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
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!
December 29, 2017
A few weeks ago we successfully trekked the Annapurna Circuit and Base Camp. This was my second trek with Hari and the first with my daughters, Megan and Natalie. During our three-week adventure, Hari demonstrated great planning and showed great presence--this is why I will join him again.
Hari knew well the sections of the Circuit we needed to travel by jeep or by foot. Hari planned each day with skill so that Megan, who could only be with us for two weeks, reached her desired destination, and Natalie and I completed our trek to Base Camp as planned. Hari’s intelligence, knowledge, and years of trekking experience were so appreciated by our family.
Throughout our trek, Hari was attentive to our needs, while being outgoing, patient, and personable. He's a man of integrity anyone can trust; and he's an excellent communicator who keeps his promises while being polite, straightforward, and reliable.
I highly recommend Hari of Nepal Hiking Trek to any prospective trekker. I look forward to my next adventure with Hari, knowing that we will share many warm-hearted laughs along the trail.
December 22, 2017
My wife and I went to Nepal in Nov. 2017. We spent about 21 days in this incredible country, being 14 days trekking in the Everest region.
Since my first contact with Hari (the owner of the company) I could see that this was not an ordinary trekking company. Hari was very dedicated in answering every single doubt in very short time. He would quickly adapt the requests for change in the circuit and sent us very competitive offers. At the end, we decided to go for our trip to Nepal with Nepal Hiking Trek team.
After all the chating and e-mails exchange, I was a little bit disapointed when Hari told us he would not be able to guide us. However, we met our guide (Raj) and he was just as dedicated as Hari. As some other coments here mentioned, we also did not have to worry about where we would be staying, what/if we would be having for meals, permits or any other deal. Even when we were in that crazyness that is the Kathmandu airport to get our flight to Lukla, we were confident that Raj would manage to get us in the plane.
Among all, we could notice that our guide (Raj) and our porter (Git) were outstanding! Even other groups that made friendship with us during the trek were impressed to see how these two guys were professional and, at the same time, friendly and dedicated. We felt very well supported during all the trekking days.
In the other days I could notice that the guides (for Kathmandu Valley and Chitwan National Park tour) were dedicated to provide a good experience.
At last, the dedication of the whole staff and their concern for providing good service were notorious.
Considering everything, we believe that we had an excellent support from the team of Nepal Hiking Trek and we would definitelly recomend you chose them as your guide service while visiting Nepal.
December 14, 2017
Overall had a great time trekking with Hari, everything was always well organized and planned. We never had to worry about permits or where we would stay or what we would eat, grab your gear and head out on a trek of a lifetime, you won't regret it!
I spent 3 weeks trekking the Annapurna Circuit and Basecamp with my sister and dad, the trip was active, beautiful, as well as inspiring by walking through villages you're able to feel the culture more than any destination vacation.