Solo trekking no longer allowed in Nepal

Trekking in the Khumbu
Trekking in the Khumbu

It was like so often in Nepal’s politics: For days there is talk about a supposedly upcoming new regulation before there is – if at all – a written confirmation. Such was the case now with the announcement by the Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) that trekking tourists traveling alone in the Himalayan state will be required to take a guide from 1 April. Only five days after the first press reports and heated discussions about it in social networks, the NTB confirmed the reform today.

The aim is “to ensure the security and safety of visitors trekking in protected areas in the mountains of Nepal”, it said. If no one is on their own anymore, trekking tourists can be prevented from getting into “adverse incidents,” the NTB lets it be known, citing “getting lost en route, health issues, and/or natural disasters” as examples.

Is it about safety or business or both?

The NTB press release
The NTB press release

The idea of providing every solo trekker with a guide is anything but new. Back in fall 2012, such a regulation was supposed to go into effect, was dropped again, but dug up again and again. Then as now, the authorities cited safety reasons. Time and again, trekking tourists in Nepal disappear without a trace: according to Nilhari Bastola, president of the Trekking Agencies’ Association of Nepal (TAAN), 10 to 15 per year, most of them setting out alone.

Critics doubt that trekking guides, for whom there are no quality standards, can really ensure safety and suspect purely business interests behind the regulation. The NTB sees the additional employment of people in Nepal’s tourism sector more as a welcome side effect.

It will be exciting to see how the rule is implemented in the upcoming spring season. “Let’s wait for 1 April,” a head of a Nepalese trekking agency writes to me. The number of solo trekkers, by the way, is manageable; in 2022, there were about 20,000 among several hundred thousand hikers.

Whether this really requires a new regulation, I leave undecided. From my own experience, however, I can recommend solo travelers to go on tour with locals in Nepal. On the one hand, I have seen, experienced and understood many things that would have remained hidden to me if I had been traveling alone. On the other hand, I found good friends in Nepal in this way, with whom I still have contact today, many years later.

Update 27 March: The Khumbu Pasanglhamu Rural Municipality, the local authority of the Khumbu, has stated that the new regulation does not apply to the Everest region, however: “While it is not mandatory to take a guide while trekking in the Everest region, we highly recommend taking one – specially when you are trekking in high altitude zones and high passes. They help troubleshoot, are a conduit into local culture and keep you safe.”

2 Replies to “Solo trekking no longer allowed in Nepal”

  1. Good read my friend Stefan!
    I agree with you there are many upsides of having guide in your trip along with your security and safety, it’s also opportunity to uncover, learn and experience intimately about the places you visit and it’s diversities…people, culture, history, stories, and surrounding nature (wildlife, flora and fauna…) than just more than just what you informed from travel blogs/book/ websites, trekking in the Himalayan mountain is life time experience for most of the visitors, but required experience and knowledgeable guide. Not to forget as you said become friends forever…
    I also feel it is unfair for those individuals who are capable and likes to trek and experience of lifetime adventure with solo and carefree because they have to compromise their time, space, not to mention requires additional expenses. I appreciate and privilege the opportunity received to be your guide almost 20 years ago this spring. And I appreciate your friendship 🙏🏼

    1. Thanks for your comment, my dear friend Gowa. It was in 2002, 21 years ago. How time flies …

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