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Despite the cost, Australians in Nepal relieved to be coming back home

A staff from German embassy checks passenger's passports for their chartered flight back home at Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu. Source: AAP

Many Australians stranded in Nepal amidst the Covid-19 pandemic say they’ll be spending all their savings to try and get back home.

Australian tourists stranded in Nepal have expressed relief after confirmation they will be flying out of Kathmandu on 1 April.

It comes as around 200 Australian tourists stranded in the country urged the federal government to help them return.

According to the Australian Embassy in the Himalayan nation, there are currently 407 Australians registered in the country.

Nepalese staff wearing protective gear sprays disinfectant during the third day of the nationwide lock down amid concerns about the spread of corona virus
Nepalese staff wearing protective gear sprays disinfectant during the third day of the nationwide lock down amid concerns about the spread of corona virus
AAP

"We have a further 187 permanent residents, based on these numbers, flight will be over subscribed," says Australian Ambassador Peter Budd in the embassy's Facebook page.

Two hundred and twenty passengers have currently registered their interest to fly directly to Sydney on a chartered Nepal Airlines flight on Wednesday evening.

The embassy says the flight will cost $1,800 USD per person, which is approximately $2,900 AUD for economy and $3,700 AUD for people opting the business class option.

Last week repatriation negotiation with Qatar Airlines fell through and many Australians complained about the high-ticket price of $2300 USD.

Stranded Australians outside the Australian Embassy in Kathmandu Nepal
Stranded Australians outside the Australian Embassy in Kathmandu
Paul Ashenden‎/Australians stranded in Nepal via Facebook

Since Nepal entered into lockdown on 24 March, the Australian Embassy stepped up its efforts to help Australians stranded in Nepal. It facilitated the rescue of tourists from remote locations like Lukla and Pokhara to Kathmandu and helped them find accommodation.

High cost of air fares

Many Australians have expressed their dissatisfaction at the high cost of tickets in a Facebook group as the regular airfare range around $650 AUD to $1,620 AUD. Still, more than 220 people have decided to take it.

"I’m spending all my savings to try and get home. Amid an unprecedented global health and economic crisis, I think it’s best to spend all your money on getting home if possible," says Rachel Fletcher, who was has on top of a 4,774-metre-high mountain in central Nepal, when the country went into lockdown.

"Both the Embassy and Nepali Air deserve tremendous praise for reaching this agreement. Hopefully this historic flight might even be the start of a new and ongoing direct route between Australia and Nepal," says Paul Ashenden, who will be taking the flight with his seven trekker friends.

Kathmandu Nepali Australian Tourist
Ms Fletcher at her hotel in Kathmandu
Supplied

Some, however, have found the ticket prices prohibitively expensive.

"Unfortunately, the cost is just too much for us. Our final destination was meant to be the UK, so we will be hoping the UK will be able to get us out or will have to wait for the airport to reopen on commercial flights," say Harris Bevis and his British partner Frances.

Ambassador Peter Budd has also urged Australians who decide to stay back in Nepal to think carefully about their decision.

"Australians who decide to stay in Nepal must carefully consider what the implications of this shift will be for their own safety and security," he said.

"If Australians choose not to take up this offer, I will extend it to our Kiwi friends, subject to New Zealand Government agreement."

Only five cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in Nepal until now, but there are fears that if more cases are confirmed, Nepal's health system may be overwhelmed. When the Australian citizens get back, they will be quarantined in hotels for two weeks, as Australia is battling more than 3,000 cases.

Nepalese government has suspended landing permission to all scheduled international airlines carrying Nepal inbound passengers as a precaution against COVID-19. For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms. For some it can ca
Stranded tourists check flight information at Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu, Nepal.
AP/Niranjan Shrestha via AAP

Australians must stay at least 1.5 metres away from other people. Indoors, there must be a density of no more than one person per four square metres of floor space.

If you believe you may have contracted the virus, call your doctor (don’t visit) or contact the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.

If you are struggling to breathe or experiencing a medical emergency, call 000.

SBS is committed to informing Australia’s diverse communities about the latest COVID-19 developments. News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus