How to Have a Safe Trek in Nepal
Enjoy accident-free adventure travels with tips from a mountain guide
Home to part of the Himalayas, Nepal is a mecca for trekkers and adventure travelers who flock to this Asian nation for its natural beauty, historic wonders and the chance to see tigers, crocodiles and other exotic creatures in the wild.
Officially the highest country on earth, Nepal nestles between India to the south and China to the northeast. It’s home to Mount Everest, a destination for mountain climbers around the world. Although the country was hit by devastating earthquakes in the spring of 2015, the government of Nepal say the country is safe for trekkers again.
“Tourism is back,” says Pasang Sherpa, a mountain guide based in Kathmandu, the nation’s capital. “Ninety-seven percent of our trails are open and ready to welcome trekkers.”
The city of Kathmandu is structurally safe, Sherpa says, although many beautiful historical monuments were destroyed in the quakes. The only mountain regions where the main trails are still blocked are the popular Langtang and Manaslu regions.
Here are Sherpa’s top tips — along with safety advice from TripAdvisor and worldtravelguide.net — for an adventure-of-a-lifetime trek in Nepal.
Don’t trek solo
Travel with other people. Let relatives know your itinerary and check in with them daily, whenever possible, and especially if your schedule or travel plans have changed. Several solo trekkers have disappeared in Nepal over the last few years.
Hire a local guide
Having a local in your party is not only safer, you’ll learn much more about regional customs, cultures and nature. A seasoned guide can also help with important details, such as obtaining permits and Trekkers’ Information Management System (TIMS) cards, which are required to enter Nepal’s main trekking regions.
Sherpa explains that an experienced guide can also help trekkers navigate all kinds of hazards, including altitude sickness, avalanches and snow slides, glacial crevasses, rock falls, severe storms and sun stroke, a type of heat stroke. Guides currently charge an average of $30 to $65 daily. “It depends on the size of your party,” Sherpa says.
Pack for unpredictable weather
Nepalese guides say autumn is the best time of year to go trekking in the Himalayas. However, as Sherpa says, weather conditions in the mountains change rapidly. Pack clothing that can be worn in removable layers, as well as gloves and a hat. Guides also recommend sunscreen and sunglasses.
Bring along a GPS tracker
Even if you're traveling with a guide, carrying a GPS tracker can bring peace of mind. If you become stuck or stranded in a snowslide, GPS can help rescue teams locate your party much faster.
Carry a cell phone
Cell service has become more consistent across Nepal in recent years, Sherpa says, even in the mountainous regions. You can buy a cheap cell phone and prepaid cards in Kathmandu. This is a cost-effective alternative to carrying that pricey smartphone. Just be sure to share the number with relatives before heading out on your trek.
Virtually every trail in Nepal will test a hiker’s endurance. Know your abilities — and your limits. The air is thinner at high altitudes, forcing your body to work harder. Altitude sickness, while not often fatal, can cause headaches, dizziness and nausea.
Protect your goods
Bandits, while rare, are not unheard of. Stash money in a travel pouch worn under your clothing. Keep cameras and other pricey items stowed out of sight when not in use. If you are the victim of a crime, contact the Kathmandu Tourist Police at 01 4700750 or 01 4247041.
Be careful about street food
Know the local currency rules
Exchange Nepalese currency before your departure. Nepalese money is not accepted or exchanged anywhere outside the country. It’s also illegal to take currency out of the country.
Be prepared for blackouts
Nepal is subject to daily scheduled power outages. Carry a flashlight and solar lantern and charge any electronics in advance of blackouts. Pack a universal voltage adapter as well: Nepal operates on 220V.
Get travel insurance
Travel agents recommend you purchase travel insurance before
visiting Nepal. Make sure the insurance also covers mountain rescues and
Follow the customs
Avoid touching anyone’s head or sitting in a way that shows the soles of your feet to someone (this is considered insulting). Greet people you meet by touching both hands together at the palms. This means “namaste,” or “the divine in me salutes the divine in you.” Namaste, and safe travels!