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Travel Security Advice for Nepal

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nepal_mapNepal_Overview


COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:  

Nepal is a developing country with extensive tourist facilities, which vary widely in quality and price. The capital is Kathmandu. Nepal ended a ten-year Maoist insurgency in November 2006 and established an interim government in January 2007. National elections in April 2008 formed a Constituent Assembly to serve as a parliamentary body and draft a new constitution by May 2010. The Constituent Assembly declared Nepal a federal democratic republic and abolished the monarchy in May 2008. The Maoist Party, which received a plurality of votes in the Constituent Assembly election, formed a coalition government in August 2008. A new coalition government under the leadership of Communist party of Nepal United Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML) was formed in May 2009 and the Maoists since have remained in opposition. Read the Department of State Background Notes on Nepal for additional information.



REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:

Americans living or traveling in Nepal are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department’s travel registration web site so that they can obtain updated information on travel and security within Nepal.  Americans without Internet access may register directly with the U.S. Embassy.  By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency.  The U.S. Embassy is located in Maharajgunj in Kathmandu, telephone (977) (1) 400-7200.  The Consular Section can be reached through the Embassy switchboard at (977) (1) 400-7200, directly by fax at (977) (1) 400-7281 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS:

A passport and visa are required.  Travelers may obtain visas prior to travel or purchase fifteen-day multiple-entry visas ($25), one-month multiple-entry visas ($40), or three-month multiple-entry visas ($100) upon arrival at Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu and at the following land border points of entry: Kakarvitta, Jhapa District (Eastern Nepal); Birgunj, Parsa District (Central Nepal); Kodari, Sindhupalchowk District (Northern Border); Belahia, Bhairahawa (Rupandehi District, Western Nepal); Jamunaha, Nepalgunj (Banke District, Mid-Western Nepal); Mohana, Dhangadhi (Kailali District, Far Western Nepal); and Gadda Chauki, Mahendranagar (Kanchanpur District, Far Western Nepal).  Visas and information on entry/exit requirements can be obtained from the Embassy of Nepal at 2131 Leroy Place NW, Washington, DC 20008, telephone (202) 667-4550 or the Consulate General in New York at (212) 370-3988.

Before departure from the Tribhuvan International Airport, all foreigners, regardless of their length of stay, must pay an airport exit tax (currently approximately $17) if traveling to Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.  The departure tax for all other international destinations is slightly higher (currently approximately $21).  The departure taxes shown above are subject to fluctuation, depending upon the exchange rates, and are now collected directly by the airlines or travel agents.  Tourists may stay in Nepal for a total of no more than 150 aggregate days in any given calendar year.  Visas are extended only by the Department of Immigration (DOI) in Kathmandu and the Immigration Office in Pokhara.  The Airport Immigration Office does not extend visas.  Americans who have waited until their departure date to extend their visa at the airport have missed their flights in the past.  If required, tourists are strongly encouraged to extend their visa well before its expiration.  Visa overstays carry a significant fine and, in some cases, may incur jail time.  Americans who have obtained a new passport from the U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu must have their valid Nepali visa transferred from their previous passport to the new passport through the Department of Immigration.  For more information about Nepali immigration rules and regulations, please refer to the Government of Nepal’s
Department of Immigration web siteActive duty U.S. military and Department of Defense contractors must  have a country clearance request from their parent unit forwarded to the Defense Attaché’s Office at the U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu for both official and unofficial travel to Nepal.

Travelers occasionally report immigration difficulties with Chinese authorities when crossing the Nepal-China border over land in either direction.  There have been reports of travelers being detained and subsequently deported by the Chinese authorities for possessing items deemed to have incited anti-Chinese rhetoric.  Chinese authorities often require American and other foreign tourists to organize "group" tours through established travel agencies as a prerequisite for obtaining visas and entry permits into Tibet.  U.S. citizens planning to travel to Tibet from Nepal may contact the U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu for current information on the status of the border-crossing points.  Travelers may also wish to check with the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Nepal for current regulations on entry into Tibet.

HIV/AIDS restrictions: The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Nepal.

Information about
dual nationality and the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our web site.  For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information Sheet.



THREATS TO SAFETY AND SECURITY:

A Travel Warning remains in effect because the Department of State continues to be concerned about the security situation in Nepal.  Despite the April 2008 elections, various groups aiming to advance political agendas continue to commit extortions, abductions and killings.  During demonstrations, protesters have stopped and in some cases attacked vehicles, including those of the U.S. Embassy.  In the southern Terai plains, more than 100 armed groups, some claiming to pursue independence or autonomy, and others composed mainly of opportunistic criminal elements, have taken advantage of breakdowns in law and order.  Competing factions in the Terai clashed with the Maoists, hill-dwelling Nepalese, police, and each other, exacerbating unrest in the Terai.  Up through 2008, such clashes resulted in numerous strikes, demonstrations, Indo-Nepal border closures, and threats against Kathmandu-based personnel of a U.S. non-governmental organizations active in the region. 

The U.S. Embassy strongly recommends against non-essential travel to the Terai, the southern plains region bordering India.  Maoist splinter groups in the Terai, as well as other violent Terai-based groups, continue to kidnap and murder Nepalese citizens and locally-resident Indian businessmen.  In 2009, political agitation and civil unrest in the Terai, including violent clashes between various political groups and Maoist splinter groups, as well as inter-communal violence and criminality, have decreased.  However, the random, indiscriminate, and unpredictable nature of attacks creates the risk of U.S. citizens in Nepal being caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.    

Americans traveling to Nepal should be aware of the potential for large or violent demonstrations.  Frequently, demonstrators burn vehicles, forcibly close businesses along roads, throw rocks at passing motorists, and burn tires to block traffic, leading to high potential for clashes with the police.  Given the frequency, nature, intensity and unpredictability of disturbances, American citizens are urged to exercise particular caution when demonstrations are announced or reported, avoid areas where demonstrations are occurring or crowds are forming, avoid road travel during these periods and maintain a low profile.  Demonstrations can occur with little or no advance notice.  American citizens are urged to consult media sources and
the U.S. Embassy web site for current security information

In 2003, the Department of State designated the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) as a Terrorist Organization under the "Terrorist Exclusion List" of the Immigration and Nationality Act and under Executive Order 13224.  These two designations make Maoists excludable from entry into the United States and bar U.S. citizens from transactions such as contribution of funds, goods, or services to, or for the benefit of, the Maoists.  

The U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu requires pre-clearance of all travel outside the Kathmandu Valley by U.S. Government employees.  U.S. citizens who decide to travel outside the Valley are strongly urged to contact the U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu to discuss and register their planned itinerary and to receive the most recent security information before traveling.  Night time road travel should be strictly avoided outside the Kathmandu Valley and minimized within Kathmandu.  Power cuts of up to sixteen hours a day, due to electrical shortages, have contributed to a steady stream of accidents, as well as crimes.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State,
Bureau of Consular Affairs’ web site, where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, can be found.

Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or, for callers outside the United States and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444.  These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas.  For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s publication
A Safe Trip Abroad.



BANDHS (GENERAL STRIKES) 

A "bandh" (forced closure of businesses and schools and halting of vehicular traffic) is a frequently used and longstanding form of political expression in Nepal.  Many bandhs are enforced through intimidation and violence.  In one case, an American citizen was injured when demonstrators threw a rock and broke the window of the vehicle in which he was traveling to the airport.  In another recent incident, a jeep full of foreigners, including one American citizen, was stopped and vandalized on the way to Kathmandu from Chitwan.  In another case, two American bikers were forced to abandon their bikes and were made to walk on the highway until they reached safety.  Bandhs tend to be unpredictable, often violent, and may take place without any prior notice.  Bandhs can draw thousands of demonstrators, who sometimes incite or initiate violence.  Bandhs tend to focus on the central areas of Kathmandu, but they also can be nationwide, and violent bandh-related disturbances occur throughout Nepal.

Bandhs in the Terai region of Nepal also occur and have been known to last for several weeks, causing acute shortages of daily food supplies and bringing vehicular traffic to a complete halt.  Individuals have been reported kidnapped or killed for not complying with the bandhs in the region.

During bandhs, U.S. citizens are urged to avoid all unnecessary travel.  If travel must be made, try to find safe alternative routes.  If travel by vehicle is necessary, U.S. citizens should pay attention to the volume of traffic on the roads, waiting until a pattern of traffic is well established before undertaking travel, and maintaining a low profile throughout bandh periods.  Buses, taxis, and other forms of public transportation may not operate, and it may not be safe to ride any form of transportation during a bandh.  Observance of bandhs, particularly in the transportation sector, may be higher outside the Valley, where a number of private buses and trucks have been stopped, torched, and their drivers beaten.  U.S. citizens are strongly urged to avoid travel on affected roads outside the Kathmandu Valley during scheduled bandhs.  If you are planning air travel to or from Nepal during scheduled bandhs, be aware that transportation to and from airports throughout Nepal could be affected.  Consult the U.S. Embassy web site for the latest security information.



CRIME: 

Although still relatively low by many standards, crime in Kathmandu and adjacent areas continues to rise.  In a number of recent cases, criminals were found to have used sophisticated methods and scams to commit crimes, particularly in the Kathmandu Valley.  Robberies and burglaries involving foreigners continue to increase.

Visitors should avoid walking alone after dark, especially in areas experiencing power cuts, and should avoid carrying large sums of cash or wearing expensive jewelry.  Women travelers are advised not to wear revealing clothing in public places, as this can be culturally offensive to Nepalese.  In addition, visitors should consider exchanging money only at banks and hotels and limiting shopping to daylight hours.  There have been several reported incidents in which tourists have had their belongings stolen from their rooms while they were asleep.  Valuables should be stored in the hotel safety deposit box and should never be left unattended in hotel rooms.  Travelers should be especially alert at or near major tourist sites, including the Thamel district of Kathmandu, where pick-pocketing bag-snatching is most common.  It is recommended that passports and cash be carried in a protected neck pouch or money belt--not in a backpack or handbag.  Visitors to Nepal should also be vigilant against scams involving Nepalese asking them to carry jewelry to a business contact in another country.  This scam often results in the unsuspecting tourist being forced to withdraw large sums of cash from his or her bank account and risks further penalties at the border.  Nepali police forces have limited resources and lack sufficient manpower to effectively enforce law and order.  Their services are not up to Western standards.  Many cases reported to the police remain unresolved.



VICTIMS OF CRIME:

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.  If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance.  The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred.  Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Nepal is: 100, which is manned 24/7 by the local police.  While most Nepalese police officials understand and speak English, when calling the emergency number, you should speak slowly so that your message gets across to the official clearly and without difficulty. 

Please see our information on
Victims of Crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.



CRIMINAL PENALTIES:  

While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law.  Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses.  Persons violating Nepalese laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.  Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Nepal are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.  Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.  Please see our information on Criminal Penalties.



SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: 

The Government of Nepal has authorized the Trekking Agency Association of Nepal (TAAN) and the Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) to implement a new 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, need 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 are available free of charge through authorized trekking companies, the TAAN office in Kathmandu or Pokhara, and the NTB office.

U.S. citizens should not hike alone or become separated from larger traveling parties while on a trail.  Solo trekking has contributed to injuries and deaths and makes one more vulnerable to criminals.  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.  Destruction of telephone services in many trekking areas during the Maoist insurgency has complicated 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 (see Registration/Embassy Location section below).  Trekkers are also advised to leave their itinerary with family or friends in the U.S. 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 extreme caution when trekking at high altitudes.  Only experienced mountain travelers 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 regularly result in the deaths of trekkers and climbers.  Avalanches and landslides caused by severe storms have killed many foreign trekkers and their Nepalese guides, and have stranded hundreds of others.  Trekking in Upper Mustang and in other national park areas may require a special permit from the Government of Nepal and incur an additional fee.  Americans are encouraged to check on the fees and permits prior to their travels.

A number of 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 are on the rise.  It is recommended that visitors wear life jackets.

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 have recently formed and maintain websites.  However, the Embassy has received reports from a number of American volunteers complaining that such organizations have swindled them after arriving in Nepal to work as volunteers.  Americans are cautioned to be aware of this practice and encouraged to research the legitimacy of such organizations.  The Social Service Council of the Government of Nepal maintains a list of legitimate volunteer organizations and
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .    

Nepal has a controlled, or fixed, currency exchange rate with the Indian Rupee.  The Government of Nepal requires travelers to declare either the import or export of currency.  As of this writing, travelers must declare any cash currency carried that exceeds $5,000 in value by filling out a custom's declaration form.  The Nepalese Department of Customs has reported an increasing number of foreigners being 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.

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 or 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, importation of items purported 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 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:

                Revenue Secretary
                Ministry of Finance
                Singha Durbar
                Kathmandu, Nepal
                Tel:  977-1-4211400
                Fax: 977-1-4211605

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 is prone to earthquakes, landslides, and flooding.  The Government of Nepal’s ability to respond may be limited.  General information about natural disaster preparedness is available from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).



MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: 

Medical care in Nepal is extremely limited and is generally not up to Western standards. Typical travel medical complaints can be addressed by the clinics in Kathmandu and some surgeries can be performed in the capital. However, serious illnesses often require evacuation to the nearest adequate medical facility (usually to New Delhi, Singapore, Bangkok).  Illnesses and injuries suffered while hiking in remote areas often require evacuation by helicopter to Kathmandu.  Those trekking in remote areas of Nepal should factor the high cost of a potential helicopter rescue into their financial considerations.  Travelers are recommended to purchase medical evacuation insurance if they plan to visit remote areas.  There is minimal mental health care available in Nepal.  Americans with mental health problems are generally stabilized and transported to the U.S. for care.  The Consular Section in Kathmandu can provide a list of available medical facilities to Americans upon request.  Medical facilities are often overwhelmed due to insufficient resources and emergency medical services available fall far short of those in the U.S.


Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water preparation and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the
CDC’s websiteFor information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization's (WHO) web siteFurther health information for travelers is available from the WHO.



MEDICAL INSURANCE:  

The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.  Please see our information on medical insurance overseas.



TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: 

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States.  The information below concerning Nepal is provided for general reference only, and may not apply in every situation. 

In Nepal, vehicles are driven on the left-hand side of the road.  Travel via road in areas outside of the Kathmandu Valley remains dangerous and should be avoided.  In general, roads in Nepal are in poor condition and lack basic safety features, resulting in significant numbers of accidents and fatalities.  Moreover, Americans should consider avoiding riding motorcycles in Nepal, particularly on highways.  Deaths from motorcycle accidents have risen dramatically.  It is dangerous to travel on the roof of buses, as live electrical and other communications wires hang low in many places.  Traffic police also impose fines and detain individuals riding on the roof of buses.  Visitors throughout Nepal, including in Kathmandu, are encouraged to use metered taxis and avoid public buses and microbuses.  However, there have lately been instances of taxi drivers tampering with the meters in an attempt to charge higher than normal fares.  If you believe that you are being overcharged, you may wish to file a complaint with the traffic police on the street or at the nearest local police station.  At a minimum, you will need the license plate number of the taxi to file a complaint.  Various Nepalese political groups frequently announce road closures (blockades) in certain districts of Nepal and forcibly block major roads throughout the country, including roads to Tibet, India, Chitwan, Pokhara, and Jiri.  There have been instances of Americans being stranded at the border crossing to India in southeastern Nepal for several days when the border was closed due to political demonstrations.  In addition, during the monsoon season, heavy rains cause flooding and can wash out roads or make road travel difficult.  U.S. citizens should travel into and within Nepal by air whenever possible.

In the Kathmandu Valley, traffic jams are common on major streets, particularly between 9:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m.  Motor vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians and animals, all traveling at different speeds, congest narrow roads.  Traffic is poorly regulated, and the volume of vehicles on the roads has been increasing by approximately 15 percent per year for the past several years.  Many drivers are neither properly licensed nor trained.  Many vehicles are poorly maintained, and public vehicles are often overloaded.  Sidewalks and pedestrian crossings are nonexistent in most areas, and drivers do not yield the right-of-way to pedestrians.  Pedestrians account for over 40% of all traffic fatalities in Nepal. 

Please refer to our
Road Safety page for more information.  Additional information can be found on the web site of Nepal’s national tourist office.



AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:

As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Nepal, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the government of Nepal’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. Further information may be found on the FAA web site.



CHILDREN'S ISSUES:  

For information see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.                                                            


This replaces the Country Specific Information for Nepal dated April 22, 2009, to update the sections on Country Description, Entry/Exit Requirements, Threats to Safety and Security, Bandhs (General Strikes), Crime, Victims of Crime, Special Circumstances, Medical Facilities and Health Information, and Traffic Safety and Road Conditions.


The UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office also has information regarding Nepal HERE...

Looking for an Embassy ?, You can also check out our World Wide Embassies Listings Section HERE (For US Citizens) or HERE (For UK Citizens)..........

There is a Malaria Warning for Nepal HERE.....

Be advised as the the Travel Warning for Nepal HERE...

Regards

The SW Team..........

 

Direct Gov Travel News and Alerts