KATHMANDU, Nepal (AP) — 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.
Foreign visitors are a major source of income for Nepal and the closure has impacted the estimated 800,000 people who work in the tourism industry.
For now the reopening will come with restrictions and mainly be limited to those seeking to 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, 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.”
In addition to obtaining a visa on arrival, visitors now need to get prior approval, give details of their itinerary, hire a local 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 coronavirus 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 coronavirus 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.”
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