As always before a trip, I did my homework and researched what we’d need to take with us. This was no different for our trip to Nepal. The internet is full of information about the Annapurna circuit, however the set of things you take really depends on the style of your hike. We decided to do the Annapurna Circuit without any help of porters or guides, carrying our backpacks and using MAPS.ME app for navigation. We did not have any major problems but there are many things which will make your trip more pleasant and easier, so is why I want to point them out again in this post. We spent the first 24 days of a March in Nepal and we had very sunny but cold weather above 2800m and a bit of rain in the afternoons in the lower parts. There was also a hard snow surface when crossing the Thorong La pass which was pretty slippery to walk on. March is also a perfect month to admire a beautiful rhododendrons flowering around Poon Hill, turning the entire valley into a stunning, colorful landscape!
In each village there are plenty of options to sleep (hotels and guesthouses, from very simple wooden constructions to more fancy ones), all of them also serve as restaurants. Usually we did not pay for a room or we got a great discount when promise to buy a dinner and breakfast from our hosts (we only paid at the beginning not knowing about this system :p). You just simply need to ask the host if you can stay a night for free when buying all food (dinner and breakfast the next morning) there.
The rooms never have a heating system so take this into consideration when choosing sleeping bag which should have a comfort zone around zero (above 3600m we used warm hats and down jackets during the night). A good sleeping bag is necessary, however higher up there were additional blankets or duvets in the room which we always used on the top of the sleeping bag what was extremely helpful to keep us warm. Chame was the first village where we could warm up next to the stove in a dining room after a sunset when the temperature drops immediately. It is also a perfect opportunity to sit with a cup of tea and to talk with other hikers during long evening hours.
We were quite happy about our equipment but still some things were missing and others were not very useful. Clothespins are definitely something we would recommend to take. You can easily wash your clothes in the guesthouses and hang them to dry in the sun, though it was difficult to ensure our clothes wouldn’t fly off the string :p On the other hand we did not use our cotton slipping bag liners in Nepal but they were very useful during next part of our trip in SE Asia. Don’t forget earplugs (very thin walls between the rooms!) and vitamin A ointment (perfect to protect lips and hands from the strong sun, wind and low temperatures!).
Most of the safe drinking water stations were closed (we used only one in Tal, just to check the quality of the water and it was fine, 40 rupees per liter though this price goes up to as you go up the mountains). We had with us Care Plus Water Filter and water purification tablets. Mainly we used the first one, connected to big 1.5l Fanta bottles. We reused these bottles for the entire duration of the circuit, we considered this very important for the environment since we noticed several times that plastic garbage was being burned or dumped in the streams. Important to buy them before you start a trek because there were only 0.5l bottles available during a trekking which really contributes to the big problem about plastic waste. In Manang or higher it is good to fill your bottles with water in the evening because it happened to us that in the morning the water in the pipes was frozen and we had to wait until sun was higher on horizon. We also did not have a chance to get a warm shower above Manang… at this point baby wipes became very useful :p Sometimes we had to pay for a warm shower (between 100-150 rupees) so better ask your host at the beginning.
Electricity and internet
On average we had a chance to charge our batteries every other day or so, though usually just for a few hours per day since there were many, long electricity supply interruptions. Our power bank was helping us to keep our phones and GoPro charged. Be prepared to spend many nights with a candle light and remember to take a headlamp with extra batteries. Our european plug adapter worked but did not fit nicely to all sockets.
Last years access to the internet has improved and you can enjoy it almost along the whole trek. However, few days before we started Annapurna Circuit there was a failure in internet service provider (at least that was always the explanation we got :p) and we did not have access to the internet most of the time. Last time we had an internet in Dharapani and then after 8 days in Mukintinah when we finished first part of a trek. Therefore, my kindle was my best friend during these days since it doesn’t require to be charged frequently. We have never paid any extra fees for internet or electricity but we have seen sometimes in other places extra fees for internet. As for cell phone reception, note that in many areas it may not be possible to get a signal.
The quality of the food and the size of a portions depends on a guesthouse where you stay. In general, the food had a really nice flavour taking in consideration how little ingredients were used to prepare our meals. Of course, the higher we were, the less vegetables were used for cooking. Surprisingly the price of a breakfast was the same or even higher than price of a lunch, often sets are sold at a discount (oat porridge, fried potatoes, bread and coffee). My favourite breakfast was oat porridge with apple and Tibetan bread with jam and it kept me full for a long time. You can buy two types of bread, chapati (flat bread from the Indian Subcontinent, similar to tortilla) and Tibetan bread (deep-fried and taste like doughnut).
Most menus consists of rice dishes, noodle soups, spring rolls, pizzas from a pan (sometimes surprisingly good) and a big variety of a hot beverages, our favourite was hot lemon. You can always buy a “big pot” what is basically a 1L flask of tea you can drink slowly during the evening to stay constantly warm. Tip to safe money: take your own favourite tea or buy it in a local shop and just order hot water what was always possible. Relatively expensive are snacks like candy bars, chocolate, chips or sodas and they are very often expired. We took our favourite protein bars, chocolate covered nuts and other sweets with us. One of our favourite dishes were steamed or fried momo (dumplings) with vegetable or potatoes and cheese stuffing. It was very practical to order breakfast in the evening so we didn’t have to wait long in the morning (it was always possible to order breakfast at 7am) and leave early for a hike.
We started our trekking in Bhulbhule (840m) and went through Thorong La pass (5416m), often climbing 500m to 1000m up a day. Since we moved every day higher, the high atlitude disease was a real danger. To avoid it we decided firstly to stay hydrated (4L of water every day for each of us) and don’t ignore early symptoms. Severe headache, sleeplessness, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, lots of coughing etc are next, more severe problems which are occurring with the progression of an illness. You should not ignore even a mild headache and stay an extra day on the same altitude (we had a mild headache in Manang, easily manageable with an over the counter pain killer (ibuprofen), but stayed an extra day there to avoid worse later) or even go lower when it is not over. In Manang there is a doctor where you can go every day during a certain hours and ask about his suggestions. We brought Diamox as well, though we didn’t need it (we did take half a tablet to check if we’d experience any side-effects). We also didn’t have any problems to sleep, even at 4800m but we know from other people that they have many problems and had to stay few days extra in one village so it’s good to have few extra days when you plan this hike. We spent our backup days in Pokhara, chilling out :D
When we arrived to Kathmandu there was a Holi festival and all offices had shorter opening hours. That was something we didn’t check before our trip and it was not the last time we suddenly joined the national holiday. Luckily, the office of Nepal Tourism Board in Kathmandu (Pradarshani Marg, Kathmandu 44617, Nepal) where we obtained our permits was still open in the afternoon when we got there (open daily between 9am and 3pm, on public holidays 9am to 12am). First you need to get TIMS (Trekkers’ Information Management Systems) card and ACAP (Annapurna Conservation Area Project) permit which allowed us for combined trek of Annapurna Circuit and Poon Hill (for each document you need 2 passport-sized photos). Remember to have with you the names of your entry and exit points during a trek and dates when you want to do this. You also need to provide a insurance policy number and emergency contact. Each document costs 20$ and allows them to keep track of trekkers and improve their safety. You’ll have to show these permits and sign the log at each check-point along the circuit.
Unfortunately, a large numbers of hikers visiting Himalayas every year and contribute to the waste problem and pollution. We saw huge piles of plastic bottle behind the lodges, therefore we decided to collect all plastic waste we produced and bring it back to Pokhara. At least we didn’t leave them in the mountains. The more extra bottles you buy, the more plastic will end up in the rivers or being burned behind someone’s guesthouse.
Make sure you have enough cash with you for the whole trek and some dollars in case of emergency. We simply exchanged euro to rupees in Pokhara. There are many exchange offices with almost the same rates. Better to have small denominations but usually we paid at the end of a stay in each guesthouse so 1000 rupees note was not a problem to pay with. We spend daily around 3800 rupees for both of us (max 5200 rupees in High Camp).
During our trip in nepal we always used local buses. In view of spiral and damaged roads, it always took us few times longer than in Europe for the same distance (usually you should count 30km/h average speed). Best ask in the guesthouse where you are staying about the bus options. Almost always they can sell you a ticket or call someone responsible for buses in a certain village. Usually, it is not so obvious where is a bus stop, you just need to ask locals or bus driver and finally someone will point you a right direction. It can get really crowded inside, with all backpacks and bags with local products for sale. It happened once that we had to stand 4,5h on a bus to Besisahar because they sold approximately double number of tickets for the bus and decided to squize all of us inside of one instead of orginizing a second bus. For a bus tickets we paid between 300-800 rupees, depends on the distance. Buses are old and really dusty, we saw people getting motion sickness.
- Visa to Nepal for 30 days - 35 euro/person
- Taxi from the airport to Thamel district - 700 rupees (prepaid), 500 rupees when we negotiated the price with the drivers waiting outside of the airport (you need to pass by the prepaid taxis zone)
- Permits - 40$/person (TIMS + Annapurna Conservatory Area)
- Pokhara to Besishahar bus - 400 rupees/person (4.5h)
- Muktinath to Old Jamson bus - 300 rupees/person (1.5h)
- Marpha to Tatopani bus - 800 rupees/person (5h)
- Ghandruk to Pokhara bus - 400 rupees/person
- Paragliding - 7000 rupees/person (Frontiers Paragliding)
- Pokhara to Kathmandu bus - 700 rupees/person
- Swayambhunath temple - 200 rupees/person
List of our equippement for Annapurna Circuit trekking:
- Hiking shoes (Salewa Wildfire GTX - Monika and Salomon Speedcross 4 GTX - Sebastian)
- Sleeping bag
- Sleeping bag liner
- Trekking poles
- Thermal underwear (leggings plus long-sleeved t-shirt)
- Pyjamas (t-shirt plus shorts or leggings)
- Waterproof jacket
- Dawn jacket
- Hiking trousers
- 3 technical t-shirts
- Underwear (3xhiking socks, 3xpanties, 2xsport bra)
- Warm hat
- Buff (warm and thin)
- Gloves (warm and thin)
- Fast drying towels
- Duck tape
- Head lamp + batteries
- Pocket knife
- Trash bags
- Metal cups
- Piece of paracord
- Sunscreen spf. 50
- Nail file
- Shaving cream
- Baby wipes
- Hand sanitizer
- Cotton buds
- Ear plugs
- Toilet paper
- Water purification tablets
- Passport photos for permits and visa (5!)
- Notebook with pen
- Copy of passport
- Health insurance
- Cash (25euro per day per person during the hike)
- Yellow book
- Snacks: protein bars, snickers, M&M, nuts, dry fruits
- 2 x 1.5l bottle to refill every day
- Isotonic powder to dissolve in water
- Compeed plasters
- Ibum (ibuprofen)
- Vitamin A ointment
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