According to Nepal's mandatory trekking guide policy, all trekkers must have a guide with them during their journey as of April 1st, 2023. Free Independent Trekker cards will no longer be issued, and a new fee for Trekker Information Management Cards will be implemented. The decision aims to enhance safety during treks but has sparked controversy as it transforms Nepal's reputation from an independent trekking destination to a land of package treks. Critics argue that it benefits certain trekking agencies financially. Despite mixed reactions, the decision has the support of the Minister for Tourism. This policy marks a significant shift in Nepal's adventure tourism landscape, impacting independent tourists, while large tour companies are expected to play a prominent role.
The new rules state that only government-registered trekking companies can arrange guides or porters for trekkers. According to the guidelines, foreign visitors planning to trek must obtain a trekkers' information management system (TIMS) card before their trek. As per the new guidelines, any trekker traveling on designated trekking trails without a guide or a TIMS card will be subject to a fine of Rs 12,000. Trekking companies taking trekkers on trips without a TIMS card will face a fine of Rs 10,000 per trekker.
To encourage officials stationed at check posts to stop illegal trekkers, they will receive 20 percent of the fine money as a special allowance, as outlined in the guidelines. The TIMS card is not required for those holding expedition permits for mountain climbing. Tourists visiting restricted areas with permission from the Department of Immigration are also exempt from the TIMS card requirement.
Foreign visitors traveling by helicopter to mountains or restricted areas for sightseeing are exempt from the TIMS card requirement. However, they still need a TIMS card and a guide if it is a one-way trip. Trekkers under ten do not need a TIMS card; their personal information will be stored online. If two or more foreigners travel to mountain regions by two- or four-wheelers, they will need a guide and possess a TIMS card. Officials of diplomatic missions and development partners and their families will be charged Rs 500 per TIMS card, but they won't need the card for official visits.
Trekkers from the SAARC region have to pay Rs 1,000 per card, and trekkers from third countries are charged Rs 2,000 per card.
The guidelines include a list of 44 trekking trails in Kanchenjunga, Makalu Barun, Everest, Rolwaling, Panchpokharai Bhairavkunda, Helambu, Langtang, Ganesh Himal-Ruby Valley, Manaslu, Annapurna, Mustang, Dhaulagiri, Dolpa, and Humla where a guide must accompany trekkers.