Nepal Country Report
The sociopolitical climate of this ancient Himalayan former monarchy - now a republic - proves tense. Furthermore, less-than-ideal conditions (security, politics, social environment, health, and natural disasters) call for travelers to Nepal (population 31 million) to prepare for their stay with caution. The country is home to the cities of Kathmandu and Pokhara (west) and the Terai grasslands (south), and is sandwiched between China to the north and India to the south.
The political situation remains fragile, many public institutions provide substandard services, and the state of the economy is precarious. Finally, social movements, which can result in huge losses for the national economy (long general strikes, protests, and marches), are regularly organized each month (including roadblocks or chakkajam) and can potentially be dangerous for the local population and foreign visitors. Incidents of violence and material damage often result from these mobilizations.
Nearly ten years after the end of the civil war that pitted the government against a Maoist insurrection (1996-2006), Nepal continues to suffer from poor governance. The political classes demonstrate an inability to abandon partisanship and put national interests ahead of parochial ones. The years-long delay in drafting a new constitution (formally adopted on September 20, 2015), as well as the partisan and contradictory reactions to its ratification, are examples of this dysfunction. Another example of this political strife was the violence (at least 60 dead) in the southern Terai region in the fall of 2015.
Between September 2015 and February 2016, neighboring India initiated a de facto economic blockade (several hundred trucks blocked at the border) due to a political-commercial dispute that greatly impacted the economy, commerce, and mobility (with temporary rationing of fuel, and disruptions to supply) in Nepal.
The first local elections in 20 years in Nepal were held on May 14, 2017. The date of the next national legislative ballot has not yet been fixed by the government.
Travelers will note that the threat of terrorism - considerably lower today than a decade ago - should always be monitored. Despite the signing of a peace accord in November 2006, former Maoist combatants continue to present a security threat, albeit small, to the country. The number of attacks carried out in the capital Kathmandu has decreased significantly since the implementation of the peace deal, but several minor bombings have nonetheless been perpetrated in the past few years in the capital (e.g. on February 27, 2012, with three deaths) as well as in other Nepalese districts (e.g. Terai in spring 2011).
Over the past five years, Maoist insurgency violence in Nepal and security forces' responses have not resulted in any casualties.
Hikers are also vulnerable to crime perpetrated by locals. Visitors are advised against hiking alone.
Nepal is a country subject to various natural hazards. In addition to earthquakes, violent storms are frequent and especially dangerous at high elevations. Monsoon season, which lasts from June to September, brings heavy rains that cause destructive floods and landslides every year (e.g. in August-September 2014). Casualties and disruptions to transportation are common throughout the country during this period, and roads and airports may be closed.
A deadly and destructive earthquake - magnitude 8.0 on the Richter scale, the most violent observed in the country for 80 years - struck the Kathmandu valley/capital region in late April 2015. The powerful earthquake and its various aftershocks resulted in at least 7000 deaths and destroyed several thousand homes, buildings, historic sites, and religious temples. Infrastructure (roads, bridges, electricity and water supplies, telecommunications) has also been severely damaged, limiting the Nepalese authorities' and international aid groups' ability to respond to the disaster (e.g., assistance to Internally Displaced Persons [IDPs], emergency services, reconstruction efforts). Two years later, the country is still recovering; traces of the tragedy remain apparent in infrastructure damages, including at tourist sites.
It should be noted that all non-essential travel to the districts of Gorkha, Dolakha, Sindhupalchok, Manaslu, and the Langtang Valley (north), where seismic tremors and aftershocks are observed, is discouraged.
Nepal is one of the 20 poorest countries in the world and is notable for its lack of development. One consequence of this underdevelopment is poor health conditions and a high prevalence of diarrheal diseases, including cholera, which is endemic to the country with frequent epidemics between June and September.
Furthermore, approximately one-third of all adults are infected with hepatitis E (with a heightened risk of transmission in Kathmandu Valley between May and October) and half have tuberculosis. Malaria can be contracted at any time of year, with a peak number of cases reported during the monsoon season in rural areas; the risk is highest in the districts of Bara, Dhanukha, Kapilvastu, Mahottari, Parsa, Rautahat, Rupandehi, and Sarlahi (southeast), especially along the Indian border. Cases of Japanese encephalitis (in Jhapa and Morang districts and the Terai) and meningococcal infections (peak between November and April) have also been reported.
Prior to departure, travelers should purchase a health insurance policy covering overseas care and medical repatriation, the latter being mandatory in case of a significant or urgent health issue.
TRANSPORTATION and INFRASTRUCTURE
Ground transportation, as well as air travel, can prove dangerous. Roads are in poor condition and landslides are common. Electricity infrastructure is also poor, and outages are common. These transportation issues are further exacerbated by a general lack of resources and investment in infrastructure in Nepal.
The climate is tropical in the south, temperate in the valleys, and cold in the mountains.
The rainy season (monsoon) lasts from June until September, and rainfall is abundant and often torrential. During this time temperatures are elevated and mountain summits are foggy. The interior valleys and the northwest receive the least amount of rain during the monsoon season. From October until March, days are sunny and dry with violent winds on summits. In the Himalayas winters are cold and summers relatively cool.
Useful NumbersCountry Code: +977 Police, Fire Dept.: 4 247041 (this unit has been specifically created to help tourists in trouble, with the exception of traffic accidents).
Voltage: 230 V ~ 50 Hz
Nepal: 4.9-magnitude earthquake strikes Dolakha district December 8
TIMEFRAME: from 12/8/2017, 12:00 AM until 12/10/2017, 11:59 PM (Asia/Kathmandu).
COUNTRY/REGION: Dolakha district
Nepal: New security measures before elections December 7 /update 2
TIMEFRAME: from 12/5/2017, 12:00 AM until 12/7/2017, 11:59 PM (Asia/Kathmandu).