The Mount Everest Base Camp Trek - Easier and Cheaper Than You Think

Prayer flags on the way to Mount Everest Base Camp
Prayer flags on the way to Mount Everest Base Camp | Source

Almost anyone would consider it the adventure of a lifetime. You might believe that to make it to Mount Everest Base Camp, where the world's elite mountaineers camp for months for just a single attempt at the summit, you would need extensive climbing experience and deep reserves of disposable savings. In fact, this unique adventure is far easier and cheaper than you'd think. This page is intended to tell how you can pull off the famous base camp trek.


Getting to Kathmandu

Kathmandu is a generally expensive airport to fly into, especially via direct flight. It's generally far cheaper to fly into New Delhi or Calcutta and then take another flight to Kathmandu, though it's worth comparing on flight search engines such as kayak.com.

If you transfer in India, however, the visa issue can be tricky. You can get a cheaper transit visa if you'll be in India for less than 72 hours, but it's good for only one entry. If you stop through India again on your way back to your home country, you'll need to apply for another transit visa from Kathmandu.Transit visas usually cost $10-30.

You can also get a double-entry tourist visa, which will cover you for your transfer in the airport on the way in and the way out, but this is a bit more expensive than two transit visas. A double-entry visa can cost anywhere between $60 and $120, depending on your nationality and where you apply.

If you're planning to transit through India the visa issues can get complicated. It's worth some thorough investigation. Click here for a helpful guide from About.com.

Buying Gear in Kathmandu

Since Nepal is one of the poorer countries in Asia, travelers may be concerned that they won't be able to get the equipment they need in the country. In fact, just about everything you might want can be found in Thamel, Kathmandu's tourist and trekking center. I certainly hadn't done any preparation before I got there. Here's info on some of the bigger items you'll need, though a recommended full list can be found below. Lonely Planet's guide also has helpful advice on what to bring.

Sleeping Bag: There's actually no need to buy one of these. You can rent high-quality sleeping bags that take up little room in your backpack for a mere 50 cents per day. I'm not sure if these are adequate for camping, but for standard teahouse trekking they do the job perfectly.

Down Jacket: During most of the year it will be warm enough during the days to hike in a t-shirt or fleece. When you reach a lodge to stop for the night, though, you'll need a thick jacket to keep warm. Most lodges have fireplaces in the main room, but sleeping quarters aren't heated. Luckily, you can also buy these in Thamel or rent them for about 50 cents per day.

Fleece Jacket: During day hikes at higher elevations the breeze can be quite brisk, so it's good to have your a fleece (or two). You can buy these in Thamel for as cheap as $4, but it's also easy to find higher-quality garments.

Hiking Boots: You can buy a pair of boots in Thamel, but it's best to buy them well ahead of time so you can break them in. You can easily get blisters if you hike all day in new boots, and this can end up making your whole trip very uncomfortable. Some have even had to turn back early because of blisters.

Quick-drying pants and shirts: You can find hiking pants in Thamel for between $5-10. The pants that you can zip off at the knee and also use as shorts are the most convenient. Dry-fit t-shirts are far better than cotton as they keep you warmer, don't stick to the skin as much when wet, and are easier to wash and dry along the trail. Long-sleeve shirts are good for protecting your arms from the sun, but make it harder to keep cool. I actually got quite hot during many uphill day-hikes with my big backpack, so I often hiked in a short-sleeve dry-fit shirt.

Other gear: There are quite a few other items you'll need, such as sunscreen, sunglasses, water-purification tablets, hiking socks, etc. I won't get into listing them all here. Click here for a good checklist summarizing what you'll need.

Should I Hire a Guide or Porter?

Guides are surely helpful on the trip, but not needed.  They're good to have around in an emergency situation, but as long as you take it slow and avoid altitude sickness there should be little danger on the trip. 

The trail to Everest Base Camp is easy to follow, and there are villages and guesthouses positioned every few kilometers for most of the way to the top.  If you're on the trail during high season you'll run into lots of hikers along the way, so it's easy to share information on the route.

If you're healthy, it's not difficult to make the trek while carrying your own bag.  However, porters are great to have around if you catch the stomach rumbles or some other niggling ailment that makes carrying your pack especially bothersome. Porters cost $15-20 per day.  It can be difficult to find them along the trail, however.  It's easy to arrange one in Kathmandu, but unfortunately at that point you don't yet know if you'll really need it.

Flying to and from Lukla

Most hikers fly from Kathmandu and experience the stomach-turning landing at Lukla, then begin their trek from there. It's possible to hike all the way from the Kathmandu Valley, beginning in Jiri, but this adds a taxing six-day hike one-way. The flight from Kathmandu to Lukla costs around $120. There's no need to book a return flight. It's better to keep a more flexible schedule so you don't have to try to rush to finish if you get delayed along the way. You can easily buy your ticket from Lukla back to Kathmandu in Namche Bazaar, a two-day hike from Lukla. You may have to wait a day or two to get a flight if you're in the middle of high-season, though.

Namche Bazaar: largest village in the Everest Region
Namche Bazaar: largest village in the Everest Region | Source

The Everest Base Camp Trek

If you begin at Lukla the hike will cover about 75 miles (120km) and you'll lose and gain about 10,000 feet (3000m) in altitude. If you hike at the recommended pace you'll spend about 8 days on the way up and 3-4 on the way down.

Accommodation and Eating

There's no need to camp during the hike if you don't want to. Every village has plenty of trekker's lodges, which usually charge $2-4 per night for a room. However, they impose a high fine ($10+) if you eat outside the lodge. This doesn't mean you can't go out to buy snacks, but they will expect you to have dinner and breakfast there. Meals get more expensive the farther you go up the mountain as yaks and porters must carry nearly all the food to the lodges. A hearty plate of fried noodles would run around $3-4, pancakes around $2-3, hot chocolate around $1-2.

There are also numerous provision shops in villages along the trail where you can buy crackers, cookies, candy bars, sugary drink mixes, soap and other toiletries, and a few other common items that you might need. Expect them to be about 2-4x more expensive than they would be in Kathmandu.

Villages are fairly common at lower elevations, so you'll pass through a few where you can take rest stops during the day's hike. Not so for the 3-4 days when you're near base camp, where the few hamlets like Pangboche and Gorak Shep stay in operation only to accommodate trekkers.

In total, $15-20 per day should cover food and lodging pretty well.

Toilet Facilities

While the trek may seem easier than you expected, don't necessarily let the same optimism run into your expectations about toilet facilities.  Heating water is difficult on the mountains, so lodges charge between $2-5 for a hot shower.  Cold showers are free, and you'll find they aren't so bad if you work up your body heat by shadow boxing while you're in there.

Quite a few lodges have western-style toilets, but it's likely that you'll end up squatting at some point on the trip.  You'll need your own toilet paper, which you can buy at many points along the trail. 

The Trekking Routine

Most trekkers get up around 7 AM to have breakfast and hike in the morning soon after the sun rises. You'll usually hike for only 4-5 hours per day because you must limit how fast you ascend the mountain. This leaves you with a surprising amount of free time and few modern means of entertainment.

You can find internet access at small cafes all the way up to Gorak Shep, which is the final village before Everest Base Camp. However, it gets quite expensive at higher elevations (around 25 cents/minute). Most trekkers read, nap and fraternize with other hikers in the lodge to pass the afternoons and evenings before heading to bed around 9PM, when the lodge owners generally let the fire go out.

The Importance of Going Slowly - The Danger of Altitude Sickness

It's important to resist the urge to push on to the next village on the map, despite the advice of your guidebook. You may feel fine after the morning's hike, but even though you could easily reach the next town before sundown you run the risk of becoming seriously and perhaps fatally ill. Going up slowly allows your body to acclimatize, which generally means that the air pressure in the cavities inside your head equalizes with the air pressure outside. Going slowly minimizes your chance of suffering altitude sickness. You can learn more about altitude sickness here.

on the trail just above Namche Bazaar
on the trail just above Namche Bazaar | Source

Cost Estimate

This page is only an introduction to the Everest Base Camp trek, intended to encourage people who might never have thought of doing it.  There are many sites out there with more-detailed itineraries and medical advice. To sum up, I'd like to give a little estimate of the total cost for the Everest Base Camp Trek.

  • Flight tickets (Kathmandu - Lukla - Kathmandu): $120 x 2 = $240
  • Rented Gear (down jacket and sleeping bag): $1/day x 13 days = $13
  • Hiking Boots: $40-70
  • Shirts, Pants, Fleeces: $30
  • Other Gear (medicine, snacks, etc.): $120
  • Accommodation and Food: $15-20/day x 13 days = $195-260
  • Park Entry Fee: $12

The total estimated costs come out to only $650-750, plus the cost of getting to Kathmandu. 

I saw men and women from around the world, aged anywhere between 20 and 70, while I was on the trail.  As long as you're reasonably fit you should be able to make it to base camp and Kala Pattar, a nearby peak which is the best spot for viewing the peak of Everest. I hope this is enough to prove that the Everest Base Camp Trek is in fact quite cheap and easy, and if it convinces someone to give it a try then this post has done its job.


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Comments 16 comments

Larry Fields profile image

Larry Fields 5 years ago from Northern California

Voted up, useful, and awesome. I was encouraged to learn that there are lots of stopover points on the trek. That could be good news for my aging knees on the way back down.

I have a stoopid question. My digestive system doesn't tolerate gluten (wheat, rye, barley, or even oats). Is it possible to arrange for meals that substitute rice, and to purchase ricecakes for hiking snacks? Thanks.


edgeicurean profile image

edgeicurean 5 years ago from Chiang Mai, Thailand Author

thanks Larry! Rice abounds in Nepal, so you can easily eat it at every meal. You can also find a lot of noodles, but I'm not sure what kind they are so I don't know whether they would fit your diet. You'll also find lots of potatoes.

I'm pretty sure I saw rice cakes in Kathmandu. There's definitely plenty of trail mix as well.


Marvin 4 years ago

Thank you for the wonderful info!!!!! I am going to do it soon!!!!


Availiasvision profile image

Availiasvision 4 years ago from California

This has been on my bucket list for years. Looks like it will be quite a bit cheaper than I had assumed. Might get to push it a little higher up the bucket list.

I like your writing style and use of pictures. Great hub; voted up.


hikehimalayas 3 years ago

e have had a fantastic two week trek to Everest base camp. Our Guide and porter. Sanjib and Pemba have been excellent and very attentive looking after us.Sanjib is a very good guide and taught us allot about Nepali culture. Pemba was a brilliant porter. We think he will make an excellent guide in future.The level of service from both Sanjib and Pemba was superb. They were available all the way to help us with anything we needed, and both were thoughtful about anything we might require, water, food showers,accomodation. Sanjib's knowledge of the area and the lodges meant that we were always happy with our accommodation. He took care to visit places which were comfortable and had home stay feel. Sanjib have the qualities to be excellent guide and porter and to give all his clients a wonderful trekking experience.We highly recommend him.

-Nedeen & Alicha,USA .


Rachel 3 years ago

Hi!

I went to Everest Base Camp and was going to Annapurna this past April/May. I can tell you that I found good prices in Kathmandu. I went shopping with my guide though and he seemed to get good deals. I think he rents-out sleeping bags. You can get them in Pokhara too, but you will find a bigger selection in Thamel. this means you can get better deals and will be able to talk them down on the price. It is a Nepali custom (I read in a guide) to bargain. It is fun. You will have no problems wih the weight on the plane. My bag was a bit big, I have a hard time traveling light.

I did hire a guide and he took care of hiring a porter. He works with trusted people. I can recommend my guide. He was knowledgeable, friendly, and most of all looked-out for my safety. He seemed to know just about everyone in Kathmandu and many, many guides and people on the mountain. Because Sanjib knows so many people he was constantly getting updates from up the mountain, or down the mountain. It was great to travel with a guide that has so many established relationships. I found him by chance through a travel forum and then got references from him. That is, I emailed past clients. In no time, I received emails from Italy, Germany and the U.S. singing this guy's praises, so that is how I went about finding my guide. I found the price very reasonable and I liked the fact that you do not pay until you get there, so you avoid the big down payments and the advance payments as well. I was happy to travel solo. Traveling in a group is great, but for sure, you will not get personalized attention. You can meet a lot of people at the tea houses, or as you go along the trek you will become familiar with others "going your way." You can contact Sanjib Adhikari at sanjib-adhikari@hotmail.com and Mobile No +97798416138. I recommend email. I am sure he will be happy to provide you with references. Let me know if you have more questions and enjoy!!!


Micheal 3 years ago

In November 2012, I did the 14day trek to Mount Everest base camp. I decided not to go with an organised group / tour, and had a Nepalese guide recommended to me through someone on Trip Advisor. My reason not to go with one of the large organised company, is that I wanted to ensure the money went all the the Nepalese people – who work so hard. If you use Nepalese company / guides – it is cheaper and the big companies are not taking a big cut.

The guide I was recommended was Sanjib Adhikari, http://www.nepalguideinfo.com/ or you can reach him on sanjib-adhikari@hotmail.com, was a great guide. He has been doing treks for the last10+ years, and speaks very good english. He arranged everything exactly how I wanted, he gave me good advice before getting to Nepal and on of course on the trek.

When I got sick with what we thought was altitude sickness, but turned out to be food poisoning, he was fantastic, he looked after me and ensure I did the right thing to get better. We made it to Base camp, and I don’t think I would have done it without his direction and guidance. I would highly recommend him.

You have alot more flexibility going with a Nepalese guide than an organised group. The organised group walk to the slowest person, which is frustrating for people who are faster, and pressure for those who are slow and feel like they are holding up the group. I had the most magical once in a life time trip. Please feel free to contact me about the trip or Sanjib.

Sydney, Australia


Jesse 3 years ago

I am strongly thinking of embarking upon the 'Everest base camp trek' come the start of December 2013. My girlfriend and I want to do it without a western company but also want to have the benefits of making friends and having company along the way. Do you meet a lot of people along the way during this time?


edgeicurean profile image

edgeicurean 3 years ago from Chiang Mai, Thailand Author

Sorry but I can't say much about trekking during December, I heard it would be really cold then so I thought May would be better!


Chan FL 3 years ago

I am also contemplating trekking to Everest Base Camp this December. Will it be substantially colder then?


nhtadventure profile image

nhtadventure 3 years ago from Kathmandu, Nepal

Trekking in December is extremely cold, expect about -12 deg C low at Gorepshep & Kalaphather.


nhtadventure profile image

nhtadventure 3 years ago from Kathmandu, Nepal

Lukla airfare has been revised

Flight tickets (Kathmandu - Lukla - Kathmandu): $161 x 2 = $322


Ninad Kulkarni 2 years ago

Hey I was just planning on going to Everest Base Camp in May this year (2014). I had a few questions. Could someone please help me out?

1. How important is a porter? Is it better to hire one in Kathmandu or Lukla? How much do they from cost in both the places?

2. If I'm not going through an organized tour, will getting accommodation at the lodges there be a problem? What if all the lodges are full?

3. How dangerous is it to fly from Kathmandu to Lukla? Any statistics on fatality rate?


wadsy profile image

wadsy 2 years ago from New Zealand

Nice write up, good info. I personally liked the Manaslu and Annapurna Treks, lots of culture and villages to enjoy. Porters are good to have and I do like having a guide who knows the history of the place. Makes for a richer trip experience wise


Alejandro Wg profile image

Alejandro Wg 14 months ago

This is by far one of the best guides I've found for the Everest Base Camp Trek, but I still have a few questions, which I would appreciate if you could help me:

1- I'm going by myself but do not wish to climb by myself or with a porter. I assume it's cheaper to book everything in Lukla than online before getting there, right? Anyway, if I get to Lukla without a plan, do you think I can find a group to trek along with? If the answer is yes, do you know if those hikes are done regularly?

2- I can arrive to Lukla without any gear (except shoes) and just buy it there? Assuming it's cheaper than buying it in the US.

3- I read somewhere that you can pay a sherpa to help you carry your stuff. Like $6 a day. Do you still need to pay other expenses or that's the total cost?

4- You advise me not to take a tent?

I guess everything is cheaper in Lukla than what you can find online before going there, right?

Thanks a lot


asianjourneys profile image

asianjourneys 3 months ago from Kathmandu, Nepal

Informative information and need to be updated. If you would like to know updated information click the site www.everestbasecamps.com

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