The age of solo trekking for foreigners has ended in Nepal. Starting April 1, it is mandatory for individual backpackers to be accompanied by a licensed guide while roaming the mountains of Nepal, according to reports.
The new rules apply to international tourists of all experience levels on treks in Nepal’s national parks, such as the famous Annapurna Circuit, a 150-mile route that circles the Annapurna mountain range. Locals are exempt from the rule, based on their familiarity with the geography and culture.
“The two main objectives behind the ban are to make trekking in Nepal safer and to create more employment opportunities in the country,” Mani R Lamichhane, Director of the Nepal Tourism Board (NTB), told CNN.
“When you are travelling solo, in case of emergencies, there is no one to help you,” Mr Lamichhane said.
“It is fine if they are travelling in the cities, but in the remote mountains, the infrastructure is not adequate,” he added.
Most of Nepal’s hiking trails are remote. Population and infrastructure are sparse and cellular connectivity is volatile. Additionally, Nepal’s mountainous regions experience sudden weather changes. Each year, deadly accidents, including ones caused by avalanches, blizzards and high-altitude sickness, are reported on Nepal’s mountains. The cost of running search-and-rescue missions when solo hikers go missing can be extremely burdensome for the tourism-reliant country’s economy.
Nilhari Bastola, president of the Trekking Agencies Association of Nepal, told the Kathmandu Post that 10 to 15 hikers go missing in Nepal each year and that most are “free independent trekkers,” These are tourists who trek alone without guides or groups.
In addition to the dangers of trekking solo, unlicensed tour guides and companies are also an issue. The Tourism Board Director explained that unlicensed guides operate without government registration or authorization and therefore, don’t pay taxes. By doing so, he reasons, they take jobs away from legitimate local Nepalis.
Earlier, tourists could trek without a guide by obtaining a route permit and a Trekkers Information Management System (TIMS) card. A TIMS card is a basic trekking permit that is required by foreigners for adventure tourism.
But after the latest amendments in law, tourists need to hire a guide as a prerequisite to acquiring a TIMS permit. The board has also increased the price of the TIMS permit to Rs 2,000 per person. Prior to this, people who travelled in large groups paid Rs 1,000 for the TIMS card while those who travelled alone paid Rs 2,000.
Source : https://www.ndtv.com/world-news/nepal-bans-solo-trekking-for-foreigners-from-april-1-heres-why-3903170