Upper Mustang is a restricted area in the North West of Nepal. To Enter Upper Mustang you'll need several permits and meet the necessary requirements. Please refer to my full guide to the Upper Mustang Trek for details on the actual trek.
To enter into and trek in Upper Mustang you will need the following documents and permits along with meeting several mandatory requirements.
- A restricted area permit
- An Annapurna Conservation Area Permit (ACAP)
- A TIMS card
You also need to meet the following requirements:
- Have a mandatory guide of your choosing
- Be part of a two person minium group.
- All documentation processed by a trekking company in Nepal with a USD bank account.
All the above is quite feasible but does require a little planning and the right contacts.
Upper Mustang Overview
There's a reason why the Upper Mustang trek is rated as one of the greatest treks in the world. Up until the 1990s the area was completely closed off. While trekking in the area you will get to experience sights, places and people very few trekkers come into contact with.
Not only is the Upper Mustang trek one of the most spectacular treks in Nepal but also one of the ones you feel most privileged to be a part of. Do read my full guide on the Upper Mustang Trek.
Upper Mustang Permit categories
The Upper Mustang restricted area permit can only be issued to a minimum of two people. Each person gets their own permit but their applications need to be handed in together. Therefore, technically there is no such thing as a "group permit" as each individual get's there own permit.
This means the group you are with can contain as many people as you wish. However do note that regulations require a maximum of five people to a guide.
Only a registered Nepali trekking company with a USD bank account in Nepal can apply. The application form is online and authorized by the Nepali Department of Immigration. Passport details, photographs and an itinerary are needed. The permits can only be issued by the Department of Immigration in Kathmandu or Pokhara.
The cost of an Upper Mustang Restricted Area Permit is USD$500 per person. A permit is only valid for 10 days. If you wish to trek for longer in Upper Mustang you must pay an additional USD $50 per day.
You cannot apply for a permit yourself. It can only be applied for by a Nepali company with a USD bank account. This bizarre last restriction means only a limited number of companies can apply. That doesn’t stop some Nepali trekking companies from offering Upper Mustang Treks and then paying another company for doing the paperwork for them.
If you want to trek solo around Upper Mustang do realize that you must take a guide as it is a mandatory requirement. You also officially need another “foreigner” to apply for the restricted area permit with. The other person must be non-Nepali and have a tourist visa in their passport.
These additional restrictions make trekking as one person in Upper Mustang quite difficult but not impossible. Some trekking agents have a list of people and date that they are going on a trek. You could call around to trekking agencies asking if they have a group going during a date when you could also go. They then simply add you to the group and you hire a separate guide from the same company to trek alone with. This method requires some leg work by you when applying and some flexibility in regards to dates.
Asking in travel forums with your dates can also be helpful. Some trekkers with money to spare have been known to pay for another trekkers permit just to get one themselves. Whether the other trekker goes or not is another question. If the trekking company is in the know they quite often know what to say at checkpoints – quite often an excuse is made that the other trekker got sick and had to turn back.
The easiest method to find another person is to have time on your side and wait it out in Nepal. Pokhara is easier to do this from than Kathmandu. The reason for this is that Pokhara’s trekking agents are more close knit than Kathmandu’s and not as busy – thus they can call around to other trekking agents asking if they have another single trekker wanting to visit Upper Mustang.
On average I found that this method during peak season yielded at least 4 interested solo trekkers per month.
It’s worth noting that the waiting in Nepal option can be frustrating. You literally have to be ready to go on the trek with 2-3 days notice. It adds to the excitement in some ways. You also have to be ready for disappointment if the other unknown trekker pulls out of the trek just as you hear they are interested.
In all cases it’s usual that both of you will have different guides and don’t have to trek together or ever meet each other. Finding another person for the Upper Mustang permit is not easy but it’s certainly feasible if you have some time to spare. In all cases once you have your Upper Mustang restricted area permit you then need to get an ACAP permit and a TIMS card. Both of these are very easy to obtain and your guide usually does this for you.
If you are interested, I've managed to round up some of the better trekking companies who specialize in Upper Mustang treks on my Find a Trekking Guide Service.
Upper Mustang is located in the Annapurna Conservation Area so each person on the Upper Mustang trek will also need a Annapurna Conservation Area Project Permit.
ACAP permits are available at the Kathmandu and Pokhara Tourism Board offices.
As a trekking guide is mandatory for the Upper Mustang trek it is far more convenient to let the trekking company/guide get your ACAP permit for you.
The cost of an ACAP Permit is 3,000 rupees per person.
The final mandatory document you need is a Trekker Information Management System (TIMS) card. Despite the name there's little trekker management involved. The cards support guides and porters insurance more than anything else these days. These cards are issued by the Trekking Agencies' Association of Nepal (TAAN).
There are difference locations for TAAN offices. For independent trekkers you can get a TIMS card at the Kathmandu and Pokhara Tourism offices. However, as a guide is mandatory for the Upper Mustang trek it will be up to your guide to obtain the TIMS cards for you.
The cost of TIMS card for Upper Mustang is USD $10 per person.
Calculating the total cost of your Upper Mustang Permits is quite easy.
Upper Mustang Permit: $500 (ten days)
ACAP Permit: $30
TIMS Card: $10
Total cost of all permits per person: USD $540
Keep in mind that there's a two person minimum number required to get an Upper Mustang Permit. However do note that these prices are fixed so there is no fluctuation. Keep that in mind when working out the total cost of your Upper Mustang Trek.
There is a USD$50 fee for each addtional day you spend in Upper Mustang. So for example, if you want to spend 12 days in Upper Mustang the cost for the permists will be $500 + 50 + 50 = $600.
For more information to do please refer to my full full trekking guide to the Upper Mustang Trek.
On average it takes 4-6 hours to process your Upper Mustang permit. Your guide or trekking company must have them processed in person at the immigration office in either Kathmandu or Pokhara. The fastest of these locations is Pokhara. For two permits it usually takes the same amount of time. For larger groups it could take a full day.
Both the ACAP and TIMS cards are processed within 10 minutes depending on any queues.
Once your guide has all your permits make a photocopy of them and keep one copy for yourself. You might also want to take a photo of them.
You don't need to have the extra persons permit - your guide should have their copy.
For alternative treks across Nepal do read my list of treks in Nepal which is continually being added to based on popularity or request.
If you are looking for a trekking guide I recommend you read my article on How to find a trekking guide in Nepal. You may also contact me for details about the guide I had on this trek. However, I would prefer if you simply got my guidebook to Nepal which contains many local guides including my guides details.
On the following pages below I've compiled detailed articles on the specifics of trekking in Nepal that may be of use to you.
You will find them to be a great place to research your whole trekking trip to Nepal - be sure to bookmark them so you don't forget!
|You might find my following free guides helpful:|
My guide on trekking in Nepal
|Check out my guide on equipment & gear needed for trekking in Nepal|
|Check out my list of treks to do in Nepal complete with maps||Check out my guide on how to travel overland into Tibet for a lot more!|
|How to choose a trekking guide in Nepal||My Day by day account of trekking to Everest Base Camp in the off season (winter)|
|Check out my How to travel overland into Nepal guide||Check out my country Guide to Nepal|
Liked this page? You'll love my trekking book! It's a hands on trekking guidebook that's better than the rest. Yes, really!
In the book I cover all the popular treks in Nepal with step-by-step accuracy using scalable maps, photographs and travel tested up-to-date trekking information.
Just like my other guidebooks to Nepal it's an interactive & printable guidebook like no other.
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