Rara is an engineer by profession, a traveler by heart, a marathon runner by dreams and a certified scuba diver. She also blogs at http://muncity.blogspot.com
For most outdoor enthusiasts, trekking the Everest Base Camp definitely top their wish list. You get to see the highest mountain in the world up close! It was in my wish list too and my dream came true in November 2018. And it will remain as one of the best experiences in my life.
However, it is quite expensive to do the trek and I know many people hold their dreams because of this.
Most people choose to go with an organized tour with a trekking agency as it is the easiest option. Everything is taken care of for you. If you are alone and have little experience in trekking, this is definitely a good idea. But of course it is more expensive. The cheapest I came across while planning my trip was from a local trekking agency, at USD 1135 per person for a 14 days trip.
Some choose to DIY, with only help of a guide or porter. This is perfect for those who doesn’t like big groups and likes to do things at their own pace. It is very easy to find guide and porter in Kathmandu or Lukla. Most trekking agencies or tea houses will be able to help you arrange one. You can save a couple of hundred dollars or more with this option. And they will help you book your flight to Lukla if necessary.
Few do it independently. For freedom. On a budget. You only need to buy the flight ticket and get the permits. Oh and be flexible, as you don’t have any bookings ahead for the accommodation. And look after yourself.
It all depends on what suits you. For me, I chose to do it independently as I wanted to save cost (but along the journey I did hire a porter). It was daunting in the beginning but with enough research and planning, and knowing what to expect really helped.
Here’s what you need to do and how much is the cost.
The most important thing to do once you decide to do the EBC trek on your own is to book the flight ticket from Kathmandu to Lukla (and return), the starting point of EBC trek.
I bought my tickets online at Yeti Airlines
. Fare was USD 337 return
(this is why EBC trek is expensive!), with 10kg luggage allowance. Always book the earliest possible flight as late flights often get cancelled due to bad weather. I took the first flight out at 6.15am and Alhamdulillah, it was a smooth journey.
Pro tip: Get a seat on the left side for gorgeous mountain view.
Just before you start the trek in Lukla, you need to pay the Solukhumbu local fee which cost 2000 NPR at a counter there.
And later at Monjo (or you can do it in advance in Kathmandu), you need to register for the Sagarmatha National Park Entry Permit. It costs 3000 NPR.
(100 NPR is approximately USD 1)
Carry the permit at all times during the trek. Some of the villages you’ll be passing through will have checkpoints.
I budgeted 3000 NPR per day on the mountains.
500 NPR is allocated for daily accommodations at the tea houses. Prices change between off-peak and peak seasons so you might get cheaper or higher rates depending on the timing of your trip.
Everybody stays in the tea houses along the villages on the EBC trek. The tea house usually have a large communal area or dining hall where you eat and socialize with other trekkers. In the centre of the area, there will be a fireplace that burns wood and yak dung.
I can say most of the tea houses are cheap as they only charged around 200 – 500 NPR per night, except Lobuche cos the village has a fixed price of 700 NPR. But the condition is that you are expected to have dinner or breakfast there.
The room is very basic but certainly sufficient to provide safe shelter for the night. Rooms are constructed from thin timber and wooden beds with foam mattresses and thick blankets are provided. It gets very cold at night so do bring -20°C sleeping bag. I rented one in Kathmandu for 100 NPR per day.
Ensuite rooms come with attached bathroom and hot shower. For those room without one, there are shared bathrooms but you have to pay to use the hot shower. Be prepared to pay 200 – 500 NPR. I didn’t shower daily so I brought wet wipes to clean myself.
There are lights in the room but there are no electricity sockets for you to charge your electronic devices. You have to pay 200 – 600 NPR per hour for charging in the communal area.
From 3000 NPR daily budget, a large part of it goes to food and drinks.
The tea houses serve basic western food (pancakes, sandwiches, spaghetti, and pizza), rice meals (dal bhat, Chinese-style fried rice), and traditional Nepalese momos (dumplings filled with meat/vegetables). Cold and hot drinks such as coffee, tea, soda, and beer are also available.
Dal bhat is a good option as it is usually refillable. Dal (lentil soup) and Bhat (rice) is the staple food of Nepalese. You will hear or see on t-shirts – “Dal Bhat Power 24 hour”. This popular catchphrase means if you eat dal bhat, you will have energy all day long.
Bottled water is sold at 100 NPR (1.5L) and it gets more expensive as you go higher. I saved money by bringing a water bottle and refill it with tap water. Then, sterilize it with water purification tablet like the Aquatabs. Bought one box at Kathmandu for 100 NPR.
I bought Simcard in Kathmandu for 2800 NPR. 5GB valid for 30 days. You get coverage up until Pangboche, and occasionally at Dingboche (updated my IG on Nagarjung Hill).
WiFi is available in most tea houses but you also have to pay to use it. WiFi charges range from 200 – 500 NPR per hour, and even then the service is very slow. There is an option to use Everest Link
card with prices from 1999 NPR for 10GB. However I am not sure whether or not the connection is good.
Pro tip: In Namche Bazaar, free WiFi and free charging is available at Namche Bakery. I spend hours there enjoying my cakes and hot chocolates while getting connected to the world.
There are risks hiking at high altitude so it is advisable to have a proper insurance. At the highest point of the EBC trek you will be standing at over 5,550m above sea level, while most travel insurance policies cover only up to 3,000m. Ermmm.. that’s not even Namche Bazaar, day 2 of the trek.
So the best option is to buy insurance from overseas such as World Nomad as it covers mountaineering and climbing in remote areas up to 6,000m.
At first I decided to do the trek completely independent. But later during the hike, I had symptoms of mild Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) and it really worried me. So I decided to hire a porter halfway so that my body can get some rest from the burden of carrying the backpack.
I got a good porter at a good rate, USD 16/day. Trekking agencies usually quote USD 20/day for porter and USD 25/day for porter/guide. Keep in mind that a good tip is expected.
A porter is only meant to carry up to 20 kg of your belongings so you can share a porter for 2 person. For unnecessary items, you can leave them in your hotel/hostel in Kathmandu at no charge. Porters are not meant to be guides. So don’t expect them to be your guide and know everything about the surroundings. Also, few speak English well.
You can buy or rent most of the trekking gear in Kathmandu, and it’s cheap. Trekking poles, trekking pants, windproof jacket, gloves, water purification tablets, sleeping bag etc.
For example, I rented a -20°C sleeping bag for 100 NPR per day. For 12 days trekking, I paid 1200 NPR (~ USD 12). It’s much cheaper than buying one in Malaysia and don’t know when will I use it again, as well as saved the space in my backpack.
I followed the standard 12-day itinerary used by most trekking agencies, with a slight adjustment.
Day 1 : Kathmandu – Lukla – Monjo
Day 2 : Monjo – Namche Bazaar
Day 3 : Namche Bazaar [acclimatization day]
Day 4 : Namche Bazaar – Tengboche
Day 5 : Tengboche – Dingboche
Day 6 : Dingboche [acclimatization day]
Day 7 : Dingboche – Lobuche
Day 8 : Lobuche – Gorakshep – Base Camp – Gorakshep
Day 9 : Gorakshep – Kala Patthar – Pangboche
Day 10 : Pangboche – Monjo
Day 12 : Lukla – Kathmandu
Will do a detailed trek itinerary later.
The trek is pretty clear, and there are many hikers on the trek so you’re most likely safe from getting lost. But it helps if you have a map, to know where you are or to plan your next stay. You can buy trekking maps in Kathmandu for 250 – 400 NPR. If you are a cheapskate like me, just print one from the Internet haha.
October to early December is the peak and best time to go trekking. The sky is clear with less haze and clouds which provides better views of the mountains.
Late December to February. The skies are clear but be prepared for temperatures below freezing, and some passes might be closed due to large snow on the trek.
March to May. This is the end of the dry season and the second best time of the year to go trekking as the weather is stable and dry. If you are lucky, you will get to see tents at the Base Camp as climbers prepare to scale the peak (usually in May)
June to September. This is the monsoon season and the least popular time to go trekking in Nepal.
How difficult is the EBC Trek?
In terms of terrain, there are no ropes or ice picks needed. There’s also no vertical climbing involved.
The trek is not very difficult but the challenge lies in the altitude as the Base Camp stands at a height of 5,364m. The round-trip length of the trek is 130km, which is spread over 12 days of trekking. As long as you are able to trek 4 – 8 hours daily for 12 days, you can complete the trek.
The best way to prepare for the trek is to engage in some basic training beforehand. Running or other cardio exercises are particularly useful to help build stamina. Stair climbing or hill walking is also recommended.
Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS)
AMS can happen to anyone, even to the fittest person. When I was planning my trip, AMS was what I worried the most. So I read a lot about its precaution.
- Don’t ascend too fast. Take a gradual ascent, not more than 600m increase in altitude per day.
- Climb slowly. The locals always say, “bistari, bistari” to the trekkers. It means “slowly, slowly”.
- Climb high, sleep low. Take acclimatization days to rest.
- Hydration is important! Ensure you drink enough water. I drank a minimum of 3 liter water daily.
- Eat garlic. I read this tips on the Internet, and my porter also told me the same. So I had garlic soup as side dish during dinner.
- Take Diamox (Acetazolamide), if needed. I didn’t plan to take it but after having mild AMS symptom, I took one (a kind couple gave me theirs). Do note that Diamox should be taken before you start trekking as it is by no means a cure as it aims to quicken the acclimatization process and prevent the onset of symptoms.
- Shortness of breath
- Lack of sleep
- Loss of appetite
- Lack of coordination
Remember if you do not have insurance, emergency evacuation with a helicopter to take you down will cost USD 5000. So descent immediately if you feel the symptoms are severe.
Note: Will edit time by time when I remember some other things to add on.