The Government of Nepal has authorized the Trekking Agency Association of Nepal (TAAN) and the Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) to implement a system for foreign hikers called the Trekkers’ Information Management System (TIMS). Since 2008, foreign visitors on hiking trips in Nepal, including those not with organized hiking groups, are required to have a valid TIMS card issued by TAAN, its member agencies, or NTB. In case of an emergency, this system helps authorities ascertain the whereabouts of trekkers. TIMS cards cost the Nepali rupees equivalent of US $20, if applying individually, and the Nepali rupees equivalent of US $10 if applying in a group, through authorized trekking companies, the TAAN office in Kathmandu or Pokhara, and the NTB office.
The U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu strongly recommends that U.S. citizens do not hike alone or become separated from larger traveling parties while on a trail. Solo trekking can be dangerous, and the lack of available immediate assistance has contributed to injuries and deaths, while also making one more vulnerable to criminals. Although it is not prohibited by local law, the Government of Nepal has reiterated its strong recommendation against solo trekking. In separate incidents in the last several years, a number of foreign women (including U.S. citizens) on popular trails have been attacked and seriously injured while trekking alone. Foreigners have also gone missing while trekking alone. Extensive search efforts are not always successful in tracing the trekker's whereabouts. The safest option for trekkers is to join an organized group and/or use a reputable trekking company that provides an experienced guide and porters who communicate in both Nepali and English. Damage to telephone services in many trekking areas caused by floods and landslides during the monsoon season complicate efforts to locate U.S. citizens and make arrangements for medical evacuations. U.S. citizens are strongly encouraged to contact the Embassy in Kathmandu for the latest security information and to register their itinerary before undertaking treks outside the Kathmandu Valley. Trekkers are also advised to leave their itinerary with family or friends in the United States and to check in at police checkpoints where trekking permits are logged.
Trekking in Nepal involves walking over rugged, steep terrain where one is exposed to the elements, often at high altitudes. Many popular trekking routes in Nepal cross passes as high as 18,000 feet. The U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu strongly recommends that U.S. citizens exercise caution when trekking at high altitudes. Acclimatization is better achieved by walking slowly, rather than hurrying to cover the distance at high altitudes. Without acclimatization, any trekker who flies directly from a low elevation to a high elevation runs the risk of suffering from debilitating altitude sickness. Only experienced mountain climbers should tackle the Himalayas. Trekkers of all ages, experience, and fitness levels can experience acute mountain sickness (AMS), which can be deadly.
Trekkers should also be alert to the possibility of avalanches, landslides, and falling rocks, even when trails are clear. Avalanches at the narrow gorge above Deurali on the route to the Annapurna Base Camp have resulted in the deaths of trekkers and climbers. Avalanches and landslides have killed foreign trekkers and their Nepali guides, and have stranded hundreds of others.
Trekking in certain remote areas of Nepal and in national parks may require additional permits or fees. Travelers may consult with an experienced tour agency, or consult the website of the Nepali Department of Immigration for more information
During peak trekking seasons (generally autumn and spring), hotel rooms may become scarce. U.S. citizens are advised to make advance booking for hotel rooms and be aware of possible flight/airport delays. Domestic air flight cancellations and delays occur frequently due to bad weather. Travelers should leave ample time to catch their outbound international flights if they plan to connect from domestic flights. U.S. citizens should be aware that many hotels in Nepal do not meet international fire or earthquake safety standards.
Several tourists have drowned while swimming in Phewa Lake and other adjoining lakes in Pokhara due to flash floods triggered by monsoon rains or after becoming entangled in submerged tree branches or roots. Incidents of boats capsizing on the choppy water of these lakes have also occurred. It is recommended that visitors wear life jackets. Paragliding has become popular in Pokhara, and many new companies have begun offering paragliding services in Pokhara. U.S. citizens are urged to weigh the risks involved with paragliding. In 2010, one U.S. citizen sustained a spinal injury while paragliding and in two separate accidents foreigners died in paragliding crashes. There are also a number of deep and dangerous ravines not clearly visible to pedestrians in Pokhara city, mainly in the outlying areas. Some local residents and foreigners have fallen into these ravines and sustained serious injuries or died.
Before leaving Kathmandu, trekkers can check with the Himalayan Rescue Association (phone: 977-1-4440-292/4440-293) or the U.S. Embassy for reliable information about trail conditions and potential hazards of traveling in the Himalayas.
A number of Nepal-based volunteer organizations maintain websites offering volunteer opportunities. The Embassy has received reports that many—if not a majority—of such opportunities, especially those involving volunteering at orphanages or “children’s homes,” are not charities, but rather are profit making enterprises set up with the primary purpose of attracting donations from abroad and financial support from volunteers. Many of the children are not, in fact, orphans, and thus volunteering at such an organization indirectly contributes to child exploitation. An organization’s bona fides can be confirmed by contacting the Nepali Central Child Welfare Board (CCWB), attention Namuna Bhusal (tel. 977-9851139474 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org ).
Nepal has a controlled or fixed currency exchange rate pursuant to which the Nepalese Rupee is pegged to the Indian Rupee. The Government of Nepal requires travelers to declare either the import or export of currency. Travelers must declare any cash currency carried that exceeds $5,000 in value by filling out a customs declaration form. Travelers may also face difficulties if traveling with a large quantity of valuables, such as gold and jewelry. The Nepalese Department of Customs has reported an increased number of foreigners arrested for currency violations. Travelers should ensure that they keep a copy of the declaration form after customs officials have put the official endorsement and appropriate stamps on the form to prevent any problems upon departure. Please note that this requirement is subject to change and travelers should contact the Embassy of Nepal in Washington, D.C., to obtain the latest information. Consequences for violating this requirement could include seizure of all cash carried, fines, and imprisonment. It is illegal to possess 500 or 1,000 Indian Rupee notes in Nepal. Accordingly, travelers coming to Nepal from India who hope to change Indian currency into Nepali Rupees are advised to bring 100 Indian Rupees notes or lower denominations only.
Nepalese customs regulations are complex and cumbersome. Customs authorities ensure that the appropriate customs revenues are raised by enforcing strict regulations concerning importation (even temporary importation) into Nepal and exportation from Nepal of items such as valuable metals, articles of archeological and religious importance, wildlife and related articles, drugs, arms and ammunition, and communications equipment. In many recent instances, items purported to be for donation to schools, hospitals, and other social organizations were confiscated, or were cleared only after payment of a significant fine for failure to obtain prior approval from the Ministry of Finance. Those wishing to donate items to a charity or any organization in Nepal must obtain prior approval for waiver of the custom fees from the Ministry of Finance by sending a formal request letter (not via email) to the following address:
Ministry of Finance
The request should include detailed information about the items to be imported as well as the organizations to which the items are being donated. The Revenue Secretary will review the request and refer it to the Ministerial level for final decision and approval. Note that all requests are processed on a case-by-case basis. It is highly recommended that intended recipient(s) coordinate with the Ministry to get requests processed. Please see our Customs Information.
Nepal lies on an active fault zone and is considered at high-risk for a major earthquake. Lack of adequate emergency response vehicles, equipment, and medical facilities, combined with building codes that are not strictly enforced, multiply the extent of potentially catastrophic damage that a major earthquake could level on Nepal in general and the Kathmandu Valley in particular. Nepal is also prone to flooding and landslides. The Government of Nepal’s ability to respond in the event of a natural disaster may be limited.