Walking Vacations

The best and most affordable tours in this hugely popular market, from novices to hard-core trekkers

Trekking without a tour company

It should be noted that when it comes to trekking, booking with a specialist or agency is not always the cheapest way to go. The truth is you don't need to have a guide (most trails are obvious and maps are easy to come by), porter (pack light or leave belongings in your Kathmandu hotel for a very small charge), or even equipment (you can rent gear in Kathmandu for about $10). If you fly independently into Kathmandu, stay in the backpacker's neighborhood known as Thamel, where meeting fellow solo travelers is easier than tripping over a rickshaw. Use the well-trafficked bulletin boards outside the Kathmandu Guest House and inside Pumpernickel's bakery to hook up with trekking partners.

Once you've got your partner(s) and you've chosen your trekking route, head across town to the permit office (any driver will know the way), where you must register your trip with the government for $10 to $90, depending on the trek and its duration. After that, a ticket on a local bus ($1 to $4) is all you need to reach the trailhead. Teahouses and inns line every major trekking route, so you won't go more than a few hours without passing a cheap place to eat or sleep. Prices increase the farther you walk, but usually range between $2 and $8 for a night's lodging and $1 to $6 for a meal. That means you can conduct your own trek for daily costs of as little as $6. Be aware, however, that if you are trekking in the high visitor season of October and November, popular trails may be backed up with hikers for miles, and inn vacancies may be hard to come by.

Trekking! Is this not the ultimate trip, the answer to the vapid vacation, the plastic "package," the madding throng? "When you have to walk six days to a village," a trekker once told us, "you can be pretty sure it is unspoiled by tourism."

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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.

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