Backpackers Safety In Nepal


Nepal’s Himalayas have become a top destination for adventurers globally, drawing backpackers in search of unique experiences. This appeal extends beyond borders, with more Nepali youths exploring their own backyard in recent years.

Around one million people explored Nepal’s protected areas in 2022/23, according to data from the Department of National Parks and Annapurna Wildlife Conservation. Of these visitors, about 200,000 were foreign tourists who journeyed to the Annapurna Region, while over 60,000 foreigners explored the Everest region during the same period. This marks a huge 250% jump from the previous year, 2021/2022, and it is also 10% higher than the figures from 2018/2019, before COVID-19. These numbers highlight the growing interest among trekkers, especially in popular destinations like Everest and Annapurna National Parks. These parks have become hubs for both domestic and international travellers seeking unforgettable experiences amidst the breathtaking landscapes of the Himalayas.

Further corroborating this trend is a study indicating that roughly 60% of international tourists, out of one million, visit Nepal specifically to partake in trekking, hiking, or exploring its protected areas. Among the most sought-after destinations are Everest, Annapurna, Manaslu, Chitwan, Shivapuri-Nagarjun, and Langtang. Considering these figures, it’s evident that approximately 600,000 international tourists flock to Nepal for adventure, while roughly 400,000 domestic tourists embark on various forms of trekking, hiking, or exploration adventures. The post-COVID-19 era has seen a remarkable surge in domestic travel, with an expected annual growth rate of about 25%. This surge could lead to a tripling of domestic travel within the next 5 to 7 years. Additionally, we anticipate more than a 15% annual growth in international travellers to Nepal during this period, potentially doubling their numbers within same period. By 2030, we could see approximately 2 to 2.5 million travellers exploring Nepal’s conservation areas and Himalayan trails.

During a stakeholder discussion organized by the Science Hub, trekkers, experts, professionals, and local residents emphasized that showcasing Nepal’s beauty and uncovering hidden stories could significantly boost visitor numbers. Along the 1000-kilometer-long Himalayan Great Trail, every village holds unique narratives waiting to be discovered. Similarly, the middle mountain and Tarai lowlands are brimming with beautiful places and rich cultures yet to be explored. Unfortunately, only a few of these gems are known and visited by tourists. However, by revealing these narratives and exploring diverse scenarios across the country, numerous hidden routes and destinations could be uncovered, enticing more visitors to experience Nepal’s vibrant landscapes and cultures.


Amidst this surge in exploration, with significant potential for growth, navigating these challenging terrains demands careful consideration.  Every season, there are reports of casualties during trekking, with a significant number of injured tourists highlighting safety concerns along Nepal’s trekking routes. Trekking guides and professionals identify two main reasons behind such mishaps: lack of knowledge about the mountain terrain and unavailability of precise information about destination and routes. In Mustang alone, 13 Nepalese and Indian pilgrims and trekkers have succumbed to altitude sickness due to a lack of awareness about its symptoms, resulting in delayed or missed precautions or medication.

Moreover, less experienced and novice trekkers often remain in precarious situations as they venture into unfamiliar areas without adequate knowledge of mountain topography and without proper signals along and guidance along the route. Relying solely on platforms like Google and OpenStreetMap, which may not always provide accurate information, further compounds the problem. Many trekkers embark on their journey without essential gadgets, such as sunglass, lights, tents, or even warm clothes and suitable shoes for the trekking and no backup plans, especially domestic trekkers who may overlook all these things to make the trek cheaper. Taking into account such factors and observations, which are based on feedback from local residents, professionals, and trekkers, the major challenges faced during trekking are categorized as follows:

  • Limited knowledge of trekkers and lack of proper guidance about the landscape.
  • Inadequate signage and trail markers.
  • Assessing the deficiency in navigational aids along trekking routes.
  • Instances of confusion and potential dangers caused by inadequate signage.
  • Dependency on traditional maps.
  • The limitations of traditional maps in dynamically changing terrains.
  • Lack of weather or potentially weather triggered disaster alerts.

Potential solutions

The increasing number of incidents has harmed Nepal’s trekking reputation worldwide, emphasizing the urgent need for improvements in route information, accommodation insights or shelters, terrain specific information and advisories. In addition to that, guidance on necessary precautions, travel planning, required equipment, weather updates, and potential hazards alerts to the trekkers in the route or planning.

In response, the Science Hub has initiated efforts to enhance trekking safety across Nepal using advanced technology.  We are committed to achieve this objective through three strategies (1) comprehensive data collection (2) information visualization and trekking plan (3) alert to the tourist police and local authorities about the potential emergencies.

As part of these strategies, we’ve begun gathering data from multiple sources like OpenStreetMap (OSM) and government agencies, refining and updating them for accuracy and completeness. We’re also collecting stories from well-travelled routes with past incidents and nearby areas. Once we complete data collection, we’ll proceed with the remaining strategies. We’re seeking additional support from donors to enhance the project’s expertise and ensure timely completion of the application, making all datasets accessible for navigation, trip planning, and information visualization. Additionally, we aim to collaborate with tourist police, local authorities, and disaster response teams to improve route safety, including promptly alerting authorities in emergencies.

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