A recent announcement by Nepal's Ministry of Home Affairs had threatened a ban on tourists wanting to trek alone in any part of the country. But the decision has now been delayed as a review takes place. It is the BMC's understanding that a ban on solo trekkers in Langtang continues to apply.
The new policy, which was slated to come into effect in September, would require solo trekkers or FITs (Free Independent Trekkers) to take at least one local support staff, either a guide or porter.
The Nepalese Government, which will now wait for the Ministry of Tourism to make the decision mandatory, has apparently brought in the new policy after increasing concern about the safety of trekkers.
It follows a government ban on FITs in the Langtang National Park after the death in June of a young Belgian female solo trekker.
The 23-year-old had set out alone to complete the well-known trek to the sacred Gosaikunda Lakes and was later found beheaded, though both rape and robbery seem to have been ruled out.
On two separate occasions late last year foreign women were attacked while trekking alone in Langtang, and two years ago a young American female completely disappeared in this region.
Unfortunately, over the years several popular areas of Nepal have developed a reputation for mugging or worse, Gosaikunda and the Helambu region immediately south being one, the tail end of the Annapurna Circuit from Ghorapani onwards another.
Similar incidents were reported in the Everest region last year and a general increase in crime rates has led to a perceived negative impact on Nepal's trekking and tourism industry.
Recommendations from trekking agencies, embassies, the international media, and relatives of missing trekkers appear to have created pressure on the government to act.
The Trekking Agencies Association of Nepal has naturally welcomed the decision. Group trekkers are already obliged to employ the services of government registered trekking agencies, and it now appears all trekkers may have to do the same.
It's estimated that more than 40% of foreign visitors to Nepal come to trek, and the vast majority of these go to the Annapurna, Langtang, Helambu or Khumbu regions, for which no fee-paying "trekking permit" is needed (other areas are generally considered "remote" and group permits at variable cost can be obtained through registered trekking agencies).
The introduction of the TIMS card (Trekkers Management Information System) a couple of years ago for every trekker making a one-off nominal payment ensured there was an authentic computerized database of each trekker's personal details. This would help carry out search and rescue operations after accidents, incidents and natural catastrophes.
Implementation of these cards would also give authorities better control over unauthorized trekking operations, and income from their provision has been stated to cover administration, looking after the welfare of local helpers, and maintaining trails, promoting new destinations etc.
Trekkers also need to pay conservation area permits and national park entrance fees.
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