Nepal is a fantastic country for long treks. It is relatively unspoilt, although at times heavily polluted. It is wild and inhospitable and its relatively good facilities make it a popular area for trekking. The Himalayas offer beautiful views and physical challenges. One of the best known and most frequently made treks is the Annapurna Circuit: a trek around the Annapurna, a well-known 8000-er, which starts in Besi Sahar and ends in Beni.
The trek is beautiful, but with some extra tips it might be easier to prepare or stick with it. See the do’s & don’ts here:
Do’s in het Annapurna gebied
- Be prepared! Train for it, as it’s much more fun if you’re physically fit!
- Adapt. Local customs might be odd for you. But you are odd for the locals too. Adapt, don’t judge. Enjoy.
- Take a sufficient supply of cash money. There are no ATMs along the trek and credit cards are hardly accepted. Even if it would be accepted or an ATM would be there: the energy grid is unreliable at best. Visit the ATM in Kathmandu or Pokhara. Consider upfront that you can only take a couple of thousands roepi per day in an ATM, so you need multiple stops to take sufficient funds.
- Take a sleeping bag with you! In the peak season, it might be the case that there are not enough blankets for everybody. If you don’t have a sleeping bag, and there are not enough blankets, guess who doesn’t get a blanket? Yes. The porter or the guide. Don’t let your laziness get somebody else cold.
- Buy you permit for the ACAP (Annapurna Conservation Area) in Kathmandu. Take sufficient passport photographs (as you need a lot of them). And be patient. It’s “bureaucratic”.
- Be friendly, respectful and humble. Greet people.
- Accept that this is a paternistic society. The man get’s the questions, the bill and is spoken to (first). You won’t change that.
- Take purification methods with you. Droplets, tablets or a water filter. Water isn’t always potable and boiling it isn’t always an option.
- Wash your fruit with this purified water, or peel it first.
- Avoid buses in the mountains. Walking is more safe.
Dont’s in het Annapurna gebied
- Don’t encourage begging. Even if this goes against your hero-complex. We’ve seen tourists that give 1 EUR to a kid. This is insulting, although due to ignorance and arrogance. It’s a full days wage for an adult, in this part of the world. It’s highly inappropriate.
- Don’t show affection on the street: kissing and hugging is frowned upon. Walking hand-in-hand is ok – everybody does that, including adult men.
- Bragging and diminishing behavior. Realize: you’re phone might cost 2-5 fulltime annual Nepali salaries.
- Don’t touch children on their head. Highly insulting.
- Don’t take pictures of anybody without their permission.
- Explicitly telling that you miss beef for dinner…A cow is a sacred animal and killing a cow in Nepal is just as bad as killing another person.
- Negotiating about the prices in the ACAP-area. The prices are determined by the ACAP and are artificially higher than elsewhere to support the region. Eating, drinking and overnight stays probably cost about 10 EUR per day, per person. In cities it might be half. However, in Europe or the USA it’s 10x as much.
- Don’t use plastic bottles. Re-use steel bottles or camel bags. But plastic and other waste causes huge environmental issues as they are simply thrown away or burnt.
What is the best time of travel for the Annapurna Circuit Trek?
The best period is from March to mid-May and the month of October. At the start of the season there can still be a lot of winter snow, but remember that most snow here does not fall in the winter but in the summer: the summer monsoon is by far the worst time. This is mainly due to landslides and the very unsafe traffic.
October is usually a very good month and is the real high season. The skies are clear and a lot of snow has melted.
What does it cost to make the Annapurna trek?
Let me start by stating that this depends on each person. Alcohol is becoming more and more expensive (but is reasonably available), smoking of course costs more money than not smoking and whether or not you use a guide or porter has a huge impact.
We did the Annapurna trek without a guide and without porters. The advantage of this is that you are flexible and do not have to adapt to anyone. As a fit person I have hardly been able to discover any disadvantages. Of course you have to carry the stuff up yourself, but this is only 1 backpack.
We made the draw in April/May 2014. Prices may be slightly different now, but I don’t expect anything shocking.
- The Annapurna permits cost 8000 NPR for 2 people, 4 passport photos and just as many forms
- The bus to Dumre (tourist bus) cost I believe 10 EUR converted (per person).
- The bus from Dumre to Besi Sahar cost 600NPR per person
- The bus from Besi to Bhulbule 200 NPR
- All other costs during the Trek were NPR 43,000. So this was all accommodation and meals together, the jeep to Jomsom, the truck ride, the bus to Beni and all snacks and a few hats that we bought as souvenirs. That is about EUR 325 at the current rate, slightly less at the time.
Is the Annapurna Circuit dangerous?
Short answer: it certainly can be, for various reason. First of all: Nepali traffic is dangerous, so getting there is part of the risk.
On the trek itself: the people are very friendly and we never felt unsafe. However, the weather conditions and altitude can be dangerous. In October 2014, 43 people died between High Camp and Muktinath due to a blizzard and avalanches. It started as a regular snow shower, but over 2 meter fell within 12 hours.
The higher parts are very exposed. Between High Camp and Muktinath, there is little shelter. There is a tea-hut at 5000 meters and a small tea-hut at the summit (5416) of Thorung La pass. There are hardly any rescue helicopters in the country and at this altitude, they can’t carry a lot of weight either. It’s up to you to stay safe. So take that sleeping bag with you, be fit & prepared and pay attention.
Another risk is landslides (falling rocks) and altitude sickness. Non of these risks however are specific to this area, but generic for all high-altitude treks.
When the weather is good and you’re feeling well, it’s a walk in the park. If this is not the case, you soon notice that you are in an extreme environment!