What to Expect on the Everest Base Camp Trek

iylanaItineraries, Nepal2 Comments

If you’re looking for an adventurous multi-day trek, why not set your sights on the highest point in the world and be one of the few people who can say they’ve seen Mount Everest with their own eyes! The trek to Everest Base Camp gives you an up-close look of the world’s highest mountain range, and offers some of the most scenic views you’ll ever see in your life. We hope this overview answers some frequently asked questions about what to expect from this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

While this path may be trekked solo by some, we definitely recommend booking with a trekking company if this is your first time trekking in Nepal. You’ll find there is not a whole lot of difference in the itinerary and costs of the different trekking companies. We chose Mosaic Adventure because they are Nepali owned and operated, and now that our trek is over, we can highly recommend them because of their experienced and caring team. We had lots of email communication before our trek with Madhav, who answered all our questions. Our guide Rudra, who has 18 years of experience, was highly attentive to our needs, keeping up with our health multiple times a day and on high alert for any signs of altitude sickness. We also had two young assistant guides, and four porters. Even Kessar, who we were only with for a few hours during our Kathmandu city tour, was a pleasure to be around, and gave us so much information on the history and culture of Kathmandu valley. Our entire experience was fantastic and we can say confidently that we will choose Mosaic for any future treks in Nepal.

We did not receive any discounts or commissions from Mosaic for being travel writers. We paid for our trek and are recommending them honestly based on our experience.

Our group of nine on the trail.

Itinerary

Most trekking companies offer a 16 day EBC trek tour. If you don’t have that much time, you can opt for a shorter but more expensive trek where you take a helicopter back to Kathmandu after reaching EBC. The free days at the beginning and end of the trek are important because the flights between Kathmandu and Lukla are often delayed, so you need some buffer days on either end. A typical tour follows this itinerary:

Day 1 – Arrive in Kathmandu
Day 2 – Meet with trek guide, city tour Kathmandu
Day 3 – Fly to Lukla, trek to Phakding
Day 4 – Trek to Namche Bazaar
Day 5 – Namche Bazaar Acclimatization Day
Day 6 – Trek to Tengboche
Day 7 – Trek to Dingboche
Day 8 –  Dingboche Acclimatization Day
Day 9 – Trek to Lobuche
Day 10 – Trek to Everest Base Camp
Day 11 – Descend to Pheriche
Day 12 – Descend to Namche Bazaar
Day 13 – Descend to Lukla
Day 14 – Fly back to Kathmandu
Day 15 – Kathmandu
Day 16 – Fly Home

Some of the most beautiful scenery you’ll see in your entire life.

Costs

Trek Cost: about $1485
Your base cost includes all your accommodations for the entire 16 days, your flight from Kathmandu to Lukla and back, and all of your meals on the trek (but not in Kathmandu). This may vary according to which trekking company you choose, but the price shown above is for Mosaic Adventure’s 2019 season.

Flight to Nepal: Varies greatly! We spent $80USD 😲
This is the only major expense not covered by your trekking company. We of course, used credit card points to fly to Nepal, so we only had to pay $80 in taxes per person (we’ll write a post about that soon)! If you’re not using points, and you’re also flying from Houston, you can expect to pay anywhere from $1200–$2000 for an economy class ticket.

Insurance: $40USD
Trip insurance is required, if you are booking with a trekking company. We bought ours from SafetyWing.

Nepali Visa: $40USD
A 30 day Nepali visa is $40USD per person for US citizens. While you should be able to pay that with a credit card, both times we have flown into Nepal, their credit card machine has been down, so take cash (USD is fine).

Tips: $150USD
It’s customary to tip your guide and porters at the end of your trek. Many of them don’t go all the way back to Kathmandu with you, so you need to have your tip ready, in Nepali rupees, on the last night of your trek in Lukla before you fly back to Kathmandu. It’s recommended to tip 10% of your trip cost, but of course you can give however much you want. Our group gave $150 per person. Give the cash to your guide and he will divide it up between himself and the porters.

Misc Expenses: $400USD
It’s recommended to take about $200USD (in Nepali rupees), per person, for miscellaneous expenses along the trail like drinks at the tea houses, hot water, showers, electricity usage, wifi and toilet paper. Personally we only spent about $100 each, but took $200 to be safe as there are certainly no ATMs in the mountains. You’ll also need some spending money your first and last few days in Kathmandu, for meals, taxis and last minute shopping. This can vary greatly according to your taste, but we would recommend another $150-200USD.

ATMs are readily available in Kathmandu, so prepare for your trip with a bank account that will refund international ATM fees. Then you don’t have to worry about carrying a lot of cash with you and exchanging it at the airport—you can just easily get Nepali rupees out of the ATM. We use a Charles Schwab account and have never had problems.

Possibility of a helicopter charter: $300USD
The one expense we didn’t count on, and no one told us about, was the helicopter that was needed to get us to Lukla. The trekking company paid for our flights from Kathmandu to Lukla, but once we arrived at the airport, the weather took a bad turn and all the flights were cancelled. We needed to charter a helicopter to keep our trek on schedule, and it was very much an unexpected expense that we were not prepared for. Our guide was able to get our airplane tickets refunded, so we put that expense toward our helicopter seats, but we still had to pay an additional $300USD per person (we were able to pay with a Visa credit card). Some other trekking groups were paying as much as $550USD per person.

Now, if your flight is cancelled, it’s not required that you charter a helicopter. You can spend another night in Kathmandu and hope that flights resume the next day. But, the flights scheduled for that day will be given priority over your cancelled flight, so you will fly out at the end of the day if at all, and your trek will now be 2 days behind schedule. This can cause a lot of headache because you then will likely have to re-schedule all your other arrangements, like your flight home. Also, it’s not guaranteed that flights will resume the next day, as sometimes the flights have been grounded for 8 days straight. So it quickly becomes a big headache. We found the variables to be too problematic, so our group collectively decided to splurge on the helicopter charter. Lukla has one of the most dangerous airports in the world, and flights are cancelled due to weather very often, so this is absolutely an expense that you need to be prepared for.

TOTAL: $2415 USD per person not including your flight to Nepal, which can vary greatly.

Lukla has one of the most dangerous airports to fly into, so flights are often cancelled if there’s bad weather. What you see here is the entire runway, looking down at it from the top of the hill. There’s a stone wall on this end, and at the far end of the runway, it’s a cliff!

What to Expect

Accommodations
There’s no tent camping on this trek—you will be sleeping and eating in tea house lodges. The rooms are not heated, so the evenings spent in the tea houses are easily the coldest part of the trek. If you are traveling as a pair, you’ll share a room but if you’re solo, you’ll probably be placed in a room with another trekker. The toilets and sinks are usually shared. There is no hot water, but you can buy a liter of hot water in a thermos for hand washing if you wish. Only a few of the tea houses will have hot showers available for about 500 rupees. During our 11 day trek, we were able to take showers 3 times.

Laundry
Laundry is not really possible on this trek, because there are no electric dryers, and you really won’t have enough time in one place to let them dry on a clothesline. 

Food and Water
Your trekking company will be paying for your meals, all provided by the tea houses. The menu is very similar at every tea house: pasta, rara noodles, fried rice, momos, chow mein, cheese sandwich, soups, Sherpa stew, sometimes pizza, and of course, the always reliable dhal bat. Breakfast was usually a choice of: eggs with toast and potatoes, oatmeal, pancakes. We were advised to stick to a vegetarian diet, which we did. Always best to play it safe with your digestive system on a trek! Water is readily available everywhere, you just need to have a sterilization solution like a Lifestraw bottle, Sawyer filter, or water sterilization tabs. I recommend taking electrolytes to add to your water like Mio water enhancer and emergen-c powder.

Dal Bhat, a typical meal on the trek. We brought Mio with Electrolytes to add to our water.

FAQs

How physically fit do I need to be for this trek?
This trek is considered relatively strenuous, but you do not need any previous trekking or mountaineering experience. The trek covers a distance of 70 miles round trip over 11 days, with an elevation gain of 2460m (8070ft). Most days you will be trekking about 5-8 hours, while some days may be as long as 10 hours. Most of the terrain is gentle, but there are also some long (2 hour), steep ascents and descents up rock-hewn stairs, and trekking over huge boulders and land slides. The distance and elevation gain of the trek itself isn’t so much a problem as the altitude. The thin air is definitely what makes this trek physically grueling, as you will be susceptible to headaches, stomach aches and sinus problems. You’ll be needing to take breaks often to catch your breath. If you have a heart condition, or any knee or back problems, you should definitely check with your doctor before attempting this trek.

Kathmandu Elevation: 1345m/4412ft
Lukla Elevation: 2840m/9318ft – lowest point of the trek
EBC Elevation: 5300m/17388ft – highest point of the trek

At the highest points of the trek, the terrain was rocky as seen here.

How should I train?
Hike! Hike at least once a week for 2-3 months before your trek, preferably in a spot with hills/canyons/elevation changes. You need to be able to complete a 5 hour hike, and feel like you could keep going. Find some stairs you can train on, and once a week, make 10-20 laps up and down. You need to get your hip flexors and your knees prepared. Yoga is also a great way to prepare, as you will need to stretch and elongate your muscles and achieve balance and mental focus.

This is how we trained personally: we live in a very flat area, but we do have a mountain bike trail, so once a week for about 4 months, we hiked 2-3 hours on that trail with minor elevation changes. We made two trips to Colorado and hiked for 5 hours near Denver, and also did the Manitou Incline in Manitou Springs, which gains nearly 2000ft in less than 1 mile at a 45-68% grade. Now that I have completed EBC I can say for sure the Manitou Incline was a fantastic way to train! We also made a trip to hike Guadalupe Peak, the highest point in Texas 2667m(8750ft). Now, that’s not even as high as Lukla, the lowest point of the EBC trek, but it was good for endurance training as it took us about 8 hours to complete. I wish we could have made each of those trips 2-3 times before our trek, as I still did not consider myself fully prepared. On the EBC trek, my hip flexors and my knees were aching, and I wished I had done more stair-stepper training. But again, none of this training will prepare you for the altitude, which is going to be the hardest factor of your trek. The only thing I can think of doing to prepare for that, is using a spirometer to try to increase your lung capacity.

When should I go?
Hiking season is February—May, and again from August—November. Some trekking companies offer tours throughout the year, but you may have rain and snow, which can bring flooding and landslides. It’s best to plan your trip during the main hiking season. We hiked in late September–early October and had perfect weather.

What should I pack?
I wrote a packing list specifically for this trek! Check it out here: Everest Base Camp Trek Packing List.

We’ll do our best to answer questions in the comments below!

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