Nepal to Let in Trekkers, Mountaineers This Month

The Himalayan country is gearing up to welcome adventure travelers on October 17.

A stupa outside the town of Namche Bazaar. (Photo: Sebastian Pena Lambarri/Unsplash)

Though Nepal’s tourism reopening was previously set for August, a subsequent surge of coronavirus infections in the country saw it postponed for another two months. Certain kinds of international travelers will now be permitted to enter the country starting from October 17. According to the Kathmandu Post, tourism ministry spokesperson Kamal Prasad Bhattarai said, “We have opened, but only for trekkers and mountaineers. Tourists intending to come for other purposes like leisure and pilgrimage will not be allowed for the time being.”

But travelers eager to hit the Himalayan trails after months of confinement at home will have to face several hurdles under new guidelines issued by the tourism ministry this week. Unlike pre-pandemic times, visas on arrival will not be issued at Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport. All trekkers and mountaineers must apply for a tourist visa at a Nepali embassy or consulate in their home countries. Those who do not have access to relevant diplomatic missions will need to submit a special request to their chosen trekking or travel operators in Nepal to secure prior approval from the country’s Department of Immigration. It is understood that recommendations will be made by tourism officials in charge of issuing trekking and mountaineering permits.

Once a tourist visa has been granted, travelers must then take a PCR test no more than 72 hours before boarding their flights. Upon arrival in Nepal, they should present a medical certificate stating that they are free of the virus, proof of Covid-19 insurance coverage worth US$5,000, and an advance booking at a hotel where they will spend seven days in mandatory quarantine. Visitors must undergo another PCR test (at their own expense) at the end of the self-isolation period, with those who test negative allowed to carry on their journeys. Travelers found to be infected with the virus must remain in hotel quarantine until a swab test yields a negative result.

Schools across Nepal have just reopened in the latest phase of loosening coronavirus restrictions. Hotels and restaurants were permitted to resume operations from the middle of last month, alongside domestic flights and intercity bus routes. As of September 30, the country has recorded 77,817 confirmed cases of Covid-19, including 498 deaths.

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