“When you are traveling alone, in an emergency, there is no one to help you,” Mani R. Lamichan, director of the Nepal Tourism Board, said. Tell CNN. “It’s okay if they are traveling in the cities, but in the remote mountains, the infrastructure is not enough.”
He added, “When tourists go missing or are found dead, even the government can’t track them down because they took such a long way off.”
“This decision was made in the interests of the tourists,” he said Tell Indian news agency ANI.
The Nepal Tourism Board announced its decision earlier this month, and the ban will come into force on April 1.
The council said it had taken the decision to extend the previous ban on individual hikes on Mount Everest to the whole country to prevent inexperienced tourists from getting into accidents or getting lost while trekking.
Local guides say that nearly a dozen trekkers disappear into Nepal’s terrain each year. Even when they are found, authorities say rescuing them is very expensive and can sometimes be impossible in the remote terrain.
Mount Everest has become so crowded that climbers are dying in traffic jams
As travel has become more affordable and mountaineering has grown more popular around the world, countries like Nepal—which includes at least parts of eight of the world’s 10 highest mountains within its borders—have been outgrown. This has led to previously unimaginable sights such as traffic jams on Mount Everest that can be dangerous for tired climbers, forcing them to spend more time at very high altitudes and depriving them of oxygen.
In 2019, about 300,000 trekkers traveled to Nepal, according to pre-pandemic figures from the government. About 46,000 have gone on solo trips, Lamichhane of Nepal Tourism Authority Tell New York times. Many of these travelers prefer to hike alone to save money or because they value the freedom to explore unbeaten trails. But ground conditions can be dangerous, with high altitudes and variable temperatures, and authorities say it’s easy to get lost or stranded.
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It is not clear exactly how many foreign backpackers disappear in Nepal each year and why. Local advisors and law enforcement agencies have given figures ranging from five to 15 per year.
Some experts He says lax safety standards play a role. Travel author David Wise, who runs the site MissingTrekker.comwhich tracks and collects individual reports of missing trekkers in Nepal, writes that “the general standard of trekking safety in Nepal has fallen precipitously.”
Five to six foreign backpackers go missing annually – many while walking treacherous roads alone, said Chandra Kishore Shah, an inspector with the Nepalese Tourist Police. “Unprepared hikers, who don’t have supporting evidence, are dying from altitude sickness,” he said.
After a few years, the files on those missing were closed, Shah said, adding that the force is currently searching for five missing hikers from South Korea, India, Israel, Jordan and Malaysia. He said the Malaysian traveler had been missing since 2015, and the tourism police were still searching for him “at the request of the family.” The other four were lost last year, mainly in Everest and Annapurna regions, the country’s most popular trekking destinations.
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Neilhari Pastola, President, Nepal Trekking Agencies Association, Tell The Kathmandu Post reports that 10 to 15 trekkers disappear in Nepal each year and that most of them are “free independent trekkers,” a designation given to foreigners who have been given permission by the authorities to trek in certain unrestricted areas without a tour group or guide.
Under the new rules, FITs will have to hire a licensed guide to trek within Nepal’s 12 national parks, including the country’s most popular trails, like the 145-mile Annapurna Circuit.
In January, a South Korean woman in her 50s who was hiking alone was found dead on Mount Annapurna, according to the Korea Times. Citing a representative of the World Federation of Overseas Korean Merchants Association, the site said the woman, Kim Jae-sun, may have died of a heart attack caused by altitude sickness.
The US State Department advises Americans not to travel alone in Nepal. According to the Embassy of the United States of America In Kathmandu, hikers who are injured in remote areas may need to be rescued by helicopter—a service that can cost between $3,000 and $10,000.
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Many tour operators welcomed the board’s decision, calling it a victory for the safety of tourists and the Nepali economy. But some have expressed concerns that the additional expenses will discourage tourists from traveling to Nepal at a time when the economy has been hit hard by the pandemic. The country is among the poorest in the world, accounting for almost all tourism 7% of its gross domestic productaccording to the World Bank.
Pastola Tell The Kathmandu Post reports that the ban on solo hiking will prevent accidents and could create up to 40,000 new jobs for Nepalese. He said the ban “wouldn’t greatly affect the backpacker’s budget,” because hiring a guide costs an average of $25 to $50 per day for standard-intensity treks.
“The one-trip, one-guide policy…will create jobs. This is good for Nepal’s economy,” Pastola said.
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