“Am I fit enough to trek to Everest Base Camp?” “Is the Annapurna Circuit Trek suitable for children?” “When is the best season to visit Nepal?” “I only have two weeks holiday time – is that enough time to visit Nepal?” “I don’t want to trek. So what else can I do in Nepal?” “Is it safe to travel in Nepal?” “How do I book my trip – what are the best travel companies in Nepal?”
These are some of the questions you may be asking yourself. So now you know the questions, how to find the answers?
How to Plan Your Trip
Now you have decided that yes, you want to come to Nepal. And yes, you would love to do some trekking. But even deciding on the right trek is confusing! Should you go for unfamiliar, yet exotic names such as the Manaslu Tsum Valley Trek or the Mardi Himal Trek or stick to the more familiar such as the Everest Base Camp Trek and the Annapurna Circuit Trek?
In order to make a decision, you can scroll through the hundreds of websites, blogs and reviews of each trek and area. That’s a bit of a marathon right? Since you have already found my blog on this website, here is a great place to start! And a member of the Swotah Travel team is always on hand to help guide you to what is best for you.
What Do You Need to Know?
Let’s break down some of these questions you are asking yourself as you start planning your trip to Nepal.
- Best season to visit Nepal?
- Are you planning to trek or are you interested more in wildlife, culture, food etc?
- Is it safe to travel in Nepal?
- Personalizing your trip.
Things to Keep in Mind
The best season to visit Nepal: for trekking, this is usually March/ April/ May and October/ November. But if your holiday time does not fit with these months, there are treks which see less rain and snow and are fantastic at other times of the year. For example, trekking in Mustang, particularly Upper Mustang, can be done in the monsoon (summer) season.
Swotah's unique Millennium Homestay Trek is at low altitude so is suitable during the winter season when higher altitude treks are too cold and have too much snow.
Of course, if you are not trekking, you can come at any time of year really!
What do you want to do in Nepal: aside from (or even instead of) trekking, you might want to visit Chitwan National Park or Bardia National Park for wildlife spotting or bird watching. Yes, Nepal has a very interesting lowland area which is sub-tropical and very different from the mountains!
You will no doubt want to learn about the culture of Nepal. And there is a lot to see. From the Newari architecture in the Kathmandu Valley, the lowland peoples such as the indigenous Tharus, around Chitwan and Bardia to the Sherpas and Tibetan-like communities in the mountains, Nepal is culturally diverse!
You can also go: mountain biking in Nepal. This is a relatively new activity in Nepal. But I remember when the first few tourists started arriving with their own mountain bikes. Many people laughed at them. No one cycled in the hills or even in Kathmandu except those people selling their wares from a basket on their cycle! In the lowland areas, many people used those old fashioned Chinese or India bikes which were much larger than the average Nepali! But as demand grew for an eco-friendly way to travel around the country, so too did the mountain biking tours.
When in Pokhara you can go paragliding, zip-lining, and even hot air ballooning! Zip lining and hot air ballooning are relatively new to Nepal but paragliding has been around for decades. It is the ultimate way to experience the Annapurna Mountain Range. Imagine flying silently with the majestic Machhapuchhre (known also as Fishtail) as your backdrop!
If bungee jumping is your thing then the best place to do it is near the Tibetan border some 100 km from Kathmandu. But in recent months other bungee jumps have or are about to come up. Please ask your travel agent for details!
For those who want something more sedate – there are numerous spas around the country. From Dwarika’s in Kathmandu and Dhulikhel, to the Fulbari Hotel in Pokhara and Ayurveda Health Home in Pokhara and Kathmandu.
Safety: is it safe to travel in Nepal? In terms of day to day safety, Nepal is safe; and safe for women travelling alone. Like everywhere, however, you should take the normal precautions of looking after your belongings (but incidents of theft are low), having insurance, and taking care of your health.
If you are trekking, you should consider your own fitness level before booking a trek. Treks range from the gentle to the extremely strenuous! Be realistic about your abilities! Trekking at altitude brings its own risks. There are ways to minimise the risk of altitude sickness you should read about and which your guide will be able to advise you on. For a quick review, see information here https://ciwec-clinic.com/health-articles/altitude-illness-advice-for-trekkers/
Remember to bring any medicines you need with you. Bring a few days’ extra supplies in case of delays. Most likely you will not be able to get the correct replacements in Nepal. Bringing a small, general first aid kit with you is a good idea too. Although all responsible travel companies will provide their guides with a first aid kit for each trip.
Your preferences: Personalise your trip based on your budget and time. How do you visualise your trip? Are you thinking of a homestay trek, or thinking of spa get-away in luxury hotels such as the very unique and beautiful Dwarika’s?
Homestays or teahouses along the trail will provide you with a great cultural experience and opportunity to meet the locals. While on the other hand, staying at a heritage hotel, spa resort or international 5-star hotels will provide you with comfort and luxury either unique to the country, or familiar to you as an international traveller. Your choice!
On the activity side, you can go ultimate adventure or you can go luxury style too! For example, do you want to trek to Everest Base Camp or enjoy a helicopter ride there for breakfast (yes it’s possible!) or a mountain flight over the world’s highest mountain? If trekking do you want to go with a large jolly crowd or keep it small and intimate, which definitely I prefer.
And again, if trekking, do you want to enjoy a relatively easy trail or push yourself to the limits? Perhaps even aim for a trekking peak such as Island Peak which will introduce you to a little climbing too! You might even want to combine your trip to Nepal with a Bhutan or Tibet tour. And let’s not forget whitewater rafting. That other adventure that Nepal is so famous for!
Nepal really does having everything for everyone. And I have only scratched the surface. So you need to come back and check my blogs every week, right?
How to Choose the Right Travel Agent in Nepal
Once you have given some thought to the above points, it’s time to choose the right travel agent. One who will meet your expectations. But how do you find the agent right for you?
First off, and very very important, check they are legally registered! And affiliated with the Nepal Tourist Board and the Trekking Agencies Association of Nepal (TAAN). If they offer climbing, then they should also be registered with the Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA). If you check TAAN’s website you will find a list of registered trekking agencies.
Once you have decided on your agency, and seen they offer the trip you are drawn to, ask as many questions as you need! A good agency will be willing and able to answer your queries. And ask about their guides. Your relationship with your guide, whether trekking or visiting sites around the Kathmandu Valley, can make or break your trip!
Some questions you should ask your potential travel agent/ trekking company are:
1. Is your trip flexible enough? If there are any problems (ie bad weather means you cannot board your domestic flight) you want to have had days built-in. So you don’t miss your international flight.
2. Is your guide qualified in first aid (he should be)?
3. Will he be carrying a GPS (again, in remote areas, he should be)?
4. Does your guide speak your language? All properly registered and trained guides speak English but some also speak other languages too. Ask ahead of your arrival in Nepal.
5. How does the agency treat their porters? A reputable agency will treat their porters well.
6. Ask the agency about their plans for evacuation, should it be necessary. Remember you will have to have your own insurance which covers trekking at altitude and helicopter rescue.
7. What plans are in place regarding COVID-19?
Don’t forget to check testimonials the agencies own website and other sites such as Trip Advisor.
How Much Should Your Trip to Nepal Cost?
As you can see from the above information, it really will depend on where you are going and what level accommodation you require.
All-inclusive trips: If you are booking through an international travel agency it is likely everything will be included in your trip. From flights to meals. If you prefer to have someone deal with everything for you, this can also be arranged by Nepali operators also.
Pay as you go: You will find the majority of treks, climbs and tours in Nepal start on your arrival in the country. So you arrange your own international flights. Some trips may start partway through your trip. For example, you might want to explore Kathmandu on your own, then start your trek through an agency a week after your arrival in the country. Everything is possible!
Be independent: While we recommend you NEVER trek alone, from the safety point of view, some people do. But remember that some of the most interesting parts of the countries are in Restricted Areas where it is not possible to trek without going through a local trekking agency. And of course, your guide provides you with a fantastic source of information you might never otherwise find. And let’s not forget you are giving something back to the community when you chose a local Nepali travel agency.
More money does not necessarily equal better service and facilities: Do remember that on some treks such as the Everest Three Pass Trek accommodation and meals are pretty standard. In many trekking areas there are no luxury lodges, so why pay more?
Having said that, in some areas, such as Namche Bazaar and around the lower levels of the Annapurna Circuit Trek, there are lodges which are more comfortable than others. But basically, a teahouse bedroom will be two beds in a basic room, most likely with a common bathroom shared with the other trekkers. Menus are pretty much standard throughout the trekking trails.
If you are on a camping trek, you may pay more for better food, but basically, a tent is a tent.
So, on Average What Should I Expect to Pay?
This very much depends on where you go and what you do, not to mention how many beers you have along the way.
Trekking: As a very rough idea it will cost you around US$100 per day to trek in the Everest Region booking and travelling with a registered Nepali company. This includes all transport, accommodation, three meals per day, and a great guide. The cost is reduced if you are trekking in say the Annapurna Region, where it will be more like USD$70 per day.
If you trek independent expect you can spend as little as USD$30 per day on food and accommodation. But then remember you will have transportation costs and permit costs on top of that. Which all adds up. And once again, I strongly advise NEVER to trek alone.
Food and Accommodation: There is no set price for food and accommodation in Nepal (other than on some of the trekking trails where the local tourism association folks have regulated prices to ensure equality among teahouses and lodges). You can stay in a 5-star hotel (US$200 plus) or a budget one (USD$30) or even pay USD$15 for a hostel bed.
For food, there are wonderful international standard restaurants and local dal bhat (curry and rice) places. With corresponding prices.
Activities: And then there are adventure activities, some which cost more than others… ah and that is for another time, another blog.
So it is wise to check out all the details before handing over your hard-earned cash.
To Sum Up
Choosing the right trip to Nepal for you may seem daunting! But once you have to ask yourselves some of the basic questions I mentioned at the beginning of the blog, you will have a better idea of what you want. Take a look at a good map, read recommendations, ask friends who have been to Nepal before, and most importantly, having chosen a great travel agent/ trekking company – ask the experts questions.