I’m a budget traveler. Mainly because I am broke with a lot of student debt. But also because sometimes I find consumerism exhausting. I don’t mind sleeping in an okay guesthouse. As long as it is warm, I am okay. I don’t mind long bus rides in exchange for flights. Of course, I splurge every now and then. I would much rather save my money for experiences. I do believe in supporting the local economy. During the trek, I didn’t bargain. I bought souvenirs from the many Tibetan refugees selling at the guest houses. I ate whatever I needed.
The higher you climb, the more expensive things are. This is because there are no vehicle roads, everything is carried on the back of a mule, or most often, a porter. I couldn’t afford a porter or guide, but this is also a great way to support the local economy. If you do hire a porter, please be respectful no don’t carry too much.
You can apply for a tourist visa online or get a visa on arrival. Nepal does not grant certain countries the visa on arrival option. Costs depend on your length of stay. The airport is very small but the process is fairly simple. Once you exit the plane, you will walk until you see a line of machines. Visa on arrival applications can be applied for on the machines. Print out your ticket and take it to the immigration officer, wait to be stamped and you are good to go.
On the trek:
Costs depend on your altitude. Inside the trek, I averaged $20 a day for two people. This included 3 meals per person, a room, and tea. The rooms I stayed in were $1-$7 per night. Meals were $1-$4 each. I’m not a drinker, but alcohol can be $5 per beer. Depends on the altitude. I did not go very far up. I had to be very conservative on the trail because I did not exchange enough money, and there are no ATMs. I found the best rates in Kathmandu.
Towards the end of my trek I bought a few souvenirs from a Tibetan refugee. He was so nice, he literally gave me the shirt off of his back! I ended up talking to him for a few hours about Tibet, and spent a lot of money buying his handmade jewelry and trinkets. Keep in mind, some of the Tibetans that have set up shop at guesthouses often pay rent to the guest houses, or work for the guest house in order to be able to sell there. So their prices may be a little higher. I was quite happy with my purchases since it went directly to the artist himself.
*Please refrain from purchasing antique items. These are often family heirlooms passed down from generations. Vendors may feel desperate to sell them, putting necessity greater than sentimental value. It is better to eat and be warm than to have material things, agreed. However, family heirlooms are important. Tibetans do not have a country or passport, but they have their history. If they sell their history to random tourists, then what will they have left? How will they tell their story? If tourists do not buy antique items, there would not be a demand. It is more respectful to buy art, crafts, trinkets, anything else.*
I also bought a few necessities from Kathmandu (backpack, sleeping bag, scarves, etc.) You can get the best deals in Kathmandu for everything. Thamel is the tourist neighborhood, and there are so many choices for everything it may become overwhelming.
The past year was slow for tourism, an earthquake in April deterred a lot of potential tourists. Also, the conflict with India and the subsequent petrol crisis made matters even worse. So many residents depend on tourists for their livelihood. I was glad to be able to go and have my tourist dollars help the local economy a little. The profit from admission and visa fees may not go to the local people; but when you buy from small businesses, it helps out families.