Nepal is a dream destination for lovers of mountains and high altitudes. In 2023, the Nepal tourism board is hoping to attract 1 million tourists.
Visitors to Nepal often make a beeline for the high peaks and dramatic scenery of the Himalayas, including the highest mountain in the world, Mount Everest. Aside from that, it’s home to some of the best hikes in the world.
But before you dive in, we suggest taking some time in the capital Kathmandu to acclimate to the high altitudes and to explore historic sites such as Durbar Square.
Then, explore Nepal’s cultural and religious diversity by visiting Hindu temples in Bhaktapur, Buddhist stupas such as Boudhanath Stupa, and Lumbini, the Buddha’s birthplace.
There is so much to see and do in Nepal, but before booking a ticket to such a far-flung destination, you want to research more practical concerns first.
For example, it’s always good to read up on the safety of a destination before your plane lands. But don’t worry — our travel experts have done the hard work for you.
This detailed travel guide can help you evaluate if Nepal is the right destination for you or not. Keep reading for more insight into the safety situation on the ground, including crime statistics. Let us be your guide!
Is Nepal Safe to Visit in 2023?
Traveling to Nepal comes with its own set of risks, both from nature and other people. There is some risk of crime, and nature is often inhospitable.
This is not a destination that you should visit without research and preparation, but with the right precautions, you should have a safe and wonderful time on your trip.
A good place to start researching safety in Nepal is the travel alert issued by your government and other foreign governments. Most governments advise their citizens to exercise some caution in Nepal.
Common problems mentioned in travel advisories for Nepal include:
- Civil unrest
- Political violence
- Bag snatching
- Sexual assault
Crime rates are moderate, but you can usually avoid most uncomfortable incidents with the right precautions. The political situation is definitely something you should be aware of before accidentally flying into a riot zone.
Nepal underwent a lengthy civil war that ended in 2006, but political tensions are still high. Protests, such as the ones that rocked the country in 2020 and 2021 in response to the prime minister dissolving Parliament, are common.
Elections in Nepal are often characterized by violent demonstrations, with some groups even detonating IEDs. Protests are usually violently suppressed by the police.
Read up on local election dates and try to avoid traveling to Nepal during that time. If you notice a crowd gathering, avoid the area at all costs.
As mentioned above, Nepalese demonstrations can turn violent and even deadly, so you don’t want to be in the area. Foreigners are not allowed to participate in demonstrations so if you get caught in the area, you will get deported for violating the terms of your visa.
Most visitors come to Nepal with the goal of getting out into nature but be prepared for the landscape to be inhospitable.
According to the Nepal Tourism Board, trekkers are required to register and get a Trekking Information Management System (TIMS) Card and to hire a local guide.
It’s better to hike with at least one other person or with a small group for your own safety. Weather and natural conditions can change at a moment’s notice. Natural disasters such as earthquakes are also common.
Stay up to date by following the Trekking Agencies Association of Nepal and local media for any updates. Make sure you have extra supplies and cash in case of delays on your route.
Crime in Nepal
Crime is a common cause for concern for visitors to Nepal. A look at crime statistics can help you evaluate whether this concern is valid or misplaced. The good news is that violent crime is rare.
According to World Bank data, the intentional homicide rate is about 2 incidents per 100,000 people.
A low homicide rate is usually indicative of low rates of other violent crimes, and that is backed up by crime statistics. The assault rate is just 0.2 incidents per 100,000 people.
However, anecdotal evidence is a very different matter. Women’s rights activists complain that there is a culture of impunity around perpetrators, who are often celebrated in their communities, which discourages many victims from coming forward.
Female travelers are often affected by these patriarchal norms, although local women obviously bear the brunt of the problem. Property crimes are more common problems in Nepal than violent crimes.
According to Numbeo, Nepal overall scores a low value, 35.30 out of 100, on the crime index. However, it has moderate rates of property crimes such as break-ins and theft as well as other petty crimes such as drug abuse.
Property crimes sometimes affect tourists. Although the vast majority of Nepalese people are friendly and want to show off their famous hospitality to tourists, there are always people that will want to take advantage of naïve foreigners.
There is also a vast income gap between most foreign visitors and locals — the average income gap in Nepal is just $691 a month, making foreigners potentially very lucrative targets.
There are some concerning trends in Nepalese crime statistics.
Crime has been increasing steadily since 2014. Police attribute the rise in crime to various societal factors, including an economic crisis, more rural to urban migration, and high unemployment rate.
However, the rising crime rate can also be a positive sign, as it means that Nepalese people now trust the police and are more likely to report crimes.
The most likely crime you will encounter when you are in Nepal is petty theft. Petty theft rates are not as high as they are in neighboring countries such as India, but they are present.
In its travel advisory for Nepal, the New Zealand government advises its citizens to be on their guard against petty theft, especially pickpocketing.
Pickpockets often operate in Kathmandu, particularly around popular tourist destinations and in neighborhoods that attract foreigners. However, you can encounter them anywhere where there are crowds that provide cover for criminal acts.
Festival season is an unforgettable time in Nepal as you get to see how locals really live. However, petty crime increases around festival season as thieves take advantage of crowds to commit crimes such as pickpockets, break-ins, and bag snatchings.
Festival season lasts from September to November, so take extra precautions when you travel to Nepal during this time.
The Canadian government also warns about the risk of petty crime in Nepal, especially around certain areas of Kathmandu. Besides pickpocketing, be on your guard against bag snatching.
A common technique is “snatch and grab” theft, when thieves steal bags from passersby while riding on the backs of mopeds, scooters, and motorcycles.
The same basic precautions you would use to prevent theft anywhere can help you keep your valuables safe in Nepal. Try to avoid taking too many irreplaceable things with you and leave extra cash and copies of documents in secure hotel rooms when possible.
Never leave your valuables unattended, even when you are trekking in seemingly remote locations. Don’t flash valuables as that draws attention to you.
Sexual Harassment and Assault
Female travelers in Nepal face additional challenges that their male counterparts don’t have to deal with. Sexual harassment is common throughout Nepal.
In some extreme situations, female travelers have been sexually assaulted. The Australian government mentions the risk of sexual assault in its travel advisory, stating that it is the most common violent crime affecting foreigners in Nepal.
Criminals often operate in areas of Kathmandu and Pokhara that are popular among foreigners. Even remote areas are not safe as travelers have been assaulted on the trails before.
The UK government also warns about the risk of sexual assault against female travelers. Some travelers have been drugged before being robbed and assaulted.
When you go out in Nepal, always keep a very close eye on your drinks, and food as well. Never accept food, drinks, cigarettes or gum from strangers. Try to time your movements in Nepal so that you are back in your accommodation before dusk.
Most assaults against female travelers occur after dark.
When you are trekking, make sure that you are at your accommodation or inn before dark during each travel day. Avoid trekking alone as you might encounter bad people in a very isolated location.
Avoiding Bad Areas
There are a few areas in Nepal that are best to avoid. The cities with the highest crime rates in Nepal are Sunsari, Jhapa, and Rupandehi. These areas are not the most popular with tourists anyway, so you can have a great time in Nepal even while avoiding them.
Some areas of Kathmandu that are popular with tourists are also popular with criminals. These include the neighborhoods of Thamel, Sanepa, and Kupandol.
You shouldn’t avoid these areas since they contain some of Kathmandu’s best tourist attractions but take extra precautions to protect your valuables. Thieves congregate here since they know there will be a lot of foreigners around.
Things to Consider
Here are some other tips to help you stay safe in Nepal:
- Be mindful of altitude sickness. Nepal is all at a very high altitude, and if you aren’t careful, you could get sick. Take a few days in Kathmandu to acclimate before heading even higher in the Himalayas on your treks. Stay hydrated and pace yourself. Work with an experienced guide that knows what to do in case of altitude sickness.
- Be careful of conditions in the mountains. That is why the Nepalese government requires you to trek with a guide, as only locals know how to navigate sudden weather changes, erased paths, and natural disasters.
- Research companies before you book anything. There have been cases where volunteer tourism or adventure travel companies scammed visitors. You also don’t want to trust your safety to a company that doesn’t follow regulations.
- The rate of road traffic accidents is very high. Road conditions are poor, and landslides during monsoon season often wipe out entire roads. Vehicles are usually poorly maintained. Make sure that you travel in a secure vehicle (tourist buses are usually safer than regular buses) and stick to traveling during the day.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some of the most common questions fellow travelers to Nepal have asked before:
Are tourists safe in Nepal?
For the most part, tourists are safe in Nepal. There is even a designated Tourism Police to protect foreigners. You may encounter some crime, but most people leave Nepal feeling perfectly safe.
Is Nepal safe for white tourists?
Of course, Nepal is safe for white tourists! The country is used to welcoming foreigners from all different parts of the world and thousands of white tourists visit each year. There have been situations where foreigners were verbally harassed in the past, but this was rarely on the basis of skin color.
Is Nepal or India safer?
Nepal is safer than India. The crime rate in Nepal is lower than it is in India. Nepal is also much safer for female travelers than India.
Is Kathmandu safe to visit now?
Yes, Kathmandu is safe to visit now. The crime rate is moderate, but it is easy to avoid if you take the right precautions. However, make sure that you don’t visit during elections or turbulent political events as violent protests are common in the capital.
Is Nepal inexpensive to visit?
Nepal is perfectly affordable to visit. There are accommodation and tour options for all budgets. In general, prices here are lower than they are in many neighboring countries, even for lengthy treks.
So, Is It Safe to Travel to Nepal?
Nepal is safe to visit, as long as you avoid coming to the country during turbulent political times. There is a risk of petty crime and some violent crime, but as long as you are on your guard, you can protect yourself. So what are you waiting for — book your trip to Nepal today!