READ THIS BEFORE HIKING TO EVEREST BASE CAMP:
17 ESSENTIAL THINGS TO KNOW
Everything you want to know before embarking on your Everest Base Camp trek.
- # 1 : WHAT IT IS GOING TO BE LIKE
- # 2 : GUIDED OR INDEPENDENTLY?
- # 3 : WHAT IT IS GOING TO COST YOU
- # 4 : YOU’RE GOING TO FLY INTO THE WORLDS MOST DANGEROUS AIRPORT
- # 5 : IT’S GOING TO BE REALLY, REALLY TOUGH
- # 6 : THERE’S A GOOD (AND BAD) TIME OF YEAR
- # 7 : IT’S GOING TO TAKE 9 DAYS TO GET TO THE TOP, AND JUST 3 TO GET DOWN
- # 8 : WHAT TO DO ABOUT A SLEEPING BAG (AND OTHER STUFF)
- # 9 : THE FOOD IS ACTUALLY ALRIGHT (MOST OF THE TIME)
- # 10 : THERE’S A COUPLE OF PERMITS REQUIRED
- # 11 : YOU WONT NEED A MAP
- # 12 : YOU WONT BE STAYING IN HOTELS
- # 13 : PACK VERY LIGHT. HERE’S OUR LIST OF ESSENTIALS
- # 14 : YOU’LL NEED A FIRST AID KIT. HERE’S THE ESSENTIALS
- # 15 : DON’T FORGET TO BRING SNACKS
- # 16 : YOU WILL NEED TO ACCLIMATISE
- # 17 : YOU’RE GOING TO SEE THE MOST AMAZING VIEWS OF YOUR ENTIRE LIFE
LOCATION | NORTH EAST NEPAL
TREK LENGTH | 130 KILOMETRES
TREK DURATION | 12 – 13 DAYS
HIGHEST POINT | 5364 METRES
HIGHLIGHTS | INCREDIBLE VIEWS / MT EVEREST / SHERPA CULTURE
Concluding at over 5364m in elevation, the trek to Everest Base Camp is one of the most challenging, picturesque and stunningly beautiful treks in the entire world. A bucket list adventure, this 130 kilometre adventure takes an average of 13 days to complete. Those embarking on the once-in-a-lifetime experience are forced to compete with: freezing temperatures, altitude sickness and the most dangerous airport in the world.
Knowing where to start when planning a trip to EBC can be overwhelming and confusing. We are here to enlighten you. Let us outline every process of the planning and executing stages, and eliminate the confusion.
If you are interested in a VERY detailed costs breakdown, click on our budget post here, where we cover every aspect of the money side of things.
# 1 : WHAT IT IS GOING TO BE LIKE
Most Everest Base Camp treks start in Lukla, after a short, 35-minute flight (in a very small plane), from Kathmandu. Generally, people take between 12 and 14 days to complete the entire round-trip, with no side trip to Gokyo Lake and Cho-La Pass (with the side trip, expect to add on an additional 4/5 days).
Peak season on the mountain is October/November, so if planning a trip then, expect LOTS of people, full guesthouses and inflated prices. Shoulder season is also a great time to go, with December seeing very clear skies and little precipitation, but plummeting temperatures (lows of -30c).
Accommodation is generally very, very basic, with small rooms containing 2 single beds being the norm. Electricity is sparse higher up, so expect to pay for any device charging, wifi and showers.
Most people choose to bring some kind of porter or guide with them for the trek. Porters will carry your bags for you – leaving you with just a small daypack for water, sunglasses etc.. Guides are largely unnecessary if you’re worried about finding your way along the trail. Due to the fact that it is (for the most part) very well signposted and clear what direction to travel in. Alternatively, some people choose to pay for guides to benefit from the wealth of information they can share about the local culture, landscape, people etc..
In general, the terrain is difficult for people not good on their feet. The path tends to be very over used in many places, with huge amounts of footfall from both people and livestock causing a deteriorating trail. Hiking poles and good footwear are (in our opinion) a must for everyone.
The altitude after Namche Bazaar (3440m) makes the trek very challenging. Acclimatisation days are a must for everyone. Expect to move between half and a quarter of your normal pace. Especially as you move further up the trail.
# 2 : GUIDED OR INDEPENDENTLY?
After deciding it’s time for you to embark on the trek to EBC, the first logical decision to make is; should I do this as part of a guided tour, or solo?
There are a multitude of options when it comes to choosing a company to take the reins on your hike. As we didn’t take this route, we wont sell any kind of recommendation. A simple Google search will get the ball rolling, if that’s your decision.
Do note though, that taking a guide and/ or a porter is still an option for independent travellers.
Generally, people embarking on an independent trek will arrange a guide and porter in either Kathmandu or Lukla. It isn’t necessary to pay a company to arrange this for you, unless that’s your preferred choice for peace of mind.
SO DO I NEED A GUIDE?
The short answer is no. However, whether or not you need a guide and/ or porter is completely down to personal choice. Some of the reasons you may choose to take a guide with you could be; to learn about the local culture from a genuine local, to help the local economy, and for safety. Obviously, the option to not hire a guide is a very viable one for a lot of people. Due to the trail being (mostly) very well signposted. You may also not be interested in hearing about the local culture. This is a very practical option, and the option that we chose to take on our Everest Base Camp trek.
The quality of your guide can vary drastically, depending on which one you choose to go with. Ensure your guide fluently speaks your language before agreeing to anything, and it is obviously going to be much more enjoyable if you get along with your guide.
Porters will usually solely carry one (potentially two) large backpack, and can also be hired in Lukla.
Expect to pay anything upwards of around $2000 per person for a guided tour with a company from outside of Nepal. This price wont include travel and accommodation to/ from and in Kathmandu, and what it will include will depend greatly on company and price.
If independently hiring porters and guides, expect to pay around $35/$40 per day for a guide, and around $25/$35 per day for a porter.
# 3 : WHAT IT IS GOING TO COST YOU
The subject of “how much will it cost?” is a very lengthy one. So we have done the sensible thing, and created an entire, very detailed post on the subject.
In short, our total costs per person were: $766.
This includes (almost) everything encountered on the Everest Base Camp Trek.
*This does not include; guides, porters or any kind of special travel insurance.
TO GET INSPIRED WITH OUR ENTIRE GALLERY OF INCREDIBLE EVEREST BASE CAMP PHOTOS, CHECK OUT THIS POST HERE.
# 4 : YOU’RE GOING TO FLY INTO THE WORLDS MOST DANGEROUS AIRPORT
As there are no road connections to the small town of Lukla at the start of the Everest Base Camp trek, for most people, flying into Lukla is the obvious choice.
In 2019, most of the flights between Lukla and Kathmandu were moved to nearby Ramechhap – a 4/5 hour drive from Kathmandu – in order to ease the strain put on air traffic control by the ever increasing number of flights during peak season at Kathmandu International Airport. There are, however, still a number of flights leaving and arriving from Kathmandu Intl. Airport every day, but the number is much lower. This means that booking in advance has become much more necessary, with flights in peak season fully booked weeks in advance.
If flying outside of peak season, arranging flights in and out of Kathmandu should be easy. We flew in early December, and booked our flights just one day before departing.
If flying inside of peak season, advance booking is recommended. If that isn’t possible, flights from Ramechhap are probably your best bet.
Lukla airport is considered by many to be one of the most dangerous airports in the world, due to its location and situation in the mountains. All flights in and out of here are on very small, propellor aircrafts, and make for an incredible experience alone, with amazing views of the himalayas.
A one way flight between Lukla and Kathmandu will cost: $179 per person.
It is slightly cheaper to and from Ramechhap (depending on time of year), but allow at least $15 and 5 hours each way for transport to Ramechhap from Kathmandu.
Flying into Lukla isn’t the only option. As there are no roads connecting Lukla to the rest of Nepal, the only other option is to walk to Lukla to start your Everest Base Camp trek. One popular option is to start the trek in the small town of Jiri, and hike for 3 – 6 days up to Lukla, to connect with the main Everest Base Camp trail. Jiri can easily be reached by bus or jeep from Kathmandu, making the overall expense considerably less without the expensive flights. However, if you are considering starting/finishing in Jiri for budget reasons, remember to factor in that the extra 9(ish) days needed to hike the extra distance will require food and accommodation, pushing the overall expense back up again.
# 5 : IT’S GOING TO BE REALLY, REALLY TOUGH
One of the things that surprised us the most about our Everest Base Camp trek was the level of difficulty. When we read about the trek before leaving, we saw the numbers (3 – 9 miles per day, 300m – 600m elevation gain per day) and figured it would be easy, having done things like this before (3 month Pacific Crest Trail hike, 10 week Pacific Coast Highway bicycle ride). The plain fact is that this was – by far – the most difficult thing we have ever done, simply because of the altitude. There is no way to tell how your body will respond to being at such a high altitude until you get there, and ours really struggled.
Most of the people we met and talked with on our trek were in a very similar boat, with around 50% sick or unable to make it to the top. The bottom line is that – if you are not used to it – you will find the altitude will be very, very tough. Expect to move slow and struggle to catch your breath after every movement, and for the few nights over about 4500m, even sleeping becomes very difficult.
It’s not just the altitude that makes for a tough trek. Hiking for 12+ days on the trot is difficult by itself, added on to the simple fact that you’ll be carrying and living out of a backpack the entire time and sharing small spaces with other, smelly hikers makes it a real struggle.
Of course, none of this is intended to put you off doing embarking on your own Everest Base Camp trek (quite the opposite), we just feel it is important to cover every element, both good and bad. Before we left, we weren’t aware of just how hard it was going to be, making us struggle even more when we got to high elevations, with no chance to prepare for the difficulty. We read a lot of information online that told us that the trek was ‘easy’ and ‘everyone could do it’, and whilst we don’t feel like this is the most physically demanding thing you can do, we do feel that all challenging aspects made it a lot more arduous than we had anticipated.
**Also note that Diamox (an altitude sickness prevention medication) – or similar – can be used to help treat and relieve the effects of altitude, but can also produce side effects not too dissimilar to the effects that altitude can have on your body. We took Diamox for 2 days whilst at around 5000m, but still struggled with the altitude immensely.**
TO SEE OUR VERY DETAILED BREAKDOWN OF EVERY PENNY WE SPENT ON OUR 2 WEEK TREK, READ THIS POST.
# 6 : THERE’S A GOOD (AND BAD) TIME OF YEAR
There are two main seasons when trekking to Everest Base Camp. Peak season falls in October and November, with March and April closely behind.
BEST TIME OF YEAR
The ‘best’ time of year – and subsequently the time with the most trekker traffic – is October to November. This is when guesthouses fill up, and the trail becomes a chain of people. It is also the time of year with a balance of both; very little cloud cover, haze and precipitation; and milder temperatures at higher elevations.
December is incredibly clear, with little to no precipitation and cloud cover, and a lot less people on the mountain. Less people makes for more beds in guesthouses, and better photos with less people on the trail. It is, however, also incredibly cold, with temperatures as low as -30c in Gorak Shep.
For those wishing to summit Everest, climbing season is April and May – meaning that, these months are the only time that there is camp at Base Camp. That may be something to consider if you are hoping to see the real Everest Base Camp.
WORST TIME OF YEAR
Generally, June, July and August are monsoon months, meaning trekking is almost impossible. Also, January and February are much too cold and can see a large amount of snow on the trail, also making trekking impossible for most people.
# 7 : IT’S GOING TO TAKE 9 DAYS TO GET TO THE TOP, AND JUST 3 TO GET DOWN
DAY ONE – Lukla to Phakding – 8km, 4 hours
DAY TWO – Phakding to Namche Bazaar – 11km, 6 hours
DAY THREE – Namche Bazaar Acclimatisation
DAY FOUR – Namche Bazaar to Tengboche – 10km, 5 hours
DAY FIVE – Tengboche to Dingboche – 9km, 6 hours
DAY SIX – Dingboche Acclimatisation
DAY SEVEN – Dingboche to Thukla – 4km, 3 hours
DAY EIGHT – Thukla – Lobuche – 4km, 3 hours
DAY NINE – Lobuche to Gorak Shep to Everest Base Camp – 13km, 9 hours
DAY TEN – Lobuche to Pheriche – 11km, 6 hours
DAY ELEVEN – Pheriche to Namche Bazaar – 20km, 8 hours
DAY TWELVE – Namche Bazaar to Lukla – 19km, 8 hours
# 8 : WHAT TO DO ABOUT A SLEEPING BAG (AND OTHER STUFF)
Gear in Kathmandu is cheap. Really cheap. Whether you rent or buy, you can get everything you need here.
Some of the essential items you’ll need wont need to be bought. The streets of Thamel, Kathmandu are lined with literally hundreds of trekking stores. Most of these will hire out gear.
Almost every store will loan you a sleeping bag and a down jacket for around 100 rupees per day. Other stores will rent out backpacks, hiking poles, tents – whatever it is an adventurer might need in the Himalaya. However, for the Everest Base Camp trek, you are just going to need a sleeping bag and a down jacket – no technical gear at all.
We hired ours from “Paldor Trekking Equipment Shop” in Jyatha, Thamel – along with a backpack each. The total for the three items was 320 rupees per day.
For some gear, it makes sense to buy instead of rent. Thamel is a hub of cheap, fake trekking equipment. Although it can vary a huge amount in quality, most of this equipment is good for a few weeks trekking. We would recommend buying: any hiking clothes (thermals, fleece-lined trousers, fleeces etc.), hiking poles, gloves, hats, socks etc. as opposed to trying to rent it.
If, like us, you are travelling for a long time, and don’t necessarily have the warm clothes you’re going to need on the trek, rest assured that it is really easy (and cheap) to get everything you need in Kathmandu.
FOR OUR FACTS ABOUT HIKING THE PACIFIC CREST TRAIL IN CALIFORNIA, SEE OUR POST HERE.
# 9 : THE FOOD IS ACTUALLY ALRIGHT (MOST OF THE TIME)
“Dal bhat power: 24 hour”
There are few food items that Nepal is famous for. Of them, ‘dal bhat’ and ‘momos’ are definitely at the top. These are a staple in almost every single guesthouse and restaurant on the trail. That’s a good thing. So what are they?
Dal is a lentil soup. Bhat means ‘steamed rice’. Dal bhat is literally a lentil soup with rice. It varies in quality from restaurant to restaurant, and it is generally served with some kind of poppadom (papad), pickled vegetables and (occasionally) vegetable curry.
Most places will refill your rice and soup for you once you have finished it. They may even refill your curry. For this reason, dal bhat is probably the best food to order after a long, hard day of trekking.
These small, oval-shaped, dumpling-like snacks are usually stuffed with some kind of spiced vegetable goodness. Generally served with some sort of tomato sauce, each plate consists of around 10.
VEGETARIAN OR NOT?
It’s no secret that people get sick on the Everest Base Camp trek. One surefire way to ensure you get some level of food poisoning is to eat meat. It’s common knowledge on the trek that you should avoid eating the meat at pretty much every opportunity. This isn’t difficult, as every single restaurant has around the same number of vegetarian options as non-vegetarian.
WHAT DOES THE NEPALI MENU HAVE TO OFFER? FIND OUT HERE!
# 10 : THERE’S A COUPLE OF PERMITS REQUIRED
As of 2020, there are 2 permits required to hike to Everest Base Camp. It is no longer necessary to acquire a TIMS card/permit before embarking on your trek. The two permits required are both acquired on the trek itself, and should be paid for in Nepalese Rupees.
The first is the: Khumbu Pasang Lhamu Rural Municipality Entrance Permit. This permit replaces the old system of having a TIMS card, and costs 2000 NRs. It is obtained in Lukla, at a small office on the northern edge of the town.
The second permit is the: Sagarmatha National Park Entry Permit. This permit is purchased in Monjo, and costs 3000 NRs.
# 11 : YOU WONT NEED A MAP
Maps are largely unnecessary, but can be a comfort to have on your person. The majority of the trail is clearly signposted, with the main trail being discernible more often than not. However, maps can be purchased from multiple shops in Kathmandu for around 300 rupees.
Our go-to offline maps resource is maps.me. All trails we needed were on maps.me, which made getting lost almost impossible.
# 12 : YOU WONT BE STAYING IN HOTELS
Whilst on the Everest Base Camp trek, you will be staying in guesthouses or “teahouses”. These very simple buildings consist of small rooms, with shared bathrooms and simple restaurants. You’ll spend most of your evening in the common area (or, ‘restaurant’) by the yak poop fuelled fire place, keeping warm. You’ll then retire to a very simple bedroom, with probably two single beds and nothing else. These beds will be so solid that your spine will ache for days.
The temperature in these rooms can dip as low as -30c degrees in December and January, so bringing your own adequate sleeping bag is essential in winter. Water bottles by your pillow will freeze during the night. The walls are so thin you’ll hear your neighbour breathing.
Blankets and pillows are provided, but it’s almost mandatory to ask for extra blankets during winter.
# 13 : PACK VERY LIGHT. HERE’S OUR LIST OF ESSENTIALS
- Sleeping bag – We rented ours, and made sure it was rated down to -15 degrees C.
- Down jacket – We also rented these. To be honest, we didn’t wear them as much as we thought we would while trekking. But, we did wear them in the evenings. Danielle used hers to keep her feet warm in the sleeping bag at night.
- Thermals/layers – We just took multiple layers.
- Hat – Brenna lived in hers.
- Buff – Multi purpose! Dust mask, scarf, nose warmer, greasy-hair-hider!
- Warm socks – Brenna got a pair in Kathmandu for 150 rupees
- Underwear – I hope this doesn’t need an explanation…
- Gloves – Brenna wore hers to bed too. 300 rupees for thick ski style ones in Kathmandu.
- Sun cream – The sun is stupidly strong. Brenna fell victim to a burnt nose (even with the cream). Some people got some severe burns on the way down! Don’t be that person! (We brought ours in Namche for 700 rupees. Disclaimer: it was out of date!
- Chap stick with SPF – We also brought this in Namche. 350 rupees
- Sun glasses – Snow blindness is a real possibility.
- Hiking pole(s) – It’s rocky and there are large steps. Danielle’s saved her from more than a few twisted ankles.(1000 rupees for a pair)
- Fleece/sweater – Its COLD!
- Water purification tablets – 200 rupees in Kathmandu for a box of 50 tablets (50 litres worth). We didn’t pay for any water while up on the trek (one litre is 400 rupees in Gorak shep).
- TOILET ROLL – It’s very expensive on the trek (500 rupees a roll in Dingboche!)
- Hand sanitiser – After Dingboche, the guesthouses don’t have running water.
- Snacks – We love snacks. See below.
- Wet wipes – We were not brave enough to shower, as it is far too cold to be wet. We were also not convinced the water would actually be hot. So, wet wipes were our best friends (along with that hand sanitiser).
- Toothbrush – … and paste.
- Bed clothes – You will get covered in dust (and yak poop crumbs). We’d suggest keeping some clothes as strictly inside clothes.
- Water bottle – We just reused a regular plastic one, but it wasn’t the most sturdy.
AND DON’T FORGET THE CAMERA!
HERE’S WHY YOU SHOULDN’T BE SPENDING THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS $$ ON YOUR PACFIC CREST TRAIL HIKE (OR ANY HIKE).
# 14 : YOU’LL NEED A FIRST AID KIT. HERE’S THE ESSENTIALS
We took ibuprofen and paracetamol, which we took for the head ache induced by the altitude.
Thankfully, we didn’t need to use these, but we came across a lot of people who did.
For the blisters your new hiking boots will give you (if you don’t break them in first).
ANTISEPTIC WIPES & CREAM
For the blisters and cuts you may get.
If you get more than just a headache, it’s time to starting taking the Diamox. We were very reluctant to start taking it, and should have probably started taking it a day earlier than we did. Once we did take it we both felt much better. We only took it for 2 days. One tablet before bed and one when we woke up.
WATER PURIFICATION TABLETS
It’s going to save you SO much money! We just asked the staff in the lodges to fill the bottles and they were more than happy to do so. The only place we had an issue was Gorak Shep. There the water was pretty murky and tasted a bit like old oil.
# 15 : DON’T FORGET TO BRING SNACKS
We bought an entire bag full of snacks from a small shop in Thamel, Kathmandu, the day before embarking on our Everest Base Camp trek. Snacks are really, really expensive on the trek (500 rupees for a mars bar), so it makes sense to fit a bag of snacks into your backpack. Most people feel a great loss of appetite at altitude, so small, high calorie foods are essential for having the energy to power yourself up the hill.
# 16 : YOU WILL NEED TO ACCLIMATISE
Part of the reason it takes so long to get up to the top is because of a very important little thing called acclimatisation days. Put simply, these are days in which you will sleep at the same altitude for more than one night. So, for example, you will need to spend at least 2 nights in Namche Bazaar and Dingboche in order to acclimatise (depending on your itinerary).
WHEN WILL YOU ACCLIMATISE?
The general rule is that, if you gain any amount between 300m and 900m in elevation over one 24 hour period, you must spend two nights at that new elevation. If you gain 300m or less, you probably wont need to acclimatise. Therefore, on big elevation days, you’ll probably have to spend the next day ‘resting’.
And by ‘resting’ we don’t mean ‘doing nothing’. One thing that is required in this whole acclimatisation process, is hiking high and sleeping low. This means that you’re going to have to spend the morning hiking up to that nearby viewpoint before relaxing in that bakery!
WHO NEEDS TO ACCLIMATISE?
Everyone. If you are not Sherpa (or just from the Himalayas in general) you must acclimatise. Period.
# 17 : YOU’RE GOING TO SEE THE MOST AMAZING VIEWS OF YOUR ENTIRE LIFE
MY PHOTOGRAPHY GEAR
LAPTOP – Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch
SMALL CAMERA – Olympus OMD- E-M10 Mark II
ZOOM LENS – Olympus M.Zuiko 40-150mm Lens
DSLR BODY – Canon 60D
WIDE ANGLE LENS – Sigma 10-20mm Lens
DRONE – DJI Mavic Pro
ACTION CAMERA – GoPro Hero 7 Black Edition
MICROPHONE – Rode VideoMicro
CAMERA BAG – Lowepro Fastpack 250 AW II