Government policies in Nepal require some of the trekking areas to have a special permit, compulsory trekking staff either with a guide or a porter especially if the trekking area is an open border or has a connection with another country such as Tibet or India. Nepal immigration law requires to having at least one government authorised person with a tourist during their visit in such a restricted area. Upper mustang trek permit also requires to follow such immigration law.
In this article, we will not only discuss whether it is possible for go on a Upper Mustang trek without a guide or a porter but also some essential information you should know before hiring a guide or porter.
Do I really need to hire a Porter for Upper Mustang Trek?
Looking at the Upper Mustang trek difficulty, it is considered as a moderate trek. Therefore, hiring a porter in Mustang region completely depends on you and how physically capable you are to trek on your own and carrying your own backpack. It also depends on how much stuff you intend to bring with you. I would say, if you are strong enough to hike in high altitude with a 15 to 20 kg of the backpack for about 7 to 8 hours a day, then you probably don’t need one. I would instead recommend to just trek with a guide. If you think your backpack is heavy to carry uphill or if you have any physical condition prohibiting you from carrying heavy stuff for a longer period of time, then you should go with a porter as well.
Note that the longer your Upper Mustang trek itinerary, meaning the more days you spend trekking, the easier and the more convenient the trek as you will not be required to cover a large area in one day. On average you are crossing 300m to 500m a day with roughly 5-8 hours of walking.
How much do I need to bring with me on a Mustang Trek?
Every trekker has their own list of must-bring when trekking so it really depends on your personal choices. If you are carrying your own bag, we would recommend limiting this to about 15-20 kg, or even less if you can pack lighter. You must be thinking, what essential things could make my backpack 15-20 kg? Typically, your list should include a sleeping bag, down jacket, day backpack, camera or other electronics, some change of clothes, perhaps a sunblock, sunglasses, headlamp, and anything you might need for your personal hygiene, and water bottle. The day backpack is necessary to carry your things needed for the day and if you are hiring a porter so you can share
the load of your backpack with him. So anything you might not need for the day while trekking, you could keep this in your main backpack and give to your porter to carry, while you carry in your day backpack some essentials such as water bottle, electronics, light snacks, your jacket, sunscreen, sunglasses, headlamp, etc. cream, sunglass, shocks etc.
The good thing about having a porter is you are able to enjoy trekking with nature, without the stress of having a heavy bag behind you.
Can I only hire a Porter Guide and what should I expect from him?
The answer is YES, you can hire a porter guide for the trek. If you are thinking of hiring a porter guide you should expect:
They are not as good in communicating in English as a professional trekking guide, but of course, this would vary individually and how much experience they've had in trekking and dealing with clients.
They may not be able to provide some factual information such as history, background, culture, etc.
They are not very much experienced in an emergency evacuation, emergency first aid, mountain sickness or other issues.
- BUT, they are well capable of leading the trail, some basic communication in English, share some of the loads from your backpack.
Can I trek only with a porter but without a guide?
Nepal's immigration policy requires that tourists must trek Upper Mustang with at list one trekking staff. So the answer above is YES, you can trek with only a porter and without a separate trekking guide. If you decide to go on Upper Mustang just with a porter then you should expect:
They are capable of carrying your backpack weighing up to 20-25 kg.
Most of them know the trail, but some may not so we suggest you make sure they have done this trek before. At the very least, they should have done some high altitude trekking before, even if it is not the Mustang trek
They don't speak English very well.
We recommend that you hire from an authorised agency to ensure they have insurance in case of emergency.
As a respect, please don't refer to them as 'porter', but call them by their names.
Can I hire a friend of mine as a guide or porter for Upper mustang trek?
This issue often comes up with the local trekking agency like us. Last year we had a group of tourists travelling with their Nepali friend who also worked outside the country. They wanted to check if their Nepali could serve as their guide in Mustang. Unfortunately, this is not possible. It is not possible to just hire any Nepali as anyone travelling with tourists must have an authorised identity card from the government for a licensed guide and an identity card from a trekking agency for a porter or porter-guide. Please note that this will soon change and the government will soon also provide an authorised ID for porter or porter-guide. The identity cards are very important as there are random checking by conservation area offices in different checkpoints. This rule only applies in restricted trekking areas in Nepal.
In higher altitude and for the safety of everyone, it's always recommended to go with a professional or authorised person. In other regions that are not restricted such as Everest Base Camp, if you have absolutely no choice but to hire an unauthorised porter, then please make sure you at least get them insurance before the trek as you will be held responsible if something happens. If you are with an authorised person, then he becomes the responsibility of the trekking agency or the government.
How much is the cost to hire a porter-guide for Upper Mustang trek?
The cost of a guide or porter depends on how many days of Upper Mustang trek itinerary you got. Basically, if you are just hiring a porter, the cost would be roughly 20 USD to 22 USD per day inclusive of food, accommodation, salary and insurance. In the case of a porter-guide, the daily charges are slightly higher at 20 USD to 25 USD which is the same cost for hiring a guide. Please note that Upper Mustang treks without a guide or a porter are not allowable by the government.
If you are planning Upper Mustang Trek Nepal sooner or later and have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.