How much money should I carry in the mountains of Nepal? This is a question many visitors repeatedly asked, and here are a few tips based on my trips in Nepal. Prices are from November 2010, rely on my memory, are often negotiable, and for one person only!
Concerning the currency, US$ and Euros are of very limited use in the mountains, and it is difficult to exchange currency once you have left the cities for your trek. Take with you a sufficient quantity of Nepalese Rupees (Rs) in order to be quiet for the whole trek!
In order to enter the main trekking regions, no permit is mandatory, but ... one has to pay an Conservation Area entrance fee. Try to figure out the difference. For Annapurna Conservation Area, the price is 2000 Rs. For less-traveled areas (Dolpa, Mustang, etc), the Trekking Agencies' Association of Nepal has a list in US$.
Furthermore, one has to get a card from the Trekker's Information Management System (TIMS) and show it all along the treks. This card costs 20 US$ for individual "free" trekkers (which means "without trekking agency"), and 10 US$ for those with a registered trekking agency.
The trekking agency, if you have one, will take care of these two documents. If you are a free trekker, ask your guesthouse in Kathmandu about the Tourist service offices. They are located east of Thundikel, and the staff of your guesthouse will be able to explain where exactly way better than me!
There are several options. The cheapest, by far, is traveling by bus. The 4-6 hour journey between Kathmandu or Pokhara and the start of the Around Annapurna Circuit costs less than a dozen US$. Some tourist buses brag that they offer more space or air-con for example, but do not expect too many miracles: you will get a seat, but everyone gets packed in the bus, and tourist buses are as prone to traffic jams as regular buses...
Another option is to travel by jeep or car depending on the journey. As an example, we afforded this luxury with a trekking agency in Kathmandu during our trip in November 2010 at the following prices: KTM-Bhulbule by jeep: 15'000 Rs for two, Pokhara-KTM by car 6'500 Rs for two. This is huge for budget travelers, but it was way more romantic !
It is also possible to shorten the trek by flying back from Jomsom (about 100 USD/pers), if the Gods of Wind and Fog are on your side, or by road (about 30 US$).
Lodging / food
Prices varies (a lot) as a function of altitude, and you are certainly not going to pay the same price for a beer at 800 or 4800 m! Why? Ask the hundreds of porters and donkeys who endlessly walk up and down in order to bring food to areas further than the roads' ends. Under these circumstances, it is difficult to give an exact daily budget, but by counting 10-15 US$ per day and person, you will guarantee 3 hot meals and a solid roof for the night. A little cheaper at the beginning of the trek, a little more after you have climbed the first thousand meters.
For snacks or tea, the guesthouses you will find very regularly along the way will allow you for carrying a very light backpack, since you will have the opportunity to have meals in all villages. A few chocolate bars bought in KTM or Pokhara et something to purify water is basically everything you need. For these reasons, you will find very few trekkers carrying their own pots and pans, burner and tent along the main treks such as Annapurna, Everest or Langtang...
Guide / porter
I am not too sure about this. By discussing with a Nepali trekking agency, you should be able to reach an agreement of around 10-15 US$ per day for a guide, and a little less for a porter. But on that specific topic, any contribution is welcome, dear visitor!
Back to the other advices about the trek preparation
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