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Nepal 2020 Crime & Safety Report


This is an annual report produced in conjunction with the Regional Security Office at the U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu, Nepal. OSAC encourages travelers to use this report to gain baseline knowledge of security conditions in Nepal. For more in-depth information, review OSAC’s Nepal-specific page for original OSAC reporting, consular messages, and contact information, some of which may be available only to private-sector representatives with an OSAC password.

 

Travel Advisory

 

The current U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory at the date of this publication assesses Nepal at Level 2, indicating travelers should exercise increased caution due to the potential for isolated political violence. Review OSAC’s report, Understanding the Consular Travel Advisory System.

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

 

Crime Threats

 

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Kathmandu as being a HIGH-threat location for crime directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.

 

Much of the criminal activity affecting Nepal is street crime, such as bag snatching and pickpocketing, particularly in the tourist areas of Kathmandu’s Thamel, the city of Pokhara, and the Annapurna region. Review OSAC’s reports, All That You Should Leave Behind.

 

Expatriates are potential targets due to their perceived wealth and possible lack of area expertise and security awareness. The welcoming and kind nature of Nepalis can often give people a false sense of security and make them vulnerable to exploitation by unscrupulous actors.

 

Burglary and violent crime (e.g. assault, murder) occasionally occur throughout the country. Firearms are not common, but used occasionally in criminal acts; the use of edged weapons and acts of physical assault are more common. While foreigners can be targets of violent crime, particularly in the common nightlife areas, travelers can manage most risk through good procedural security.

 

There appears to have been an increase in traditional criminal activities by organized criminal gangs, such as smuggling and targeted assassinations of business or labor leaders. These activities usually target Nepali citizens and residents.

 

Cybersecurity Issues

 

In 2019, authorities uncovered a ring of criminals utilizing stolen ATM cards to drain ATMs throughout Kathmandu. ATM card skimming and other forms of electronic bank fraud do occur occasionally in the larger cities of Nepal. For more information, review OSAC’s reports, The Overseas Traveler’s Guide to ATM Skimmers & Fraud and Taking Credit.


 

Other Areas of Concern

 

Adventure travel such as trekking, rafting, and climbing in the Himalayas has significant security and safety concerns due to the nature of the activities, the likelihood of isolation and the consistent lack of a timely emergency response. Opportunistic crime is also a concern. Travelers interested in engaging in adventure travel should only do so through reputable organized groups and/or reliable companies that provide an experienced guide and porters who can communicate in Nepali and English. Never trek alone.

 

Transportation-Safety Situation

 

Road Safety and Road Conditions

 

Traveling Nepal’s roads remains one of the country’s greatest risks to the safety of travelers. Many roads outside Kathmandu are narrow, unpaved mountain lanes. During monsoon season, rain and mudslides often wash away sections of road. Congested roads strain to support heavy truck and bus traffic. Many drivers may have little regard for safety. Serious accidents happen frequently on rural roads due to hazardous conditions, poor mechanical state of the vehicles, and a lack of adherence to traffic rules. When accidents occur, they can be catastrophic due to overcrowding of buses and the lack of guardrails and other safety equipment on the mountainous roadways.

 

Driving in Kathmandu can be dangerous. Motor vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians, and animals – all traveling at different speeds – congest narrow roads. Authorities regulate traffic poorly. The volume of vehicles on the roads has increased significantly in recent years. Drivers often ignore traffic lights, signs, and traffic control officers even in the most congested sections of downtown Kathmandu. Many drivers lack proper licensure and training, and drive poorly maintained, aged vehicles. Sidewalks and pedestrian crossings are nonexistent in some areas, resulting in pedestrians frequently walking in the roadways. Poor lighting can make nighttime driving particularly dangerous. In general, drivers do not yield the right of way to pedestrians. Demolished walls and building facades litter many roadways, forcing pedestrians further into the street and into the flow of traffic. For more information on self-driving, review OSAC’s reports, Road Safety Abroad, Driving Overseas: Best Practices, and Evasive Driving Techniques; and read the State Department’s webpage on driving and road safety abroad.

 

Public Transportation Conditions

 

Public transportation vehicles have questionable safety measures. They are often overcrowded and operated carelessly. Avoid public buses and microbuses. Taxis can be safe, but travelers should select those that appear in good working condition. Taxis must use metered fares. However, most drivers prefer to negotiate fares in advance. Travelers should insist on the use of a meter or negotiate a fare in advance.

 

For more information, review OSAC’s Report, Security in Transit: Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.

 

Aviation/Airport Conditions

 

Weather can often delay domestic flights, particularly in mountainous areas. Airport security and screening at some of the domestic terminals can be rudimentary at best.

 

Terrorism Threat

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Kathmandu as being a MEDIUM-threat location for terrorism directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.

 

There are no reports of transnational terrorist organizations operating in Nepal. However, due to the open-border policy with India and few immigration controls, terrorists have used Nepal as a transit point in the past.

 

Indigenous groups have been responsible for a number of terrorist acts, many of which have relied on placements of small-scale improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Not all incidents have involved functional devices, with some appearing to have failed to detonate and others clearly built as hoaxes designed to spread fear or send a message. The 2019 by-elections saw multiple small IEDs used to discourage voter turnout. The use of explosives is routine to political competition; however, they are also associated with criminal activity, including workplace disputes and extortion.

 

Most IEDs do not appear to target maximizing deaths or injuries. Rather, the use of IEDs in Nepal is predominantly to damage property, detonating away from crowds and at off-hours. However, three IED explosions in Kathmandu in May 2019 did result in several deaths and numerous injuries.

 

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

 

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Kathmandu as being a MEDIUM-threat location for political violence directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.

 

The 2019 by-elections saw limited and sporadic violence by groups opposing specific candidates or outcomes. While small and predominantly peaceful protest marches were most common during the pre-election period, small IEDs used on Election Day disrupted polling station activities.

 

Civil Unrest

 

While groups will often call bandhs (large sit-down protests that paralyze traffic intersections) in advance, protests, demonstrations, and disruptions can occur without notice. These events have blocked major roads or intersections. Demonstrators have occasionally attacked vehicles passing nearby. If sufficiently large enough, a bandh will force the closure of businesses and schools and disrupt vehicular traffic throughout the area. A bandh will traditionally last from sunrise to sunset. Some groups enforce the observance of bandhs through violence and intimidation. Avoid vehicular travel through a bandh. Review OSAC’s report, Surviving a Protest.

 

Post-specific Concerns

 

Environmental Hazards

 

Nepal is located in a seismically active area. In 2015, major earthquakes struck the greater Kathmandu Valley and surrounding regions, resulting in over 8,000 deaths and 20,000 injuries. The damage from these earthquakes remains evident around Kathmandu Valley. Another large-scale earthquake would further destroy infrastructure and buildings throughout the country. Emergency services are inadequate to deal with a crisis of this magnitude.

 

During the annual monsoon season (May-September), heavy rains can cause flooding. In recent years, the Koshi River in southeast Nepal has been prone to flooding, resulting in a substantial loss of life and property. Travel by road during the monsoon season can be hazardous, as many roads in Nepal are unpaved and can wash away.

 

Pollution is a serious health concern, particularly in cities, with the Kathmandu Valley experiencing some of the worst pollution in Nepal. Many travelers use air masks capable of filtering air particulate during the height of the dry season. Find information on air quality in Kathmandu on Air Now’s website.

 

Critical Infrastructure

 

Because Nepal relies on run-of-the-river hydroelectric facilities, electricity load shedding may occur during the dry season (November-April), resulting in rolling power outages (brownouts). Electricity in Kathmandu has become more reliable of late; however, daily power outages still occur. Outages outside the Kathmandu Valley can last 14-16 hours per day during peak season.

 

Economic Espionage/Intellectual Property Theft

 

Local markets are flooded with counterfeit goods, and vendors will often claim certain items are made of high-end materials when they are not. Evaluate carefully the authenticity of the goods you purchase.

 

Personal Identity Concerns

 

Harassment of female travelers, particularly when using public transportation or in bars and taverns, has been reported.

 

While certain portions of the population may espouse conservative views, Nepal’s constitution guarantees LGBTI rights and protects the community from discrimination. Nepal’s LGBTI protections are among the most progressive in the world. However, Nepal remains a conservative and traditional society. Discrimination exists, and there have been reports of non-violent harassment of LGBTI persons. Accordingly, LGBTI travelers may wish to be discreet and avoid public displays of affection. For more information, Review the State Department’s webpage on security for female travelers and LGBTI+ travelers.

 

Religious conversion and proselytization are illegal in Nepal. Review OSAC’s report, Freedom to Practice, and the State Department’s webpage on security for faith-based travelers.

 

Individuals with disabilities may find accessibility and accommodation difficult throughout Nepal. Nepali law prohibits discrimination against persons who have physical and mental disabilities, including discrimination in employment, education, access to health care, and in the provision of other state services. The law mandates access to buildings, transportation, employment, education, and other state services, but these provisions generally are not enforced. Nepal’s poor infrastructure makes it impracticable in many cases for a mobility-impaired traveler to move around the country, including within the Kathmandu Valley. The government is largely ineffective in implementing or enforcing laws regarding persons with disabilities. Except for a few clinics and hospitals, Nepal mostly lacks accessible and appropriate accommodation for individuals with disabilities. Review the State Department’s webpage on security for travelers with disabilities.

 

Drug-Related Crimes

 

Despite strong legal provisions prohibiting drug consumption, possession, and transport, drugs are available openly in Kathmandu, especially in areas tourists frequented. Although Nepal is neither a significant producer of nor a major transit route for narcotic drugs, domestically produced cannabis, hashish, and heroin traffic through Nepal every year.

 

Do not carry or store any packages from a stranger; there have been instances in which packages concealed contraband material or drugs, and police arrested the foreigner who accepted the package for possessing the illegal substance.

 

Police Response

 

A lack of resources and training hinders security and law enforcement agencies, as do varying levels of professionalism. Response to a crime may take an extended period or may not occur at all.

 

U.S. citizens harassed or detained by local police should contact the U.S. Embassy's Consular Section/American Citizen Services at +977-1-423-4000. For assistance after-hours, ask for American Citizen Services when prompted by the Marine Security Guard at Post One. Based on the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, and customary international law, an arrested U.S. citizen has the option to request that the police, prison officials, or other authorities alert the U.S. Embassy, and have communications forwarded to the U.S. Embassy.

 

Crime Victim Assistance

 

U.S. victims of crime should dial 100 (the equivalent of 911 in the U.S.). The individual should also report the incident to the U.S. Embassy's Consular Section/American Citizen Services. Download the State Department’s Crime Victims Assistance brochure.

 

Reach the Nepal Police’s Tourist Division at +977-1-424-7041 or just dial 1144.

 

Reach the Nepal Tourism Board at +977-1-425-6230, +977-1-425-6216, +977-1-425-6229, or +977-1425-6909.

 

The Nepal Police Operation Center’s 24-hour line is +977-1-441-1549 or +977-1-441-2780.

 

Police/Security Agencies

 

The Nepal Police (NP) and the Armed Police Force (APF) are the primary police agencies.

 

·         The NP wear blue marked uniforms and are routinely seen directing traffic and patrolling streets. They are the primary criminal investigative agency for law enforcement.

·         The APF usually wear blue camouflage and are often seen providing security for government or critical infrastructure facilities. The APF would often be the responding agency for emergencies. The APF do not have arrest authority and cannot conduct a criminal investigation. Victims of crime must contact the NP to file a report.

 

Medical Emergencies

 

Medical care is limited and generally not up to Western standards; medical facilities are often overwhelmed because of insufficient resources. Local medications are of varying quality, and supply is not always sufficient. Clinics in Kathmandu can address some routine medical complaints and can perform basic emergency surgeries. Emergency medical services, especially in public hospitals, are of poor quality compared to that available in the United States. Ambulances are available, but often consist only of a van with stretcher and driver, and do not generally have any medical equipment or personnel onboard.

 

Serious illnesses often require medical evacuation (medevac) to the nearest adequate medical facility in a neighboring country. Serious illnesses and injuries suffered while hiking in remote areas may require evacuation by helicopter to Kathmandu. For more information, refer to OSAC’s Report, Medical Evacuation: A Primer.

 

For domestic helicopter rescue from the mountain regions to Kathmandu, most private hospitals can coordinate this service, (CIWEC, Grande International Hospital, Mediciti). You may also contact helicopter companies directly to arrange rescue and they transport to various hospitals in Kathmandu. These same facilities arrange for medical evacuation regionally or to the US, but most often it is up to the air ambulance company to decide where the patient will go. Domestic and international air medevacs from Nepal only happen during daylight hours. Find contact information for available medical services and available air ambulance services on the U.S. Embassy website.

 

Serious illness or injury may require international medevac to the nearest adequate medical facility (e.g. Singapore, Bangkok, or New Delhi), or to the United States. Illnesses and injuries suffered while trekking often require a helicopter rescue. The cost for a helicopter rescue from remote areas to Kathmandu is typically $3,000-$10,000. Medical evacuation to the U.S. may cost in excess of $50,000. If a patient has medevac insurance, the insurance company will coordinate the air ambulance. For someone without medevac insurance, the treating hospital in Kathmandu can help coordinate, but the patient will have to pay cash before the ambulance will head to Kathmandu; the cost varies from $50,000 to $100,000. Consider emergency evacuation insurance before any travel to Nepal.

 

Some clinics and hospitals in Kathmandu accept credit card payment, but others accept only cash. Prepare to pay bills in full before treatment, or before discharge from an in-patient facility. Consult with your medical insurance company prior to travel to Nepal to confirm whether your policy applies overseas and will cover emergency expenses.

 

The U.S. Department of State strongly recommends purchasing international health insurance before traveling internationally. Review the State Departments webpage on insurance overseas.

 

Altitude sickness in the Himalayas can affect even the most seasoned climbers and trekkers. In its most severe forms, it is a life-threatening illness. Treat it immediately by descending to a lower altitude and seeking medical assistance. Flying directly to Lukla or Lhasa (in Tibet) brings travelers to high altitudes with no time for their bodies to adjust. Physical training or fitness has no impact on altitude sickness susceptibility. For more info, refer to OSAC’s Report, Traveling in High Altitude.

 

Diarrhea and other gastro-intestinal ailments are the most common health problems for travelers, especially during the summer monsoon months. Diarrhea is rarely life threatening. However, if symptoms persist or if you have special health concerns, contact a medical professional. Following the below tips should help prevent gastro-intestinal problems:

 

·         Avoid buying food/beverages from street vendors or other unhygienic establishments.

·         Avoid eating raw/undercooked meat/seafood.

·         Avoid eating raw fruits/vegetables, unless they have a thick peel and you have peeled them yourself.

·         Drink bottled carbonated beverages or water that you are sure has been boiled/treated with iodine/chlorine. Be aware that water bottles in remote locations are sometimes refilled with tap/stream water. Make sure the seal on the bottle is intact before you open it. For more information, refer to OSAC’s Report, I’m Drinking What in My Water?

 

The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Nepal.

OSAC Country Council Information

 

Nepal’s OSAC Country Council meets on an irregular basis. Interested private-sector security managers should contact OSAC’s South & Central Asia team with any questions.

 

U.S. Embassy Location Information

 

Embassy of the United States of America, Maharajgunj, Kathmandu

Hours of Operation: 0800-1700 Monday - Friday

 

Embassy Operator: +977-1-423-4000

24/7 Marine Security Guard Post One: +977-1-423-4100 or 3100

Website: https://np.usembassy.gov/

 

Helpful Information

 

Before you travel, consider the following resources:

 

·         OSAC Risk Matrix

·         OSAC Travelers Toolkit

·         State Department Traveler’s Checklist

·         Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)

·         Nepal Country Information Sheet

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