Nepal is a developing country with extensive tourist facilities, which vary in quality according to price and location. The capital is Kathmandu.
A passport and visa are required. Tourist visas can be purchased upon arrival at Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu and at all other ports of entry. All foreigners 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.
Since February 1996, a rural Maoist insurgency in Nepal has resulted in the deaths of approximately 1,400 people. While Maoist violence is typically aimed at Nepalese Government offices, police, and political leaders, in at least three instances, one involving a rafting party, another a group of trekkers, and a third a popular resort hotel in Pokhara, tourists or tourist facilities have been robbed by groups of armed Maoists. While there have been no injuries associated with these 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, Salyan, and Sindhuli 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 Dolakha, Gorkha, Kabhre Palanchok, Dang, Dolpa, Pyuthan, Ramechaap, 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) that they perceive to have an American affiliation. Several American NGOs 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. Because of frequently changing security conditions, U.S. Government employees are periodically forbidden from road travel outside the Kathmandu Valley, particularly when the likelihood of violence is high, such as during elections or on Maoist anniversary dates in February and April. The U.S. Embassy recommends that road travel outside the Kathmandu Valley be undertaken only during daylight. American citizens are strongly urged to check with the U.S. Embassy upon arrival in Nepal to receive the latest security information, since the potential for violence now extends to areas that have in the past been relatively free of such activity.
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 general strikes (called "Bandha" 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.
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 forTravelers to South Asia, for was 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 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.
U.S. medical insurance is not always valid outside the United States.
U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide for payment for medical services outside the United States. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas may face extreme difficulties.
Please check with your own insurance company to confirm whether your policy applies overseas, including provision for medical evacuation, and for adequacy of coverage. Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Supplemental health insurance that specifically covers overseas treatment and air evacuation to the nearest adequate medical facility is strongly recommended. Please ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas hospital or doctor or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses that you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.
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 Transporta 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.
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 (telephone 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, trekking alone 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 United States 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 (please see the section on Embassy Location and Registration below).
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 in Nepal. The U.S. Embassy is located at Pani Pokhari in Kathmandu, telephone (977) (1) 411179; fax (977) (1) 419963. The U.S. Embassy home page can be viewed at http://www.south-asia.com/USA/ for updated information regarding Embassy services and travel in Nepal.
Registration by e-mail: U.S. citizens may also register with the U.S. Embassy by sending an e-mail to email@example.com. Please include the following information: full name; date of birth; U.S. passport number, date and place of issuance; home address and phone number; emergency contact person's name, phone number, fax or e-mail address; travel/medevac insurance information; address and phone number in Nepal; travel or trekking agency contact in Nepal; planned itinerary in Nepal; and traveling companions' names and nationalities. Finally, please indicate to whom, if anyone, the Embassy may divulge information regarding your welfare and whereabouts in Nepal.
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, 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.
As there is no direct commercial air service by local carriers at present, nor 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 telephone 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA Internet home page at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/iasa.pdf. 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 telephone (618) 229-4801.
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