What’s it like to stay in a trekking lodge or teahouse in Nepal?
It’s like a cross between a commercial “homestay” and a budget family guest house. Truth be told, there are lots of accommodation options when trekking in Nepal that fall into the categories of trekking lodge, teahouse, guesthouse and hotel.
There’s very little difference between them in the big mainstream treks these days. Old timer trekkers will tout that teahouses are different. And they are. However, commercial tour companies have meant they’ve changed teahouses forever in certain places.
For the most part along the mainstream treks the real difference between teahouses, trekking lodges, guesthouses and hotels comes down to budget. The more you pay the better accommodation you get.
Let’s take a look at the reality out there so you can be prepared!
What is a teahouse?
Way back in the day a teahouse was a family run household that offered basic rooms to trekkers along with … tea! It was essentially a family home that made some extra cash whenever a trekker would stop buy by giving them a room for the night.
They still exist in remoter trekking areas. Think far west Nepal. Or even on the Panchase trek or Mardi Himal trek you can just about find one still. On popular treks like Everest Base Camp or the Annapurna Circuit the name “teahouse” still exists. However many have commercialized their operations into dedicated trekking lodges, guest houses and even hotels.
What facilities are in a teahouse? Think basic. Shared outside bathrooms. Thin mattresses. No internet or telephone. Electricity should be on but maybe not. Candles. Good food. Lot’s of smiling locals. It’s much better than it reads. Though in truth really hard to find these days unless you count a small trekking lodge as one.
What is a trekking lodge?
A trekking lodge is the next step up from a teahouse. It’s a dedicated lodge for trekkers and probably the most popular place to stay on your trek.
Think of them like communal guesthouses. Sizes vary from 8 rooms to 20 rooms per building. Some will have more than one building. Twin rooms are the most common followed by singles, triples and dorms.
Most have thin plywood walls meaning you can hear everything next door. It’s not so bad. People are trekking and sleep early so the biggest disturbance is usually snoring. Shared bathrooms are common as are a mix of squat and western toilets (take your pick). Your room will have a padlock rather than a door lock. You may have to supply your own padlock too. Ensuites are available at a price.
Meals are all had in a large open seating area where a wood stove is usually the central focus. Menus are extensive but usually it’s Dal Bhat, chow mein, pastas and pancakes that most trekkers for for.
What facilities are in a trekking lodge? WiFi routers are usually in the popular ones but don’t expect the internet to work … well sometimes if you get up early. Usually people spend an hour asking for the password and trying to figure out why it’s connected but not working. There are rarely any plugs in rooms. Charging of devices usually happens via a well worn, barely held together, multi socket in the communal area – for a price (200+ rupees).
Trekking lodges are a great place to meet other trekkers. So if you are alone or just with a guide then head to one if you want to meet other people. It’s up to you if you want engage with people in the communal areas or not. If you do, then you can strike up conversations with some of the most interesting people from around the world. Or, a hipster concerned about his mustache wax running out. Either way, the choice is yours. Trekking lodges are best for a great Nepali trekking experience these days.
What is a trekking guest house?
Back in the big cities like Kathmandu or Pokhara a guesthouse is budget accommodation. Up in the mountains it’s a step up from a trekking lodge.
“Trekking guesthouses” come in all shapes and sizes these days. They are usually more comfortable than a trekking lodge and have been purpose built. So they have thicker walls, better insulation and western bathrooms.
Many guesthouses on treks will have ensuites and smaller dining areas. Don’t expect luxury in all of them, though some of the high-range ones are quaint.
What facilities are in a trekking guesthouse? Expect WiFi to work, sometimes. There should be less people so a greater chance that it will. Expect western ensuites with some degree of hot water. You may need to prompt someone to turn it on. Many will also have heaters to rent for your room (some are free, others you need to pay for). Don’t expect to meet so many people at trekking guesthouses as they’ll all likely be in the trekking lodges. Trekking guesthouses are good for honeymoon couples or those who are looking for a more comfortable stay or privacy when trekking.
What is a hotel like when trekking?
On popular treks some teahouses have evolved into fully formed hotels. Other hotels have been purpose built. Finally there are some ramshackle places that just call themselves hotels to be “special”. All in all, most “hotels” charge a lot more.
Technically hotels are relatively new on all trekking routes. The occasional upper-tier ones have been around for decades. But times have changed and some people have invested in accommodation in the mountains. Expect 2 star to “3 star” type accommodation though newer ones all look and feel better.
Room service is often available as are sockets in your room along with a heater and just about everything else you’ll find in Kathmandu aside from cable TV.
What facilities are in a trekking guesthouse? Expect working WiFi most of the time – maybe. There will be generators. There will be hot water. The service will be on par with Kathmandu in most regards or even a little better. Don’t forget that most of this will depend on the budget of the “hotel”.
Do I need to bring my own sleeping bag?
That really depends on where you will be sleeping, when and your budget.
The higher your budget the more likely you’ll have lots of blankets. The lower your budget the chances are your blanket may not be as clean as you like – so a sleeping bag is often more about comfort and cleanliness than warmth. Yes, most accommodation have enough blankets.
What type of sleeping bag, seasonal rating etc are all covered in my first time trekking in Nepal book.
Personally I always bring a sleep sheet. It keeps a distance between you and a bed/blanket that’s probably had several thousand other people in it over the years. After that, I bring a light sleeping bag and rely on blankets.
Again, you should really calculate your sleeping bag need based on where you plan to sleep, then the time of year and then where you will be trekking. Extensive details are in the book mentioned above.
How much do trekking lodges and teahouses cost in Nepal?
Anywhere between 50 rupees and 1,000 rupees for shared bathrooms. For privates, 1,500 rupees on up. Expect to pay extra for hot showers, charging devices and WiFi in shared bathroom accommodation. Accommodation on the Everest side generally costs more than in the rest of Nepal and is staggeringly less value for money considering the same sake.
In 2019 foreigners are having to pay a minimum 500 rupees for a bed on the Everest Base Camp trek. This fee is not official and is randomly charged.
Why is there such a price difference in accommodation? Did you read my information page about trekking in Nepal yet? It’s explained there. But, anyway … room prices increase the higher up on a trek you go. Simple as that really. So do meal prices.
Asides from that.
Do please remember that a budget trekking lodge is very different to a high-end trekking lodge
In the mountains you can have a 500 rupee per night trekking lodge right beside a USD$100 per night trekking lodge.
Are there restaurants in these places?
Yes. All trekking lodges, guesthouses and hotels will have restaurants. In fact, in some places like the Khumbu region (Everest) your accommodation will charge you extra if you eat somewhere else – because they make most of their profit from your meals not the accommodation.
The exception in all this are traditional tea houses who may not have the facilities to cook for you. However, the newer purpose built tea houses will have a common area and a menu.
There seems to be a cross over between many of these accommodation types?
Yes there is a cross over. As of yet, there is no real regulation or enforcement on hotel standards in Nepal. Let alone in the mountains. I’ve witnessed teahouses jump up to being a hotel within the whim of the owner. They’ll charge double, then wonder why they are empty.
If you are trekking with a guide then they’ll know your budget and steer you in the right direction. If not, then just ask for the price at the front door. You can generally gauge the price of a place by its physical standards. Padlocks on the doors generally means a trekking lodge so you’ll be alright!
What’s a trekking homestay like?
Don’t buy into this hype. It’s the same thing as a teahouse or guesthouse stay. The term “homestay” in Nepal has been converted by some dubious wealthy trekking companies as commercial ones added in 2016-2019 and adds more cost to your stay. It’s now a term used in the Nepali tourism industry to make people think they are staying with a family. Which they would be anyway in a guesthouse or teahouse.
Don’t buy into it. Teahouse or guesthouse or even small trekking lodge = community homestay. Save your cash and go with the former.
There’s one exception to all this. A community lodge. These community driven lodges have been set up by rural districts. Profits are split into the community rather than salary driven. A community lodge differs from a community homestay in that the lodge is exactly the same as tea house. Offering basic accommodation with shared bathrooms.
So, to keep it simple – Community Homestay = commercially run for profit businesses that advertise the opposite (bad). Community Lodge = set up for the community by the community with profits spread among the community (good).
I want to stay in a tent, can I?
Yes, some places will rent you a tent. They’ll charge you for it and the space to pitch it. It generally works out to be the same price as a room.
If you really want to camp in the mountains then it’s better to bring your own tent. Keeping in mind the time of year and weather conditions.
I brought my own tent can I camp?
Yes, most places will let let you pitch your tent. They probably end up charging you about 50% of a room rate. You can use their facilities but don’t expect things like wood for a campfire or the like. They’ll again, charge you extra.
If bringing your own tent then keep in mind the time of year you are going, the weather and what other equipment you will need eg,. sleeping bags etc. You’ll also need to consider how you are going to carry the tent and equipment or the cost of hiring a porter to do so.
Where does my guide sleep, do I have to rent them a room too?
Your trekking guide will generally sleep in the same building as you. However, they”ll more than likely either sleep in a purpose room for guides (like a dorm) or if they are well to do, a basic room.
Porters usually have a large communal room to sleep in. Generally found by the loud snoring. So, take an insider tip and ensure your room is not near the porters area!
Your guide or porter will be paying for their own accommodation. Do read how to hire a trekking guide to get a better insight on costs and so forth.
Do trekking lodges and teahouses ever book out?
Yes it happens. Usually in peak season. It’s rare though. It’s also not to the extent that you will be without a room in the mountains for the night. A good guide will usually book ahead for you that morning on the telephone during peak season.
If, when you get there the trekking lodge is booked out what usually happens is your guide will do some door knocking to find another place. If all places are booked out then the next step is to either move up or back on the trail to the next village to get accommodation. This can either be 30 minutes away or an hour or so.
All accommodation types in the mountains will not leave you out in the cold. At worst you will be given a blanket to sleep in the communal area, dining area or even kitchen. Don’t worry! But yes, you’ll still have to pay the same rate for a bed on the kitchen floor.
Popular areas that can get booked out include Gorepani, Forest Camp, Gandruk, Jomson and Lukla. The latter towns usually only get booked out if there are flights canceled. All aside from Lukla are also likely to get booked out during Nepali festivals when younger Nepali descend on the trekking towns for parties.
Can I book trekking accommodation online?
No. Well, you can book the ultra high-end accommodation online. But you’d be better to do so through an agency so they will be expecting you and you’ll know where to go next.
There are some Nepali start-up companies trying to offer online accommodation booking. However, things like flight delays and higher walk in payments have hampered this idea as local accommodation owners tend to hand out rooms when money is shown.
Asides, it’s the mountains so internet goes down etc. So, leave it as no you can’t.
You can however, book a guide or trek online who can then look after all your accommodation needs.
Are teahouses and trekking lodges secure?
Yes. For the most part. Don’t leave your valuables lying around. Most thefts, if they occur, are usually perpetrated by other trekkers. Yes, you read that right. Keep your stuff locked up in your bag and use a pad lock on your door.
Again, don’t worry.
How do I pay for my room in a trekking lodge or teahouse?
Pay in cash. Some of the higher end places have credit card machines. But they are reliant on telecommunications in the Himalayan mountains. They also charge hefty fees on transactions. Trekkers pay for everything in cash. Rupees to be exact.
Yes, you can also pay in USD, EUR, GBP and a few other currencies. You’ll be making the accommodation owner very happy as they have outstandingly bad for profit commission rates … do all your money exchanging in Kathmandu or Pokhara. FOREX and Money Changers are on the maps in my guidebooks to Nepal.
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