Our trek to Everest Base Camp was truly an amazing experience. Unfortunately for our wallets, special experiences such as this most often also comes with a “special experience” price. After a quick search online, we were a little bit thrown off by the incredulous prices ($2300+ USD per person) charged by tour agencies for a 14 day trek. Needless to say, my original $50/pppd budget for Nepal was totally off the mark!
At first, our first reaction (actually, mostly Paul’s idea) was to opt for no guide, no porter and just book everything ourselves along the way. Paul had found a blog where fellow travellers did the trek on their own for $500USD/pp. For such a big adventure, however, I felt very strongly about having a guide around to help with navigating, language barriers and just for general safety measures.
We eventually made all the arrangements with Himalayan Glacial Trekking in Kathmandu. A friend had given this company a very strong recommendation and after speaking with Naba, I must say I was thoroughly impressed by his honesty and professionalism. He knew we were on an extended round the world trip and understood we were watching our budget. Instead of trying to sell us the packages, he went over all the options with us, including doing the trek on our own vs hiring a guide and pay for everything a-la-carte. I think in the end, it was the transparency that sold us. Ultimately, we found a solution that suited both our travel preferences as well as our budgets.
Below is a rough breakdown of our expenses for EBC.
The Activities bucket includes: roundtrip flights to/from Lukla, roundtrip airport taxi, cost of a guide for 16 days (we paid for 1 extra contingency day), park permits, taxes, service charge and tips for the guide. We opted for no porter and just carried our 8kg bags the entire way on our own. We found this weight to be quite manageable.
The Food and Accommodation buckets can be grouped together because we pretty much had to eat at the lodge we were staying at. In general, everything is more expensive the higher up you go. We planned for $30/pppd for food and lodging and it turned out to be right on the mark. We ate fairly well, so I’m sure this figure could be much lower if we were really strict with our budget.
The Others bucket include small incidentals like toilet paper, the occasional bucket shower, snacks, and 1 hr of battery charging. We were pretty good at keeping this figure low as we didn’t bother paying for wifi or actual hot showers. We saved some money by bringing our own 15 day supply of Snickers and granola bars otherwise you’d be looking at $3-$4/each.
In the end, we paid roughly $1500CAD each for our 15 day Everest trek. It is in no way cheap, but it was far more reasonable and affordable than some of the packaged tours we came across. After having done the trek, I would say the trail from Lukla to EBC is definitely manageable on your own. Simply because there are so many other trekkers on the route it’s almost impossible to get lost. However, the higher altitude routes are a different story. Markers were few and far in between and I appreciated having a guide around for those parts.
Travel Tips & Must Have’s for Everest
Water Purification Tablets/ Steripen/ etc.
Bottled water can be one of the major expenses on this trek and each bottle ranged from RS80 to Rs300 per 1L bottle depending on location. We saved money by treating tap water with Aquatabs and never ran into any problems. I think we saved about $100CAD between the two of us this way.
You’re generally not allowed to bring or eat outside food into the lodge but we carried enough Snickers bars and granola bars to last the entire trek. A Rs70 chocolate bar can easily cost Rs400 on the mountain. The down side is the weight. About 1kg of the weight in Paul’s bag was from snacks but luckily the burden goes down as we complete the trek. A chocolate bar was heaven after a long day’s hike!
Toilet Paper/Hand Sanitizer
None of the teahouses supply toilet paper and some don’t even have water for hand washing. You can generally buy toilet paper and hand sanitizer at the teahouse but you’d be paying Rs 300 for a roll instead of Rs 15 from Kathmandu.
We found this to be an absolute must! Not only do the teahouses not have heat, but most of the power comes from solar panels outside. Most days, we either had no light, either due to lack of sunlight or because fluorescent lightbulbs didn’t work in cold places (which was everywhere). We had to use our headlamps to get ready for bed, to brush our teeth, or to make bathroom trips.
In case you fall victim to the infamous Kathmandu stomach infection, having some cipro on hand can potentially save you from a $60USD doctor’s visit. In case cipro doesn’t work (which is about 50% of the time), a dose of Azithromycin cost $20USD.
Hot showers can get pretty pricey on the mountain and for the most part, Paul and I opted out of them and took daily ‘baby wipe’ showers instead. If you really want, you can purchase a bucket of hot water for around RS 300 for a bucket shower or bucket hairwash.
We didn’t have any major altitude issues but we did encounter some mild headaches here and there. We had a good supply of ibuprofen on hand so the headaches were never a big issue. If headaches persist or get really bad, make sure you descend and/or see a doctor!!
Travel insurance is important to have, but it is especially important for this trek. We have encountered and witnessed numerous trekkers being ‘heli-rescued’ back to Kathmandu due to altitude problems and you’re looking at thousands of dollars if you don’t have adequate travel insurance to cover it. Also if you need to visit the clinics for oxygen, crutches, etc, it’s good to know you’re covered.
I’m not sure if this is allowed, but we saw some big groups bring their own tea bags and just purchased pots of hot water. Likewise, I don’t see why you can’t bring your own lemon/orange powder and make your own Hot Lemon….