How Stranded Foreigners are Getting Out of Nepal

8000ers COVID-19 Nepal
Stefi Troguet in a Kathmandu hospital yesterday.

About 150 climbers have summited Everest in the last two days. Of the 200 in Dhaulagiri’s Base Camp last week, only Carlos Soria and Topo Mena’s teams remain. The few trekkers in the Khumbu and Annapurna areas hurried back to town as soon as they heard about canceled international flights.

Now, an increasing number of foreigners are stranded in their hotels, working their contacts to find a way to leave the country. No scheduled international flights are running, but charters and cargo planes still fly in and out of Tribhuvan airport.

Also, Nepal keeps open contact with India. Two flights a week run between Kathmandu and Delhi. On the other hand, the airport closure has marooned a number of Indians transiting through Nepal to other international destinations. This workaround avoided the travel ban that most countries have imposed on India because of its COVID crisis. The Indian embassy is currently trying to repatriate its citizens.

A plane takes off from Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan airport. Photo: The Kathmandu Post

Special flights

For stranded tourists, Nepal’s Civil Aviation has permitted “special flights” for foreigners at the request of their embassies. The U.S. and Indian embassies have already arranged flights through Qatar and Turkish airlines, while a large Aeroflot plane will fly Russians back home, The Kathmandu Post reports.

Nepal’s Tourism Board estimates that there are currently 2,000 foreigners in Kathmandu. Five thousand more, currently in other regions, will join them in KTM in the next few weeks.

Some outfitters will just arrange a charter for their groups. Not surprisingly, the big-ticket clients currently in Everest Base Camp, still waiting for good weather to summit, will be among them.

“We expect the good weather to return by May 20 to 23,” Lukas Furtenbach told ExplorersWeb. “Afterward, we will get a charter flight to Dubai.”

Fresh from Dhaulagiri, a COVID-stricken Steffi Troguet is still in the hospital awaiting a negative PCR test to give her the all-clear. She hopes to join Jonatan García, Alex Txikon, and a Spanish trekking group that includes leader Sebastián Álvaro and Juanito Oiarzabal on a charter to Istanbul, from which they can return to Spain.

Unexpected or irresponsible?

Commenters have cited the apparent irresponsibility of those who went to Nepal at this time. But only three weeks ago, the situation looked very different. Nepal had vigorously encouraged foreigners to visit. PCRs and quarantines ensured that visitors didn’t bring the virus with them into the (then) clean mountain valleys.

Eventually, as COVID numbers continued to decrease, Nepal shrank the quarantine period. In so doing, they hoped to attract not only climbers but also trekkers who couldn’t afford to waste days locked down in a hotel.

Sebastián Álvaro feels that they have been kidnapped. “We have committed no crime and we have strictly followed all the measures imposed by Nepal’s government,” he said. “We have paid for our return tickets, and we hurried back the moment we heard that the country was closing, but we have been given no time or way to leave.”

Sebastian Alvaro in the Khumbu last week.

A perfect storm

Some visitors blame the authorities’ relaxed enforcement of safety measures. They also note the lack of care by some trekking and climbing groups, and the absence of tests for local porters, guides, and business owners.

Everyone, it seemed, flocked to the Khumbu and the Kali Gandaki as soon as tourism revived. Nepal issued a record 408 Everest permits, and a vast number of climbers,  Sherpas, and other staff turned Everest Base Camp into a canvas city. Mobility was high, as locals visited relatives in villages and climbers visited each other. Hygiene control was difficult.

When India lapsed into its current crisis, Nepal’s government did nothing. On the contrary, the Department of Tourism kept issuing Everest permits. After an extremely difficult economic year, many in Nepal celebrated the return of tourism. But slipshod enforcement and the liberal issuance of climbing permits, as if all were really back to normal, created large groups in small spaces. Together, it became a perfect storm.

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About the Author

Angela Benavides

Angela Benavides

Senior journalist, published author and communication consultant. Specialized on high-altitude mountaineering, with an interest for everything around the mountains: from economics to geopolitics. After five years exploring distant professional ranges, I returned to ExWeb BC in 2018. Feeling right at home since then!

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Paul
Paul
29 days ago

Angela, it is not true that three weeks ago the situation looks very different, there was already over 2000 cases per day in Nepal compare to average 100 per day in March.
In the first week of April, number of cases went from 150 per day to 300 – grow 200%, adding serious situation in neighboring India it should be RED LIGHT for any travel to Nepal, so all people who travel there in April including Sebastian Alvaro and Alex Txikon got stuck there because of will or ignorance or stupidity.

+2
Max Madera
Max Madera
29 days ago
Reply to  Paul

It is true that the numbers in Nepal where raising during April, but one should also realise that i) this is the profession of some of these guys, that have long term relations with Nepal, which was also in need of visitors, ii) 300 per day is nothing compared to usual numbers in any European country in the best of times, and iii) a trip takes time to be organized, so if you travelled 3 weeks ago, probably you started making arrangements at least one month earlier when the situation was very calm. Then it is so very easy to… Read more »

Hugues Grimberg
Hugues Grimberg
29 days ago
Reply to  Max Madera

Non personne ne ramènera le covid. Et personne ne demande aux gouvernement de rapatrier. Ce sont des vols charter donc payé par les clients au prix fort et nous sommes tous confinés avec test pcr obligatoire.

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Last edited 29 days ago by Hugues Grimberg
Blabla
Blabla
29 days ago
Reply to  Paul

Nah, your comment is ignorant and that other thing. All the climbers followed the government’s and their outfitters’ guidelines.
P.S. 150 to 300 is 100% growth, not 200%.

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Paul
Paul
29 days ago
Reply to  Blabla

Haha, good joke… trusting Nepal Government so they was naive as 3 years old kids? And of course outfitters wants make money. Everyone who went to Nepal in April lacked in common senses

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Dave
Dave
29 days ago

People seem to be blaming everyone but themselves. Anyone with a shred of common sense knew that there was a risk of spread from India to Nepal and that lockdowns and travel bans could follow. Those who travelled to Nepal were aware of this risk and accepted it, so are in no position to complain especially when they are getting far better treatment than the average Nepalese citizen.

I don’t blame them for going (though I’m sure will given the use of oxygen, and that’s totally fair), but complaining about an entirely foreseeable risk materialising is a bit silly.

+1
Last edited 29 days ago by Dave
Hugues Grimberg
Hugues Grimberg
29 days ago
Reply to  Dave

Quelle bêtise…non une fermeture des vols n’étaient pas anticipable. Aucun pays n’a fermé ces vols définitivement. De plus ça n’a aucun sens sanitaire de fermer ses vols avec l’Europe tout en gardant des liaisons avec l’Inde.
Le verrouillage à été si rapide qu’il a été impossible de s’adapter à temps.

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Edorta
Edorta
29 days ago

While in Spain we were not allowed to leave our towns and regions what were they doing flying to Nepal? How unfair is that?
The pandemic has been going on for more than a year, we are beginning to see some light with the vaccines. Was it that hard to wait a bit more to go on a trip to a country that is much less prepared to face such a situation? Blaming Nepal only is really shameful.

+2
Don Paul
Don Paul
29 days ago

I was blaming the Indians and especially Modi for the outbreak, but after some data published by Public Health of England yesterday, now I think this new “double mutant” variant in India is worse than the others. In the past couple of weeks, the % of B1.617 has skyrocketed in the UK, US and Europe. No one expected it except Rochelle Walensky who says she has a “sense of doom.” Everything about climbing Mt Everest is ridiculous and fake but I don’t blame these climbers more than others. It’s mainly a spectacle and fun to watch. They are not in… Read more »

Last edited 29 days ago by Don Paul
jmaf
jmaf
29 days ago

For Nepal, allowing the climbing season was a balance between seeing Nepalese sink further into abject poverty caused by loss of tourist $’s vs taking a chance with covid. They made the best decision they could based on the information they had. Did they handle all perfectly? Maybe not but nor has any other nation or organization that I can see.

+1
DRC
DRC
28 days ago
Reply to  jmaf

Hmmm. Not too sure about your arguments.
Australia and New Zealand are suffering greatly from lack of tourism, foreign and skilled migration, but the borders will remain closed until at end of this year…

+1
jajo_majo
jajo_majo
29 days ago

yep, and posting a picture of one of the most entitled and self centered instagram fame seekeing climber is hypocrisy. All in all for her media exposure is good she got covid apparently. But you should also show a picture of an average nepalese young girl lying in a hospital bed so we can compare, you know…

Or maybe post the picture she posted just a few days ago washing teeth in a tent with two other guys not from her initial team with a caption ”actions have consequences”.

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FRANCIS
FRANCIS
29 days ago

Los comentarios de Sebastian Alvaro, sobre Nepal son insultantes. Este Sr. por cierto ya mayorcito, sabia de antemano a donde viajaba, un pais pobre con muchas necesidades, y que no tiene alternativas para el turismo como es Nepal. decir ahora que ha sido secuestrado es una autentica sandez, que nepal deberia de tomar nota. Este sr. fue a Nepal de negocios, ya que se atrevio a llevar a un grupo de trekkin desde España, dada las situacion mundial del covid y ahora salta deciendo majaderias y llamando a la embajada española para que le saquen de Nepal. Vergonzoso la actitud… Read more »

Adrian
Adrian
29 days ago

Social media attention is more important than covid restrictions! Let me go to Nepal!!!

+1
Vincent
Vincent
29 days ago

Hope that she only has a mild Covid- Infection. Unfortunatly we can´t see her red lipstick but she seems to be smiling although the dire situation stranded in a hospital. I can understand why all the people traveled to Nepal. Some people only feel complete in the high mountains batteling cold, high winds, thin air where ordinary things like media, politics are far away and your whole macrocosom shrinks to the size of your tent the beam of your headlamp. Places where you can live life to the fullest, where a a few rays of sunlight after a long night… Read more »

Rostay
Rostay
28 days ago

Just Blaming Nepal 🇳🇵?
Rather be grateful that being stranded in Nepal is far better than any other places. I apologise for the uncertainties happened, but before writing, you senior journalist… Think well that lockdown was imposed to control the infections which is done on most part of the world.

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Chand Himalaya
Chand Himalaya
28 days ago

I.m Nepalese but living in London my families are also in london . But I stuck here including some of my friends as well if any charter flight will be for Heathrow please let us know Thank you .

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