A guide doesn’t just assist you in case of accidents or emergencies but also helps you to get accustomed to different cultures, recommend the best places to stay and, show you the hidden treasures along the trail that you might normally miss while travelling alone. Similarly, porters carry the baggage, allowing you to walk at your own pace, be flexible and enjoy the trek better. Hiring a guider/ porter is something that I truly recommend because it has been proven beneficial to many.
But, there have been circumstances when trekkers found themselves in great troubles, by making a bad decision in terms of choosing a proper guide/ porter. So, in order to help you, I have listed important things, you need to know, about guides and porters while trekking in Nepal.
Guide, Porter cum Guide and Porter
Remember, there is a distinct difference between a guide, porter cum guide and porter. A guide speaks English, knows the terrains and trails, and organizes your trek, but does not carry a load or does menial tasks such as cooking or putting up tents. A porter cum guide speaks just a bit of English (not the same in every case), carries your gear, guides you for the trail and stays together with you during the trek. He is someone who has been on a number of treks and is aspiring to graduate to the guide status. Hiring porter cum guide is an ideal option if you are trekking alone, or if you have only one other companion.Similarly, porters are hired for load-carrying purpose. They are generally from remote villages, may/ may not speak English well but are pleasant, kind and sincere.
Finding Guides and Porters
It is not difficult to find guides and porters here in Nepal but do not employ anyone you meet on the street. Though most guides are honest, hiring someone recommended by other trekkers, the trekking agency, the hotel or lodge will be a safer option.
Costs and Tips
The cost of guides and porters vary from place to place, but in general, expect to pay around US $20 to US $ 25 for a guide and US $10 to US $15 for a porter. The rate normally includes the food and lodging. Tipping depends on the quality of services you received. If you are satisfied with the crew, tip them with around 10-15% of their wage. But make sure that you do it directly, at the end of the trek. If you don’t need your trekking gear/ clothing any longer, you can use it as a nice addition to your tip.
Obligations to Guides and Porters
In case of independent trekking, you become an employer and the porters/guide, your direct employees, so you have to deal with disagreements over trekking routes and pace, money negotiations and other aspects of trekking. A trekker is considered responsible if anything happens to the guide/ porter working for him, so it’s pretty much essential to have them insured. Insurance process is very easy here in Nepal- you just have to fill up the paper and pay some money.
The porters are usually poor and uneducated. Every year, many of them die due to exposure to extreme weather, injury and so on. Most of them may not have adequate clothes and gears, so if you are hiring your own porters, bother to rent protective gear for them. If you wish, you can also donate your left over gears to them at the end of the trek. Please make sure that an emergency medical treatment is available for them. Remember, your conscience makes a huge difference to their well-being.
Now, in case of tourists who are trekking through an agency, less or no attention at all is required to these things as it’s the agency that cares about the wage, insurance, well being and so on.
No matter how fit you are, carrying 15 kg to 20 kg pack at 4000 meter altitude and walking uphill for 5-7 hours, reduce a lot of fun from your trek. So, if you are planning to head into the wilderness alone, give it a second thought. Opt to hiring a porter and guide, they not only make the trek successful but also augment the enjoyment of trekking experience.