Annapurna Circuit Trek

HIMALAYAS. A lot of people probably think it’s an impossible dream, but with a ~USD400 budget, you can finish a hike as long as you get into Kathmandu! Yes, it is doable and we did it! But, at the end of the day, no mountain should be underestimated, so here’s us sharing our experience – from budget to preparations and to some random tips.

Budget: NPR44,800/person, 14 days. (~USD368)
Setting a budget can be difficult, given how much haggling there is. But here’s what I will advice for a 14 day hike:
  • NPR9,000 for transportation.
    • NPR1,000 from Kathmandu to Besisahar, and NPR3,000 (USD25 equivalent) from Pokhara to Kathmandu.
    • A blanket NPR5,000 for the parts you end up wanting to skip, though this is a gross overestimation.
  • NPR28,000 for food. I’m allocating NPR2,000 per day.
    • NPR600 for one dish,so two meals a day is NPR1,200 (breakfast and dinner, generally required when staying at a teahouse). Add dessert during dinner (I shared with my partner) which is around NPR500 for two. To save money, just skip dessert.
    • For lunch, stopping at a teahouse takes too much time, so we basically snack using some bread or trail food we buy at some stores.
    • We are cheap, so we actually bought some ramen (noodles in plastic bags) at Kathmandu, which are about NPR20 a piece. They are pretty light, and we also had our own cook set. It makes the hike more difficult given how much we had to carry, but it makes things so MUCH cheaper (this blog is “the cheap adventures” after all)
    • Drinks can be around NPR200 a cup to NPR1,300 for a big thermos. If you want hot drinks, the budget will balloon significantly. Say, a cup of coffee every morning will add at least NPR2,800 to your budget. We make our own coffee and hot drinks, which we also do in the middle of the trek (again, we are cheap. We had our own cook set).
    • Drinking water can also increase your budget a lot. We had an MSR Guardian water filter and a Steripen, so we never paid for water (but boy, those are heavy!).
  • NPR2,800 for accommodations. Most will be free, some will charge you. To be safe, I’m gonna assign an NPR200 per night stay.
  • NPR5,000 for permits.
This budget is a significantly low range, but definitely doable. Most budgets say USD30/day per person, but we actually ended up paying about NPR3,000~NPR4,000 a day for two people (again, we made our own drinks). At one point, we wondered if we are being too cheap, but when we went to Pokhara the price of food was about half the price on the trail – so rest assured, the teahouses are NOT hurting in terms of profit margin. They are making a LOT of money off of us.

Hike Date / Difficulty
  • December 2019
  • Difficulty: A full 5 out of 5. It’s a long trek, and the difficulty can be adjusted by how much you want to skip (take buses/jeeps as opposed to walking) and how fast you want to go. Nothing technical, and the main problem is altitude sickness.
When to Go
  • Latter October until May, I think.
  • The peak season is October to November, mainly because it’s not as cold and the rainy season is supposedly over.
  • December to February are much colder given it’s winter, but they also get blessed with clear skies.
  • March to April is spring, so it’s not as bad as winter, but still pretty cold.
Special Notes
  • Permits. You’ll need to get a hiking permit (TIMS, NPR2000) and Annapurna region permit (ANCAP, NPR3000) before hiking. So I had a print out of the itinerary, and some passport sized photos. It’s a pretty quick and painless process, but you have to be here (google map pin) at office hours. These permits are needed as there are numerous check points throughout the trek, and you’ll have to show these permits to continue on.
  • Tours vs going solo. There are plenty of tour groups to join, and if you have the budget for it, then that might provide peace of mind, plus the lack of need to organize and do your research – basically they will do it for you. It will, however, be around USD1500 per person, at least. If I had all the money in the world, I’ll probably still not do the tours simply because I like taking my own time when hiking. I would, however, hire guides and porters. Overall, the paths were well marked, and I would recommend going at it solo.
  • Guides and Porters. Guides are around USD25 a day, and porters at USD20. Guides speak English and will not carry your bags, while most porters just quietly walk while carrying yours’ and their own packs.
    • They are generally strong, but I have seen some guides and porters fall behind the hiker.
    • You’ll have to pay for their transportation, etc. too, which is relatively cheaper because the local prices apply to them (prices normally at least double for foreigners). Some blogs recommend hiring from reputed companies, because otherwise you’ll have to cover their insurance too (what if they get sick?)
    • Guides require licenses to operate – and based on one guy I talked to, it can be difficult to get a license, probably because English is a requirement. He said he worked as a porter for years because he couldn’t get the guide’s license.
    • Tips are expected it seems, at around USD3~5 a day.
    • WARNING: There are some hearsay of some guides finding ways to get their hikers to “emergency evacuate” via a helicopter. Why? Because they will get about a USD1,000 cut. People do profit from “emergency evacuation”, so do NOT blindly trust your guide.
  • Altitude sickness. “Climb high, sleep low”. Basically from 3,000 meters, DO NOT spend the night at a location more than 500 meters higher than the previous night. I assume you’ll buy a map at Kathmandu, but for your planning, the main villages and their corresponding altitudes are summarized at the end of this post.
    • Medically, diamox is pretty famous, and I did take it for three or so days. It did, however, give me explosive diarrhea. Haha. They said take it AFTER breakfast and dinner.
    • Nothing beats going slow though, and letting your body adjust.
  • Weather. Throng La Pass is not always passable. If it snowed a couple of days before your hike, you might have to turn back and go home the way you went. On our way there, people waited a couple of days at Manang and had to go back.
    • What you can do – nothing much. You can add at least a week if possible in your itinerary, so you can “out wait” a bad weather, but it still is not an assurance.
  • Safety.
    • Insurance is a very expensive premium that you would be happier not to have to use. Right now, as expensive as it is, I am yet to find an alternative to World Nomads that will give me the same level of peace of mind (If you know an alternative, please recommend it to me!). Why? Because they have a base in Nepal. I did email them when I started feeling bad, and they replied immediately. You will not have to call for a helicopter or pay in advance, they’ll do everything for you. Or so they said. Thankfully I felt better and did not have to use it.
    • Crimes. I saw two solo female hikers in there – one with a guide, one without. The place is really safe, considering you’ll have all your cash with you when you travel.
  • Haggling and money matters. Oh, time to get your sharpen your haggling skills, as the Nepali will try to make as much money out of you as they can. Say hello to capitalism.
    • Accommodations. Haggling is accepted and expected for room rates – they should be free, and if a room is more than NPR400 a night, just find a different tea house. Actually, our default is that if the room is not free, we look for another teahouse. The exceptions were when we were just so exhausted and when we wanted the room’s view.
    • Food. Haggling, however, is NOT allowed for food.
    • On transportation, haggling is the default for jeeps and taxis but NOT for buses. Buses generally have a fixed rate, and depending on the values of the conductor, you’ll get the normal rate or they’ll double it once they see you’re a foreigner, though it is still cheap. For jeeps and taxis, they double or triple it based on how much they judge you are willing to pay. I generally ask around (usually at teahouses/hostels) how much it would be so I have a general idea of the actual cost, which is how I know they charge so much more for foreigners. If you have no idea, whatever amount comes to your mind, start with half of that.
  • Packing list. Each person is unique and we plan differently – my personal packing list is in a separate blog post.
Note: I have a separate blog post about my unedited, on the spot rants and stories. Except for the Poon Hill section, these were written every night, mostly with frozen fingers, so some maybe half finished.
  • Day 1. Bus from Kathmandu to Besisahar. At Besisahar, we took a jeep to Bhulbule.
  • Day 2. Started trekking and stopped at the Chamje, right across a beautiful waterfall.
  • Day 3. From Chamje we went to Danakyu. We are reaching 3,000m and we can definitely feel it given how cold it is.
  • Day 4. We started at around 6:30am, because we can only leave after breakfast, and we did not want to demand our hosts to be up by 4am. We trekked until Dhikur Pokhari, which breached the 3,000m, so it’s time to consider altitude sickness in our itinerary.
  • Day 5. Hiked to Upper Pisang, rested a bit, then hiked up, up, and up to Gyaru, which looks like a town in camouflage. From here on it’s a gentle slow to Ngawal.
  • Day 6. Rest day! An option is to go up to a 5,000m Khang La pass nearby, which will help with the “climb high, sleep low” rule. On my end, I chose to sleep the day away.
  • Day 7. We were not feeling well so we stopped at Manang, and consulted a doctor (free).
  • Day 8. We decided to push on, and hiked up to Letdar.
  • Day 9. Every step takes me to the highest elevation I’ve ever been in my life, and we exceeded the 500 meter elevation gain limit and decided to stay at the High Camp.
  • Day 10. Off to cross Thorong La Pass! Try to leave at 5am, as the guides say you would want to cross the pass before lunch. After that, the wind gets to strong and dangerous. We finished the day at Muktinah.
  • Day 11. Basically us trying to find public transportation to Tatopani,which means a lot of haggling.
  • Day 12. Hike from Tatopani to Ghorepani, so we can see sunrise at Poon Hill the next day.
  • Day 13. It was a little (2 hours?) walk up Poon Hill for the sunrise, then we rested the entire day.
  • Day 14. Hiked down to Naya Pul, and took the bus to Pokhara. DONE!
Villages and Altitude
Not a comprehensive list, but this is what I have prepared before the trek and the main villages we passed through, as well as their respective altitudes. Very important, as they are critical to manage altitude sickness.

Village NameAltitude
Kathmandu1300m / 4265ft
Besisahar/Khudi800m / 2625ft
Khudi800m / 2625ft
Bahundanda1310m / 4298ft
Ghermu1130m / 3707ft
Jagat1300m / 4265ft
Chamje1410m / 4626ft
Dharapani1960m / 6430ft
Tal1700m / 5577ft
Dharapani1960m / 6430ft
Koto2640m / 8661ft
Chame2710m / 8891ft
Bhratang2850m / 9350ft
Dhukur Pokhari3240m / 10630ft
Upper Pisang3310m / 10860ft
Ghyaru3730m / 12238ft
Ngawal3680m / 12073ft
Humde3330m / 10925ft
Bhraga3450m / 11319ft
Manang3450m / 11319ft
Tilicho Lake4919m / 16138ft
Yak Kharka4110m / 13484ft
Letdar4200m / 13780ft
Thorang Phendi4450m / 14600ft
High camp4850m / 15912ft
Thorung Pass (highest point)5416m / 17769ft
Charabu4230m / 13878ft
Muktinath3800m / 12467ft
Kagbeni2800m / 9186ft
Jomsom2800m / 9186ft
Marpha2665m / 8743ft
Kalopani2530m / 8301ft
Tatopani1200m / 3937ft
Ghorepani2870m / 9416ft
Poon Hill3870m / 12697ft
Ghorepani2870m / 9416ft
Tadapani2710m / 8891ft
Naya Pul1070m / 3510ft
Pokhara827m / 2713ft