We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The Tripadvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

TAAN involved in major rescue scam operation

Espoo
Level Contributor
3,807 posts
TAAN involved in major rescue scam operation
Save

I am in Kathmandu at the moment, and two independent industry insider sources have confirmed that there is a large scale helicopter rescue scam operation going on, and TAAN is deepl;y involved in it.

It goes like this: unsuspecting tourist searches for treks and finds a reliable looking website selling a cheap (maybe also fast) trek to EBC (or ABC etc.). So she/he desides to join, without calculating if a $599 trek to EBC is actually possible, Lukla flights costing almost $400 alone.

This is the scam part: trekkers are made to sign a paper requring them to evaquate themselves, preferably by helicopter, if they get any signs of AMS, intestinal problems, respiratory problems etc. The thing is that many if not most trekkers do get these in mild forms and can still continue without much trouble. Anyway, the whole trek is planned so that NOBODY will be able to make it through: itinerary too fast, diarrhea is caused on purpose by tainting the food, etc.

Each trekker "needing" helicopter evacuation is flown to Kathmandu to a private hospital with connections with the helicopter company, sometimes accompanied by a medical assistant (with no medical training) at added cost. Naturally just one "patient" per flight to maximise the costs. These "patients" are then kept prisoners in the hospital at $1000 day for 3-4 days, passport is confiscated.

At the end the loot from the insurance company, or unlucky individual, is devided by the trekking agency, hospital and the helicopter company so that the agency gets 25% and the helicopter operator/hospital keeps the rest. Traditionally the guide calling the chopper gets 15% of the flight cost, or about $1000. So the nominally $599 trek actually brings in about $11000 per "rescued" trekker.

One of my sources also said the agencies usually do not pay their guides, hotels or air carriers, and those victims can not do much anything about it, as these scammer agencies are quite big with 6-700 trekkers per year. After this goes on for a while the agency is liquidated and money invested somewhere safe, phones disconnected, etc. New agency springs up to take its place.

I asked how TAAN is handling the problem? Answer: it is not, because at the moment TAAN is run and governed by the very people running this racket. Same with government, same people are active in politics and tourism ministery turns a blind eye. As does police.

There have been posts also here about treks where most members had to be evacuated. During my 10+ treks in 33 years with some 30+ people we have never been even near a situation with a need for helicopter rescue. It certainly should ring warning bells if 6 out of 10 trekkers have to be flown out of Dingpoche. So if any of you have a story about helicopter evacuation I would be gratefull to hear about it, circumstances, reasons, what happened after. We need to start collecting evidence of this. Send PM if you are not willing to post publicly.

Thank you.

San Marino
Level Contributor
587 posts
30 reviews
6 helpful votes
1. Re: TAAN involved in major rescue scam operation
Save

Shame on them!

Trekkers also bear some responsibilities as they sometimes do not understand their own capabilities and/or relying too much on agencies before the trek.

I will go indy (no guide, no porter) whenever possible

Edited: 3 years ago
Pretoria, South...
Level Contributor
262 posts
1 review
2. Re: TAAN involved in major rescue scam operation
Save

the scam is very clever and very evil

Surrey, United...
Level Contributor
2,865 posts
3. Re: TAAN involved in major rescue scam operation
Save

Ark - thanks for posting this up. The corruption and people being in cahoots etc does not surprise me - my main guide has often spoken about how corrupt officialdom is, both in Ktm and in his village.

Some of the blame has to be put on the trekkers, or clients - some people do try and do things in too tight a time frame, and some seem to judge and select trek operators mainly on price.

Though not all linked with agencies, quite recently I have replied to 3 posts from separate people about doing the 3 High Passes in incredibly short time (15 days for one, 16 days for another) - the posters seemed to know very little indeed about the need to acclimatise etc.

Sheffield, United...
Destination Expert
for Nepal
Level Contributor
18,755 posts
63 reviews
49 helpful votes
4. Re: TAAN involved in major rescue scam operation
Save

Corruption at all levels within the trekking sector putting people's lives at risk. Horrible.

scoodly

Lake District...
Destination Expert
for Nepal, Kathmandu
Level Contributor
7,018 posts
39 reviews
28 helpful votes
5. Re: TAAN involved in major rescue scam operation
Save

Unfortunately this has been going on for years – We all know that corruption is rife in Nepal, so no one should be surprised that some TAAN members will see how to profit from Stupid Trekkers with schemes like this – And I agree that it isn’t just the fault of TAAN, and although I obviously in no way condone the actions of SOME TAAN Members, I also blame trekkers for not taking responsibility themselves as well as a weak corrupt government for not having better control!!

However, in the main, this problem will probably rectify its self – The insurance company that I use, The True Traveller, now charges a large access if a helicopter rescue is required – Other insurance companies will probably follow and then trekkers offered these ludicrously cheap deals won’t sign the forms as they will realise that they might not be paying for a trek one way, then they will have to pay for it through the helicopter rescue insurance access !!

Another point is that (Because the trekking industry in Nepal is a real Dog Eat Dog business) agents have been underpaying trekking staff for years – So scams like the one above were bound to happen – I have thought that the pay of trekking staff needs to go up for a LONG Time !!

I have also heard of less scrupulous agents sending trekkers out on 10 day EBC Treks – The way this worked was that an illness was feigned and a rescue helicopter dispatched to Gorak Shep for the return journey – Again adding to the corruption as well as the insurance loading on genuine helicopter rescues !!!!!!!!

It’s all a mess right now, not just with helicopter rescue scams, but also with the unresolved situation with TIMS – I will be there myself next week and, although I don’t expect to get many answers, I will certainly be asking the questions !!

Oh Hum

Rob

Greater London...
Level Contributor
42 posts
2 reviews
1 helpful vote
6. Re: TAAN involved in major rescue scam operation
Save

Then how trekkers can protect themselves from being scammed?

Like if prices are high - then it's OK?I know it's not right.

Any list of the shady companies?

For people to be aware?

It's scary that ones dream holidays can turn up in nightmare.

(sorry eng not first language, hope you can understand)

Edited: 3 years ago
Sheffield, United...
Destination Expert
for Nepal
Level Contributor
18,755 posts
63 reviews
49 helpful votes
7. Re: TAAN involved in major rescue scam operation
Save

Hi Inga

There is no short answer to protect against being scammed.

High prices certainly do not mean there is no scam, as you know, high prices are an indication of a scam, albeit a different one. It's completely naive to think there is a correlation between cost and quality/honesty/safety in Nepal. In the example given above, it's an unrealistically low price - one below the cost to the agent, that indicates this scam.

One way to avoid being scammed is to post details of the trek itinerary and cost on the forum and people will cast an eye over it and give opinions and advice.

There is no list of bad companies that I am aware of at least in part because companies can be closed and started up again under a different name but run by the same person/people very easily.

scoodly

Chicago, Illinois
Level Contributor
1,356 posts
10 reviews
15 helpful votes
8. Re: TAAN involved in major rescue scam operation
Save

This is horrible! Given the fact that Nepal relies so heavily on the trekking business, I find it absolutely astounding that they would essentially choose to shoot themselves in the foot - higher insurance premiums for trekkers headed to Nepal will almost certainly mean less trekking business for the country as a whole! On a more personal note, there is a significant disregard for human life component to this particular scam in that they are essentially willing to gamble with people's lives (high altitude without proper acclimatization can be deadly and although helicopter is obviously called right away the trekkers can already be quite sick at that point) in order to maximize their immediate/short term profits. Disgusting!

British Columbia...
Level Contributor
4,260 posts
121 reviews
61 helpful votes
9. Re: TAAN involved in major rescue scam operation
Save

Ark: we're in Kathmandu until Wed morning (manaslu completed)

Couple of things:

1. There were many helicopters flying into Sama, Samdo and Larkya Phedi for "rescues". We met one (Western) group leader in Samdo who told us he had just shipped 3 (of 14) trekkers bacvk by helicopter, and a 4th was possible. I do NOT think it was a scam OTHER THAN the group had zero flexibility to allow a trekker extra time to acclimate. They did only 1 night in Samdo (we did 2) and leader said we were snart to do so. Well why didn't he do the same planning for his group??? (I think this is the more tyoical issue.)

2. I think posters on this forum should stop recomnending only TAAN registered agencies. Guides are certified/licenced WITHOUT the requirement of being a member of TAAN. Moreover, non-TAAN registered agencies with licensed guides are still able to obtain all the proper paperwork (including TAAN's blue TIMS). So why are "we" recommending TAAN only agencies (especially given its questionable conduct etc)?

Again, a guide needs to be licensed, but they do not have to be TAAN registered.

(FYI: initial membership in TAAN, I was told, costs 50,000 rupees, then 5000 ruoees per year.)

British Columbia...
Level Contributor
4,260 posts
121 reviews
61 helpful votes
10. Re: TAAN involved in major rescue scam operation
Save

By the way, I noticed World Nomads had doubled its insurance cost for Nepal....

USDUSD
Australia
© 2021 TripAdvisor LLC All rights reserved.

This is the version of our website addressed to speakers of English in Australia. If you are a resident of another country or region, please select the appropriate version of Tripadvisor for your country or region in the drop-down menu.