Nepal After the Earthquake: Is it Safe to Visit?

Nepal After the Earthquake: Is it Safe to Visit?

December 4, 2015

The Namche Bazaar, once packed with travelers, was mostly empty on this day even though it’s open for business since the April earthquake. (Photo: Bill Fink)

In April 2015, Nepal suffered a devastating 7.8 earthquake that killed over 9,000 people (including 19 on the slopes of Mt. Everest), destroyed buildings, infrastructure, and created landslides across the country.

Just six months after this disaster, I visited Nepal to check on the state of tourism, to tour Kathmandu, and to join one of the first trekking tours to resume hikes toward Everest Base Camp in the Himalayas.

Nepal: Open for Business

Before flying to Nepal, I spoke with Darrell Wade, the CEO of Intrepid Travel, Nepal’s largest inbound tour operator, about his company’s plans in the country. “After the earthquake hit and we recognized the scope of destruction, we made the decision to halt all tours until the fall.” But now the company is back in a big way.

“We’re running our full slate of tours, and donating all our profits from the 2015-2016 season to charities to help rebuild Nepal,” Wade said of the Intrepid Foundation’s $1 million ”Namaste Nepal” campaign. “Nepal may not be the biggest market for us, but we consider it part of our DNA as an adventure travel company to stay involved.”

“If tourism doesn’t return to Nepal, it’ll be like a second earthquake hitting the country,” Wade said, explaining how tourism supplies funds to a “whole supply chain” of Nepalese, from porters and their families to guest houses, food companies, shops and transport. In October, Intrepid’s bookings were down 25 percent according to local GM Nicholas Cowie, but he told me he’s confident that numbers for them and other companies will be increasing once the word gets out.

Kathmandu was in full swing during the visit. (Photo: Bill Fink)

While the Nepal tourism minister announced planned restrictions for permits to summit Mt. Everest’s 29,000-foot peak next year (the proposed measure would ban those under 18, over 75, handicapped, or lacking any experience), the popular regular treks to Everest Base Camp (elevation 17,000) should be unaffected and continue as scheduled, according to Intrepid’s Cowie.

Kathmandu: Rubble and Restoration

Arriving in Kathmandu, there’s no mistaking that this is a city in full swing. Cars, minibuses, motorcycles, bikes, and the occasional sacred cow clog the streets in an intertwined mass of honking, smoke-belching, and weaving traffic that is somehow managed not by stoplights, but by harried traffic cops in intersections. Nearly every block has a building that is either being torn down or rebuilt, and sometimes it’s hard to tell which direction the structure is going.


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