Adventurers looking to scale Nepal’s Himalayan peaks and trek its mountain trails can finally do so for the first time in seven months, as the country reopens to foreigners even as the coronavirus pandemic has left it short of hospital beds.
For now, the reopening will come with restrictions and mainly be limited to those seeking to climb or trek its famous peaks. Nepal is home to the eight of the 14 highest mountains in the world, including the tallest, Mount Everest.
“We are not opening the country for all visitors and only mountaineers and trekkers who have taken prior permit will be allowed to come to Nepal,” said Rudra Singh Tamang, director general of Nepal’s Department of Tourism. “We are opening to a sector of visitors who we know we can handle and manage.”
Rather than a visa on arrival, visitors now need to get prior approval, give details of their itinerary, hire a outfitting company, and have health insurance that covers COVID-19 treatment. They are required to take a coronavirus test before leaving their home country, stay for a week in quarantine at a hotel in Kathmandu, and then take another corona virus test before being allowed to go up the mountains.
Local guides, porters, cooks and helpers who will be part of any mountaineering support team will be required to take corona virus tests and prove they have been living in areas with no infections for the past two weeks.
“We are trying to revive the tourism industry that was badly hit by the pandemic, but we are not taking any changes or any risks,” Tamang said. “We did a test run just recently with a foreign expedition team and now have good idea how to manage the adventure tourists.”
Spring is the mountaineering season when foreign climbers come to Nepal to attempt scale the highest peaks, while the fall is popular for trekkers who come to hike the mountain trails. The spring mountaineering season was canceled in March when the scale of the pandemic became clear and was followed by the country mostly closing its borders to outsiders.