What It's Like To Live In Kathmandu?

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Chaotic traffics, overpopulation, weak national economy, and Himalaya mountains. Those are the basic ideas when someone talks about Nepal to those who have never been there. There are very few people who know how exactly it’s like to live in Kathmandu, capital of Nepal.

Most people don’t even know the exact location, some even think that Nepal is in India. It’s not!

I had the chance to live with a local family while volunteering in Kathmandu for one month. I was lucky because the family treated me as their own. It makes my whole volunteering trip perfect. After my Annapurna Circuit trek, I continued backpacking through Nepal for one month before flying back home.

Even though Kathmandu receives hundreds of thousands of foreign visitors every year, almost all of them never stay for a long time. In this article, I wish to share how it’s like to live in Kathmandu.

live in kathmandu


Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal located in the Pahad region at the altitude of 1,400 meters above sea level. The climate and weathers are mild and near perfect for people to live there. This city is home to 5 million people.

Foreign visitors have been flocking into the city since the opening of the border to outsiders decades ago. It all started with mountain climbers, trekkers and ultimately tourists with cameras and nothing else.

Even though the economy of the nation is dreadfully weak, people there seem to be very civilized. What do I mean by that?

Most of the people in Nepal are friendly and helpful, but they do not approach foreigners. You will have to approach them first to discover how nice they are.

Then what about “very civilized?”

Crimes like sexual assaults, robberies, and murders in India are almost frequent but in contrary, its neighbor country, Nepal has little signs of them. You can hardly see any drunk men in the streets, as most Nepalese people sleep very early. Very.

I’m not a specialist of what, but I think religions play a huge role in uniting Nepalese people together and lead them on the right path.

Check out the best time to visit Nepal here!

live in kathmandu

Volunteering in Kathmandu

In June 2017, I went for a volunteer project in Kathmandu which lasted for a month, teaching in schools. I applied the project through an organization, AIESEC In Malaysia.

What was I doing there?

For the one whole month, I was teaching in Traibidya Shikchhya Sadan primary school. The school is located in New Baneshwor, a residential area in Kathmandu, where tourists are rarer than finding a diamond ring in the swimming pool.

I was teaching with my partner from Taiwan, Jimmy under the same program. The kids from age 5 to 8 years old are goddamn cute. Some can even speak fluent English, which took me by surprise. (Some speak better English than my partner… I hope he didn’t see this.) 

Ehem. Originally I thought I was going to teach English in this school but I was wrong. So, at last, I taught them more about geographies and countries around the world, especially Malaysia, my home country.

It’s great to see that the kids are curious about the outside world, and I’m glad that I am the first one to introduce them to Malaysia.

Fast forward to my last day in school. The whole school made a farewell ceremony for both of us. We were seated like VIPs in front of the hall (canteen) and the children danced for us, gave speeches and wish cards for us.

My 6-years-old kids made me cry so freaking hard until I can’t breathe when they walked up and handed me their wish cards. I still have problems saying goodbyes, especially with kids whom I spent so much time with.

At the end of my last day, my favorite kid, Evan told me: “Sir, you cried like a baby this morning,

I said to myself, “This kid is looking for troubles,”

I gave him my last hug and swung him around. Laughter fills the air around us.

volunteering in kathmandu

Living in Kathmandu: How It’s Like?

Living in Kathmandu can be quite a challenge for those who never traveled to poor countries. I mean very poor countries.

I was lucky to have a “buddy” assigned to me and my partner by the organization.

She, Snehi is a pretty helpful lady (pretty and helpful, I mean) and guided us through everything we need to know about living in this city.

The Traffic

The traffic is a total nightmare. There are literally no traffic lights in the entire Kathmandu city. Technically, there are, but it never worked and were left to rust.

Riding a motorcycle in Kathmandu is not recommended unless you’ve spent enough time in this city to understand how things work. Otherwise, you might put yourself in danger, the roads are lawless!

How People Get Around?

Public buses and motorcycles play important roles in transferring people around. It’s very tricky for first-timers to board the public bus in Kathmandu so I compiled an in-depth guide for that purpose. Check out Step-by-step Guide to Taking Public Transport in Nepal.

A public bus can takes you to every corner of the city, far or near. It’s just a matter of time. And the bus fare is super cheap, less than $0.50 to take you to your destinations 30-minutes away.

Speaking of time, I once spent 2 hours cramped with 5 people in the backseats of Sedan car due to the horrible traffic jam at peak hour. I could have walked faster than the cars if it weren’t for the rain.

Food & Drinks in Nepal

Generally, the food in Nepal is great, probably because I love Asian foods. You can easily find restaurants serving your favorite dishes around the world in Thamel but the prices are slightly higher.

Definitely avoid roadside stalls. Yes, the locals have no trouble eating them, but trust me, you will. You need time to really adapt to the hygiene level of Nepal.

I was admitted to the hospital once due to food poisoning in Kathmandu after eating the Pani-Puri. I never had any trouble with them the past few times.

Tap water is definitely a no-no, even the Nepalese people don’t drink tap water. You will see a lot of blue water tanks around the city, which is used to contain 20 liters of drinking water. Those are the main drinking water sources in Nepal.

living in kathmandu

People in Nepal

People in Nepal very helpful, especially outside of the touristy areas. Because in the tourist areas, the locals seem to see you as money trees. In the residence areas like New Baneshwor? People are extremely nice.

I was in a local restaurant looking for local-style breakfast. And the boss introduced me to all the food despite the crowds in the restaurant. Yes, you might say that he’s trying to earn my money, but the breakfast cost me $0.80.

A local even brought me to the bus station when I asked him where is it.

Some locals will be more than happy to accommodate you because they believe this will brings them good lucks. I’m not saying we should take advantage of that but I really think it’s a great culture and belief.

The most fun topic would be talking to Nepalese people who had been working in Malaysia. For your information, there are a lot of Nepalese people in Malaysia working as foreign labor. Most of them speak the Malay language!

Don’t be disgusted when people in front spat. Spitting is very common in Nepal whether you accept it or not.

Wrapping It Up

Originally I signed up for the volunteer program to bring impacts to the local communities, but I think, after all, I’m the one who had the most impact. I learned so much about the ways of life in Nepal and had memorable experiences that most travelers in Nepal will never have.

If you’re traveling west, check out these amazing things to do in Pokhara! Make a stop in Bandipur too on your way back to Kathmandu.

Have you ever been to or live in Kathmandu? How was it? Feel free to comment below, I’m looking forward to your replies! Have a great day and happy traveling!

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What It's Like to Live in Kathmandu

Written by

Yen is a university student from Malaysia and a huge fan of Blues music and photography. His passion for travel can be traced back to 2016 when he spent 6 months traveling New Zealand. By blending into the locals and traveling long-term, he shares all the comprehensive and detailed travel ideas and guides for the countries with his footprints.

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