Go to Mount Everest they said…It’ll be fun they said…For me, someone who enjoys hiking but has not done many intense hikes, a 12 days Mount Everest Base Camp Trek in Nepal was an intimidating trip to sign up for. My boyfriend Alan and I did not really know what to expect, other than the inevitable altitude sickness that we keep hearing about. As a common saying goes, you never really know what’s it’s like to do something until you’ve done it. Well that is definitely true in the case of trekking to EBC. This journey turned out to be challenging in many ways for me (hello mountain toilet, I’m looking at you), but it was an incredible experience and nothing short of life changing.
For those who are interested in conquering this classic bucket list trek to Mount Everest Base Camp from Nepal, I present to you this guide all about the journey, written from our own experiences. Here you can find information from plannings to be done to hiking tips. This is a long post, so grab your beverage of choice, and a highlighter (digitally speaking). Let’s go!
*Psst this post contains affiliate links. Which means at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase, I may receive a small commission.
How to find a guide
Before researching Nepal, we originally considered going to EBC from the Tibet side (Since Tibet is also a place I really want to visit). But after comparing the two possible experiences, we realized that the price of joining a group tour in Tibet is almost the same price as hiring a private guide in Nepal. The views along the way from the Tibet side also sounded a lot more barren from the Nepal side, which promised rich and diverse landscapes. (If you have done both treks before, let me know in the comments what you thought of both!) Ultimately we decided to go with Nepal.
For a showdown of EBC trek Tibet VS Nepal, check out this great article here.
From a friend, we were lucky to get a guide recommendation. We communicated with this fellow via Facebook, and came to the conclusion that he seemed honest and kind. Our trip with Nawa from Trek Around Nepal turned out to be a success and I would recommend his service. Personally, I found it very helpful to have someone for answering my one million questions during the preparation process. (Obsessive anxious trip planner can you tell?)
However, if you prefer to find a guide post arrival for whatever reasons, there are also options available in Kathmandu. So not to worry. Simply ask your hotel and they will be glad to assist you.
How much does the trip cost
In summary, there are two ways to pay for the trek:
1. Pay for one price that is all inclusive (What we went with)
2. Pay for the guide’s fee, then pay your other expenses separately. That means your accommodation, domestic flight, food, and park entrance fee, etc.
Upon comparison with other travellers we’ve met along the way who’s done the latter, we realize the total cost turns out to be more or less the same after all. We liked paying just one time and not having to dig out our wallets repeatedly, because we are lazy people like that.
For us, the entire tour cost 1150 USD per person, which included:
1. Airport pickups and drops in Kathmandu
2.Tea house accommodation during the trek
3. Meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) during the trek
4.Domestic flights (Kathmandu- Lukla -Kathmandu)
5.A trekking guide and a porter. Including their salary, insurance, equipment, food and accommodation
6. All necessary paperwork and trekking permits (National Park Permit, TIMS)
7. All government and local taxes
Without the porter, the trip would have costed 1090 USD. We contemplated on not hiring one to save money, but we were sooo glad we didn’t cheap out in the end. Our porter Amit was a real hero and definitely saved our behinds. Don’t think we could have got up the mountain carrying all of our stuff. We could barely carry our own legs by the end. Hire a porter kids. You won’t regret it.
It is also expected to pay a tip to your guide and porter at the end of the trip. How much to give for that is totally up to you. Anywhere between $50USD-$100USD is reasonable depending on how satisfied you were with the service received.
Best time to go to EBC
The best times and peak seasons for doing the Mount Everest Base Camp trek in Nepal are from October to November or from March to late April. During these days, the skies are clear with minimal rainfall and good visibility of the mountains. However, you can expect the weather to be very cold. We are talking -20 degrees at night time, where all water is frozen.
We went during August, the monsoon season. Not so much because we are thrill seekers who love to go against the grain, but simply because it was the only time that worked for our schedule. We crossed our fingers and prayed for good weather. Well, we had a pretty nice three days before it got rainy. Our guide told us it’s all a matter of luck and showed us photos from a hike he did the previous year around the same time. The photos showed gorgeously clear mountain views then. I guess we weren’t as lucky, but we enjoyed some epic sceneries as well. The upsides of traveling during the low season are of two folds. One, the temperature is not as cold, relatively speaking. There is no need for hauling extra sleeping bags unlike during the peak season. Two, there is ample space during the hikes and staying at the accomodations. You will still meet other hikers, but it’s never crowded or loud anywhere. We had quite a peaceful time connecting with nature, which was exactly what we wanted.
Although I still do recommend going during the dry season, know that the wet/off season is not so bad either. If the universe is on your side, you may be able to enjoy vistas just as nice.
Things to prepare for the hike
Here is a comprehensive list of items and gears you should bring for trekking to Mount Everest Base Camp (It had to its own separate post). Other than the packing preparations, there are a couple things you should also think about.
Although trekking to EBC is said to be an activity manageable for people of all ages and fitness levels. Well, don’t be fooled. It is fricken challenging. And this is not coming from a couch potato. I consider myself to be pretty fit and active usually, but hiking for hours through rocks and uneven terrain everyday was exhausting. Start working on your stamina and training your legs a least 1-2 months before your trip. Now is the time to use that gym membership that’s been collecting dust in the corner guys. You’ll need it! Here are some awesome adventure quotes to keep you pumped and inspired during your training journey. You are welcome. 😛
Meg from Fox in the Forest offers some excellent trek training tips.
Getting travel insurance
It’s always better to be safe than sorry. Especially for an intense experience like EBC trek, I recommend purchasing travel insurance for your own peace of mind. World Nomad has always been my insurance company of choice because of their comprehensive health coverage with 24/7 medical emergency assistance. As well, the process to making claims is super easy and smooth!
Get a quick quote here
Mount Everest Base Camp Trek in Nepal – The journey
Now it’s time to take a look at the daily journey, with stories and photos from our own experience, topped with practical information. Grab your hiking poles friends, On we go!
Day 0- Arriving at Kathmandu
We arrive at the Kathmandu airport at about 10 in the morning. After getting our visa on arrival for 14 days, which costed 25 USD per person, we were let through customs. At the exit, there were several booths with services such as local SIM cards and currency exchange. I took the chance to get a NTC SIM card, because you know…for Instagram stories. Little did I know that we would run out of signals on the mountains by day 3. The card costed 1200 NPR for 28 days. There was also a 7 days option for 600 NPR.
So was it worth it? Nah. I do not recommend getting the NTC SIM card. We have heard better reviews for Ncell, a company that has connectivity stations installed all the way along the trek up the mountain. Or better yet, why not forgo the idea of always being connected and just enjoy being present in nature for a couple of days?
With our (regrettable) data plan set up, we got picked up outside of the airport gate. A guy had our names held up on a sign, so we could tell he was arranged by our guide. He led us to the car and asked for a tip. We were a bit thrown off by how quickly a tip demand came but handed him 5 USD. We were then left with the driver, a different guy, who would take us to the hotel.
A 20 minutes ride through the busy streets of Kathmandu later, we arrived at Hotel Bag Packers Lodge. Recommended by our guide, this place at the heart of the main tourist district only cost 15 USD a night. (It was very different from our accommodation post EBC trek at the luxurious Hotel Shanker) We got out of the car and met for the first time with our guide, Nawa. This young sherpa who seemed quiet at first would soon grow on us on the following days.
After showing us to our room and around the property, Nawa took us to get our money exchanged at a local bank. The rate was much better than what we saw at the airport so we were very grateful to have the local expertise.
We also took the time to sit down and go over the trek itinerary, which looked like 12 days of pure epic-ness. With a notice to be up by 5 am the next morning for catching our flight to Lukla, Nawa left us alone to explore.
The rest of our day was spent hanging out in Thamel, the main backpacker’s quarter. We feed ourselves with a big meal and checked out the colourful shops selling nicknacks. At the end of the night, we went to bed anxious and excited for the next 12 days.
Day 1 – Kathmandu to Lukla to Phakding (2,800m-2,530m)
A 5 AM alarm and a sleepy drive to the airport later, we departed on the tiniest plane for Lukla at 6 AM. After a stunning flight through mountain ranges. We arrived at Lukla airport after 30 minutes. For those who don’t know, Lukla has consistently been named the most dangerous airport in the world due to its ultra short runway that ends with a big scary cliff. Why did they built it like that? I don’t know. But my palms were definitely sweaty during the landing. Ensuing our survival, we were greeted by beautiful views of surrounding mountains. The spirits were high and hopeful. Surely, this is a good sign for the rest of the trip right?
With a breakfast and slight rest at a tea house right next to the airport, we commenced on our very first day of hiking! All I could think of in my head was an image of Bilbo Baggins yelling “I’m going on an adventure!”, as we stepped foot on the rock paths that would lead the way to our first destination at 2,530m: Phakding.
This resting stop was said to be 3 hours away, which sounded easy peasy. Alan and I are dancers and quite active people, so we did not think this hike was going to be hard. Boy we were wrong. To be fair, it wouldn’t have been as difficult had we not carried all of our luggages on our shoulders. We were late to decide on getting a porter so he was joining us on the second day. Biggest rookie mistake ever. Moral of the story: Pack light and hire a porter ASAP!
The views along the way were incredible though, that can’t be denied. We passed along several mesmerizing waterfalls and crazy suspension bridges. Which means tons of photo taking. Some wild dogs took turns tagging along with us, which was super cute.
Combined with the uneven rock trails and scorching sun (yes it was hot because we went in August), we were absolutely exhausted by the time we made it to Phakding around noon.
After devouring some sherpa stew, fried noodles and a Dhal Bhat (delicious Nepali rice with lentils and curry), we passed out like babies until the next day.
This was our double room with a private toilet. The hotel was quite old and there were some bugs, but this is typical for mountain accomodations.
Day 2: Phakding to Namche (2,530m-3,430m)
Sore shoulders, aching legs, and sunburned skin were all we felt when we dragged ourselves downstairs for breakfast at 7 AM the next day. Today we have a 7 hours hike to the next village: Namche. God I honestly did not know how in the world we will survive the day with the worn down bodies we had. But the good news was today, we got a PORTER! *cue hallelujah music
We were in complete surprise when we met Amit, a small young guy, wearing sandals. Nawa introduced him as our porter, and we wondered how he would be able to carry both of our huge backpacks. Our doubts were were quickly dismissed as we watched him tie our luggages together skillfully, haul it on to his back, and start walking like it was completely normal.
The whole day we observed him in awe. The dude hiked on rocks in sandals! With 20kg of weight! Never did we feel more inadequate. Secretly set reminder to hit the gym more.
Day 2 wasn’t as bad as I thought. After a 3 hours hike, we got to have lunch and break at a tea house, before continuing on to our destination for another 4 hours. We entered the tranquil Sagarmatha National Park, a world heritage site looking lush in its summer months. By the time we reached Namche at 3460m, a misty fog was starting to envelop the village, making the whole place look very mysterious and beautiful.
Namche is a buzzing town that is quite developed for tourism. I mean, there is an Irish bar…one that claims to be the highest Irish bar in the world in fact. On a good weather day, all the surrounding mountains can be seen clearly, including Mount Everest, so we were told.
I wished we had time to explore this cute bazaar but the rain and a headache setting in called us to end the second day early.
Accommodation in Namche was our favorite out of all the tea houses along the EBC trek.
Day 3: Namche to Tengboche (3,430m- 3,860m)
Although the original plan was to take a rest day at Namche so we can acclimatize to the high altitude, our guide Nawa informed us that the weather for the next couple days were not looking too good. We learned that it would be better if we cut our 12 days itinerary down to 9 and get back to Lukla sooner, in the event that there are no safe flights out on certain days.
Yep. We did not pick the best season to come but oh well. We went with it. No acclimatization days. Can’t be too bad right?
We set off into the mist. The destination today was Tengboche. At 3,860m, the difference from Namche was only a bit over 400m. Along the way, we saw many colourful prayer wheels, stupas, and huge rocks with buddhist carvings. The floral and fauna also started to get really beautiful and interesting looking the higher up we went.
By the time we hit lunch, altitude sickness was really setting in for me. My head was pounding with a unfamiliar type of pain. But after eating, laying down in the restaurant for awhile and doing some deep breathing exercises, I felt much better. It gave me enough energy to finish the rest of the hike to Tengboche, which we successfully reached before 5 pm.
Day 4: Tengboche to Periche (3,860m – 4,200m)
Day 4 was when things started to get blurry in my memory. I woke up in the night feeling quite ill. In the morning, I was given Diamox by our guide.
Diamox tablets are oral medicine that help make your blood thinner and easier to circulate in the body. It is commonly taken to ease altitude sickness and headaches. Consult with your doctor on whether it’s ok for you to take it and learn the possible side effects if you have any concerns.
I lost most of my appetite and could only force myself to eat fluid food like porridge and drink my hot honey lemon ginger tea. I looked in envy at Alan, who still ate his Dhal Bhat enthusiastically, with refills.
Throughout the day, Nawa reminded me to drink water. “4L a day! Or you go down!” He threatened jokingly. It wasn’t that I didn’t like to drink water, but the lack of toilets on the mountain means we would hike for hours without seeing one on some days. Going open toilet outside is a bit embarrassing for a girl, especially considering it’s hard to find discreet spots sometimes on paths with trekkers.
With the encouragement of Alan and a lot of will power. I got through to Periche. 4,200m! Wow!
Day 5: Periche to Lobuche (4,200m – 4,900m)
As we are on day five of the journey, we have seen some faces repeatedly amongst the trekkers by this point. Through chatting, I made friends with a girl from England who just journeyed alone in India and a 69 year old man from New Zealand who came to base camp to celebrate his birthday. After hearing their stories, I was moved by the different reasons people of all ages come on this pilgrimage to EBC. I was determined to stay strong and make it until the end.
I noticed that I took less and less photos as the trip went on due to dwindling energy. But here are a couple from day 5. Vegetation started to decrease as we approached near 5,000m. But we met some fluffy yaks which were creatures that absolutely fascinated me.
This boy was still feeling energetic, unlike me.
Land started to look more rocky and less green.
Day 6 Lobuche to Gorak Shep to Mount Everest Base Camp (4,900m-5,180m-5,365m)
Today was the day! The most exciting and difficult day. Departing at 7 am, we made it to Gorak Shep by 10 am. The clouds completely shrouded the mountains. As we drank our ginger teas and looked out the window, disappointment started to hit me that we will not be able to see Mount Everest today. Alan asked if I still wanted to go to base camp in the misty rain. As we can’t stay at base camp and have to return to Gorak Shep for the night, it would take another 4 hours to get there and come back. “Is it worth it?” He asked me.
“Yes.” I was sure. Because to me, this trip was not about the views and the photos. No not really. It was about challenging myself and seeing something through until the end.