From April 1st on, trekkers will not be allowed to walk on their own in the mountains and valleys of Nepal. They will need to hire an authorized guide to walk with them. The decision has been taken, according to the official explanation, in the interest of the safety of tourists. According to Mani R. Lamichhane, Director of the Nepal Tourism Board, when trekkers go without a guide, they often get lost and face unsafe situations, which will be avoided by banning trekking without a guide.
“When tourists go missing or they are found dead, even the government cannot track them because they have taken remote routes,” said Lamicchane. The decision will also benefit employment in the area, since, in 2019, about 50,000 tourists trekked without a guide or porter in the country, and about 20,000 in 2022.
According to CNN, there is also the issue of unlicensed tour guides and companies, who often do not register with the government do not pay taxes. The tourism director argues that these guides and companies perform tasks that could otherwise be conducted by Nepalis. “There have been some cases where the trekking association has been requesting us to stop these unauthorized trekking operations,” Lamicchane told CNN. “This has been a demand from tourism associations for a long time.”
To hike the hundreds of trails and routes that exist in the country’s mountains, it was only necessary to pay for the TIMS permit. This permit was stamped at the entrance of these routes and could be requested at any time during the trek. Not having the entrance stamp or the “passport” itself meant paying a fine.
When tourists go missing or they are found dead, even the government cannot track them.Mani R. Lamichhane, Director of the Nepal Tourism Board
With the new measure, TIMS will also be more expensive and will affect both independent foreigners and travelers in large groups or organized tours, as well as tourists from SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) countries.
In addition to the cost of the guide, the TIMS card will cost 2,000 rupees. Until now, that was the price for individual travelers (without a guide), while trekkers joining trekking groups had to pay only half that, 1,000 rupees. In addition, the price increase also affects citizens of SAARC countries (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, which includes Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Pakistan and Sri Lanka), who will have to pay 1,000 rupees instead of the 300 they paid until now.
According to Lamichhane, this measure and its prices have received the consent of the Ministry of Tourism and the approval of the Ministry of Finance.
Many of the travelers who hike some of the trails in the Nepalese Himalaya choose the option without a guide or porter because they want to go at a leisurely pace, getting to know the villages or settlements along the route at their own pace and their ultimate intention is not to reach a goal. They simply enjoy the scenery and can do a 5-day trek in two weeks, such as the Annapurna Base Camp trek, one of the most beautiful and easiest treks to do without a guide. It is not yet clear how the Nepal Tourism Board plans to implement and control the new rule.