FREQUENTLY ASKED TREKKING QUESTIONS

 

GROUP TREKS & GUIDES

TREKKING IN GENERAL

RAFTING

Expedition' Style trekking

Weather & Seasons

Rafting Season

Equipment - Group

Why Stop for Rest Days?

Immunizations

Why Do I Need a Guide?

Why Walk vs. Fly?

Drinking Water

Trekking without a Guide

Staying in Touch

Altitude Sickness

Group Trek Benefits

Trekking vs. Climbing

Staff on Trail - Group IN

Are All Guides also Sherpas?

How long are most treks?

 

Teahouse Style Trekking

Clothing on Trek

 

Food on the Trail - Teahouse

Leader/Medical Discounts

 

NEPAL IN GENERAL

Food on the Trail - Group

Clothes in Kathmandu

Electrical current

MONEY & BUDGETING

Nepali Feet Etiquette

Nepali Fire Etiquette

Nepal Rupee Exchange Rate

Namaste

Kathmandu's altitude

Kathmandu Hotel Prices

Visas, permits, and fees

Land Cost excludes Airfare, etc

Tipping & Gifts

 
   
   

Q: What is expedition style trekking?

A: "Expedition style" trekking originated with the British mountain climbing expeditions of the 19th century. Hundreds of porters were hired to carry tons of hemp rope, iron crampons, woolen clothing, kerosene lanterns, canvas tents, rattan tables and chairs, heavy books, and other accoutrements of colonial life, up dauntingly steep hillsides, in order to set up a comfortable high-altitude camp.

In the 1990's, expedition style trekking means that a trekking group carries in much of its own food (rather than pillaging local supplies.) Guides set up sleeping, dining, and toilet tents every afternoon. Cooks daily prepare three delicious, hot, on-time meals. Washing basins full of hot water are offered when you arrive in camp. Porters carry your duffel bag, plus tents and camp gear. You carry only your daypack with water bottles, sweater, notebook, etc.

 

Q: Why trek with a group?

A: The BENEFITS of trekking with a group ("expedition style") are:

·         The trekking group packs in most of its food, building a familiar and reasonably varied menu.

·         Most large groups (15+ members) include a medical professional. Trekkers and Nepali staff receive free medical treatment while on trek.

·         Cook staff prepares balanced meals, served hot and on time, in a clean dining tent.

·         Guides translate and interpret. If your guide has traveled in the West, he/she may offer cross-cultural explanations too.

·         Guides help you cross rushing rivers, broken bridges, high passes, and landslides. They make sure you follow the right trails and retrieve you if you get lost.

·         Your tent and luggage arrives at the campsite before you do. Guides set up tent for you and place your luggage inside.

·         Tent & gear security

·         Hot washing water provided daily; laundry water provided on rest days.

·         Toilet tent set up, site fully buried, daily.

·         All government permits arranged (no waiting in Immigration Offices lines)

·         First time-trekkers are generally better off with a group trek, as are people with special diets, and those who enjoy the pleasant, familiar social life that a group trek provides.

 

Q: What kind of food is served on a group trek?

A: Cooks on group trek combine packed-in dry stores such as rice and popcorn with fresh market vegetables and fruits. For example:

·   Breakfast might be wheat pancakes with fresh local butter & imported maple syrup; granola with milk; fresh local eggs with hot chapati's; or coffee and toast with jam.

·   Lunch begins with a steaming cup of tea, followed by such offerings as rice with lentils and fresh local greens; or chapati's with dried meats, peanut butter, or cheese followed by fresh fruit.

·   Popcorn and cookies will be served when you arrive in camp. Dinner begins with hot soup, then perhaps fresh local chicken, savory rice, thick golden lentils, and market greens, followed by cookies and spice tea.

Not only is it cheaper for trekking groups to buy grains and oils in bulk in Kathmandu - but it is also better for preserving the village food supplies. At high altitude, we depend more on packed-in dried supplies. As we return to the lower hill country, we find fresh local meats, dairy, and produce in plentiful supply.

 

Q: Who are the staff on a group trek?

A: Operations manager [Sirdar], trail guides, Cooks, kitchen helpers, and porters

1.       Guides & the Sirdar. Guides set up camp tents, scout trails, interpret local culture, and watch over "their" trekkers like guardian angels. The Sirdar is the senior guide, and general manager.

2.       Cook & kitchen helpers. Cooks plan and direct all cooking. Kitchen helpers buy food in village markets, help cook, wash dishes, and carry the kitchen equipment.

3.       Porters. Porters carry all trekkers' bags, tents, and gear

 

Q: What equipment is provided?

A: Depending on the group's needs, Nepal Sherpa Treks will supply sleeping tents, mats, sleeping bags, dining tent, toilet tent, chairs, tables, washing basins, dishes, lanterns, etc. For rafting we provided rafts, life vests, waterproof barrels, etc. and all camping equipment.

 

Q: Do group leaders & medical personnel get DISCOUNTS?

A: Yes!

·         50% discount on land costs, per leader of group size 8-to-10

·         75% discount on land costs, per leader of group size11 or more

·         100% discount on land costs, per leader of group size 15 or more

·         50% discount on land costs, per extra assistant leader of group size 15 or more

·         additional leader discounts for larger groups

·         50% discount on land costs, for medical professional if the group size more than 10 and the medical person provides free medical treatment to members and Nepali crew, while on trek.

 

Q: What costs are not included in the price of a trek ("land cost")?

A: Nepal Sherpa Treks will help you arrange any desired flights & drives. However, the cost of these motorized transport services is extra:

·   Flights to/from Nepal or within Nepal

·   Driving to/from trailhead. (Driving costs ARE included in rafting trips and Kathmandu Valley Tours.)

·   Helicopter rescue or evacuation by car or bus

Please contact Nepal Sherpa Treks at  mingmar@nstreks.com (our Kathmandu email)  for more land cost info.

 

Q: What about trekking independently, without a guide?

A: Who might enjoy trekking on their own:

·       young, fit persons

·       adventurous, open-hearted, confusion-tolerant

·       plenty of hiking experience

·       speak some Nepali (or willing to carry a phrase book)

·       don't mind skipping a meal

·       don't mind sleeping in barns

 

Q: What is tea-house trekking?

A:  Tea-house trekking means walking from lodge to lodge. In recent years, trekker's tea-houses (lodges) spaced approximately one day's walk apart have been built along the popular trails (mainly Everest and Annapurna.) Although tea-house trekking can be fun and economical, it too has pro's and con's:

·   cheaper than group trek

·   more freedom to change itinerary

·   meet new friends in the lodges

·   food quality varies dramatically

·   bedbugs & fleas ever-present

·   if lodge is full, you must walk to next lodge (or private house, if available)

Nepal Sherpa Treks can organize a tea-house trek for you. We provide a guide and (if necessary) porters. Sleeping quarters and meals are provided by the lodge. Tea-house trekking suits solo, couple, or small group trekkers

 

Q: Why hire a guide?

A: Communication. Unless you speak Nepali, your ability to follow trail directions and to understand Nepalese cultural life depends on your translator-guide.

An exception may be the popular tea house trekking routes (Everest, Annapurna), where lodge owners speak trekking English. However, along the trail, you may miss important monasteries, festivals, and beauty of daily life unless your guide points them out.

The typical no-guide trekker talks primarily to other Western trekkers taking the same trail. In general, one will not learn too much by comparing notes with other non-cognoscenti!

We know a physically fit guy who trekked 25 days Around Annapurna without a guide. He got some terrific exercise and took stunning glacier photos. However, for 25 days, when he received the Nepali greeting "Namaste," he thought they were saying "have a nice day." We can only imagine what else he missed!

 

Q: Is a "Sherpa" the same as a "guide"?

A: Sherpas are an ethnic group from Eastern Nepal. However, the word "Sherpa" is often used to refer to the job of trail guide. While many guides are in fact ethnic Sherpas, your guide could belong to any of Nepal's approximately 35 ethnic groups. Your "Sherpa" might have Chettri, Rai, Limbu, Gurung, Tibetan, or other ancestry.

 

Q: Can I contact the outside world while on trek?

A: Finish your post and tel/fax/email while in Kathmandu. Certain remote villages now have telephones powered by photovoltaic panels. However, the phone batteries only charge when the sun is shining! No service in cloudy season. Main villages have post offices. Post offices near airstrips are best. Normally you will arrive home before your postcards do. However, Namche Bazaar, Pokhara, and most of the Indian border towns have public telephone, fax and possibly email.

 

Q: What clothes should I wear on trek?

A: LAYERS of comfortable, strong, easy-care hiking clothes and boots. Gore-tex© and Polartec© rule! Choose quick-drying rather than absorbent.

·        Ladies, leave your cotton undergarments in storage in your Kathmandu hotel! If you prefer natural fiber, Silk is a moderately absorbent but quick-drying choice for the inner layer. Dark colors are practical. Long underwear should be poly fleece.

·        60/40 poly/cotton shirts, pants, and skirts function well in the City as well in the hills, where it gets quite hot during the day. Above 10,000' and at night, use rugged synthetics ( usually polypropylene or nylon) for long underwear, boot sox, hats, neck gaiters, gloves, wind shells, tent, para-sails, etc. Once you get wet at altitude it is a major challenge to get dry!

·        Down sleeping bags are OK if they are stored in water-repellent stuff bags. Down fill is somewhat warmer and more compact than synthetic fill but down is dangerously non-insulating when wet. (Note: If you are planning to leave your sleeping bag as a gift for your guide, bring a strong microfiber polyfill bag. Down bags disintegrate during rigorous river washing by Sherpa wives and mothers!)

·        Goretex© lined boots are more expensive but they let your sweaty feet breathe. After a few weeks on the trail you will consider this marvelous innovation to be well worth the extra cost. Ditto for Goretex© outer shell jackets. If you are trekking in ice and snow, consider Goretex© mittens, caps, and gaiters.

·        Bring one inner jacket of thick fleece (e.g., polartec 300©) plus one outer shell of breathable, waterproof Goretex©. One down, poly fill, or fleece vest makes a good third layer.

·        The general rule is: pack so that on your coldest day, you bundle up in every layer you have. On your coldest night, wear all layers plus your sleeping bag.

·         You can check our recommended list or Most of the popular trekking guidebooks have recommended gear lists. REI has great gear & great guarantees.

 

Customary trekking dress:

·   Women: Skirts and slacks OK in village & town. Elders in remote areas may be offended by women wearing pants. Shorts OK on trail and in camp in popular trekking areas. Wearing shorts in a Nepali home is like wearing a bikini to Sunday dinner at your grandmother's.

·   Men: Long pants in village & town. Shorts OK on the trail and in camp. In Nepal only schoolboys, porters, and tourists wear shorts. Consider the elders in remote areas.

 

Q: What clothes should I wear in Kathmandu?

If you stay in the tourist district (Thamel) you can wear revealing western sports clothing with impunity. Everybody who works in the tourist industry (which is based in Thamel) is completely used to it, and likes it.

The tourist industry in Nepal resembles the entertainment industry in the US. The people who live and work in these two subcultures welcome innovation. Race & class barriers disappear. Relaxed freedom prevails. But outside of these subcultures, traditional barriers go back up, innovation is discouraged, and conservatism rules.

Therefore, if you are invited to a traditional Nepali home or office, regardless of what your trying-to-be-modern guide tells you:

·         Ladies should wear lightweight mid-calf skirts and half-sleeve blouses in town. (Please no shorts or sleeveless tops). Tourist ladies may also wear loose trousers. The currently popular western tunic-with-leggings outfit is OK too, although the longer the tunic the better.

·         Gentlemen wear long pants & shirt.

·         The traditional ladies' selwa kamez or punjabi dress-with-matching-pajama-style-pants is universally appropriate in Nepal. Buy an inexpensive set in the bazaar to cover all social situations.

·         In the winter add sweaters, hats, jackets, & warm socks. No snow in Kathmandu in the winter but a creeping, London-like damp penetrates everything.

You can store your Kathmandu attire in a small duffel bag to be left at your hotel while you are away on trek.

 

Q: Why can't I throw my burnable garbage (like Kleenex) into a Nepali kitchen fire?

A: Both Hindus and Buddhists in Nepal believe that the god of the house lives in the hearth fire. Throwing trash into that fire which forms the spiritual center of every village home brings bad luck to the house, and deeply insults the family.

However, you may cheerfully throw as much burnable trash into your expedition camping fire as you want, as there is no house god involved here!

 

Q: Why do I have to take my shoes off to enter a house, temple, or monastery? What's the big deal about pointing my feet at someone?

A: Both Hindus and Buddhists believe that spiritual bodies surround the physical body. Spiritual "waste" flows out the feet chakras. Children are taught from birth that their feet are polluted, and that it is EXTREMELY rude to point your feet at a superior or to touch another's feet.

Sherpas and other cold-altitude dwellers often do wear their shoes in the house. However, shoes must be removed before raising the feet (such as sitting cross-legged on a carpet or bed). Allow family members to enter the house ahead of you, and do as they do with their shoes.

Even in extreme cold, be sure to remove your shoes before entering any sacred space, such as a monastery (gompa).

 

Q: Is trekking different from mountain climbing?

A: Yes. Trekking in Nepal may include a walk to 18,000'. However, normal trekking will not require ropes and crampons. If the trail is so challenging that climbing equipment is required, the trip has changed from a "trek" to a "climb."

However, a few "trekking peaks" which are considered fairly easy, such as Island Peak near Mt. Everest, may be included as an optional section within a normal walking trek.

 

Q: Why schedule rest days? I want to cover as much ground as possible!

A: For acclimatization, on the way up. Rest days give your body's internal systems a chance to adjust to the increasing altitude/decreasing oxygen. Intelligently planned rest days greatly reduce the chance of altitude sickness.

 

Q: What is altitude sickness?

A: NST  refers you to the experts at the Himalayan Rescue Association in Nepal. The HRA page contains many valuable trekking health information links. Note their fact sheet on Helicopter Rescue. Excellent info also at the Princeton Altitude Sickness Page.

 

Q: Why walk vs. fly?

A: Walking up to high altitude allows slow, gentle acclimatization. Walking from Jiri (one day's bus ride from Kathmandu) at 4,000 feet, to Lukla, at 11,000 feet, takes about 7 comfortable days. Flying from Kathmandu to Lukla takes about 45 sudden minutes.

Ideally one should walk both ways, in order to experience the full beauty of the villages. However, if a flight is required due to time constraints, it is better for you to fly out (down).

 

Q: When is best season to trek in Nepal?

A: Nepal's mountain valleys feature many microclimates, but in general:

·        Late September to early December is cool dry season in most regions. Clear sky, dry trails, splendid mountain views. It rains and/or snows most areas of Nepal in January.

·        Late February through mid-May is another dry season. Slightly hazier views, dampish trails, but still very nice. Icky, sticky Monsoon season with red mud & omnipresent leeches starts in May, ends in mid-September.

 

Q: When is whitewater rafting season?

A: October through May. No rafting in monsoon season.

 

Q: Are trekking or area permits required in addition to visa?

A: Yes, for "remote areas."

·         You will need a visa for the length of your stay in Nepal. Your tourist visa from USA can be obtained in advance from Royal Nepal Embassy in Washington DC or at the Kathmandu airport on your arrival. Be aware that airport tourist visa queues can move very slowly indeed.

·         News on 18-JUL-2008: a single entry visa will now cost $30 for the first 30 days. Multiple entry : US$ 25 or equivalent convertible currency fir the period of 15 days
Multiple entry: US$ 40 or equivalent convertible currency for 30 days.

      Multiple entry: US$ 100 or equivalent convertible currency for 90 days.
 

·         News on 18-JUL-2008: TIMS permits are required for the normal trekking routes in the Everest, Langtang, and Annapurna regions. Remote Area trekking permits will only be issued for the restricted area through registered trekking companies only.

·         For remote areas as designated by Ministry of Tourism (such as Kanchenjunga or Dolpo or Upper Mustang), each trekker needs a Remote Area trekking permit showing the dates of your trek and the specific trekking area. You or your group leader must show a valid trekking permit at each police check-posts on the trail. NST 's trek list shows which treks require special permits.

·         Each outgoing air passenger must pay airport departure tax in cash (about US$15). Set this money aside upon arrival, so that you are not surprised at the end of your trip!

Note: all the above regulations are subject to change. Before booking your trek, be sure to verify the latest requirements.

 

Q: How many days does a trek take?

A: Treks last from 1 day walks out to the rim of the Kathmandu Valley to 2 months or more to remote regions. Average is about 3 ˝ weeksBE SURE TO CHECK WITH NST CURRENT PRICING mingmar@nstreks.com 

 

Q: Is Nepal safe for tourists?

A: The Nepalese are some of the most generous, most compassionate - and materially poorest - people in the world. Local folks assume that you are fabulously wealthy. Group treks offer complete personal and equipment security. For U.S. official Nepal Travel Advisory, see US State Dept Nepal Consular Info Sheet.

Alert common sense will protect you & your stuff most of the time. If you plan to trek alone in remote areas, we strongly recommend hiring a guide.

 

Q: Do I need immunizations?

A1:Ask the experts at the CIWEC Medical Clinic in Kathmandu. Also check in with Travel Medicine Inc. for answers to a wide variety of western traveller's health questions.

A2: Homeopathy offers an intelligent alternative to immunizations. There are several homeopathic pharmacies in Kathmandu. Consult your homeopath before leaving. 

 

Q: Can I drink the water?

A: Nepal's water is not potable for tourists, even at high altitudes. Trekkers must purify their drinking water to reduce diarrhea & other serious water-borne sickness while in Kathmandu and on trek. There is raw sewage in the Kathmandu water supply. We recommend iodine crystals because they are cheap, small size, and very effective against giardia etc. Physical filters are rarely fine enough to trap the little ickies and they are bulky to carry . Many better hotels serve boiled or super-filtered water with meals, which is generally OK. Camping-style treks provide sterilized water and super-washed vegetables while on trek. Travel Medicine Inc sells filters etc.

 

Q: Will my hairdryer work in my Kathmandu hotel?

A: Nepal's electrical current = 220 volts AC 50 cycles. You'll need converters for US appliances. Electrical service is also sporadic, with frequent blackouts and brownouts. Luxury hotels have backup generators, and visitors to the more economical trekking hotels rarely need hairdryers anyway!

 

Q: How high is Kathmandu?

A: Not high enough to get Altitude Sickness! Kathmandu sits at approximately 1300 meters, or 3500 feet, above sea level. Kathmandu Valley features a pleasant subtropical climate. Travel Medicine Inc also has some answers.

 

Q: How big is Nepal?

A: Nepal is approximately 500 miles long (from northwest to southeast) and ranges from 80-to-150 miles in width (from north to south). The Web is full of Nepal Facts.  Here is an excellent Map of Nepal with District Boundaries.

 

Q: How do guides and porters support their families on their wages of $8-15 per day?

A: Your cooks, guides, and porters depend on tips from happy trekkers in order to feed, house and educate their families, including parents, wives, siblings, and children. Tipping, rather than company salary, is the main source of trekking staff income. It's a good idea to set aside some tip money before you leave for your guide and the porter who carries your luggage. We recommend $5/per Sherpa/per trek day and $2/per porter/per trek day. If you are unhappy with the service you can always withhold your tip. Talk to your group leader, or ask us at Nepal Sherpa Treks.

Another wonderful gift for your guides and their families is warm clothes. If you can leave behind a sturdy jacket, vest, or sleeping bag, you will be remembered forever.

 

Q: What can I expect to pay for lodging in Kathmandu?

A: Kathmandu's Top Hotels may cost upwards of $150/night. Low-end guest house rooms may cost as little as $15/night. Kathmandu lodgings include everything in between. Nepal Sherpa Treks will arrange a clean, economical Kathmandu hotel for your group.

 

Q. What does Namaste mean?

A. In Sanskrit "Namas" means, "bow, obeisance, reverential salutation." It comes from the root Nam, which carries meanings of bending, bowing, humbly submitting and becoming silent. "Te" means "to you." Thus "namaste" means "I bow to you." The act of greeting is called "Namaskaram," "Namaskara" and "Namaskar" in the varied languages of the subcontinent. -- courtesy Dr. Jai Maharaj