When you trek Nepal, you’ll want to feel well prepared. I’ve trekked in Nepal several times and have learnt some things the hard way. I’m sharing my top tips with you now, so you don’t have to! I have plenty more which you can read here. But I believe the following 8 tips are the most important things you need to know and remember. These tips will help you stay safe and set you up to have an amazing experience in Nepal!
My Top Tips for Trekking Nepal
Tip 1. Understand a bit about altitude sickness
Altitude sickness can affect anyone regardless of their age or level of fitness. So, it’s essential that you know the basics. The higher the altitude, the lower the air pressure. This makes it more difficult to get the oxygen you need. It can start becoming a problem above around 2,500m/8,200ft. If symptoms are ignored they can become life threatening. So, it’s critical that you know the symptoms to look out for and you take appropriate action as soon as you start feeling unwell. Mild altitude sickness (AMS) can feel like a bad hangover and can be worse at night. Symptoms include headache, nausea and vomiting, dizziness, tiredness, loss of appetite and shortness of breath.
Never forget these golden rules created by Dr. David Shlim: If you feel unwell, you have altitude sickness until proven otherwise. Do not ascend further if you have symptoms of altitude sickness. If you are getting worse then descend immediately.
If you trek with Nepalorama, we’ll design a travel plan with sufficient days built in for you to safely acclimatise. Your guide will keep a close eye on you throughout the trek to make sure you’re doing fine. If you start feeling unwell, he’ll take a decision in your best interest – even if it means descending a few hundred metres. There are things you can do to prevent altitude sickness, read more in our complete guide.
If you remember anything from these top tips for trekking Nepal – make it the symptoms of altitude sickness. They could save your life.
Tip 2. Only drink safe water and lots of it!
Keeping your body well hydrated is critical. Sounds obvious right? But when you’re trekking in cold temperatures, it’s easy to forget to drink. It’s even more important in the Himalaya because staying well hydrated helps prevent altitude sickness.
It’s not safe to drink water from taps (unless you’re a yak) and never accept ice unless you believe it’s safe. At Nepalorama we’re against plastic bottles. They’re destroying the environment. Thankfully some trekking regions don’t even allow them anymore. Instead, take your own reusable water bottles and use water purification tablets. They work perfectly as long as the water you purify is clear and you wait the required time (usually 30 minutes) before drinking. You can often buy boiled water from teahouses and some will even fill up your flask for free before you leave in the morning.
Tip 3. Trek with reputable and authorised local guides and porters (like Nepalorama!)
By trekking with local guides and porters you’re doing your bit for the local economy and supporting individuals during your time in Nepal. That said, it’s not advisable to trek with just any local guide. Just because someone is offering their services, doesn’t mean they’re authorised, or that they even know the trekking route. Trekking Nepal is not without risk. So, if you’re going to trek with a guide, better make it a good one! If you’re not organising your trek through a registered agency, check the individual guide’s trekking license and also seek recommendations from his previous clients. You can check to see if trekking companies are registered on the TAAN website.
At Nepalorama we only work with the best local guides and porters. We can customise treks just about anywhere in Nepal, but we’ll never allocate a guide that doesn’t know the trail intimately.
Tip 4. Pack a first aid kit
We recommend you seek advice from your own medical professional before your trip. But from personal experience there are a few things I wouldn’t leave home without! My list includes pain killers (basic paracetamol, aspirin or ibuprofen), treatment for food poisoning, immodium or equivalent, and oral rehydration salts. It’s also useful to take a travel medical kit with basic provisions. Find out more about what to pack in this FAQ.
Tip 5. Carry some local currency (NPR)
If you’re trekking with a guide or a company like Nepalorama, you’ll pay the costs of your trek upfront. You should have clear information about exactly what is and isn’t included in the cost. It’s also necessary to carry some local currency (Nepali rupees) to cover additional costs like an extra pot of hot tea, WIFI access, a hot shower and battery charging. Once you arrive in Nepal, it’s easy to withdraw some cash from an ATM. Or you can exchange most major currencies at one of the many exchanges around Thamel for a very reasonable rate. Find out more about extra costs in this FAQ.
Tip 6. Respect local people and customs
Sadly, we’ve experienced tourists in Nepal who believed themselves to be superior and who showed a distinct lack of respect towards local people. Behaviour like this won’t get you anywhere (anywhere). Most Nepali people are sensitive and reserved. Offer a genuine smile every opportunity you get and you’ll quickly find your kindness returned twofold. Discovering the rich culture of Nepal and the hospitality of the people will warm your heart and be the icing on the cake of your adventure.
Along the trekking trail you’ll likely pass Buddhist and Hindu shrines, monuments and Tibetan prayer wheels. Always keep these to your right, even if you must walk out of your way to get around them.
If you’re going to take photos of people, ask for their permission first. After all, how would you feel if people started photographing you going about your daily life?! Most will be thrilled and honoured that you’ve asked and many will want you to join them for a photo too!
It’s tempting to haggle for a lower price when buying things. It’s the way it works and it’s what people expect. But don’t take it too far. A few dollars to us is nothing in the scheme of things, but can make all the difference to someone in Nepal.
These top tips for trekking Nepal are crucial in my view! At Nepalorama, we’re committed to trekking responsibly and paying our people fairly.
Tip 7. Manage your expectations (and have a contingency plan)
Leave your expectations behind when you visit Nepal. (Well other than those set by your trekking company/guide and the fact that you’re going to see nature at its most magnificent!). You’ll quickly discover that anything goes. Nepali people have a saying – ‘ke garne?’ It means ‘what to do?’ and is usually accompanied by a shoulder shrug and a cheeky smile!
You can learn a lot about how to be easier going from Nepali people. Nothing seems to faze them and they always find a way to move forward, often coming out in large groups to help each other. Last time I travelled by bus to Kathmandu, construction workers decided to dig up the road which involved stopping all the traffic for three hours. I heard no beeping horns, witnessed no anger, just pure acceptance. Ke garne?!
It does pay to build a day or two of contingency into your travel plan if possible. This is more important if you’re flying in and out of Lukla in the Everest region. Flight delays and cancellations are not uncommon due to bad weather. So, it’s advisable to have at least one extra day in Kathmandu to reduce the risk of missing your international flight home.
Nepal is also a great place to get perspective. Find out how in this blog.
Tip 8. Self belief – you can trek Nepal!
So many people email me describing their level of fitness, asking if it’s possible to do a particular trek. Trekking Nepal is challenging and the conditions harsh. But I believe your ability to trek is as closely linked to your mindset as your physical condition. Of course you need to be in reasonable shape according to the trek you’re planning. But you also need to believe that you can do it. When you’re struggling and pushing the boundaries of your comfort zone, it’s your mindset that will get you through.
If you truly believe you can do it – you can, and it will be one of the best things you’ll ever do!
Get Even Better Prepared!
If you’ve got this far, thanks for reading my tops tips for trekking Nepal! Looking for some additional tips? Don’t forget to read our Nepal Travel Hacks!
You can also visit our FAQ page for more information to help you prepare for your trip and visit our blog to find out what to expect when you arrive at the airport in Kathmandu and what to prepare before you go.
Photo credits: ©Isaya and ©Matias Liu – thank you!