February 23rd, 2009 15:17 EST
The U.S. Consular Information Sheet for Nepal
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:Nepal is a developing country with extensive tourist facilities, which vary widely in quality and price. The capital is Kathmandu. Nepal has suffered from political instability during almost 11 years of a violent Maoist insurgency. The Government signed a comprehensive peace agreement on November 21 formally ending the Maoist insurgency, which began in 1996. It remains unclear however whether the Maoists will comply with their commitments to end all violence. Read the Department of State Background Notes on Nepal for additional information.
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: A passport and visa are required. Travelers may obtain visas prior to travel. Visas and information on entry/exit requirements can be obtained from the Embassy of Nepal at 2131 Leroy Place, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 667-4550, or the Consulate General in New York at (212) 370-3988. Active duty U.S. military and Department of Defense contractors must obtain a country clearance for official and unofficial travel to Nepal.
Tourists may also purchase two-month, single-entry visas or two-month, multiple-entry visas 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). Upon departure from Tribhuvan International Airport, all foreigners must pay an airport exit tax, regardless of the length of their stay. Tourists may stay in Nepal no longer than 150 days in any given calendar year.
Travelers occasionally report immigration difficulties with Chinese authorities when crossing the Nepal-China border overland in either direction. Chinese authorities often require American and other foreign tourists to organize "group" tours through established travel agencies as a pre-requisite 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.See our Foreign Entry Requirements brochure for more information on Nepal and other countries. Visit the Embassy of Nepal web site at http://www.nepalembassyusa.org/ for the most current visa information. Travelers may also obtain entry and exit information from the Nepalese Department of Immigration website at www.viewnepal.com/immigration/touristvisa.php .
See Entry and Exit Requirements for more information pertaining to dual nationality and the prevention of international child abduction. Please refer to our Customs Information to learn more about customs regulations. for more information pertaining to and the prevention of . Please refer to our to learn more about customs regulations.for more information pertaining to and the prevention of . Please refer to our to learn more about customs regulations.for more information pertaining to and the prevention of . Please refer to our to learn more about customs regulations.
SAFETY AND SECURITY: A Travel Warning remains in effect for Nepal because the Department of State continues to be concerned about the security situation in Nepal. Despite the signing of the November 21 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, Maoist extortion and abductions continue. Maoists are now free to roam about the countryside and cities, sometimes openly bearing their weapons. Travel via road in areas outside of the Kathmandu valley is still dangerous and should be avoided. There have been attacks in the countryside involving foreigners. Trekkers and other individuals who resist Maoist extortion demands have been threatened, sometimes assaulted, and risk being detained. In March 2006, Maoists detained several Polish trekkers after the trekkers refused to pay extortion. Since the ceasefire in April 2006, hotels and businesses frequented by American citizens have been the target of extortion demands and, in some cases, have become the focus of demonstrations. In November 2006, some resident Americans reported that they were told that they would have to house and feed Maoists intending to participate in rallies. In a few cases, local staff of American residents were threatened or beaten when they attempted to resist extortion demands. The discrepancy between Maoist statements on their intentions and their actions, combined with their anti-American rhetoric, make it unclear how they will conduct themselves following the signing of the peace agreement.
While large scale protests such as those that occurred in April 2006 have abated, the potential for large or violent demonstrations remains. During recent demonstrations, protests were violent. Demonstrators burned vehicles, threw rocks at passing motorists and burned tires to block traffic. Given the 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 Embassy`s website (http://nepal.usembassy.gov) for current security information.
On September 10, 2004, two bombs exploded at the American Center compound in Kathmandu. There were no injuries, but the blasts damaged the facility. Shortly thereafter, on September 14, 2004, the Peace Corps announced the temporary suspension of its operations in Nepal, which continues. Since November 2001, Maoist insurgents have carried out attacks on Nepali security forces, government facilities, and private businesses in most parts of the country. Maoist cadres also have engaged in a variety of guerrilla and terrorist tactics that have victimized and, in many cases, brutalized civilians. The insurgents have detonated explosive devices both within and outside the Kathmandu Valley, causing numerous injuries and some fatalities.
The Department of State has 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.
Maoists have exhibited a willingness to harass and attack established tourist facilities and infrastructure, and on a number of occasions have burned or bombed tourist resorts after the foreigners staying there were given short notice to evacuate. Maoists have detonated bombs within Kathmandu, including in Thamel, a well-known tourist hub. The random, indiscriminate, and unpredictable nature of these attacks creates the risk of U.S. citizens in Nepal being caught in the wrong place at the wrong time should the violent insurgency resume.
Of Nepal`s 75 Districts, all but one have suffered violence related to the Maoist insurgency. Armed rebel attacks, landmine explosions and vehicle burnings have occurred sporadically on main highways, including the roads linking Kathmandu with the Chinese and Indian borders and with the tourist destinations of Pokhara, Annapurna Conservation Area, and Chitwan National Park. On June 6, 2005 Maoist members detonated a landmine underneath a crowded bus in the Chitwan district, killing or injuring over a hundred people. There have been attacks in the countryside involving foreigners. Maoist extortion of tourists along some popular hiking trails continues. Trekkers and other individuals who resist Maoist extortion demands are threatened, sometimes assaulted and risk being detained. Visitors throughout Nepal, including in Kathmandu, should use metered taxis and avoid public buses.
U.S. citizens are advised to avoid road travel outside the Kathmandu Valley unless they have reliable information that they can proceed safely in specific areas at specific times. Maoist leaders occasionally 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. In late Spring 2004, Maoists forcibly blocked all traffic in areas surrounding Pokhara, preventing the departure of tourists for an extended period, and causing some to miss their international flights from Kathmandu. In August and December 2004, the Maoists instituted a virtual blockade around Kathmandu Valley. Other district centers have been blockaded without warning. U.S. citizens are encouraged to contact the U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu for the latest security information, and to travel by air whenever possible.
Maoists have attacked the offices of several non-governmental organizations (NGOs), their local partners, and multinational businesses working in Nepal. NGO workers report widespread harassment and extortion by rebels. Some workers have left their projects in rural areas because of direct threats or concerns about possible rebel violence. A statement by the Maoists on October 21, 2003 threatened attacks against or disruption of NGOs funded by "American imperialism." In a November 2002 press release, the Maoists claimed responsibility for targeting and murdering two locally-hired U.S. Embassy security guards.
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. Nighttime road travel should be strictly avoided outside the Kathmandu Valley and minimized within Kathmandu.
Visitors in areas on or near the rim of the Kathmandu Valley, such as Shivapuri National Park, should be particularly cautious when traversing military camps or checkpoints and carefully follow the commands of security personnel. Military installations and checkpoints are often protected with defensive explosive devices. Movement in such areas at or after dusk should not be undertaken.
BANDHS (GENERAL STRIKES): A "bandh" (forced closure of businesses, schools and halting of vehicular traffic) is a longstanding form of political expression in Nepal, which has been frequently used by the Maoists and political parties. Maoist bandhs are enforced through intimidation and violence, with past bandhs resulting in the shutdown of businesses, schools, offices and vehicular traffic. Both within and outside the Kathmandu Valley, the rebels have established a pattern of bombings, targeted assassinations (usually of security personnel), and other acts of intimidation prior to scheduled bandhs. In the lead-up to past bandhs, Maoists have attacked public buses, private vehicles, Nepalese Government vehicles and offices, schools and private businesses with firebombs and explosive devices in an effort to terrorize the population into observing the strike. In anticipation of a bandh planned for May 2004, for example, Maoists detonated several small bombs in the heart of Kathmandu, including one on a public bus, injuring over 20 people and killing one.
Bandhs tend to be unpredictable and take place without any prior notice. Such bandhs typically draw thousands of demonstrators into the streets that may attempt to incite or initiate violence. The demonstrations tend to focus on the central areas of Kathmandu, but bandh-related violent disturbances by protesting parties may occur throughout the Kathmandu Valley, as well as other major towns.
During bandhs, U.S. citizens are urged to pay attention to the volume of traffic on the roads, waiting until a pattern of traffic is well established before undertaking travel, and to maintain a low profile throughout bandh periods. Buses, taxis, and other forms of public transportation may not operate 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 road travel outside the Kathmandu Valley at all times and especially during scheduled bandhs. American citizens should exercise additional caution both during the lead-up to and during 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 at http://nepal.usembassy.gov for up-to-date information on upcoming bandhs as well as the latest security information.
For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department`s Internet web site where the current Travel Warnings and Public Announcements, including the Travel Warning for Nepal and the Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, 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 U.S., or for callers outside the U.S. 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 pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad.
CRIME: Although the rate of violent crime is low in Kathmandu relative to that in comparably-sized American cities, street crime does occur in Kathmandu as well as in other areas frequented by foreigners. Solo trekkers have also been robbed by small groups of young men, even on some popular trails. Visitors should avoid walking alone after dark and carrying large sums of cash or wearing expensive jewelry. Since the Maoists declared a ceasefire in April 2006, the incidences of robbery and home invasion robbery by armed gangs has increased, and in some cases American citizens have been victimized. The U.S. Embassy has received several reports of individuals harassing American women in Kathmandu, and in one case an American woman was assaulted.
Although foreigners are not normally the targets of assaults, in late 2005 two European women were murdered in Nargarjun Forest, a popular tourist destination. The two murders occurred within weeks of each other and both involved women hiking alone. The body and valuables of one woman were recovered and theft did not appear to be the motivation behind the crime. Both crimes remain unsolved and no culprit(s) have been identified. In addition, visitors should consider exchanging money only at banks and hotels and limiting shopping to daylight hours. 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, where most pick-pocketing occurs. Passports and cash should be carried in a protected neck pouch or money belt--not in a backpack or handbag. There have been several reported incidents where tourists have had their belongings stolen from their rooms while they were asleep. In one case, when police detained two employees of a hotel where this occurred, the American citizen victim was threatened by Maoists. The citizen was told that unless the two employees were released, the citizen would not be allowed to leave Nepal.
INFORMATION FOR 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.
See our information on Victims of Crime.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Medical care in Nepal is limited and is generally not up to Western standards. Serious illnesses often require evacuation to the nearest adequate medical facility (in Singapore, Bangkok or New Delhi). Illnesses and injuries suffered while on trek in remote areas often require evacuation by helicopter to Kathmandu. Travelers should be aware that emergency services such as evacuations and rescues from remote areas have been compromised by Maoist attacks on helicopters and airfields and the destruction of regular phone service in most trekking areas. Moreover, emergency helicopter evacuations may be impeded by restrictions limiting helicopter landings generally to locations where an armed police force with a contingent of at least 30 personnel is present. Those trekking in remote areas of Nepal should factor the high costs of a potential helicopter rescue into their financial considerations. Travelers are urged to consider purchasing 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.
Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions 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 internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization`s (WHO) website at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith/en/.
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 be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
American citizens are strongly warned against undertaking any road travel outside the Kathmandu Valley at night or during or immediately preceding bandhs (general strikes). Additionally, American citizens should be extremely cautious when traveling overland in Nepal, especially by bus. Moreover, Americans should consider avoiding riding motorcycles in Nepal. In 2006, three foreigners were killed after they were hit by trucks while riding motorcycles on the highway. A number of public buses have been held up and/or burned by Maoists. On June 6, 2005 Maoist members detonated a landmine underneath a crowded bus in the Chitwan district, killing or injuring over a hundred people. In addition, there have been attacks in the countryside involving foreigners.
In general, roads are in poor condition and lack basic safety features. Many mountain and hill roads are impassable during monsoon season (June-September) due to landslides, and are hazardous even in the best weather. Avoid travel on night buses; fatal accidents are frequent. In the Kathmandu Valley, 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 15 percent a year. Many drivers are neither properly licensed nor trained. Many vehicles are poorly maintained. Sidewalks and pedestrian crossings are non-existent 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. Visit the website of Nepal`s national tourist office and national authority responsible for road safety at http://www.welcomenepal.com/.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial air service between the United States and Nepal, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Nepal`s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA`s Internet website at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa.
In 2003, the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal grounded several domestic airlines for failing to meet minimal aircraft safety equipment requirements.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Foreign trekkers and climbers, including a number of American citizens, continue to be robbed, extorted, intimidated and injured by armed Maoists on the trails. Risks of a Maoist encounter are very high on nearly all trekking routes in Nepal, and injuries to foreigners by Maoists for arguing or failing to pay extortion demands have occurred. On some trails, Maoists have announced that U.S. citizens are not welcome and are demanding proof of citizenship from foreigners when extorting money. On a number of occasions, Maoists have forcibly detained Americans, in one case for several days.
While Maoist extortion of trekkers was previously absent above Lukla in the Everest park, Maoist checkpoints where armed Maoists demand payment for "trekking permits" are now a concern. In the Annapurna region, numerous military confrontations between the Maoists and government security forces have occurred on trails to the Annapurna Base Camp and throughout the southern portions of the Annapurna Circuit. Recent reports indicate that Maoists are also stopping trekkers in the upper Annapurna trails as well. In March 2004, there was a large-scale attack in the town of Beni, astride a main trail into the Annapurna trekking area from the southwest. Unexploded Maoist ordnance has been reported along several portions of the Annapurna trails. There are many reports of Maoist extortion, including at gunpoint, and encounters with large groups of armed insurgents in the Annapurna region, especially on the route to the Annapurna Base Camp and on the popular Poon Hill. Moreover, the Maoist insurgents have also forced the closure of Annapurna Conservation Area Project offices and police posts, which have traditionally provided security, information and emergency services for Annapurna trekkers. The Embassy advises against trekking to the Annapurna Base Camp or along the Annapurna Circuit (except between Manang and Jomsom) until Maoist extortion and attacks end.
U.S. citizens should never hike alone or become separated from larger traveling parties while on a trail. Solo trekking has contributed to injuries and deaths, and makes one a more vulnerable target to trail hoodlums as well as rebels. The safest option for all trekkers is to join an organized group and/or use a reputable firm that provides an experienced guide and porters who communicate in both Nepali and English. Also, Americans are urged to refrain from arguing with or "talking back" to Maoists, as any rebel encounter involves a risk of violence. Maoist cadres have pointed weapons at foreigners and/or beaten with sticks those who initially refused to pay or were seen as argumentative.
Maoist destruction of telephone services to many trekking areas complicates 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 higher 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 and landslides, 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 requires a special permit from the Government of Nepal at a minimum cost of $700 per person.
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 possible hazards in the high country.
Nepal has a controlled, or fixed, currency exchange rate with the Indian Rupee. In order to manage this rate of exchange, 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 $2,000 in value by filling out a custom`s declaration form. Travelers should ensure that they keep a copy of the declaration form after customs officials have put the endorsement 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 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.
Nepal is prone to earthquakes, landslides, and flooding. The Government of Nepal`s ability to respond is limited. General information about natural disaster preparedness is available via the Internet from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at http://www.fema.gov.
Nepalese customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning importation (even temporary) into or export 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. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Nepal in Washington or Nepal`s Consulate General in New York for specific information regarding customs requirements.
Please see our Customs Information.
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 Nepali 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. Proselytizing is illegal in Nepal and those found guilty could be sentenced from three to six years in prison and deported after they have served their sentence. 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.
CHILDREN`S ISSUES: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children`s Issues website. Nepal`s Inter country Adoption informational handout has been updated and is available on the U.S. Embassy website: http://nepal.usembassy.gov/adoptions.html
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 website so that they can obtain updated information on travel and security within Nepal. Please include the following information under Comments or Purpose of Visit: travel/medevac insurance information; travel or trekking agency contact in Nepal; planned itinerary in Nepal; and traveling companions` names and nationalities. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. 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 at Pani Pokhari in Kathmandu, telephone (977) (1) 441-1179. The Consular Section is located at the Yak and Yeti Hotel complex on Durbarmarg Street. The section can be reached directly at (977) (1) 444-5577; fax (977) (1) 444-4981 or through the Embassy switchboard.