I had always wanted to go to Nepal, but I was nervous about how I was going to go trekking as a solo lady traveler. Once I dug into researching, it turns out it is way less daunting than it seems.
First of all, you do not need to be Pasang Llamu Sherpa Akita to go trekking in Nepal. Traveling solo in Nepal can be super easy and you shouldn’t miss out on exploring the beautiful Nepalese mountains just because you’re on your own or you aren’t a professional rock climber! Here are some tips and recommendations for planning your trek.
- Getting Started
Ask yourself what you are looking for out of your trek and that will be the perfect starting point. Be clear and honest with yourself about your fitness level and your expectations.
Are you comfortable camping or would you prefer a bed? What is your budget? Do you want your trek to be challenging or, do you want something more laidback? Do you want to meet people or go at it alone? Do you want a cultural experience as well? How long do you want to go for? Etc.
My trip: I don’t mind roughing it and I wasn’t worried about how challenging or laidback the trek was. May main goal was that I wanted to combine yoga and trekking and I had a very specific time frame.
- Finding a Guide
Do you need a guide? I am of the camp that yes, you should have a guide while trekking. However, if you are a savvy outdoorswoman and you’re doing one of the more popular trekking routes, and you have a map, compass, and you stick to the trail, you should be fine.
However, hiking alone can be dangerous (for both men and women), so why not use this opportunity to dig deeper into Nepalese culture and make a new friend? The Nepalese are lovely, beautiful, smiling, friendly, knowledgeable people and they can make your trip memorable and safe. I know my trip would not nearly have been the amazing experience it was without my guide Chandra getting Nepali dance parties started, teaching me new phrases, or organizing impromptu cooking classes with guesthouse owners.
There are hundreds of guides in Nepal where you can book in advance or once you’re in town. Your guesthouse may even be able to recommend a guide or company for you. Be aware that some treks require a minimum of two people and the company of a Nepali guide, while other treks just straight up ban solo trekking. Either way, make sure your guide is a certified and legal guide and you have your trekking permits!
If you are shopping around for a guide, might I suggest 3 Sisters Adventure Treks? They specialize in providing female guides and porters to female trekkers. They also have a wonderful guesthouse in Pokhara. They come highly recommended and what an amazing thing to be a solo female traveler supporting local female entrepreneurs and women owned businesses!
Another option for trekking is signing up for a tour! This is a great option if you are going on a more complex trek. Then you can focus on the trekking while a professional makes all the arrangements. This is a great option for people who don’t have much experience, beginner hikers, and/or if you just need to not be planning for once in your life.
My trip: I found a Yoga/ Trekking company that took care of every little detail of the trek including transport to and from Pokhara. I highly recommend Nepal Yoga Trek if you’re into meditation and yoga
Traveling solo can always have more of an impact on the wallet than traveling in a group. However, Nepal is incredibly inexpensive. While on the trek, you will be able to get away with $20/ day for food, accommodation, and a hot bucket of water. The biggest cost will be the guide or tour. But, there are loads of solo travelers in Pokhara or Thamel looking to split the cost of a private guide and accommodation if you’re strapped for cash! Most teahouses are shared two bedroom rooms anyway, so it can be nice to share with a new friend.
In general, there is a huge price range for tours. You can go super glamorous or super rugged depending on your budget. A friend of mine who grew up in Nepal reminded me that there is such a thing as “too cheap” when he put it to me this way: “don’t go too cheap, cause you never know what you’re gonna get (ie: roasted rat while you sleep in an opium den after a 10 hour day of hiking)”.
When looking at costs of tours, take a look at what is included, read reviews, and see what is worth it to you. My trip was incredibly reasonable for what was basically all-inclusive and it came with amazing reviews online so I felt very comfortable paying the amount I did.
For guides, my experience was that it’s about $20-$35/ day, as it can be more expensive for certain trekking areas and different times of year. This cost usually covers their food and accommodation. Bring some envelopes to put tips in (in Nepalese Rupees) for any guides or porters at the end of your trek!
If you’re doing a teahouse trek, all the rooms and food are the same price to keep things fair. There is no bargaining for lower rates. They separate themselves by customer service, quality of food, amenities, and views! In the more remote trekking areas the amenities and arrangements are pretty basic and in almost every situation you will be in a shared room. But, I doubt you’ll ever get bad service anywhere in Nepal.
Money Saving Tips:
- Save money (and your stomach) by eating vegetarian and local cuisine!
- If you’re doing a teahouse trek, you pack light, and you’re pretty fit, you shouldn’t need to hire a porter. Only carry what you need and keep what you don’t need in storage at a guesthouse in the town you leave from!
My trip: The yoga trek was $785 USD for 8-day trip. Everything was included. They even arranged transport from Kathmandu to Pokhara for me. We had a certified yoga instructor/ trekking guide and two porters. I found this to be on the cheaper end of organized tours and incredibly affordable for the type of trip I wanted. And, there were no roasted rats or opium dens.
- When To Go
Time of year is important! When you go will also help determine which treks you can do since some treks are only open at certain times of year.
April is the most popular time to go because more of the treks are open, weather is nice, and the rhododendron’s are in full bloom! However, prices will be higher and the routes will be busier.
My trip: I looked for trips that were a week long and left at the end of February or beginning of March. I got to see the very beginning of rhododendron season, prices were way cheaper, and the trek was less busy.
- What trek should I do?
Where to go depends on what kinds of trekking you want to do and how long a trek you want to go on! Day trips, weeklong, or month long. There are hundreds. Spend some time Googling, talking to tour companies, or guides about which one you might be best suited for. Whichever trek you choose, you will not be disappointed; you will be going to one of the most beautiful places on Earth.
My trip: I did the Poon Hill Trek. It was a leisurely 6-day loop with two days on either end at a yoga retreat center. It was a teahouse style trek. I found it challenging, but totally doable for beginner hikers. On day 3 or 4, we got to the peak and saw the Annapurna range and I cried. It was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. I also did day hikes out of Pokhara and in Nagarkot, which I did not need a guide for. Next time, Annapurna Base Camp!
- Any other advice?
Listen to your guide. They know the mountain better than you do and they want you to be safe.
Stop and look, don’t walk and look. This was something my guide Chandra reminded me of often as I stumbled along the path, mouth open, not believing what I was seeing. Same rules apply for when you’re trying to get a selfie at the mountain’s edge. You may misstep and it will all be down hill from there, and not in a good way.
Take it easy. No matter who you are or what your fitness level is, altitude sickness does not discriminate. Take it easy and don’t beat yourself up if you get it. Keep a look out for symptoms and let your guide know if any occur.
Now that you are ready to embrace the mountains of Nepal, have an amazing journey and Namaste!
About the author:
Avalon McLean-Smits produces commercials and travel films for resorts, hotels, and outfitters around the world. She writes short stories, goes on lots of adventures, and has travelled to at least one new country a year since 1990. You can read her travel diaries on her Tumblr or catch up with her on Instagram @mcleansmits.