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Practical information

Where do we stay?

Your accommodation in Kathmandu or Darjeeling will be on a twin-share basis in a centrally located tourist class hotel or guesthouse with easy access to shops and restaurants. Single rooms can be reserved on payment of a supplement. Whilst trekking, accommodation will be on a shared basis either in basic tea-houses or at a tented camp. 

Preserving the environment

Please assist us in preserving our mountain environment by following these few simple guidelines and the advice in our cultural do's and don'ts section:

Never drop litter even if you see other people doing so. Always dispose of rubbish in the bins provided in the campsite or at the lodges.
Try to avoid buying bottled water whilst trekking, as the plastic bottles aren't recyclable. Soft drinks in glass bottles are fine, as is treated water available at the lodges.
Any washing should be done away from rivers and streams as these provide drinking water for the villages. Please use biodegradable soap and dispose of your waste water well away from the watercourse.
Help us to discourage a begging culture - avoid giving handouts to children.
Lastly, and most importantly, please value our local culture. We have an enormous respect for the people of our towns and villages and especially for our trekking crews.

Useful information

Medical precautions - Please seek your doctor's advice for current medical recommendations, allowing sufficient time for vaccinations to be obtained. We also suggest that it may be a good idea to have a dental check-up before your trip. Some drugs, such as anti-malarials, have an adverse reaction at altitude and the risk of malaria in the trekking region is extremely low, so please discuss this with your doctor.

It is important that you inform your leader immediately if you feel unwell at any point during your trip to enable us to take necessary action. Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) can affect anyone regardless of fitness, age or experience, but it is rare for anyone to be affected below 2500 metres. The key to avoiding AMS is to acclimatise properly by gaining height slowly and take your time to ascend at your own pace. You may experience mild headaches, sleeplessness or loss of appetite, which are common symptoms whilst acclimatising. If the symptoms become more severe, it may be necessary for you to descend, accompanied by a member of your crew. Symptoms generally disappear very quickly at a lower altitude.

Security - The locals are friendly people, but remember that in their eyes you have an unimaginable wealth. Leave your expensive items at home and keep large banknotes separate from small ones when you go shopping. It is rare to hear of a tourist being robbed, but unguarded belongings may provide easy pickings.

Cultural dos and don’ts - Avoid wearing revealing clothing. Shorts are OK when trekking as long as they are not high cut, but around town and in a local household it is unacceptable to wear shorts or tops that bare the shoulders. It's much better to wear a loose skirt or long baggy trousers, which will also protect you from the sun.

You won't see overt displays of affection between men and women, so please respect the culture and avoid public displays of intimacy.

Please remove your shoes before entering a home, temple or monastery. Many temples are closed to non-Hindus, so check before going inside.

Always ask permission before taking photographs of people.

Time - Nepal is five hours and forty-five minutes ahead of GMT. India is five hours and thirty minutes ahead of GMT.

Electricity - 220-240 volts/50 cycles per second. The electricity supply is somewhat erratic and power cuts are common.

Language - Although many local people speak some English, they will go out of their way to help you if you try to speak a few words of Nepali. Nepalese is also the main language in Darjeeling. The standard greeting is 'Namaste', literally, I salute the god in you, which is said with your palms held together as though you're praying.

Banking - you will probably only need banking facilities in order to change currency. This can be done at any exchange bureau, of which there are many throughout Kathmandu and Pokhara. An ATM card with a Visa, Visa Electron, Mastercard, Maestro or Cirrus symbol is the most convenient. Don't change too much money into local currency and remember to keep your receipt, as only a proportion of your rupees can be changed back into hard currency.

Telephone and email - There are many communication centres in the towns, providing phone and email facilities. It is occasionally possible to find a village with a telephone whilst trekking but they are quite often out of action, so don't rely on calling home outside of the cities. Mobiles seem to provide good coverage nowadays.

Begging - There are many beggars in Kathmandu, less so in Darjeeling. Some of them are bona fide sadhus and monks. It's up to you whether you choose to give them a few rupees, but we would ask you to refrain from giving sweets, money, pens or other handouts whilst trekking. In recent years, the influx of tourists has created a begging culture among the children of the mountains, not to mention a sharp rise in tooth decay. If you would like to make a donation, it is better to give to a reliable charity. This allows the people of the mountains to retain their dignity and your gift will be distributed fairly.

Shopping - There is no shortage of traders willing to show you a vast array of local arts and crafts. Don't forget to bargain, but once you state a price, you are obliged to honour it. It is sometimes difficult to get anyone to accept a large denomination note (500R or 1000R) for small purchases, so try to keep some change with you.

Tipping - At the end of the trek it is customary to tip the porters and sherpas. Your trek leader will be happy to distribute tips from the group on your behalf.

Variations and delays

An itinerary is intended to provide an outline of your trip. There may be times that it is necessary to deviate from the itinerary for the safety and comfort of the group or just because a local festival or interesting event is taking place, which everyone may want to see. Nepal and India are developing countries and sometimes you will face delays caused by circumstances beyond your control. Occasionally an internal flight may be cancelled due to bad weather or a bus may be delayed due to problems on the road. It is better to spend your final night within easy reach of the airport.

Food, drink and hygiene

Don't drink tap water. Drinking water should be boiled or purified and can be obtained at tea houses or at camp. Bottled mineral water is available in towns but has been banned in many trekking regions to avoid the excessive amounts of litter created by empty plastic bottles.

We would advise you not to drink alcohol at high altitude as it is likely to cause dehydration and consequently cause an adverse reaction.

Drink plenty of water. Always make sure that you carry drinking water at all times whilst trekking, as it can be very hot at lower altitudes and it is essential to replace lost body fluids to avoid altitude sickness when walking the higher trails.

Food provided by the tea-house lodges is usually wholesome and safe. However, we would advise you to follow the general rule of avoiding reheated food, salads and cut fruits unless you are very sure that they have been well prepared. The traditional local meal is daal bhaat (rice and lentils) and vegetarians are generally well catered for. In Darjeeling, Kathmandu and Pokhara and on some trekking trails, familiar western food is available, all be it with an interesting Nepali twist! But please sample the local cuisine - it's all part of the experience.

Further information

For more information, the following books are recommended or we would love to see you on our BlueSage Trekking Facebook page where you will be able to see our pics and videos:

Trekking in the Indian Himalaya published by Lonely Planet
The Rough Guide to Nepal
Lonely Planet Guide to Nepal
Trekking in the Nepal Himalaya published by Lonely Planet
Nepali Phrasebook (Language Survival Kit) published by Lonely Planet.