Foreigners require a special permit for trekking or travel to Manang, Mustang and other parts of Nepal’s Annapurna Circuit. Read this blogpost to know more about how to get these permits in Nepal.
What is an ACA Permit?
In Nepal, special permits are sometimes required for a foreigner (non-Nepali) to enter certain areas. The Annapurna Conservation Area – which includes the Lower Mustang, Upper Mustang, Manang, Manaslu and Gourishankar regions – is one such area where a specific entry permit is required, namely the Annapurna Conservation Area Permit (“ACAP”).
In addition to the ACAP, visitors to any part of the Annapurna Conservation Area are also required to obtain a Trekker Information Management System (“TIMS”) Registration. This process is also separately explained later in this blogpost.
Before getting into the specifics, it’s important to mention that there are different kinds of permits for different parts of the ACA. While the permits for Lower Mustang and Manang are cheaper and easier to obtain, the permits for Upper Mustang are significantly more expensive and subject to more conditions/restrictions. In this blogpost I have explained the ACAP process applicable to only Lower Mustang and Manang.
Who needs an ACA Permit?
Any non-Nepali person who wishes to enter any part of the Annapurna Conservation Area.
Where Can You Get an ACA Permit?
ACA Permits for Lower Mustang and/or Manang can be obtained from the Tourism Office in either Kathmandu or Pokhara. In both of these major cities, there are dedicated desks where these permits are issued. If all your documents are in place, permits are issued on the spot. When I got my ACA Permits in Pokhara, the whole process took less than 20 minutes.
ACA Permits for Lower Mustang and/or Manang can also be obtained at any of the ACA checkposts along the relevant route. Therefore, it is not mandatory to have to go to either Pokhara or Kathmandu for these permits. However, the rates for permits obtained at these checkposts is double that payable at Pokhara or Kathmandu.
What does an Annapurna Circuit Permit Cost?
If you get your ACAP in Kathmandu or Pokhara: (i) 1000 Nepali Rupees per permit for Indian Nationals (and people from other SAARC countries); and (ii) 2000 Nepali Rupees per permit for people of other nationalities.
If you get your ACAP anywhere else you have to pay double the amount mentioned above.
What is the Period of Validity of ACAP?
At the time when I obtained a permit, I was told that they aren’t very strict about a period of validity. They do, however, require you to provide estimated dates of entry and exit from the ACA. Off the record, I was told that since the cost of permit is a flat fee (and not charged on a daily basis) they usually do not have a problem if you delay either entry or exit by a few days.
However, the ACAP is usually valid only for a single entry. Therefore, if you exit the region you can only re-enter after obtaining a new permit (i.e. you will need to pay the fee once again).
If you’re a biker trying to do Lower Mustang and Manang in one trip, you will need to obtain two separate permits, because you will have to exit and re-enter the ACAP in order to be able to do both. However, trekkers who are doing the complete Annapurna circuit (Besisahar to Kagbeni through Thorong La pass, or the reverse) can do so with just one permit since they will not exit the ACA region.
What Documents Do You Need for the ACAP?
- Fully filled out and signed application form (available at the relevant office);
- Copy of Government issued ID proof; and
- 2 passport size photographs
Indian nationals do not need to have a passport, since there is no visa for Indians to enter Nepal. However, people of all other nationalities are required to provide copies of passport and visa.
Overall, the process of obtaining ACA permits for Lower Mustang and/or Manang is quite easy and should not really be a cause for concern. Here are a few more bits of information that might be useful:
In addition to obtaining your permit, you will usually also need to register under Nepal’s Trekkers Information Management System (TIMS) and obtain a TIMS Card. Please read my blogpost about the “TIMS Card” for more details on how to obtain and complete this registration independently.
Government offices in Nepal are closed on Saturdays but do work on Sundays. In case you’re trying to get your permits in Kathmandu or Pokhara, keep this in mind while planning your schedule.
Free Passport Photo Service
It was nice to see that the Tourist Office in Pokhara offered a free passport photograph service (I assume something similar would be available in Kathmandu too). I was able to get additional photos without having to run around looking for a place to get them done in an unfamiliar town.
Checking along the Route
During my ride to Lower Mustang, I noticed that there isn’t a particularly strict checking system for the ACAP. While there are several checkposts, the people manning them are usually seated inside and do not stop vehicles on the road for any verification. The onus seems to be on you, as a traveller, to make the effort to inform officials at each checkpost about your entry and exit, which is then updated onto their system and confirmed by stamping your permit with an entry or exit stamp (as may be applicable). Interestingly, the TIMS checking process (at a separate checkpost) was more pro-active.
I hope you found this blogpost useful. As always, I welcome additions of information by way of comments to this post.
Note: Government policies and processes tend to be updated/changed quite often. All of the contents of this blogpost are based on information gathered during my trip to Nepal in June 2019. If you’re reading this blogpost at a future date, it might be a good idea to check for updates to rates and/or processes.