If you are planning on trekking the Annapurna Circuit, be aware that you will need to obtain a trekking permit before beginning your journey. The permit is called Annapurna Conservation Area) ACA Permit can be obtained from any Nepal Tourism Board.
The permit is valid for one month and allows you to trek anywhere within the allowed zone.
The main reason a trekking permit is required is for your own safety. By having a permit, you are registered with the Nepal Tourism Board and can be easily tracked in case of an emergency. The permit also helps to regulate the number of people trekking in the area, which helps to protect the fragile environment.
Why do I need a permit for trekking in Annapurna Circuit?
A permit is a legal document, warrant, or license authorizing someone or something to do or to have access to something. As most of the trekking destinations in Nepal are located in areas protected for environmental and cultural purposes, it is required to obtain these specific permits if he wants to do treks in Nepal.
A trekking Permit in Nepal is a permit issued by the Ministry of Tourism for trekkers who are planning to trek in Nepal. Now, a protected area can be a national park, it can be a wildlife reserve, or it can be a conservation area. And all the fees and money collected through this permit are being used in the maintenance and conservation of these protected areas. You can get a complete list of all the protected areas in Nepal on the official Nepal tourism website, and you can also see the cost of permits at any given point in time.
What permits do I need for Annapurna Circuit?
Since the Annapurna circuit lies in this region, you must procure the ACA (Annapurna Conservation Area) Permit to do the Annapurna circuit trick. The second category of trekking permits in Nepal is known as the Trekkers Information Management System Card. I know it’s quite a long name; in short, it is known as the TIMS card. Now the TIMS card holds the information of all the foreign trekkers in Nepal and to respond in case of emergency.
So more or less, TIM is a trekking database. You can find all the information related to the TIMS card on the Nepal tourism website. The third category of permits is the restricted area permit, also known as the spatial tracking permit. A few trekking destinations are located in areas the Nepal government classifies as restricted areas. Trekkers need to obtain a special restricted area permit to enter these areas. All the fee and money collected through these permits go into the local community development and cultural preservation projects in these areas.
As the Annapurna circuit does not fall in the restricted area category, and therefore this spatial tracking permit is not required for this trek. Therefore, to do the Annapurna circuit trek, one needs two permits that are:
- The Annapurna Conservation Area permit or the ACA permit and
- The Trekkers Information Management System Card or the TIMS card
There are a number of checkpoints present all along the Annapurna circuit trek where you need to show these permits.
Cost of Annapurna Conservation Area permit
If you’re a solo trekker, a TIMS card will cost you NPR 2,000 (around $17) and will be green. If you’re part of a trekking group, your card will cost you just NPR 1,000 (around $8) and will be blue.
- For Solo trekker citizens: NRP 2000 (US$ 17).
- For trekking group: NRP 1,000(the US $8).
- For SAARC nationals: NPR 600 (US $6) for solo trekker and NPR 300 (US $3) for group trekkers.
Where to get these permits
Both the ACA permit and TIMS card can be obtained at the Nepal Tourism Board office in Kathmandu and Pokhara. Now both the Nepal Tourism Board offices at Kathmandu and Pokhara are open seven days a week, 365 days a year, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the evening.
They are also open on public holidays, but for half the day, from 10 am to 2 pm. Now for the Annapurna circuit trek, you don’t require the restricted area permit or the spatial tracking permit, but it is very important to know that in the future, if you want to go to any trek which requires a restricted area permit.
And to get it you have to go to the Nepal immigration office in Kathmandu to procure the restricted area permit. You’ll not get it at the Nepal Tourism Board office.
One more point to acknowledge is that in the FAQ section of the Immigration Department website, it clearly mentions that restricted area permits can be procured only through a registered trekking agency, which basically means no solo hiking or self-supported hiking is being promoted in these restricted regions.
What if I don’t have a permit?
Now, let’s imagine a situation where you head directly to the trail without obtaining the permits. Then what will happen then? Now, at the very first check post that is on the Besisahar where you will start there, also you can obtain the permits, but after paying the penalty and the penalty is equal to the price of the permit itself in short, basically, for the same permit, you’ll have to pay double the price. And therefore, it is always suggestible that you take the permits from the Nepal Tourism Board offices in either Kathmandu or Pokhara.
The procedure for getting the ACA permits
Now, the moment you reach the Nepal Tourism Board office, you’ll have to fill out one form each for the ACA permit and the TIMS card. And this is what the Annapurna Conservation Area permit application form looks like
Now, I want you to focus on bullet point ten of this form. Some trade routes already mentioned in the form, which means that with this single permit, you can do all these tricks if you have enough time. In the last section of this form, you’ll have to fill in the estimated entry and exit dates, along with the entry and exit points. The rest of the form is pretty understandable.
The procedure for getting the TMIS permits
Moving on now, let’s talk about the form that you have to fill out in order to get the TIMS card. So the registration form for the TIMS card looks something like this.
Now, the most important section in this form is the insurance policy section. Travel insurance is mandatory. I repeat, travel insurance is mandatory to acquire permission for trekking in Nepal. This is obviously to ensure the safety of the trekkers and to keep the rescue operations smooth.
One humble suggestion is that before you leave your country, please make sure that you read your travel insurance, and cover policy very carefully in order to avoid any problems during emergencies or rescue operations. You can also get on-the-spot travel insurance in Nepal, but obviously, it will come at a price.
If you open up the official website of Nepal tourism, you can see a link just above the toolbar that reads View or trade site for news flash updates from ATMs Card. When you click it, you will be redirected to the trade website and on the right-hand side, you can see the option to apply for the TIMS card online.
The form is similar to the paper format of the ACA permit we just discussed. And here also you need to fill in your insurance details at a later stage. If you were going to the Nepal Tourism Board office to collect your permit, I would suggest you just fill out the form there yourself or the travel agency can do that for you too. Once you submit both forms, the authorities will instantly issue you the card stapled with the ACA permits.
If your country is a member of SAARC i.e., South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, the color for your TIMS card will be red. And if your country is not a member of SAARC, then the color will mostly be blue.
One last point, along with the insurance policy details, you also need to carry your passport for identity verification, and along with that, you need to carry forward passport-size photographs for the permits. If you are an Indian national, you can carry your election card or voter ID if you don’t have a passport.
Few miscellaneous points
- The staff at the Nepal Tourism Board office are really sweet. They’re very cordial.
- There’s no need to worry if you don’t have a passport-size photograph. The office provides you with the facility to get your pictures clicked for free.
- Regarding the validity of the TIMS and the ACA permit, it completely depends on the dates you mentioned in your application form, and the same dates are reflected in the permits. And therefore, I would suggest that you keep a buffer of around one or two weeks. Whenever you mention the exact date, it is not at all harmful to have a few extra days whenever you are trekking.
- The Nepal Tourism Board office is also a great place to buy trekking maps. Now, these paper maps are not really useful when you’re on the trail, but they give you a basic idea, a good basic idea about the whole trek, and the best way to learn the name of all the villages. Now, I would always prefer a digital map because the biggest downside of these paper maps is that they are really huge.
- This is the size of the map, and it is printed on both sides. And now you can completely understand how uncomfortable it would become to open it up in the middle of the trail. So therefore, you can buy digital prints. But the downside of those digital maps is that they are really costly. Now, you can get this particular paper map for just 600 Nepali rupees, whereas the digital maps of the Himalayan map house range from around 15 to €20.
But for your research at home, you can use this beautiful floating map available here.
Now the ACA and the TIMS checkpoints are present all along the Annapurna circuit and it is a humble request that you should make an entry in as many check posts as possible because when a trekker goes missing, it is these records that help the authorities to pin down the area after which the trekker has actually gone missing, saving some crucial time in rescue operations. I hope that now you are clear about the permits required to do this trek.