The highest trek in the world doesn’t have to come at a high price. In fact, after the upfront costs of flights and park permits, we were pleasantly surprised how cheap it is to hike to Everest Base Camp independently.
In this post, we've put together our best tips on how to save money while on the trail (including some things you can purchase at home before your trip that'll save you tons!).
Then we breakdown all of our expenses for our 16-day trek to Everest Base Camp and Gokyo Lakes to show you how inexpensive it can be to reach the base camp of the highest mountain in the world.
Note: Something to remember is that we trekked independently. If you hire a guide or porter, or if you go through a tour company, you will incur additional costs that we have not included here.
Cost saving products:
Anker Power Pack – This has been a life saver on our previous travel and it really came in handy on the trail. It has enough battery storage to recharge an iPhone 7 times, we used this to power our Kindles, GoPro, and cell phones. Most electricity up there comes from solar power so teahouse charge anywhere from $2 for a full charge to $3 per hour near the top. We only had to charge the battery pack one time for $2 on our second to last day. Purchase it here on Amazon, you won't regret it.
Steripen – You can’t hike to EBC independently without a way to sterilize your water, and the Steripen is the best way. We have been preaching about the Steripen for years and it literally has saved us hundreds of dollars. On the trail, a liter of water can cost any from $1 to $3 in Gorak Shep, and when you need to drink 3-5+ liters of water per day to avoid altitude sickness and dehydration that’s a lot of money. We paid $0 for bottled water on the trail because of the Steripen, helping the environment and our wallets. And don’t forget to bring extra batteries!
Baby wipes – Here's a secret: We didn’t shower for the full 16 days on the trek. Now before you start judging, showers are not included in the price of a teahouse room. A bucket shower will cost between $2 to $5 and even more if you want warm water. We were not about to spend our time getting undressed to rinse off in cold water in below freezing weather. Instead, we took “baby wipe showers” every day after our hike and felt surprisingly clean. If we had extended our trek for a bit longer, we certainly would have made the splurge for a hot bucket shower, but wipes carried us through our 16 days quite nicely.
Trekking Independently, No Guide/ No Porter – This was a huge cost saver for us. To pay your guide fairly, you should dish out $25 USD per day and for a porter a fair price would be $15 USD per day. Instead we did everything on our own, and believe it or not, it was really easy! The trail is fairly popular and there are teahouses every few hours, so you won't be far from warm food or a bed at any point during your trek. Lucky for you, we scoured other blogs and forums, read lots of guides and mapped out a Perfect Everest Base Camp Trek Itinerary that we think is the very best and safest route for independent trekkers.
Lonely Planet Trekking in Himalaya Nepal e-book – If you are trekking independently, we think this book is a must! It has every aspect of the trail written out so you'll know what to expect each step of the way. Money saving tip: We rented Kindle version of the Lonely Planet Trekking in Himalaya Nepal from our local library at home and downloaded it on our Kindles for FREE! This way we had access to a full guide book with all the details without lugging around the 3 pound book in high altitude. If your local library does not offer this e-book for rent, you can always purchase it on Amazon here.
NCell Sim Card – Purchase a SIM Card for your phone before you fly from Kathmandu if you want to be connected while on the trail. We paid 1550 rupees ($14.63 USD) for 2GB of data for one month. (NCell has the best service in the region you'll be trekking.) You will only get reception in the villages lower than Tengbouche (and randomly sometimes in Gorak Shep) but overall it is cheaper than paying $3 USD or more for WiFi cards in each stop that last for 1 hour if you’re lucky. We kept this out of the budget because we used service more during the time before and after our trek. Plus, it’s a luxury item that is totally optional.
Small savings tips
If you have some snacks that you like to bring on the trail, be sure to buy them at home and pack them in your bag, as they can be expensive on the trail. If you don’t have much room, you can always buy snacks in the Thamel neighborhood in Kathmandu, but there isn't much variety and the prices are still quite high.
And while you're in Thamel, purchase more toilet paper than you think you'll need. As you hike higher, the cost of tissue increases significantly. At one point, we had to pay $4 USD for one roll.
Thamel is a great place to purchase supplies and cold weather gear that you can’t bring from home at reasonable prices. Sometimes there is even the option to rent certain items. Check out our packing list to see the cheapest place to rent sleeping bags and down jackets in Thamel!
It's essential that you purchase travel insurance before you leave for Kathmandu. Be aware that many travel insurance policies don't cover anything that happens at high altitude, so you must make sure to find a policy where this is included. We saw far too many evacuation helicopters fly past us during our hike (which are NOT CHEAP!).
We bought travel insurance through World Nomads which included high altitude coverage. We felt at ease knowing we could leave at any time because our policy would have covered an emergency evacuation.
No one knows how your body will be affected by high altitude (just watch our videos and you'll see what we mean), and it's smart not to take any risks. Check out the affordable policies World Nomads offers on their website. We did not include this cost in the budget because it was not part of life on the trail, but it's something you must have. No one should go to Everest (especially independently) without a plan B.
Detailed Breakdown of our Everest Base Camp Trek Budget
Usually in our budgets, transportation includes flights, buses, metros, and taxis. But when you’re on the trail, the only mode transportation you use is your feet. However, getting to the start of the trailhead requires a plane ticket*, and this the biggest cost for the entire trek. In fact, the flight from Kathmandu to Lukla (where the trail begins) takes only 30 minutes, yet it costs a whopping $335 for a round trip ticket. This expense was exactly 50% of our entire budget for our 16 day trek! It really sucks paying that much, but nearly everyone does it.
*The only way to avoid the expense of this flight is to take a bus for 9 hours from Kathmandu to Jiri, and then make the 7-day trek to Lukla. This means that if you do not fly, you must add 14 more days to your trekking time and account for all the expenses you'll accrue during those 2 weeks.
Booking your flight online is not possible at the time of writing. The airlines do not accept foreign credit cards, so you must email a travel agency to make the booking for you. Usually this service will incur a small fee. If you have a few days to spare in Kathmandu before your trek, we'd recommend stopping into a travel agency in person. In our experience, the fee was smaller to buy a flight in person rather than via email.
We were surprised with the food options throughout the entire trek. Everyone said get ready to eat only dal baht (lentil soup, rice and veggie platter), but the menus were quite extensive at nearly every place we stayed. You can order momos (dumplings), potatoes, pasta, sandwiches, coffee, apple pie, and even cheesecake at 4,900 meters in Gokyo. The higher you go, the greater the cost. A good way to judge if a place is expensive or not is to look at the price of their Dal Baht.
Check out the details of each place we teahouse we stayed and ate at in our Full Itinerary. Hint: We'll tell you which ones have the best food!
Tip: After a certain point on the trail, there is a “no kill zone”, meaning all meat needs to be ported in on foot. We stayed vegetarians for the entire trek because people can get sick after eating meat on the trail. This worked out nicely for our wallets as well because the veggie dishes are typically cheaper.
Two other pre-trek purchases you need to pick up in Kathmandu before your flight are the TIMS (Trekkers' Information Management System) card for EBC and the National Park Permit. The 2,000 rupees ($18.88 USD) TIMS cards registers your information into a database in case of any emergency happens in the region and the 3,600 rupees ($32.09 USD) National Park Permit lets you enter the Khumbu National Park which starts just before Monjo on your first day on the Itinerary.
Other miscellaneous expenses will be medications (like Diamox, amoxicillin, electrolytes packets, and throat lozenges), toilet paper, showers and souvenirs on the way down. We only paid for one WiFi card ($3.30 USD) and one electrical charge of our battery pack ($1.89 USD). If you are planning on using more Internet than we did or not bringing a battery pack, we would suggest budgeting much more money in this category.
It’s almost laughable how cheap a bed is on the trail. Per person, we paid under $1 USD each night for a bed! Actually one night, our room was FREE and all we had to was eat at the attached restaurant. A room with two beds will typically be 200 rupees ($1.89 USD) per night, and most places have the caveat that you must eat at the attach restaurant (otherwise it’s a $10 additional charge). With that in mind, we typically chose places not based on what the room looked like, but what was on the menu.
Don’t expect much for the rooms. The usual teahouse room will have two beds, a few hooks on which to hang your clothes, and a small nightstand if you're lucky! Unless you stay in the higher end teahouses, expect to use a shared bathroom down the hall. If you want to see what a teahouse room looks like, check out our video diary of our trek to Everest.
There are very few luxuries on the trek, so when we found places with baked goods or real coffee, we kind of splurged a bit. Expect to pay around $3 USD for a piece of cake and the same for an Americano. The best “cafes” on the trail are Himalayan Java Café in Namche (get the walnut brownie and tell me how good it is! JUST DO IT!), Tengbouche Bakery, Snow Leopard Bakery in Dingbouche, and Gokyo Resort Bakery in Gokyo.
The chances getting altitude sickness are increased when you drink alcohol at high altitude. We didn’t want to risk us getting sick so we stayed sober the trek. We did have a celebratory drink at the highest Irish Bar in the world in Namche on the way down and one more in Lukla the night before we flew out. It was a good way to end a once in a life journey.
Grand Total Budget for Everest Base Camp Trek
Even though the round trip flight from Kathmandu to Lukla is maddeningly expensive, the hike to Everest Base Camp and Gokyo Lakes itself is pretty darn cheap! In fact, we averaged just $41.75 USD per person each day, which goes to show that this trek can certainly be done on a tight budget!