The sense of freedom that comes with hiking in the Himalaya is glorious, and it is a big part of the draw for many adventurous travelers. But there are a number of reasons why hiring a local guide might be a good idea, and improved safety is just one of them. Not only are these guides completely familiar with the trails you’ll be walking, they’re also familiar with the region as a whole. They recognize when the weather is taking a turn for the worse, and they generally know when its time to get off the trail, and huddle up in one of the traditional teahouses found along the routes. They also tend to have relationships with various teahouse proprietors, making it easier to find a place to stay when you’re forced to get off the trail quickly. As with just about any region of the world, a well-trained, certified, and knowledgeable guide can be a valuable resource to have at your disposal. Additionally, there have been instances where solo trekkers have gone missing in the Himalaya in recent years. Having a guide, should help alleviate those fears as well.
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.
Many international travelers turn off their cell phone when they travel abroad, especially when visiting a place as remote as the Himalaya. But, it turns out that there is solid cell service along many trekking routes, and phone calls can even be placed in such unexpected places as Everest Base Camp. Cheap cell phones, and SIM cards, are available in Kathmandu, and use it to stay in touch while on your trek. Service will not be available everywhere, but you may just find yourself surprised at how often you are able to make and receive a call.
Almost every trekking route in Nepal will expose hikers to high altitudes, which can certainly test both the lungs and the legs. Be sure to take your time on your trek, and give your body the opportunities it needs to acclimatize properly to the thinner air. Altitude sickness is a real concern for anyone visiting the High Himalaya, and if it isn’t taken seriously, it can cause all kinds of health issues, including headaches, dizziness, nausea, and even death. Be sure to build some rest days into your schedule, and don’t push yourself too hard out on the trail. A slow, steady pace is the best approach, and will give you the best chance of staying healthy, and successfully completing the trek.
Fall is the absolute best time to go trekking in Nepal, as the weather is generally at its best, and most stable. That said, anytime you go hiking in the mountains, conditions can be unpredictable, and change rapidly. Be sure to bring the proper gear that will allow you to endure a variety of weather conditions that you probably can, and will, encounter. That may mean packing extra items that you may not ever use, but it is better to have them, and never need them, then the other way around. When I visited Everest Base Camp a few years back, took a very cozy down jacket along for the trip. As it turned out, temperatures were warm enough that I never needed to break it out, but it was comforting knowing that it was there, just in case. Pack good base layers, a fleece jacket, and outer shells. Don’t forget proper hiking socks, a hat, and gloves. Having the proper clothing can be the difference between enjoying your walk, and suffering mightily.
Store the bulk of your cash in a secure place, away from prying eyes. If you carry something like the PacSafe 125 Travel Pouch, it could save you a lot of grief, not to mention money.
As mentioned, the weather in the big mountains can be very fluid, and it is important to stay up on what is not only happening there presently, but what will be happening in the days ahead. That is easier to do before you depart for the Himalaya, although the forecasts can be checked in any of the villages that do have an Internet connection as well. Two good sites for keeping track of the weather include Mountain-Forecasts.com and MeteoExploration.com. Consult them both before you head to Nepal, and as regularly as you can while you’re out on the trail.
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.
Carry water purification pills and drink only bottled water or water that has been boiled. Steer clear of raw vegetables and cut fruit, which may have been rinsed with local water.
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.
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.
I know many people don’t feel the need to purchase travel insurance before they go on a trip abroad, but if you’re visiting a remote region, it is a good idea to purchase some coverage none the less. Not only will it help protect you from an unexpected trip cancellation, it could also help pay for an evacuation to a hospital should the need arise. Travel insurance is generally relatively inexpensive, but it provides a good piece of mind when you’re visiting a part of the world where the environments and activities can be potentially dangerous.