I spent 14 weeks total in Nepal, trekking for all but 3 of those weeks. The total cost of those 14 weeks, including my plane ticket, was $4800. My round-trip plane ticket was $1300, so I spent roughly $1000 per month during my time in Nepal.
Things that increased my spending:
- I flew in and out of Lukla a total of 4 times. At about $160 per direction that added $640 to my overall trip cost. Lukla is where treks in the Everest region begin and end. I could have saved on that cost by taking a bus to either Jiri or Shivalaya and starting my trek from there, adding several days to my itinerary. Compare that to getting to the Annapurnas or Lang Tang where I spent less than $5 per bus ticket.
- Spending lots of time in Kathmandu and Pokhara. They are certainly places worth exploring, but being in the city raised my daily expenses up to about $30 a day.
- Buying new shoes in Kathmandu. After my first hike on the Annapurna Circuit I decided my hiking boots were not comfortable enough and I switched to trail runners. This meant I had to buy a new pair of shoes in Kathmandu. There are plenty of stores that sell cheap, knock-off gear but I wanted a good pair of shoes. I spent about $130 on a pair of trail runners at the real North Face store in Kathmandu.
- Spending lots of time in the Everest region. Out of the three regions I hiked in (Everest, Annapurna, and Lang Tang) Everest was the most expensive at $20-25 a day spending conservatively. I know in the scheme of things that really isn’t very much money for traveling so I’m not complaining. If you’re goal is to spend the least amount of money possible then consider going to the Lang Tang region. For me personally, I think it was worth the money because the Three Passes in Everest might have been my favorite trek I did in Nepal.
- Trekking permits. For every region I went to, I needed a new TIMs card. They can be acquired in Kathmandu and Pokhara and cost about $20 each. Additionally, each region had their own permit costing about $32. I got my Annapurna permit at the TIMs office, and my Everest and Lang Tang permits at the entrances to each park. This is something that can’t be helped as there are regular permit checkposts throughout all trekking regions.
- A three day raft trip. I had some down time so I joined a raft trip with Rapid Runners, who are based out of Pokhara. This was $150 for three days all food, gear, guides, and transport included. $50 a day did blow my budget for the week, but it was also totally worth it.
I could have probably reduced my overall trip cost by $1000 by hiking (not flying) in and out of Lukla, bringing comfortable shoes from home, not going on a raft trip, and spending less time in cities.
Things I saved money on:
- Hiking in the Lang Tang region. I only spent $10-12 a day while hiking in Lang Tang, and my bus ticket to get there was about $4.50. The Lang Tang region was hit pretty hard by the earthquake and I saw damage in every village I went to. I was happy to be spending my money there and helping the economy.
- Not having a guide or porter. The cost varies but it seemed most people I talked to spent a minimum of $25 a day to have a guide and $10 a day to have a porter, plus tips. I’m pretty confident in my hiking abilities, so I didn’t feel like I needed a guide or porter. Lots of trekkers had guides and porters and lots didn’t. If you’re not a confident hiker then by all means get a guide. Trekking at a high altitude is really freaking hard, so hire a porter if you want to make things easier on yourself. Compared to Western prices, these services are low cost.
- Staying on trail for as long as possible. Stretching out my hiking days saved money because the overall daily cost is low, and there are not many distractions to spend extra money on.
- Eating local food. Ordering meals of rice, eggs, and curried vegetables helped keep costs low. I would pay quite a bit in the mountains when I got a craving for chocolate, Coke, and beer. I once paid $4 for a Snickers bar!
- Spending time in villages that are off the main trail. I took three days off in Khumjung, which is a village several hours off of the Everest Base Camp trek. Since Khumjung isn’t as heavily frequented as more accessible villages my spending was slightly lower at $15-17 per day.
- Similarly, getting out of the cities to smaller towns is a good way to save. I took a bus several hours out of Pokhara to a town called Begnas Tal, where I only spend $9 a day. Ask other tourists for recommendations or just look at a map to find towns that are less frequented.
$1000 a month is comparable to hiking in the US and is comparable to budget travel in general. If you can afford a hiking trip at home, you can probably afford a hiking trip in Nepal.