Nepal To Ban Solo Trekkers Throughout the Country (Yes, That Includes the Annapurna Circuit)
The Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) has announced that solo trekkers will soon be banned throughout the country. According to the new provision, anyone wishing to trek in the mountains of Nepal must hire a licensed guide or join a group expedition starting April 1.
Nepal previously banned solo expeditions on Mount Everest but has now expanded the rule to the entire country.
Solo travelers are still free to visit Nepal’s urban areas and beaches alone. However, anyone wishing to trek in the country’s rural and mountainous regions—including popular hikes like the Annapurna Circuit—can no longer do so without hiring a guide.
Ian Taylor of Ian Taylor Trekking, a guide company active in Nepal, told CNN the country has experienced an uptick in the number of inexperienced, underprepared trekkers in recent years. “When people are in the mountains that do not have the correct training, preparation or experience, they need assistance,” said Taylor.
When things go wrong in remote, mountainous regions with limited infrastructure, search and rescue operations can be difficult and costly.
The NTB said in a press release that it hopes the new requirement will mitigate the need for search and rescue by ensuring that all visitors have immediate access to skilled assistance should trouble arise.
According to the statement, the move will also crack down on unlicensed guiding companies operating in Nepal. “In addition to safety, the new provision will create employment for workers in the tourism sector of Nepal and discourage unauthorized trekking operations in the country.”
Trekkers must have a Trekking Information Management System (TIMS) card to hike within the country. This permit isn’t new, but what is new is that trekkers must obtain the card through a licensed guiding outfit registered with the Government of Nepal. (In the past, solo trekkers could obtain one for themselves for a higher fee).
Under the new structure, the TIMS card costs NPR 1000 for citizens of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) member countries and NPR 2000 for all others.
According to the Board’s written statement, “NTB is positive that this step paves way (sic) for sustainable, responsible and eco-friendly tourism in the Himalayan region of Nepal.”
Featured image: A section of Nepal’s Annapurna Circuit. Photo via Sara Leibold.
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