fly Buddha in Nepal and so should you. 

If you are looking for a detailed guide on Kathmandu Airport, you can find one here.

Here is also some information on transfers from Kathmandu Airport to your hotel in the city.

Are hospitals good in Kathmandu?

Me with my newborn son in Mediciti hospital here in Nepal

Now, when you are in a country like Nepal for activities such as hiking, climbing and trekking, you might ask yourselfs whether or not the hospitals in Nepal are good and safe. 

The answer is hell yes! 

Kathmandu has some great hospitals and I have always felt like I received really good care. Sure they have their quirks and the way they handle stuff here can get a bit frustrating at times for people who like streamlined processes (Like me!) but the doctors and the care are top notch. 

I had my baby here through elected C-section and my recovery and care were 100 times better than those of my friends who had babies in the UK. How about that! 

When it comes to hospitals I have two main recommendations: 

  1. Ciwec Hospital

Ciwec Hospital is the hospital we go to when we need a GP or when we take our baby to see the doctor. They are a travel hospital that is specialised in expats and travellers. Most people here are brought in with sprains, broken bones or travellers diseases. I have always had amazing care here and they speak perfect English, making it a safe and welcoming place for solo travel, including Americans. It is on the more expensive side of things though. 

They also have a great geanicologist which might be interesting for some solo female travelers. I had my IUD removed by her and she was old-school but I actually really loved her. 

2. Mediciti Hospital 

Mediciti Hospital is a ”luxury” (luxury in inverted commas because it is luxury for Nepali standards) hospital I would recommend for anything more serious than a sprain or some diarrhea. They are super quirky in the way they handle things (like paying up front!) and their doctors are very busy so you won’t get the same silver service personalised attention as you would in Ciwec, but this is probably one of the best hospitals in the valley. I had my baby here and like I mentioned before: my recovery was amazing and my experience of having my baby was 10 times better than the experiences of our friends in the UK. 

Do you need travel or health insurance when going to Nepal?

I wanted to talk about health insurance in nepal for a minute because even though my husband and I normally never ever take travel insurance (we have no co-pay health insurance world-wide), I would recommend taking it for Nepal if you don’t have any, especially when you go hiking or trekking. 

Nepal is a trekking mecca, but even so, the paths are often very bad and you only need a split second to fall and break an ankle, emphasizing the importance of being right and prepared for solo travel. Because you will be trekking in rather remote areas chances are you have to be evacuated by jeep or by helicopter. A jeep can set you back anywhere from $100 to $500 and a helicopter is about $4000. 

Another note on health insurance is that even when you have worldwide health insurance, you should have a look at your policy as many policies do not cover you over 3000m. Most of the Everest Basecamp Trek is over 3000 m. 

Is there any insurance I would recommend? Not really. It will heavily depend on where you set off from and how long you are travelling. You can, however, start with Insbury, Visitorscoverage, and Ekta.

Gadgets to keep you safe on your travels

Although Kathmandu is very safe, there are some precautions you can take to keep you safe while you travel:

Anti-theft backpacks 

First of all you can buy an anti-theft backpack. They are not too expensive and most of them have hidden zips or they open up from the back. When I lived in Dubai I always used to travel with one. Now we travel with our briggs and riley backpacks (but they are super expensive!). 

You can find a selection of Anti Theft backpacks on Amazon

A Hiking GPS

I would never ever ever recommend you go trekking without a guide and a porter. In fact, it is bad form. Guides and porters are super cheap – think $30 to $40 a day for both. Most of these people have families in small villages they need to take care of – especially the porters. 

BUT. Having lived here for 4 years I have also heard of a ton of people going missing in Nepal because paths can change (they get washed away in Monsoon) and brigdes can wash away. Guides can get you to your destination safely and can even make new paths for you. 

If you want to trek on your own, I would highly recommend you take a Hiking GPS with you with an alarm button you can press when you get into difficulty.

There are quite a few hiking GPSs available on Amazon (click here).

A local sim card 

Last but not least I would also recommend you get a local sim card at the airport when you arrive. Mobile data is super cheap in Nepal and most places in the valley have access to 4G. 

Having a local number will allow you to get a Bolt, InDriver or Pathao which are super safe ways to get around the city. You can also easily navigate through Kathmandu with Google Maps and can whatsapp call and look up information on the fly. 

You can buy a sim card very cheaply at the airport. You just need to bring 2 passport pictures with you. 

If you forgot your passport pictures you can also buy data for Nepal on services like Airalo – but these are quite expensive in comparison to the local prices. I know for other countries like Thailand (I always use Airalo when going to Thailand) it is the same price but in Nepal it sadly isn’t. Still a great one to keep in mind when you forget the passport pictures!

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