I visited Nepal in November of 2015 to trek to Annapurna Base Camp. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the trip, which had been postponed from May after the devastating April 25th earthquake. Thousands had died and there was widespread damage in some parts of the country. Compounding the natural disaster was man-made one, a country-wide fuel shortage. Almost no fuel was available for vehicles or cooking.
My trek was surprising in many ways. Although the fuel shortage was obvious, it didn’t impact enjoying the country. Nepalis are incredibly resilient, adapting to every hardship.
If you can’t make it in May or June, September, October and November are also good for trekking in the Annapurna.
Get fit. Each day averaged 20,000 steps on the Fitbit, probably 80% were up and down actual steps. Flats were rare enough to mention out loud. A little StairMaster training will make your trip much more enjoyable.
Hire a guide. You should not even consider going without a guide and a porter. In addition to the usual lodging, transportation and paperwork arrangements, your guide will offer insight and access to the culture that unguided travelers miss. Summit Treks provided both excellent service and was reasonably priced. All guided treks legally must be organized through TAAN, so check to make sure your service is registered.
Bring meds. In addition to a basic first-aid kit, here are a couple of items I felt better bringing: Ibuprofen (50 x 200 mg), Imodium, azithromycin (3 x 500 mg), epinephrine (0.3mg/0.3mL). You may want to consider acetazolamide for the prevention of altitude sickness.
Use trekking poles. Poles will reduce the chance of injury on the many wet and slippery rock steps you’ll encounter. Unlike many trekking destinations, your evacuation options are very limited, so take care and go slow. This gentlemen rented a horse after injuring his knee – it was a long and painful journey to the trailhead.
Outlets will be scarce. There are power strips available for lodge guests throughout the Annapurna and for a small fee you can charge your gear. The one exception that I found was Annapurna Base Camp. With only solar power available, those lodges don’t offer outlets. Some trekkers brought portable solar cells to recharge batteries. With very few hours of sunlight in some areas a better bet is a portable charger. A 10,000 mAh model is a good trade-off between weight and capacity. You’ll also feel better leaving a $20 battery to charge on a lodge power strip rather than your smartphone.
You can stay connected. Almost all the lodges in the Annapurna have Wi-Fi available for a small fee (Bamboo was the only exception I found). Connections can be glacially slow in the evening. There is good mobile coverage throughput the Annapurna Sanctuary, again with the exception of Annapurna Base Camp.
Meals will be simple and mostly cheap. The lodge menus are very consistent, you’ll be able to enjoy Yak cheese pizza or ramen almost everywhere. Be prepared for a shock if you crave a Pepsi at 14,000 feet, it will cost you $6. Most meals range from $3-$6. I brought a handful of energy bars that went uneaten but would be useful in an emergency.
There’s been a major initiative to reduce plastic waste in the Annapurna, disposable plastic bottles are banned – you can refill bottles from RO filters at many tea houses (for a small price). Lodge kitchens will also boil water for your Nalgene bottle. It has the added benefit of being a nice sleeping bag warmer. A water filter is not necessary but bringing a few iodine tablets might be useful in a pinch.
Check out Patrick Pitchette’s blog from his trip to Everest Base Camp last year. It really captures the trekking experience.