Nepal makes things easy for foreign travellers. Visas are available on arrival at the international airport in Kathmandu and at all land border crossings that are open to foreigners, as long as you have passport photos to hand and can pay the visa fee in foreign currency (some crossings insist on payment in US dollars). Your passport must be valid for at least six months and you will need a whole free page for your visa.
All baggage is X-rayed on arrival and departure, though it’s a pretty haphazard process. In addition to the import and export of drugs, customs is concerned with the illegal export of antiques.
Customs’ main concern is preventing the export of antique works of art, and with good reason: Nepal has been a particular victim of international art theft over the last 20 years.
It is very unlikely that souvenirs sold to travellers will be antique (despite the claims of the vendors), but if there is any doubt, they should be cleared and a certificate obtained from the Department of Archaeology in central Kathmandu’s National Archives building. If you visit the department between 10am and 1pm, you should be able to pick up a certificate by 5pm the same day. These controls also apply to the export of precious and semiprecious stones.
All foreigners, except Indians, must have a visa. Nepali embassies and consulates overseas issue visas with no fuss. You can also get one on the spot when you arrive in Nepal, either at Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan Airport or at road borders at Nepalganj, Birganj/Raxaul Bazaar, Sunauli, Kakarbhitta, Mahendranagar, Dhangadhi and even the funky Kodari checkpoint on the road to Tibet.
A Nepali visa is valid for entry for three to six months from the date of issue. Children under 10 require a visa but are not charged a visa fee. Your passport must have at least six months of validity. Citizens of South Asian countries (except India) and China need visas, but, if you’re only entering once in a calender year then these are free.
To obtain a visa upon arrival by air in Nepal you must fill in an application form and provide a passport photograph. Visa application forms are available on a table in the arrivals hall, though some airlines provide this form on the flight. For people with electronic passports there are now visa registration machines in the immigration hall which, after inserting your passport, will automatically fill out the visa form for you. However you do it, getting through immigration can take up to an hour, depending on the numbers. A single-entry visa valid for 15/30/90 days costs US$25/40/100. At Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan Airport the fee is payable in any major currency, but at land borders officials require payment in cash US dollars; bring small bills. We haven’t yet heard of it happening to anyone else but the last time we entered Nepal by air and asked for a ninety day visa we were also asked to show our driving license.
Multiple-entry visas are useful if you are planning a side trip to Tibet, Bhutan or India. You can change your single-entry visa to a multiple-entry visa at Kathmandu’s Central Immigration Office for US$20.
Don’t overstay your visa. You can pay a fine of US$3 per day at the airport if you have overstayed less than 30 days (plus a US$2 per day visa extension fee), but it’s far better to get it all sorted out in advance at Kathmandu’s Central Immigration Office, as a delay could cause you to miss your flight.
It’s a good idea to keep a number of passport photos with your passport so they are immediately handy for trekking permits, visa applications and other official documents.
Many travellers get an Indian visa in Nepal but it’s not a straightforward process. Visa applications must be made at the India Visa Service Centre, at the State Bank of India to the right of the embassy, not at the embassy itself. Applications are accepted only between 9.30am and midday but it pays to get there earlier than 9.30am so as to be one of the first people in line. You will need a printed copy of the completed online visa form (https://indianvisaonline.gov.in), your passport, a copy of your passport info pages and a copy of your Nepalese visa. You will also need two 51mm x 51mm passport photos (this is larger than a standard passport photo but most passport photo places in Kathmandu know about Indian visa regulations), and the visa fee. Five working days later you will need to return to the embassy between 9.30am and 1pm with your passport and visa payment receipt. You will likely have to answer a few questions confirming your visa application details. At this point you will leave your passport with the embassy. The following working day you can collect your passport between 5-5.30pm – hopefully with a shiny, new Indian tourist visa in it.
Visa fees for a six month tourist visa vary depending on nationality but for most nationalities it’s Rs 4350. However, for Japanese passport holders it’s a mere Rs 1050, for US passport holders the fee is Rs 6450 and for UK passport holders it’s a whooping Rs 13,600.
Transit visas (Rs 2300 for most nationalities) are issued the same day, but start from the date of issue and are non-extendable.
Visa extensions are available from immigration offices in Kathmandu and Pokhara only and cost a minimum US$30 (payable in rupees only) for a 15-day extension, plus US$2 per day after that. To extend for 30 days is US$50 and to extend a multiple-entry visa add on US$20. If you’ll be in Nepal for more than 60 days you are better off getting a 90-day visa on arrival, rather than a 60-day visa plus an extension.
Every visa extension requires your passport, the fee, one photo and an application form which must be completed online first. One of the questions on this online application form asks for your Nepalese street address with house/building number. As anyone who spends more than a few days in Kathmandu will know house numbers are very rarely used and just as rarely known. In fact most places don’t have one. The computer system will throw a bit of a paddy if you don’t fill this part in so if you don’t know the number then we’d suggest getting creative and adding your favourite number. Nobody other than the computer system really seems to care if you do this. Collect all these documents together before you join the queue; plenty of photo shops in Kathmandu and Pokhara can make a set of eight digital passport photos for around Rs 250.
Visa extensions are available the same day, normally within two hours, though some travellers have paid an extra Rs 300 fee to get their extensions within 10 minutes. For a fee, trekking and travel agencies can assist with the visa-extension process and save you the time and tedium of queuing.
You can extend a tourist visa up to a total stay of 150 days within a calendar year, though as you get close to that maximum you’ll have to provide an air ticket to show you’re leaving the country.
You can get up-to-date visa information at the website of the Department of Immigration (www.nepalimmigration.gov.np).