The Himalayan Loop has developed two Codes of Conduct, one for visitors to the Himalaya and one for operators in the regions.
- Respect cultures and traditions – be a considerate guest, understand protocol, offer appropriate gifts when necessary, ask before taking a photo, do not show affection in public, and donations to gompas or shrines are appreciated.
- Benefit local communities, commercially and socially – share skills and experience, teach when you can, offer a fair pay for services, participate in activities. Do not encourage begging, publicly argue, drink excessively or fight.
- Adopt new customs – do not wear tight or revealing clothing, do not enter someone’s home unless invited, avoid touching people of the opposite sex, do not use your left hand to eat or pass objects and try to learn as much of the local languages as possible.
- Tread softly – stick to trails and recognized camping areas. Avoid creating new tracks, or damaging the environment in any way. Follow the adage: take only photos and leave only footprints.
- Pack it in, pack it out – avoid taking tins, glass, or plastic containers and bags unless you plan to carry away. Wash away from water sources, and always use local toilet facilities when available. Bury all organic waste at least 30cm below the ground and 50m away from water sources.
- Conserve natural resources – what few resources there are belong by right to the locals. Always ask permission before using anything along the trail. It is illegal to disturb wildlife, to remove animals or plants, or to buy wildlife products.
- Beware of altitude sickness – use the buddy system to watch for symptoms of altitude sickness. Make sure everyone remains fully hydrated by drinking water throughout the day, every day. Stay together along the trail, and communicate frequently with everyone.
- Be Safe – carry an extensive first-aid kit and know how to use it. Have multiple plans for emergency evacuation and designate decision makers. Leave your itinerary details with someone responsible at home. Beware of yaks and other animals on narrow trails!
- Be self-reliant – don’t assume you will receive help or assistance. Ensure your group has extensive field-craft and navigation skills. Research thoroughly, is your route appropriate for your party? Do you have the necessary skills, experience, resources and equipment?
Any organization using the Himalayan Loop logo must adhere to this Operator Code of Conduct. Please report any misconduct to firstname.lastname@example.org
1. Field staff must be hired through formal contracts, with clear terms and conditions for insurance, wages, load limits, accident/disability treatment provisions and other facilities. Before hiring porters and other staff, health checkups must be provided.
2. Safety, shelter and general equipment must be provided to field staff and it must be well maintained and similar to that used by clients.
3. Field staff must be provided with full medical and evacuation insurance and cannot be paid off because of illness or injury until they are fully recovered.
4. Carry weight to be limited to 30kg loads below 5000m and 25kg above 5000m, including personal allowance.
5. Food and fuel expenses to be paid in addition to daily wage and to be negotiated at a regional or district level depending on the duration of the trek.
6. Membership of any organization that encourages and supports porters to voice their own needs and concerns is to be permitted.
7. Female empowerment to be encouraged at all times and no child labor is acceptable.
A word of Caution
Consider your safety
All outdoor activities involve an element of risk, which could endanger you and those with you. It is impossible for any guidebook to alert you to every possible danger or hazard, or to anticipate the limitations of your party. The descriptions of trails, passes, routes, geographical features in this guide are therefore not in any way a guarantee that they will be safe for you or your party. When you follow the advice and/or route information in this book you do so at your own risk and assume responsibility for your own safety. Ensuring that you are aware of all relevant factors and exercising good field-craft combined with common sense is the best way to enjoy the mountains. If you feel unsure about your skill level, experience or knowledge base then you should not assume responsibility for yourself or a party.
The political situation in the Himalaya will change and could affect your plans. It is wise to keep abreast of all developments and check government and relevant agency websites for your own safety. You assume the risk of your travels and the responsibility for those with you. Be safe, be prepared, be informed.
DO’S & DONT’S On the Trail
How not to cause offense…
In addition to the Himalayan Loop Code of Conduct there are lots of common sense lessons learned from years of trekking in the hills. Almost anyone who visits the Himalaya returns with a story of another tourist’s inappropriate behavior or dress. To commit the occasional faux pas is inevitable when exploring foreign shores and local people will often make light of your indiscretion. However, taking advantage of traditional hospitality without understanding the implications, overt ostentation, disrespecting ceremonies or customs, and dressing inappropriately are all considerable insults and should be avoided at all costs.
If you are unsure how to behave then follow the lead of a local, and if necessary ask questions. Everyone will understand that you are trying to do the right thing and you’ll be given all the support to participate in local lives to the fullest. This list of Do’s and Don’ts is by no means exhaustive, so please apply liberal amounts of common sense to your day.
1. Respect cultures and traditions:
(a) Consideration be a considerate guest at all times. Himalayan cultures are rich and diverse and can sometimes confuse a visitor but if you are friendly, approachable and consider those around you before yourself, you will always earn the respect of locals.
(b) Photos ask before taking a photo, as many people prefer not to be photographed for personal, cultural or superstitious reasons.
(c) Gift giving the complex patina of Nepali society sometimes calls for gift giving or making a donation; this may be to a monastery or shrine, at a wedding, or at a cultural program. Whenever you are faced with needing to give a gift you should seek the advice of a Nepali to work out what is appropriate. The method of or the formality associated with giving a gift is often as important as the gift itself so make sure you are aware of any protocols.
(d) Affection do not show affection in public.
(e) Bathing showing your genitalia when bathing is offensive. Use a sarong, modesty screen or shower tent and when visiting a hot spring try to behave modestly.
2. Benefit local communities, commercially and socially :
(a) Share skills and experience teach when you can, offer a fair rate of pay for services, participate in activities whenever invited.
(b) Do not publicly argue, drink excessively or fight. Demonstrations of anger are considered an embarrassing loss of face on your behalf.
(c) Begging of all the negative impacts tourists have had in the Himalaya, the encouragement of begging along the trail is probably the most problematic. Handing out candy (referred to as sweets, mitai or bonbons) to children who never clean their teeth is thoughtless and irresponsible. Giving money to small children in return for picked flowers is destructive and illegal in all National Parks. If your conscience struggles with the wealth divide then provide skills through training and education, or donate to one of the major charities based in the major cities. But do not just give away items along the trail and so perpetuate a habit that ultimately only reduces self-esteem and can cause long-term problems. If you aren’t convinced of the negative effects of pandering to cute children then trek away from the main trails and experience the genuine, openhearted joy that children show tourists without the expectation of a ‘reward’.
3. Adopt new customs
(a) Clothing do not wear tight or revealing clothing, especially if you are a woman. There is a firm dress code followed by all Himalayan women and is only not observed by the very poor or for special reasons.
–It is considered offensive to expose your knees, shoulders and chest at all times and especially in any place of worship. Unfortunately for women, this means that wearing detachable leg pants is not very sympathetic to local customs in the Himalaya, and cropped tops of any description should be avoided. Men can wear long shorts but should avoid exposing their chests.
–It is also considered offensive to highlight genitalia, so avoid wearing stretch or very tight clothing around the chest or groin area.
(b) Entering homes it is critical that you wait to be invited into a home. The social systems that operate throughout much of the Himalaya prescribe a rigid hierarchy of which rooms you may or may not be allowed to enter, respect the wishes of the homeowner. The cooking-fire area is often sacred so always check if you can dispose of burnable rubbish before consigning it to the flames.
(c) Greetings In India and Nepal people greet eat other with the traditional, ‘Namaste!’ Sometimes they will shake hands, especially if they are involved in the tourism sector or have retired from the Royal Gurkha Rifles, but in general you should avoid touching people, especially of the opposite gender. In Bhutan, ‘Kozu Zangpo La!’ with palms upturned is a traditional welcome. Wherever you are, a warm greeting or thanks, or taking a little time to play or practice English is always preferable to a short or quick reply. It will both build respect and relieve any stress you may feel from curious locals.
(d) Eating do not use your left hand to eat or pass objects. Traditionally all Himalayan people eat only with the right hand, the left being considered unclean. Therefore pass foodstuffs to another person with your right hand and use your left as little as possible. You should also avoid touching the lip of a vessel to your mouth, just pour the drink into your mouth.
(e) Offering payment and/or gifts it is respectful to use both hands, or with your right hand while touching your left hand to your right elbow.
(f) Language learns some basic phrases and uses them as often as possible.
1. Tread softly sticks to trails and recognized camping areas. Avoid creating new tracks, or damaging the environment in any way. Follow the adage: take only photos leave only footprints.
2. Pack it in, pack it out avoid taking tins, glass, or plastic containers and bags unless you plan to carry them back to a major city.
- Cotton rags 1-5 months
- Paper 2-5 months
- Orange peel 6 months
- Wool socks 1 to 5 years
- Plastic bags 10 to 20 years
- Leather shoes 25 to 40 years
- Nylon fabric 30 to 40 years
- Aluminum cans 80 to 100 years
- Plastic bottles Forever
How long does it take to degrade? © WorldWise, Inc., Department WS, PO Box 3360, San Rafael, CA 94912-3360
3. Conserve water quality wash away from water sources, and always use local toilet facilities when available. Bury all organic waste at least 30cm below the ground and 50m away from water sources.
4. Conserve natural resources what few resources there are belong by right to the locals. Always ask permission before using anything along the trail. It is illegal to disturb wildlife, remove animals or plants, or buy wildlife products.
1. Beware of altitude sickness use the buddy system to watch for symptoms of altitude sickness. Make sure everyone remains fully hydrated by drinking water throughout the day, everyday. Stay together along the trail, and communicate frequently with everyone.
2. Be safe carry an extensive first-aid kit and know how to use it. Have multiple plans for emergency evacuation and designated decision makers. Leave your itinerary details with someone responsible at home.
3. Be self-reliant don’t assume you will receive help or assistance. Ensure your group has extensive field-craft and navigation skills. Research thoroughly, is your route appropriate for your party? Do you have the necessary skills, experience, resources and equipment?
4. Remain hydrated drinking between two and four liters of water per day will help prevent altitude sickness and improve your body’s recovery time.
5. Don’t rush there are no prizes for coming first on the trail and rushing will probably over-stress your body and may increase your chances of suffering from altitude sickness. Frequent stops to drink water and rest often become photo opportunities and a chance to chat with locals.
6. Trekking poles that more people aren’t impaled by absent-minded trekkers swinging their poles is amazing. Be aware of the pole tips, especially when crossing bridges or negotiating narrow or steep trails.
7. Beware of yaks many porter age animals you meet along the trail are yaks or hybrids of yaks and cattle, and all of them can be dangerous. Every season at least one tourist will die because they got too close to the large horns or were knocked from a bridge. If you see any pack animals (even donkeys cause accidents) coming along the trail you should scramble up the hillside of the trail and wait until they pass.
8. iPod use rather than listening to the noise of life along the trail some people prefer to plug in to an iPod. Doing so puts you at greater risk from animals and rock fall.
9. Common courtesy the trail is often busy, especially at steep or difficult sections. A common courtesy is to give way to people walking up-hill, or to those who are obviously struggling or carrying a very large load.