Nepal Bans Independent Hiking, Will Require Official Guides

08/07/2012 08:45am ET

Want to hike the Himalayas in Nepal? You're going to need a guide for that.

The government of the nation known for being the gateway to Everest announced that, beginning in September, all tourists trekking in the country must have at least one government-approved guide, reports International Business Times.

It's already a requirement for groups to have a guide, but it's never been compulsory for independent travelers.

The move was prompted by a number of assaults against hikers, including the disappearance of American Aubrey Sacco in 2010 and the death of Belgian Debbie Maveau, whose body was found off a hiking path in June, according to the Telegraph.

“The decision will help promote Nepal as a safe destination for tourists at a time when international media are questioning the safety of foreigners in Nepal," Mohan Lamsal, general secretary of Trekking Agencies Association of Nepal, told the paper. His agency welcomed the change not only for safety reasons, but because of its potential to control the illegal trekking business.

The new requirement will cost travelers $10 per day, which, TAAN Treasurer Anjan Thapa told IBT, is "a very nominal amount," that "won't affect tourist arrivals."

The situation is not dissimilar in neighboring Bhutan, where independent travel is forbidden by the government and all travelers must book through a tour company. That country is looking to expand despite the requirement, which adds another step into the trip planning process.

Mandatory guides aren't the only reform being suggested. In an article in The Guardian, venerated mountaineer Ralf Dujmovits recently shared a photo he snapped a of a line of hikers snaking up Everest. Of it, he said: "I was thinking how absurd the scene was. Watching them, I had a strong feeling that not all of them would come back."

He implored the Nepalese government to "introduce stricter regulations to control both the flow of tourists and to filter out those not physically fit enough to do the climb."