Nepal is a wonderful country, full of friendly locals, yummy food and stunning scenery. Kathmandu, Nepal’s busy capital, is for many keen hikers a gateway for the magical Himalayas. More than likely if your going to Nepal your going to hike, weather that be at Poon hill, Anappuna circuit/base camp, or the famous Everest Base Camp trek. The tourist hub of Kathmandu is Thamel, a region where you will find endless hiking gear shops, tour companies and ‘momo’ shops on every corner.
To book your trek before you go or not?
This depends on a few factors:
- Do you have enough time to get to thamel, look for the right tour guide, organise a date and then leave?
- Are you on a tight schedule and don’t have a few days to stuff around organising the finer details?
- Are you alone? Do you mind trekking alone with just your guide, or would you prefer a group of other like minded individuals to trek with?
- Are you on a very tight budget or do you have room to spend a little bit extra ?
If i was to do my Trek again, to be honest I’m not sure what i would do. I chose to book my Trek before i went with Intrepid, as i was alone and didn’t really know there was another reasonable and safe option.
However once i arrived in Kathmandu I discovered I could’ve done the same trek for more than half the price of what i paid, and a lot of other travellers where saving ALOT of money by booking upon arrival in Kathmandu.
But having said that the group I went with was amazing, I met some incredible people who are still some of my best friends today and i wouldn’t have changed that for anything (except maybe the price). It was also nice knowing I was supporting the local nepali guides and porters with my business.
So here are the options you have and the rough prices for each…
Book before you go with a tour company:
If you google Everest Base Camp trek on google you will find many a tour company offering to take you to EBC for anywhere from 10-16 days. To find out which is the best option for you, you need to look at a few key things.
- Does ’16 days’ really mean 14, in that the first day starts at 6pm and the last day ends in the morning? This is the case for most tours, so when considering the cost you need to consider the tour as 14 days rather than 16.
- How fast do you climb, do you get to Base camp in 3 days, not leaving enough time to acclimatise? Surprisingly this isn’t as uncommon as you would think, and i met a few people who were rushed up the trail and suffering for it. Make sure the tour company you go with takes acclimatisation days. Even if your a keen hiker and fit, it doesn’t matter, altitude can affect anyone.
- Whats included? Do you have to pay for meals on top of the cost? Do you spend a few days in Thamal at the start? (waste of time in my opinion, you can explore this on your own cheaper and more in depth), Does it include you plane ride to Lukla? What is the Max group size? Age group of tour?
- How much does it cost? Why is this one more expensive than that one? Is it cheaper because you have to pay for your own meals? Is it more expensive because you get your own porter each (no really essential unless you plan on carrying ALOT).
Once you’ve considered these things, you’ll have some tours narrowed down and then you should look at reviews about the company, how it treats it’s staff and whether it is nepali based or otherwise (cheaper tours are often nepali and the money often stays in Nepal, win-win).
Personally i booked through Intrepid and this is the tour i did. It wasn’t the cheapest option, but I’ve booked with intrepid before and they were good, have good sustainability practises and it had good reviews.
In hind sight it was very expensive when you consider what you could pay in Nepal, and that accomodation along the trail is actually FREE (or costs less than $1USD) as long as you eat meals there. Considering that our meals weren’t included in the price, a few of us were scratching our heads at what we were actually paying for, factoring in that we also had to tip our guides and porters about $100 USD per person at the end.
Book upon arrival and go it alone or make your own group:
- When you get to Thamal, Kathmandu’s tourist hub, you will literally be saturated by tour agencies, willing to take you wherever you want. I went with a girl i met in my hostel to book her trek to Poon Hill and within 10 minutes she had booked a 5 day trip with a tour guide and porter just for her, had hired gear from the fullest store room you’d ever seen and paid for it all for under $300USD.
She was however, going alone with her two nepali guides. Now if thats something your comfortable with then its a great way to save literally thousands! $he payed about $300 USD for her 5 day trek and after talking to others who had done EBC this way, i realised i payed about $1500 too much for my trip! With these types of book and go trips, ask at your hostel which companies are good and which should be avoided, they are very knowledgable and often only to willing to give you advice! I also heard of people doing this same thing, but creating their own group from people they had met at their hostel, therefore saving lots of money by booking once they got there, but also able to get that group atmosphere.
Go it Alone:
- It is possible to go it alone, just you and your gear! You have to pay entrance and national park fees, and will obviously have to pay your way as you go, but people do it. The path is well marked, very hard to get lost and accommodation is plentiful, until you get closer to base camp where options become limited. However this can be a more risky option due to the high altitude. But if your smart about it and follow suggested itineraries of other organised tour companies then its more than doable. However, you don’t have any back up if you get into trouble, as obviously guides carry oxygen with them and often a satellite phone just incase someone needs to be evacuated out. But this is defiantly a budget friendly option and as i said earlier, as long as you eat at places you stay, then 9 time out of 10 the accomodation itself is free!
Cost break down:
The tour i did was with Intrepid and cost me $1800 AUD. This didn’t include meals along the way which ended up being roughly $10-20 each day, and got more expensive as we got closer to base camp.
This doesn’t include alcohol, although you probably wont feel like drinking, nor is it often a good idea, due to the high altitude. You’ve also got to take into consideration the flights to and from Nepal, which cost me about $800 with Air Asia from Melbourne.
If you don’t already have the gear, check out my packing list here, then you can always rent or buy your gear in thamal, where there is literally hundreds of options and most of them are cheap and good enough quality to last you at 10-15 days that you will really need them for.
- All together i spent ~$2040AUD for the 16 days,
- Price per day: $127AUD
- All together including flights from Melbourne: $2840AUD
This trip defiantly could be done cheaper if you go it alone or hire a guide in Thamal, but it could also be alot more expensive depending on what company you book through. So just be smart about it and do your research and figure out what tour/option is right for your personal preference and your budget!
Review of Intrepid:
This is the second tour I’ve done with Intrepid and i really do like them as a company.
They hire local guides and porters, they use sustainable travel practises and they treat their staff well. However as it is a big tour company they are a little bit more expensive but you know what your going to get, and thats a high quality authentic experience. Even despite the high cost, i keep going back because they seem to attract really awesome and adventurous young people and i love being surrounded by a group that end up being like family.
Geckos travel, is Intrepid’s sister company, and they often have tours for a slightly cheaper price. They are aimed at a more budget crowd, meaning accommodation isn’t as fancy, but its still a very authentic and professional experience which really is all you need. I’ve had lots of friends who has done tours with Geckos and have thoroughly enjoyed them, so they are a great option too!