Nepal

Living Conditions

Communications

Mail

Mail takes a minimum of two to three weeks to arrive in Nepal. Advise family and friends that mail service is sporadic and unreliable. During pre-service training Peace Corps/Nepal office mailing address can be used:

 “Your Name,” PCT
Peace Corps /Nepal Office
P.O. Box 15150
Chakrapath, Maharajgunj
Kathmandu, Nepal

After you are assigned to your permanent site, you will use your site mailing address.

Telephones

Cellphone reception may vary from site to site. For an extra fee, Volunteers may also use cellphones for international calls. Cellphone calls from Kathmandu to the U.S. are very inexpensive, costing pennies per minute. If you would like to bring an iPhone or other smartphone, consult with your carrier to determine your options.

Internet

Almost all Volunteers bring portable laptop computers. Volunteers are responsible for the cost of insuring and maintaining them. Internet facilities and locations with Wi-Fi can be found in major towns in Nepal. The Peace Corps provides a limited number of computers in the Information Resource Center of the Peace Corps office for Volunteers to use to aid them in their work. Cellphone companies sell USB modems that Volunteers may purchase to access Internet at their sites. The cost of a USB modem is approximately $30. One GB 3G + unlimited monthly Internet for smartphones cost approximately $8 per month.

Housing and Site Location

Most of the Volunteer worksites are limited to the Hill regions of the western half of the country. The communities that PCVs live in will be relatively small agricultural villages or trading towns. Volunteers are not posted to the higher elevations of the Himalayan range where a significant amount of snow falls, nor will they be in the tropical Terai region. Living conditions will be simple, thus flexibility and a sense of humor regarding living conditions will ease transition to the PCV lifestyle. There is no guarantee of continuous electricity or running water throughout the country. Volunteers are required to live with a Nepali family throughout their service. This level of immersion promotes Volunteer inclusion in the daily life of the community, facilitates language learning, ensures safety, and is essential for productive work at the grassroots level. It is vital that Volunteers form close bonds with individuals and families in the community so they clearly know who you are and what you are doing. They will also help keep you apprised of changing community issues or help you when you have a problem. As most Nepalis are very welcoming, all it takes is your commitment to make it happen. 

Living Allowance and Money Management

Volunteers receive a monthly allowance in Nepali rupees that is sufficient to live at the level of the local people. The allowance covers food, housing, household supplies, clothing, transportation to and from work, utilities, recreation and entertainment, and incidental expenses. Peace Corps Volunteers are expected to live at a level that is comparable with that of their host country counterparts. The Peace Corps discourages Volunteers from supplementing their living allowance with funds from home. During training, the Peace Corps takes care of most expenses and provides a small “walk around” allowance. After PST, Volunteers receive a “settling-in” allowance, intended to support the purchase of household items for long-term use (e.g., towels, linens, etc.). Volunteers receive their allowances via electronic funds transfers into local bank accounts, which are accessible by traveling to local bank branches. ATMs are also limited to larger cities and towns. Credit cards can be used in Kathmandu and some tourist areas. There is a risk of potential identity theft associated with using credit cards in Nepal. Volunteers who travel in the region, however, find that having a credit card is essential.

Food and Diet

Trainees will live with host families to assist them in adapting to Nepali daily life, which includes diet. The daily diet of Nepalis is very different from the typical U.S. diet and adapting to it is one of the challenges Volunteers face. The daily staple in Nepal is daal bhaat: a plate of rice, a lentil sauce, and side dishes of vegetable greens and spicy chutneys. Each household’s daal bhaat is slightly different, but for Americans, eating daal bhaat twice a day (the Nepali norm) can get monotonous. Daal bhaat is a fact of daily life, and one that can be accommodated but not completely dispensed with. Eggs, milk, meat, and some fruits may be difficult to obtain, particularly in more remote locations. Volunteers suggest bringing protein powder to supplement your diet. Crops grown in the Hill region include potatoes, corn, millet, pears, apples, peaches, oranges, and apricots. Imported foods such as cookies, canned fruits, fresh fruits and vegetables, and packaged soup may be available in some of the larger towns. The main meats are mutton (goat), water buffalo, and chicken. Fish is available throughout the country, but mainly in the terai. Vegetarians should have little difficulty in Nepal.

Transportation

Public buses and airplanes are the modes of transportation for long-distance travel in Nepal. Bicycles, taxis, buses, rickshaws, and tempos (three-wheeled motorized vehicles) are the modes for local transportation. Volunteers are not allowed to operate cars and motorcycles. Some Volunteers choose to ride bicycles and a stipend is provided to those who wish to purchase one during their service. Volunteers are required to wear helmets when riding bicycles. Travel in Nepal, whether by foot, bicycle, taxi, bus, or airplane, is potentially hazardous and therefore can be very stressful. Delays and cancellations due to bad weather, road or airport conditions, mechanical failures, or lack of personnel are to be expected. Bus travel is particularly difficult, as buses can be dirty and overcrowded and often are not properly maintained. More information on transportation within Nepal will be given during pre-service training.

Social Activities

Nepal is a small country with an abundance of cultural diversity. There are more than 100 ethnic groups and castes in Nepal, and each has its own customs, festivals, rituals, and other social practices. There are also regional differences. Despite these differences, relationships are very important in Nepali culture. No matter where you live, people will want you to participate in their social activities. If you are invited to attend a festival or other social event, it is an indicator that you have been accepted into the community. Such events can be a very good opportunity to build trust, enhance social bonds with your community, and help fulfill the Second and Third Goals of the Peace Corps. Trainees and Volunteers are expected to adapt themselves to Nepali social conditions and interact with this new culture with respect. Trainees and Volunteers come to Nepal on the Peace Corps’ passports, not as tourists or expatriates, but as representatives of America in Nepal.

Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior

Appearance plays a vital role in gaining the respect of, and showing respect to, people in Nepal. Nepalis are relatively conservative in their dress and Volunteers are expected to dress as their working counterparts do. While some counterparts might dress in seemingly worn or shabby clothes, this will be because of economics rather than choice. Professional dress is expected in offices and in other community settings. Ties and suits, however, are not necessary. Pants and shirts for men and long skirts or dresses (ankle-length and nontransparent) and Nepali clothes for women are appropriate as professional wear. Volunteers who wear ragged clothing are likely to be mistaken as disrespectful tourists. If a Volunteer’s appearance becomes a matter of concern to local people or to Peace Corps staff, Peace Corps/Nepal reserves the right to request changes in dress that respect the local culture. Exposing one’s body by wearing scanty clothing is distasteful to traditional Nepalis. Women wearing short shorts or revealing tops and shirtless men will no doubt offend the modest Nepali people of those regions. When bathing in a stream or at a public water tap, women use a loongi (a long cloth) to cover themselves from chest to knees.