Reasons to Hire a Guide in Nepal

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You’re surrounded by peaks so steep they look like cartoons. Ice hangs precariously from their tops, as if a toddler dolloped icing about the landscape. Everywhere you look the jagged knife edges of the Himalaya stare back menacingly. You peer cautiously over the edge of the trail, even that makes you dizzy. The milky glacial river roars below you. SPLASH! PLOP! As you turn around you see your guide and partner chucking rocks into the icy waters below. Chuckling, you pick up your own stone and give it a throw. PLUNK. Down it goes. It’s just another brilliant day on the trail of the Himalaya; and one of the many reasons to hire a guide in Nepal.

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Steep and stunning

I’m an independent person. Having traveled via local transportation through Java, solo adventured through Mongolia, and backpacked over 100 miles on the Colorado Trail I understand how to dive right into a place unsupported. However, for my visit to Nepal I hired a guide and a porter. Could I have navigated the trails on my own? Sure. They are well marked. Could I have managed to find myself a place to rest my weary head at night? Absolutely. But should you trek in Nepal without a guide? Unless you have lived here, been here many times, or have close local connections I wouldn’t recommend it.

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Krishna and I braving the Hilary Tenzing Bridge. All the smiles on this sunny, and breezy day. The way up we endured this in the snow with 40mph winds!

Reason 1 to Hire a Guide in Nepal: Support Nepal

Tourism is the number one industry in Nepal. For those not in the know, Nepal boasts 8 of the 10 world’s tallest peaks. In essence, this is a mountain mecca and hundreds of thousands flock here each year to tackle her challenges and admire her beauty.

However, don’t be fooled, Nepal still struggles to develop. It is a new democracy lacking a constitution with plenty of hurdles ahead of it. According to the World Bank the annual household income in this humble land-locked nation is a mere $730. Nepali people are extraordinarily resilient; always looking at the positive and depending on zero help to better their situation.

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Nepal is breathtaking – support it’s people and hire a guide!

The single best thing you can do as a tourist is to find a Nepalese trekking agency, hire a Nepalese guide, and utilize a Nepalese porter. By doing so you are not only giving people much needed work, but you are also giving back directly to the community.

Make a Friend

Guides offer you a window into the fabulous culture of Nepal. Nepal operates on a community based culture. It is all about who you know. If you’re traveling solo you’ll know no one. The only successful solo travelers we came across either lived in Nepal or had visited many times and made local friends. If that’s not you a guide can help you engage with the local community on a meaningful level.

Guides, especially good ones who have been doing this for years, are a part of the community surrounding your trekking route. You stay in lodges where the guide is welcomed and by default, you are welcomed too. We stayed in one lodge where our guide said we could do some laundry. So we bought soap in Namche and got some much-needed washing done, for free. Since I was fresh out of even passably clean socks and underwear this was a god send!

Why hire a guide in Nepal

I’ve never been so excited to do some laundry the good old fashion way! My mom would be proud!

Look Through Local Eyes

The insights our beloved guide Krishna provided were invaluable. You really get to know the people you spend most of your day walking with. We spent hours talking about anything and everything. We learned from each other. Nestled in a stunning backdrop we sat and shared stories about our past, our dreams, our hardships and successes. We laughed, we sang, and carried on with practical jokes. Genuine cultural exchanges are the heart of travel, don’t miss out by going alone.

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Nothing says “cultural exchange” quite like sharing funny childhood stories with a backdrop like this!

Gain Local Respect

Throughout the trek I spoke with both solo trekkers and Nepali alike about having a guide and porter. One trekker was shocked that an outdoorsy couple from Colorado would hire a porter to carry their baggage. We explained that we could have carried our own gear, but we chose to provide someone with work for 2 weeks instead. All around us we got approving nods from the locals.

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Views at a lower elevation

One place we stayed we watched this man, rather rudely, set up a hammock across the lodge’s vegetable patch and smoke from a vape. The owner ran out and questioned him because a) it was rude – he was stomping about their livelihood, and b) he didn’t even ask – he just sort of did. Both Krishna and the owners looked on disapprovingly.

Having a guide and porter isn’t a sign of being a newbie in the mountain world or being weak, it’s a sign of respect. Locals pick up on this. They are more curious about trekkers with guides and much more welcoming.

Ensure You have a Room

People who trek without guides and porters most certainly receive different treatment than those who don’t. We not only witnessed this first hand but spoke to a few lodge owners about it. To put it simply, if you’re traveling solo you will get the lower quality room. You will pay more for it. If you are traveling during the high season and the lodges are busy, even full up, and you’re alone chances are you will be turned away.

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People sleep in common rooms during the high season because there simply is not enough room in the small villages along trekking routes. Lodge owners informed me that if I were to show up with a guide and the lodge was full he would find my guide, porter and me place to sleep. If the same were to happen with a solo trekker, they would be turned away or given a tent.

Be Treated Better

We witnessed several solo trekkers in Nepal have difficulty with lodge owners. Some had trouble ordering food. Others would attempt to bargain for something only to be told to go pound sand. It happens and there’s a reason for it.

reasons to hire a guide in Nepal

This lodge in Dole was one of the many lovely tea houses en route to Gokyo. This was one of the nights where it was just us, our guide, the porter and the owners. We received heaping plates of delicious food, enjoyed relaxing and joking around.

Why all of the preferential treatment? The answer is simple. Nepal is a community driven country that provides for those who choose to provide Nepali people with work. In essence, it’s disrespectful to their livelihood so they exclude you from the community.

How to Find a Guide

One of the most frequent questions I get asked about Nepal is how to find a guide. There are two methods: one is to wait until you get to Nepal and the other is a good old web search. Regardless of which method you choose make sure your guide is a TAAN member. TAAN or Trekking Agency Association of Nepal sets forth a minimum standard for safety, health, and the environment with a trekking agency. Trekking agencies often display on their websites if they are TAAN, and you can always ask an outfit to show their licenses. For example, the company I trekked with, Trekking Planner Nepal, has all of this information on their webpage.

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Taking it all in at the first lake in Gokyo

The Web

Most people don’t have the time to head to Nepal, shop for a guide, and hope it works out. Simply google around for the tour you want to do. Find several companies with different itineraries and prices then send out inquiries. Ask questions you do and don’t know the answer to. Next, judge the responses. In the end, I went with Trekking Planner from their response time (Dipak was quick to respond) and how honest I felt he answered my questions. You’ll know when you’ve found the right fit. The disadvantage here is that you don’t meet your guide beforehand. However, this was certainly not a problem for us – Trekking Planner has unbeatable guides.

In Person

This method is a bit trickier and I would honestly advise against it unless you’ve done it before or have loads of time. Basically you show up in Kathmandu and search for a guide there. The reason I wouldn’t recommend this method is because you are much more susceptible to scams. However, the method remains the same. Ask questions that you do and don’t know the answer to and go with your gut.

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Trek with a Guide

Trekking isn’t going to break the bank, but it isn’t a budget activity either. The people must work harder than you can imagine to haul building materials, food, and supplies up to villages so you are more comfortable. Going out alone, disrespecting their traditions, and attempting to low ball them will only alienate them. Hiring a guide and porter not only helps the local economy, but it ensures you will have a welcoming Nepali experience. Be a part of the community, not apart from the community.

 

In order to truly enjoy all of the joy and wonder of the Himalaya you should hire a trekking guide in Nepal. This post explains why. Tips and tricks to finding the perfect guide for your Nepali adventure.

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35 thoughts on “Reasons to Hire a Guide in Nepal

  1. Leah

    Great post! I think that is a great idea to help the community. And what better way to see Nepal than to go with a local who holds so much information about the location.

    Reply
  2. Ania

    Such an awesome and informative post! I’m really impressed with everything you’ve accomplished solo! Definitely something for me to aspire to 🙂

    Reply
  3. Danielle

    I completely agree! I’ve read stuff from travelers who insist on doing everything themselves and pat themselves on the back for not exploiting local workers. And it’s definitely true that some guides/porters get overloaded. It’s important for us to be mindful and respectful. But at the same time, if my coming to a country and needing help provides someone with a job? I don’t see anything wrong with that.
    For anyone unsure of their own hiring/bargaining skills, Intrepid Travel employs all local guides and porters. My trek with them in Nepal was great.

    Reply
    1. foxintheforest Post author

      I’m glad you had a good trek Danielle. I used Trekking Planner Nepal and they were excellent as well. Porters now have a weight limit and are only allowed to carry a certain amount. I don’t think it’s exploiting people at all. These people want tourist dollars, but the nice thing is, unlike much of South East Asia, they aren’t greedy about it, but fair. Nepal is an amazing place to those who respect it!

      Reply
  4. Ricci - When In My Journeys

    I couldn’t agree more with the reasons you’ve enumerated. It’s not only that you’re helping the locals have a sustainable job, know more about the people and their culture, sometimes even in a more personal level. But you’re also giving yourself a chance to grow personally. And yes, hiring a guide would give that much needed connections as a bonus. 🙂

    Reply
  5. neha

    A local guide who knows the place well really takes the experience to the next level. I traveled in Rajasthan , India last year. And the guides that we took in the forts and palaces really enhanced our experience. Had it not been for them, we won’t have known the significance, history, and culture of many places that we visited.

    Reply
  6. Maria Angelova

    I appreciate the most the “Make a friend” reason. Other than that, I’m the lostest (is there such a word?!?) person in the world and wouldn’t dare to go alone. I could get lost on a long, straight boulevard in the middle of a city. Thanks for the useful advice on how to find a good guide. 🙂

    Reply
  7. Hayley

    I think it’s really important to support the local community when travelling, exactly like you said. Nepal looks like a wonderful country and I’ll hopefully get to visit one day.
    I always try and do some sort of walking tour that’s hosted by a local when I visit a new city.

    Reply
  8. Jean

    Wow I had no idea of the implications of not having a guide. Like you I’m an independent solo traveler whenever possible but would never consider Nepal without a guide. Seems daft! But from the sounds of things a lot of people do it.

    Reply
  9. Alexis Rae

    It looks like an amazing time! I’m a pretty independent traveler too, but the Himalayas are a beast all their own. I’ll be hiring a guide when I make it thera, for sure!

    Reply
  10. Anna

    See through local eyes – the best point. It’s always interesting how locals perceive their country, local problems, their habits.. Cool article!

    Reply
  11. Stella

    hiring tour guides can sometimes be expensive but there are places where it’s a must and it’s worth it. thanks for this insightful post. i especially like the making the friends part! < 3

    Reply
  12. Leigh

    Trekking Nepal is a dream destination for me…I would definitely do some sort of guided trip, though, I can’t imagine trying to navigate the language and customs without one!

    Reply
  13. Kelly

    Great tips!! I am pretty independent and like to do nost things on my own, but I would be too scared of getting lost in Nepal. I would have to hire a guide and think it’s a great way to learn about their culture. Thanks so much!!

    Reply
  14. Bhushavali

    That’s a very informative and very practical! Local guides are always awesome esp with helping routes in places where gps doesn’t do a good job as well as giving some knowledge of local lores and legends!

    Reply
  15. Gareth

    I couldn’t agree more. While it is always nice to be independent and feel like you are experiencing a place organically, sometimes this just isn’t feasible, especially somewhere like Nepal. Plus, all that insider knowledge is just invaluable, not to mention getting to meet some local people

    Reply
  16. Only By Land

    I’m impressed you trekked around Mongolia by yourself! You made some valid points for hiring a guide in Nepal and I think I would definitely hire one. Another positive is that they’ll be able to your picture trekking for Instagram!

    Reply
  17. Chiara

    Loved this pos so much. This is the kind of articles that I like to read, especially because I’m getting. Ready for an expedition in Nepal 🙂

    Reply
  18. Suruchi

    Incredible pictures and the tall proud Himalayas! I simply love them. I agree that how important hiring a guide is. It not only boosts the local economy and provide work to the locals but also helps one to be a part of local community, enjoy the place and see the insights of the place .

    Reply
  19. Micki

    Thanks for the great info and tips! This sounds like an amazing experience. I especially agree with hiring a local guide and contributing to the local community!

    Reply
  20. Gemma

    I think you raise some really great points, if I were to visit, I’d definitely hire a guide. Especially the concept of making a new friend from a different culture – love it!

    Reply
  21. Izzy

    Pinned this post because all of the above is so important in terms of mindful travel and I’m all for making people more aware about their impact. I know a lot of friends who did the trail independently because of budget concerns and they confirm what you wrote in that they struggled a lot. I think the porter is your only advocate on one of the world’s harshest terrains and you support the national GDP by doing so! Plus after the devastation of the earthquake back in 2015 and ongoing fuel crisis, the economy has been really hit hard with the decline of tourists. Excellent excellent post 🙂

    Reply
    1. foxintheforest Post author

      Thanks Izzy,

      Although I’m sorry your friends had a difficult time, it’s interesting to hear similar things from travelers as well. Our guide told us about what happened to him and his family during the earthquake. His dad lost his house so him and his family moved to Kathmandu while is dad lived in his house and they are slowly rebuilding. He has been sending me photos of his progress since I’ve returned home. It’s been amazing to see how quickly things get put back together out there. I also know that by going there and enlisting his services, I’ve directly helped a family in need.

      Reply
  22. Becky

    This is great, I totally agree with all of it. I did the Annapurna circuit in December. Our group had a guide, plus 2 assitant guides and 4 porters. I was completely happy with the team. I loved interacting with them all but knowing that we were supporting locals and their families was great to know. Ironically on day 2 we saw a group of 3 people on the way back with heavy rucksacks and no guide or porters. They had been unsuccessful in making the pass and had had to return. So I guess it shows having a guide is defintely the best way.

    Reply
  23. Simon - SiDash Travels

    Fantastic post and some amazing points made. I love the idea of simply helping the country and giving the guides the much needed work. I really want to do a trip to Nepal so I’m glad you’ve raised these points. Really useful post and some great photos. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  24. Isadora

    I couldnt like your text more! All the reason sounds really far but actually it shouldnt apply to Nepal only, but we need to bear it in mind when we go to other places as well, specially these non so develop countries. After all, they are giving us something, new knowledge, experience or anything else, so nothing more fair than giving something back, specially when we know that they depend on this king of thing to go on. We can be independent travellers, but we also should be conscious travellers! 🙂

    Reply
  25. Annika

    what a great article! We loved touring nepal and while we did do some trekking we did not use a guide This article is making me rethink our decision!

    Reply
  26. Carola

    Thank you for your perspective! Some of those, I guess, are no-brainers (I mean, as a traveler and human being you should know to ask before setting up a hammock anywhere and not need a guide to tell you that it’s rude…) but some I found interesting. Like, finding a room or giving you a better room when you travel with a guide as opposed to traveling solo. Mind you, the guesthouse owner might have just said that but it seems like a strange business concept (and also rude!)…
    But you definitely made me consider getting a guide when I go to Nepal – and be it just for savings in negotiating local prices.

    Happy continued travels!
    C

    Reply

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