Factories and schools remained closed and transport was off the road as people preferred to stay indoors to avoid potential trouble.

During past strikes, the Maoists have attacked vehicles and businesses that chose to ignore their call. The first day of the ongoing strike had its share of violence as well.

Suspected rebels set off a bomb killing three people in southern Nepal. They also set ablaze an ambulance near Pakhara, a gateway for foreign trekkers to the Himalayan ranges in west Nepal, security officials said.

Stranded tourists in the poor but picturesque kingdom reported life having come to a grinding halt.

Tensed

"It is completely quiet and everything is closed. There is tension in the air," Kimberly Balazs from the United States said.

September is the beginning of the tourist season in Nepal, home to eight of the world's 14 tallest mountains including Mount Everest.

Battling government forces since 1996, the Maoists have been pressing for a change in Nepal's constitutional monarchy.

Up to 7,300 people have died in the resultant conflict till date.