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Nepal Bans Solo Trekking for Travelers

by Aoife O’Riordan

Mar 14, 2023

© Rodrigolab | Dreamstime.com

eFlyer Lead

In 2017, Nepal’s government banned solo travelers from climbing Mount Everest. Now, the Nepalese government takes this restriction one step further, banning all solo trekkers from traversing the country. Travelers hiking in remote regions must now hire a government-licensed guide or join a group.

This decision stems from the growing cost of search and rescue missions for lost solo hikers. With inadequate infrastructure and lack of cell service in remote parts of Nepal, finding lost solo hikers takes a financial toll on the government. The ban officially begins April 1.

Hikers of all experience levels must abide by this new rule on treks in Nepal’s national parks, including Annapurna Circuit, a popular route spanning 150 miles within the Annapurna Mountains. The ban only applies to solo treks in national parks and remote regions in the country; solo trekkers can still enjoy ventures around cities like Kathmandu.

The enforcement of solo travelers using government-licensed guides or groups comes from the many unlicensed tour guides and companies who not only register with the government but also fail to pay taxes, affecting Nepal’s tourism industry. Moreover, these unlicensed companies take jobs away from Nepalis.

In 2022 alone, there were an estimated 22,000 solo trekkers in Nepal. Before the pandemic, in 2019, about 46,000 tourists, primarily from the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, India and Japan, went hiking alone.

The announcement has already received mixed responses. Some, including those involved with guiding companies with a long history in Nepal, support the decision. Enacting this ban ensures the safety of travelers, especially as travel continues to return following the pandemic.

Others, however, are more critical of the ban. Some claim it is unrealistic, in that the government cannot account for every single solo traveler. Additionally, opponents of the ban express disappointment that a popular form of travel for many has been taken away. Experienced solo trekkers also hit back at the ban, frustrated they must now enroll with a licensed group in order to see some of Nepal’s most iconic and remote features.

Before the pandemic, Nepal reported nearly 400 tourists go missing every year. While unclear if this number reflects those who were later found or whether these travelers were hiking or climbing at the time of their disappearance, the number dropped to just 54 between summers 2020 and 2021.

While Nepal does not intend to restrict travelers’ access to the country’s scenic spots and mountains, this new rule comes in the wake of increased dangers as more and more travelers enter Nepal.

Do you have a trip planned to Nepal in the next few years? Have you visited Nepal in the past? Were you a solo traveler? What are your thoughts on this ban? Do you think other countries will soon follow? Tell us your thoughts. Email us at [email protected]. Please include your full name and location.

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