Working or studying can add a satisfying focus to your trip, and deepen your understanding of another way of life. It’s certainly the best way to meet and get to know Nepalis.
Unfortunately, you can’t stay longer than 150 days in any calendar year on a tourist visa without special permission (though that means you can stay almost a year if your trip straddles two calendar years). To stay longer, you have to get a longer-term visa (such as the business, residential or study visas), but they require an application from an accredited organization to the relevant Nepalese government ministry.
If you feel you’ve received a lot from Nepal, volunteering is a good way to give something back. The old people’s hospices in Pashupatinath and Chabahil run by Mother Teresa’s Sisters of Charity welcome walk-in help on a day-to-day basis. The Kathmandu Environmental Education Project and Himalayan Rescue Association offices in Kathmandu always use workers, and can put you in touch with other organizations.
Orphanages have boomed in Kathmandu and Pokhara, but be cautious if signing up to volunteer with these places; a depressing number exploit both the children in their care and the volunteers who fund them, siphoning off money and gifts and, in some notorious cases, subjecting the orphans to all kinds of abuses.
For longer-term volunteer work, postings with the Peace Corps, VSO and other voluntary agencies abound, providing you’ve got the relevant skills. People with experience in education, health, nutrition, agriculture and forestry are preferred. Many other aid agencies (such as Action Aid, Save the Children, CARE and Oxfam) operate in Nepal and occasionally take on specialists.
If you just want an open-ended arrangement for a few weeks or so, teaching English is a good option. Language schools in Kathmandu and Pokhara occasionally take people on, although the pay is negligible. Numerous organizations run longer, more formal teaching programmes (see Studying), but you’ll pay for the privilege, once you’ve factored in training and support fees.
Paid work is almost impossible to find locally, and it’s against the law to work on a tourist visa. Some people find jobs as guides, but you may want to question the ethics of taking a job that could be done by a Nepali. Qualified masseurs and yoga/meditation instructors may be able to find work in Kathmandu or Pokhara.
If you can persuade the Department of Industry that you’ve got a good idea, you may qualify for a business visa.
A few language schools in Kathmandu offer intensive courses in Nepali, Newari or Tibetan (see Massage), and there are opportunities to study Tibetan Buddhism. Several American universities run study programmes in Nepal. For anything longer-term or more formal you’ll need to apply in writing to Tribhuwan University (Campus of International Languages, PO Box 4339, Exhibition Rd, Kathmandu, Nepal t 01 422 8916, w tribhuvan-university.edu.np), which runs courses in Nepali, Tibetan, Sanskrit and Newari.
Study and work programmes
Campus of International Languages Tribhuwan University t 01 422 8916, w tribhuvan-university.edu.np. Kathmandu’s most highly regarded university.
Himalayan Rescue Association w himalayanrescue.org. Accepts doctors to staff its high-altitude aid posts.
Naropa Institute w naropa.edu/studyabroad/. Colorado institution that runs a course on Tibetan Buddhism each autumn at Boudha.
Partnership for Sustainable Development w psdnepal.org. Small, friendly organization running four-week to five-month programmes for international volunteers – digging wells, building classrooms, hospital internships – often incorporating tourist activities.
Peace Corps w peacecorps.gov. Places US citizens with specialist qualifications or skills in two-year postings.
Restless Development w restlessdevelopment.org/Nepal. Teaching placements and environmental education programmes for young people.
School for International Training w sit.edu. Based in Vermont, with its own campus in Kathmandu.
School of South Asian Studies w wisc.edu. Full-year study programmes with the University of Wisconsin–Madison.
Study Abroad.com w studyabroad.com. Good list of study and volunteer programmes in Nepal.
VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas) w vso.org.uk. Highly respected charity that sends qualified professionals from the UK, US and EU to work for local wages on projects beneficial to developing countries. There are special programmes for young people and the over-60s too.