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Arranging a Mission Trip To Nepal

(Not Such a Wild Idea!)

by Mark Zimmerman

Nepal is located between India and China. Its scenery is stunning and the people who live there are warm and hospitable. Churches in America and Ireland support us (Mark and Deirdre Zimmerman, and our son Zachary) in our work at Patan Hospital in Kathmandu. This paper discusses how a group could arrange a visit to us in Nepal.

While the larger part of our work takes place in the hospital and among friends in the Nepal community, we feel that our linkage with supporting churches in the West is also significant. We try to keep that network alive through letters from Nepal, and by visiting support churches when we are home. In addition to that, we are occasionally blessed by church groups who come and visit our work in Nepal. Folks who come on such trips generally find the experience memorable, and often become close friends with Nepal for a long time to come.

What sort of trip are you talking about?

  • Groups of 6-10 people usually work best, though that number is not fixed.
  • Time in Nepal could be as short as 7 days, but we recommend a minimum of 10 days in the country. 2, 3, even 4 weeks could be arranged. Add on to that 36-48 hours to get to Nepal and that amount to return home.
  • Some of the things that could be arranged in an itinerary are:
    • Visit to mission sites (like Patan Hospital)
    • Small work project (like painting, erecting playground equipment, visiting children on the children's ward, or some specialized office project)
    • Visit to a Nepali church
    • Trips around the city or into the hills, depending on the time available
We are open to new ideas, too.
  • We have found that some features make a group visit more successful:
    • Meetings leading up to the trip to discuss, pray, bond
    • A designated leader
    • 3-4 months lead time for communication back and forth with Nepal.
    • Frank discussion with us about the hopes and expectations for the trip

How do we get to Nepal?

  • We recommend either Qatar or Gulf Air from London (an overnight trip, brief stopover); Austrian Air from Vienna (arrival and departure times not so convenient); or Northwest via the West coast (must spend one night in Bangkok).
  • Check the internet for alternatives that may be cheaper. There are cheap flights through Holland right now. We would avoid flying with Royal Nepal Airways (many cancellations), or through New Delhi (not a pleasant airport).
  • Round trip, tourist class costs about US $1,300.00.
  • Nepal's best months are Oct/Nov, and Mar/Apr; but it is always lovely there, even in monsoon, which is Jun/Jul/Aug. Winter (Dec/Jan/Feb) is chilly but clear.

Where would we stay?

  • There are many options available to travelers. While United Mission to Nepal has guest houses, these would not easily accommodate groups as large as 10 people.
  • We could arrange a hotel that is comfortable (not 5 star, but not so Spartan either), 15 minutes walk from Patan Hospital, for $20/night/person. Attached bathroom, double room. We can certainly find more expensive places according to the group's wishes.
  • Transportation, meals, and of course, shopping, would be extra to this amount.
  • Most everything is quite cheap in Nepal, and a traveler could expect to have total in-country expenses of $500 per week (or less; some have gotten by on $200 per week).

What about the security situation in Nepal?

  • The country is undergoing sporadic fighting in the hills between a Maoist insurgency and the Nepal army. Although this has gone on for 6 years, it has not threatened foreigners, either those working in the country or visitors.
  • Many foreign workers, like us, live in Kathmandu with their children.
  • Security bulletins from the US Embassy tend to be, in our opinion, overly cautious.
  • We would keep any group appraised of the local situation and we would advise a group not to come if there were any immediate threat.

What about health risks?

  • While travel to Nepal does expose a traveler to germs that may not be present in one's home environment, this has not prevented up to 300,000 travelers from visiting Kathmandu each year.
  • Immunization against these diseases is recommended: Hepatitis A, Typhoid Fever, Meningococcus, and Diphtheria/Tetanus. And during the months of August-October, against Japanese Encepahlitis.
  • For travel only in Nepal, we don't recommend malaria prophylaxis.
  • Taking precautions such as drinking only boiled/bottled water, fully cooking food, and not eating directly from street vendors reduces, but doesn't completely eliminate, the risk of diarrhea.
  • It is very rare for our visitors to get anything more than a few loose stools, which is easily treatable. Most of our visitors have no problems whatsoever.

How would we set this up?

  • We (Mark and Deirdre) would be happy to coordinate such a visit.
  • We would need to begin planning some 3-6 months (or more) in advance.
  • We would arrange the hotel in Nepal and local itinerary.
  • Although we could not accompany the group throughout their stay, we would meet the group regularly and help to keep things running smoothly.
  • Depending on the type of itinerary, a trip may require a Nepalese guide to accompany the group (such as to places outside the Kathmandu valley).