Thinking not to hire a trekking guide in Nepal? You are about to make a wrong decision. Please read this article before you make such decisions.
When this blogger was trekking in Annapurna regions back in 2012, locals were showing their anger towards solo trekkers and their unexpected behaviors. To eliminate curiosity, this poster talked with some of the solo trekkers on the trekking trails and they were surprised listen that these behaviors are considered unusual. Its because they were following the one of the best-selling guide book.
Anyone from Nepal can easily identify these guidebook was written for commercial purpose targeting budget travelers while neglecting local people’s values, feeling and emotions. The guidebook was putting travelers at the center of the tourism believing locals are just peripherals who have no value in tourism sectors and their emotions and handwork are worthless. The poster don’t want to go in details one by one but the core message of guidebook was “spend less, exploit locals and visit more places”. As a traveler, if you read such best-selling guidebook you will fell yourself smart and you will gradually develop your conceptions about local people in negative way. Because of these guidebook, misconceptions regarding hiring a guide for trekking has been increasing in recent days. So, this post is prepared to clarify misconceptions among travelers.
1. Trekking with guide limits your personal freedom
Many trekkers consider solo trekking is about personal freedom and consider taking trekking assistant limits their freedom. This is misconception. Travelling is about bridging gaps with locals, building mutual understanding making lifetime friends and respecting to local people because you are visiting their communities. Remember you are visiting countries like Nepal where social values are placed in priority instead of your personal values.
2. Guided trekking is expensive:
Many people consider guided trekking is expensive but in reality going solo can be very costly sometime which you will never be able to pay in your lifetime. If something happen with your health and safety, at that time you will remember instead of paying to hospitals and rescue service, paying guide would be much cheaper. You may think I have insurance but insurance policies always consists terms and conditions which are very hard to meet in many cases.
3. We are going as a couple, we don’t need guide:
People think I am not going alone, I don’t need guide. This is absolutely wrong. Please read, Taiwanese couple’s stories and how he survived until 47 days in mountain cave eating snow. You may think, I am westerner not Asian, I will be okey. Don’t think on such way. Remember if you were a mature parent, would you allow your children to risk their life knowingly. Although this poster was native Nepali speaker but went trekking together with other Nepalese friends to Annapurna Base camp with guide. Seriously? Yes, its true. During 2-3 days, we didn’t realized the importance of guide but after few days, we started to realize the importance of guide.
4. If you go with guide you have to walk fast
Its not true that you have to walk fast if you go with guide. You can always talk with guide if you are feeling hard or want to walk slowly. Many trekking companies also allow you to customize itinerary during booking and you can make length of trekking programs as you want.
5. Guide is just for showing paths
Many people consider guide are just for the purpose of showing paths. Guides are like your parents who care about you, who introduce local culture and geography with travelers and who ensure you are safe and who work hard to make trip fun and enjoyable. If you are lucky, you may get guide who may have university degree and you can ask many questions you are curious about about Nepal. If you wish, you can also learn Nepalese language from your guide.
6. I already have trekking details with map on my mobile apps, I don’t need guide
Nowadays, people carry iPhone 7, Samsung Galaxy S 8 to use maps and various travel apps. Think about situations, how many time you failed to identify the shop you were looking in city areas. Were you able to find exactly every time? Sometimes yes and sometime no. Even with clear notice boards and wide roads, finding locations is not easy. Imagine in mountain hills where there will be no marks of foots, no sign board and no people around you to ask path. Even if you able to identify paths, you might be failed to reach destinations in time in such situations you might feel extremely dehydrated, tried and frustrated and you may need assistance from others. But its frustrating when there are no one around when situation is critical.
7. My friend just come back from trekking, he said trekking guide is not needed
Lets be clear from following scenario.
Doctor says: Medical research shows “Cigarette smoking is linked to about 80% to 90% of lung cancers“.
Your friend says: I have been smoking Cigarette and I don’t have cancer. I can confidently say “smoking doesn’t cause lung cancer”.
Do you listen doctor or your friend? If you are capable to use your rational, you definitely listen advice from professionals. People may say even if you go with guide, accidents and risks are always involved. This poster also don’t want to claim, going with guide will be 100% safe but in critical situations the chances of survival increases by 90% if you go with guide.
8. Those who knows nothing hires trekking guide but I know almost everything
Having confident is good but having over-confidence may create negative impacts. A research shows, hikers between 20-29 age are first most vulnerable, 60-70 age are second most vulnerable and 30-39 age are third most vulnerable for serious injury and death. People between 30-39 age groups are considered more physically fit, knowledgeable and mature but they are third most vulnerable.
In west, just to do basic ruining and push-up exercises, people hire personal trainer for at $20-35 an hour. But when it comes to trekking in extremely remote mountains, they suggest “trekking guide is not needed”. Its quite surprising why people suggest new travelers on such way.
Many people read guidebook and believe that they know everything. In reality, guidebook are prepared in rush and contains many wrong and misleading information. Guidebook writers hardly get time to research in-depth about all places, activities and businesses. So If you can, its better to avoid such guidebook no matter whether it is published Lonely Planet or other reputed publishers. Instead, buy books about Nepal’s culture, geography etc. and buy one informative travel book published by National Geographic or similar one.
9. Trekking companies want to make more profits that’s why they suggest you to go with guide
Trekking companies are established to provide service and make profits. Do doubts. But remember one thing, there were no trekking trail in existence before the emergence of trekking companies in Nepal. Trekking trails in mountains are not opened by international tour companies, they were opened with the efforts from trekking companies and local people. TAAN, an umbrella organization of trekking companies research and identifies new trails every year. Compare to tour companies in other Asian countries, Nepalese trekking companies makes very low margin. 90% trekking companies in Nepal are small in size with 1-5 office-based staffs. These trekking companies are just creating local jobs, not making any heavy profits like tour companies in west countries makes.
Going solo trekking ads angers among locals and increases security vulnerabilities in trekking trails. As a solo trekker, you are not only making trekking companies unhappy, but local people also. Since solo trekking came in existence, crimes and thefts in trekking trails has started skyrocketing.
10. Only rich people hire trekking guide, I am budget a traveler
Even if you say I am budget traveler, you are many times richer then average Nepalese. Most of the budget traveler says I am on budget and I don’t have money to afford guide. The poster don’t want to be philosophical but want to clarify that safety is not just for rich people and the value of every life cannot be compared with money. If you don’t have budget, come few month later or next year but don’t make wrong decisions just because you don’t have money.
People claims that “I am still making positive contributions although I am not hiring a guide”. But look at the facts below, you are spending almost 70 % your budget before you come to Nepal.
Average spending of a hiker:
- Flights – $ 700 – 15000 (None of this money comes to Nepal)
- Insurance – $ 60- $182 (None of the money comes to Nepal)
- Trekking gear – $ 500 – $ 1000 (Most of the trekkers buy before they come Nepal, no money comes to Nepal)
- Guide book – US$ 50 (None of this money comes to Nepal)
- Immunizations – US$ 50 – $ 200 (Most of the travelers they do immunization before they come, no money comes to Nepal)
You have only 30% budget is left for Nepal and from among 30%, an average traveler will spend 60% of your money to buy products in Nepal that requires import from abroad.
Going solo for trekking seems unethical tourism activity in Nepalese context although it is legally permissible. Whether you agree or not agree, you are supporting following statements as trekkers going Himalayas without a local guide or assistant.
- I don’t care about positive social and economic contributions tourism can make.
- I am just excited about Himalayas, who cares about local people.
- Local people’s voice has no place in tourism sector.
Finally, Himalayas are not just mount of stones, they are prayed as god. Every mountain has connections with local people and their way of life. Always go trekking in Himalayas with a local guide.