Trekking in Nepal - Should You Hire a Guide?

December 14, 2013  •  1 Comment

Two hikers on the trail to Gokyo Lakes in the Everest region of the Himlayas.JIll and our guide, Lopsang, on the descent from Gokyo Lakes. While planning our trek to the Everest Region, we heard that the Nepal was passing a law which requires foreigners to have a guide while trekking. So as far as we knew, our decision had basically been made for us. Later we found out they never actually passed that law for fear that it would deter trekkers from coming to Nepal and cut back the flow of tourist dollars. Either way, in the end we're really glad we ended up going with a guide.

We broke down some pros and cons, just to help you make your own choice.

Pros:

  • You're supporting the livelihoods of local people.
  • You learn a lot more about the area and the culture than you would on your own. For us, this was the most invaluable part of having a guide. We had a significantly better understanding of the area because of everything we were able to learn from someone who grew up locally.
  • Trekker and guide in the Himalayas.Jill and Lopsang on the summit of Chukhung Ri. If anything happens, you're with a person who can help. Trekking can be dangerous, and it's good to be with someone who knows the signs of altitude sickness and where to find help if needed.
  • The airport experience is a lot easier. Domestic flying in Nepal is confusing and chaotic. It helps to be with someone who knows how to throw an elbow at the appropriate times when you're trying to acquire your boarding pass.

Cons:

  • It's more expensive. You're already spending a lot of money just getting to the Himalayas, so the need to skimp on other things is understandable. That said, it's a pretty great deal considering what you get for it. Many guide packages include food and lodging for you and your guide. The price of lodging and food could still add up pretty quickly even if you're on your own, however, and guides' expenses are significantly less than trekkers. So in the end the price difference may not be as much as you think.
  • The guide generally chooses your lodges, and they're usually not the nicer ones. Sometimes you'll have to be willing to stay in some less-than-comfortable places.
  • Spending as much as three weeks with any stranger gets old. You really do spend a lot of time with this person and you're bound to get a little bit sick of each other.
  • You run the risk of getting a crummy guide. We only saw this once, but one gentlemen got a real deadbeat for a guide even though the company came highly recommended.
  • Depending on your guide, language barriers could hamper communication or cause misunderstandings.

Choosing Your Guide
There are a lot of American and other Western guide companies that would likely provide you with a great trip, but we highly encourage you to support the local communities when choosing your guide. It helps to do a bit of research beforehand and booking in advance is a smart move. If not, you could also very easily find a decent guide in Kathmandu.

If you do choose to wait and find a guide in Kathmandu, make sure to have them walk you around the block just to get a sense of whether your personalities jive. If not, there are probably three dozen other eager guides within shouting distance if you're in Thamel.

It's also worth considering whether you want to sign up with a group, or get a guide on your own. On our trip it was just us and our guide, and we thought that was ideal. Many big groups commonly struggle with people being on different fitness levels. It was much easier to make on-the-spot decisions and changes in our plan with just two people.

After shopping around for guide companies based on a few recommendations, we ended up choosing Mountain Experience for our trek. They're based in Kathmandu but owned and operated by people from the Khumbu. They primarily hire local professional guides and porters. They also seemed the most organized and professional out of the companies we considered. They were flexible with customizing our itinerary, but also provided helpful suggestions and guidance as needed.

Trekking group in the Himalayas.Trekking group beneath Pengboche. Considering Your Impact
Just by trekking in the Himalayas, you're supporting change that might be seen as good in some ways, but also harmful in others. A huge boom of commercialism in the region has dramatically transformed the culture and the local economy in the past decade alone. Although individual interactions are almost always cordial and pleasant, there is naturally a cultural rift between Sherpa people and Westerners. Whether you're conscious of it or not, you're accelerating cultural change and contributing to environmental degradation (at least to some degree) by trekking in the region.

These changes will probably continue taking place regardless of whether you go trekking, they're already in effect and many of them can't be reversed. That considered, you can still help make the best of the situation. You're supporting your guide and their family by employing a local resident as your guide. Western dollars go an extremely long way in Nepal, and entire families get by on scant compensation for weeks of hard work carrying bags and accommodating trekkers.

There are also a few other small ways you can help steer these inevitable changes in a positive direction. Show the local people that you care and assume they care too, take interest in their history and traditions, and outwardly show respect for the insanely beautiful place they call home. Making an effort to understand the nature of your interactions helps shape relationships responsibly in this increasingly interconnected and fragile world. Plus you're likely to make some friends and learn lots of new things just by showing a little interest.

 


Comments

2.Gokyo Veally trekking Pakage(non-registered)
I just wrote a recommendation about this Indeandent trekking Mr Sanjib which was the one i chose to do Everest Base Camp and Gokyo, I went to Nepal in Feb-March 2014 and I would totally recommend them. Check it out and read below what i also wrote about them. Enjoy yur time in Nepal :)

http://www.nepalguideinfo.com
sanjib-adhikari@hotmail.com

I did Everest Base camp and Gokyo with the Independent trekking guide Mr. Sanjib and after such a nice trek I can only recommend the service that Sanjib and his team provided it. Experienced guide, a clear itinerary with lots of room for your own personal pace, a personalized approach: you go to him as a client and you leave as a friend. All this and more make the service of this trek, out of the rest. Prices are very good and the quality of all the services, were excellent. We got only great rooms and they always make sure, we have a nice view from our room (probably this is not always possible, but I like that Sanjib and Raj. were taking time in such a details to make his clients happy) He also advise you in all the matters of the trek and more importantly he was very clear about what you get. Many companies will promise you all kind of things even if they know is not possible (flying to Lukla for example is one of them or how many days you can reach certain altitude being safe from AMS) There’s a lot of companies in Kathmandu and I know how difficult and overwhelming the search for the right one can be, but if you’re reading this and looking for a person who can make your treks in Nepal smooth and a very enjoyable experience… go to Sanjib and he’ll handle the rest ☺ Thanks a lot Sanjib, for organizing my trek in Nepal and if I come back someday I definitely know where to go for treks!!
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