o, you have decided to come to Nepal to take on the breathtaking views, experience the variety of cultures, and test your physical abilities by taking on the Annapurna Circuit Trekking. But, you dont know how to start. Dont worry, it is easy. My girlfriend and I came to Nepal with only a loose plan for the trek, and little to no supplies. And we managed to go from landing to hitting the trail in less than 3 days! Here is how you can get ready:
Arrival in Kathmandu ( getting SIM cards and USD )
First off, make sure you know the location of your hotel or AirBnB in Kathmandu. This way, there should not be any confusion with a taxi driver. Once you get in, I would suggest heading straight to an ATM to get some Nepalese Rupees. Next up, a SIM card. We found these very helpful as the wifi can be spotty within Nepal. Especially up on the trail. There is often wifi offered, but more often than not it is an empty promise. We went with NCell as the carrier for our SIM cards, and it was generally good. However, I heard better things about Nepal Telecom as well.
Note: We bought our SIM cards at the airport for about R800, which included 2.5 GB of data. I later found out that you can get a better deal if you wait until you get to town to buy it, but it might be more difficult to figure out.
Next, go to the taxi stand just outside of the airport gate and tell them where you are going. They have fixed rates, and it is better than trying to haggle with the independent drivers waiting to hassle you.
Getting Trekking supplies in Kathmandu
Once you get settled into Kathmandu, your next goal will to stock up on supplies for the trek. You will need base layers and outerwear, but depending on the season you may not need anything too warm. We went in April and it was freezing (literally) over the pass, so we were glad to have hiking pants and down jackets. But, I have heard in October it is less necessary. Either way, pack as light as you can. You will regret every extra kg you pack as you get to higher altitude. A basic list of things you will need is as follows:
- backpack (50+ liter)
- base layers for tops and bottoms
- something to wear for warm weather at the bottom
- fleece or active sweatshirt
- down jacket and insulated pants (some people prefer waterproof)
- rain jacket
- hat and gloves (I had a winter hat and a baseball hat for the sunny days)
- pair of boots (invest in a good pair!) and a couple pairs of good hiking socks
- sleeping bag (it gets cold at night, and the blankets at the teahouses are not great)
- clothes to sleep in (you dont want to be sleeping in the clothes you hike in)
- a pair of sandals to change into at the end of the day
- first aid kit (bandages, antiseptic cream, blister wraps, sunscreen, water purification tablets, paracetamol, Imodium, and diamox
- map of the trail
- walking sticks (optional, we didnt use them but a lot of people said they were helpful)
- 1-2 water bottles (2 is good because the water purification tablets take time to work)
Now, where to get all of this? The clothes are easy enough. No matter what kind of quality you want, Thamel has everything. If you want legitimate stuff that you know is going to be good, go into the name brand stores around Tridevi Sadak. If you are more on a budget, go into any of the outdoors shops along Armit Marg and haggle until you get the price you want. One store I can recommend is Shona Alpine. They are not the cheapest, but will tell you exactly what you need.
As for the first aid kit, you can find pharmacies around Thamel that will overcharge you for everything. Or you can take an excursion to Bir Hospital. Across the street to the north, you will find a row of cheap pharmacies with everything you need. This works well to do on the same day as getting your permits, which leads me to the next section.
I came with very little in terms of supplies, and I spent about R20,000 in total for everything, but I was buying knockoff stuff.
Getting Annapurna Permits in Kathmandu
This step is easy, it just takes a little time. You will have to find your way over to the Nepal Tourism Board on Pradarshani Marg. Try to get there early so you can beat the lines, and make sure you know the hours of operation (I think it is closed on Saturdays).
You will need two permits. The first is the permit for entrance to the Annapurna Region. The second is your Trekkers Information Management System (TIMS) card. In total these will cost about R4,000. But you do need both, and they will be checked along the trail. They are easy to obtain. Just go inside the building and there will be an English speaking guide there to tell you where to go. Fill out the forms, pay the money, and you are all set. Make sure you carry these permits with you AT ALL TIMES when you are trekking.
Getting to Annapurna from Kathmandu
So, you have got your supplies and your permits. You are ready to start hiking. But how to start? Some people go to Pokhara first, but I feel this is an unnecessary step. Instead, just go straight to the trail. In Kathmandu, wake up early and try to get in a taxi by 6 AM or so. Make your way to the BG Mall on the north side of Ring Road. Outside the mall, find the booth selling minibus tickets to Besisahar. They will give you a ticket (about R500) and fit you on the next available minibus. It is not the most comfortable ride, but it takes about 5-6 hours to get to Besisahar.
Here, you will have to register with the local tourist checkpoint with your TIMS card and Annapurna permit. After that, some people start walking. This is the official start of the trail. However, from what I have heard, it is not a very nice part of it. So, in order to start off on the right foot, I took a local bus on to Bhulbhule. This ride took about an hour and cost about R200, but made for a very nice starting point for the trek. From there, you start walking.
Hopefully this is helpful in getting you started on your trek! And I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!