Himalayan Guide, Nepal

How to arrange trekking in Nepal

I have been to Nepal twice. The first time I went as part of a tour group for $800, and a year later I organized a trek in the Himalayas for myself and two friends on my own.

I will tell you how to make such a trip by yourself: to fill in visa forms without mistakes, to find transport and lodging, to bargain for the best price and to get hot water in the mountains.

Expenses for 12 days trekking in Nepal for one person – 56 700 P

Tickets 27 000 Р
Food and Water 10 575 Р
Insurance 5250 Р
Souvenirs 5000 Р
Visa and documents 4965 Р
Transportation and communications 2788 Р
Housing 712 Р
Equipment 410 Р

When is the best time to go

The trekking season in Nepal is twice a year: spring and fall. In the middle of the year, from May to October, the weather is rainy and hot and the mountains are hidden in clouds. Of course, you can also go in the summer, but then be prepared to walk in rain gear. In winter, there are snowfalls in the mountains. Because of them the passes are closed. The owners of many guest houses go to Kathmandu for the winter, so it is difficult to find lodging. You will have to choose from what is left, or book heavily in advance.

On my first trip to Everest base camp, I went in high season in late March. There were real lines piling up on some of the trails. The guest houses were noisy and you had to wait a long time for dinner. I planned my second trip for early March. I liked this time better: there were no queues of tourists, drivers and hosts were more accommodating.

If you want to socialize with travelers from all over the world, come in high season. And if you’d rather admire nature alone, it’s better in the low season.

Air tickets

There are no direct flights from Russia to Nepal. You will have to take a connecting flight. The most frequent cities for connections on this route are Delhi, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah. The ticket costs 30,000-50,000 P.

I bought the tickets three months in advance. It cost 27,000 P to fly to Kathmandu with a connection to an Indian airline in Delhi. If you flew with two different airlines, you needed to check your luggage when you arrived in Moscow and went straight to Kathmandu. Otherwise I would have had to apply for an Indian visa to pick up my backpack from the baggage claim. Instead I just went to the check-in counter in the transit area at Delhi airport and asked to have my luggage picked up and sent to the next flight.

I recommend keeping an eye out for airline promotions. Air Arabia and Fly Dubai have promotional fares on this route. Before you buy it, be sure to check whether the fare includes luggage.

On the flight home I drew a flight plan of my backpack for the Nepalese employees, just in case: I gave the codes of the airports and flight numbers, and asked to have it checked in right away on the flight to Moscow. Baggage was not lost.

Documents for the visa

To enter Nepal, you need a visa. A visa is issued at the border. The cost of a tourist visa depends on the duration:

  • for 15 days – $25 ( 1619
  • Р );
  • for 30 days – 40 $ ( 2591
  • Р );
  • For 90 days – 100$ (6478).
  • Р ).

The visa application form I filled out manually on the spot. You can do it in advance, and take a printout with you. When I arrived in Nepal, I paid the visa fee at a window at the airport. I took the receipt, the application form, copies of my passport and photos to the customs officer. My visa was ready in 10 minutes.

Tourist visa application form on the website of the Department of Immigration of Nepal

You can also get a visa through a special machine at the airport. It scans your passport and enters the data into the form, and then takes your picture with a webcam. Minus – there is a line of tourists.

Documents for trekking

In addition to a visa to Nepal, you have to get two special documents – a permit, aka “permit”, and the tracker card TIMS – stands for Trekkers’ Information Management System. Permit is needed, as almost all trekking routes pass through a protected area. The TIMS card is needed for the safety of the trekkers themselves. It is believed that if there is an earthquake, rescuers will know where to look for hikers. In the mountains, you have to check in at the tourist information centers that every major village has. We passed by such points a couple of times and didn’t check in. No one was looking for us, but there were no earthquakes.

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You can get a permit and TIMS by yourself at the offices of the National Tourism Board (NTB). There is an NTB office in Kathmandu and in the popular mountain resort of Pokhara. There is also an office in Besihara, where several trekking routes start, but it might be closed on holidays. I decided not to risk it and do everything in Kathmandu.

The address of the NTB office in Kathmandu on Google Maps. The office is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. It’s easy to find on the map, locals will tell you which side the entrance is on. This is a non-tourist area of Kathmandu, so if you notice people of European appearance, just follow them – they are the same tourists

The currency of Nepal is the rupee, referred to as the NPR. The TIMS card for independent tourists costs 2000 NPR (1170 P). If you go as part of a group, that is, with a guide and porters, then for the TIMS will pay 1000 NPR (585 P). The permit for foreigners in Annapurna National Park will cost 2000 NPR (1170 P ).

I made the paperwork for myself and two friends, explaining that they would come only the next day when we had to go to the mountains. In theory we shouldn’t do that, but they did it anyway.

To get TIMS and a permit to Kathmandu, you need the following documents:

  1. Copies of the passport.
  2. A questionnaire for each traveler. In it you have to specify the route and the terms of your trekking.
  3. Two photos, as for documents. I just printed them out on a black and white printer.

I spent 2340 P and one hour on the trekking permits. The longest part was filling out the form and the tracker card for each person. If very rushed, download the forms and bring them already filled out. There were no lines, although there were other tourists in the building. In 10 minutes I had the finished cards and permits back.

The main documents for trekking in the Nepalese mountains: a TIMS trekking card and a “permit” – permission for you to hike in Nepal’s protected area

Insurance

Regular hiking insurance is enough for Kathmandu and Pokhara, but in the mountains it is useless. Especially for the trek I took out insurance which included helicopter evacuation and accident insurance. It cost 5,250 R for 12 days. In the mountains, anyone can get mountain sickness up to and including pulmonary or brain edema, so such insurance is essential.

“Mountain sickness is no joke,” a story from experienced hikers on the Alpindustria website

The prevention of mountain sickness is acclimatization in the mountains, that is, a slow and gradual ascent, no more than 800 meters per day. The only way to cure it is to go down immediately. On my first trek in Nepal, I talked to people who had been evacuated by helicopter because of an acute attack of mountain sickness.

When you take out insurance, check to see if it includes high altitude trekking and specify how you will be evacuated. Some insurance does not cover treatment for injuries sustained at 2,500 meters or higher. You must pay extra for these options.

All along the way there are walls with prayer drums with mantra scrolls inside. It is believed that when a traveler spins the drum, it triggers a prayer

Route

The Himalayas are the main attraction in Nepal. It is home to Everest and seven other eight-thousanders, the name given to mountains over 8,000 meters high. All hikes are built on the mountain valleys around them.

On these “wild” trails, you have to live in a tent, cook food on a burner, and navigate the trail yourself. I chose from the more touristy options. The first time I hiked the route leading to Everest base camp, the second was around Annapurna. The second trek is physically easier because there are fewer sharp uphill climbs.

The trekking routes in all regions of Nepal are described briefly on the Great Himalayan Trail website. When I was preparing for my own trek, I gathered information from this site and from the Vinsky forum.

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The book Trekking the Annapurna Circuit including new NATT-trails which avoid the road helped me. It was compiled by the Belgian hiker Andreas de Ruiter and the Nepalese guide Prem Rai. They give a detailed guide for trekking, describing the peculiarities of the seasons, all route options, including bypass trails. They even give details like which hotel has tougher mattresses or tastier apple pie.

Guidebook Trekking the Annapurna Circuit including new NATT-trails that avoid the road, 2011 editionPDF, 515 KB

A later 2018 version is available on Amazon

You can totally go by this guidebook. But I don’t advise you to be guided by the time indicated in the book: we were ahead of the author, then behind.

Our route was as follows: Kathmandu – Besisahar (by minibus) – Jagat (by jeep) – Darapani – Chame – Upper Pisang – Munhi – Upper Kangsar – Ledar – Hai Camp – Torung La Pass – Muktinath – Kagbeni – Tiri – Jomsom (via Windy Pass) – Marfa – Pokhara (by bus) – Kathmandu (by bus).

The entire trek with side trails and radial walks to the lakes can be stretched over 21 days. We took a shortcut part of the way and made it to 12 days. We covered 220 kilometers. I’ve conventionally divided the entire route into four parts – they turned out to be different in both landscape and experience.

The first part was from Jagat to Chame. For two days our trek reminded us of a pleasant walk in the mountains: the Himalayan scale is already felt, the scenery is still colorful. The trail was not difficult, so we walked 15-20 km a day, and in the evenings we chatted with other tourists in local bars at guesthouses.

we walked in 12 days.

The initial section of the trail is spoiled by the road with occasional jeeps whizzing by. To avoid swallowing dust, you have to look carefully at the signs and map and choose alternate trails. At the beginning of the trail, we missed the signpost and walked the extra kilometers on the dusty road.

The first day we got used to the scale and followed the car road – it’s on the left in the photo. The bypass trail on the right

The second leg was from Chame to Torung La Pass. For the next 5 days the scenery was harsher: less trees, more rocks and snow. Instead of cheerful colorful houses there were gray stone mazes. The villages seemed abandoned and uncomfortable. Walking 20 km a day was no longer possible: the trail looped up and down, not enough oxygen and it was hard to go.

We looked out at the eight-thousand-metre mountains, drank tea in a Buddhist monastery, and heated ourselves with yak cakes, which are the main fuel in the Himalayas. Yak excrement is collected and dried in the sun, and then used to heat the stoves. The flavor is peculiar, but it is warm.

The third stage was the Torung La Pass. On the eighth day we climbed the highest point of the route – 5416 meters. Usually it is the climax for those who finish the trekking after the pass. But it was the part after the pass that seemed the steepest to me.

The fourth stage is Lower Mustang. The last three days in the mountains we traveled in places where there are few tourists, but the Tibetan landscape begins. This turned out to be the most relaxing and at the same time ethnographically intense part of the route.

The villages in Lower Mustang are stone mazes with high walls that protect the houses from the wind. We saw a street loom, an archery festival, and a Buddhist ceremony. One village didn’t even have tourist cafes, and we were taken to a soup kitchen for locals, where we were also offered an overnight stay.

The Lower Mustang includes villages in the Kali Gandaki Gorge, but we only managed to see some of them: Muktinath, Tiri, Kagbeni, Marfa and a few tiny villages in between. Commercial groups usually skip them and go straight from Muktinath to Jomson or Pokhara.

It was my mistake to allocate only three days to Lower Mustang. It was better to prolong the walking part of the tour for one more week to Tatopani and from there to Pokhara. The second mistake was to go to the Windy Pass in the afternoon, without looking at the map and the elevation differences. In order to reach Marfa in time we had to run up and then down for 30km.

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Outfit

In the ring around Annapurna, the trails are well equipped, so you don’t have to jump over rocks and carry tents. But you should not go in city clothes and shoes.

Of clothing, you need walking pants, thermal underwear, a fleece and a waterproof jacket or at least a rain jacket. In the tourist season there will not be heavy rains. In March almost every day we were caught in a light brief rain or a light snowfall. For the evening will come in handy hat, gloves and a warm vest.

Choose shoes with a thick non-slip sole, which fixes the ankle. In such shoes there is less chance of injury if you suddenly twist your ankle. Any inexpensive trekking shoes will do, but preferably waterproof ones, as there is already snow at the altitude of 3,500 meters.

If you have to choose between sneakers and boots, take the boots as they are more practical. I advise to wear them before the trek. I wiped my feet in new boots on the second day of the trip, so I wore trekking sandals the next days up to the pass, including in the snow. Tolerable, but I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.

I spent on boots.

It’s good to grab some flip-flops too, they’ll come in handy for showering and resting after a long hike in heavy boots.

Goggles with a protection factor of 3 or 4 are a must at the altitude of 4000 meters, where there is already snow. Alpine goggles or a ski mask will do. Up to 4,000 meters you will be able to use city sunglasses. A friend of mine lost his sunglasses before climbing Torung La Pass and got a corneal burn the day before. Then his eyes became red, sore and watery.

Sunscreen is a must. In the mountains it is easy to get burnt, it is better to take the maximum protection, a cream with SPF 50.

These boots I usually wear in the mountains. They are high and have good ankle support, have a sufficiently tough sole so you don’t feel the rocks, and don’t get wet.

You also need a sleeping bag. At low altitudes it’s more pleasant to sleep in your sleeping bag, but above 4000 meters it is a must, because at night there is zero temperature in the room. I was warm in a sleeping bag designed for +5 °C indoors. The guest houses have linens and blankets, but it is not certain that they are washed often – or that they are washed at all.

A headlamp comes in handy in the evening, especially in guesthouses where there are no lights, and when crossing Torung La. To safely pass the pass in one day, hikers leave after dark – at 4-5 am.

Trekking poles are optional. I feel more confident with them on the sharp descent from the pass. The poles take up to 30% of the load from the spine and knee joints.

Cost of trekking poles at Decathlon

Medicines and band-aids are better to bring from Russia. There are no pharmacies in mountain villages. Besides basic set of painkillers, antiseptics, pills in case of poisoning and allergy, I take elastic bandage. It comes in handy on the slopes for knees or sprained ligaments.

I changed into sandals on the third day of the trip because I hadn’t taped my blisters on time and hurt my feet in my boots.

All equipment is sold at Decathlon or Sportmaster. Goggles and boots are better to bring from Russia. The rest can be bought in Nepal in the stores in Thamel, a tourist area in Kathmandu, where there are brand-name stores of The North Face, Hard Wear, Red Fox and small shops with local knockoffs. You have to haggle and knock down the price to at least double the initial price. Premium gear for regular trekking is unnecessary.

The only thing I spent money on was a flashlight which was a fake “Petzel” for 700 NRP (410 R ) because I had all the equipment.

Here is an example of the minimum prices in Decathlon for things that are suitable for trekking in Nepal and are useful for easy hiking in the future. I didn’t include hats, gloves, socks and flip flops.

Himalayan Guide, Nepal

The colorful colors of Nepal combined with the highlands and folk traditions can open up a whole other world to travelers! This country has a mix of cultures, divided religions, and many unusual and surprising places. Folk temples, traditional sites and cheerful people will give a spice note during the trip! And now the most important, interesting and informative information about this wonderful place.

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Basic information about Nepal:

The state of Nepal is located in the mountainous highlands of the Himalayas of South Asia. The country territorially crosses the border with China and India. The main capital and main city is considered Kathmandu. The country has a population of 2,9508,078 as of 2021. The racial composition of the inhabitants of the country is divided into castes of nationalities with mixed origins. Nepal has 46% Nepalis, 13% Chhetri, 12.8% Bahuna, 7.5% Magara, 6.9% Tharu, 5.7% Tamangs, 5.5% Nevari and about 5% (Gurungis, Rai, Sherpas and Limbu). Worth noting is the 3% of residents of other countries and immigrants.

Guide to the Himalayas, Nepal - Photo 2

Basic information about Nepal:

Due to the mixed composition of the people, there are about seventy languages in the country. Among them are the folk dialects of some ethnic castes. But according to official data, the native and recognized language of Nepal is considered to be Nepali. Nepalis have different religions, but most of the people practice Hinduism 80.5%. Also among the people are believers in animism, Buddhism, Islam and Kiran. In addition, there are other religions in Nepal at the expense of immigrants living in the country.

Nature and landscape of the country:

Himalayan Tour Guide, Nepal - Photo 3

Nature and landscape of the country:

The country of Nepal consists of a mountain range system and upland zones. The northern part of the country transitions into snow-capped peaks with the Tibetan border. The southern side of the upland hills flows into the Indian states with rustic settlements. The highest peaks in the country are the Himalayan range and Mount Everest. The lowlands of the country are occupied by hilly grasslands and metropolitan areas. Nepal has a huge number of protected areas, including mountain forests and sparse forests. Most of the forests have been cleared for the plantation industry in the fields. There are coniferous forests in the highlands and sparse forests of broadleaf trees in the lowlands. There are several ice zones with snow-covered edges and alpine meadows. Some protected areas and natural parks are part of the Unesco heritage.

Economical hotel options:

There is a good selection of hotels in Nepal at pleasant and affordable prices! Middle-income travelers can choose luxurious options for their vacation. But for budget travelers, the range of hotels and inns can seem like heaven! Among the list of best and thrifty options:

Himalayan Tour Guide, Nepal - Photo 4

Thrifty hotel options:

– Hotel Nepalaya – Hotel Trekkers Inn – Hotel Crystal Palace Pokhara – Aryatara Kathmandu Hotel – Green Tara Hotel – Hotel Blue Horizon Kathmandu – Hotel Heranya – Planet Bhaktapur Hotel – OYO 449 Kathmandu City Hotel – Hotel Discovery Inn Kathmandu – Hotel Happy Home – Hotel Green Horizon – Shiva Guest House Bhaktapur – Hotel Silver Home Kathmandu – Hotel Encounter Nepal – Hotel Buddha Kathmandu – Kathmandu Eco Hotel – Hotel at the End of the Universe – Hotel Friends Home – Bhaktapur Paradise Hotel – Lake View Resort – Hotel Himalayan Inn

Nepali Cuisine:

Nepalese cuisine originated from different traditions and cultures of peoples . For the most part, Nepali cuisine reflects Indian, Tibetan, Chinese and European cooking. Nepali cuisine is primarily characterized by many aromatic spices, which are often used in the preparation of various dishes. The signature style of Nepalis is charcoal cooking. The staple foods in Nepali cuisine are rice, pulses, vegetables, flour and flour products, eggs, meat, and fruits. Meat dishes are not very common in the country because of the beliefs of the inhabitants themselves. In Nepal, meat is served to individual guests and residents who do not adhere to certain religions that state the prohibition of eating animals. Statistically, most people are vegetarians.

Himalaya guide in the Himalayas, Nepal - Photo 5

Nepali cuisine:

Residents eat rice with vegetables, beans with vegetables, scrambled eggs, fried potatoes, noodles, fried tortillas, pancakes, soups, and dough dishes. Desserts in the country include: chocolate pancakes, Nepalese pudding, banana fritters (fruit), pies, pastries, Indian sweets and fruit salads. In the category of beverages, the people prefer folk tea in assortment. The variety of teas with the addition of oils, milk, spices, ginger and herbs make these drinks unique in the world! In addition, the country consumes natural fruit juices, smoothies and local carbonated drinks. And as for the alcoholic beverages, one can separately select the local varieties of rum, wine, beer, brandy, and home Nepalese moonshine.

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Attractions of Nepal:

Nepal is famous for its unique nature, folk temples, green valleys, vibrant culture and unusual traditions. In this country, every traveler is sure to find amazing places. Among the popular attractions of Nepal are:

– Bodnath Temple Complex – Phewa Large Lake – Pashupatinath Hindu Complex – Swayambunath Temple Monument – Dharahara High Tower – Kanchenjunga Mountain Peak – Kathmandu Valley in Nepal – Langtang Mountain District – Muktinath Valley – Narayanhiti Art Museum – Hanuman Dhoka Royal Palace – Chitwan National Reserve – Tengboche Buddhist Monastery – Garden of Dreams Neoclassical Garden

Himalayan guide in Nepal - photo 6

Attractions of Nepal:

– Kathmandu Durbar Square Royal Palace – Shey Phoksundo Nature Cultural Park – Makalu Nature Park Barun” – Tibetan Monastery “Amitabha Monastery” – Buddhist stupa “Ramagram Stupa” – Japanese pagoda “Hokyointo” in Nepal – Old Square “Durbar” – Star Park “Langtang National Park” – Tantric temple “Bajrayogini Temple” – Ceremonial Square “Indrachok, Kathmandu – Patan Museum

– Old Freak Street – Karnali Bridge – Sindhuli Gadhi Fort – Nepal Olympic Museum – National Museum of Nepal – Dodhara Chandani Bridge – Pokhara International Mountain Museum – Jama Masjid Rahmaniya, Bhairahawa Mosque

Tea bars, massage parlors, a zoo, natural lakes and a waterfall are also worth visiting in Nepal! Each traveler will have the opportunity to take a tour of natural areas where you can see a lot of hidden places from prying eyes.

Currency and settlement:

Himalayan guide in Nepal - photo 7

Currency and settlement:

The national currency of Nepal is the “Nepalese Rupee” “NPR”. As in any other country in Nepal, you need to exchange currency on arrival. The exchange rate may vary and have some conversion fee. In Nepal, you can pay in dollars, rupees or other foreign currencies. However, such payment can only be made on arrival! In the heart of the country is not all residents will accept foreign currencies, which will lead to difficulties for tourists traveling. As for plastic cards they can pay only in your own hotel and major shopping centers of the country! Elsewhere in Nepal cards are not in demand at all.

Security in the country:

Despite the quiet atmosphere and low crime rate in Nepal, you should take your own safety with full care! After all, in fact, the global problems of tourists in this place are not crime, but environmental and hygienic problems! Therefore it is worth to take to your health with a full arsenal of protective equipment! The main rules for tourists, what you need to do and what you should be wary of:

1) Do not drink water and open natural juices in the street! Water in the country is considered far from clean, and natural juices can stand open on the shelves and accumulate an abundance of bacteria!

2) When traveling through the highlands or protected areas, you should bring a face bandage, water, and first aid kit! The excursion through the highlands can turn into a change (spike) in pressure, so water and first aid kit will be needed. But a bandage is needed against gusts of wind that blow all the dust and dirt into the air.

3) It is best to travel in Nepal with a number of vaccinations! You can catch hepatitis A and B, as well as rubella, diphtheria and other diseases!

Himalayan Tour Guide, Nepal - Photo 8

Safety in the country:

4) Visiting religious temples of Buddhism and Hinduism should be fully acquainted with the rules of visiting! For many people the faith and temples are sacred, and visitors (tourists) can offend the people without following the simple rules stated before entering !

5) Walking at night, as well as in the forbidden places of Nepal is not recommended! This state has its own rituals, forbidden temples and even black (magic) markets! Therefore, not all places in Nepal are available for travelers to see.

6) Care should be taken with the local animals that live in the country! In the green valleys and alpine meadows, local yaks can bravely pounce on humans!

7) Buying local souvenirs, especially knives, you may encounter problems at the time of departure! Even some types of souvenirs may be considered cold weapons and not allowed on the plane!

Bottom line:

More than any other country Nepal reflects the fusion of human people with the colors of nature. This place has a peaceful harmony, an aura of joy and aromas of oriental herbs. The country, which can not only surprise, reveal human nature, but also to give the most harmonious and relaxing vacation to tourists.

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