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Travel Warning & Consular Information Sheet for Nepal

Nepal - Consular Information Sheet
May 31, 2001

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Nepal is a developing country with extensive tourist facilities, which vary in quality according to price and location. The capital is Kathmandu.

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: Passport and visa required. Tourist visas can be purchased upon arrival at Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu and at all other ports of entry. All foreigners flying out of the country must pay an airport exit tax, regardless of the length of their stay. Travelers may obtain further information on entry/ exit requirements by contacting the Royal Nepalese Embassy 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. The Internet address of the Embassy of Nepal is http://www/newweb.net/nepal_embassy/

Travelers occasionally report immigration difficulties in crossing the Nepal-China border overland in either direction. 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 People's Republic of China Embassy in Nepal for current regulations for entry into Tibet.

In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.

SAFETY/SECURITY: Since February 1996, a rural Maoist insurgency in Nepal has resulted in the deaths of approximately 1,700 people. Since the fall of 2000, Maoist insurgent activity has increased markedly. Maoist attacks in a number of rural areas have inflicted heavy casualties on Nepalese police in intense firefights. Maoist violence is typically aimed at Nepalese government offices, police, and political leaders. However, in at least three instances (one involving a rafting party, another a group of trekkers, and a third a popular resort hotel in Pokhara), armed Maoists have robbed tourists or tourist facilities. While there have been no injuries associated with these latter confrontations, they underscore the need for American tourists and residents in Nepal to exercise extreme caution when planning travel to or through Nepal.

Because of the potential for violence, the U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu forbids U.S. Government employees from traveling to or through Jajarkot, Kalikot, Rolpa, Rukum, and Salyan districts. These districts have been most seriously affected by the insurgency. The Department of State cautions American citizens to avoid travel to or through these areas. In addition, the Embassy restricts U.S. Government employee travel to or through parts of the following districts: Accham, Baglung (except Baglung Bazaar), Bardia (except the main road to Bardia National Park and tourist resorts in and around the perimeter of the park), Dailekh, Dang (except the main highway through Lamahi to Amile), Dolakha, Dolpa, Gorkha, Jumla, Kavre (except the main highway through Banepa and Dhulikhel to Dolaghat), Lamjung (except the portion through which the Annapurna Circuit runs), Mugu, Pyuthan, Ramechapp, Sindhuli, Sindupalchok, and Surkhet districts. Only essential, daylight travel is permitted in these areas. American citizens traveling in these districts are advised to exercise extreme caution. Maoist incidents have also occurred in other districts, including in the Kathmandu Valley. Security problems may occur anywhere in Nepal.

Maoist groups have threatened to take actions against non-governmental organizations (NGOs) they perceive to have an American affiliation. Offices of several American NGOs, their local partners, and multinational businesses working in Nepal have been attacked by Maoists, in at least one case explicitly because of the organization's association with the United States. Since the fall of 2000, workers in a number of NGO projects have reported a substantial increase in incidents in which Maoists have used intimidation and extortion. Some project workers have evacuated their areas due to concerns about possible Maoist violence and in response to Maoist directives to stop their work.

Road travel by U.S. Government employees is forbidden in particular areas of Nepal when the likelihood of violence is high. The U.S. Embassy recommends that road travel outside the Kathmandu Valley be undertaken only during daylight. American citizens are strongly urged to check in with the U.S. Embassy upon arrival in Nepal to receive the latest security information, since the potential for violence now extends to all areas that have in the past been relatively free of activity. The latest security information is also available on the U.S. Embassy's home page at http://www.south-asia.com/usa/

Public demonstrations and strikes are popular forms of political expression in Nepal, and they may occur on short notice. These demonstrations are usually nonviolent and not directed towards foreigners. On occasion, however, rock throwers have targeted vehicles, and acts of intimidation by strike supporters have been reported. During a general strike (called a "Bandh" in Nepal), many businesses close, and transportation and city services may be disrupted. Americans are urged to exercise caution and to avoid travel from the evening immediately preceding a strike through the evening of the strike.

Americans traveling in Nepal should be aware of the potential for some hotels and guesthouses to close during a bandh, requiring that travelers seek accommodations elsewhere.

CRIME: Although the rate of violent crime is low in Kathmandu relative to comparably sized American cities, street crime is prevalent in Kathmandu as well as in other areas frequented by foreigners. To avoid falling victim to crime, visitors should take prudent safety precautions. Visitors should avoid walking alone after dark and carrying large sums of cash or expensive jewelry. 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--not in a backpack. The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to local police and to the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. U.S. citizens may refer to the Department of State's pamphlets A Safe Trip Abroad and Tips for Travelers to South Asia for ways to promote a more trouble-free journey. The pamphlets are available by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs, or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.

MEDICAL FACILITIES: Medical care is extremely 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 rescue by helicopter. The cost is typically $3,000 to $10,000.

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. U.S. medical insurance plans seldom cover health costs incurred outside the United States unless supplemental coverage is purchased. Further, U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. However, many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas, including emergency services such as medical evacuations.

When making a decision regarding health insurance, Americans should consider that many foreign doctors and hospitals require payment in cash prior to providing service and that a medical evacuation to the U.S. may cost well in excess of $50,000. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas often face extreme difficulties, whereas travelers who have purchased overseas medical insurance have, when a medical emergency occurs, found it life-saving. When consulting with your insurer prior to your trip, ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas healthcare provider or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.

Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page or autofax: (202) 647-3000.

OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: Information on vaccinations and other health precautions 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); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov.

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.

Safety of Public Transportation: Poor
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor

American citizens should be extremely cautious when traveling overland in Nepal, especially by bus. In general, roads are in very poor condition and lack basic safety features. Many mountain and hill roads are impassable during monsoon season (June-September) due to landslides, and are very hazardous even in the best weather. Avoid travel on night buses - fatal accidents are frequent. In the Kathmandu Valley, roads are congested. Traffic is badly regulated, and the volume of vehicles on the roads is increasing by 15 percent a year. Many drivers are neither properly licensed nor trained. 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. Of the 4,500 traffic-related deaths in 1997, two-thirds were pedestrians.

INFORMATION FOR TREKKERS: Trekking in Nepal typically involves walking for an extended time over rugged, steep terrain, where one is exposed to the elements, often in remote areas many days' walk from a telephone or emergency services. Many popular trekking routes in Nepal cross passes as high as 18,000 feet. The U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu strongly advises all U.S. citizens to exercise extreme caution when trekking at higher altitudes. Only experienced mountain travelers should tackle the Himalaya. 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 and landslides caused by severe storms have killed foreign trekkers and their Nepalese guides, and stranded hundreds of others. Before leaving Kathmandu, trekkers can check with the U.S. Embassy or the Himalayan Rescue Association (phone 977-1-262-746) for good information about trail conditions and possible hazards in the high country. Violent assaults and robberies have increased on popular trails. More than any other factor, solo trekking contributes to injuries and deaths. The safest option for all trekkers is to join an organized group and/or use a reputable firm that provides an experienced guide and porter who communicate in both Nepali and English.

Because most trekking areas have no phones, trekkers are advised to leave their itinerary with family or friends in the U.S. and to check in at police checkposts where trekking permits are logged. U.S. citizens are also strongly encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy upon arrival in Nepal (see Embassy Location and Registration below).

AIR TRAVEL SECURITY: The American Embassy in Kathmandu is concerned about the safety of airline travel to and from Tribuvan International airport in Kathmandu following several incidents in which aircraft struck birds during takeoffs and landings. In a three-week period last year, three international airline flights were aborted during takeoff because of collisions with large birds, a fourth was damaged in a collision with a bird during landing, and at least one domestically operated aircraft was damaged due to an in-flight collision with a bird.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial air service by local carriers at present, or economic authority to operate such service, between the U.S. and Nepal, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Nepal's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with international aviation safety standards.

For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA Internet home page at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact the DOD at (703)-697-7288.

CUSTOMS REGULATIONS: Nepalese customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation 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.

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 those in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Nepalese laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession of, use of, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Nepal are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.

DISASTER PREPAREDNESS: Nepal is an earthquake-prone country. 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.

CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, please refer to our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html or telephone (202) 736-7000.

REGISTRATION/EMBASSY LOCATION: Americans living in or visiting Nepal are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Nepal and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Nepal. The U.S. Embassy is located at Pani Pokhari in Kathmandu, telephone (977) (1) 411179; fax (977) (1) 419963. U.S. citizens may also register by e-mail by accessing the U.S. Embassy's home page at http://www.south-asia.com/USA. The home page also provides updated information regarding security in Nepal, Embassy services, and travel in Nepal.

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