Nepal is a very cheap country to travel. But when it comes to trekking, the bill can get really high!

 

I.   For those who are not very adventurous

 

and like to organise everything from home, you’ll have to book through an agency that will take care of everything for you: make the trekking permits, bus tickets , accomodation during the trek, porter, guide, food, etc… It is indeed nice and easy. I did that the first time I went to Nepal in 2008, I booked a all-included trek and I was very happy about it. I strongly recommend – amongst the hundreds of trekking agencies you’ll find in Nepal - Les Portes de L’Aventure which who I had a great trip! The name and the website are in french but they have english and french speaking guides.

 

II.   For those – like me lately – who are adventurous and pennyless

 

I have some good tips to help you make for the cheapest trek!
In November 2010 I left on my own for nearly 3 weeks trekking in the Himalayas. The famous trek around Annapurna also called Annapurna Circuit.

I had a tiny bag, no porter, no guide, no exact plan, and very little money.

 

If you want to make your Annapurna Trek cheap, here are some tips!

 

Trekking in Annapurna

 

1. Be on your own:

 

If you’re afraid to be on your own, don’t worry you’ll find some travel mates for sure! On the bus on the way to go, or in the guesthouses! They are plenty of people trekking on their own!

You don’t need a guide, it is really easy to find your way on the trek as it’s quite a famous one! Take a map or a small guide-book and you’ll be fine! When you doubt they’ll be someone to ask.

 

2. Transportation – Take public buses

 

First of all, you need to get to the departure point of the trek, and whatever it is (Naya Pul, Besisahar, Tatopani, …) you’ll find public and tourist buses going there from Pokhara (or Kathmandu).

 

local buses:

It’s really cheap and they usually go many times in a day.
No need to book, just show up at the local bus station (watch out, you need to ask around before as there are several depending on where you go).
Local buses can be stopped by anyone anywhere, which makes the journey much more interesting – but much longer.

 

tourist buses:

What we call “tourist bus” is not much more expensive than the local buses. But beware, there is not much of a difference in confort!
For example if you take a tourist bus from Pokhara to Besisahar, the only differences with a local bus are:

-  the tourist bus does not stop every 2 minuts on the way to take people (officially….) .

- The bus itself will be the same confort (or more precisely the same unconfort!) but in the tourist bus there is less chance that you end up sharing your seat with 2 nepali women, 5 goats, 2 chickens and a baby on your knees. I personally love that but I understand that you might not!

-  the price of course!

NB: you can book a tourist bus in most guesthouse and it is most of the time not more expensive than buying the ticket at the bus station. So better book, they can be full early in high season!

NB: good news: a tourist bus is not necesarily filled with foreigners, but also with locals!

 

3. Permits:

 

To go trekking in the Annapurnas you need 2 permits,they are both expensive, and there is no way to avoid them as you’ll cross many checkpoints on your way. (unless you are very adventurous, then let me tell you that most checkpoints have a closing time… )
They are 2000rs and 1500rs – which makes it 3500rs (I know, I’ve always been good with numbers!!)

= approximately 35 euros


You can get them easily in the permit offices of Kathmandu or Pokhara as long as you bring the right paperwork, which only consist (or at least consisted) in passport photocopy, money,  and 2 ID pictures.

 

- The ACAP permit (Natural Park Entrance): 2000 roupies (20 euros). You can pay it when you enter the Annapurna area, but it will be 4000 rs.

 

- The TIMS (“Trekkers’ Information Management System”): 20 dollars for individual travellers. To find the offices in Pokhara, follow the signs, they are everywhere in south Lakeside!

NB: They are one-use permits. When you finish trekking you cannot re-enter the national park with the same permit, even few days later! Bugger huh?!?

 

Once you’re set to go, there is nothing more to do than WALK!! Good luck with that ;)

 

Trekking in Annapurna

 

4. Food and Accomodation

 

There are 3 ways to deal with food and accomodation:

 

a. Carry your own food: cheap but not appreciated at all

You can carry some food in your bag, and then buy some more along the trek, it is for sure cheap but the hosts really don’t appreciate: they make the rooms really cheap (usually 100rs = 1 euro if you bargain) because they know they’ll make money with food. In some places I even saw a sign saying “If you don’t take your meals in the guesthouse the room charge wil be 2000rs” (in Mukhtinath).
I have to admit that this solution works only if you don’t eat much. Otherwise that makes a lot to carry, and it gets expensive when you go shopping in the unique shop of the town!

 

b. The israeli deal:

That’s a good one, it is not accepted in all the guesthouses but surprisingly we had that a lot! It consists in getting a free room if you promess you’ll eat here. Not bad!
Of course the higher you go, the more expensive food gets! But when you see the sherpas running past you with a hundred Kgs on their back to bring food to the guesthouses, you understand that it can’t be cheap…

 

c. Camping
I haven’t done it in Nepal so I can’t really advise you, but it is probably the cheapest way to go. A tent, a stove, and a hundred noodle soups! It seems horribly heavy and cold though. And not doable at any season! most of the time the only flat pieces of land might be the guesthouses gardens, and they’ll charge you, so I don’t really see the point. But once again I’ll let someone else advise you on this one!

Trekking in Annapurna

extra TIPS:

 

- BEWARE of taking enough money with you. There is no way to change or get any cash in the mountain!! Better take too much than not enough, and keep in mind that food gets very expensive!

 

- Try to bring a small backpack, if you’re doing the Annapurna round you’ll be trekking from 700m to 5416m high! You’d better save some energy!

 

- If all the guesthouses are full (it happened to me – it was high season), no worries! You can always ask to sleep in the living room with the porters, it is a bit noisy as the guest might go to bed late and get up early (well… so do you!), but it is the cheapest and warmest place to stay!!

Trekking in Annapurna

 

My experience:

 

- I did a mix of solution a) and b) for food, always tring to be respectfull to the hosts.

 

- My backpack was tiny as I didn’t take a sleeping bag nor a jacket. That was a bit crazy as it was November, but
     - most guesthouses can lend you big warm blankets (I say most as I had a freezing experience in Tilicho Basecamp…),
- the jacket is not really needed as it’s very warm in day time, and in the evening you’re in the living room around a fire (I say “not really needed” as we did have some snow on the highest point of the trek: Thorong La 5416m… Coooold!)

- I found some trekking mates on day 2. I usually don’t like being in a group, but it was really cool and as all of us were originally independant travellers we really got along very well!

- I really appreciated not having a guide as it enabled me to choose my guesthouses, choose to make more resting days ( mostly to wait for my friends left behind!), and choosing where to go (I did an extra 4 days to go to Tilicho Lake – but you can do it in 2 days)

CONCLUSION:

 

My 16 days were absolutely breathtaking and I am still in contact with everyone I met this trek.

 

I spent only 112 euros FOR MY TREK AROUND ANNAPURNA. Quite cheap huh!?!!

 

NB: once again be carefull, don’t bring only a 100 euros in case you change your plans, or eat more than me, or have hardest conditions. Don’t get stuck!!

Have a good trek!