Most of us dream about trekking to Everest long before we arrive. I made my first trek to Everest Base Camp in 1998 and have repeated the journey many times since then. It’s an amazing experience and if you can only choose one trek in Nepal it’s my pick as the best option. Here a few simple tips and travel hacks that will improve your overall experience and save you time and money.
- Before you arrive and arrival in Kathmandu – Make sure you get the best rate on your flight to Nepal (Here is how). Most visitors can simply get a visa on arrival so it won’t save you much time to get one beforehand. One thing that is important is to make sure your passport is valid for at least six months from the date of entry. Send us your ticket information once you have your flights and our representative will be waiting for you with a Himalayanwonders signboard. Here is short YouTube Video of what you might expect at the airport (Click here to view).
- What to Pack – Here is a list of everything we suggest (Click here). However, the most important thing to bring is a good pair of trekking shoes that you have hiked in previously. Kathmandu is a great place to buy trekking clothes that are both cheap and of decent quality. If you can bring your own sleeping bag otherwise you can rent one from us for $20. We also provide down jacket rentals for $15 for the complete Everest Base Camp Trek.
- Buy Gear in Kathmandu – Kathmandu has more trekking shops then you can count and intense competition means you can get great prices on gear you might not be able to afford at home. I bought my wife a great down jacket for around $50 that would have cost over $300 in the US. At first glance a lot of the gear looks similar but quality varies quite a bit and it’s not necessarily related to price (Here’s what to look for). If you like we can arrange for one of the team from Himalayanwonders to accompany you while you shop and help you find what you need.
- Take Care of Your Feet – Bad blisters can end a trek just as easily as altitude sickness. I recommend brining some duct tape or moleskin and treating as soon as you start to feel discomfort and not after it becomes an actual blister. Here’s a great article on how to do it from Backpacker.com – see the article.
- Getting a Good Night’s Rest – You will probably be surprised at how comfortable the tea houses are on the trek but the bedroom walls are thin and noise carries quite easily. If you’re a light sleeper I recommend bring some foam ear plugs for a good night’s sleep. While it might be warm trekking during the day its definetly cold at night so make sure you have a warm sleeping bag and thermals. The sleeping bags we rent are -20C and plenty warm.
- Prepare for Cold and Rain – If it’s sunny you might be surprised at how warm it can get during the day. Most trekkers wear t-shirts and shorts for the first few days while the elevation is still low. When the sunsets the temperatures drop quick. Wear a warm hat while sleeping and take a Nalgene bottle filled with hot water and keep it in your sleeping bag to stay warm. Even if it looks like a sunny day make sure to carry a poncho in your day pack.
- Stay Hydrated – Make sure to drink plenty of water while on the trail and always keep a full bottle as a spare. You can buy bottled water from many of the tea houses along the trail during the day. A liter of water at the start of the trek in Lukla will run you around $1 USD but by the time you reach Gorek Shep prices are closer to $4. If you want to save some money and help keep the mountain clean a better option is to bring chlorine or iodine tablets and fill your bottle from the local streams. Ask your guide to point you in the right direction. Most villages have a clearly identified water drinking water source that usually comes out of a pipe or hose along the trail.
- Make Sure to Eat Enough – We provide three meals a day on the trek and a hot drink with each meal. If you’re hungry Dal Bhatt will be your best option as it is served as an all you can eat dish. This is the traditional Nepali dish that consists of rice, dal, a vegetable and a papad (fry bread) and pickle. We recommend the vegetarian options since the meat on the mountain is not very hygienic. It’s okay to eat the Yak cheese and eggs but take it easy on the cheese. Here is a good video showing the typical food and menu options (View here).
- Altitude Headaches – A headache can be one of the first signs of altitude problems. Small headaches are common and should not stop you from trekking or worry you. However, it is worth mentioning to your guide and by all means if your headache gets progressively worse or you have other signs of altitude sickness it’s time to stop ascending or even head down. Altitude Sickness if allowed to progress is serious. If you need to arrange extra days on the mountain we can normally arrange that (please see our Terms of Service).
- Avoid the Sun – Taking care of your eyes and skin is important. Sunburns happen much quicker at high elevations so make sure to apply sunscreen a few times a day and wear a hat. Sunglasses are a must have and if you wear prescription glasses it’s good to have a pair of prescription sunglasses or at least clip-ons. If you have an extra day in Kathmandu before the trek you can buy prescription sunglasses for around $25 which is quite a good deal.
- Dress in Layers – Layering allows you to easily regulate your body temperature and stay comfortable while trekking. It’s even better if your layers have zippers so that you have even more control of your body temperature. You can find some more advice on how to layer and what to bring – by clicking here.
- Don’t Carry too Much – When you arrive in Kathmandu we will provide you with a duffel bag that porters will carry for you on the mountain. You just need to carry a day pack with the things you need during the day as you won’t have access to your duffel until you reach the tea house in the evening. Make sure to carry your valuables, prescriptions, extra layers, rain gear, water, camera, snacks and sunblock as well as mole skin or duct tape in case of blisters. Don’t overpack your day pack and your trekking will be easier. If you’re feeling bad about having someone carry your stuff consider that your porter probably travelled several days from his village just to get to Lukla so he could get some work and take care of his family. The money you spend on salaries and the tips are an important part of the local economy.
- Don’t Rely on the ATM – There are plenty of ATM’s in Kathmandu so getting cash before the trek should not be a problem. Once you start the trek the only ATM is in Namche Bazaar and it seems to have problems frequently so don’t rely on it.
- Plan Extra Days at the End – If you have any extra days in Nepal plan them at the end of your trek and not the beginning. Inclement weather can delay the flights going out from Lukla and back to Kathmandu. If your held up in Lukla because of bad weather its best not to have an international flight going out the next day. Read more about delays at Lukla (click here).
- Go with an Established Tour Company – You probably think I threw this in here just to give our own company a plug so it’s probably better to relate it with a story. My aunt went on a trek to Everest a few years back and decided not to use our company because it cost $50 more than the independent guide she found. Everything went well until she got back to Lukla where bad weather was limiting the number of flights going out. Our good relationships with the locals meant we were able to get our clients on some of the flights. On the other hand, my aunt was stuck for 2 days and missed her international flight making that $50 look like a lot less of a bargain. She told me this after the fact otherwise I would have tried to help but it’s a good story since it highlights how important having good local relationships is and it’s just one way of many an established company can add value.
- Read Our Terms of Service – I just threw this in here as an extra tip. Most companies don’t highlight their Terms of Service but ours pretty much covers all the details on what can go wrong in Nepal and how we manage those situations. It’s good to know this stuff in advance. One thing you can be assured of is that no matter what happens we will do our best to make sure you have a great trek and that you can be assured the full support of our team. We have been running treks for almost a decade now and experience is definitely something that counts.
Note: This post was originally developed in 2016 and the content updated with some additional tips in 2018.