Whether you hire a guide through an agency or find an independent guide, it’s important to ask the guide – and yourself – the right questions. You will be spending days or weeks with this person and potentially paying them a lot of money. Make sure you’ve got the right guide for your journey!

nepal trekking guide

Trekking partner, Gregorio, with his guide at Khopra Danda, Annapurna Region, Nepal.

#1 – Are they licensed and insured?

In most countries, independent guides and agency guides alike are required to be registered with some local authority. Have your guide provide valid, up-to-date proof they comply with local regulations. This is a small hurdle that shows your guide is a professional and not simply someone making extra cash on the side.

In addition to credibility, this information is valuable in the unlikely event you run into any problems on the trek. Knowing your guide is on the radar of local authorities and has insurance will give you peace of mind.

Tip: Ask what guide licenses and insurance they hold and to see copies of the documents

#2 – How experienced is this guide?

Many guides start out as porters, learn the trail, improve their language & client-facing skills, and then begin leading their own treks. Knowing how many times they’ve guided a trek helps in two regards – confidence and connections.

You want a guide confident with the trail, direction, distances, and most importantly safety. An inexperienced guide may be unable to spot AMS in their clients, spot weather changes, or estimate distances. There are few things worse than a guide that hesitates or is unsure of the correct response to a given situation. An experienced guide brings this confidence to the trek and can be the leader you need.

Connections are valuable because they’ll make for a smoother trek. Guides who know which restaurant / teahouse /guesthouse / camp they’ll use make evenings easier and likely will lead to higher quality. If the trek runs into trouble or logistical challenges, the depth of their connections will be the speed and ease in which they are resolved.

Tip: Ask potential guides how many treks they lead per season and how many are this particular trek. A guide leading more than twelve trips a season with more than four in your particular route should be appropriately experienced.

#3 – Can we communicate?

It seems obvious, but too often people trek with guides and lack the language skills to communicate with each other. Sometimes the agency or guide oversell their ability to speak a language or maybe you’ve been tempted by a low price. Be warned, this puts a serious cap on your ability to maximize value from your experience. Guides share knowledge of the land, people, and culture you’ll experience during your trek – don’t miss out on this!

Many professional guides go to great lengths to learn languages. Hari, my EBC guide in Nepal, not only spoke very high level English but also intermediate German, Spanish, and even a bit of Japanese! Unfortunately, the language skills typically fall on the guide but they certainly don’t have to. Learn some words and phrases in their language and force yourself to use them on the trek. You’ll improve your communication & win the respect of your guide.

Tip: Ask potential guides what their favorite part of the itinerary is and why. You’ll get a sense for how descriptive and articulate they are in your language.

#4 – What do they do in the off-season?

This question opens the conversation about their life outside of being a guide. This is helpful because it gives you a better sense of who

Also, this provides insight into whether or not your guide can hold a conversation, particularly about something they know a lot about – themselves. If you’re able to have a productive back-and-forth about their life, it’s likely you’ll have no problem chatting on the trail.

Tip: If the conversation goes on for more than a few minutes and you learn something about them, this is a good sign.

#5 – How many people on the trek?

Treks are fun with other people – really fun, it’s why we created TrekkingPartners! – though it’s important to know how many other people will be joining your adventure. If you’ve made a trek booking through TrekkingPartners, you can see how many people have committed to the trek and how many spots are being offered.

The impact is three-fold. First, the more people on the trek, the less expensive it should be. The cost of a guide is shared between the trekkers so adding additional trekkers should make the per/trekker price lower.

Secondly, the number of trekkers affects the attention you get from the guide. A more intimate and personalized trip can be well worth paying extra for.

Finally, the more trekkers added to the group, the more diverse the skill-set, speed and temperament for the entire group to handle. Trekking is tough work and a smaller group is more easily cohesive!

Tip: We find the ideal number of trekkers is 3-6 per group. f you get an answer of more than 6 people, it’s probably not a trek you want to join.

Did we miss anything? Feel free to add your comments below. Good luck with your trek!


Comments

20 replies
  1. […] spend a few days visiting trekking agencies and talking with your potential guide, asking the right questions and getting to know them. Seeing their office, meeting their staff and how they communicate, are […]

  2. Once we choose a guide, how are we expected to pay? I think half upfront + half and tip at the end sounds good. Or is all up front and tip at the end expected? I’m talking about a licensed and insured guide but perhaps independent. Thanks

  3. Moderator

    Hi @tigercub, sorry for the late reply. With a licensed and insured guide, full payment is expected up front a few days prior to departure. Tips you pay at the end of your trip. I’m not sure what the procedure is for independent guides… Have you booked a guide before?

  4. All,

    Realize that your porters or guides are being exploited. lets face it, you don’t need a “Guide” unless you plan to Climb a serious mountain. Then “Guides” still have specific purposes – not all “guides” summit or fix rope. Need a trekking guide? No way. The trail to EBC is so clear a blind yak could do it just by stumbling forward.

    When you go thru a “Guide Service” they ask for a huge fee, then tell you all the things you want to hear & provide information. which, had you exerted a little effort at home would be free Online. Folks, this isn’t a space shuttle launch- we’re only trekking.

    this is why I am pissed off. Day 2 in the hotel I met the guy who operated the travel desk- he went on and on about his services and what he could do for me and blah blah blah. on I saw the guy take half of the money and put into his pocket. By the time the cash actually got to the porters hands it was about 1/4th of what I paid in Kathmandu. the porter still has to pay the local tea house that supports him.

    it’s really sad because the Nepali people are very strong & acclimatized to the region. If you get sick or injured……… the Nepali, Sherpa people or a helicopter is your only way to survive. Think of that- see how much more super important your porter has become!!

    The porters are wearing dirty clothing, worn out shoes & little to no support from anyone. My porter had no eye protection- no head lamp- no down jacket- no obvious care for his well being from the exploiters in Kathmandu.

    1. Avoid the rip off in Kathmandu. Hire a porter in Lukla.

    2. Bring your porter a set of eye protection & head lamp.

    3. Leave your knock off gear with the porter. Do not bring high end brand names to Nepal. you can buy or rent everything you need in Thamel CHEAP!

    4. Gear shops that rock; Shona’s & Sherpa gear (Thamel) Shonas makes quality down sleeping bags. bought trekking poles, down bag, nalgean bottles, 3 pair of wool socks, base layers, down mittens, glove inserts, buff & sunscreen = $220. 🙂
    Sherpa gear has the best quality in KMD- the prices reflect that statement.

    5. Best eye protection = Julbo Sherpa Glacier Glasses. they factor out 88% light

    6. No heavy trekking boots! My Hanwags were way over kill. use medium weight/ non leather boots. matter of fact- you could do the trek in training shoes (the porters do)

    hit me back if you think I missed something.

    • Hey Rich,

      Thanks for the tips, especially on buying local, cheaper gear – I second that. Definitely good advice for anyone thinking of going trekking in Nepal.

      As for hiring a guide, you’re right that there is some corruption and bad dealings that go on between trekkers, guides and porters. Not everything is fair and some get ripped off (I trekked with one fellow whose guide disappeared with all the money after one day out of Lukla. He had made the mistake of going with one of the touts lining the streets of Thamel).

      Still, there are guides who make an honest living and offer a unique experience due to their personality, insight and local knowledge of the mountains and culture. It’s just a matter of finding a reliable guide who treats his or her porters well: true, easier said than done. Hiring locally (at the trailhead) is a good idea if you have the time.

      You’re right that EBC, specifically, has a clearly marked trail all the way. I’d think the main concern here is not getting lost but the altitude, which most trekkers (and first-time trekkers) are unfamiliar with. Thus a local guide in this case might be wise.

      All good points, though!

      Alex

    • hi,
      i want to trek manaslu and just found out i need a guide, 2 people and permit. I like independent trekking and would prefer to just ask a local to guide instead of booking via agency. i never trekked with agencies. any recommendation where to find a local porter or guide for manaslu circuit?

    • Hi
      My wife and I are planning our Everest Base camp trek for next year November.
      We DON’T want to use a trekking company or a trekking agent. (Who take a fee for sitting on their asses delegating)
      We would much prefer to hire an individual guide who and pay him top dollar.
      He must……
      1. Speak and understand fluent English.
      2. Is fully licenced and ensured.
      3. Has ample experience and local knowledge of our trek and route.
      4. Can help book our flights.(Kathmandu – Lukla)…return
      5. Get all our permits sorted.
      6. Can negotiate Tea house accommodation and meals.
      7. Trustworthy ….
      If you could help point us in the right direction for the above, we would be most gratefull.

      Rob

    • Hi Rich, Thanks for your insights. I’m planning EBC in late February. I hope to find a trekking partner or two in Kathmandu and a guide-porter in Lukla. If I can’t, I’m off on my own. It’s nice to know that a blind yak like myself can find the way. LOL

    • The payment for the service provided by the guide/sherpas and porter is way too less as the most of the amount is taken by the trekking agencies. I’d rather suggest you to get a individual guide, the guide and porter will not only get more but your overall trekking cost is also gonna be minimal. Agencies might charge about 800$ per person whilist with same amount you can do the same trek of 3 person which you can spilit upon the group for taking a individual guide.
      P.S. i’m not guide, i’m saying it from my father’s perspective who’s been working as trekking guide for 20 years.

  5. siri pokhrel

    Hi everyone, who reads this foroum, is useful as well but i think about the firstaid also important because if you got ill the he should know which medicine does his client”s need if your guide knows about natural herbs that could be extra tip for you mean even in trekking area there are some wild spinich in the trail which better then the garden of hotel, you know what food is good in which area Especailly like everest area local sherpa food sherpas strew in local food they knows better cooking like in manaslu local owner know in local resturant about local food like “Champa’

    Cheers
    siri pokhrel

  6. john

    i want export guide

    • Hi i am lenduk from makalu region. I have ten year experience in this tourism sector. I have became a porter to guide and now i am climbing guide too.
      I did guide training conducted by goverment,mountain leader course conducted by numla ( nepal union mountain leader association.)
      My contact is here -:lenduk30@gmail.com

  7. Nepal Planet Treks and Expedition

    I trekked to Tengboche Monastery from Jiri with Sanjib flying back from Lukla. I’ve done this several times before as a trek leader but thistime it was a private trip and it was one of the best yet. Our guide Sanjib Adhikari was first rate and had an excellent command of English and out porters Ram and Bhola Kumar was also extremely good. Accommodation in the lodges was of a generally high standard and some, especially The Nest in Namche and the Khumbu Lodge in Lukla were outstanding. I can also warmly recommend the Kathmandu hotel Nepalaya , a real home from home. Well done Sanjib, I would be happy to travel with your outfit again.

    Just wanted to say ‘thank you’ to Sanjib Independent trekking guide From Nepal my Everest base camp trek a wonderful experience. Am really grateful the way you and your crew made me comfortable, with attention to each and every small details, starting from money exchange to travel gear,insurance arrangement.
    I was little apprehensive about going for the trek on my own but I must admit your flawless arrangement made me feel at home…Lastly ,thanks for keeping my additional request of Pashupati natha temple visit…Am amazed to meet you , who was really took care of me and my comfort during the whole trek. I would definitely look forward to see you again in some holiday visit to Nepal…God bless you!!!

  8. Wendel

    Вполне себе разумный coding saadntrd. Особенно соглашусь с фразой “BE CONSISTENT”.Из спорных моментов отмечу неиспользование исключений, но и здесь мотивация ясна. К тому же: “Things would probably be different if we had to do it all over again from scratch.” С остальным примириться совсем легко.

  9. would it be advisable to just walk around the area by oneself and sleep in various hotels/tea-houses etc. Especially if you dont carry lots of stuff? is it easy to maybe just meet up with people in kathmandu and make an arrangement to trek from there together since i understand it is illegal to walk about on ones own.

  10. Namaste!!! Namaste!!!

    Dear All Guest, Welcome and Warm Greetings from Tour Guide and Trek Guide Himalayan Country of Nepal.

    My name is Bibek Dhakal, experienced and friendly young man. I love working in customer service and I consider myself an informative and professional Tour Manager and Hotel Manager. I love to promote local tourism,

    Since I was twelve year old, I was local tour guide. Long experience has given me lots of resources to make every tour a success. With me, you won’t feel as a tourist following a tour guide, you’ll feel as you’re self-welcomed by a knowledgeable fun local friend!

    My Life is Dedicate guiding and tourism. I live in Kathmandu and my profession is tour & Trekking Operator ,Hospitality Manager in Nepal tourism business. I would like to inform As Manager following special Services:-

    Trekking, Sight-seeing Tour in historical places, Jungle Safari, Rock Climbing, Natural Villages Tour Rafting in Nepal, Hot Air Balloon, Bungee Jumping, Para gliding, Mountains flight and Nepal Hotel Reservation. . I always keen to make friends from all over the world because we may exchange our feelings and thoughts.

    I can help you experience the very best this art and cultural and historical city by the sea has to offer. For an authentic sightseeing tour with a local, look no further. I am happy to help. Please contact me for more information and packages. I will provide all the necessary information related to your journey to Nepal from your home country.

    With Regards Bibek

    • Looking at walking to Everest base camp next year and I am looking for a estimated cost for a guide The group size will be 4 and the ideal month would be May or June

  11. Huaichen Rao

    Can you hire 2 porters in Lukla?
    Oct.2~12(11 days)
    Oct.2-16(15 days)
    We are 2 people independent trekkers.
    Expect within Usd 15 per day.

  12. Emese

    Hi, we are a trekker family looking for a guide and maybe a porter for a 10-12 days Annapurna circuit. We do not want to book by agency. The group size will be 3 persons. We do the trek in April 2017 (16th – 25/26th).

  13. Alex Waigandt

    There are lots of “street people” in Kathmandu who can connect you up with independent guides and porters. A few words of warning however, make sure that all of your hires have insurance. You are responsible for their well being. Things do happen on treks…as you know. I trekked the Everest region and had Bishnu Thapa of Himalayan Recreation Trekking set me up with a guide and porter. The cost for the service was only a few dollars. Piece of mind made it well worth it.

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