November 08, 2018
If you are looking for a reference regarding a tour operator for the EBC or the ABC, the first question you need to ask is do you contract with a big name, western-based tour operator or go with one of the 1600+ local Kathmandu tour operators. Here are a few thoughts, as there are Pros and Cons to both.
To me, it all boils down to the Risk you are willing to take as all tour operators are not the same. Like anything, there is a spectrum from good to bad. In reality, picking a poor operator can be worse than just experiencing a disappointing adventure. Your trek can be a total fiasco if your guide and/or porter abandons you prematurely, leaving you high and dry on the trail. It happens.
Many think the safest bet to ensure a successful and safe trek is to choose one of the expensive tour operators out of the US that is a time-honored company who cherishes their reputation. They have a beaten path and muscle memory with selected hotels, highly purposed staffs and hopefully a deep bench of locals. Big companies drive large numbers hence economies and disproportional profits as it relates to their smaller competitors. Safest, perhaps, but strict constriction treks are not for everyone.
One of the biggest drawbacks I found when you go with a big-name US-based tour operator, beyond the expense and their inability to truly inculcate themselves into the culture, is you will most likely get mixed-in with various skill levels of hikers so the roster can be filled up. Here, if you are on the fringe such as a slow walking pictures taker, you will feel pressured to keep up and if you are fast pace hiker you will have the daylights choked out of you. Diverse hiker etiquette within a scrambled group can also be a very bitter pill.
With that said, if you are looking for a more customized and controlled adventure, going with a small operation might be a good option. Here you get the flexibility to pick your schedule, more choices of accommodations and meals, side trails options, increased personal attention, etc.
With a smaller tour operator, you may have more control over what I consider is the leading indicator of a successful adventure, the quality of the guide and how well he or she speaks English. (Either way, you go, large or small operator, a big part of the experience and success of the trek is predicated on your ability to understanding the guide’s English. Here it does not matter if you have chosen a large or small tour operator, I have used both and, in each instance, I have found poor communications tends to kill a trek dead in its tracks. It is like day old Coke, no punch).
There seems to be two schools of thought about guides. The first is that the best guides tend to work for the big named operators. The second is, if you look, you can find excellent guides that are top-shelf working for small local tour operators, even in the busy season. I just completed both the EBC and the ABC this year. I went with a larger western based company for the EBC and used a local Kathmandu tour operator for the ABC. My wife just had a knee replacement so we needed to select smaller a firm that would let us move at our own pace on the ABC.
Picking the right local operator was key for me so we would avoid many of the pitfalls of a poorly run operation. For example, if you use a small local provider, there may be a concern they do not have the influence to be able to firmly reserve rooms along the trail, especially during high season. At times large groups have significant influence and can step-on a reservation for a single room. My wife and I did not want any chance of getting bumped and having to sleep on the floor in the Tea Room.
There is a seemly endless list of companies to choose from in Kathmandu, which is the right one to pick. Before you start your selection process, you have to know that small, local tour companies live a life of struggle and unbounded demand. This may work in your favor as your business is highly regarded. Now I get it, some people are fine just showing up in Thamel and hiring a guide and/or porter, but what insurances are there that they will get what they were promised, a safe and enjoyable experience. The possible risks that comes with “shooting from the hip”
Being guided by a second-tier guide.
How comfortable can you be that a small company out of Kathmandu is able to manage problems along the way with precision and safety?
Does the tour operator truly understand the demands of Westerners?
Way too much risk for my taste.
On the other hand, let's say you put a short list of potential local tour operators together ahead of time and whittle it down to a final choice, now you have to transfer a deposit, say $1,000, to a bank in Kathmandu and not really know if the company will really be there when you arrive six months later. Also remember, it is not uncommon to bundle together smaller disparate groups from multiple tour operators to reach the threshold number needed to commence a trek. How can you be sure you will get a great lead guide or if you will be placed with an assistant-level guide in the razzle-dazzle shuffle? It was very important to me that I could “Cherry Pick” a guide ahead of time.
In short, can you tell with confidence that the tour operator you pick has had a long series of successful treks Between the airfare, cost of the gear, insurance, time away, the training and cash outlays for incidentals, I wanted my choice to be as free from risk as possible but with all the benefits of a two-person, tailored trek.
So, if you want to go with the local company for all the virtues they offer and there are many, how do you find the best match for your expectations. First, you should look at TripAdvisor, Facebook, and Google. You will see hundreds of reviews. You need to be smart about weighing which ones are legit and which ones aren’t. With a bit of hard work and research, you can get to a short list of candidates. Contact the tour operators you like and ask to speak to several of their recent and past clients and get their input. I also asked for references that were a few years older so I could establish the longevity and proven performance over time of the tour operator. This should quickly narrow the field.
To help you save some time, benchmark your short list against Nepal Hiking Trek. I used them for my ABC trek. This company executed at every level from the planning to the flawless delivery of a memorable adventure and yes, with a strong English-speaking guide. Nepal Hiking Trek secured the very hard to reserve private rooms each night, all with ensuite western toilets where available, (Hari knows all the Teahouse owners). Nepal Hiking Trek is a safe choice with a steep history of success. They totally customized my trek with the bonus of having a five-star rating on TripAdvisor. Contact Hari at Nepal Hiking and Trek and take a look at the YouTube video of my October 2018 ABC Trek with Hari guiding. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xa-0b8L_rIw
October 30, 2018
If you are looking for a trekking company that can customize your small group to the ABC, please contact Nepal Hiking Trek! Hari the owner of this company did a phenomenal job planning and guiding our private trek to the ABC! My husband & I just completed the ABC trek with Hari and he exceeded our expectations! Hari spoke fantastic English which was very important to us. He arranged for private rooms all the way up the trek and we walked at the perfect pace so we acclimated easily and without using any altitude medicines! I had recently had a partial knee replacement so the slower pace was very important. We made it to the base camp and off the mountain with minimal discomfort! Hari always had a smile on his face and a positive attitude even when the sun was not out! Please call Hari if you are even thinking about this trip. It was magnificent and the views were spectacular! We hope to return one day to Nepal and we will without a doubt have Hari plan our next adventure!
October 26, 2018
This is my second time using the service of Nepal Hiking Trek (the first time being Oct 2017, and I did EBC and 3 passes), and same as last year, it has been both fantastic and memorable. Hari, the owner of the company, runs his business is a highly professional manner: the response bring very prompt, and the suggestion has always been helpful. I had Raj as my guide for the second time, who knows deeply about the mountain: the route, the culture, the AMS (and of course, how to prevent it). He helped a lot to keep the rhythm of the trek, so despite this is not an easy programme, I finished it without too much struggle. The scenery is totally breathtaking, especially Tilicho Lake - it is just like heaven!! I would like to say thank you to Nepal Hiking Trek, for making everything so perfect, and I shall certainly be looking forward to my next Nepal trip. Highly recommended!!
August 22, 2018
A friend of mine suggested that Hari is a great contact if ever I wanted to do something around Nepal. Coming in from Qatar, without any plans or whatsoever. I shot him a message and inquired about a 5-6 days trek. I met with him at his office and he gave me a very detailed itinerary about this easy trek (Ghorepani). It was so detailed and flexible that he even gave me options on how to make it cheaper as I was doing it solo. Then came his guide, Karna, who really helped me in any way he could all throughout the trek. The monsoon season really was a bummer, because the weather was really unpredictable. But I had a lot of fun in every day of the trek because Karna helped me with my little project (taking portraits of people I meet) as a translator. There are times that I felt overwhelmed about the hospitality of Karna. He did just want all things to be smooth sailing. Going through the trek, not really expecting to experience any clearing, on our last day, alas! All the famous peaks showed up. The time and effort given to me by Hari even though I was doing the trek alone were top notch. Even the sendoff dinner was a cherry on top. All in all, I would suggest this company to be your partner in any major or minor trek in Nepal.
April 27, 2018
Hari is one graceful dancer and nothing short of amazing! Everything was well-organized, from arrival in Nepal to the whole Everest BC trek and all the way to our departure. I loved the place he brought us for the welcome dinner, the food was delicious and cultural show was entertaining. Hari would accommodate all of our needs. His whole team would carefully monitor and look out for the well being of each and every one of us Filipinos, they would make sure everyone is having a sense of convenience especially at the lodges we stayed at. If I remember correctly, 9 out of 11 nights we stayed at lodges with private bathroom. We never stayed in dorm rooms. Now that's a real treat! They also brought with them apples for the whole group to eat that lasted for the whole trek. During meals, they would always ask us what we want to eat and drink, and all of them would serve us and wouldn't eat until we were all satisfied. Our group had a lot of questions and concerns too, and all of those were patiently answered and addressed. Unfortunately, during the trek, some of us acquired AMS, good thing Hari is very well experienced, taking appropriate measures for our friends who were not feeling well. On the other hand, Madan, our wonderful assistant guide, would always ensure our safety and be attentive to us. During break times, we played cards, made jokes, shared stories with them.
The service and hospitality they have given us, it's more than what 5-star hotels could offer. Somehow, I feel like the amount we paid is relatively inexpensive compared to what they've provided to us. Hari and Madan, they were both so professional and yet they come off as being friendly, humble, kind, warm and trustworthy, above all. I love them both and I'd trust them with my life!