Everest Base Camp Trek FAQ – Trekking in Nepal

by | Jun 5, 2017 | 0 comments

In fall 2016, as part of our around the world trip, we decided to do A LOT of trekking in Nepal. Unfortunately, all of the Everest Base Camp trekking guides we found were well out of date. It’s hard to plan for a trip halfway around the world without some up to date information. Thus to give back to the community we’ve created this FAQ, and sample itinerary (our own experience).

This is the ‘straight to the point’ short version. If your looking for a more personal account of our time trekking in the Everest region check out this post.

We’ve also created a similar post for trekking The Annapurna Circuit.

What is the Everest Base Camp Trek?

It’s just what it says!  A trek to Everest Base Camp, one of the most iconic mountaineering camps in the world. Hundreds of people every year use this camp to launch their climbing bids in an attempt to scale the mighty Mt. Everest! If you trek in April/May, base camp will be alive with hundreds of tents and people buzzing about the community.  The Sagarmatha (Everest) trekking region is also host to some of the highest trekking passes in the world and there is a plethora of other amazing treks you can do on the way to and from Everest Base Camp.

How long does that take?

The Everest Base Camp trek can be done in as little as 12-16 days depending on how you personally do with altitude acclimatization. A lot of the trek is quite high in altitude so make sure you take proper recommended acclimatization days on the way up.  If you’ve done something like The Annapurna Circuit and are acclimatized then you can move a little faster. You can also extend the schedule out to 19-21 days and loop in the Three Passes Trek and Gokyo Lakes which are both must sees if you’ve spent the time to get to the area! Our sample itinerary is below.

Sounds Hard. How fit do I need to be?

The great part about the Everest Base Camp Trek is that you do not need to be a super athlete or even an accomplished trekker to tackle it.  That said, you should have some sort of base fitness and always be sure to check with your doc to make sure you can handle walking 4-6 hours everyday for 2-3 weeks carrying a 20-25lb pack (if you carry your own gear and don’t hire a porter). We saw all ages and shapes on the trail and everyone was having a great time!

What about elevation? Don't planes fly that high?

Some do! It’s important to acclimatize properly on the Everest Base Camp Trek.  The good news is that the hike naturally takes a gradual approach letting you acclimatize a little more each day.  It’s recommended that you stay 2 nights in several towns along the way to help acclimatization.  You can also alter your itinerary as we did to do some other things instead of just sitting in town. See our sample itinerary below. You will spend a week or more sleeping above 4270m (14,000ft). The highest elevation you will ever sleep at is in Gorak Shep at 5160m (16,929ft). It’s a miserable sleepless night, but it’s only for one night!

Ability to deal with altitude has a lot to do with genetics so everyone is going to be a little different. That said, the vast majority of people have no problem with altitude as long as they take the time to acclimatize properly and not rush too fast to the high elevations.

Some people recommend and take Diamox tablets which are designed to prevent and treat altitude sickness.  Talk to you doctor if you think this might be something you are interested in. You can also acquire this in Kathmandu once you arrive.

Remember: It’s ok to get altitude sickness. It’s NOT ok to die from it.

Cool I'm in! When is the best time to go?

Prime trekking is October/November.  We started in mid October after having done the Annapurna Circuit.  This plan turned out pretty well.  There were a lot of people on the trail which is sometimes a pain, but it’s nice to have lots people in the lodges to talk to and it wasn’t too bitter cold yet. The days were pleasant and the nights were cold. The longer you wait toward December, the colder the upper camps will be. (ie: like water bottles freezing overnight in your room cold)

April/May is also a good time to trek and probably the second most popular time. If you trek during this season you have the added benefit of seeing all of the climbers buzzing around base camp getting ready to scale Mt. Everest!

Dec – March is winter and while the skies will be clear, it will be very cold and snow threatens to close the high passes

June – September is monsoon season and not recommended due to heavy rains and mudslides

I'm ready to book my flight! How do I get there and back?

Most people who come to Nepal fly into Kathmandu International Airport (KTM).  A taxi from the airport to Thamel (main tourist district) will cost about 700 NPR and takes 20-45 minutes depending on traffic.

From Kathmandu there are several options to get to the “start” of the Everest Base Camp Trek. By far the most common option is to fly to Lukla airport. Cost is approximately 160 USD per person ONE WAY. Any lodge owner in Thamel can help you book a flight. There are also many many booking offices in Thamel that would love to help you for a fee. Once you arrive in Lukla you literally get off the plane, walk through town, and start the trek!

A far less common but much more inexpensive option is to take a bus to Jiri and start the trek from there. It’s about an 8 hour bus ride and the trek from Jiri to Lukla takes about 5-6 days extra.

The full Everest Base Camp Trek ends back in Lukla where you will want to get back the night before your flight and stay one night so that you grab an early flight out the next day. Again you can also trek back down to Jiri and bus out if you like.

Pro Tip: Book as early a flight as possible.  Weather tends to move in as the day progresses and since mountain flying is inherently dangerous, later flights will get canceled due to weather as simple as clouds rolling in. Flights in the 6-7am range are what you want for a higher success rate.

Do I need a trekking permit? Can't I just go rogue?

There are a few trekker checkpoints along the Everest Base Camp Trek (including one run by the Army) so definitely buy your permits. They are cheaper to get in Kathmandu so just get them before you leave.

You’ll need two things, a TIMS (Trekker Information Management System) card and an Sagarmatha (Everest) Conservation Area permit. They cost 20 USD for the TIMS and 34 USD for the conservation (or NPR equivalent) and you’ll need two passport photos. Luckily for you, they offer free pics at the office so don’t bother with paying for any extras. You get 6 photos total by default and you get some free arts and crafts time trimming them up.

Both of these permits can be purchased at the Nepal Tourism Board office which is just south east of Thamel. You can walk there in about 15-20 minutes from Thamel. Here’s a map:

How much money do I need for the Everest Base Camp Trek?

It all depends on how extravagant you want to live! The most expensive part is actually getting to Nepal.  After that, you’ll need 30 USD for a 30-day visa and 54 USD (or NPR equivalent) for your trekking permits (20 for TIMS card and 34 for conservation area permit).

On arrival you’ll likely want to stay a day or two in Thamel to get your permits and flight to Lukla situated.  A taxi to Thamel from the airport costs 700 NPR. For accommodation in Thamel we recommend Elbrus Home that we stayed at for a total of about 25 days while in Nepal. As of this writing a nice private ensuite room with breakfast included was 16-20 USD per night.

The flight to Lukla is 160 USD per person ONE WAY.

While trekking in the Everest Region we budgeted 30 USD a day per person (no guides/porters) and came pretty close to that number. The Everest Base Camp Trek is much more expensive than The Annapurna Circuit. Everything on the trek is a la carte. Basic rooms at the lodges will cost between 0-500 NPR. Hot showers (if available) cost 500 NPR. Charging electronic devices 100-300 NPR per device (or per hour). Everestlink wifi cards are available from 250-1000 NPR (depending on how much data you want: 100, 200, or 500MB) and are only good for 15 hours per card. Dal Bhat is 600-800 NPR. 1L bottles of water are an astounding 350 NPR pretty much everywhere after Namche Bazar.

We recommend setting your budget, then taking out enough money from an ATM in Thamel for the entire time you plan to be on the trek.  This will result in a large stack of bills but there are no ATMs on the trek except in Namche Bazaar and you get a much better rate at an ATM than you do going to a money exchange place. Also, Namche’s ATM is limited to 10,000 NPR per transaction (35,000 per in Thamel).

Some lodges on the trek you can bargain to stay for free if you promise to eat dinner and breakfast there (not like you have a huge choice) but most will cost 200-300 NPR average.

Pro Tips for saving money:
– Buy a SIM card for cheap in Thamel and use it for occasional wifi. It wont work all the time, but it’s better than paying for wifi
– Bring a travel solar charger/power bank. Paying to recharge stuff gets really expensive
– Bring wet wipes to clean with and don’t bother paying for actual showers (maybe once halfway)
– Bring your own tea bags and instead of ordering tea just order hot water and make your own
– Buy your daily snack foods in Thamel and bring them with. Snacks are crazy expensive

What are the lodges like?

The teahouse lodges on the Everest Base Camp trek are actually pretty great!  They have 4 walls and a roof most of the time! Rooms are simple accommodation with one or two beds (some places have 3+) and sheets/pillow/blankets.   Some of the nicer lodges (Khumbu Lodge in Namche Bazaar) have attached bathrooms with hot shower but it costs a premium (~25 USD). Else, you’re looking at shared bathrooms and no shower unless you want to pay 500 NPR for a basic one. The toilets are almost always “squatty pottys”. The bedrooms are NOT heated and they can get COLD. Be sure you bring appropriate sleeping bag and clothes (see our Annapurna Circuit Packing List for some suggestions).

Pro tips for lodge selection:

Look around at a few places before making your selection. There is no shame in walking away and coming back after you’ve seen a few places.

“Hot water” is a relative term on the Everest Base Camp trek.  Water is heated in one of 3 ways: cooking fire, solar, and gas. If showering and hot water are important to you, look for places that heat their water with gas, followed by solar, followed by fire.  When looking at a room ask to see the shower and turn it on to feel the water before you commit to a place. Again don’t forget that a shower will cost 500 NPR.

If you are staying in a lodge that has multiple floors, always ask for a room on the top floor so you don’t have to listen to the people above you walk around all night and early in the morning.

Most lodges have wifi that connects to Everestlink. Everestlink cards can be bought for 250, 500, and 1000 NPR which gets you 100, 200, or 500MB worth of data and it’s only good for 15 hours. There is no free wifi anywhere on the trek after Namche Bazar.

Check out the dining area. With very few exceptions most lodges have the same menu so don’t worry too much about what food is being served, but you’ll probably spend some time in there hanging out so make sure it looks comfortable/warm. If being warm for breakfast is important to you, ask the lodge if they fire up the dung stove in the morning.

If the weather is nice look for places that have nice outdoor seating in the sun to relax for the afternoon.

Similar Lodge Menus? Sounds Bland. How's the food?

Admittedly the food can be repetitive, but it’s come a long way and its generally seasoned really well. You can get everything from rice and lentil dishes (dal bhat power 24hr!) to yak steaks and burgers.  Beer and soda are available everywhere for an hugely inflated price. Snacks (cookies/candy bars etc.) are widely available, also for higher than western prices.  The further away you get, the higher the prices get.

Pro tips on food:

Bring your own snacks from Kathmandu. Yeah, it sucks to have the extra weight, but if you know you’re going to want one Snickers a day while trekking, its better to pay 80 NPR per bar in Kathmandu than 200 NPR up on the trek.

Soy Sauce.  I love it, and it turns dal bhat into a whole new meal.  If you like soy sauce, bring a small (or large!) bottle. Thank me later.

I heard you can't drink the water in Nepal? What if I get thirsty?!

It’s true that it is not safe to drink the tap/hose water in Nepal without treating it.  You have two options when it comes to water:

Buy bottled water. It’s cheap in Kathmandu (about 20 NPR for a liter bottle) but expensive on the Everest Base Camp trek (a ridiculous 350 NPR for the same bottle in remote areas). It’s convenient, albeit can get expensive and Nepal has a real hard time getting rid of all that plastic.

A better option is to bring a reusable water bottle (ie. Nalgene) and some sort of water purification.  It’s cheaper and it doesn’t hurt the environment. Any lodge will provide you with the tap water for no cost, then you can just treat it yourself.  My favorite form of purification is the SteriPen. It kills all bacteria, viruses, everything in the water in 90 seconds (for 1L) using UV light. Science! It’s also rechargeable via USB and doesn’t add much weight to your pack.

Do I need to book anything ahead of time?

You might want to book a hostel/guest house in Kathmandu (Thamel District) to make it easier when you arrive. Hostelworld is a good resource for finding lodging in Thamel. We stayed at and recommend Elbrus Home. Nothing else needs to be booked ahead of time. Your hostel owner can help you book a flight to Lukla and the tea houses on the trek are first come first serve.  Don’t worry, there are plenty to go around for everyone!

Pro Tip:  The lodges in Lobuche, Gorak Shep, and Gokyo will fill up in peak season (Oct/Nov). Plan to arrive in these places early to secure yourself a room.

Do I need a guide and/or porter?

Some western guides charge up to 4500 USD for an Everest Base Camp Trek which is LUDICROUS. The big western groups stay in the same lodging that you will as an independent, they eat the same food, they generally have a western guide and porters to carry their gear. If you are capable of simple logistics then you definitely do not NEED a guide for the trek. Save your money and buy me a beer sometime as a thank you.  The trail itself is well worn and it is very easy to find your way.  Some people like using guides as they sometimes can offer more information about an area and they sometimes make getting lodges easier. If you do want to go with a guide, do your research locally and get someone who you mesh well with.

As with a guide, you do not NEED a porter. However, if you have the extra cash and you don’t like carrying your own pack then there are an abundance of locals who will carry it for you… for a price.

You can book both guide and porter services easily in Kathmandu.

We didn’t use a guide or porter service for any of the trekking that we did in Nepal as we were doing our trekking on a budget and I don’t feel like we missed out on anything.  Get a good guidebook (recommend Lonely Planet Trekking in Nepal Himalaya) and a trail map (available locally) and you’ll be just fine.

Do I need to bring camping/cooking gear?

Not unless you want to camp!  The Everest Base Camp Trek is a teahouse trek meaning that there are small towns with lodges along the entire way. In fact you’ll never trek more than a couple of hours without coming upon a group of lodges anxious to give you a place to sleep and cook you a good meal.

Do I need to bring my own food?

Food is heavy and there is plenty of it on the trek so there isn’t really a need to bring your own (barring any dietary restrictions). The one thing you might consider bringing with you are snacks from Kathmandu. As you move further and further down the circuit, things like candy bars get pretty expensive. A Snickers that costs 80 NPR in Kathmandu, will cost upwards of 200 NPR on the trek.

Everest Base Camp Trekking Map

everest base camp trek map

Everest Region Trekking Sample Itinerary (3 Passes, Base Camp & Gokyo)

Day 1

Lukla to Phakding
Approximate Trek Time: 2-3 hours
Distance: 7.9k / 4.9 miles
Overnight Elevation: 2,610m / 8,563ft

Pro tip: You could go all the way to Namche Bazar today if your feeling on it.

Day 2

Phakding to Namche Bazaar Approximate Trek Time: 4 – 5 ½ hrs
Distance: 9.7k / 6 miles
Overnight Elevation: 3420m / 11,220ft

Pro Tip:  The Khumbu Lodge has comfortable  accommodation and good service/food.  If you feel like springing for it, get the deluxe room (25 USD) which has ensuite hot shower, charging, and electric warming blankets!

Day 3

Rest Day in Namche Bazaar
Approximate Trek Time: Variable
Distance: Variable
Overnight Elevation: 3420m / 11,220ft

Pro Tip: Go out and hike above the Bazaar for excellent views of Everest.

Day 4

Namche Bazaar to Tengboche
Approximate Trek Time: 3 ½ – 4 ½ hrs
Distance: 9.2k / 5.7 miles
Overnight Elevation: 3870m / 12,696ft

Pro tip: The Tengboche monastery has open prayer sessions at 3pm that are worth going to. Quietly go in and to the right and sit down against the wall. The bakery at the end of town has excellent pizza.

Day 5

Tengboche to Pangboche + Ama Dablam Base Camp
Approximate Trek Time: 1 hr. to Pangboche; 4 hr. Ama Dablam BC (return)
Distance: 13.5k / 8.4 miles
Overnight Elevation: 3860m / 12,664ft

Pro tip: Rather than spend an acclimatization day in Tengboche, get up early and take a short hike to Pangboche. Grab a guesthouse and drop your gear. Head up to Ama Dablam base camp for some AMAZING views. If you go in October, base camp will be buzzing with climbers.

Day 6

Pangboche to Dingboche
Approximate Trekking Time: 2 – 2 ½ hours
Distance: 6.4k / 4 miles
Overnight Elevation: 4360m / 14,304ft

Pro tip: To aid with acclimatization, hike up to the obvious Stupa above town and continue up the ridge following the cairns. Hike as high as you wish but if you are peak bagging you can go all the way to the top of Nangkartshang Peak (5083m) from here.

Day 7

Dingboche to Chhukung
Approximate Trekking Time: 2 hours
Distance: 4.5k / 2.8 miles
Overnight Elevation: 4730m / 15,518ft

Pro tip: From Chhukung you can venture out to Island Peak base camp, one of the more popular “trekking peaks.” Be advised, you’ll still need crampons, ropes, and ice axes if you want to climb.

Day 8

Chhukung Ri
Approximate Trekking Time: 3-4 hours
Distance: 5.5k / 3.4 miles
Overnight Elevation: 4730m / 15,518ft

Pro Tip: When you get to the obvious false summit T in the trail, Chhukung Ri is the one on the right. It’s a rock scramble to the top but the views are absolutely worth it!

Day 9

Chhukung to Lobuche over the Kongma La Pass
Approximate Trekking Time: 6-7 hours
Distance: 9.3k / 5.8 miles
Overnight Elevation: 4930m / 16,174ft

Pro tip: Kongma La is the hardest of the Three Passes and this is a LONG HARD day.  Make sure you set out early so that you give yourself enough time to get to Lobuche in time to get a room!

Day 10

Lobuche to Gorak Shep + Kala Patthar + Everest Base Camp
Approximate Trekking Time: 1 ½ – 2 hrs. to Gorak Shep; 3-4 hr. roundtrip e/ to Kala Pattar & EBC
Distance: 16.4k / 10.2 miles
Overnight Elevation: 5160m / 16,929ft

Pro Tip: Leave Lobuche early and head up to Gorak Shep. Grab a lodge as soon as you get there to secure your room. Drop your gear and either head up Kala Patthar (3 hours return)  or head out to Everest Base Camp (3 hours return). After whichever one you do, grab lunch and then go do the other.  This ensures only one night in Gorak Shep.

Day 11

Gorak Shep to Dzonglha
Approximate Trekking Time: 4 ½ – 5 ½ hrs
Distance: 10.8k / 6.7 miles
Overnight Elevation: 4830m / 15,846ft

Pro tip: There will be a fork in the trail about 2/3 of the way through the day. Always take the higher trail. The low one will still get you there, but its a lot of bushwhacking.

Day 12

Dzongla to Tagnag (Dragnag) over the Cho La Pass
Approximate Trekking Time: 5-6 hours
Distance: 8k / 5 miles
Overnight Elevation: 4700m / 15,420ft

Pro tip: You could go all the way to Gokyo but it’s another 2 hours past Tagnag and rooms can be hard to come by.  Better to stop in Tagnag and get an early start to Gokyo the next day to ensure a room.

Day 13

Tagnag to Gokyo + Gokyo Ri
Approximate Trekking Time: 2 hrs. to Gokyo; 3 – 4 hrs. roundtrip to Gokyo Ri
Distance: 8.9k / 5.5 miles
Overnight Elevation: 4750m / 15,584ft

Pro Tip: Grab a lodge room in Gokyo as soon as you get there and drop your gear.  Hang around and grab lunch and head up Gokyo Ri in the afternoon.  You could also go at sunset for AMAZING sunset views.  Bring warm clothes.

Day 14

Gokyo Lakes
Approximate Trekking Time: 5 – 6 hrs. roundtrip to Cho Oyo BC
Distance: variable (19k / 12 miles return from Cho Oyo BC)
Overnight Elevation: 4750m / 15,584ft

Pro tip: Take a day and explore the Gokyo Lakes. The lake in Gokyo is lake 3. There are two below it and three above it.  If you are feeling strong, you could go all the way to Cho Oyo base camp as well. Great views of Cho Oyo and Makalu on this day.

Day 15

Rest Day in Gokyo
Approximate Trekking Time: N/A
Distance: N/A
Overnight Elevation: 4750m / 15,584ft

Pro Tip: Discresionary but I bet you’ll be tired. Gokyo is a nice place to just relax and kick back for a day. If you’re on a schedule, just move along.

Day 16

Gokyo to Lumde over the Renjo La Pass
Approximate Trekking Time: 5-6 hours
Distance: 11.6k / 7.2 miles
Overnight Elevation: 4350m / 14,271ft

Pro tip: Renjo La is the easiest of the passes but still you’ve done a LOT of climbing at this point. Go early as the lodges in Lumde can fill up and if they do then you’ll have to continue to Thame.

Day 17

Lumde to Thame
Approximate Trekking Time: 2-3 hours
Distance: 9.3k / 5.8 miles
Overnight Elevation: 3750m / 12,303ft

Pro tip: Sunder Peak is a little known and less traveled peak that you can reach from Thame. It’s a hard climb and some of it is sketchy but the views are worth your time if you are feeling strong!

Day 18

Thame to Namche Bazar
Approximate Trekking Time: 2-3 hours
Distance: 8.9k / 5.5 miles
Overnight Elevation: 3420m / 11,220ft

Pro tip: Namche Bazar has an Irish Pub thats supposedly the highest Irish Pub in the world.  Grab yourself an expensive beer, you’ve earned it!

Day 19

Namche Bazar to Lukla
Approximate Trekking Time: 6-7 hours
Distance: 17.7k / 11 miles
Overnight Elevation: 2860m / 9,383ft

Pro tip: There is a place in Lukla that serves an Everest Burger which is a double patty cheeseburger with fries. Just what you need after 19 days in the mountains!

Don’t forget, if you are interested in reading a much longer and more personal account of our time on the Everest Base Camp Trek and Three Passes Trek, check out this post on our blog about our experience.

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