In this post:
It was one of the most difficult holidays to go on. Not because of amount or complexity of planning involved. Not even because of required fitness level and getting physically ready for it. No, none of that.
It was one of the most difficult holidays to go on just because it required us to be able to take 4 weeks off our jobs. At the same time. That's why it took us almost 8 years from the moment we first started thinking about it till the day we arrived at Paris-CDG finally ready to leave for Nepal and Himalayas.
Why 4 weeks? Because I pessimistically assumed that it might be our only time to go to Nepal (there are so many fantastic places around the world we would still love to go to!) and we should try to see and do as much as possible in a vain attempt to satisfy our insatiate apetites.
The basic requirements were:
- an awesome trek - something more interesting/challenging than ordinary EBC trek
- Island Peak summit (my highlight of the trip)
- try to spend night at the Everent Base Camp (Anna's highlight) and touch the Khumbu Icefall
- see Kathmandu and its neighborhood
Spent lots of time on TripAdvisor Nepal forums and many other sites researching interesting planned and executed itineraries - routes worth following, peaks worth climbing, places worth visiting, and how all that could fit within available timeframe. At the end of the day, a slightly customized 3 passes trek seemed to best fit the bill.
Once I've started putting my own itinerary together I asked for more specific recommendations and advices here (clockwise version) and later here (anti-clockwise). After even more reading I have settled on customized, more adventurous anti-clockwise version, which should also prepare me in time for the Island Peak climb.
Most popular months with best weather are March/April and October/November. Most popular also means most crowded.
- Climate and Average Monthly Weather in Nāmche Bāzār, Nepal
- Climate Data: Lobuche
- Mountain Forecast: Island Peak
The cheapest way to hire a guide is to wait until you’re in Lukla, this way you can have a mini interview to see if you get along well and you save on the cost of their flight.
The price for a guide might be 20-30 USD per day, for a porter about 10 USD, and for a porter guide, maybe 15-20 USD/day. That includes their food and accomodation on trek. You will also pay them for the days of travel to and from the trail head, and pay their bus tickets as well.
When hiring out “Staff” the secret of a successful trek is to set the ground rules Before you leave Kathmandu and these rules should include:
- Always interview your “Staff” Before you go trekking with them, Preferably get them to give you a walking tour around Kathmandu, Then they are away from the office, will be able to talk freely and you will be in a better position to judge their ability to communicate, character and if you are going to be able to get on well enough with them on your trek.
- Ask if he has already trekked the route you are going on and how many times
- Tell them that You Always retain the final say where you will stay and where and when you will eat.
- I also mention to them that as long as I am happy with their services then they will get a Good Tip – I think this clears the air and gives your “Staff” that extra incentive to ensure that you are well looked after.
- The agent that I use provides all his “Staff” with a mobile phone – I also think this is an excellent idea so that if there is a problem then (providing you have a phone Signal) these can be Quickly sorted out.
- Before I start a trek is to have a rough schedule, then I know approximately how many days I will be trekking for, to this I usually add one buffer day, so If all goes according to plan I am usually back from my trek one day ahead, With this the agent that is use I can claim one days fees back, but in reality, as I have always been happy with my treks, I have never done this, but have ensured that my “Staff” are still paid the extra day.
- It is also worth making 100% sure that your “Staff” are insured and that the agent is making sure that their clothing is up to the standard for the area / season you are trekking in.
- 15 days - $25
- 30 days - $40
- 90 days - $100
Once outside the airport the pre-paid taxi service charges NRP 750 to Thamel, the other taxis in the lot can be talked down to NRP 500.
Once away from airport - by law, taxis are supposed to use their meters. But few will for tourists. So (hard) bargaining is required.
Durbar Square - 1000 NPR Bhakatpur - 1500 NPR
Sagarmatha National Park entry fee - Rs 3,000 + 13% VAT = Rs 3390 / $35
pay at Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation (DNPWC) counter, Bhrikutimandap, Kathmandu; at entry point in Monjo
Entry fees to national parks in Nepal
Khumbu Pasang Lhamu Rural Municipality Fee (Solukhumbu) - Rs 2000 / $20
TIMS - green (for FITs) - $20, blue (for organized groups) - $10
At present, there is some confusion over whether TIMS Cards are actually required when trekking in the Sagarmatha National Park because of the introduction of the new local tax – If you are trekking without trekking staff then the NTB will advise you of the current situation, if you are taking staff then the agent will tell you.
- A Fully Licensed Trekking Guide will cost around $25 to $30 per day
- a less qualified Porter/Guide will be round $20 to $25 per day
- a porter around $18 per day
All these rates are what you should expect to pay when hiring out trekking staff through a reputable TAAN registered agent and include their food, accommodation and insurance, but not transportation or tip
You will need about $30 to cover your own food and accommodation costs – This will get you rooms in a mid class lodge, a good and varied diet, an occasional treat as well as an occasional shower
Typically it was 200 rupee for a basic double bed room, or 500 with private bathroom. It was 500 higher up for the basic double room where we stayed.
At most places it specified that you were to eat at your place of sleeping or incur an additional fee.
Find a room that runs off the main dining building or that isn't standalone with a hallway that is exposed to outside - colder!
Usually it cost us 450-700 for dhal bhat.
200 for a chocolate bar.
800 for a breakfast set.
300 for porridge.
120 for lemon/honey/ginger tea.
400 for chow mein.
How to / where to exchange currencies / get local money:
banks - basically the best possible rate, but slower process, need to have passport, fill Hotel address etc. Difference to kiosks debatable. One convenient office opposite North Face/Mountain Hardwear/Marmot stores, next to Fire&Ice pizzeria.
- Tourist Development Bank, Thamel (scoodly)
- Himalayan Bank
kiosks - most convenient, offered rates in same area tend to be the same, Boudanath seems to be slightly better than Thamel (more commercial large amount exchanges done there by Tibetans, I suspect). Bargaining can get up to 1% better rates if exchanging fair amounts of large bills at once (like more than 1000 euros with 100-500€ denominations).
- Boudanath (arienkeli) - at the ground floor of the hotel/restaurant about 50 meters from the Boudanath main gate turning left from the gate when entering (direction of the flow). The booth is at the foot of the stairs leading to the rooftop restaurant.
- East West Money Changers
ATMs - people have been burned: small daily allowances (have to stay 5 extra days in KTM just to get enough money to pay for the trek...), worse rates up to 7% because of bank charges at both ends, unfavourable rates which you do not even see before the transaction. And they sometimes just do not work.
- in the grounds of Kathmandu Guest House in Thamel - only one with limit 35000r (standard limit - 10000r)
- all ATMs charge 500r per withdrawal
hotels - usually not a good rate, but might sometimes be passable (not worth going out at night for small amounts)
Things to look for
emergency helicoper evacuation & medical insurance
- cover your evacuation from the mountain in the case of injury or illness
- cover to the appropriate altitude
- cover medical expenses until you return to your home country
- repatriation cover
comprehensive travel insurance
- trip interruption
- baggage losses, damage or theft
- delayed flights
- other similar incidents that may occur during your trip
Squaremouth might be worth using to try to find an insurance.
- If you intend to go trekking in Nepal, please note that there is a policy excess of £750 if you need to be rescued by helicopter or air ambulance. Note this excess cannot be waived by taking out the Excess Waiver.
- Extreme Adventure Pack for trekking over 4,500 metres.
- Not Covered: 4. Mountaineering ordinarily necessitating the use of ropes, picks or other specialist climbing equipment.
- from FAQ: No, we don't cover mountaineering, which for the avoidance of doubt is combination of walking and scrambling as well as rock and ice climbing in mountainous areas, for example Everest North Ridge, Manaslu and Ama Dablam in Nepal. If you can trek to the top of a mountain then that is fine, like Kilimanjaro in Tanzania or Mera Peak in Nepal, but if you need to use ropes to climb up vertical or near vertical cliff faces at very high altitude, then we don't cover that.
- from chats with TrueTraveller: Louise: "Yes, the Extreme Adventure Pack will be appropriate for trekking Island Peak." Chris: "Hi, I'm Chris, yes that's fine, there's a bit more info on our FAQ. (...) You can be 100% sure Extreme Pack is more than adequate. You'll get a copy of this transcript."
- Policy wording
- Don't buy with AXA in any case, they won't give evacuation authorization even on serious case, recently happened with us! (from Lonely Planet forums)
- Big Cat Travel Insurance’s Extreme Activity Pack covers any altitude above 4,500 metres, and is suited to the most challenging of mountain treks such as Aconcagua, at 6,961m, the Annapurna Circuit, Everest Base Camp, Mt Kilimanjaro, and Mont Blanc.
- Helicopter rescue is classed as a necessary Medical Expense, so is covered by the Medical & Repatriation expenses section of cover.
- Search and Rescue costs are not covered.
- We class mountaineering as any section of a climb that you can’t walk or scramble up, or that requires more than standard additional trekking safety equipment (Ice axes, crampons and ropes to tie the party together are classed as standard equipment). Using ropes to ascend a vertical rock face would be considered mountaineering and therefore not covered. You must be able to trek to the summit of the mountain, or other specific destination, i.e. Everest Base Camp as opposed to Everest Summit; otherwise, there is no cover. So, even if you are ascending a mountain that requires climbing or mountaineering for only a very short time, we can't cover injuries sustained anywhere along the route, even if you were trekking at the time.
- No cover if trekking on unrecognised routes without a guide.
- Policy wording
- provides cover for helicopter rescue, evacuation, repatriation and some medical expenses (albeit fairly low cover for the latter), covers search party expenses
- or: AAC only offers helicopter rescue insurance?
- KNOX Alpenverein Premium Single Trip cover - if you will be going above 6000 m
- Mountaineering (no cover for this sport for purchases or extensions on or after 1 February 2012?)
- up to 6000 m only?
- more comprehensive? WN offers helicopter rescue, medical insurance (so tratment is covered when you get to hospital and other aspects of travel insurance such as baggage cover)
- £500 excess for heli evac
- The American Alpine Club policy uses Global Rescue.
TripAdvisor discussions and recommendations:
- Insurance - Trekking
- Insurance for Everest Base Camp trekking
- Travel Insurance Island Peak
- mountaineering insurance
Nepal insurance scams:
- High flying: helicopter rescue in Nepal investigated [BMC]
- The Nepal heli-evac scam – it can ruin your trip [World Nomads]
- Trekkers - beware the helicopter rescue scam!
- TAAN involved in major rescue scam operation
- MedEvac on EBC trek
Local mobile works perfect up to Everest Base Camp. You can get either NTC or Ncell (better), both works.
However in Dingboche and Pheriche reception is weak. There are landline V Sat Phone in these places.
WiFi is available up to Gorakshep.
System works using solar power so it quite often problem during heavy snowfall in winter.
For regular EBC trek from Lukla, there is good electricity up to Pheriche.
In Lobuche and Gorakshep they had solar energy. So during mid winter it could be a problem in these two places.
Also in some small hotel area like Thangnak, the will be limited availability during winter.
There is certain price to charge your gadgets. For mobile it could be up to USD 2 for one hour and little more, i.e. up to USD 2.5 for charging a laptop. Just for charging the mobile, you can bring power bank.
In no particular order:
- Trekking in the Everest Region - by Jamie McGuinness - Trailblazer
- Trekking in the Nepal Himalaya - Lonely Planet Walking Guide - by Bradley Mayhew and Joe Bindloss
- Nepal Trekking and the Great Himalaya Trail: A Route and Planning Guide - by Robin Boustead - Trailblazer
- The Longest Way Home: Nepal travel guide - as discussed in Anyone purchased Nepal guide book fromThe Longest Way Home?
- Medex Altitude Travel Handbook - free download from altitude.org
- Everest Base Camp trek map
- Cartes topographiques du Népal
- Everest Region Maps
- Nepal-Topo Maps
- Elevation Map
General Nepal forums:
Interesting TripAdvisor threads:
- Everest Base Camp trekking tips
- November ECB Trip afterthoughts........
- Gokyo Lakes Trek - Everything I Learnt From My Experience
- My last years three passes trek - the blog post
- Everest Base Camp trekking tips
- Gokyo Valley March 2018
- Mid-winter trekking in Nepal and Mid winter trekking in Nepal - an updated post, November 2013
Random blog posts and articles:
- The Ultimate Guide To Walking The Everest Base Camp Trek Independently
- Backpacking Nepal Travel Guide
- Half Way Anywhere: Three Passes Trek
- Half Way Anywhere: Everest Base Camp Trek
- Wandering Eric: Nepal
- Crossing the Cho-La Pass
- Get Joass Abroadd: Everest Base Camp
- we12travel: Nepal
- TnT Travels: Everest Base Camp Trek
- The Adventure Goes On: Three Passes Trek: 21 Days in the Solukhumbu, Nepal
- A Brother Abroad: The Everest Base Camp Experience
- Top 10 detours off the Everest trek
- Mount Everest trek: the go-slow guide to base camp – with a fast ride home