From physical preparation and training to packing and visas: there are a few things you must do before heading to the Himalaya to ensure a smooth, safe, and comfortable trip. While you don't need to be Superman or Wonder Woman to enjoy trekking in the Himalaya, the better prepared you are, the more you'll get out of the experience.

In the excitement of an upcoming trip, it can be easy to overlook important details that could make or break the comfort of your travels. While many items are available for purchase in Kathmandu and Pokhara, once you're out in the Nepali wilderness you won't necessarily be able to pick up anything you've forgotten. Read on for some practical advice on preparing for the Himalaya.

Necessary Documents

Passport

Citizens of most countries--including the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia--must possess a passport valid for at least 6 months from date of entry into Nepal. If you do not have a passport, don't wait until the last minute, as it can take a while.

Nepal visa

Citizens of most countries need a visa to stay in Nepal, and these can be acquired upon arrival in Kathmandu or in advance at your nearest Nepali Embassy or Consulate. The visa fee is $40 USD for one month.

Travel insurance

Although not a requirement for entry into Nepal, travel insurance is extremely important. If for any reason you or someone in your party need to be evacuated while trekking or enjoying other outdoor activities, a helicopter would have to be summoned and the injured person taken to Kathmandu. These can cost more than $3,000. If necessary, an onward international medical flight would need to be arranged. The quality of local healthcare outside of Kathmandu is poor and limited. Make sure that your insurance policy will cover you for (unlikely) accidents and emergencies.

Packing Tips

Daypack for Trekking & Touring

We suggest that you bring a carry-on bag that you can use for the items you need daily on your trek, and generally while touring. You should be able to carry about 9 lbs (4 kg) in your daypack, which should include:

  • a sweatshirt/fleece jacket
  • rain jacket and pants
  • camera
  • water bottle
  • snacks
  • sun block
  • sunglasses
  • hat
  • gloves
  • binoculars (optional).

Your clothing, sleeping bags, spare water, and all other items needed on the trek will be carried by a porter (a duffel bag is the easiest for porters to carry). Your weight limit on domestic flights is 15 kg, including checked and hand baggage. You can leave behind extra clothing and other items that you do not need on the trek at the hotel in Kathmandu.

Clothing & Equipment Checklist

About Town

Unless you are attending a special party, dress in Kathmandu/Pokhara is informal. Conservative dress that covers the knees, chest and shoulders is most appropriate. In middle to higher-priced restaurants, women wear skirts or slacks.

While Trekking

Outside of Kathmandu and while trekking, long shorts are acceptable. Comfortable, loose-fitting clothes in breathable fabrics are essential. The most important item required on your trek is a pair of suitable hiking boots. Lightweight hiking boots with ankle support (not walking shoes) and rubber lug soles with thick tread are a necessity. It is essential that your hiking boots be comfortable and broken in. Uncomfortable boots can ruin your trek. Boots should be worn with thick, natural fiber socks.

Packing Checklist

  • Hiking boots, well broken-in (lightweight with good ankle support and tread)
  • Spare pair of shoes (slip-ons such as "crocs" work best)
  • 2-3 pairs of trekking socks (laundry can be done at select places)
  • 3-4 pairs cotton or cotton blend underwear
  • 2 pairs comfortable, lightweight pants or shorts for hiking
  • 4-5 t-shirts
  • Down jacket
  • Fleece jacket (to wear at night)
  • Fleece pants (to wear at night)
  • Waterproof rain gear (jacket and pants). Jacket may double as an outer shell or windbreaker jacket for cold weather at higher elevations.
  • Sleep wear
  • Walking poles
  • Personal first aid kit

First Aid Kit Checklist

  • Cold-symptom relief tablets, including antihistamine and cough suppressant
  • Sunscreen and lip balm with sunscreen
  • Band-aids
  • Ace bandage
  • Cyprofloxin (antibiotic for bacterial diarrhea, which can be bought in Nepal over the counter. Zpak is another all-purpose antibiotic).
  • Diamox for altitude sickness (this should not be needed as acclimatization days are built into itineraries, but it is always a good thing to have anyway. It can be bought in Nepal over the counter. Discuss this with your doctor, and make sure you are not allergic to sulfa drugs).
  • Prescription medicines in their original bottles
  • Imodium, Lomotil, or similar anti-diarrhea medicine

Other Personal Items

  • Wrist watch/travel alarm clock
  • Sunglasses and case (90-100% ultraviolet and some infrared protection)
  • Money belt
  • Mag light or head lamp with extra batteries and spare bulb (1 or 2 spare sets should do)
  • Day pack, of 25 liter size (can also serve as your airline carry-on bag)
  • Camera, spare batteries, spare memory stick
  • Locks for your suitcase/duffel bag
  • Half a dozen jumbo ziploc bags (for sorting your things when packing)
  • Quick dry, absorbent towel (shower size)
  • Menstrual supplies for women
  • Thread, needles, safety pins for minor repairs
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Your favorite snacks for sustenance during trekking (optional)
  • Your own favorite herbal teas (optional)
  • Games or books for afternoon "down time"

Kathmandu and Pokhara (to a lesser extent) are large cities where many items are available. While it's better to bring everything you need from home so you're not caught without something important, if you do forget something it's not the end of the world. Here are some important things you can purchase in Nepal (although not in smaller villages):

  • Maps
  • Language or guide books
  • Local snack foods
  • Wool/fleece hats and sweaters/jackets
  • Trekking clothes, including Gortex
  • Local-style clothing in all sizes
  • Western-style clothing, including cotton
  • Extra batteries
  • Post cards, stamps, and books in English

Physical Preparation

You must be fit and in good health to get the most out of a trek in the Himalayas. Medical facilities are generally unavailable in trekking areas. Altitude on treks starts at around 9100 ft (2800 m) and can rise to around 17,000 ft (5200 m), depending on the trip you have signed up for. Almost everyone suffers some shortness of breath on uphill sections, and anyone with breathing problems should consult a physician to determine his or her fitness for trekking. In addition, the ups (and especially the downs) are difficult on anyone who may have knee problems. Paths are often rocky and "terraced", with uneven rocky steps.

Training

However fit you are, special training for a trip to the mountains of Nepal is a must. If attempting a particularly rigorous trek, increasing physical training up to three months beforehand is a good idea. Physical fitness training, hiking, step classes, stair steppers, stairs, jogging, a treadmill, a trainer - all of these are good training for the hills, as well as walking/jogging on an incline. These exercises should be done in conjunction with proper stretching. Incorporate outdoor hill walks into your exercise regime, if possible, and increase your time and intensity at the gym or in exercise classes.

Each day of trekking will involve up to 6 hours of walking, with lots of steep ups and downs and very few flat areas. Trekkers also should not have a fear of heights.

Immunizations

There are no required immunizations for travel to Nepal, but you are encouraged to check with your physician or travel immunization center. Standard immunizations recommended for Nepal include hepatitis and typhoid. Mosquito-borne diseases are rarely a problem in most parts of Nepal due to the altitude.