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It’s Now Illegal to Hike Alone in Nepal’s National Parks

Last week, the Nepal Tourism Board announced a plan to ban solo hiking across all the country’s national parks. Starting in April, if you want to hike Nepal’s most popular trails, you’ll have to hire a guide.

Officials say the regulation is designed to promote visitor safety, reports The Kathmandu Post. However, hikers across the world have expressed outrage about the decision. Many say it will affect the sense of freedom and adventure that has drawn so many visitors to Nepal in the first place. It will also make visiting Nepal much more expensive. 

In 2017, Nepal officials announced a similar ban, prohibiting solo climbers from attempting high-profile ascents in the Himalaya. That decision came just months after world-famous climber Ueli Steck died on a solo climb of Nuptse, a famous Himalayan peak and one of Nepal’s highest mountains. Many other soloists have died on Mount Everest, the popular south face of which lies within Nepal’s borders. Like the recent trekking ban, the climbing ban was designed to prevent future accidents, officials said at the time

It will still be legal to hike to many of Nepal’s teahouses and villages without a guide. Image by Carlo A/Getty

Over the past few years, hundreds of solo hikers have gotten injured, died or gone missing on Nepal’s trails, reports the New York Times. Many of these incidents can likely be blamed on user error or inexperience. However, tourism board officials worried that too many deaths could cast the country in a negative light. A ban on solo trekkers should theoretically reduce the number of annual accidents — and therefore reinforce Nepal’s reputation as a safe place to visit. 

Plus, it’s in Nepal’s best interest to support its trekking outfitters and guide services. Tourism is one of the country’s biggest industries. By requiring all trekkers to have a guide, the new ban should dramatically increase tour operators’ annual revenues. 

While hikers can still visit trails outside the country’s national parks without a guide, prospective tourists are already grumbling. Guide requirements could make a visit prohibitively expensive for many. 

However, Nepal has made it clear in the past that it wants to attract a richer caliber of tourist. Nepal’s new requirements could be a way of discouraging budget backpackers and attracting more luxury-minded visitors instead. This might be good news for Nepal — which has struggled to rebuild its tourism industry in the wake of the pandemic — but it’s bad news for thrifty travelers everywhere. 

Of course, Nepal isn’t the only country raising its tourist fees. Earlier this year, Thailand announced that it would start charging visitor fees to any tourist who wanted to enter its borders. As world travelers continue to impact many of the world’s most sensitive environments, it’s likely that we’ll see more such guide requirements, permit requirements and visitor fees in other countries in the future.

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