Nepal has two “big” hikes–the Everest Base Camp and Annapurna Circuit. (And lots of other, probably more worthwhile and certainly less touristy choices.) With some of the best mountain views in the world, great chances to meet trekkers from around the world, plentiful and delicious food, and comfortable beds each night, these treks have earned their status as world-class. But although they are on many hikers all-time wish lists, for the average person a trek to Nepal can seem rather expensive and overall unattainable.
Some costs are unavoidable. You’ll need to have boots, fleeces, noncotton shirts, and a backpack. Airfare is what it is (though you can fly from London or LA to India for less than 600 bucks). Once you are in Nepal, though, it’s cheap as chips. And the hiking is cheaper than that! (Yes, even cheaper than chips.)
And if you relied on the internet for checking prices, you’d be forgiven for believing the Annapurna Circuit costs the equivalent of Sierra Leone’s yearly budget.
How much does it cost to hike Annapurna?
World Expeditions charges $2890 for 24 days in Nepal.
The bandits at REI charge you $3000 to hike the shorter Sanctuary Trek for a total of 14 days.
EXPLORE seems like a relative bargain with charges of $1980 for three weeks
These places aren’t cherry-picked; it’s pretty much $2000-3000 dollars to hike the Circuit if you book from abroad. (Which, for a variety of reasons, you should never do.)
Even the indy route seems scary–these guys are pretty indicative—17 days (with porter and guide) cost them $1455. (Tangent alert: Stay tuned for another post why hiring porters is an asshole move.)
It’s Much Cheaper than this.
As mentioned above, you need airfare and hiking equipment (which, if you don’t have, can be purchased cheaply in Kathmandu or Pokhara.) And then you have to buy the permits.
It costs 40 dollars for your ACAP permit and TIMS card. (ACAP is still, despite a recent government takeover, largely a good organization. Click the link for more on how they affect the region.) TIMS is less so—you are paying a subsidy to the trekking agencies who threw a fit at how many trekkers were going alone. But what are you going to do? It costs 20 bucks or more to get into some American National Parks.
The bus from Pokhara, depending on how well you negotiate, should be about 6 dollars. It will be cheaper coming back, as you are much closer to Pokhara at the end.
And then there are your daily expenses. These include breakfast, lunch, dinner, room, drinks and snacks. Also included are things like toilet paper, band-aids, wipes, moisturizer creme, etc. Ours varied (prices increase as you climb higher.) On our best day, they were as low as $18.20 (total) and our most expensive day cost $34.15. We didn’t really limit ourselves on tea, sodas, or meals, but we didn’t drink any beer on the trek. (Caffeine and alcohol aren’t recommended when climbing that high.)
In total, for 14 days of hiking for food, accommodation and various sundries we spent $341.89.
Add in transportation to and from the trailheads, and the ACAP and TIMS permit, and our total cost was $444 dollars.
For those not great at math, that’s $222 each. $111 per week. Just over $15 dollars a day. Not the cheapest you could live for, by any means, but a far cry from REI’s rates of $214 per day.
In other words, if you’ve dreamed of hiking in the world’s highest mountains, eating lentils 3 times a day, riding a Yak, or spotting a Yeti, don’t let the costs stop you. Cheaper than chips is cheap indeed.