Nepal is my favorite favorite FAVORITE country in the entire world. I’m only 100% happy in this country (something I’m really trying to work on). It’s filled with the kindest people, the best food, and the most stunning views you will ever lay your eyes on. Nepal is a place that I could return to year after year and I’d still never get tired of it. The country is simply magical; it holds an incredibly special place in my heart.
Trekking is the main draw to Nepal, and with views like these, it’s not hard to see why!
I’ve completed only three treks in Nepal (Annapurna Circuit, Annapurna Sanctuary, and Everest Base Camp), which is just simply not enough! That being said, those three (two because I did the circuit and sanctuary together) treks have given me quite a bit of insight into trekking the popular trails in Nepal. Not only insight regarding trekking, but also insight into myself. During the treks seem to be the periods where I grow and change the most. On the trails, you’ll be experiences the highest of highs, but also some low points. I’ve cried out of frustration and I’ve cried many tears of joy. This certainly may not be everyone’s cup of tea (but it is mine!), so here’s a little post to help you figure out if it’s something you’d like to try/if you’re going and don’t know what to expect.
A Typical Day of Trekking (for me)
Between 5:30 and 9 : Wake up.
The time you wake up varies on the speed at which you can walk, how far you’re going, how much ascent/descent there is, and honestly, how lazy you are. During the Everest Base Camp (EBC) trek, our guide would ask us to wake up at around 7 daily. When trekking on my own, I typically woke up at 6 until I met up with other trekkers, and we all woke up at 5:30. Towards the end of the trek, Nathaniel and I weren’t starting our days until about 9am – super late for trekkers! There are certain days where you may need to get an early 3 or 4 am start- it’s extremely cold then, so wear your heaviest gear.
About an hour and a half into our trek : Tea
We didn’t do this daily, but I found myself stopping for tea mid-morning as a little pick-me-up and escape from the cold. If our breakfasts weren’t too filling, we’d get something small to eat- usually an omelet or Tibetan bread (yum).
11:30/12 noon : Lunch
(Sometimes we’d stop for an afternoon cup of tea/snack, especially if the weather was bad)
Reach our Destination & Find a Teahouse
To relax, we’d just chat, read, and write. There wasn’t a whole lot to do after trekking, but it didn’t matter. We were in good company and surrounded by the prettiest mountains – sometimes we’d explore the town, mostly we’d talk to fellow trekkers.
Around 6 : Dinner
After Dinner : Have tea, hot chocolate, or coffee (and sometimes a cheeky chocolate bar!) and write
Around 8 or 9 : Bed – that is, if we didn’t stay up chatting
If you are trekking with a guide, make sure that you have enough money to provide tips. You should tip about 15% of the total cost of your trek for the guide and 10% for the porter. If they were wonderful, tip more!!! They will be completing most of the prework for you, but they’ll also assist you in having a smooth (and more importantly, safe) trek.
If you are trekking solo, you must get your trekking permits. You will need two or more. The first is your TIMS card, which is a trekking card with the purpose of tracking where you are in case you go missing. The TIMS card is $20 USD.
Depending on the region, you may need to pay for entrance to the area, with more fees if you are trekking in a more isolated area. The Annapurna region has a ACAP card and to trek around Everest, you need a Sagarmatha (Nepali name for Everest) National Park permit, both of which are $20.
Bring 4 passport photos, as 2 are needed for both permits (TIMS and regional). You can get your permits in Kathmandu (about a 20 minute walk away from Thamel) or in Pokhara. You can also get them along the trails, but rumour has it that they’re double the cost.
If you are trekking solo, or if your tour does not include accommodation, food, and water, you will need to bring cash. Take out large sums (the only time I’d recommend this) in Kathmandu or Pokhara a couple days before your trek- ATMS are often finicky, and it is IMPOSSIBLE to use credit card at teahouses. Also, try to carry small denominations, as teahouse owners don’t usually have tons of change. Break up your money in the big cities.
I’d budget about $15 dollars a day, although its possible to do $10 a day as well. If you’d like a beer, extra snacks, or a glass of raksi (caution), budget about $20 per day.
There is one ATM in Jomson (Annapurna) and one in Namche Bazaar (Everest), but try not to rely on these- the ATM in Jomson is faaaarrrr off the trail if you’re just passing through, and it almost rejected my card! Also, Jomson is quite far into the Annapurna Circuit. A fellow trekker said that right before the Thorong La High Pass, their friend ran out of money and had to sell his down jacket! NOT a situation you’d like to be in.
Nepal’s trekking routes are wonderful! They’re incredibly well marked and well trodden, so getting lost is really quite difficult. That being said, I’d still carry a map. The terrain is either rock, snow, or dirt, sometimes you’re along a dirt road (Annapurna Circuit, I’m looking at you!). It’s typically not “difficult” trekking, but that’s not to say it’s easy. The altitude is what makes trekking hard.
Note that the Annapurna Circuit’s mark is a red and white stripe, although red arrows are also often used. I don’t remember seeing any marks for the EBC trek, but the route is very straightforward. If you’re unsure of where you’re going, ask anyone you see – Nepali people are the friendliest and will help you find your way.
Nepal trekking is a great intro to trekking, as you don’t have to camp (on the big routes, anyway). The Annapurna Circuit, Annapurna Sanctuary, and EBC trek, as well as the Three Passes Trek in the Khumbu region, are all teahouse treks. Teahouses can be from 100 to 400 rupees a night. I stayed in all teahouses on the Annapurna Circuit for free, as I bargained with the owners to just eat breakfast and dinner there. The Annapurna Sanctuary Trek had fixed prices per town to avoid competition between teahouses.
Expect a basic wooden bed, a heavy blanket (sometimes), & a pillow. There will be a restaurant attached to the teahouse, as that’s their main source of income. Expect to share a bathroom (with squat toilets). Do not expect hot water (trust me, I’ve taken my fair share of frigid “warm” showers), and depending on the season, running water might not be available (I didn’t have running water on the EBC trek in December- it was simply too cold). You will be able to get drinking water. Put your water bottle in your sleeping bag at night- I woke up to a block of ice.
I love the food while trekking. Some people don’t find it too great, and I won’t lie, it’s very repetitive. All teahouses serve the same things, BUT there is variety within the menu. I love trekking food because I allow myself to eat all of the carbs I’d like! Pasta, pizza (yes, but it’s not real pizza), bread, oatmeal, rice, noodles, spring rolls (kinda)! You’ll be eating mainly carbs and sugars, no meat. Occasionally you can come across meat, but I wouldn’t trust it. Nothing worse than having stomach problems whilst trekking- trust me. Especially avoid meat if you’re in Sagarmatha National Park, as it’s a no kill zone (aka your meat will have been on a porter’s back for days).
If you’re trekking, you MUST eat dal bhat. It’s rice, veggie curries, and lentils – absolutely heavenly, and the healthiest option as well. It’s also perfect for supplying energy for the rest of the day, and you get to eat as many servings as you’d like! Also try the yak cheese! Snickers/Mars/Bounty rolls are also common to come across (deep fried chocolate bars), and are worth trying once.
ALSO pack chocolate bars! You’ll really crave the treats. I probably ate only 4 on the EBC trek, but on the Annapurna Circuit, there were points when Nathaniel and I were having two a day (which gets expensive if you’re buying them along the trail)- but mostly we’d save the candy bars for the ends of especially tough trekking days- a reward.
Nathaniel and I ended up doing some grocery shopping in between the circuit and sanctuary treks. We picked up HobbNobbs, Digestives, Oreos, a jar of peanut butter, and loads of candy bars. I’d recommend bringing high calorie snacks for energy (and don’t worry about your waistline- you’ll walk it off! I lose weight while trekking). Oreos and peanut butter make an incredible combination, btw. Nathaniel also had some peanuts that were good for eating as we kept walking.
The people you meet while trekking – both local and foreigners – are the kindest you’ll ever meet. I find that the locals are the sweetest sweetest people, always willing to help you out and show you around, and sometimes, invite you into their homes. When I was trekking totally alone, before meeting up with the boys (my trekking buddies), I ended up alone at a teahouse. The owner was so sweet and kept me company the entire time I sat in the dining room, and he even helped me plan a route.
The other trekkers are usually the most interesting people you’ll have ever met. You can trek alone and don’t have to worry one bit about meeting people – everyone’s super friendly and helpful! I find that the people you meet whilst trekking are also people you get incredibly close to, as you’re all sharing an absolutely incredible experience together. I’ve met the most wonderful people while trekking, and they’re half the reason I had the best experiences.
- A fleece jacket
- A down jacket
- A raincoat/windbreaker
- HIKING BOOTS. Some people try to trek in trainers, which does work, but the support is awful, and the traction on ice is little to none.
- One long sleeve shirt – to wear on you’re highest days and also at the teahouses
- Two wicking T shirts – to trek in
- A tank top (or one more T shirt) – make sure it’s wicking
- Sports leggings
- Fleece leggings
- Sleeping Bag – At least a 0 degree (C) bag, -10C is good.
- Wool socks (4 or 5 pairs)
- sports bra
- water filter or iodine tablets (I like the lifestraw!)
- water bottle
- First aid (bandages, blister pads, rehydration sachets, Imodium, pepto bismol, advil)
- Toilet paper rolls
- HAND SANITIZER
- journal and pen
- Sun hat/cap
- Winter hat (ones that cover your ears are nice)
- Joint Braces if you have bad knees or ankles
- Trekking Poles
- Soap (for laundry and body)
- Toothpaste (I like Lush toothy tabs– they don’t require water, take up little space, and are very light!)
- CHAPSTICK – Very important
- sunglasses – also very important
- extra batteries
AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness aka Altitude Sickness) is VERY real. On the EBC trek, everyone in our little group felt the affects of the altitude. If you feel dizzy, short of breath, nauseous, have a headache, have trouble being alert, or are really really not feeling well, take an extra day at the altitude you’re at or simply, go down. HAPE and HACE are the results of AMS, and can easily result in death.
Diamox is a drug that you can find at pharmacies in many places (although it’s hard to find in Bangkok), easily found anywhere in Nepal. I used Diamox on the EBC trek, and besides a headache that felt as if someone was drilling in between my eyes, had no problems. I didn’t use Diamox for the Annapurna Circuit and only the highest day had some light AMS. Some people swear by it, but I personally don’t think it made much of a difference. Read reviews, as again, some people absolutely rave about it.
When ascending, it’s important to remember to only go up 500 meters a day (past 3000 meters). Also take allotted rest days, as they’re very important for acclimating. On your rest days, take acclimation hikes. I’d recommend the trek up to Ice Lake from Manang on the Annapurna Circuit (absolutely miserable but very good for acclimating) and the walk up to the Sherpa Museum/Hilary Statue from Namche Bazaar on the EBC/Three Passes Trek.
Namche Bazaar (in the Khumbu Region) and Manang (in the Annapurna Region) host daily lectures on on AMS. I’ve never attended one (bad, I know), but people say they’re very informative, and occasionally you can test your blood oxygen levels.
Remember that hospitals aren’t easily accessible in the mountains – so PLEASE be careful.
If you are going trekking in Nepal, 1) I’M SO JEALOUS and 2) you are going to have the most incredible experience ever. There’s something about the country that is absolutely unique from everywhere else I’ve been. You’ll experience the absolute best moments of your life, as well as some pretty miserable ones- but through the not so good times, you’ll evolve into someone new. Amongst the mountains, you’re humbled as you feel so small and insignificant, yet empowered as you cover altitude and distance. The nights’ stars seem to hold the entire world’s chaos and complexity within them. You’re overcome with joy when sipping on tea with your newly found best friends (and the occasional romance), and utterly devastated when you have to say goodbye to not only them, but the beautiful country you’ve been exposed to.
Enjoy every second of it.
Questions? Leave a comment!