Nepal has some of the best trekking in the world and several of the world’s highest mountains, including Mount Everest. Many people visit the country just to trek and the tourism industry is well prepared to facilitate all manner of trekking styles and destinations. On the one hand you could spend a year planning an expedition to wild and lofty places; on the other you could land in Kathmandu with no plans and be on the trail to Everest Base Camp (EBC) in a matter of days.
Types of trekking in Nepal
Teahouse trekking along the main trails is the most common style, with decent lodges in every settlement (and between), it is possible to trek in comfort with minimal preparation, equipment and support. There is no need to camp and a selection of western style foods are readily available from a menu system. No special permits are required, just national park entry tickets and the TIMS permit. The main areas for these treks are Everest/Khumbu Langtang and Annapurna. Since 2010, the Manaslu Circuit Trek has become possible without camping in tea-houses, though it requires a US$ 50 per week permit and must be trekked with a guide. The trek to Lo Manthang in Upper Mustang is similar: no camping is required as many comfortable lodges are available, but a permit is required which keeps many budget travellers away.
Facilities available in remote areas are less extensive than in the more popular areas. Off the main trails where there are no lodges and food from menus a Nepali guide becomes essential, and it may be advisable or necessary to visit such regions with organised groups, including guide, porters and full support. Kanchenjunga, Makalu Barun, Rolwaling, Dolpo, Humla are in remote areas. Many of them also require special permits.
Only TAAN registered trekking agencies in Kathmandu and Pokhara can legally organize treks and provide the services of a guide and/or porter with insurance. Be aware that no one else, no hotel, no street broker, no nice person you just met, not even a trekking guide is legally authorized to organize a trek. During the main seasons the agencies run regular group treks, both tea-house and camping styles, and it is generally possible to join a group doing a trek of your choice. Independent trekking is quite easy in the main trekking areas.
Required Permits A trekking permit issued by the Department of Immigration is required to trek in any part of Nepal, except the most popular areas of Annapurna, Khumbu and Langtang/Helambu. Those areas were declared permit-free in 1999. The joy was short-lived, though, as a new system called TIMS (Trekker Information Management System) was recently created for those three areas. Be sure you have a TIMS card with you when trekking independently or organized. Individual TIMS is obtainable only from Nepal Tourism Board offices and the Trekking Agents Association of Nepal office. Not even Trekking Agents are legally authorized to obtain individual TIMS (even do many small Trekking Agents will offer the individual TIMS). Police check points and Park officers can at any time check your permits.
Several National Parks and Conservation areas like ACAP (Annapurna Conservation Area Project) and Sagarmatha National Park (Everest area) require trekkers to pay an entrance fee.
Restricted areas require the old trekking permit (but not the TIMS card), which are obtainable only through the organizing trekking agent for areas like Dolpo, Mustang, Manaslu, Kanchenjunga and other similar areas.
By Anil Blon