Step-by-Step Guide to Trekking Independently in Nepal
For anyone who loves hiking or appreciates the natural beauty of the earth’s mountains, the Himalayas in Nepal are often a highly ranked bucket list experience. Most people choose to book a trek through a travel agency or company. However, organising a trek yourself in Nepal is surprisingly not that difficult and obviously, much more affordable too.
Over the course of three months in Nepal, I did four different treks in three different areas and organised and hiked them all on my own. It’s certainly not as scary as it sounds and with the right information, you can be off trekking just days after arriving.
Below is a step-by-step guide to arranging your own trek in Nepal, which gives you the freedom to decide where you go, how long for, when to stop and what time you have to get up every morning.
Step One: Decide where and when to trek
When it comes to trekking in Nepal, your options are seemingly endless. However, the three main trekking regions that are easiest to hike independently are: Langtang National Park, Sagarmatha (Everest) National Park and Annapurna Conservation Area.
These areas offer the best teahouse trekking networks which means no camping gear is required and you’ll most likely come across a lodge every hour or so.
On many popular routes like the Annapurna Circuit, what once were just basic shacks offering tea and beds to hikers, have now become commercialised operations that boast hot showers, Wi-Fi and pizza. Although not all trekking routes have the same standard!
The best and most popular season for trekking is October-November. However, that of course means more crowds and traffic jams on the main trails. I decided to trek in the second most popular time, April-May, and despite clouds obscuring views by the afternoon, the mornings were always clear and there were less people clogging up the trails.
Step Two: Get packing
To be honest, most people overpack and I lost count of how many people I saw carrying fully loaded 70L backpacks. It’s really unnecessary to carry that much and it’s best to do without added luxuries, particularly if you’re not hiring a porter. When you’re in Kathmandu, 15 kilograms may feel fine but once you’re walking up a steep climb at over 4000 metres elevation, you will regret all the extra items you decided to bring (trust me)!
The one thing I would recommend taking is a sleeping bag, which can be hired in either Kathmandu or Pokhara (the two largest cities in Nepal) for around $1.50 per day. Although the teahouses usually provide one blanket, temperatures can drop well below zero.
I managed to pack everything I needed for a multi-week trek into a 30L pack (although I am very much a minimalist hiker)!
Read more: 10 Ways to Cut Backpack Weight
Step Three: Arrange permits
The next step is arranging your permits and paying the National Park fees. It’s not as hard as it sounds and can be done within one afternoon in either the Nepal Tourism Board office in Kathmandu or ACAP office in Pokhara.
A Trekkers Information Management System card or TIMS is used to track hikers and costs 2000 Nepali rupees or $25 and requires a simple form to be filled out with some passport photos. The National Park fees cost 3000 Nepali rupees or $38 per park entry. Both are mandatory for each trek you decide to do and checked along the way.
Step Four: Book your transport
Getting to and from the trail heads needs a little bit of organisation if you decide to go it alone. However, many travel agencies and hotels can help in purchasing tickets in advance. Both Langtang National Park and the Annapurna Conservation Area require bus or Jeep travel to and from the start and end points. On the other hand, Sagarmatha National Park can be accessed by air through Lukla. For those not keen on flying or wanting to save money, there is the option to catch a Jeep to an alternative starting point outside the park area too.
Step Five: Read up on AMS
Of course, the risk of acute mountain sickness (AMS) or altitude sickness is very real, particularly on treks that ascend rapidly in a short timeframe. It is important to read up about AMS before leaving for your trek and to be aware of the signs and symptoms. The best prevention is to drink plenty of fluids, around 3-4 litres per day, although there is also widely available medication called Diamox that can help prevent and treat AMS too.
Step Six: Withdraw cash
With no major towns, other than Namche inside the Sagarmatha National Park, you will need to carry enough cash for the entirety of your trek. Knowing how much you will need is difficult and it’s definitely better to have too much rather than not enough.
As a rough guide, I averaged $30 per day for food and accommodation (including extras like showers, charging devices, toilet paper etc.) across all four treks I did. Naturally, the cost of things goes up as you ascend higher, so if you do take some snacks it’s best to save them for when a Snickers bar goes for $5 at 4500m!
Step Seven: Start hiking! (without getting lost)
The most exciting part is beginning your trek. Of course, navigation will naturally be a concern if you go without a guide. However, most of the trails are well maintained and on many of the main trekking routes, there are some sign posts, as well as painted markings on rocks and trees. I would still recommend purchasing a map in either Kathmandu or Pokhara before setting out for peace of mind and as a good reference point.
I would also highly recommend downloading the Maps.Me app on your phone, as almost every trail is marked clearly on there. It also works offline, so no Internet is required. It is actually the best app to use whilst travelling and hiking in any country of the world (including Australia).
Read more: Annapurna Circuit: A Journey from Inside Out
Step Eight: Enjoy the beauty of the Himalayas!
Elisha is a freelance writer and avid hiker from Melbourne who has travelled to over 35 countries on various solo adventures. She prefers off the beaten track and least explored places and documents her travels and treks on her personal blog and for various publications around the world.