Trekking Nepal is one of the most memorable and positive travel experiences I’ve ever had. My treks in Nepal were short and I certainly didn’t break any climbing records, but they were just so fun, largely in part because I had two great guides. The people I met in Nepal are great for many reasons. This leads me to my first tip for a great trekking experience in Nepal.
Tip: Choose a trekking agency that is qualified, authorized, and already has good reviews and a good reputation.
- This doesn’t mean you have to choose from the ones on tripadvisor or other sites where reviews are posted. It could mean choosing a trekking agency or tour operator based on recommendations from people you know who had a positive experience, like my friend and I did on our first trek in Nepal. If you know someone who’s been there, ask them about their trekking agency and their experience.
- You can also visit Nepal’s official tourism website at Official Tourism Website for Nepal and read about the various treks available in Nepal. They don’t recommend specific trekking agencies, so you may wonder how this can help. If you familiarize yourself with the array of treks available in Nepal, when you start communicating with trekking agencies in Nepal, you can compare and see how their treks measure up. If something seems off, then maybe that company is not right for you.
- Trekking agencies in Nepal are required to be licensed and registered with the National Tourism Board and Trekking Agencies’ Association of Nepal (TAAN). You can verify their information on the TAAN website using this link, but I noticed some agencies have more than one name, and the common name used on their signs or their private website might be slightly different from the name registered with TAAN, so keep this in mind when searching.
- If communication with the trekking/tour agency you chose seems lacking, think twice before using this agency.
- Here’s a great online source about how to choose the right trekking agency. I can’t say it any better than this guy, so here’s a link to his site. trekroute.com
Tip: Make sure you have the right gear, clothing, and shoes before you get to Nepal. Don’t rely on buying everything in Kathmandu.
- Lots of clothing, sleeping bags, coats, even tents and poles are available for purchase in Kathmandu. Nearly everything has a name brand sewn onto it. Do you believe it’s all the real thing? I don’t. Not at those prices. Do you believe that even if it isn’t real, it’s the same quality as the real thing? I don’t. Not at those prices. That said, if you’re in a bind and really need something, you can probably find it in Thamel.
- Test all gear, clothing and shoes before you use it. What if something is wrong with it? What if that sleeping bag doesn’t actually keep you warm? Get your gear and test it before arriving. It’s worth the hassle of packing it and putting it on the plane. Wear all essentials like shoes, socks, and trekking clothes so that if your bag does get lost (unlikely) you’ll at least have the essentials with you so your trek won’t be delayed.
- Do you really want to spend your first days in Nepal shopping and haggling over prices? Think about it. Come prepared.
Tip: Get fit, or at least sort of fit. Practice at high altitudes if you can.
- I said this about Kilimanjaro, and I can’t say it enough. Trekking in Nepal is not a walk. It’s not a stroll down a country lane. Even the easy treks will have ups and downs, rocks and roots, and elevation. It is not necessary to be super fit in order to enjoy your hike, and it is not necessary to have any trekking experience. But being in decent shape physically will make it more enjoyable and you’ll be more likely to reach your destination.
- If you have the opportunity to do some trekking at higher elevations, do it. It’s a good way to experience what happens to your body and your breathing at those elevations when you physically exert yourself.
- Break in your trekking boots or shoes. Don’t ‘save them’ for the trip.
Tip: Examine your finances and figure out how much you need to tip your guides and porters.
Tipping is part of trekking culture all over the world. Some agencies in places like Tanzania will actually provide tipping guidelines, others like Bhutan will ask the guide to just explain it to you while you’re trekking (that was my experience, at least). But in Nepal, there are no true guidelines, at least not that I’m aware of. I used Lonely Planet’s advice as a guideline for tipping. It drives me crazy when I ask how much I should tip and the response is “as you like.” That’s why I use LP’s advice.
- Tipping will also be dependent upon how many people are in your group and how many guides, porters, and staff your group requires. There is a hierarchy in any tipping system and the person at the top gets a higher percentage. Usually. The hierarchy goes something like Guide – Cook – Cook’s boy (as they call him in Nepal) – porters. Your guide will often do a lot more than guide. They also act as translators, organizers, and card game initiators.
- I only had a guide and a porter while trekking in Nepal because we stayed in tea houses, so I’m no expert on tipping. LP’s Tipping in Nepal forum gives suggestions and this advice worked well for us. LP Tipping in Nepal
- Ask your trekking agency the preferred currency when tipping. Be aware of exchange rates before traveling. Exchange Rates
Special Note on Tipping: My experience on tipping any trekking staff is that tips are expected, earned, and well deserved. These people often do not make a living wage as guides, porters, and other trekking staff, so they rely on tips to survive and support their family. That said, tipping extravagantly does more harm than good. There is no need for you to feel guilty about making these people work hard.
There is also no need for you to tip them enough to buy a new house. The cost of living in Nepal and other countries where trekking is a part of the tourism industry have a lower cost of living than any western country. Twenty USD goes a lot further there than it does at home. Tip within reason and tip what you think your staff deserves. Keep in mind that excessive tipping raises the expectations of the workers and increases their disappointment when they get a reasonable tip and not a ridiculously high one.