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. Since that time, the major political parties have been unable to come to an agreement on a new constitution. This stalemate has created an environment of politicaluncertainty, however a caretaker government is in place and the major political parties continue to negotiate to resolve this constitutional crisis. Read the Department of State Fact Sheet on Nepal for additional information.
SMART TRAVELER ENROLLMENT PROGRAM (STEP)/EMBASSY LOCATION:If you are going to live in or visit Nepal, please take the time to tell our Embassy about your trip. If you enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, we can keep you up to date with important safety and security announcements. It will also help your friends and family get in touch with you in an emergency.
Local embassy information is available below and at the Department of State’s list of embassies and consulates.
The U.S. Embassy is located in the Maharajgunj neighborhood of Kathmandu, telephone 977-1-400-7200. (The “ ” sign refers to your international dialing prefix, which is “011” in the United States, and “00” in most other countries. Thus, to callthe Embassy from the United States, dial 011-977-1-400-7200.) The Embassy’s website has information on the Embassy’s operating hours and holidays. The Embassy’s Consular Section can also be reached at the same telephone number, or via email. (Nepal local time is 10 hours and 45 minutes ahead of Eastern Standard Time. Accordingly, if it is 6 am EST, it is 4:45 pm in Nepal.)
ENTRY / EXIT REQUIREMENTS FOR U.S. CITIZENS: A passport and visa are required. Travelers may obtain visas prior to travel from a Nepalese embassy or consulate, or may purchase a one-day visa ($5), a fifteen-day multiple-entry visa($25), a one-month multiple-entry visa($40), or a three-month multiple-entry visa($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– for group tourists only); 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, D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 667-4550 or the Consulate General of Nepal in New York at (212) 370-3988. Outside the United States, inquiries should be made at the nearest Nepalese embassy or consulate.
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) located in the Kalikasthan neighborhood of Kathmandu, as well as bythe Immigration
Office in Pokhara. The Immigration Office at Tribhuvan International Airport isnotauthorized toextend visas. Some U.S. citizens
who have waited until their departure date to extend their visa at the airport have been sent to the Immigration Office in
Kathmandu to pay the extension fee and, as a result, havemissed their flights. If a traveler finds that he or shemust stay
longer than expected, the traveler isstrongly encouraged to extend his/hervisa well before its expiration. Visa overstays
carry a significant fine and, in some cases, those who overstay may incur jail time. U.S. citizens who have obtained a new
passport from the U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu must have their valid Nepali visatransferred 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 website. Please note that activeduty U.S. militarypersonneland 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 be "anti-Chinese." Chinese authorities often require U.S. citizens and other foreign tourists to organize "group" tours through established travel agencies as a prerequisite for obtaining visas and entry permits into Tibet. The Chinese authorities have occasionally closed the border, especially around the anniversary of significant events in Tibet. U.S. citizens wishing to travel to Tibet should factor this possibility into their travel plans, andshould readthe Department of State’s travel information for China. Travelers should check with the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Nepal for current regulations on entry into Tibet and obtain current information about border crossing status.
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 or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our website. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information page.
THREATS TO SAFETY AND SECURITY: The Regional Security Officeat the U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu reviews the travel plans of U.S. government employees planning to go outside the Kathmandu Valley. U.S. citizens who decide to travel outside the Valley are urged to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program to register their planned itinerary with the U.S. Embassy and to monitor the situation for the most recent security information before traveling. Nighttime road travel should be avoided outside the Kathmandu Valley and minimized within Kathmandu.
Fueled by an unstable political environment, there are periodic small-scale improvised explosive device (IED) incidents throughout the country and youth wings of political parties continue to engage in violent extortion efforts.
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Bandhs (General Strikes): "Bandhs" (forced closure of businesses and schools and halting of vehicular traffic) occur in Nepal frequently and are commonly used as a form of political agitation. Bandhs tend to be unpredictable, may include violent incidents, and may take place without any prior notice. In past years, bandhs have lasted for periods as short as a few hours to as long as several days or even weeks, causing acute shortages of daily food supplies and bringing vehicular traffic to a complete halt. Individuals who do not comply with a bandh may be harassed by bandh organizers. In the past year, bandhs have been most frequent in the Terai, with fewersignificant bandhs in the Kathmandu Valley. Bandhs in the principal trekking areas are infrequent but do occur from time to time. Although bandh activity generally is not directed at foreign travelers, tourists attempting to defy bandhs may be subject to intimidation and/or violence.
During bandhs, U.S. citizens are urged to avoid all unnecessary travel. If travel is necessary, you can check with the U.S. Embassy or with local policeregarding what routesand forms of transportations are advisable to use.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 website for security-related messages for U.S. citizens, as well as the Nepal Ministry of Tourism for the latest security information.
CRIME: Although still relatively low, crime in Kathmandu and throughout the country has risen in some categories and declined in others. In a number of recent cases, criminals were found to have used sophisticated scams to commit crimes, particularly in Kathmandu. In addition, there continue to be reports of robberies, burglaries, and sexual assaults involving foreigners, including in the popular tourist district of Thamel in Kathmandu. Police also report an increase in the number of foreigners who have had sedative drugs placed in their food or drink by individuals who seek to rob or otherwise take advantage of them. 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.
In addition, visitors should consider exchanging money only at banks and hotels. There have been several reported incidents in which tourists have had their belongings stolen from their hotel rooms while they were asleep or away from their room. 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 and bag-snatching are 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 various scams. One of the most prevalent involves a requestto 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 creates the risk of further penalties at the border. Please also see the section on Special Circumstances below regarding scams suffered by individuals coming to Nepal to volunteer at orphanages or other organizations. Nepali police forces have limited resources and lack sufficient manpower to effectively enforce law and order, as well as to pursue claims of fraud or petty crime.Their services are not up to Western standards. Many cases reported to the police remain unresolved.
Criminal activity in the Terai, the southern plains region of Nepal bordering India, remain at levels higher than the country as a whole. In the Terai, criminal groups sometimes extort funds and kidnap people, although this activity generally is not directed at U.S. citizens. Extortion tactics used by armed groups in the region include assault, vandalism, and low-level IED attacks.
Don’t buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are the bootlegs illegal in the United States; if you purchase them you may be also breaking local law.
Do not agree to carry or store any packages from a stranger. There have been instances in which the packages concealed contraband material or drugs, and the foreigner who accepted the package was arrested by police for possessing the illegal substance.
VICTIMS OF CRIME: If you or someone you know becomes the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. We will take every appropriate action to help, including assistance to:
The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Nepal is“100,”which is manned 24/7 by the local police. While many Nepalipolice
officials understand and speak English, when calling the emergency number, you should speak slowly and enunciate so that your
message gets across to the official clearly and without misunderstanding.
Please see our information on victims of crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While you are traveling in Nepal, you are subject to its laws. Foreign laws and legal systems arevastly different from our own. In some places you may be taken in for questioning if you do not have your passport with you. In some places, it is illegal to take pictures of certain buildings and driving under the influence could land you immediately in jail. These criminal penalties will vary from country to country. There are also some things that might be legal in Nepal, but still illegal in the United States. Keep in mind that you can be prosecuted under U.S. law if you buy pirated goods in Nepal and bring them back to the United States. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime prosecutable in the United States. If you break local laws in Nepal, your U.S. passport will not help you avoid arrest or prosecution. It is very important to know what’s legal and what’s not where you are going.
Under the provisions of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, bilateral agreements with certain countries, and customary international law, if you are arrested in Nepal, you have the option to request that the police, prison officials, or other authorities alert the U.S. Embassy in Kathmanduand to have communications from you forwarded to the Embassy.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: 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 requiredto 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, andthe Nepali rupees equivalent ofUS $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 foreignwomen (including U.S. citizens) on popular trails have beenattacked 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 Nepaliguides, 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 (please see Aviation Safety Oversight section below). 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 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 claiming to offer volunteer opportunities.While many such organizations provide legitimate opportunities, the Embassy has received reports from a number of U.S. citizen volunteers complaining that theyhave been swindled or pressuredto provide large donations, or that donated funds or propertyhave been misappropriated.
Nepal has a controlled or fixed currency exchange ratepursuant to which the Nepalese Rupee ispegged 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. 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. General information about natural disaster preparedness is available from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and an Embassy Emergency Preparedness Guide is also available online.
Accessibility: While in Nepal, individuals with disabilities may find accessibility and accommodation very different from what you find in the United States. Nepali law prohibitsdiscrimination against persons who have physical and mental disabilities, including discrimination in employment, education, access to health care, and in the provision of other state services. The law mandates access to buildings, transportation, employment, education, and other state services, but these provisions generally are not enforced. In fact, Nepal’s poor infrastructure makes it impracticable in many cases for a mobility-impaired traveler to move around the country, both within the Kathmandu Valley and elsewhere. The government does not implement effectively or enforce laws regarding persons with disabilities. Except for a few clinics and hospitals, Nepal is severely lacking in accessibility and appropriate accommodation for individuals with disabilities.
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 (New Delhi, Singapore, or 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. There is minimal mental health care available in Nepal. U.S. citizens with mental health problems are generally stabilized and transported to the United States or to another regional center for care. The U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu maintains a list of local medical facilities.
Stray dogs are common on the streets of Kathmandu. Visitors should be aware that stray dogs and monkeys may be infected with
rabies. Any animal bites should be carefully handled and immediately brought to a medical practitioner’s attention. Medical
facilities are often overwhelmed due to insufficient resources. Emergency medical services are of poor quality compared to
that available in the United States.
You can find detailed information on vaccinations, pre-exposure prophylaxisfor rabies,and other health precautions on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ( Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization (WHO) website. The WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: You can’t assume your insurance will go with you when you travel. It’s very important to find out BEFORE you leave whether or not your medical insurance will cover you overseas. You need to ask your insurance company two questions:
In many places, doctors and hospitals still expect payment in cash at the time of service. Your regular U.S. health insurance may not cover doctor and hospital visits in other countries. If your policy doesn’t go with you when you travel, it’s a very good idea to take out another one for your trip. For more information, please see our medical insurance overseas page.
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 the Kathmandu Valley remains dangerous. In general, roads in Nepal are in poor condition and lack basic safety features, resulting in significant numbers of accidents and fatalities. Deaths from motorcycle accidents have risen dramatically in recent yearsand U.S. citizens should consider avoiding riding motorcycles in Nepal, particularly on highways. 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 for riding on the roof of buses. Long-distance buses often drive recklessly and bus accidents involving multiple fatalities are not uncommon.
Visitors throughout Nepal, including in Kathmandu, are encouraged to use metered taxis and avoid public buses and microbuses.
Many taxi drivers will refuse to use the meter, insisting on negotiating the price instead. In addition, therehave 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.
In the Kathmandu Valley, traffic jams are common on major streets, particularly between 9:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. Traffic is poorly regulated, and the volume of vehicles on the roads continues to increase faster than improvements in infrastructure. Many drivers are neither properly licensed nor trained, vehicles are poorly maintained, and public vehicles are often overloaded. Sidewalks are nonexistent in manyareas and many drivers do not yield the right-of-way to pedestriansin marked crosswalks.Pedestrians account for a considerable portionof all traffic fatalities in Nepal.
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’s safety assessment page.
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.
Domestic air safety continues to be of concern. Since 2010 there have been at least six fatal plane crashes in Nepal in which U.S. citizens have been killed. The incidence of such crashes is not concentrated with one carrier, but rather has occurred among various domestic carriers. Although Nepali domestic flights are insured, payments to the families of victims of a plane crash are minimal compared to what would normally be paid in the United States. Domestic air travelers may want to consider flight insurance that will cover domestic flights in Nepal before leaving home.
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This replaces the Country Specific Information for Nepal dated December 6, 2011, to update the sections on Country Description, Threats to Safety and Security, Crime, and Aviation Safety Oversight.