How to Avoid Travel Scams and Crime in Nepal

Avoid con artists, scammers and crime in Nepal. Here's everything you need to know to stay safe and enjoy your time in the mountains.

Night time in Thamel district, Kathmandu Photo © iStock/Jedraszak

Generally, Nepal is a very safe place to travel when it comes to crime, violent crime and theft. However, there have been instances of petty crime such as pickpockets and scammers. Our travel safety expert shares her advice on how to stay safe while traveling Nepal.

Nepalese people are generally very honest and hospitable towards visitors to the country. However, in recent years, there have been a number of crime-related scams that are targeted at tourists. These are the things you need to know.

Bribes and corruption

There are a number of checkpoints run by the police in Kathmandu and throughout Nepal. Sometimes, attempts are made close to these border posts to extort money from foreigners. Another increasing problem are the attempts to set up partnerships with foreign visitors. These typically involve financial assistance exporting goods or establishing shipping routes and promise large returns which never materialize.

Travelers should be vigilant and avoid offering to carry jewelry to a business contact overseas. This has resulted in some getting heavy fines at the border. The local police should be informed about requests to carry items, however, the reality is that the authorities are under-resourced and many crimes go unresolved.

Drugs and drug smuggling is taken very seriously with heavy fines and custodial sentences if caught. Even small amounts of marijuana can result in a five-year jail sentence. Never get involved in drugs in Nepal.

It is also important to thoroughly research any voluntary or charitable organization that you are considering, as several organizations have taken money from well-meaning volunteers. The Social Service Council of Nepal has a list of bona fide organizations.

Want to know more about Nepal? Head to our Stories section to delve a little deeper.

Common scams

  • Credit card scams: Always keep your credit card with you and do not let it out of your sight when making purchases. Travelers have returned to find thousands of dollars of internet porn charges on their cards after it had been skimmed
  • Taxi scams: When taking a taxi, ask the driver to use the meter. Many refuse and then try and charge exorbitant rates, so agree the fare before you get into the cab
  • Milk for baby scam: Another common scam in Nepal is that a child approaches tourists and asks them to buy some milk for a baby. When the tourist goes to the shop, they are charged an inflated sum of money and the milk is then returned by the scammer to the shop where both share in the profits. One way of breaking the scam is to open the bottle for the child, which will then benefit the children
  • Mad Honey scam: A new scam has emerged where travelers are told they are being sold "Hallucinogenic honey", when in fact the dodgy vendor is selling the visitor a normal pot of honey. If you really want to try this honey, befriend a trustworthy local who can find a real-deal sample, otherwise you'll be charged a high price for something that doesn't actually give you the hallucination you're looking for. The substance should be treated as a drug and taken seriously
  • Nightlife scams: There are some dance bars in Nepal, particularly in Kathmandu, where tourists are charged large amounts for drinks and harassed. It is also advisable not to leave any drinks unattended because drink spiking, leading to robbery, does happen.

Theft in Nepal

Theft is becoming a big problem in Nepal, and there have been incidents of trekkers being confronted by groups of men demanding money, as well as muggings and robbery in the cities. When in Nepal, visitors should be vigilant as to where their belongings are and not have valuables on display. It's highly unlikely this will happen to you, and the risk is even lower if you are trekking in groups. Hiking in the mountains alone isn't a smart thing to do, so always go with a reputable guide.

Festival season, which falls between October and November, sees a proportionate increase of crime in Nepal. Keep your belongings out of sight when you're in large crowds, and try to only carry enough cash (hidden somewhere it can't be stolen) that you need for the day.

Child protection

It's very important that parents don't leave children with people they don't know. There have been occasional cases of molestation and a report of non-investigation by the authorities. Nepal still has some challenges with child labour, where small children can be seen on building sites and factories.

Nepal is a beautiful country, but also one of the poorest in the world. In general, visitors are made very welcome; however, it pays to exercise some vigilance. While the people are some of the friendliest in the world, you should always be careful and not trust the first person you meet on the street.

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9 Comments

  • scb222 said

    Another scam: u hand over a $50 or $100 to chg into rupees, it is swapped 4 a counterfeit note of same value & the cashier tells u 'sry we dont av enuf rupees rgt now 2 chg ur large bill'. U take bak the foreign note only 2 find out l8r ur note is now a fake & no one will chg it. Uv jst lost $50 or $100 fr ur travel kitty.

  • Ireland said

    taking bus from Besishar toward Pokhara require one transfer at Dumre. the Besishar - Dumre bus operator will charge 350NPR for the whole trip, explaining this price covers the second leg, from Dumre to Pokhara.

    The second leg operator will claim to have paid the 350NPR to the first bus operator for you, then in turn demanding you to pay them the whole 350NPR in compensation, effectively charging you twice for the same trip. Refusal to their demand to pay led to altercation on the street and threats of violence from their conspirators at Pokhara bus park.

  • Cara said

    My dad got involved with a woman born in Nepal. She got him to marry her cousin for citizenship. He mysteriously fell off his roof and died. All of a sudden this 40 year old wife pops up wanting my dad's estate. He had written a will out to his children. We have spent $150,000 for lawyers. My father was young and healthy. His girlfriend nor her cousin never once contacted his children. They had him cremated with no obituary. No parent ever wishes for their children to take care of them when they are brain dead. Be very leery of women from Kathmandu who speak some English.

  • Yam said

    Every country has some positive and negative sides.So far in'al you will find more positive sides.if you purely come for trek or cultural visit,you will have no problems at all.People here are very enthusiastic and happy to serve and assist you.But if you look for other certain troubles like drug or child sex or look for prostitutes then you will have all kinds of problems.you may be robbed or in legal troubles.
    Pls dont let people assume that there is crime if the country is poor.if it is,then there should not be any crime in all rich countries.if you know any country where crime does not happen,pls let us know
    Being a nepali and a tour guide since last 17 years,I dont agree with your article.It hurts our feeling.

  • mangle2017 said

    I can't get this to post on TripAdvisor so I'll put it here.

    This is a pretty minor scam, but it was so hilariously stupid I feel like sharing it.
    A 60yo Nepalese man with excellent English approached me in Thamel saying he worked on behalf of a Nepalese Government publication called the Nepal Quarterly Review and would like to interview me.
    He then showed me the worst fake ID I've ever seen - a creased piece of paper with some half assed mspaint inspired graphics and covered in some clear plastic haphazardly stapled around the edges to appear laminated.
    He flicked through a copy of his publication, which was basically some unconvincing awkwardly worded testimonials from other tourists printed with a cheap inkjet printer.
    He said we should go to a nearby restaurant to conduct the interview "because I am an old man now and I need to be comfortable". I politely declined.
    When I walked past again a few hours later, he was in the restaurant with a couple of tourists and a lot of empty plates and glasses.

  • Sita said

    I’m from Nepal and I have been scammed by family members and other scammers. It is disgusting that majority of people in Nepal are dishonest. My brother sweet talked me into putting his name in my hard earned property ( he promised to sell it for me) but now he is robbing me.
    I left the country 24 years ago and only go there when I need to . I’m ashamed to tell people that I was born in Nepal.

    Extortion is Nepali culture. Foreigners be aware .

  • Surendra said

    @Sita, I am sorry for what you went through, but I dont think it will be wise to put every people in the same basket. I am not sure where are you living, but please indicate peoples not a whole coummunity and Nation.

  • Andrew Absolon said

    Nepal is a beautiful country with many kind, helpful and caring people but yes there are also many scams, beggars and people who want your money. Beware of strangers starting conversations in the Thamel, kathmandu area. They are almost certain to try to sell you something or sign you up for an expensive tour. Beware of shop owners, they always want to make a sale to tourists, but sometimes you can find something you like at a good price. Don't enter thangka, buddha painting shops. Sometimes they'll make it hard for you to leave without buying something, and get angry if you just browse their shop without purchasing anything. Mostly everything else is pretty laid back, and a relaxing time or great mountain climbing scenery can be had. Nepal also doesn't always run on time. Domestic airlines often depart 2 hours late.
    It's great to experience this country. It is very natural but one of the world's poorest countries.

  • Price said

    Ive been 3 times to Nepal and have just paid to go again. I did date someone from Nepal and he left me after he had a lot of money from me (£1,300). Says he now isnt ready for marrage after asking me to marry him and meeting his family.
    In the city i was told that the beggers are from India not Nepal. Some shop keepers were happy for you to go in and look and others dont want you to leave until you buy something.
    A man approached me. He talked for a while and went to a cafe. Only had a cup of tea and he tried to get me to pay for his! Told him i dont have a lot of money and that i was not paying for his. He was shocked but had no choice but to pay for his own cup of tea.
    So yeah, some people will try to scam you and a lot of shops will charge you double if you are white! I would recoment asking for a guide or a friend to make sure you dont get scamed.
    One time an old lady had over a thousand rupees in her hand and was harrasing me for money. Had to threaten her to go away. Felt a little bad but i dont like being harrased.
    So just like any other country, lot of scammers but a few good people too.

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