Trekking in the Himalayas is undoubtedly a rewarding and memorable experience. Several trekkers visit Nepal time and again for some slow-paced long hikes in rugged trails complemented by spectacular and unforgettable mountain views.
However, even though trekking in Nepal is a beautiful experience, it can also be a dangerous and life-threatening experience if you are not careful. Trekkers are reported to often die in Nepal due to altitude sickness, heart attacks, diabetic ketoacidosis, and trauma.
Safety should always be a trekker’s top priority, no matter what.
Thus, researching and being fully prepared before and during your trip is crucial. If you are unsure, please read for safety tips to consider trekking plans in the Himalayan Kingdom.
Safety tips to follow before trekking in Nepal
Preparing for your trek before you head out for your trip can make a huge difference. You will be ready for any situation and successfully execute your trekking without hassle. Here are some safety tips you can adopt before you head out for your trek:
Know what trek you are going on
It is crucial to research your trek before you go. Please go through the itinerary and check out its difficulty rating, the best season to go to, and the dangers that may occur during the trek. It would be best if you got the answers to these questions before booking a tour.
Trekking group size
Sure, trekking alone gives you all the freedom and peace of mind. However, for your safety, it is best to trek with a partner or a guide. It is even better to hike with a group of 4-7 people.
Trekking in Nepal means walking for days in highly isolated places and some of the highest mountains of Nepal.
Trekking with partners helps you survive dangerous situations like being robbed, being a victim of altitude sickness, or even rescuing during natural calamities.
Get an insurance
One of the most sensible things to do before you head for your trip is to get yourself travel insurance. Make sure to get the insurance that covers the cost of helicopter evacuation.
We hope you do not get into a situation where there is a need to evacuate in the middle of the trekking. But if you do, remember to always keep all the receipts and medical reports. The helicopter companies in Nepal only provide services to you if you assure them of payment, as they will not bother to deal with your insurance company.
You can provide your cash grantee to the helicopter company through a credit card, your trekking agency, or the embassy. Then, you can file a claim with your insurer later. But, beware, most travel insurance does not cover extreme activities like high-altitude trekking.
If you are going for a high altitude trekking in places like Everest base camp or Annapurna Circuit, make sure that your insurance covers trek up to 6,000m. Do a check with your insurance company and confirm that you will be insured for all activities, excursions, and destinations. Make sure always to keep a copy of your insurance policy in your daysack.
It ensures you or your guide can easily access your insurer’s contact information if you get into an accident.
Trekkers are not legally required to get any vaccinations for entering and exiting Nepal. But prevention is always better than the cure, so make sure to follow the CDC or WHO’s suggestions regarding which vaccinations you should get before.
Three of the most necessary immunization you should get before you come to Nepal are:
- Hepatitis A
Hepatitis A spreads from food, drinks, or coming in close contact with an infected person. The virus can cause severe damage to your liver. Since you will be eating in an unknown place throughout your trip to Nepal, it is wise for you to get the Hepatitis A vaccination.
- Typhoid fever
People contract typhoid mainly through contaminated water, by eating food washed in contaminated water, or by using a toilet contaminated with the bacteria. The typhoid symptoms can be excruciating as you will suffer from fever, extreme stomach pain, diarrhea, constipation, and cough. So instead of suffering and ruining your trekking plans, make sure to get the vaccine ahead of your trip.
Chickenpox still exists in Nepal. If you are a person who hasn’t got chickenpox yet, make sure to get yourself a chickenpox vaccine before you enter the country.
Consult a General Practitioner for your pre-existing medical condition
Suppose you have a pre-existing medical condition and you plan to visit Nepal for trekking, mainly around high altitude trials; in that case, it is best to consult your general practitioner before.
Furthermore, having an official letter from your doctor regarding your condition, medication, and emergency contact can help if something like altitude sickness affects your medical condition.
Similarly, make sure to carry enough medications for your conditions and prepare a kit with clear labels for your hand carry.
Suppose you are going through pregnancy or suffering from conditions like sickle cell disease, pulmonary hypertension, obesity, hypoventilation syndrome, or congenital heart problems. In that case, it is best to avoid going for a trek on high-altitude trails in the Himalayas.
Likewise, if you suffer from a pre-existing condition like obstructive sleep apnea, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases, neuromuscular diseases, chronic kidney disease, and cystic fibrosis, make sure to be extremely cautious on your trip.
Furthermore, although doctors do not restrict you to trek if you have heart diseases, high blood pressure, epilepsy, anemia, or peptic ulcers, we recommend taking precautions if you suffer from such conditions.
Prepare the right kit
Make sure to prepare a suitable kit for your trip. While there is no restriction on the load you can carry in Nepal, that does not mean you should take anything and everything.
Your kit for trekking should weigh around 9kg.
Your equipment must include things like boots, warm clothing, rain gear, a sleeping bag, a down jacket, sun cream, a sun hat, first aid, mandatory medications, water, a head torch, and a whistle.
Also, we recommend you wear your hiking boots instead of keeping them in your luggage while you are flying so that, even if your luggage is lost or misplaced, you can replace other kits in Kathmandu or Pokhara. Unfortunately, it will be tough for you to replace a pair of already broken boots.
Tell your close ones where you are going
Let your family and friends know where you are going and share the itineraries with them. Doing so will help them find you if you go missing.
Also, inform them if you are thinking about taking an extra day or two.
Safety tips to follow during trekking
Preparing and packing right for your trekking can make a huge difference but being cautious during the hike is also essential for your safety. Here are some safety tips you should follow after you land and start your hike in Nepal:
Check weather conditions frequently
Nepal usually has predictable weather if you choose to trek in the Himalayas during peak season and avoid visiting during monsoon season. However, there can be times when some places may suffer from sudden snowfall throughout the year.
So, before you head out to ascend the trials, always make sure to be up to date about the weather conditions by checking weather forecasts. Such a step will keep you safe from getting caught in the bad weather in the middle of the hike. You will also be able to pack the correct clothing and hiking gear in your daypack.
If you do not have access to the weather forecast, look for heavy clouds or dense fog to predict the weather.
Check out for avalanches
Avalanches mainly occur at higher altitudes during heavy snowfall, rainfall, or following an earthquake. An earthquake is a natural phenomenon and is unpredictable.
However, it is best to avoid going on a trek during heavy snowfall or rainfall season.
In October 2014, The Thorung-La avalanche of the Annapurna circuit killed over 40 people.
If you find yourself trekking in landslide areas, be cautious of the uneven ground and check out for falling rocks.
Water safety is one of the most important things to remember while trekking in Nepal. While water is already a scarce commodity during trekking, most surface or tap water you come across in Nepal is not reliable to drink right away. Therefore, it would be best to ensure the water is boiled or purified before consumption to avoid contracting any water-borne diseases.
Drinking water that is not boiled or purified can cause you to suffer from bacterial diarrhea, giardia, amoebic diarrhea, and cyclospora. Rehydration is quite crucial if you suffer from water-borne diseases. So, make sure you pack plenty of Oral Rehydration Salts (ORS) for your trek.
Furthermore, we highly recommend you not to buy any bottled water during your trip as you can never be too sure where the water comes from, and it also tends to leave a substantial ecological footprint. So overall, only drink boiled water.
It is best to purchase water filters, UV purifiers, or Iodine/Chlorine to filter the water when you do not have access to boiled water. Likewise, some trails also have safe drinking water stations where you get ozone-treated water. You can drink the water found in such stations without any hesitation.
Carry hand sanitizer and wet wipes
Most of the trekking sites in Nepal are situated far from the urban areas. The natural beauty sure is mesmerizing. However, the natural beauty of these remote areas calls for less infrastructure.
There are fewer restrooms and poor sanitation at higher altitudes.
You may not get running water in tea houses’ bathrooms, let alone hot water for a shower. Therefore, carrying a hand sanitizer while using the restroom is best.
If there’s no water for you to freshen up, use wet wipes to clean your body. These two items are a must to keep you clean for days.
Nepalese are known to be hospitable and welcoming towards tourists. As a trekker, you can trust most agencies, shopkeepers, hotel owners, and agents. However, be alert and recheck their backgrounds before committing to their services.
Also, you should never disclose all your personal information and valuable goods to anyone.
Let the yaks and donkey trains pass
Since most hiking trails in Nepal are in remote areas, there are few ways to transport goods. So instead, donkeys and yaks carry supplies up and down the villages.
Step inside the trail when the animals pass if you do not want to be pushed off the cliffs.
On top of that, let the donkeys and yaks pass first when crossing a suspension bridge. Also, don’t try to pet these animals just because they look cute. They can be aggressive and attack you.
If you want to touch one, ask the herder first.
Altitude sickness or Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) is a condition that makes it difficult for oxygen to enter your body due to the low pressure in your surroundings. The higher you ascend, the harder it gets to receive the amount of oxygen you need to function.
Altitude sickness is a significant problem many are concerned about while trekking in Nepal. It can affect you regardless of your age, experience, or level of fitness.
The symptoms of altitude sickness develop when you ascend quickly to a high altitude. The condition mainly affects people from 2,500ft to 8,200ft.
When you suffer from Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), you tend to have symptoms like headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, tiredness, loss of appetite, and shortness of breath. You must immediately inform your guide or friend during your hike if you suffer from any mentioned symptoms.
Ignoring the symptoms can lead you to suffer from severe conditions like High-altitude cerebral edema (HACE) and High-altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE).
If you do not treat AMS, HACE can develop quickly within a few hours. It can cause swelling in the brain due to the lack of oxygen. HACE symptoms include headaches, weakness, nausea and vomiting, coordination loss, confusion, and hallucinations.
Likewise, on the other hand, HAPE only appears a few days after your arrival at the high altitude surrounding. In this condition, fluid builds up in the lungs, and you suffer from symptoms like a blue tinge to the skin, breathing difficulties even while you are resting, tightness in the chest, consistent cough, weakness, and tiredness.
How to avoid altitude sickness in Nepal?
The best way to avoid altitude sickness is to allow your body to acclimatize to the surrounding. So, after you reach 2,500 meters, try to limit your daily hikes to 500 meters. Also, make sure to have a rest day every three days or after a 1,000-meter trek.
Moreover, ensure you drink plenty of water and ORS and avoid drinking alcohol and smoking.
You can also take medication to prevent altitude sickness. Take Acetazolamide, a.k.a Diamox, 1-2 days before you start to hike towards the high altitude.
In conclusion, always prepare beforehand and stay cautious during hikes when you plan to trek around Nepal. We also highly recommend you not travel or roam alone while hiking.
It is always best to hire a guide or plan your trip through a travel agency instead of going for a solo trek in Nepal.
Overall, make sure to follow the safety tips we mentioned above, and you will be good to go for your adventurous trip to the Himalayan Kingdom hassle-free.