Nepal travel guide
Officially the highest country on Earth, lofty Nepal is commonly referred to as the “roof of the world.” That seems like a fitting moniker for this Himalayan nation, where soaring, snow-capped mountains disappear into the clouds like stairways to heaven.
Mount Everest is the star attraction. Tourists come in their droves to climb, hike and admire the world’s tallest peak, which flirts with the stratosphere at 8,848m (29,029ft). But this charming country is much more than just mountains.
The birthplace of Gautama Buddha, Nepal is an important pilgrimage site for millions of Buddhists, who come from far and wide to visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Lumbini, a temple complex where Buddha once lived.
Holy places abound in Nepal, but not just of the Buddhist variety; Hinduism has a strong foothold in the country and there are many Hindu temples scattered across the country (though some have been severely damaged by the 2015 earthquakes).
Also hit hard was the Nepali capital, Kathmandu, which is encircled by soaring mountain ranges. A beautiful, bustling city it stands at a cultural crossroads between India and China, whose influences can be seen in the architecture and tasted in the cuisine. Meanwhile, a Western vibe prevails in the lively Thamel district, which is lined with bars.
Kathmandu is a good starting point for travellers venturing into the jungle at Chitwan National Park, which is home to Bengali tigers, crocodiles and one-horned rhinos, plus myriad bird species. Phewa Lake is another draw for tourists, as are the hiking trails in the Himalayas.
Wherever you go though, wide smiles will be there to greet you; Nepalese people are amongst the friendliest in the world and it’s not uncommon to be invited into a stranger’s home for tea.
Sitting atop the world, Nepal is just one step away from heaven – and for those who have discovered the country’s many charms, it feels like it too.
147,181 sq km (56,827 sq miles).
28,850,717 (UN estimate 2016).
214.4 per sq km.
President Bidhya Devi Bhandari since 2015.
Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba since 2017.
230 volts AC, 50Hz. There are frequent power cuts. Plugs usually have two or three round pins.
Last updated: 10 October 2017
The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. ‘We’ refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
Federal Parliament and Provincial Assembly elections have been called in two phases on 26 November and 7 December 2017.
Rallies and protests may take place in the lead up to, during and after elections. You should take care in public places where people gather, and exercise a heightened level of vigilance.
Small improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and other explosive ordnances have been used against political figures and groups in previous elections.
Monitor local and international media and keep up to date with this travel advice by subscribing to email alerts.
Nepal is in a major earthquake zone and remains at risk from further earthquakes and aftershocks. You should familiarise yourself with safety procedures in the event of an earthquake.
The monsoon season normally runs from June to September. Flooding and landslides often occur during this time. Road travel anywhere can be hazardous, particularly in rural areas.
Never trek alone. Use a reputable agency, remain on established routes and walk with at least one other person. Take note of weather conditions and forecasts, and come prepared. Altitude sickness is a risk in all trekking regions.
All air carriers from Nepal have been refused permission to operate air services to the EU due to safety concerns.
Terrorists are likely to try to carry out attacks in Nepal.
Around 40,000 British nationals visit Nepal annually. Most visits are trouble-free.
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission.
If you need to contact the emergency services, call 100 (police) and 101 (fire). There is no central ambulance service. In an emergency you would need to call the local hospital.
The Overseas Business Risk service offers information and advice for British companies operating overseas on how to manage political, economic, and business security-related risks.
Safety and security
Trekking in Nepal
Never trek alone. Use a reputable agency, remain on established routes, and walk with at least one other person.
Always observe national park regulations and follow your guide’s instructions.
Altitude sickness is a risk, including on the Annapurna, Langtang and Everest Base Camp treks. Read the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s advice on altitude sickness.
Accidents happen due to insufficient information, inappropriate equipment or overestimation of your own capabilities. Follow the advice given by local authorities and guides. Ignoring such advice could put yourselves and other mountain users in danger.
The following hazards exist throughout the year, especially above 3,000m:
- sudden weather changes
- avalanches and snow drifts
- landslides and flooding
- glacial crevasses and hollows
- thunder storms and lightning
- altitude sickness
- sun exposure
- take note of weather forecasts and conditions
- make sure you’re physically fit and have the necessary experience
- be in a team of at least 2
- inform someone of your plans
- take warm clothes and wet weather gear
- use sun block (SPF20 or higher) and sun glasses.
Make sure your insurance covers you for your intended activity, including travel above 3,000m, mountain rescue services and helicopter costs.
The Trekking Agencies Association of Nepal (TAAN) provides live updates on trekking conditions in Nepal. Online weather forecasts are available on the website of the government of Nepal Department Of Hydrology and Meteorology.
Treks can take longer than expected. Flights across Nepal, particularly in high mountain areas, can be delayed due to poor weather conditions. Keep your tour operator, guide and family informed of your situation and travel plans. In remote areas, including long stretches of the Annapurna Circuit trek, mobile phone coverage and internet services are extremely limited. Consider renting a satellite phone.
A valid permit and Trekkers’ Information Management System (TIMS) card are needed to enter Nepal’s main trekking regions. See the Naturally Nepal website
Volunteering and adventure travel
If you’re planning to volunteer or undertake adventure travel in Nepal you should research any organisation or company you’re planning to use thoroughly before committing yourself. Read these information and advice pages on gap year travel and safer adventure travel and volunteering overseas.
The Social Welfare Council of the government of Nepal maintains a list of registered volunteer organisations; you can ask for a copy by sending an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The British Embassy has received reports of volunteer opportunities at orphanages which are profit orientated organisations rather than charities. If you’re volunteering at this type of organisation, you could be contributing to child exploitation. Contact the Nepali Central Child Welfare Board for confirmation before signing up to volunteer for one of these organisations.
Bus accidents are common. Buses are often overcrowded, poorly regulated, poorly maintained, and driving standards are low. Road conditions are poor, especially during the monsoon or in mountain areas. Avoid travel on overnight buses. Don’t travel on overloaded or overcrowded buses. Tourist buses usually offer a higher standard of comfort and safety.
Every year there are a number of fatal bus accidents in Nepal.
General driving standards are poor. Many drivers are not properly licensed, trained or insured and vehicles, including taxis, are often poorly maintained. There are few pavements outside central Kathmandu and motorists don’t yield right of way to pedestrians.
Other road users often ignore motorbikes and bicycles. It’s the law to wear a helmet when riding a motorbike. You should also wear a suitable helmet when riding as a passenger, and when riding a bicycle.
You must have an International Driving Permit to drive a vehicle in Nepal. Carry your licence with you at all times as well as any vehicle registration documents.
Check weather conditions before travelling. Bad weather conditions in mountainous and hill regions could further increase the risk to your safety and cause lengthy delays. Airfields such as Lukla’s are among the most remote and difficult to land on in the world and are a challenge for even the most technically proficient pilots and well-maintained aircraft.
There have been a number of recent air accidents in Nepal.
On 26 February 2016, an Air Kasthamandap plane with 11 passengers on board crashed while flying between Nepalgunj and Jumla. Two members of the crew were killed.
On 24 February 2016, a Tara Air plane with 20 passengers on board crashed while flying between Pokhara and Jomsom. Twenty-three passengers were killed.
On 28 September 2012 a Sita Air Dornier aircraft flying from Kathmandu to Lukla crashed south-west of Kathmandu shortly after take-off. Nineteen people were killed including 7 British nationals. The Air Accident Investigation Commission of Nepal has issued a report of the accident. The report could not determine the exact cause of the crash but made a number of recommendations aimed at improving safety.
A list of further incidents and accidents can be found on the website of the Aviation Safety network.
All carriers from Nepal have been refused permission to operate air services to the EU due to safety concerns.
In 2009, an International Civil Aviation Organisation audit of aviation safety oversight found that the level of implementation of the critical elements of safety oversight in Nepal was well below the global average.
The FCO can’t offer advice on the safety of every individual airline, but the International Air Transport Association publishes a list of registered airlines that have been audited and found to meet a number of operational safety standards and recommended practices. This list is not exhaustive and the absence of an airline from this list doesn’t necessarily mean that it is unsafe.
A number of tour operators have decided to stop using certain airlines due to safety concerns. Specific safety concerns about Sita Air have led a number of tour operators to stop using them.
There’s a low rate of serious crime in Nepal.
Watch out for pick-pockets and bag-snatching, particularly in airports, on buses and in areas popular with foreign nationals like Thamel, Sanepa and Kupondol in Kathmandu. Take care when walking around at night. Assaults and robberies are more likely to occur in the evening in poorly lit areas. Avoid walking on your own and don’t carry large sums of cash. Keep valuables in a hotel safe if possible.
Bars and restaurants close at midnight. Foreigners remaining in bars and clubs after hours have been detained by the police. Take care when entering ‘dance bars’ as some foreigners have been swindled or harassed.
Be wary of accepting drinks from strangers, and don’t leave drinks unattended. There have been incidents of foreign nationals being sexually assaulted.
Victims of crime should call the Tourist Police in Kathmandu on 01 4700750 or the Tourist Police headquarters on 01 4247041.
Terrorists are likely to try to carry out attacks in Nepal. Attacks can be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers. Be vigilant in public places and take local advice.
There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.
Find out more about the global threat from terrorism, how to minimise your risk and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack.
Local laws and customs
Penalties for drugs related offences are severe. Possession of small amounts of marijuana can lead to a prison sentence of over 5 years, usually after a lengthy and expensive legal process. An increasing number of people are being caught smuggling drugs in to and out of the country.
It’s illegal to buy, sell, kill or capture any wild animal or trade its parts without a license. Nepal is a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) which bans trade of wildlife products without a permit. Those caught purchasing or trafficking such goods as well as accomplices who knowingly assist anyone in committing any offences against the law will be prosecuted and receive prison sentences or fines or both.
Women should avoid wearing shorts and sleeveless tops where this might be seen as inappropriate, eg temples and other holy places. Remove shoes before entering certain holy places. Non-Hindus are not permitted in some temples.
You should carry your passport with you at all times. Leave a photocopy in a safe place or with friends and family in the UK.
The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.
The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.
You will need a visa to travel to Nepal.
To apply for a visa in the United Kingdom you should contact the Embassy of Nepal, 12A, Kensington Palace Gardens, London, W8 4QU (telephone: +20 7229 1594 or 6231 or 5352).
Visas are available on arrival at Tribhuvan International Airport and at some land borders. To obtain a visa upon arrival by air in Nepal you must fill in an application form on arrival and provide a passport photograph. A single-entry visa valid for 15, 30 or 90 days costs US$25, 40 or 100. At Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan Airport the fee is payable in any major currency (some land crossings insist on payment in US dollars), Children under 10 require a visa but are not charged a visa fee. A Nepali visa is valid for entry for three to six months from the date of issue.
If you wish to stay for more than 60 days you can extend your visa up to 30 days by applying to the Nepalese Department of Immigration at Kalikasthan, Kathmandu (telephone: +977 1 4429659).
Multiple-entry visas are useful if you are planning travel to Tibet, Bhutan or India. You can change your single-entry visa to a multiple-entry visa at Kathmandu’s Central Immigration Office for US$20.
You must have a valid visa in your passport to leave Nepal. If your visa has expired you will have to arrange an extension at the Department of Immigration, before your departure.
Overstaying without authority is serious and you can be detained or refused permission to leave until a fine is paid.
Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months when you submit your application for a visa.
Yellow fever certificate requirements
Check whether you need a yellow fever certificate by visiting the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s TravelHealthPro website.
If you are planning to take medication into Nepal you should bring the prescription. For further details contact the Embassy of Nepal.
UK Emergency Travel Documents
UK Emergency Travel Documents are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from Nepal.
Visit your health professional at least 4 to 6 weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures. Country specific information and advice is published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre on the TravelHealthPro website and by NHS (Scotland) on the fitfortravel website. Useful information and advice about healthcare abroad is also available on the NHS Choices website.
Medical treatment is expensive at western travellers’ clinics in Nepal. Healthcare is poor in most places outside the Kathmandu Valley and Pokhara. It may be difficult to get rapid helicopter evacuation if you fall ill or suffer a serious accident in a remote area of the country. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad, repatriation and evacuation by helicopter (presently costing between £1,000 and £2,000 per flying hour).
There have been confirmed cases of scrub typhus in Nepal.
There have been confirmed cases of cholera in Kathmandu, Nepalganj city in western Nepal and in Doti, Bajhang and Gorkha districts.
There have been some cases of avian influenza (bird flu) among birds and poultry in parts of the country. The risk to humans is believed to be very low, but as a precaution you should avoid visiting live animal markets, poultry farms and other places where you may come into close contact with birds, and make sure poultry and egg dishes are thoroughly cooked.
You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.
Major earthquakes on 25 April 2015 (epicentre Gorkha district) and 12 May 2015 (epicentre Sindhupalchok district) caused extensive damage to buildings and infrastructure particularly in northern parts of Gorkha, Rasuwa, Sindhupalchok and Dolakha districts. These include the Manaslu and Langtang national parks.
Reconstruction work is underway following the earthquakes and most of the country is fully open for tourism, including most trekking routes, though some trails are still affected in Langtang, Manaslu and Helambu. Check with your tour company before trekking in these areas.
Earth tremors are common across Nepal. Lack of adequate emergency preparedness, medical facilities and emergency equipment will increase the impact that an earthquake could have.
The British Embassy would only be able to offer limited Consular assistance in the days immediately following a severe earthquake in Kathmandu Valley due to the likely impact on local infrastructure and inaccessibility of many places. The British Embassy would be unable to provide food, water, shelter or medical assistance in a crisis.
Check with your tour operator to find out what contingency plans the operator may have in place in the event of an earthquake. The British Embassy would seek to help British nationals to leave as soon as possible following a major natural disaster. However, Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) may be unusable following a large-scale earthquake, as will Nepal’s road network. It could take some days for it to become operational.
The National Society of Earthquake Technology – Nepal (NSET) provides advice on what to do in the event of an earthquake.
Travel during the monsoon season (June-September) can be hazardous. Monsoon rains cause flooding and landslides that can cut off some towns and villages for days at a time. Take care and check access routes before setting off. The Government of Nepal Meteorological Forecasting Division provides weather updates (in English) and flood forecasts during the monsoon. The Department of Hydrology and Metrology also provides daily updates. Make sure any vehicle you travel in is equipped to deal with the risk of landslides (eg winches, ropes).
Travel advice help and support
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London on 020 7008 1500 (24 hours).
Foreign travel checklist
Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.
The FCO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.
When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.
Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.
Refunds and cancellations
If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.
For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Registering your travel details with us
We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.
Previous versions of FCO travel advice
If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.