In political terms, Nepal is more stable than it has been in years, and crime is not a major risk for travellers. It makes sense to consult local and international news sources before you travel to Nepal so you are aware of any issues.
- Be aware that damage from the earthquake has affected travel in many areas. Some roads are still damaged and experts warn of an increased risk of landslides and avalanches following the disaster.
- Statistically speaking, the most dangerous thing you'll do in Nepal is simply taking public transport along the country's busy highways.
Government Travel Advice
The folllowing government websites offer travel advisories and information on current hotspots. Some of this official travel advice can sound a little alarmist, but if your government issues a travel warning advising against ‘all travel’ or ‘all but essential travel’ to a specific area, then your travel insurance may be invalid if you ignore this advice.
Demonstrations & Strikes
Nepal has a long history of demonstrations and strikes – some by politicians, some by students, some by Maoists, and some by all three! The political situation has greatly improved, but occasionally demonstrations still occur and they can turn violent.
A normal demonstration is a julus. If things escalate there may be a chakka jam (‘jam the wheels’), when all vehicles stay off the street, or a bandh, when all shops, schools and offices are closed. In the event of a strike, the best thing to do is hole up in your hotel with a good book. In this case you’ll likely have to dine at your hotel.
If political instability returns, it pays to heed the following points:
- Keep an eye on the local press and news websites to find out about impending strikes, demonstrations and curfews – follow websites such as www.kathmandupost.ekantipur.com, www.thehimalayantimes.com and www.nepalitimes.com.
- Don’t ever break curfews and avoid travelling by road during bandhs or blockades, particularly in a rented vehicle, as vehicles flouting travel bans are often vandalised. Be nervous if you notice that your car is the only one on the streets of Kathmandu!
- When roads are closed, the government generally runs buses with armed police from the airport to major hotels, returning to the airport from Tridevi Marg at the east end of Thamel.
You should heed the following general advice for travelling in Nepal:
- Register with your embassy in Kathmandu, especially if you plan to go trekking.
- Don’t trek alone. Solo women should avoid travelling alone with a male guide.
- Be familiar with the symptoms of altitude sickness when trekking and follow the guidelines for safe acclimatisation.
- Avoid travelling on night buses as these are prone to accidents.
- Take copies of your passport, visa, air ticket and trekking permits and keep these separate from the originals.
Whilst the overwhelming majority of Nepalis couldn't be any nicer, there are some who are impressively inventive in their range of imaginative scams. Watch out for the following:
- Deals offered by gem dealers that involve you buying stones to sell for a ‘vast profit’ at home. The dealers normally claim they are not able to export the stones without paying heavy taxes, so you take them and meet another dealer when you get home, who will sell them to a local contact and you both share the profit. Except they don’t. And you don’t.
- Children or young mothers asking for milk. You buy the milk at a designated store at an inflated price, the child then returns the milk and pockets some of the mark-up.
- Kids who seem to know the capital of any country you can think of; they are charming but a request for money will arrive at some point.
- ‘Holy men’ who do their best to plant a tika (a red paste denoting a blessing) on your forehead, only to then demand significant payment.
- Credit card scams; travellers have bought souvenirs and then found thousands of dollars worth of internet porn subscriptions chalked up on their bill.
While petty theft is not on the scale that exists in many countries, reports of theft from hotel rooms in tourist areas (including along trekking routes) do occasionally reach us, and theft with violence is not unheard of. Never store valuables or money in your hotel room.
One of the most common forms of theft is when backpacks are rifled through when they’re left on the roof of a bus. Try to make your pack as theft-proof as possible – small padlocks and cover bags are a good deterrent.
There’s little chance of ever retrieving your gear if it is stolen, and even getting a police report for an insurance claim can be difficult. Try the tourist police, or, if there aren’t any, the local police station. If you’re not getting anywhere, go to Interpol at the Police Headquarters in Naxal, Kathmandu.