If you're heading on holiday to Nepal, and you plan to trek the Annapurnas or visit Everest Base Camp, you need to know about responsible and safe trekking in Nepal. Here's a handy guide about responsible trekking during your Nepal trip.
Water – Nepal is trying to minimise the number of plastic water bottles that are littering and polluting the countryside and the cities too. To not add to this problem you can take your own water bottle with you and purification tablets during your Nepal trek. If you need to do some laundry then don't soap up and rinse your clothes in a stream or river as it is very likely to be a drinking supply for villagers and animals too. Use a bucket or bowl and then dispose of the dirty water away from the fresh water source. There is a government scheme set up in the Annapurna region that supplies purified water to trekkers at some of the stops on the popular Annapurna circuit trek. Take advantage of this scheme during your Nepal holiday.
You can also treat water with iodine to purify it without having to boil it.
Litter and waste – Take some matches with you to burn any toilet paper or tissues that you may use rather than litter the trail while you're trekking in Nepal. Or, even better, learn to wash with a little water as local people do instead of wipe! Some people undertaking longer Nepal treks carry a small, light-weight trowel to bury their 'doings' and away from any water sources. Carry your litter with you until you have somewhere suitable to dispose of it during your Nepal trek. Do keep in mind that to the Nepalese the hearth is the heart of the home and so the fireplace is sacred. Therefore it is very bad manners for you to throw your rubbish onto the family fire.
Trekking safely – Muggings, attacks and theft do happen, but mostly in the city areas. Or course, they can occur from time to time in rural regions. It is good to be aware of the most up to date advice on the region you are heading to during your Nepal trip. You can check on the FCO (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) website for country specific warnings and general advice. The golden rule is to never trek alone as you are putting yourself unnecessarily in a vulnerable position. If you have a reliable guide and porter accompanying you then you have someone to watch your pack if you need to nip into the bushes, you have someone to go for help if you are injured or sick and a distance away from the next trek stop. Someone who knows the terrain will also prevent you from taking a wrong turn and getting lost.
Porters and guides – When you hire a guide or porter locally and privately, you have effectively become their employer for the duration of your Nepal trek. Porters can carry extraordinary loads, but it is irresponsible to overload them with unnecessary luggage when you can travel light and carry a few of your essentials in your own day pack. If your porter or guide becomes unwell or gets injured then you are responsible, as their employer, and need to help them and make sure they are taken to safety. You do hear terrible stories of travelers in Nepal leaving porters behind to fend for themselves and even die alone. Equally, if your guide turns out to be a heavy drinker and a liability (as was my sister's experience) then you may sack him and have to leave him behind (at a safe point) if he is too drunk to continue! So, perhaps it is safer to go through an agency or guesthouse to find a good porter or guide and not just some guy off the street.
I set off from Pokhara with a group of friends, carrying our own packs to do a few days trekking in Nepal, on a tight budget, in the Annapurna region. Our first days trekking was very stressful as we did not appreciate how hard it is to bear heavy packs for hours on end and we could not find the start of the trek for some time. I was wearing the wrong kind of boots and consequently lost a toe nail by day four! We had to cut our 7 day Nepal trek effort short and take a bus back to Pokhara. In retrospect it would have been nice to have guidance and do it properly!
It is always best and much safer to be prepared with the right assistance, gear and planning and to offer employment to the guides and porters who depend on tourism to earn a living.
Register with your Embassy or Consulate in Nepal – This is a good idea so that someone knows where you are and when you are trekking in Nepal and remember to let them know that you are safely back!
Insurance – Make sure that your insurance policy covers you fully for personal accident, medical and evacuation insurance for your Nepal trekking holiday. It needs to cover you for the possibility that you may need a helicopter rescue from a remote spot back to Pokhara or Kathmandu where you can get medical attention. You can also take out insurance specifically for trekking when in Nepal prior to setting out.
Altitude – If your Nepal trek involves steep ascents and descents and you are heading to the higher altitudes then you need to make sure you take time to acclimatise during your Nepal trekking holiday. You should try to sleep at a lower altitude than the highest point you reached by day and this is often factored in to the trek route on the longer high altitude Nepal treks such as the Everest Base Camp trek.
Medical kit and useful tips – Make sure you have well-worn comfortable walking boots with you and are in good health with a good level of fitness before you set off on your Nepal trekking holiday. Take a good sunscreen as the sun is more powerful at altitude and you can be exposed to strong sunlight for hours at a time, so good sunglasses (mountaineering glasses if you are heading for the snow-line) and a hat are advisable too. Plasters, antiseptic and anti-histamine cream and elastic support bandages are also a good idea during your Nepal trip. Some people take trekking-poles (light-weight and collapsible) for extra stability and they generally come in handy. A Swiss army knife has many useful functions too; with the knife, tweezers and scissor options.
Basic pain-killers are a good thing to take with you for headaches and pains and the anti-inflammatory ones to help with swollen sore joints, water-purification tablets / or iodine and medication to stop Diarrhoea for emergencies and perhaps and some anti-biotics for emergencies too. I took a light-weight umbrella to use as a parasol to keep the sun off me as my hat did not have a very wide brim. Rehydration sachets are very useful if you are exerting yourself in a hot climate and if you get sick they can aid recovery. If you have a pre-existing medical condition that may hinder your Nepal trekking capabilities then be sure you are covered by your insurance.
Have a look in one of the reputable travel guides for a more comprehensive list of what to consider packing for your Nepal trip . Finally always consult a medical professional such as your GP or a travel clinic regarding the recommended vaccinations and sterile medical kits.