Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Elections Special

Well, I have been getting queries from people asking if it is safe to come in now to Nepal, specially since elections are coming up, and the US travel advisory warns of violence coming up into the elections in April.

Interestingly, the travel advisory can only quote incidents prior to September 2007, which is five months ago, yet uses sentences like "continues to experience sporadic incidents of terrorism in urban areas" or something to that effect, giving an impression that it is dangerous even now in Kathmandu.

Anyways, that is them, and they are allowed to think what they want. I personally think that they are too harsh on Nepal, but whatever...

So here is what I think.

The Americans are right in some counts. Election time in Nepal, specially at this crucial juncture, is going to be full of tension. There will be general strikes (almost a national past time in Nepal now) and demonstrations. Parties will try hard to get thier opinions heard and woo voters. There could be sporadic violence, specially in the Terai, which is already having problems.

If you intend to travel at this time in Nepal, remember:-

1. You are safe... tourists are given first rate treatment in Nepal, even curfews and strikes do not affect them.. When there is a strike, a airport shuttle service is offered, and even during curfews, tourists are seen walking around, enjoying the cleaner air in Kathmandu.

2. You are better off in the mountains. Nothing happens there, it is as if none of what is happening in the cities affects these areas. Go off to the mountains, enjoy your trek.

3. Most of what is happening is restricted to cities.

4. The biggest strain is the hassle factor. More strikes means disruption of transport. Be armed with local knowledge. Know when they are planned, and avoid them during your travels. Be wise and do not force yourself when things do not happen as you planned.

remember: plans seldom survive reality, change can be inspirational, embrace it!

Those were some tactics... overall, you are safe... in 15 year of turmoil in Nepal, very few tourists ever got in the line... and in most cases, out of their own stupidity or ignorance...

Tourists have never been targets in Nepal... no one wants to abduct you, or kill you... everyone realizes that you are a source of valuable income, and welcomes you in Nepal.

See you in the mountains!

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