So you have decided to come to Nepal to go trekking. You have a few trek locations in mind but not really sure where you want to go yet. You have decided to go through a local trekking agency, for both your own safety and because you want to give back to the local Nepali community. But how do you chose which agency go use? There are literally dozens of them.
Let me give you some advice on how to choose a trekking agency in this post.
What Do I Expect From A Trekking Agency?
Naturally you want them to be experienced and keep you safe. That’s priority number one. But what else do you want from the agency and the trek itself?
You might want to consider your budget. Not just the guide fees but also in relation to what type of trek you want (Camping, teahouse, or more comfortable lodges), where you want to go (Restricted areas have a high permit fee). Okay, so you have an idea of your budget. Then what?
You will want a guide who speaks your language. All trekking guides in Nepal speak English but is that your language? You will want to enquire of any agency if they have a guide that speaks your lingo.
You will want your guide to by sympathetic if you are a first time, or less experienced trekker. Or if you are fit and experienced you might want a guide who will push you to the limit.
But how do you find this out?
Check The Registration & Licenses Of Any Potential Trekking Agency
Gone are the days when you ‘found’ a guide while walking through Thamel. Although you may still be approached this way. But you have a secret weapon. You have the internet!
Every trekking agency has to be legally registered with the Government of Nepal and affiliated or registered with the Nepal Tourist Board, Trekking Agencies’ Association of Nepal (TAAN), and, if they offer climbing, the Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA). By checking on the TAAN website you will find a list of trekking agencies who are registered.
What Others Say Reviews And Testimonials
Armed with a list of potential agencies you can go through their websites to see what their previous clients say. Be aware of fake reviews though. Sites like TripAdvisor will also provide you with reviews.
How Long Has The Agency Been Operating?
At the same time, check how long the trekking agency has been operating. And how long they have been working with their individual guides. That’s not to say that new agencies are not good. Some new agencies are very well organised, up to date with trainings and local conditions and perhaps have experience in other agencies previously.
Provided Facilities And Cost
If you know which trek you would like to go on, it’s easier to calculate the cost. For example a camping trek will cost more as all the equipment and food needs to be carried along by porters. If you are looking for more luxury type accommodation (No four stars on the trek, but some hotels are better than others), then the cost will be higher also. However, once the type of trek, accommodation, and location of trek (Some places require multiple permits, example Manaslu Circuit Trek requires three permits) has been chosen, the cost of trekking agencies can vary considerably.
Like in other areas of life, the most expensive is not necessarily the best. Doing your homework is vital.
But remember to look at what facilities they are providing. Is the cost of picking you up at the airport included? Are they providing a private vehicle to the trek starting point or a local bus? What standard of accommodation are they using on your trek? Ask questions!
Trekking can be many things exhilarating, exhausting, frustrating, enlightening, empowering, sweaty, muddy, breathtaking. In itself trekking is not dangerous. What can be dangerous is not anticipating problems, not being able to solve any arising problems, over estimating clients’ abilities and not having good back up. Your agency should be able to demonstrate that they have, for example, access to helicopter rescue (And note you will need your own insurance coverage to avail of this service), carry a GPS tracker, have a method of communication in areas where there is no phone signal, etc. Ask, ask, ask. A genuine agency should not mind if you ask many questions!
The way to establish if a chosen agency has safety features in place is to send an initial email.
Establishing a relationship early on works well. If they do not respond to your satisfaction, move on to the next agency on your list!
Guides And Porters
Your guide will make or break your trip! Aside from them being well trained and professional, are they properly equipped for the trek? Particularly for high altitude, snowy conditions. Does he speak your language? Does he know the area? This is required not only to find the way but also to provide you with local knowledge what type of communities you are trekking through, what are the names of the mountains etc. Is he a chatter box or the strong silent type? Ok so you probably won’t know the answer to that until you meet him, but if you definitely don’t want someone talking 24/7 let the agency know in advance. On the other hand you might love to have someone who will entertain you and make you laugh for days!
Porter can be a real issue with less professional agencies. If your trek requires porters, or if you want one to carry your personal bag, are they properly equipped for the climate? No one wants to feel like they are exploiting the person who is helping them on their trek. And believe me, some agencies do this. Check, ask questions, make sure the agency knows you will not tolerate badly treated staff on your trek.
Meet Your Guide
Usually you will meet your guide prior to setting off on the trek. Probably not so with the porters who may already be in the trekking region you are going to. Talk to your guide to find out if you are going to get along (See above!). The sooner you can do this after arriving in Nepal the better in case you wish to change guide. Which may not be possible at the last minute in the busy season. If you can, email the guide directly before you leave home. Ask the agency if this is possible. Be aware, it’s not unknown for less scrupulous guides to offer to take you alone, at a cheaper rate than the agency will charge. But remember he will not have the back up of a registered organisation should things go wrong.
Want to list your trekking agency in the above list? Kindly fill in the form below and I will get in touch earliest possible.
It can be time consuming to find the right fit of a trekking agency. But it will be time well spent. You want to be as comfortable as possible on your trek (Bar the weather and hilly inclines!), and confident in the knowledge there is back up should things go south!
Remember to write a review based on your experience at the end of the trek to help people like you who are at the beginning of their journey to find at trekking agency!