A mountain peak is perfect for a lot of reasons. It is not, however, a good place to realise that you are unprepared.
A trek in Nepal is a wild time. Here is a list of must knows to get you prepare for the trip of a lifetime:
1 Do your research
You’ve already taken the first step!
Nepal is a wonderful country to travel in, but there are necessary precautions for avoiding prickly situations.
Internet is not reliable in Nepal, especially in the mountains. It is a good idea to take some hard-copy info in case you can’t get online. If you don’t like the idea of dropping money on a bulky guide book, there are heaps of robust Nepal travel blogs to check out. Find a goody and read carefully. Save a copy for offline mode or print to carry in your pocket.
2 See a doctor
Illness is a good way to spoil a trip. Nepal is a developing nation, so there are a number of risks that you wouldn’t be exposed to in other countries. See a travel doctor to make sure you are properly immunised.
Let them know that you will be trekking and ask for personal advice concerning your medical history and fitness levels. They may also recommend Diamox, for preventing altitude sickness. Don’t be too proud to take it. The Himalayas is not the kind of place you want to be bed ridden.
3 Make sure you have the right insurance
If you plan against the worst, but still manage to get ill or injured, can you afford $10,000 to get flown by helicopter to the nearest hospital?
Much better to spend a couple hundred dollar on travel insurance. Medical evacuation is an essential for any adventurer, that may end up saving your life. Know the ins-and-outs of your policy before you leave. Some policies only cover up to a certain altitude, so make sure you read the fine print before your trek.
4 Pack good equipment
You can sometimes be too safe. If you overpack your bag with gear before you go, you might find that you’ve spent money on stuff that you don’t need, then have to lug it up a mountain for no reason.
There are plenty of hiking stores in Kathmandu, and you will probably pay a lot less than stores at home. However, it’s not a bad idea to arrive prepared with some of the things you know you’ll need. Take a good jacket, take good boots, especially if you are 6ft tall with size 12 feet (larger items aren’t always the easiest to find).
5 Get wise on haggling
Here’s a heads up: you will be ripped off.
Thankfully, getting ripped off probably won’t break the bank. But it will frustrate you. Set prices are rare in Nepal. It is frustrating to sit down at the end of a day of travel and find out that a fellow traveller has paid less than you for the same room.
If you are new to haggling, remember that people in Nepal have been haggling all their lives. Try not to take it too seriously. Stick up for yourself, but don’t be rude or arrogant. Learn and have fun.
6 Bring some cash
You need to take some cash with you, especially if you are arriving via the airport. The standard tourist visa has to be organised on arrival, so you want to be prepared. It isn’t unheard of for the only ATM in Kathmandu’s international airport to be out of order.
Trying to communicate this to the security at the airport can be stressful, so do yourself a favour and organise some money before you go. You can purchase your visa with any major currency at the airport, though some will insist on USD at land border crossings.
7 Get a good guide
There are hundreds of registered travel agents in Kathmandu.
To find the best guide ask about their insurance, permits and experience.
Insurance and permits are easy, because they will be able to show you physical copies of their credentials. Find out how experienced they are by asking them about routes, stops and other detailed information, to gauge their expertise.
8 Give yourself some time
A bus timetable is not a binding contract in Nepal. The roads that wind through the mountains can be quite badly damaged, so allow for delays in your travel plans. Getting frustrated will not get you there any faster.
9 Know the culture
All countries have a set of cultural norms that the people mostly follow without thinking. A person who breaks those rules can be met with plain confusion or outright hostility.
In Nepal it is important to respect sacred sites, including the shrines that dot the hiking trails. Take your shoes off inside. Avoid revealing clothing, as it can make you the subject of harassment.
If in doubt, do as the locals do.
10 Water and toilet paper
These are two things you take for granted.
You will need to get a water purifier, or tablets (or just buy bottled water) to make sure your water is clean. In most of Nepal, drinking the water will make you sick. If you get sick you will spend a lot of time on the loo.
The locals aren’t big on toilet paper, so make sure you bring your own, unless you don’t mind using your hand.
There are a million things to learn about trekking in Nepal, some of them are best learned on the job. We can’t wait to read your comments on what you wish you knew before your first trek in Nepal!