Everest Base Camp Trek Guide

I've dreamed of seeing the Himalayas since I was a little girl. My father is a climber & mountaineer so, naturally, I became fascinated by mountain destinations at a young age. Last Spring (in 2017) my friend Kaitlin pitched the idea of traveling to Nepal for a trek. We'd both been working long hours at our jobs and strongly felt the need for a digital detox and some culture shock. I agreed immediately and it wasn't long before we chose Everest Base Camp as our destination. We booked our tickets to go see the highest mountains in the world! 

Nepal is famous for it's trekking. Tens of thousands of people from across the world travel there every year - over 40,000 to be exact. October of 2017 was a record breaking month for tourism on the Everest Base Camp Trek. If you're planning to go on this trek, you must mentally prepare yourself for crowds along the trail. It may test your patience, but it's no worse than visiting Yosemite Valley during July or August. I love this quote by Erin Gloria Ryan in an article she wrote about her trip to EBC:

"I had thought the experience—spartan accommodations, bitter cold, a physical challenge and beautiful views—would be a clarifying and calming experience, a way to get close to something as wicked as Everest without actually risking my life. Judging by the crowds, my idea could not have been less novel."

Be warned, her article is a bit of a downer. But I've noticed that not enough bloggers are being truly honest about the challenges along the trek. For every beautiful mountain you lay eyes on, there is an equal number of times that you'll experience bodily discomfort or frustration. It really helps to have a travel partner with whom you can share emotional ups and downs and motivational pep-talks. 

But let's get to the good stuff! Preparing for a trip of this scale takes a lot of research and planning. I compiled everything that's important for you to know if you're headed to Everest Base Camp! This guide will help you get prepared so that your journey in the Himalayas is as pleasant as possible. 

Best Season for Trekking in Nepal

September through December (Autumn) and March through May (Spring) are the best times to trek to EBC. There is very little rainfall during those months and the weather is pleasant for trekking. I traveled to Nepal in November and the temperatures during the day were in the low 60's or high 50's (Fahrenheit) with no clouds to obstruct the mountain views. The temperatures dropped significantly as soon as the sun went down.

From what I heard, October is the most popular month for tourists because the weather is slightly warmer. I also heard that May is a great month to visit because all of the native Rhododendron forests are in bloom and the Everest climbers will be heading up to Base Camp. 

The Everest Region

The Everest Region is is a beautiful place to trek filled with green forests, rhododendron trees, rivers, glaciers and the largest mountains in the world. It houses Sagarmatha National Park, which is included in UNESCO's list of world heritage sites. The Everest Region is also home to the unique Sherpa community whose lifestyle and tradition has ties to Tibet. 

Apart from the highest peak- Mt.Everest (8848m), you will also see Mt Lhotse (8516m), Mt. Nuptse (7855m), Mt. Pumori (7161m), Mt. Changaste (7550m), Mt. Lingterin (6679m), Mt. Amadablam (6856m), Mt. Thamserku(6723m), Mt. Kantega( 6685m), Mt.Kusum Khagaru (6367m), Mt.Kongde (6011m), Mt. Khumbila(5761m) , Mt. Twache peak (6367m), Mt. Cholaste (6335m) ,Island peak(6179m), Lobuche peak(6145m). and many more.

You should note that the Everest Base Camp Trek approaches Mt. Everest from the South (Nepal), where the view of Everest is obstructed by surrounding mountains. There are several points throughout the trek when you will see the tippy top of Mt. Everest revealed from behind the surrounding peaks. There is also a North Base Camp in Tibet that offers more views of Everest (but it requires an entirely different trip within Tibet). 

Flying in/out of Kathmandu & Visas

Flights: Kaitlin and I flew Souther China Air from San Francisco, California to Guangzhou, China on a 14 hour red-eye. We then took a 5 hour flight to Kathmandu and arrived mid-day. Neither of us had flown Southern China Air but it ended up being a better experience than we imagined.

Hot tip: Purchase 1 or 2 audiobooks about Nepal for the flight. I listened to "Into Thin Air" and learned a lot about the region we were about to go explore. "Annapurna" would be a good book too.

Visas: There is no need to get a visa for Nepal before your trip. Bring $40 cash with you to get your 15 day visa when you land at the airport in Kathmandu (US Dollars are fine). You need your Passport (duh) and also a printed passport-size photo for the visa. You can get these photos at any Kinko's or most post offices. Purchase 2-3 copies in case you sign up with a travel company that requires a photo too. 

The Kathmandu Airport: Arriving at the Kathmandu airport is somewhat hectic. It's a very small building and it gets really hot when it's packed with people. When you walk into the arrivals building there are 2 paper forms that you need to fill out, and it may be a crazy scramble of people trying to use the 2 small tables available. Bring your own pen and have it ready! Then hop into the line where you pay for the visa. After that, you will need to wait in the 15-day visa line to get your visa approved. It may take a while. Be patient. Many of the people around you will also be on an EBC trek and you may see them later in your trip.

Currency & ATM's: There are lot of ATM's available in Kathmandu but you can only take out 30,000 Nepal Rupees at a time (roughly $300 US dollars). There are very few ATM's along the trek (and most of them don't work) so you need to have all of your cash before flying into Lukla. I highly recommend getting $500-600 in Nepal Rupees at a currency exchange in the US before you leave. It will make your trip a bit easier!  

Hot Tip: As you trek higher into the small towns approaching base camp, the tea houses and shops have a difficult time making change for the big $1000 rupee bills that come out of the ATM. Try and break those large bills into smaller change while in Kathmandu or the first few large towns along the trail. 

Exploring Kathmandu: Give yourself a day to explore Kathmandu and recover from your flights before starting the EBC trek. The tourist area of the city is called Thamel and most trekking companies book hotels here for their clients. It's very safe to walk around for both men and women. There is one main grocery store where you can purchase snacks, bottles of water, outlet converters, or any toiletry items you may need for your trek. There are lots of good restaurants too!

Make sure to book a tour of the historic area of Kathmandu where you can see temples, the royal palace, and visit the home of the Kumari (a little girl who is selected through a series of tests to be a "living goddess"). 

When you return to Kathmandu from your trek, give yourself at least half a day to purchase keep-sakes. Mornings are when you can get the best deals because the first purchase of the day is considered good luck. Don't be afraid to haggle for the best price! 

Trekking Options

There are several ways you can trek to EBC. Kaitlin and I signed up for a our guided tour about 4 months before we left on the trip. We used a company called Eco Nepal Adventure for a small group tour with guides and porters. A porter is a laborer who will carry your duffle for you throughout your trek and have it ready for you where you're staying each night.

If you haven't done many backpacking trips at high elevation, I highly recommend using a porter. It doesn't cost much more money and it will make your trek much more enjoyable. Here are the different options for hiking to EBC:

  • Private Guide with a Porter
  • Private Guide with No Porter
  • No Guide with Porter
  • No Guide and no Porter
  • Porter/Guide Combo
  • Small Group Tour with Guide with Porter

Permits

There are two different permits you need in order to trek to Everest Base Camp. If you're traveling on a guided tour, the trekking company will usually take care of this for you ahead of time and on the trail. 

The first permit is a Trekkers Information Management System (TIMS) permit. This costs $10 USD if you are part of a group or $20 USD if you are trekking independently. You also need 2 passport photos. Our guide obtained these for us in advance of the trek. If you are on your own, you’ll need to go to the Nepal Tourism Board office near Thamel in Kathmandu prior to your flight to Lukla.

The second permit is Sagarmatha National Park Entry Permit which can be obtained once you are on the trail at the office in Monjo. This costs $30 USD+ 13% Govt. Tax.

General Itinerary

This general itinerary is the most common one leading to Everest Base Camp. Most guided tours follow this route and you'll often see the same groups of people who started "Day 1" with you throughout the course of the entire trek. 

Day 1: Fly to Lukla (2804 mt.) from Kathmandu, trek to Phakding (2610 mt.)

Day 2: Trek from Phakding to Namche Bazar (3441 mt.)

Day 3: Acclimatization day in Namche Bazar

Day 4: Trek from Namche Bazar to Tengboche(3860 mt.)

Day 5: Trek from Tengboche to Dingboche (4410 mt.)

Day 6: Acclimatization day at Dingboche

Day 7: Trek from Dingboche to Lobuche (4910 mt.)

Day 8: Trek from Lobuche to Gorakshep (5153 mt.) to EBC and back to Gorakshep

Day 9: Hike up to Kalapatthar (5545 mt.) and retreat trek to Pheriche (4210 mt.)

Day 12: Trek from Namche Bazar to Lukla

Day 13: Early morning fly back to Kathmandu

Day 14: Spend the morning in Kathmandu and then fly home

 The Lukla Airport runway is infamously short and perched on a cliff! 

The Lukla Airport runway is infamously short and perched on a cliff! 

everestcow.jpg

How to Train

You don't have to be an elite athlete to be able to trek to EBC, but you should not embark on this journey if you are not in good, physical shape. You should be able to hike 6-7 miles a day without soreness or fatigue. And you should absolutely train during the 3-4 months leading up to your trip. (You don't want to be that person making the whole group wait for you, if you can prevent it!)

Kaitlin and I made sure to hike steep terrain at least once a week in the months leading up to our trek, and we also focused a lot on cardio 4-5 times a week. We found that road cycling up hills was what ultimately got us in such great shape during the trek because we were used to sustaining a high heart rate (hiking slowly at high elevation feels very similar to biking up a really steep hill).

Here are some ways that I recommend training for the EBC trek:

  • Start training about 3-4 months before the trek.
  • Focus on cardio exercises like running, walking, swimming or cycling.
  • Train with a backpack or daypack that will be similar to the one your wear on the trek.
  • Strengthen your leg muscles by doing squats, pull-ups, push ups, dead lifts, etc.
  • Avoid over-exercising. The aim is to increase physical stamina and lung capacity.

Female Packing List

There are a variety of weather conditions on the EBC trek. Gaining over 9,000 feet in elevation, the temperature can drop drastically over the course of your trip and there’s even a chance that you could encounter snow depending on the time of year you visit. With that in mind, it’s very important that you come prepared with the right gear. In this list, I share all of the items I brought with me on my 14 day trip. I also include links to my favorite items.

First, there are a couple important facts that will impact your packing list:

  •  Laundry service: Laundry service is not easily available and it's somewhat expensive when you can find it along the trek. The water in your bathrooms is also not very clean and could make your clothes smell funky if you try to hand-wash them. Pack enough socks and underwear to last you with no laundry service!
  • High quality fabrics make a huge difference: Wear high-quality, technical hiking apparel that can wick sweat and stay dry. Merino wool is a great material choice for your evening clothes because it's really warm and odor-proof.
  • Stay warm: You should always change out of your sweaty clothes into your dry clothes as soon as possible once you arrive at the lodge each day. This will prevent your body temperature from dropping when you stop hiking. 

Gear:
Warm backpacking sleeping bag (-15)
Hiking Boots (already broken in!)
Lightweight trainers/shoes for wearing in lodges
Large duffle or backpack 55-70 Liter
Backpack rain cover
Day-hiking backpack
Polarized sunglasses
Trekking poles
Headlamp
2 liter water bottle
3 liter camelbak bladder
Water purification kit (Steripen is best, but also bring iodine tablets)
First-aid kit

Clothes:
Compression socks for flight (optional)
Waterproof Jacket
Waterproof pants
Big Down Jacket
Lightweight Down Jacket
One long sleeve lightweight shirt for hiking (wicks sweat and protects you from sun)
Sweat-wicking hiking trousers (I LOVE the ones I linked here. So functional and flattering). 
Active tights (I used Lululemon running tights)
Warmer, fleece lined tights
One comfy long sleeve shirt (for evenings)
One lightweight tech Tee
Fleece jacket (for evenings)
Fleece pants (for evenings)
Lots of Underwear - maybe even 2 per day
2-3 Sports Bras (2 for hiking, one for evenings)
Warm beanie hat
Wide rimmed Sun Hat with a leash for wind
3-4 pairs of good quality hiking socks
Warm gloves or mittens
Neck warmer

Toiletries, etc
Mini toothbrush/toothpaste
Wet Wipes (these will essentially be your shower each day)
Strong Sunscreen for your face, neck, and hands
After-sun cream or strong moisturizer for your skin
SPF chapstick
Deodorant
Hand sanitizing gel
Plastic baggies
Ear Plugs
Small camp towel
Sleeping eye ask
Nice Toilet paper for the whole trek (this is essential - tp is not provided in lodges and only poor quality TP is sold)

Electronics:
Camera (I used a Sony Rx1 with a 35mm lens becuase it's more compact but pro quality)
Camera strap or clip (THIS CLIP is incredible. It keeps your camera from swinging around)
GoPro
Solar Charging System
Charging block
Kindle
Headphones
GPS Watch to track your miles & elevation gain

Snacks & Energy Supplements:
A variety of Protein bars
Jerkey
Energy gummies or blocks, or Gu
Chocolate
A few packets of Oatmeal (in case you get tummy issues)

Other:
Travel medications
Tiny mirror
Playing cards

Health Concerns & Travel Medication

Visit your Doctor before you go: Before embarking on this trip, visit your doctor and let him/her know that you're traveling to Nepal. Make sure that you are up to date on all of your shots. Your doctor will most likely give you two medications to take with you to Nepal:

  1. Diamox for Altitude Sickness
  2. Antibiotics for Traveler's Diarrhea.

About half of my trekking group needed to take both of these during the trip. Luckily Kaitlin and I did not need them - but we were happy we had them. There are no mosquitos in the Everest Region so you do not need to be concerned about bug bites or Malaria. 

How to prevent Altitude Sickness:

  • Hike slow and steady. Even if you're super fit.
  • Drink at least 4 liters of water a day
  • Keep eating, even as your appetite deteriorates at higher elevation
  • Positive thoughts work magic. If you start worrying and feeling scared about altitude sickness, you are more likely to suffer from it. Give yourself positive affirmations throughout the trek and soak in the beauty of the mountains around you. It works!
  • This is not official medical advice - but several mountain climber friends of mine recommended I take 2 Ibuprofen in the morning and 2 in the evenings. Kaitlin and I did this instead of taking Diamox and neither of us got headaches or any signs of altitude sickness throughout the entire trip. 
  • Remember that altitude sickness has no ties to your health, fitness, or frequency in the mountains - it's totally random. Have sympathy for yourself or others if they are experiencing altitude sickness. 

Travel Insurance

Travel insurance is essential for the EBC trek because of the high risk of altitude sickness, at which point a medical evacuation by helicopter is mandatory. Your travel insurance will cover the cost of the helicopter evacuation. I got my insurance through Allianz - the company recommended to me by Triple A. Make sure that you read the details for each insurance plan when you are choosing the right one to purchase - it must include medical evacuation. Your insurance plan can also cover things like lost baggage, plane tickets if your flights are delayed, stolen items, etc. 

Food & Water on the Trail

Water:

Bottled water is available, but not the best choice throughout the trek. As you go higher, the cost of bottled water will rise and the discarded plastic creates too much trash for the little villages. Carry a water bottle with you and get it filled in teahouses throughout each day. The teahouses will sell boiled water for a relatively cheap rate but the cheapest option is for you to sterilize your own water in a water bottle/bladder.

Kaitlin and I would normally fill our Nalgene bottles with water at teahouses, sterilize it with a SteriPen, and then pour that water into our backpack bladders. We'd repeat this step at breakfast, lunch, and dinner so that we always had enough water to drink while hiking.

All tea and coffee is safe to drink since it’s made with boiling water, but all other drinking water needs to be filtered. Avoid brushing your teeth with any kind of tap water, especially in Kathmandu. 

Food:

You will be eating in teahouses for breakfast, lunch, and dinner throughout the trek. Almost all the teahouses have the same menu. For breakfast, you can have eggs cooked in your preferred style, bread-butter-jam, pancakes, or porridge. For meals, you can have momo’s, pasta, noodles and soups. The most popular native dish is Dal-Bhaat-Tarkari - rice served with vegetable curry, lentil, chutney, salad cooked in Nepali style.

Something important to remember is that all of the meat has to be hiked in from Lukla and refrigeration is limited. For that reason, it's a good idea to steer clear of all meat after leaving Kathmandu. Also, anything with cheese or butter is going to be the local yak version (which has a very unusual taste).

If you're trekking independently or your food isn’t included in the price of your trek, expect to pay somewhere between $4-7 for a simple meal, and that price goes up the further along the trail you get.

The Accommodations

There are a variety of accommodations along the Everest Base Camp Trek, and our trek included private rooms at the middle-priced lodges available in each village. There should be no misunderstanding here - the rooms are all very basic.  The higher elevation rooms do not have toilets, and some facilities only have squat toilets. There is no heating and all you will get is a bed, a pillow, a thick blanket.

At the beginning of the trip, your accommodations may come with in-room showers, western-style flush toilets, heating blankets, and in-room outlets to charge our stuff. Towards the end, things get more simple – no heat, no outlets, and squat toilets down the hall. Many people opt for the "baby wipe shower" throughout the entire trek.

When it comes down to it, the hotels aren't the reason why people trek in Nepal. Keep yourself content by bringing warm sleeping clothes, ear plugs, and a positive attitude. That said, it’s not for everyone, and if this description of the accommodations sounds awful to you, than perhaps the Everest Base Camp Trek isn’t a good fit for you.

Electricity & Wifi

I was surprised at the availability of wi-fi for purchase along the trail, although I heard the speed was variable (especially towards the end of the trek). It was fast enough in most places to send messages & write emails. Videos and Snapchat, however, were pretty slow to load, if they loaded at all. I opted for a digital detox and chose not to purchase internet during the trek. I was very happy just gobbling up books on my Kindle!

For charging your electronics, you’ll want to consider bringing a solar panel, battery packs and spare camera batteries. You’ll only have electricity in your room and outlets to charge your personal electronics for the first few days. After that, you’ll have to pay to charge things at the lodges. I used this solar panel and it worked great! 

Tipping your Guide & Porters

It's expected that you tip your guide and porters, even if you paid ahead for a guided tour. It was recommended by our trekking company, Eco Nepal Adventures, that we take 15% of the total pre-paid trip cost and divide that amount between our guide, assistant guide, and porter as we wished. 

FAQ

Can I trek solo?

Yes, the trail to EBC is very straightforward and the trail system throughout the Everest Region is pretty simple. As long as you have a map and an understanding of your own fitness, you can choose a route to travel solo. You may want to book a few lodges ahead of time as the tourist season causes them to book up fast with trekking companies and their large groups. 

How safe is it on the trail and in the lodges?

The Everest Region is safe and it's unlikely that you will have anything stolen from you. That being said, you should never leave your passport, cash, or valuables unattended. Keep them with you when you leave your room in the evenings or while eating meals. 

How much money should I bring along with me on the trek?

This amount will be different for every traveler and specific to the way that you choose to travel, but here's a rough estimate. If you've already paid for a guided trip ahead of time, I recommend bringing $600 US Dollars worth in Nepal Rupees. If you're paying your Guide in Nepal, I recommend bringing around $1,600 total. Your guide might want to be paid in US Dollars, but you will still need around $600 worth of Nepal Rupees for your trek. This is assuming that you do not need to purchase any additional gear. 

What kind of outlet converter do I need?

The power converter for Nepal is not included in most universal power converters (the ones with multiple options for around the world). The easiest way to get the right one is to purchase it in Kathmandu at a grocery store.