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Tourism scams in Nepal

Nepal’s poverty index is probably one of the highest in the world, despite its rich water resources and the abundance of plant life. Political instability has made matters worse and the after affects of a communists insurgency has left a lasting legacy of disability and many maimed and disabled for a lifetime. Poverty and a pretty high illiteracy rate have added to growing unemployment figures as per government statistics. It’s a gloomy scenario where tourism is a virtual lifeline in this beautiful Himalayan landlocked country that we all know so well as Nepal…the abode of the gods…or so they say. Through every nook & cranny in the capital city of Kathmandu, and throughout Nepal’s 75 districts, wherever you head to on your adventurous sojourns, you are likely to encounter a temple upfront with the locals rushing to call upon the gods, but yet the country seems to grasp with the hope of providing employment & feeding its millions, compelling its youth to even sell the only property or land they own to leave the country of birth to search for greener pastures on foreign shores; and for those not fortunate enough, stay behind to survive on the nation’s major source of income and foreign exchange…’TOURISM’…and honest though the people of Nepal maybe in general, visitors to Nepal must be aware of how some of the local folks seek to survive & put food on the table, with methods ingenious enough to leave you feeling irritated and stunned…& at times, even playing with your sympathetic emotions and feeling sorry for your fellow beings, irrespective of caste, creed or colour.

Being conscious of these tricky scams that come your way will take a long, long way in saving your hard earned money, precious time and energy, leaving you safe & happy to enjoy the amazing beauty this country has on offer that sums up why you decided to visit Nepal among a host of other countries that could have given you an enjoyable holiday otherwise, but nevertheless, Nepal gives you the kind of vacation that can be rarely found anywhere else on planet earth, and even if you have been ripped off once, be sure some poor & less fortunate people have enjoyed a hearty meal late into the night and some poor kid has cleared a school fee long overdue. This is Nepal for you…love it!!! Hate it!!!...there’s every chance you’ll love it more…AND COME BACK AGAIN!!!!!

Below is a list of some slimey little traps & come hither temptations that you can watch out for…unless you are kind enough to let it happen once, the choices are so many, but don’t let it happen more than once…& spoil your holiday…

1) City Guides Scams

You seek out a guide to show you around a town or a city so that you get to see the places of interest and learn something about the history and cultural significance of the sights. Some city guides will only direct you to shops that they have a connection with, so instead of spending most of the time guiding you around the significant temples, palaces, squares and other places of cultural significance or of beauty, they focus on persuading you to buy goods like Thanka paintings, pashminas, scarves, jewelry and wood carvings, while pocketing a percentage of the profit from the shopkeepers...…even if you are interested in buying something which is likely to happen, make sure you’ve had your fill of all the sightseeing spots mentioned in your deal with the guide, and leave your shopping for the last…bargain like hell for what you want to buy & then tell your guide when he gets his commission, he has to share it with you…this will leave him gasping for breath!

2)Tourist Area Cheats and Unscrupulous Merchants

Be mindful that some shopkeepers, especially some non-Nepali owned businesses, sometimes prey upon the goodwill of Western tourists to unfairly seek some financial and/or personal advantage.

•If you are a woman, do not put up with sexual harassment in shops.

•Be very cautious when paying by credit card that the actual amount you have agreed to pay for the goods is entered during the transaction including any additional credit card fee of which you should be informed at the time of purchase. Check that no additional amount has been entered.

•When paying by cash, carefully count the notes you are handing over loudly in front of the shopkeeper. If you are owed change, then state clearly yourself how much change you are owed and count it carefully as your receive it in your hand. Double check that it is the correct change. Sometimes part of the change is withheld in the hope that the purchaser does not notice.

3)Unaffiliated acting as Trek Operators

There are also some trekking agencies trading in the guise of reputable companies but in reality they are “fly by nighters”. They are not registered companies. Their sole purpose is to make money from unwitting tourists. They will not be able to provide clients with the full range of services, especially where safety is concerned, such as evacuation and rescue. Also, there have been cases where travel agencies have accepted payment from tourists and then disappeared without providing the service which had been agreed on with the client. Be careful with those unregistered and fraudulent travel agencies.Some hotels and guest houses also offer trekking experiences to their guests, sometimes even including highly personalized experiences to suit their particular needs. It all may sound attractive and exciting but again some of the proposed activities may be neither legal nor ethical. Do not be tempted to join up in case you land in hot water! Check that the agency is registered with TAAN, Trekking Association of Nepal to ensure it is legitimate.

4) Non Government Agencies Acting as Trekking Operators

In order to ensure you obtain a truly professional service, be certain you are dealing with a legitimate, certified trekking and tour operator.There are several Non Government Organisations and International Non Government Organisations operating in Nepal which also organise trekking and tour services but this, strictly speaking, is not actually part of their intended function. Therefore, be aware of NGOs and INGOs that do little but glean money for themselves through operating such services. There have been some Nepalese NGOs which have organised trekking and touring activities, even as part of tours related to their intended mission. For this, however, they have claimed addition payment from their clients. Some of these organisations present themselves as if they are genuine trekking agencies and organise trips for clients to some remote village or area. Their employees then also enjoy board and lodging in that region, all from your money, even after you have been taken back to the airport.

On the other hand, there are also trekking agencies which require you to pay for performing voluntary work in Nepal, even though they are reimbursed adequately for any expenses involved by the agencies (NGO's???). This exploitation of the system is completely unregulated in Nepal and many NGOs have developed this as a source of procuring additional income.Ensure that you make your travel arrangements with a fully accredited and recognised trekking company that clearly displays its official credentials. For example the company may display the logo of the Trekking Agencies’ Association of Nepaland of the Nepal Tourism Board That ensures a better service for you and is also fairer to those local businesses which are expending the mandated part of their income to ensure they are meeting all official and ethical requirements to operate both within the law and within the bounds of responsible and sustainable tourism…authentic trek operators generally have their licenses & affiliations hooked up on nails on the walls of their offices; they even have their government registered certificates with the dates framed & put up on their walls. You will even find a whole row of certificates of their licensed guides – these trek companies are genuine all the way. You can even go to the Trekking Agents Association of Nepal {TAAN} WEBSITE, where you will find a long list of trek agents registered with this government recognized trek association which are all legal outfits allowed by the Government of Nepal’s Department of Tourism to operate tour and trek programs in all the major trek destinations of the country.

5)Begging mums…smiling babies…and powdered milk
If this is virtually survival of the fittest, then this example is as blunt as it gets, but survival it is, and kind hearted tourists who visit beautiful Nepal become soft targets; this begging stunt begins with a begging mother with outstretched hands begging for the ‘Red Cow’ powdered milk, ironically, a well known imported milk for babies; please note, this is no ‘mad cow’ disease but a real milk powder that is commonly used by under nourished mothers who are unable to breastfeed their babies. Kind hearted tourists fall prey to mothers who say, ‘not money, just ‘RED COW’ milk for baby & go with the mother to a grocery & buy the milk at an inflated rate; as soon as this kind foreign visitor is on his way, this begging mom goes back to the grocery & shares the profits with the owner. She’s then off to do the stunt with the next kind soul she comes across; the catch 22 here is that these kind tourists sometimes come across little smiling babies that simply overtakes the emotions of sympathetic backpackers…since survival in this Himalayan nation is the ultimate factor at any cost, tourists could probably allow themselves to be fooled once out of sheer pity, but make sure you are paying the right price, we reckon its approximately USD 14-15 but bargain for a good deal…& break the seal before you hand it over to this ‘begging mum’…AND YES, FINALLY; DON’T LET THIS HAPPEN TO YOU MORE THAN ONCE.

6) Rescue- Evacuation Scam

On occasion due to illness or accident, a rescue during a trek may become necessary. If this is the case, a reputable, registered trekking company will expeditiously implement the necessary actions, such as helicopter transport, and ensure that the fees charged by any other agencies or companies involved, are reasonable. Unfortunately, there have been cases of fraudulent conduct even in this area. This falls into two categories:

•There have been cases where some trekking agents and their employees deceive clients by grossly overcharging for genuine rescues.

•Every year, there are rescues carried out which are not genuine but which generate income for the interested parties through the hiring of helicopters and pilots. The trekking company may offer the client an incentive to collude in this deceptive practice by offering the trek free of charge and also offering a portion of the profits shared with the helicopter company to the client for his/ her participation in the fraudulent rescue.Remember, you are liable to be prosecuted for fraud if you are tempted to participate in such a scheme

7)Opportunistic Marriages {marriages of convenience to westerners}

Damaging & manipulative means…If the so-called adage of ‘marriages were made in heaven’ is something to go by, then these marriages were made in hell; because your marriage is not only a sham, but you are also probably paying for his visa fees & also his plane ticket in his quest for ‘greener pastures’ in your home country. Sham marriages of this kind can take you right from the frying pan right into the fire…we are sure you don’t want a marriage of this kind…and supposing you really like this guy, what do you do??? A piece of advice would be to tell him you would prefer to settle down in Nepal if he wants a go to your country…this would be a good litmus test to check out his genuine feelings; & see how it goes from there, but don’t let him enter your country for atleast the first 2 years…oh! C’mon…you’ll know him by then.

8) Untrue Tales of Illness and Disease

Some guides, porters and drivers untruthfully tell tourists that they, or one of their close family members, are suffering from a serious illness, such as kidney or heart disease, liver failure or serious dental problems. They then say that they can’t afford any form of treatment, neither for the necessary tests, drugs, medical procedures, nor for an operation. They are playing on your sympathy and compassion to help them out. Try to verify, by any means that you can, that the information told to you is true before you hand over money to people claiming that they, or other close family members, are ill but cannot afford the necessary treatment.

9) Airport, City Taxi and Rickshaw Fares

One must be cautious while taking taxis and rickshaws, be it from the airport or from any other place since these vehicles’ drivers sometimes try to exploit foreigners who do not know their way around nor understand the system, regarding fares. Firstly, always make sure they understand actually where you want to go. Sometimes drivers demand excessively high fares or they avoid shortcuts and choose longer ways to take you to your destination, solely to increase the fare. The best thing to do is to get a rough idea of the fare beforehand by asking an impartial person and to agree on the fare you will pay the driver before you ride with them.

10) Hashish, Pot, Marijuana

Carrying even small amounts of marijuana can result in a five year jail sentence, even though it grows wild throughout the country. Never get involved in drugs in Nepal. People will try to sell marijuana, especially to younger people but leave it well alone. Enjoy the many other natural and cultural delights that Nepal has on offer and which are all legal!

If you’ve experienced any kind of scams of the kind mentioned above and are a victim of any one of them or anything shadier, then please let us know, we’ll upload your story right here: rishinepal@gmail.com, you will be helping fellow travelers avoid some of the most ridiculous hustling on the planet…

Date 08 Dec 2014

Hi I want to get this case that I have experienced today, so that others may become aware of this scam:

Trying to take local bus from Besisahar to Pokhara, turned out to require one transfer at Dumre.

The Besisahar - Dumre bus operator/conductor requested payment of 350NPR/person for the whole trip, explaining that this covers the second leg (Dumre - Pokhara) of the trip.

Then the Dumre - Pokhara operator claims they have paid the first bus operator the 350NPR for me and my friend, and that i and my friend must pay them this amount in turn, pretending to be sympathetic about being cheated by the first bus operator.

Refusal to their demand to pay ended in altercation on street near Pokhara bus park, with threats of violence from their 'conspirators (?)

Chi Zhang : h2ozhang@gmail.com

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