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 Ram Chandra Poudel since 2023.
Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal since 2022.
The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) provides advice about risks of travel to help British nationals make informed decisions. Find out more about FCDO travel advice.
Before you travel
No travel can be guaranteed safe. Read all the advice in this guide as well as support for British nationals abroad which includes:
- advice on preparing for travel abroad and reducing risks
- information for women, LGBT+ and disabled travellers
If you choose to travel, research your destinations and get appropriate travel insurance. Insurance should cover your itinerary, planned activities and expenses in an emergency.
This advice reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a full ‘British citizen’ passport from the UK, for the most common types of travel.
The authorities in Nepal set and enforce entry rules. If you’re not sure how these requirements apply to you, contact the Embassy of Nepal in the UK.
There are no COVID-19 testing or vaccination requirements for travellers entering Nepal.
Passport validity requirements
To avoid problems at immigration, make sure your passport has an ‘expiry date’ at least 6 months after your date of entry into Nepal.
Check with your travel provider that your passport and other travel documents meet requirements. Renew your passport if you need to.
You will be denied entry if you do not have a valid travel document or try to use a passport that has been reported lost or stolen.
Checks at border control
At border control, you may need to show:
- a travel insurance document which has cover for healthcare costs including repatriation and other emergencies while you are in Nepal
- confirmation of where you will spend your first night, for example, a hotel booking
You can get a Nepal visa online up to 15 days in advance of your arrival. You can also queue up to get a tourist visa on arrival, but payment must be made in cash, with US dollars being the preferred currency. Applying in advance can reduce the time it takes you to pass through immigration. Visas are available for several lengths of stay at various costs. Look on the immigration department website for the options and how to apply.
Overstaying your visa in Nepal is a serious crime, and can lead to significant fines or imprisonment.
At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the vaccinations and certificates you need in TravelHealthPro’s Nepal guide.
If you are arriving in Nepal directly from certain countries in Africa and Latin America, you will need to show a yellow fever certificate to enter Nepal.
There are strict rules about goods you can take into or out of Nepal. You must declare anything that may be prohibited or subject to tax or duty.
Bringing precious metals into Nepal is strictly regulated. You can carry gold ornaments up to 50 grams and silver ornaments up to 100 grams. If you bring in undeclared gold or silver, you may:
- get a fine equivalent to the value of the goods
- go to prison for between one month and 5 years depending upon the value of the goods
- have the goods confiscated
- be detained during the proceedings
Taking money into Nepal
When you arrive in Nepal, declare on your customs declaration any amount above the value of 5,000 US dollars in banknotes or 10,000 dollars in notes and travellers cheques combined. Customs will give a certified declaration which you must keep. You will need to convert all your Nepali currency before you leave Nepal, and the bank or exchange counter at the airport may ask you for the declaration.
ATMs are not reliable outside main tourist sites.
There is a high threat of terrorist attack globally affecting UK interests and British nationals, including from groups and individuals who view the UK and British nationals as targets. You should remain vigilant at all times.
UK Counter Terrorism Policing has information and advice on staying safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Find out how to reduce your risk from terrorism while abroad.
Terrorism in Nepal
Terrorist attacks in Nepal cannot be ruled out.
Attacks can be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers. Be vigilant in public places and take local advice.
Large protests occurred in Kathmandu on 23 November and could continue for some time. The authorities have asked organisers to stick to areas of the city away from main tourist locations (particularly Tinkune in the southern part of Kathmandu). Disruption should be expected in multiple locations and there will be an increased police presence across Kathmandu. Avoid protests, check local media for updates and follow the direction of the local authorities.
Rules prohibiting gatherings of more than five people have been introduced in some areas of Kathmandu (between Padmodaya Mode to New Baneswar) until 19 December. Check with your hotel, tour operator or local authorities for more information.
Political protests, demonstrations and strikes are fairly common in Nepal. They can happen at short notice and may lead to clashes between protesters and law enforcement. You should:
- avoid any demonstrations
- follow the direction of local authorities
There’s a low rate of serious crime in Nepal, but take precautions.
Protecting your belongings
Watch out for pickpockets 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 in the evening in poorly lit areas. Avoid walking on your own and do not carry large sums of cash. Keep valuables in a hotel safe if possible.
If you are the victim of crime, call:
- Tourist Police hotline on 1144 for emergencies
- Tourist Police in Kathmandu on 01 4700750
- Tourist Police headquarters on 01 4247041 for other areas in Nepal
Women have been sexually assaulted in tourist areas such as Thamel and Sanepa in Kathmandu. Be cautious, especially when alone after dark. See our advice for women travelling abroad.
Be wary of accepting drinks from strangers and do not leave drinks unattended.
There have been isolated reports of some trekking guides taking inexperienced trekkers to high altitudes too quickly, and then calling in expensive helicopter medivacs from which the guides take a cut. Be wary of trekking deals that look very cheap and may be scams.
Laws and cultural differences
You should carry your passport with you. Leave a photocopy in a safe place or with friends and family in the UK.
Visiting holy places
Avoid wearing shorts and sleeveless tops in temples and other holy places. Remove shoes before entering certain holy places. Non-Hindus are not permitted in Hindu temples.
Illegal drugs and prison sentences
Penalties for drugs related offences are severe. If you are caught with even small amounts of marijuana, you can go to prison for over 5 years, usually after a long and expensive legal process. Police are arresting an increasing number of people for smuggling drugs into and out of Nepal.
Some skincare products and e-cigarette refills may contain ingredients that are illegal in Nepal such as Cannabidiol (CBD). If the police find you with products containing CBD, they may seize them and charge you with drug possession.
Nepal is generally open and tolerant to LGBT+ issues, and same-sex relations are not illegal. However, any show of affection in public, irrespective of sexuality or gender, is viewed by Nepalis as inappropriate.
Read more advice for LGBT+ travellers.
Wildlife, animal products and souvenirs
It’s illegal to buy, sell, kill or capture any wild animal or trade its parts without a licence. 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. If you are caught buying or trafficking such goods, or knowingly assisting anyone to do so, you will get a fine or a prison sentence.
Outdoor activities and adventure tourism
Trekking in Nepal
You need a valid permit and a Trekking Information Management System (TIMS) card to enter Nepal’s main trekking regions. See the Nepal Tourism Board TIMS card requirement for more information.
Do not trek alone. All foreign independent trekkers (FITs) must use a local guide or porter while trekking in Nepal’s national parks and protected areas. Always observe national park regulations and follow your guide’s instructions.
If you ignore the requirements, you may be fined or removed from protected areas. Check the Nepal Tourism Board website for further information or updates.
Be aware of hazards all year round, especially above 3,000m:
- sudden weather changes and potential storms
- avalanches and snow drifts
- landslides, rockfalls and flooding
- glacial crevasses and hollows
- altitude sickness
- sun exposure
- use a reputable trekking agency or guide
- take note of weather forecasts and conditions
- make sure you’re physically fit and have not overestimated your abilities
- take warm clothes and wet weather gear
- use sun block (SPF20 or higher) and sunglasses
Make sure your insurance includes cover for mountain rescue services and helicopter costs.
Internal flights in high mountain areas can be delayed by poor weather conditions and cancellations are common. Carry enough funds in case of delays, particularly in remote areas, where ATMs may not be available and credit cards not accepted.
In remote areas, including long stretches of the Annapurna Circuit trek, mobile phone coverage is limited. Consider renting a satellite phone and make sure your friends and family know you will be out of contact.
Volunteering and adventure travel
Research any organisation or company you’re planning to use before committing yourself. See gap year travel, safer adventure travel and volunteering overseas for more advice.
Nepal’s Social Welfare Council has 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 on +977 1-5010045 and 5010046 to check before signing up to volunteer for one of these organisations.
You need a 1968 international driving permit (IDP) and your UK driving licence to drive in Nepal. The 1949 IDP is not accepted any more. You cannot buy an IDP outside the UK, so get one before you travel. You can buy an IDP in person from some UK post offices – find your nearest post office branch that offers this service.
Always carry your IDP with you when driving, as well as your vehicle registration documents.
If you’re planning to drive in Nepal, see information on driving abroad and read the International Drivers Association Nepal driving guide.
Road accidents are a major cause of death and disability in Nepal. The causes range from overloading vehicles, negligence of drivers, mechanical failure, speeding, poor road conditions and an increasing number of unregulated private vehicles.
Road conditions are poor, especially during the monsoon season or in mountain areas. The 2015 earthquakes affected many roads and reconstruction work is still ongoing, making conditions worse.
It’s the law to wear a helmet when driving a motorbike.
Bus accidents are common in Nepal and there are a number of accidents resulting in fatalities every year. Buses are often overcrowded, poorly regulated, and poorly maintained. Speeding, low driving standards and poor road conditions contribute to the risk of accidents. Do not travel on overloaded or overcrowded buses, or at night. Tourist buses usually offer a higher standard of comfort and safety.
Air crashes can have a variety of causes and are not necessarily linked with poor safety standards or non-compliance with international safety standards. However, there have been a number of fatal accidents and air crashes across Nepal in the commercial air transport sector (involving planes and helicopters). Over the last 5 years, this includes a number of separate incidents and at least 100 deaths.
The UK Air Safety List (ASL) lists all known airlines in Nepal that do not meet international safety standards and are banned from operating commercial air services to or from the UK. Check the UK Air Safety List when considering whether to fly and which airlines to fly with. The list is maintained by the Department for Transport, based on advice from the UK Civil Aviation Authority.
Currently no Nepali airline meets the international safety standards and so all are listed on the ASL. This means they are all banned from operating commercial air services to or from the UK.
Extreme weather and natural disasters
Travel during the monsoon season (June to September) can be hazardous. Flooding and landslides cut off towns and villages for days at a time. If you travel by road during monsoon season you should:
- check the road is open
- be prepared to change or cancel your plans at short notice
- make sure any vehicle you travel in is equipped with a winch and ropes in case of landslides
- take enough supplies to cover any possible delays
The government of Nepal Meteorological Forecasting Division provides weather updates (in English) and flood forecasts during the monsoon. You can also access the Department of Hydrology and Meteorology flood monitoring service.
Major earthquakes in 2015 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.
Most of the country is fully open for tourism, including most trekking routes, though reconstruction continues in some areas of the country. Check with your tour company before trekking.
Earth tremors are common across Nepal. The impact of an earthquake is likely to be worsened by the lack of emergency equipment and poorly resourced medical facilities. British Embassy assistance will be slow to reach you if you are in a remote area.
Check with your tour operator to find out what contingency plans they have for an earthquake.
The National Society of Earthquake Technology - Nepal (NSET) gives advice on what to do in an earthquake.
Before you travel check that:
- your destination can provide the healthcare you may need
- you have appropriate travel insurance for local treatment or unexpected medical evacuation
This is particularly important if you have a health condition or are pregnant.
Emergency medical number
There is no central public ambulance service. Some private providers operate in the main cities. In an emergency, call the local hospital.
Contact your insurance company promptly if you’re referred to a medical facility for treatment.
Vaccinations and health risks
At least 8 weeks before your trip check:
- the latest information on vaccinations and health risks in TravelHealthPro’s Nepal guide
- where to get vaccines and whether you have to pay on the NHS travel vaccinations page
Altitude sickness is a risk in parts of Nepal, particularly in tourist and trekking areas. Read more about altitude sickness on TravelHealthPro.
There are seasonal outbreaks of dengue fever, especially in the south-east of Nepal, but cases have been reported across much of the country. Several cases were also recorded in Kathmandu during 2022. If you’re travelling in any area where dengue is prevalent, take extra precautions to avoid mosquito bites.
Cholera is endemic in various parts of Nepal. Every year there are reports of outbreaks, particularly in the hilly districts in the west of the country. There have been confirmed cases of cholera in Kathmandu, Nepalganj city in western Nepal and in Doti, Bajhang and Gorkha districts.
The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or bought in the UK can be different in other countries.
The NHS has information on whether you can take your medicine abroad.
Healthcare facilities in Nepal
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. This usually costs between £1,000 and £2,000 or more per flying hour.
FCDO has a list of English-speaking doctors in Nepal.
There is also guidance on healthcare if you’re living in Nepal.
Travel and mental health
The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) cannot provide tailored advice for individual trips. Read this travel advice and carry out your own research before deciding whether to travel.
Emergency services in Nepal
Tourist police (good English language skills): 1144
In an emergency call a local hospital. There is no central public ambulance service, though some private providers operate in the main cities. In an emergency, you should call the local hospital.
Contact your travel provider and insurer
Contact your travel provider and your insurer if you are involved in a serious incident or emergency abroad. They will tell you if they can help and what you need to do.
Refunds and changes to travel
For refunds or changes to travel, contact your travel provider. You may also be able to make a claim through insurance. However, insurers usually require you to talk to your travel provider first.
Find out more about changing or cancelling travel plans, including:
- where to get advice if you are in a dispute with a provider
- how to access previous versions of travel advice to support a claim
Support from FCDO
FCDO has guidance on staying safe and what to do if you need help or support abroad, including:
- finding English-speaking lawyers, funeral directors and translators and interpreters in Nepal
- dealing with a death in Nepal
- being arrested or imprisoned in Nepal
- getting help if you’re a victim of crime
- what to do if you’re in hospital
- if you’re affected by a crisis, such as a terrorist attack
You can also contact FCDO online.
Help abroad in an emergency
If you’re in Nepal and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the British embassy in Kathmandu.
FCDO in London
You can call FCDO in London if you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad.
Telephone: 020 7008 5000 (24 hours)
Risk information for British companies
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.