Trekking internationally may sound like an expensive endeavor, but it doesn’t have to be. Once you get past the initial cost of the plane ticket, Nepal is a fairly cheap place to spend time.
I’ve spent eight months total in Nepal, over the course of two different trips. Both times I was trekking for the majority of my stay. And I averaged about $1000 a month for my Nepal trekking budget.
Trekking in Nepal Costs
The main costs of trekking in Nepal come from several things: accommodation and food, gear for the trek, transportation to the trek, and hiring guides and porters if you choose to do so.
I’ll go into detail about each of these things, and even tell you how to save money.
Accommodation & Food
Budget: $15-25/ day
This is the main expense that you’ll face once you are actually on your trek. Accommodation and food belong together because when you stay in a guesthouse in the mountains, you are expected to also eat dinner and breakfast there. The price of a room is usually so low that the guesthouse owners make the bulk of their money from food.
The price of a room varies anywhere from free to $5/ night. This is per room and not per person, so if you have a trekking buddy you will save money. Both free rooms and $5/ night rooms are not that common. $2-3/ night is the average price.
As far as food goes, prices will be less when you are at lower elevations or close to roads. This is because porters, yaks, and mules don’t have to carry the food quite as far to reach the guesthouse.
Eating local food is the best way to save money while trekking in Nepal. It’s only when you start buying chocolate bars, Coke, and alcohol that the prices really start to increase.
Please be respectful to the guesthouse owners and don’t try to haggle. The set prices are already fair and comparable to surrounding guesthouses. Local business owners are honest and hardworking, and they definitely aren’t trying to rip you off. It’s really not worth offending them to get a dollar off of your room price. Haggling in cities that are known for their tourist scams is one thing, but trying to do it on trek in Nepal is entirely different.
I’ve seen other tourists try to ask for discounts on menu prices or brag about how their room price is less than everyone else’s. It comes off as disrespectful. Where else on this planet would you walk into a restaurant and ask for a discount on the set prices? Nobody is impressed with the cheap tourists who take advantage of locals just to save a dollar.
Gear for the Trek
Budget: varies drastically
If you’re sticking to the guesthouse treks in Nepal and not planning on doing any camping, you really don’t have to buy that much gear. It’s certainly fine to buy knock-off versions of gear while in Kathmandu. However, my advice is to buy the real version when it comes to your hiking shoes and backpack.
The best thing to do is just bring what you already own from home. Since you’re only trekking for a few weeks or less, you really don’t need anything fancy.
If you do find yourself in Kathmandu and not adequately prepared for trekking, there are plenty of gear shops to choose from. If you need shoes and want the real deal, go to the North Face store. You can either buy from North Face or browse the other gear stores on the same street that also have quality gear. It’s going to cost you the same as you would pay at home, however.
In Thamel, there are dozens of knock-off gear shops. It’s OK to haggle at these places. I’m just going to warn you now that the quality will not be that good. But you only need it to last for one trek, so it’s really not a big deal.
For more expensive items, such as sleeping bags or down jackets, you can rent instead of buy. Renting a good sleeping bag will cost less than $1/ day.
Here’s a list of the basics of what you will need to trek in Nepal. You’ll probably bring more than just what is on the list, but this is the bare minimum of what you should have.
Basic Gear List & Costs
- Hiking shoes: $100+. Don’t buy knock-offs. These are the most important thing.
- Sleeping bag: $1/ day or less or bring your own from home.
- Backpack: varies. I’m assuming if you’re traveling you will already own a decent backpack. Just use that.
- Water treatment: $5-80. The cheapest option is chlorine tablets that you drop into your water bottle. Those are inexpensive. Whereas, a water filter is a mid-level expense. Something like a Steripen will cost a lot more, but be the most convenient.
- Water bottles: $1-5. Just reuse plastic bottles or buy a knock-off Nalgene in Thamel.
- Warm layers: $5-15 in Thamel, $20-100 at home. If you don’t already own warm layers such as fleeces or synthetic long-sleeve shirts, just buy cheap ones in Thamel. They will work just fine for a trek, even if they don’t withstand the years.
- Rain gear: $10-100. I won’t lie to you, the knock-off rain gear in Thamel is not that great and probably won’t keep you very dry. However, a good rain jacket typically costs at least $80. If you don’t want to drop money on that, I recommend getting a rain poncho because those are usually cheap and do a decent job.
Transportation to the Trek
Local buses are the cheapest option. If you’re going somewhere close to Kathmandu or Pokhara, such as the Annapurna’s or Lang Tang, it certainly makes the most sense to take a bus. The price will be about $5 or less.
Be aware that if it’s a long bus journey, it will start very early in the morning. It’s best to go to the bus station the day before to ask about times and book your ticket.
Some of the bus journeys are terribly long. I once rode a bus for 25 hours to get to Eastern Nepal. The ticket was only $20, but perhaps flying would have been the best option.
These are a definite upgrade from buses. They usually don’t take as long because they don’t have to stop as often. The price will vary depending on if you’re taking a shared Jeep or a private Jeep.
This is the most convenient way to travel, albeit the most expensive. $160 for a domestic flight is pretty standard. Nepal does have quite a lot of airports throughout the country, so it’s not too difficult to get around if you want to fly. Yeti Airlines is a good place to browse tickets, but there are other airline options as well. Be aware that they are usually tiny twelve-passenger planes.
If you’ve got loads of cash to throw around, you can fly via private helicopter as those are commonly used in Nepal to deliver supplies to mountains and shuttle wealthy people. But then you’re looking at thousands of dollars for a trip.
Guides & Porters
Budget: $30+/ day for a guide, $10+/ day for a porter
If you choose to hire a guide and/ or porter, your trek in Nepal will start to get more expensive. I’m not going to talk about if you should hire a guide or porter here because I’ve talked about it in my Tea House Treks of Nepal ebook.
First, let me talk about booking with international trekking agencies before you’ve arrived in Nepal. If you do this, there’s a good chance you’re going to overpay significantly. Sure, you’ll get good customer service and they’ll pick you up from the airport and you’ll have a great guide. But the price will be high. There’s agencies out there charging tourists $3000 to go to Everest Base Camp. That’s way too much.
If you want to book ahead, find a trekking agency that’s actually based in Kathmandu. Maybe their website won’t be as pretty, but the prices will be better. If you have some extra days to be flexible with, you can also hire a guide after you’ve arrived in Nepal.
Two things to note here: make sure your guide can show you his credentials (I say he because there’s hardly any female guides). Some guys will just stand on the street and ask if you need a guide and not actually be certified. Guides in Nepal have to go to guide school to get qualified. And make sure your guide is either a local to the region you’re going trekking or has done the trek lots of times before.
The base rate for hiring a guide is about $30/ day. The daily rate will go up if you’re trekking somewhere that is off the tourist track, like Kanchenjunga or Manaslu. The daily rate will also go up if he has specialized knowledge that you’re looking for, like someone who speaks French or is a bird-watching expert.
Porters generally charge about $10/ day, perhaps a little more.
As always, tip your porters and guides at the end of the trek because it’s customary.
Sightseeing & Visiting Kathmandu
Budget: $30-50 a day
Plan to spend a little extra money in Kathmandu than you would while hiking. I usually take the opportunity to indulge in Western restaurants, a bit of shopping, taking taxis, and exploring the city. All of my self-control usually goes out the window after a few weeks of hiking.
There’s plenty of free activities to do. You can also eat a local restaurants than are priced way lower than restaurants in Thamel.
Check out Full Time Explorer’s post 24 Unique Things to Do in Kathmandu. She has lots of suggestions that vary from free to indulgent.
Ways I Over-Spent in Nepal
There are definitely some things I spent my money on that drove up my daily average. I’m a sucker for indulging in food and shopping after getting off of a long trek in the mountains.
Here a some things I spent lots of money on. You can decide for yourself if it’s worth it or not.
- I flew in and out of Lukla a total of 4 times. At about $160 per direction that added $640 to my overall trip cost. Lukla is where treks in the Everest region begin and end. I could have saved on that cost by taking a bus to either Jiri or Shivalaya and starting my trek from there, adding several days to my itinerary. Compare that to getting to the Annapurnas or Lang Tang where I spent less than $5 per bus ticket.
- Spending lots of time in Kathmandu and Pokhara. They are certainly places worth exploring, but after being in the mountains I would go to the city and indulged in so much Western food, alcohol, and shopping. I struggle with self-control once I’m back in civilization.
- Buying new shoes in Kathmandu. After my first hike on the Annapurna Circuit I decided my hiking boots were not comfortable enough and I switched to trail runners. This meant I had to buy a new pair of shoes in Kathmandu. I spent about $130 on a pair of trail runners at the real North Face store in Kathmandu.
- Spending lots of time in the Everest region. Out of the three regions I hiked in (Everest, Annapurna, and Lang Tang) Everest was the most expensive at $20-25 a day spending conservatively. I know in the scheme of things that really isn’t very much money for traveling so I’m not complaining. If you’re goal is to spend the least amount of money possible then consider going to the Lang Tang region. For me personally, I think it was worth the money because the Three Passes in Everest might have been my favorite trek I did in Nepal.
- Trekking permits. For every region I went to, I needed a new TIMs card. They can be acquired in Kathmandu and Pokhara and cost about $20 each. Additionally, each region had their own permit costing about $32. I got my Annapurna permit at the TIMs office, and my Everest and Lang Tang permits at the entrances to each park. This is something that can’t be helped as there are regular permit checkposts throughout all trekking regions.
- A three day raft trip. I had some down time so I joined a raft trip with Rapid Runners, who are based out of Pokhara. This was $150 for three days all food, gear, guides, and transport included. $50 a day did blow my budget for the week, but it was also totally worth it.
I could have probably reduced my overall trip cost by $1000 by hiking (not flying) in and out of Lukla, bringing comfortable shoes from home, not going on a raft trip, and spending less time in cities.
Ways to Save Money While Trekking in Nepal
- Hiking in the Lang Tang region. I only spent $10-12 a day while hiking in Lang Tang, and my bus ticket to get there was about $4.50. The Lang Tang region was hit pretty hard by the earthquake and I saw damage in every village I went to. I was happy to be spending my money there and helping the economy.
- Not having a guide or porter. I’m pretty confident in my hiking abilities, so I didn’t feel like I needed a guide or porter. Lots of trekkers had guides and porters and lots didn’t. If you’re not a confident hiker then by all means get a guide. Trekking at a high altitude is really freaking hard, so hire a porter if you want to make things easier on yourself. Compared to Western prices, these services are low cost.
- Staying on trail for as long as possible. Stretching out my hiking days saved money because the overall daily cost is low, and there are not many distractions to spend extra money on.
- Eating local food. Ordering meals of rice, eggs, and curried vegetables helped keep costs low. I would pay quite a bit in the mountains when I got a craving for chocolate, Coke, and beer. I once paid $4 for a Snickers bar!
- Spending time in villages that are off the main trail. I took three days off in Khumjung, which is a village several hours off of the Everest Base Camp trek. Since Khumjung isn’t as heavily frequented as more accessible villages my spending was slightly lower at $15-17 per day.
- Similarly, getting out of the cities to smaller towns is a good way to save. I took a bus several hours out of Pokhara to a town called Begnas Tal, where I only spend $9 a day. Ask other tourists for recommendations or just look at a map to find towns that are less frequented.
$1000 a month is comparable to hiking in the US and is comparable to budget travel in general. If you can afford a hiking trip at home, you can probably afford a hiking trip in Nepal.