It a common question over the internet, Can I trek Upper Mustang with a porter guide? 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 having at least one government authorized a 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 to go on the Upper Mustang trek without a guide or a porter but also some essential information you should know before hiring a guide or porter.

Upper Mustang Trek in Nepal
The landscape of the desert Himalaya in Upper Mustang with the mountain range in the background.

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 the 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 its 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 a 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 to expect?

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 at 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.
  • Porter/Guide may not be able to provide some factual information such as history, background, culture, etc.
  • Most porter/ guide 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 authorized agency to ensure they have insurance in case of an emergency.
  • As 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 a local trekking agency like us. Last year we had a group of tourists traveling with their Nepali friends 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 random Nepali for hiking purpose. As anyone traveling with tourists must have an authorized identity card from the government. The guide should hold the licensed identity card from the government. While porter guide needs to recognize from a trekking agency.  Please note that this will soon change and the government will soon also provide an authorized 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 to restricted trekking areas in Nepal.

In higher altitude and for the safety of everyone, it’s always recommended to go with a professional or authorize person.  In other regions that are not restricted such as Everest Base Camp, if you have absolutely no choice but to hire an unauthorize porter, then please make sure you at least get the insurance before the trek as you will be held responsible if something happens. If you are with an authorized 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. Which is 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.  That is almost 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.

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Rajendra Khanal (Raj)

Born and raised in Gorkha, Nepal, I am proud to call the Manaslu region my home! I have been in the travel business for over a decade from being assistance guide, leader, to being a manager. And finally today I am the founder of NEST Adventure. So you could say I know my way well enough in the Himalayas, especially in some of the off-the-beaten-trails in Nepal like Manaslu, Kanchenjunga and Mustang!

I am passionate about travelling and I strongly believe that seeing the world shouldn't break the bank (at least not too much!). I have backpacked to over 15 countries in Asia, Central America, USA, Canada, one-third of Europe, the Caribbean Islands, and Latin America.

I studied in the UK and moved to the United States. During that period, I had the opportunity of working with multinational companies which taught me how to deliver quality customer service in the business. As a world travelling backpacker myself, and travel expert for the Nepalese Himalayas, I started writing about my own country. Which I would love to share with you. In case you required free information about Nepal or join a group with our existing departure, (particularly If you are a solo hiker for the restricted area) please do not hesitate to visit my office in Thamel. We are located in the centre of Kathmandu called Thamel. I am happy to share a cup of Nepali tea and free information.

Our team at NEST has earned 5/5 star ratings on TripAdvisor. Don't forget to visit our customer feedback page on TripAdvisor. If you believe our expert team can be helpful in planning your next trip to Nepal, then please do not hesitate to contact me at nestadventure@gmail.com. I am also available 24x7 on WhatsApp  +977- 9851052042. If you are interested to know more about my travel journey follow me on  FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

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