If you’re interested in completing one of the most iconic treks in the world, the Everest Base Camp trek, here is everything you need to know before you do it as I’ve just come back from completing it.
I spent a long time researching this trek and whilst I was on it, I made loads of notes to compile into this post.
1. How to get to Everest Base Camp
- The easiest way is to book with a Nepalese trekking company who will sort out absolutely everything for you.
- Do the trek with either just a guide or porter or both which you can sort out when you arrive into Nepal.
- Do the trek all by yourself with no guide and no porter. This requires a lot of planning and as I was actually told on the trek, the Nepalese government will make this way illegal in 2019 so you’ll need a guide on your trip going forward.
There are two seasons a year to trek to Everest Base Camp which are April – May and October – November. There’s supposedly better weather in the latter season although the climbers are only at Base Camp during April and May.
We went at the end April – May 2018 and seeing all of the yellow tents at Base Camp was just incredible and we even met Ant Middleton, famous for TV show SAS:Who Dares Wins where he told us all about what base camp was like and how he was making a documentary for Channel 4. A few weeks after we met him, he did indeed climb to the very top of Everest.
3. Which trekking company to choose for the EBC trek?
There are around 2,000 trekking companies in Nepal to choose from. It’s like a minefield but the company I chose was incredible called Visit Himalaya Treks. I chose a smaller company rather than a large one for ethical reasons. Read more about my experience with them here.
It’s a popular question but most people consider whether to do the Annapurna or Everest Base Camp trek. The Annapurna trek is cheaper at around USD$800 compared to the starting price of USD$1395 for EBC (with a trekking company).
The main thing I learnt from our guide is there are fewer people on the Annapurna trek now because in the last seven years, there’s now a main road you’ll have to walk along for around 3-7 days of the trek (depending on where you start the trek). There’s a lot of dust in Nepal so if you’re going to do Annapurna, be prepared for when the cars are driving past. You’ll certainly need a buff to help prevent getting sick.
For me, I specifically wanted to do the EBC trek because, well, it’s EVEREST!! Who wouldn’t want to see the highest mountain in the world? I was prepared for there to be a lot of people also doing this trek too.
5. How far is the Everest Base Camp trek?
The trek is approximately 130KM round trek from the starting point of Lukla and takes 12 days to walk. Whilst we were on the trek, we saw some Westerners training for the Everest Marathon which starts from Namche Bazar and finishing at Everest Base Camp. Our trekking company’s owner’s uncle currently holds the record for the fastest time running from Kathmandu to Lukla in just 3 days. Mental!!
The key trekking is to walk very slowly. Because we were travelling at the time, we hadn’t actually trained for the trek. We had spent about four months sat on beaches and we were actually pretty exhausted when we started the trek because we had three days to get our stuff together before the trek started in Kathmandu.
I also suffer from SIBO (Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth) which is where my stomach bloats and causes severe pain in my lower back and stomach. When it gets bad, I struggle to walk, so I was worried it would flare up during the trek. THANKFULLY it didn’t and I couldn’t believe I actually completed it!
However, we had just come from a 10 day Buddhist and Meditation course in Northern India. Might sound strange to you, but to me, I found that having a clear head made it much easier. Whenever I have come out of meditation retreats, I found sport much easier to deal with due to having longer breaths.
We have also trekked around the world in the past and in altitude such as trekking to Machu Picchu, we’ve trekked up to 5,000 metres in Ladakh, India, we had been to the Bolivian Salt Flats again at 5,000 metres so we thought we’d be alright.
The key for me was to take each day at a time. I have a Garmin 235 watch which tracks KMs so I could mentally prepare for each day. I also looked at the trek in stages. We had an acclimatization day on day 3 and day 6, meaning I could rest, and then we got to Base Camp on day 9 before returning to Kathmandu on day 13.
If you have the time, definitely do some training for this hike as it’s no walk in the park. I’d suggest walking up hills when you can as a very minimum.
We were without a doubt the slowest people on the trek. The oldies were passing by us in no time but we didn’t care 🙂
7. What to bring
If you’re unsure about what to bring with you on the trek, make sure you read my post here about everything I took, what I wish I took and what I didn’t need in the end.
8. What type of people and how many are on the trek?
I was prepared to see a lot of people on this trek. In fact, we were told last season saw around 400 people each day coming and returning along the path. That’s a lot but like I said before, it looks as though the government will be cracking down on people turning up when they want.
There were all types of people on this trek; from old people (we’re talking in their 70s!) to backpackers, fitness guys, everyone!
You’ll see the same people each day whilst on the trek and we ended up making some friends along the way. Everyone had an amazing story on why they were there. One group of American guys came to Nepal in 2015 and flew in on the day of the Earthquake to do the trek. Before the knew it, they were helping out in Kathmandu before being evacuated to Thailand. Three years later, they’ve come back to complete their dream.
There are some people with their egos out though who like to compare timings each day and will happily race to each hotel rather than actually enjoy the views and the environment. We also saw a group of Russians who liked to pump out their Eurovision music by speakers as they walked along but things like this can be easily avoided.
9. Is there a lot of rubbish along the path?
There were a few things that worried me about the trek; would there be a big conga line of people on the path blasting out loud music and would there be a lot of rubbish everywhere? Seeing as we had just spent 10 weeks in India, we were worried the iconic trek might have been ruined but I can tell you there’s no rubbish whatsoever on the path and more so there’s recycling bins along the entire trek. I couldn’t believe it!
As for the conga line, it did get busy in parts and some did play loud music but that could be easily avoided.
10. Accommodation on the trek
I was actually surprised how good the accommodation was at the beginning. We stayed in hotels with our own bathroom which were clean. As the trek progressed the accommodation became more basic. Think of buildings made with cardboard-esque thin walls and very cold too. There’s only heating in the form of a fire in the hotel restaurants which are lit after 5pm each day. Remember, it’s pretty difficult to get materials the higher up you go so don’t expect the hotels to be amazing. We often saw porters somehow carrying wood on their shoulders up the mountains.
11. What type of food can you get on the trek and do I need to bring my own with me?
The food was actually alright considering that we were right in the middle of the Himalayas. The menu in each hotel we stayed in was pretty much the same. We often had porridge for breakfast, and then rotated between, cheese toasties and chips, veggie burgers, noodles or dal bhat.
I wouldn’t recommend eating meat because you’re more likely to get sick. You don’t need to bring your own food with you because just remember about the weight, although if I could, I probably would have brought along a few clif bars for energy purposes.
12. Is there wifi or phone coverage on the trek?
We bought a Nepali SIM at the airport just at arrivals at the NCell counter. We paid Rs.1100 (USD$11) for 15GB Data, 80 minutes talk time which lasted for 30 days. The internet data worked incredibly well, right up until Theynboche on Day 4. It was so good, I even did an Instagram Live, something I always struggled with in Australia.
We then paid Rs.500 (USD$5 each) for wifi in Dingboche for Day 5-6, and then waited until we had internet coverage for a few days back on Day 10.
If you don’t want to buy a Nepali SIM then you can get free wifi at one of the bars in Namche Bazar and at the hotels as well.
13. What about water?
This is a big topic for discussion for most people. We did a lot of research on the water situation and in the end we bought Life Straw bottles. Stupidly, I didn’t use mine until when we were at the highest part of the trek at Gorekshep which is over 5,000 metres. Life Straw take a while before the water comes freely so whilst there wasn’t much air up there, it was too much of a mission to drink from the bottle.
Throughout the trek we just bought water along the way from various shops. You only need to carry 1 litre in your day pack because you can buy it all along the path. Water does get pricey; in Kathmandu 1 litre bottle costs Rs.25 (USD25c) and starts at Rs.80 (USD80c) in Lukla. By the time you reach Gorekshep, one bottle costs Rs.400 (USD$4).
Most people were buying boiled water and putting clorine tablets in to purify it. We met some doctors who said sometimes it’s just best to drink tea, because you’ll know the water has definitely been boiled and the bottled water can sometimes just been filled up from the tap.
We had absolutely no problems with the bottled water whatsoever. Because I suffer from SIBO (read more here), I stuck to buying bottled water.
14. Will I get sick from the altitude and do I need insurance?
As soon as we started the trek, we noticed most people had a cough. The infamous Khumbu cough is easy to catch because of the high altitude and dryness of the air along with the dusty ground. The only thing you can do is wear a buff from the very beginning of the trek and don’t take it off until you finish it.
I luckily didn’t get ill, probably because I did the following:
- I had been taking a strong probiotic for the last four months prior to the trek and on the trek as well.
- I made sure I didn’t put my hands anywhere near my mouth the whole time, even when eating burgers I used a knife and fork.
- We met a load of doctors on the trek and we were told to be very careful with the bathrooms. Instead of using your hands to open the doors, use everything else but, like your elbows etc, then make sure you use hand san straight afterwards.
But, what if you get really ill?
Steve did get ill towards the end. The weather conditions can be extreme and on the way back, we battled the snow, wind and rain in freezing conditions. His coughing got worse and worse and before we knew it, on our final day of trekking from Namche Bazar back to Lukla, he was so ill, that the only way we could get him back to Lukla was to pay for our own helicopter because there are no roads and no cars or motorbikes anywhere along the trek. The only other way to get him back was to hire a horse which he would have had to sit on for 10 hours.
The helicopter cost us USD$700 for a 10 minute flight which is insane but we had no other option and hopefully his insurance will pay out for it. Luckily he was actually OK in the end and had no serious problems with his health.
If you need to get a helicopter, ask for a rescue one to ensure your insurance will pay out. If none available, make sure you ask the helicopter to take you to Lukla hospital rather than the Lukla helipad. You don’t want to be trekking 20 minutes uphill to the hospital like we had to.
This is quite rare though as our guide had been in the industry for 12 years and hadn’t ever had to get a helicopter before because someone was ill.
Make sure you buy insurance below from World Nomads.
15. Will I get to meet people climbing to the top?
I was actually unsure as to whether we were actually going to see Base Camp let alone be able to go into it. There’s a separate spot for the EBC trekkers as a finishing line but it is indeed in Base Camp. We were really lucky because there was a film crew waiting to get a helicopter back to Namche Bazar when we arrived. We thought they could have been with UK TV presenter, Ben Fogle as we knew he was currently attempting the climb. It was indeed SAS: Who dares wins host Ant Middleton and his team who were climbing up to the top of Everest for a Channel 4 documentary. I of coursed quizzed him and it was really amazing to meet someone actually doing it. This was a one off but we were really happy to meet some who was attempting to climb to the top. As to whether you’ll meet anyone doing it, I think it’s probably all about luck.
16. What’s the flights to Lukla really like?
They say the flight to Lukla is one of the main highlights of the trek. To actually start the EBC trek, you need to take a 30 minute flight from Kathmandu to the town of Lukla in a very small plane from the International Airport.
I’ve been in a small plane like it before when I went to The Amazon in Bolivia but somehow this plane was different. As the plane took off from Kathmandu, we instantly saw views of the countryside set amongst the mountains, it really was amazing. Before we knew it, we were landing and what a landing it is!
The airport at Lukla is just 500 metres long and when I timed it on the return flight, it took just 16 seconds to fly off the runway. It’s definitely a must see experience. We loved it!
But, you don’t necessarily have to do this flight, you can trek from Kathmandu but allow an extra two or three days onto your trek.
17. Where to stay in Kathmandu and for how long?
One thing to make sure of is have a good few days in Kathmandu before the trek starts as you might need to get over jet lag. It might be a culture shock too if you haven’t been to a country like Nepal before. You’ll also need to set aside days after the trek finishes because flights get cancelled every single day back from Lukla – Kathmandu.
Our amazing accommodation in Kathmandu – Bed & Breakfast Thamel.
We stayed at Bed & Breakfast Thamel which is amazing. Steve’s been to Kathmandu four times and said this is the best place he has stayed in. Before you book, make sure you click on my link to get $55 off your first airbnb here. It’s a proper bargain, right in the centre of the tourist area of Thamel and is like a quiet oasis in the busyness of Nepal. The beds are huge and so comfortable, there’s an awesome free breakfast everyday, free washing machine and a fantastic rooftop to hang your washing out and to do some yoga in the morning, that this is easily my favourite place I’ve stayed in during my four months of travel. If I came back to Nepal, I’d stay here in a heartbeat!Home cooked breakfast at Bed & Breakfast Thamel!
A few things to see in Kathmandu include Durban Square, Bouda Stupa and Kopan Monastery.We also ate at The Roadhouse a lot which has fantastic Western food and the falafel stand (there were always loads of Israelis there so you know it’s going to be good!), and wore a dust mask too as the dust can get intense there.
18. How much does the trek cost?
Our trekking package cost $1350 for the 13 day hike. We didn’t want the sight seeing or Kathmandu accommodation on top because Steve had already been there before. Otherwise it’s $1750 for 17 days which includes the extra 2 days each side of the trek for Kathmandu.
19. How much money do I need to take with me on the trek?
We both took out Rs30,000 (USD$300) for the trek to pay for things like water, wifi, battery charging, toilet paper and snickers bars. Our one bill came to US$80 when we stayed in Dingboche two nights just to charge our batteries and phones up, some wifi, water and snickers. It can get pricey along the way. In the end we had about USD$100 left each at the end.
20. How much to tip on the Everest Base Camp Trek?
Tipping is a tricky one. We asked how much to tip and in the end we gave our porter Rs8,000 (USD$80) along with Steve’s brand new day pack, some of our clothes, my torch, our life straw bottles and so on for him to either sell on or give to his family. Because we are travelling, we didn’t need most of what we took with us on this trek.
For our guide, we gave him a lot more because we was with us all day and night and really went out of his way for us. I also gave him some of my expensive tops I bought in Australia for his wife too. I did all of this because he wasn’t just a guide, he became our friend.
It’s totally up to you with how much you tip but for us, we always said if we came across one person on our travels that we wanted to help then we would. That person was our guide so we gave him a bit more money than we originally planned to.
21. And finally…is the EBC trek worth doing?
We knew the trek would be busy as it’s one of the most iconic treks in the world so that didn’t bother us too much. We weren’t prepared for how hard it was going to be. For me up until Day 5, it was pretty easy, it was just as we started to hit higher altitudes (above 4,000 metres) that it started to get hard. Once I popped some Diamox, it became easier.
The trek itself is amazing, with a decent path to follow. Getting to Base Camp itself was incredible and we were really lucky to meet someone actually climbing to the summit which is insane. The view from the top of Kala Patthar was also insane and I’m still buzzing now that I actually did the trek. It certainly was a trek of a lifetime for me and I have memories I’ll never forget.
The Everest Base Camp trek should be on your bucket list and something every single person should do in their lives!
Have you read my other posts on the EBC trek yet?