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Dangers & Annoyances

Kathmandu is a fairly safe city, but what it lacks in dangers it more than makes up for in annoyances:

  • The combination of ancient vehicles, low-quality fuel and lack of emission controls makes the streets of Kathmandu particularly polluted, noisy and unpleasant.
  • Avoid the city's seedy dance bars and street-corner hashish sellers – although variably enforced, the penalties for possession can be severe.

Traffic Problems

Pedestrians account for over 40% of all traffic fatalities in Nepal. Bear in mind the following:

  • Traffic rules exist, but are rarely followed or enforced; be especially careful when crossing streets or riding a bicycle.
  • Traffic is supposed to travel on the left side of the road, but many drivers simply choose the most convenient side, which can make walking in Kathmandu a deeply stressful experience.
  • Consider buying a face mask to filter out dust and emission particles, especially if you plan to ride a bicycle or motorcycle in Kathmandu. After a few days in the city you're likely to feel the onset of a throat infection.
  • Post-earthquake repairs are ongoing and there is lots of rubble piled up in the streets, creating additional hazards for pedestrians.

Other Annoyances

Other annoyances in Thamel are the crazy motorcyclists, and the barrage of irritating flute sellers, Tiger balm hawkers, chess-set sellers, musical-instrument vendors, travel-agency touts, hashish suppliers, freelance trekking guides and rickshaw drivers.

Note that the colourful sadhus (itinerant holy men) who frequent Durbar Sq and Pashupatinath will expect baksheesh (a tip) if you take a photo, as will the Thamel ‘holy men’ who anoint you with a tika on your forehead.

Kathmandu has in the past been the focus of political demonstrations and bandhs (strikes), which close shops and shut down transport.