Tips for the Traveller in Nepal – Money and Security
How much does it cost to trek in Nepal ? Well, that depends on the trekker, the trail chosen, and unforeseen circumstances. (There will always be unforeseen circumstances).
For our 12-day trek, the total quote from 3 Sisters Adventure Trekking was $1222 per person – about $100/day. This included flights from Kathmandu to and from Pokhara, and from Jomsom to Pokhara, most guest-house charges (including all meals, tea, beds, but excluding sodas, mineral water, and alcoholic drinks), transportation to the start of the trek, guide, and porter service.
In addition, from 3 sisters I rented a down sleeping bag, trekking poles, a large back pack for the assistant guide to tote my stuff in and a down jacket, at a total charge of 1320 NPR ( about $1.43/day for 11 days).
You should plan to tip the guide and the porters/assistant guides. Plan on 20% of the cost of the trip for the head guide and maybe 15% for the assistant who carries your backpack. (Oops! Cost just went up, didn’t it?) This should be in cash, so allow for time to visit the ATM in Pokhara or make sure you have retained enough cash from before the trek.
In addition to the tips for the guides, budget at least 800 Nepalese rupees (about $10 USD)/day of trekking for odd expenses and shopping. Have the cash with you in small denominations – there are few ATMs on the trekking circuit, and lots of irresistible expenses: Tibetan crafts, pashmina scarves, yak-fur blankents, Internet cafés…. If you flash a large-denomination bill, you only invite inflated prices.
Haggling over prices is traditional throughout Nepal. It is very easy to get swept into a competitive spirit of trying to get the cheapest price no matter what – try to keep perspective. If you pay 500NPR ($5.90 USD) for a yak-wool blanket and your friend is gloating that she paid only 450NPR for hers – that’s a savings of 60 cents. Relax!
If you are worried about security for your cash and equipment, bring your own lock for your guest-house door. Most are secured with a padlock of some sort, but monitoring of the access keys is haphazard.
We actually ended up with a small refund on our prepayment as we had to use jeep and bus transport instead of in-country flights – but that’s getting ahead of my story.
Remember that you must change your Nepali currency back to Thai or US or whatever you will need next at the Kathmandu Airport – some other countries, including the US, will not accept Nepali rupees for exchange. If your next stop is Thailand, you will be glad of the Bhat if you find ATMs closed (as we did) on your arrival in Bangkok.
(I learned this the hard way – if anyone is going to Nepal and wants a bargain rate on abour $70USD in Nepali Rupees let me know – no foreign exchange or bank on the West Coast will take them.)