My parents (both over 60) have booked a 10 day tour of Nepal: Kathmandu, Lumbini, Pokahara, Chitwan. Mostly land tours and excursions, no hikes or anything serious.

Their journey starts May 18th. Is it safe for them to go? They are chiefly worried if they will have proper sanitation or if the food and water will be contaminated, etc.

Should they just call up the hotels and ask?

  • Did they book it independently? – Relaxed Apr 29 '15 at 17:40
  • Umm...they booked the airline from Calcutta to Kathmandu independently. But they booked hotels and excursions as a tour package. – Kaushik Apr 29 '15 at 18:29
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    In that case, call the tour operator. They're the ones responsible. I'd not be surprised at all if they offer a refund for people not wishing to travel now. Wouldn't cover the flights of course, but the hotels and excursions possibly. – jwenting Apr 29 '15 at 18:53
  • Maybe even the airlines would offer a refund given the risks involved in Nepal, have you tried contacting them? – downhand Apr 30 '15 at 8:15
  • Try for a refund. It is not advisable to tour Nepal right now. Nepal is still experiencing aftershocks of >4 magnitude about twice daily. – blvdeer May 6 '15 at 16:56

I've been asking similar questions myself as I had a week booked from 16th May, plus a short trip next week. It is hard to see how the itinerary you describe could be feasible by the date your parents travel.

A magnitude 7.9 earthquake leaves widespread damage over a large area, and the areas your parents propose to visit are in the worst-hit area. Many roads are impassable, and in Chitwan in particular, there's a good chance the hotel is not standing. Large areas are without running water and electricity, and sadly disease and increase crime tend to come in the wake of such disasters. You say it was booked through a tour operator. Contact them now, and ask about cancelling. If the operator is based in Nepal without a overseas agent, this may not be possible.

You don't state your parents nationality, but many governments are advising against travel to Nepal and are evacuating their citizens. If that applies to your parents, most travel insurance policies will pay for cancellation. This is the case even if the flights and tour were non-refundable, as it'll be the insurers rather than airlines and tour operators that pay your parents.

If this is part of a longer holiday, explore the possibility of booking something instead of the Nepal section of the trip. Most insurance policies will be happy to cover the cost of that, as it's typically cheaper to pay for a replacement week in the middle of the holiday than covering the entire cancellation costs. But do speak to your insurers before doing that. I've been pleasantly surprised by how helpful mine were in discussing options over the phone.

If your parents are uninsured, they need to think very carefully about what to do. Cancelling and accepting the loss may well be best. However if they're unwilling to do that, most airlines are still serving Kathmandu and most of the western-style hotels in Kathmandu are relatively undamaged. Probably the roads will be clear enough that it's possible to get a taxi around Kathmandu, and if not, there are hotels along the ring road by the airport perimeter. But quite probably many of Kathmandu's tourist attractions will be closed. They may be able to get an internal flight to a relatively unscathed part of the country such as the far east, and salvage something of a holiday there. But unless your parents are the sort of 60-year-olds who would be willing to risk sleeping on an airport floor, this is not a sensible option.

  • Thank you. They are Indian. They did not even buy trip insurance. – Kaushik Apr 30 '15 at 13:50

There are three ways your parents can end up not losing the money they spent:

  • If they have trip insurance it may cover this sort of thing and enable them to claim a full refund and not go
  • If the tour operator can't provide what they paid for, the tour operator may give them a refund. Similarly if the airline can't actually transport them they may provide a refund. This is a reasonable chance but I wouldn't want to count on it. The chances will be increased if the tour agency is part of some sort of association or is licensed in some way.
  • If the airline can transport them and the tour agency is willing to take them, then perhaps they can take the trip as planned, or modify it slightly to volunteer in some way and help the Nepalese people recover. I would guess that if the airline and tour people refuse to refund them, it's because it's safe to take them

May 18th is perhaps too far away to predict the state of food and water supplies. Nonetheless contacting the tour people immediately is the way to go. Also look for other sources of information - for example a number of Facebook groups after Cyclone Pam have been great for updates on which Vanuatu hotels and attractions are re-opening when. Doubtless similar groups are being created for Nepal already. Liking the hotels and attractions is great first step, as well as looking for relevant groups.

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    "modify it slightly to volunteer in some way and help the Nepalese people recover" I would very strongly recommend they do not attempt to do that. Unless the poster's parents are highly skilled in disaster recovery, emergency medicine or sanitation engineering, they will essentially be 60 year old unskilled labourers. And Nepal likely does not need more unskilled labourers, especially those who do not speak a local language. They will be worse than useless as volunteers. The only resource they can provide is money, so spending lavishly is the best thing that they can do. – MJeffryes Apr 30 '15 at 11:42
  • Today, yes. But in a month, perhaps not. I'm seeing this with Vanuatu. People are cleaning up or loading and unloading supplies, counting people that sort of thing. Not in the first days and weeks I agree, but perhaps in a month. – Kate Gregory Apr 30 '15 at 12:06
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    I still disagree that two foreign 60 year olds will be able to contribute anything. There will be no shortage of fitter, younger local people. Attempting to coordinate these two tourists will sap more resources than they will contribute. – MJeffryes Apr 30 '15 at 12:26
  • yes, my parents need help themselves, volunteering is not an option. – Kaushik Apr 30 '15 at 13:52
  • @MJeffreys The OP's parents appear to be Indian, and if they speak Hindi, they'll have no trouble with Nepali (which is essentially a dialect). Otherwise agreed though, spending money as a tourist is the best option all around. – lambshaanxy Apr 30 '15 at 22:12

I'll offer a contrary opinion and say that you're probably fine to go, although you may need to alter your itinerary. Contact your tour operator, they'll be able to advise based on local knowledge, unlike us armchair speculators here on the Internets.

That said:

  • Major intercity roads and city thoroughfares will almost certainly be cleared by May, this is a necessity just to get relief supplies flowing.
  • Yes, local water supplies may be affected by the earthquake, but since sanitation in Nepal is woeful even at good times, they should be drinking bottled water only and choosing where to eat very carefully anyway. (Also, I infer your parents are Indians, in which case they'll already be very used to this.)
  • Since tourists are staying away in droves, the money you will spend as a tourist for hotels, restaurants, taxis, guides etc is more needed than ever.

Update: On June 15, 2015, Nepal reopened 6 of 7 closed World Heritage sites and urged more tourists to come visit.

  • Unless you have something to base this on, I think you are speculating. Tourist money may be welcome, but a visit may also be unnecessarily adding to the stress of an overwhelmed infrastructure. It took Haiti more than a year to get back to what passes for normal after its earthquake. – DJClayworth Apr 30 '15 at 13:24
  • @DJClayworth I visited Phuket as a tourist a few months after the tsunami. The speed of reconstruction was amazing and tourists were extremely welcome. Now Nepal is obviously a poorer country, but tourism is much more important to it's economy than to Haiti's, and a tourist (or a thousand) is not going to place any appreciable "stress" on a country of almost 30m people, particularly if they avoid the worst-hit areas. – lambshaanxy Apr 30 '15 at 22:10

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