With world-class hiking, mountain biking and rafting, historic towns and abundant wildlife, it’s easy to see why Nepal attracts so many travelers from around the world. Few countries in the world fit so many exciting landscapes – from the towering Himalayas to forested foothills and scorching lowlands – in such a small space.

Deciding to visit Nepal is easy, but the logistics of entering the country can be a bit more complicated. Here is our handy guide to visa requirements for Nepal, including information on tourist visas, how to extend your stay and apply to work or study in the country.

Most travelers can obtain a Nepalese visa upon arrival

Here’s the good news – for most travellers, entry requirements into Nepal are quite painless and straightforward. Indian citizens do not need a tourist visa to visit the country, and most other tourists can obtain a 15, 30 or 90 day visa upon arrival. This includes visitors from the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Germany and most others Western European countries.

When you land at Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu, you must complete an arrival card and have your photo taken at one of the self-check-in kiosks – to save time, you can do this online at advance (this must be done less than 15 days before your arrival). If you leave it until you land in Kathmandu, expect the process to take over an hour, with lots of queues.

Once the documents have been submitted, you must then pay a visa fee of 30 USD for 15 days, 50 USD for 30 days or 125 USD for 90 days at the payment counter. Children under 10 do not need to pay for their tourist visa unless they are US citizens. Payment is accepted in a variety of major currencies, but small denominations are advised. Finally, head to the immigration office with your arrival form, payment receipt and passport, and enjoy Nepal!

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Kathmandu’s Durbar Square comes to life as light spills across the valley each morning © NurPhoto/Getty Images

Crossing Nepal overland

You can also cross into Nepal overland via a series of border crossings in the Terai plains, including the busy Sunauli/Bhairawa crossing, accessible by bus from Delhi and Varanasi in India. You can still get a visa on arrival if you are entering Nepal overland, but it is best to bring photo IDs with you and you will need to pay the visa fee in cash in US dollars.

Obtaining a visa in advance will save you time

Even if you are eligible for a visa on arrival, queues for a tourist visa at Tribhuvan airport can move very slowly, especially during the high season from October to November. To save time, you can obtain a tourist visa in advance from the Nepalese embassy or consulate in your home country (or the nearest embassy in a neighboring state).

If you obtain a visa before travelling, you must enter the country within six months of the visa being issued, although the 15, 30 or 90 day period does not start until you actually arrive in Nepal. The Government of Nepal web portal has a comprehensive list of Nepalese Missions Abroad.

Some travelers can get a free visa

Reflecting Nepal’s friendly relations with neighboring states, Chinese citizens are entitled to a free tourist visa, while Indian travelers can enter Nepal without a tourist visa. Travelers from many South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries can get a free 30-day visa for their first visit to Nepal in a calendar year. This rule applies to citizens of Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, but not to citizens of Afghanistan.

Portrait of young Indian rhinoceros, Bardia national park
The one-horned Indian rhinoceros is a character everyone hopes to meet in Nepal © Eyal Cohen / 500px

Other travelers must obtain a visa in advance

Citizens of Afghanistan, Cameroon, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Ghana, Iraq, Liberia, Nigeria, Palestine, Somalia, Syria and Zimbabwe must obtain a visa from their embassy or local Nepalese consulate before travelling. Refugees with travel documents from their host country must do the same.

Travelers can pay extra for a multiple entry visa

Although it is more common to take a detour from India to Nepal than the other way around, you can convert your Nepalese single-entry visa to a multiple-entry visa for 25 USD at the central immigration office in Kathmandu or at the smaller office in Pokhara. This is useful if you plan to take a detour from Nepal to Bhutan or Tibet.

If you are entering Nepal from India and planning to return to India, make sure you obtain a multiple entry Indian visa – obtaining a new India visa in Kathmandu is an extremely slow process and complicated.

Roadside waterfall in Annapurna region, Nepal
It is easy to enter Nepal overland, but be prepared to travel slowly on mountain roads © Anton Jankovoy / Getty Images

You can extend your visa for up to 150 days

If you decide you need more mountains and monasteries of Nepal, you can extend your visa at Immigration Department offices in Kathmandu or Pokhara, up to a limit of 150 days per calendar year (January to December ). Extensions cost $45 for the first 15 days, followed by $3 per day thereafter until you reach the 150-day limit.

Do not overstay your visa – if you do, you will be fined US$5 per day and may have difficulty visiting Nepal in the future. Be sure to leave a gap of several days between the end of a trek and your international return flight in case there are delays getting back to Kathmandu from the trailhead.

Apply for work and study visas well in advance of travel

If you want to work or study in Nepal, you will need to apply for a special visa class and meet a number of strict criteria. The process can be complicated, bureaucratic, and time-consuming, as you need to provide letters of recommendation, bank statements, and other documents. Visit the Department of Immigration website for detailed information.