Nepal- a country of the Himalayas, stunning views, diverse culture, and jam-packed adventures-is regarded as one of the world’s most beautiful countries. The grandeur of the mountains and the dramatic landscapes of Nepal lures thousands of trekkers worldwide.
There are many trekking routes in different parts of the country, each with its own specialty, and trekking in at least one of the climbing routes is every traveler’s dream.
If you are reading this blog, you definitely are looking forward to planning a trek in Nepal. Be it a short-trek around Kathmandu’s vicinity or a long treehouse trek to the Everest Base Camp, planning a trek is not as difficult as you think.
Nepal is accessible, affordable, and unforgettable. It can be a bit daunting to choose from many options, each showing its own specialties. But worry not, here is an essential guide to trekking in Nepal that will give you all the ideas to plan the perfect trekking trip in Nepal.
You need to obtain a tourist visa to enter Nepal.
You can either get a visa on arrival at Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu or get it ahead of time from a Nepalese Embassy from your country.
To get a visa at the airport, you need to present a passport with 6-months validity and a passport-sized photo.
There are three types of visas to choose from like a 15-day visa ($30), a 30-day visa ($50), and a 90-day visa ($125). There will be electronic visa machines and staff to help you with the form proceedings.
In case you want to extend your stay in Nepal, you have to go to the Central Immigration Office and fill out the forms and pay. Extension for 15 days costs $45. You can extend your stay in Nepal up to 180 days per year in Nepal.
If you are a citizen of China or any other SAARC nations, you will receive a free visa. Citizens of Nigeria, Ghana, Swaziland, Somalia, Cameron, Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, and Liberia may not obtain the visa on arrival to Kathmandu. It is best to contact your local Nepalese embassy before taking the flight to Kathmandu.
(Check visa guidelines on Nepal’s official source of information for specific information as policies may change from time to time).
Visa processing takes time in the peak season, like April-May and October-November. Since there are only five machines available, the proceedings can take a long time. It would be best to submit your applications online through the website.
BEST SEASON TO TREK IN NEPAL
Nepal has four seasons: Spring (March-May), Summer (June – August), Autumn (September – November), and Winter (December – February). Of these four, Spring and Autumn are the peak trekking seasons.
Trekking during the Spring and Autumn season gives the best experience due to the excellent weather and mild temperature that is comfortable for walking. The clear skies have high visibility that makes sightseeing splendid.
Summer is considered the worst time to go trekking as not only is it hot, but the season also invites the monsoon rain, which makes the trails slippery.
Winter is also a tough time to go for a trek as it is unbearably cold in the mountains, due to which several guest houses will be closed.
To get more in-depth information on the best season to trek in Nepal, read this article.
AREAS OF TREKKING
There are more than a hundred trekking routes in Nepal. Nepal’s best treks are grouped by region, which lets you visit a couple of places in one trip.
The regions are:
Western Nepal Region
Eastern Nepal Region
The most popular ones are Everest and Annapurna Sanctuary regions as they have the best scenery and infrastructure. You can do treks in these regions independently.
If you want a longer route, the Great Himalayan trek (Nepal side) is an excellent choice as it crosses the country from east to west.
TYPES OF TREKKING IN NEPAL
The type of trekking you want depends on your budget, season, route, and what kind of activity you wanted to do—some like trekking independently without a guide or porter, while some like guided tours with a group.
A. With guide: If you do not have the time to plan the whole trek on your own, then booking a package with the company would be a great deal. All you need to do is give a date. Everything will be pre-handled from permits, food, hotels, pick up and drop to airport facilities, guides, and porters, and you will have guidance and safety throughout the trek.
Plus, you will get local information on culture too. In the end, who knows they might even turn out to be your closest pen friend in the future? Group guided tour: It is the kind of tour where you will be touring with two or more than two people, mostly friends and family, in the presence of a guide. Sometimes, the group members can be someone who you are seeing for the first time.
Solo guided tour: If you do not like walking with people, you can just have a guide or a porter through an agency. The guide would cost $25- $30 per day while porters charge $10 – $15. These cover food and shelter. Make sure the guide can speak English fluently.
B. Independent: If you are an experienced hiker and are confident about the route, then you can do an independent trek, where you will be unguided. It is a cheaper option plus; you can modify it according to your schedule. You have to manage everything on your own, even hiring a porter to carry your baggage.
You can do most of Nepal’s popular routes like Everest Base Camp, Annapurna Sanctuary, and Poon Hill treks without a guide.
In places like these, routes are marked, and there are plenty of guesthouses and shops en route. However, there are also many regions where you are restricted to trek without a guide, for example, Upper Mustang.
If you are opting to hike independently, make sure to carry a reliable map and guidebooks.
MONEY IN NEPAL
The official currency of Nepal is the Nepalese rupee. The exchange value as of February 2020 is USD 1= NPR 116.36.
You have to pay for everything in the local currency, be it trekking permits, domestic flights, food, etc. You can only use USD at the airport to get your visa on arrival.
You can find many exchange places in Kathmandu and Pokhara to exchange your local currency into Nepalese rupees.
You can find ATMs in most cities and towns of Nepal. The ATMs will charge NPR 300 – NPR 400 (average $3 – $4) per transaction on the amount of money you withdraw.
You can withdraw NPR 35,000 ($ 301.33) per transaction from ATMs of Nabil Bank, while other banks allow you to withdraw NPR 15,000 to NPR 20,000 ($129.14 – $172.19).
It is best to carry enough cash with you before going on a trek as there might be no ATMs en route, or sometimes even if they have an ATM, there might be no cash. It is favorable to stay prepared beforehand.
You can find ATMs only on the Everest Base Camp trek in Lukla and Namche Bazar.
PLANNING THE BUDGET
While you are trekking; lodges, cafes, and shops do not accept credit cards. You need cash on hand for mini expenditures such as snacks, tea, wifi, emergency kits, souvenirs, and more on the trail.
It would be best if you also had cash to charge your electric devices in tea houses, even though some will let you do it for free. Tea houses charge $2 – $5 to charge your battery. It costs more in remote areas.
Most of the major expenses like transportation, accommodation, and food will be covered by the agency. However, if you are trekking independently, you can get through the day at around $30.
Note: Prices increase with altitude.
COST OF TREKKING IN NEPAL
The cost of trekking depends on the trekking destination and how you want to do it (with a guide: in a group or solo, or independent).
An amount of $25 – $30 per day would be enough for your daily expenses, including food and accommodation. If you hire a guide or a porter, you need an additional $30 per day, depending on the number of people.
You can share one guide for two trekkers. You can share a porter between several trekkers as long as the luggage does not exceed the weight of 15 kgs. This way, you can save on the costs of guides and porters.
Be sure not to splurge on coffees and cakes en route. Take extra money for emergency purposes that may occur due to snowfalls, flight cancellations, or sickness.
The best way to manage the cost of trekking without the hassle is by trekking with an agency. The agency will handle your overall expenses in a package that you will purchase from them.
Treks like Everest Base Camp and Upper Mustang are expensive. Everest Base Camp is costly due to higher accommodation prices and special permits whereas, Upper Mustang has a compulsion of special permits.
How to save money on treks?
- Buy your water filtration bottle or purification pill to save money on water. IF you buy 4-5 bottles of mineral water every day, you will be spending $40 – $50 on the water itself.
- Buy tea bags/ instant coffee/ energy drinks for the trek instead of buying them for more amount on the trail.
- Bring fruit jam or peanut butter and eat it with local bread (chapati/roti) as a breakfast or snack while on the trek.
- Avoid drinking alcohol. They are expensive in Nepal, especially at high altitudes.
TREKKING PERMITS AND RESTRICTED AREAS
Trekking permits are necessary to trek in restricted areas. If you are touring with a travel agency, they will obtain the permits for you. If you are trekking independently, you need to get the specific permits required by the area you are traveling in.
Types of Permits:
- Trekking Information Management System (TIMS): NPR 2000/ $17 per trekker
- Khumbu Rural Municipality Permit: You can get this permit in Lukla at $18.If you are trekking the area for more than four weeks, you need to pay NPR 2500/ $21.27.
- Sagarmatha National Park Entry Permit: You can obtain it at Monjo Office for $30 + 13% VAT
Some trekking regions in Nepal, namely Manaslu, Tsum Valley, Upper Mustang, Dolpo, Nar Phu, Kanchenjunga, and Humla, require a restricted area permit to enter.
The difficulty rating of a trek depends on the area you will be trekking at, its weather conditions, and your experiences and physical fitness.
Nepal has numerous trekking trails with different levels of difficulty. You should choose the one that fits your fitness level then start training before the trek.
If you want to learn about how to get in shape for trekking, read our article here.
Trekking in Nepal does not require technical factors like ropes, ice axes, and crampons. However, there are many long steep ascents and descents that are challenging, especially while trekking in higher elevations. You need to make rest stops and acclimatize between the trek.
Porters are there to carry your heavy gear so that you only have to take a lightweight backpack.
In Nepal, Trekking includes a fair share of walking in high elevations, and high altitudes lead to Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS).
AMS is caused by lower levels of oxygen and reduced air pressure in high altitudes. It comes in various forms and reflects different stages of it. People usually get the symptoms from 5000 feet above sea level.
The main symptoms of AMS are mild headache, difficulty breathing, tiredness, and dizziness.
Altitude Sickness can happen to anyone, be it youths or older adults. It is said that younger trekkers tend to get the AMS more often as they try to ascend faster by skipping acclimatization and resting stops.
Causes of Acute Mountain Sickness
- Ascending quickly without taking rests in between or not acclimatizing.
- Not drinking enough water (3-4 liters).
- Not being used to higher altitudes due to being used to living below or at sea level.
- Heart or lung disease.
If you do not take action as soon as you get the AMS symptoms, it will progress to High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE), where fluids accumulate in the lungs.
Prevention of Acute Mountain Sickness
- Walk slow and make acclimatization stops en route.
- Rest between hikes and drink plenty of fluid (water/tea/energy drink).
- Carry Diamox tablets to prevent altitude sickness as soon as you get the symptoms.
- Never push yourself when you start feeling sick or get any symptoms.
Purchasing travel insurance before trekking in Nepal is a must. Most of the trekking destinations in Nepal are in remote areas and on high altitudes.
Even if you are an experienced trekker, accidents may occur anytime when you are in the mountains. You may need an emergency evacuation by helicopter, which can get a bit expensive (around $5000). You definitely do not want to pay it from your pocket.
When buying a travel insurance policy, make sure to buy a plan covering high altitude trekking, helicopter evacuation, and hospitalization. You can also find insurance companies that provide coverage on domestic and international flight cancellations and stolen baggage.
It is compulsory to have travel insurance while trekking inside Nepal’s national parks.
You will have to provide the travel insurance policy to your travel agency so that they can use it in case of an emergency. You need to fill in your insurance details when you are applying for your trekking permits.
Accommodations are available, and their prices depend upon region and season. Most are available for cheap; however, the services are basic.
Guesthouses en route the trek charge low for accommodation because the owners expect to get the income from food and drinks. It is compulsory to eat at your guesthouses.
In popular regions like Everest and Annapurna, the accommodation has good infrastructure and facilities like hot showers, wifi, and charging spots. Sometimes they are complementary to the room; other times, you need to pay for the services.
Some have western flush toilets, while most have a standard squat toilet.
Rooms charge $4- $5 per person.
You will be eating at teahouses en route. The food will be simple but filling to get through the day.
The food menu is almost the same everywhere. However, the prices will increase as you move further away from cities or to higher elevations. This is because of the lack of transportation to deliver supplies due to the remoteness of the area.
It is best to buy snacks while you are in Kathmandu or any city area.
When you book a trip with a trekking agency, you will be given two options:
I. Prepay for the total food costs during the trek.
II. Or, bring money and pay for meals as you go.
It is best to choose the first option as you do not have to hassle with money and worry about the insufficient budget.
(Remember: you do not need to pay in Nepalese rupees).
The most common dishes in most tea houses are dal bhat (rice with dal and curry), chapati, Tibetan bread, momo (dumplings), pasta, soups, pizzas, and apple pies.
On popular treks like Everest Base Camp and Annapurna Sanctuary, you get more options on the menu. You can get Indian cuisine, Nepalese cuisine, Chinese as well as western cuisine. You can find bakeries and coffee shops where you can have a quick bite.
If you are vegan/vegetarian, inform your tour guide pre-hand.
While trekking, it is essential to drink at least 1-2 liters of water every day. Staying hydrated is vital while hiking in higher elevations.
Water is accessible, but you cannot drink it without purifying it. Even the locals drink bottled water in Nepal. You can get bottled mineral water en route; however, it can get expensive as you go higher up the trails ($1 – $2 per 1 liter of a bottle). Plus, bottled water contributes to pollution as all these bottles are likely to be thrown away in the mountains.
The best idea to drink water without breaking the bank is by using a water bottle with a filtration system. LifeStraw bottles are popular among trekkers.
You can also use chlorine tablets to purify your water. However, the water may taste like a swimming pool’s water.
Other options are water treatment pills, UV sterilizers like SteriPEN, and water filters. You can also order pots of hot tea and store them in your thermos if it is chilly and you want to stay hydrated.
Since Nepal has got only one international airport (Tribhuvan International Airport) in the capital city, Kathmandu, you will be primarily visiting this city.
The transportation scenario in Nepal is not very advanced. The roads are not pitched in many parts of the country, and it can be muddy, making the ride slow.
Traveling within the city areas like Kathmandu and Pokhara is easier as you get transportation options like local buses, tempos, and taxis. Taxis are best to travel around the city even though it can be expensive; NPR 500/ $4 – NPR 600/ $5, depending on the day’s destination and time.
Many hotels in Kathmandu and Pokhara provide complimentary airport transportation for international and sometimes domestic flights.
To move around the country, you can have the following options:
- Local Buses / Minibuses: These are an inexpensive way to travel around the country as they go pretty much everywhere. You only need to pay about $1 per hour till you reach your destination. However, traveling on a local bus will take ages to get to your destination as they wait till the bus seats are full, then they pick up and drop passengers along the way. They also make stops for lunch. Another negative factor is that they play loud music non-stop for hours which can get annoying. But well, it will surely be an experience you won’t forget.
- Tourist Bus: A tourist bus is a more comfortable and quick way to reach your destination. They are a bit expensive: $3 – $4, but undoubtedly faster.
- Flight: Flying is the easiest and fastest way to reach your destination. However, it indeed is expensive. Traveling by flight shows the best sceneries of the country.
For example, One-way flight tickets for Everest Base Camp, starting from Kathmandu to Lukla, cost $160. Plus, Lukla Airport is listed as one of the dangerous airports in the world. An experience worth having, right?
PHONE AND WIFI
You may be surprised to know that it is easy to stay connected while trekking in Nepal. Most of the popular routes have tea houses that provide wifi services at a charge per hour. The wifi speed and functionality are slow, but at least it works! You can get a prepaid wifi card in the Everest region called the Everest Link Card. It costs $3 for 100 MB.
Annapurna Circuit charges a one-time fee of $3-$5 for wifi access at the teahouse. Everest Base Camp charges $1 per hour. Some provide free wifi access.
You can also get local SIM cards. While choosing to buy a SIM card in Kathmandu, you will get two options: Ncell and Nepal Telecom (NTC). The SIM cards are readily available in the international airport.
However, you will not be able to remain connected throughout the trek. If you are trekking in the Annapurna region, you should buy NTC’s SIM card to have better connectivity, whereas Ncell is best in the Everest region.
In areas like Manaslu, Tsum Valley, and Dolpo, there is little to no coverage.
WHAT TO PACK
Pack all your necessities according to the season that you will be traveling to Nepal. Trekking in Nepal means trekking in high altitudes. It can get freezing at night even though days will be clear and sunny.
Make sure to wear layers and bring a quality fleece and an outer shell waterproof jacket.
Here is the list of everything you need to pack while going on a trek:
Thermal tops and trousers
Caps / Hats
Wind / Waterproof jacket
Rucksack (30 litres) / Daypack
Water bottle / Hydration bottle
Toothbrush and Toothpaste
Wet wipes / Napkins / Toilet paper
Sanitary pads (for female)
Electric extension cord
Medical Emergency Kits
Diamox Tablets (for altitude sickness)
Water purifying tablets
Prescribed medications (if any)
BUYING TREKKING GEAR IN NEPAL
It is best to buy essential trekking gear like hiking shoes and backpacks in your home country before your trek to get used to walking with them.
But if you want to buy it in Nepal, opt to buy one from the branded shops. Kathmandu and Pokhara are two cities with hundreds of shops to buy trekking gear and equipment, both real and fake.
You can get gears at a relatively lower price than in your homeland. You can get brands like North Face, Mountain Hardware, SONAM, and more.
Tridevi Sadak Street in Thamel, Kathmandu, has most of the brand shops.
GUIDES AND PORTERS IN NEPAL
Guides and porters are plenty in Nepal, and you can get them at competitive prices. On average, a guide charges $25 – $30 per day while porters will take $10 – $15 per day.
Guides are there to help you with information, logistics, and safety on your trek. They manage accommodation, food, routes, and security on the trail. While hiring one, make sure that they can speak fluent English as they have a significant role in making your trek successful.
You need to make sure that he has an excellent communication ability, knowledge about routes and culture, and has a good source of information on local culture, customs, and festivals.
Porters are men who carry heavy gear so that you can carry lightweight backpacks. They help ease the trekking difficulty. Porters are especially useful for beginners and older trekkers.
Make sure to keep the baggage weight to a minimum.
In the end, tip the guides and porters in person. Guides and porters carry out challenging jobs to make your trip a success and get very low compensation for it. It is best if you tip at least 15% of the total you paid for your service.
TREKKING COMPANIES IN NEPAL
Nepal is one of the best countries to trek. It has hundreds of trekking agencies in Kathmandu, providing excellent trips around Nepal.
You can research online (for example, Tripadvisor) to choose the best company to help you plan a trek. After you select a travel agency, they will prepare a trek for you in advance.
Or, you can fly to Kathmandu and plan in person. Planning the trek personally gives you more flexibility and a chance to know your guides better.
GUIDEBOOKS AND MAPS
It is relatively easy to find guidebooks and maps to your specific destination in the capital city, Kathmandu. Thamel- the tourist hub in Kathmandu, has lots of bookstores with lots of books with updated resources targeted towards trekkers.
One of the highly recommended trip planning and research books is “Trekking in the Nepal Himalayas’. It has helpful information about the essentials of popular trails as well as some less popular ones. It gives general advice about traveling to Nepal.
You need to carry a detailed map of your trek as you may need it for navigation. Maps and guidebooks also help you to know the challenges and highlights that lie ahead on the trail.
Trekking in Nepal includes walking through remote areas with no medical stops in between. It is imperative to take precautions before hitting the trails.
Here are some of the trekking safety stops that you will need in Nepal:
- Learn about Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) and its symptoms. Acclimatize and stay hydrated throughout the trek, especially when you reach higher altitudes.
- As much as independent treks can be done, it is best not to trek alone. Hire a guide or make some hiking buddies.
- Always get travel insurance before trekking in Nepal. You may need emergency medical help or any support, which can get pricey.
- Pay attention to weather conditions, especially in the mountains. They can be dangerous if you are not prepared.
- Only carry essentials and lightweight first aid kits.
- Always keep your belongings and valuables close to you.
- Carry enough water to stay hydrated throughout the day.
- Keep/Leave a piece of paper containing your name, important phone numbers, emergency contact details, and detailed itinerary, which will help to find you in an emergency.
- You may encounter mountain animals like yaks and donkeys on the trail. When you do, move away from any cliff and let them pass.
- Always keep an eye on the trail.
- Stay extra cautious around landslide and avalanche areas. Consult a guide or locals if it is safe or not. Do not force yourself into difficult situations.
- Leave No Trace: Do not litter the trails. Keep the wrappers or any garbage in your backpack and dispose of dustbins only.
- Do not buy plastic water bottles. It adds to your cost as well as non-degradable waste. Instead, carry a hydration bladder and use treatment pills, water filters, or UV sterilizer.
- Stay in an eco-friendly lodge and avoid using firewood. It leads to deforestation.
- Always walk on the left side of religious monuments and spin the prayer wheels clockwise.
- Respect the rules of visiting temples by not wearing revealing clothes. Do not wear leather products. Always take your shoes off before entering temples.
- Dress conservatively even while going on sightseeing, if you do not want to be a center of attraction, in the wrong way.
- Ask permission before taking someone’s photo.
- Say no to public displays of affection. It is not common in Nepal.
TRAIN BEFORE TREK
Trekking in Nepal means walking through diverse landscapes. With stunning views, you will also be challenged by steep uphill and downhill trails with rocky paths.
You need to be strong and agile. For this, you need to start training at least a month or two before you set out for the trek.
Here is a guide on how to prepare and get in shape for trekking.
The COVID-19 curfew has been lifted in Nepal; however, wearing a mask, sanitizing, and keeping a distance of 2 meters is compulsory.
According to the Civil Aviation of Nepal, all passengers who travel to Nepal from other countries must have negative results from a PCR test, obtained within 72 hours prior to departure from the country of origin. Children under 5 years of age do not require this process.
As per the news from 16 February 2021, passengers from the United Kingdom are prohibited from entering Nepal.
For more information on COVID-19 and travel information, go to this link
Hence, these are all the information on trekking in Nepal. If you have any queries, then feel free to comment below.