A very confusing question in every foreigner’s mind, who see Nepal as a free trekking destination. For now, the answer is no. At least not in the Everest region.
However, the rules state that from April 1st solo trekking will not be allowed in Nepal’s National Parks and Conservation Areas. This decision was declared on March 3rd by Nepal Tourism Board. The new rule was approved by the Tourism Board of Directors. However, the rule is yet to be officially approved by Nepal Government. Also, this topic is yet to be a discussion matter in the house of parliament. This issue is in high consideration but is far to be approved.
The main purpose of the new rules about solo trekking in Nepal is to guarantee the safety of the trekkers and hikers to the utmost level and to create more employment opportunities in the country.
Early from the establishment of the tourism industry in 1975, Nepal has been an unbounded trekking destination. Many solo travelers love Nepal because they can find peace here in the lap of the Himalayas. They prefer traveling alone and finding inner peace, they don’t like the idea of crowd celebration. So, Nepal is a perfect destination for people who prefer traveling alone & spend the quality time in nature.
According to the official board’s report, 390 tourists were reported missing in the fiscal year 2019-20. Similarly, in 2021 the number of people who went missing was reported to be 54. And the report also clarifies that the majority of the tourists were solo trekkers, also known as FIT (Free Independent Travelers). It is stated that unplanned and unprepared trips are the primary cause of this issue.
Every year there is a different story of solo trekkers getting involved in deadly accidents. Not only in the Himalayas, tourists are also scammed in Kathmandu or other city areas due to a lack of proper information and guidance.
On the other hand, guides are professional individuals trained to tackle every possible risk factor during the trek and are well aware of the topography and geography of Nepal. Having a trained and licensed guide ensures the safety of the trekkers to the maximum. It’s like having a lifeguard by your side 24/7.
Most of the popular trekking areas of Nepal are in remote areas where cellular communication is a very big problem. Not being able to communicate during a crisis can make the condition even worse.
Was it necessary to ban solo trekking in Nepal?
In terms of safety, yes we believe it was necessary to take this bold step.
The amazing white mountains can be unfriendly sometimes. The weather condition can be unpredictable. As a result, that unpredictable situation can create problems in navigating the trekking trial.
In such cases, we don’t want any foreigner who came to Nepal to witness the beauty of nature to be a victim of such unwanted accidents instead. The hard geography of Nepal may not be suitable for everyone. The most possible risk factor is Altitude sickness, which can lead to uncertain death if neglected and there are several cases of it too.
Not only in the mountains but even in city areas like Kathmandu you might get into unwanted trouble, such as getting overcharged in local shops, street scams, and a few others. You only know about Nepal and its tradition by reading about it but, the books and website have minimal information.
For example, Khukuri is a very popular weapon in Nepal, widely used by Nepali soldiers which represent our bravery. If you roam around Thamel (tourist hub) you will see many shops selling Khukuri but you don’t know which is original or which is fake, you might end up paying a high price for a replica. We can’t expect everyone to be kind, we need to be careful ourselves.
Improving the local economy and employment opportunities
Tourism Industry is the largest and fastest-growing industry in Nepal. Every year hundreds of guides are graduated from the NMA (National Mountaineering Association) and NATHM (National Academy of Tourism and Hotel Management). Out of hundreds of graduated guides, only 20% of the people actually work in the tourism field as proper guides. And on top of that, even after being skilled manpower, guides and porters are having a hard time getting employed.
The lack of jobs for guides, porters and tourism sector in general has been a serious issue for years because being such a big industry and not being able to bring changes for a mass of skilled manpower is a shame.
Pros of Solo trekking in Nepal
- Flexibility: Solo trekking allows you to create your own plans and itinerary at your own will. This gives you the freedom to explore off the beaten path and to linger at the places you find most interesting.
- Personal growth: Trekking solo can be a great opportunity for personal growth and development. It challenges you to rely on yourself and push yourself out of your comfort zone, which can lead to increased self-confidence and a greater sense of independence.
- Cultural immersion: Traveling alone can allow for a more immersive experience in the local culture. You are more likely to interact with locals and experience their way of life, which can be a very rewarding and eye-opening experience.
- Cost-effective: Trekking solo can be more cost-effective than traveling in a group. You won’t have to pay for group tours or accommodation, and you can often negotiate better prices on your own.
Cons of Solo trekking in Nepal
- Safety concerns: Trekking alone can be risky, especially in remote areas where there may be limited access to medical facilities or assistance in case of an emergency. The main issue is altitude sickness.
- Navigation challenges: Solo trekking requires you to be self-sufficient and have good navigation skills, as there may not be anyone else to help you find your way.
- Difficulty in carrying heavy loads: Solo trekkers need to carry all their own gear and supplies, which can be physically demanding, especially in high-altitude areas.
- Language barriers: Nepal has a diverse range of languages and dialects, and communicating with locals can be challenging, particularly for solo trekkers who don’t speak the local language.
You have to be 10 times more careful if you are planning to trek in Nepal by yourself.
Comparing Nepal with other tourist destinations
If we compare other famous tourist destinations like Bhutan, there is a strict rule that a tourist has to spend at least $200 per day. Similarly, in Tibet, you cannot travel normally if you are a journalist or diplomat. Plus, Nepal is cheaper than any other famous travel destination like Thailand, India, Indonesia, Peru, Morocco, and many more. Nepal offers a range of budget-friendly options for travelers, particularly when it comes to accommodation and food. While other destinations may be more expensive, Nepal can still provide an affordable and rewarding travel experience.
Where can we still travel in Nepal without a guide?
Due to this new rule, the options for solo trekkers are limited but not restricted.
You can still explore easily accessible areas of Nepal along with the Ama Yangri trek, Pikey peak trek, or Chapadevi hike via Chandragiri and many more. These are some of the trek which has gained popularity recently.
In our opinion traveling solo or traveling with a guide is an independent choice for foreigners to make. We cannot force someone to choose something. Especially when it’s related to hard-earned money. But looking at the current situation and rapid climate change we suggest every solo traveler be more careful than before. Focus on the preparation of the trek, study the weather of the place you are trekking to, and research about the necessary items for the trek and pack accordingly. Don’t commit unplanned and unprepared trek to Nepal.
We wish you a very happy trekking in Nepal.