Tibet Trek Frequently Asked Questions
Why should I trek Tibet with IMG?
We know we're not the cheapest deal around, and we don't want to be. We spend more providing the best personnel, equipment, logistics and safety measures things that many lower-cost programs cannot afford and do not have. We don't cut corners. As you shop around, consider the following:
- IMG guides are professionals and are great teachers as well as strong climbers. All have done numerous high-altitude expeditions, including the Himalaya. Our clients enjoy the immense benefit of a core group that has climbed together extensively, producing a team that knows how to work well together. We do not think you will find any other Tibet trekking programs that will be led or staffed by persons of the caliber we field. We challenge you to try!
- IMG always complies with all local, state, federal, and international regulations for the countries in which we climb. This includes proper visas and climbing permits, full insurance and equipment for our guides and Sherpa support teams, and complete adherence to all environmental regulations. Our clean business record allows us to operate with full liability insurance. All client funds are deposited in a regulated trust account. We take our business seriously!
- IMG Sherpas are top-notch. We hire the same great Sherpas every year, we treat them with respect, we pay them well and they like working with our teams. Most of them have been on many climbs with us over the years and many of them have multiple Everest summits. Our enthusiastic cooks do a great job and our menus are well considered. It makes a difference!
- IMG trek itineraries are longer than most others offered on the market. We know how to acclimatize properly and we don't rush. Unlike most other teams, we actually take our trekkers to Base Camp and invite them to stay there for a while as members of an expedition team. If you want to trek to Cho Oyu (and on some treks, Everest) Base Camp, go with a team that actually gives you a real chance to fully experience it!
- IMG brings advanced technology to the mountain. Solar power at Base Camp quietly supports our satellite communications, allowing us to maintain excellent emergency contact capabilities and keep friends and family informed of our progress during the long weeks away from home. IMG will post regular internet dispatches from our teams on our website during the expedition.
How do I get there?
Travel to Tibet requires a special permit. We will procure the Chinese visa and Tibet Travel Permit authorization on behalf of the team (we will collect the Chinese visa fee from you in Kathmandu).
For our trips to Kathmandu, CTT Destinations reserves group space on Thai Airlines from Los Angeles via Bangkok. You can apply your Thai mileage to United Airlines Mileage Plus or other members of the Star Alliance.
What kind of insurance do I need?
We invest in insurance coverage for commercial liability and medical and disability insurance for our employees and Sherpas while participating on our programs. We cannot insure you for your personal needs, but we do expect you to be as fiscally responsible as we are. We require that you insure yourself against potentially expensive difficulties that may arise. First, Trip Cancellation Insurance may provide financial relief should you be forced to withdraw from the program before it even happens. Next, make sure you have adequate Travel Insurance for coverage should you have a problem during the trip. Medical care and evacuation in remote locations can be expensive. For more information, please see our page on Trip Cancellation and Travel Insurance.
What's included in the expedition fee?Costs Included in Trip Fee:
- Transportation to and from airport in Kathmandu
- hotels with breakfast in Kathmandu for stated itinerary at beginning of expedition
- welcome and farewell dinner
- all group camping supplies and trek lodges
- all meals while trekking/climbing
- Park fees and climbing permits
- liaison officers
- Sherpas, camp staff
- radio comms and satellite telephone equipment at Base Camp
- yaks and porters
- International round-trip air fare and travel expenses USA-Nepal/KTM
- meals in Kathmandu (other than breakfast)
- hotels in Kathmandu after the trek/climb
- personal gear
- excess baggage charges, airport taxes and entry visas
- Sherpa and driver tip pool (recommended about $200)
- satellite telephone air charges
- personal sundries and beverages
- costs incurred as a result of delays or events beyond the control of IMG
- required travel insurance policy (for trip cancellation, medical treatment, evacuation etc.)
- and customary but optional tips for IMG guides
What immunizations will I need?
- Tetanus/Diphtheria: You should already have. Do you need a booster?
- Polio: You should already have. Do you need a booster?
- MMR: You should already have. Do you need a booster?
- Meningitis: Recommended. Consult your physician.
- Hepatitis A: Recommended. Consult your physician.
- Hepatitis B: Not a bad idea. Ask your physician.
- Cholera: Ask your physician. Not usually recommended any more.
- Typhoid: Not a bad idea to be safe. The tablet form, Vivotif Berna, is good for five years.
- Rabies: The new vaccine is easy. Nepal and Tibet have rabid animals.
- Malaria: No problem in Kathmandu, since we are above the zone of malaria, but if you plan on traveling to lower elevations in Nepal, or to certain parts of Thailand before/after the trip then malaria chemoprophylaxis is highly recommended.
We recommend that you visit the travel clinic at a major University Hospital or your local Public Health Department for the most up to date info on travel requirements, or check the Center for Disease Control Website at www.cdc.gov.
How does IMG treat their local staff?
We take great pride in the long term relationships we have built with our local staff. They do a great job, we pay and tip them well, and they enjoy working for IMG. We make sure that the IMG porters have adequate clothing, equipment, shelter, sleeping arrangements, food, cooking equipment and water. Sick or injured porters are properly cared for. All loads are weighed to ensure that porters are carrying loads that don't exceed their physical ability or legal limits. Porters are paid a fair wage for their work and are paid tip money directly from the tip pool at the end of the expedition (no middleman taking a cut).
What is the policy on Leave No Trace?
IMG is committed to Leave No Trace. All human waste is properly disposed of and garbage is sorted into burnable and recyclables (taken back to Kathmandu). All gas cylinders are taken back to Nepal and recycled, and all oxygen cylinders are returned to the USA.
How much climbing experience do I need?
For the Tibet Trek, no previous climbing experience or technical climbing skills are required. The hiking is on rough trail. A small amount of snow or mud may be encountered, so good hiking boots and gaiters are recommended, but the terrain does not necessitate the use of crampons or an ice ax. Trekking or ski poles can be very useful. Some very short and relatively easy sections of rock scrambling are also encountered, requiring "using of your hands" in a couple places.
How should I train for Trekking Tibet?
Good conditioning is the primary requirement for trekking at high altitude. These are strenuous trips. Participants must be in sound "hiking shape" and capable of traveling for a full day with a modest pack (clothing, lunch, water, camera, etc). Don't underestimate these mountains, we're going high! Follow a conditioning program that will strengthen your lungs, legs and heart. Any hiking you can do before the trip will be of the most value. At home, we recommend stair climbing, bike riding and running hills. Conditioning is a process that should continue throughout the year.
What gear will I need?
The equipment list is meant to help you compile your personal gear for a high altitude trekking trip. Most items are required, while a few are optional. Please consider each item carefully and be sure you understand the function of each piece of equipment before you substitute or delete items from your duffle. Keep in mind that this list has been carefully compiled by Eric Simonson, the expedition organizer. Don't cut corners on the quality of your gear.
Should I bring a jacket?
Spring and autumn season are normally very stable weather periods. That said, it is always difficult to predict the exact weather conditions we will encounter during our treks. Warm rain can occur down low and we can experience cold and windy conditions higher up, with the possibility of snowfall. It is not unusual for the temperatures to be well below freezing at higher elevations. A down jacket (or equivalent) is required. We expect that the weather will be perfectly reasonable, but it is important to prepare for all possibilities.
What food do I need to bring?
All meals on the climb and treks are included. You will be responsible for your bottled drinks and alcoholic beverages. You may want to bring powdered drink mixes for flavor in your water bottles. We recommend you bring a modest personal stash of your favorite trail and snack foods. There is a grocery store in Kathmandu near the hotel which has many snack items available (candy, crackers, nuts, etc). Not available in Kathmandu are things like Power Bars, Gu, or electrolyte replacement drink mix.
What kind of visas do I need?
Your passport must be valid for 6 months after the trip and have empty pages. Advanced visas are not required for entry into Nepal, we will simply get our visa on arrival at the airport in Kathmandu, where you will need to purchase a short term Nepal tourist visa ($25 plus a 2" x 2" passport photo). You will need to do this again (need another $25 plus another passport photo) when you return to Nepal after visiting Tibet). For the Tibet visa ($200 plus another photo), we will assist you with the visa form in Kathmandu. You MUST arrive in Kathmandu on the specified day on the itinerary, because your passport must go in with the group documents for the visa on the Chinese Embassy visa day).
What's the best way to pack for the trip?
We usually carry a daypack/rucksack as carry-on luggage and check two lockable bags. One of those bags can stay at the hotel while climbing for storage of your travel clothes (it is OK to leave a bag with wheels at the hotel). The other bag will be used by the porters to carry your gear on the climb, and it should NOT have wheels. It does not have to be 100% waterproof, just stout nylon fabric is fine. You will want to put everything in plastic bags anyway, inside the duffel.
We suggest that you use a travel wallet that you can hang around your neck and place inside your shirt. This is a safer way to carry your money and travel documents. Leave expensive jewelry and watches at home. Experienced travelers will also carry a couple of extra passport photos with them as well as a photocopy of the first pages of your passport. These should be carried in a place separate from your passport. Having these available will greatly facilitate the replacement of your passport if you lose it. Carry a pen with you for completing travel forms. Get to the airport early and make sure your luggage gets checked through to the correct destination.
How much money should I bring?
As soon as you get to Kathmandu you will need your visa fee ($40 for trekkers) and then at the hotel we will collect your Sherpa tip pool contribution (recommended about $200).
In addition to the tip pool and visa, I'd suggest $500 more, plus a credit card. You are better to have extra cash money and not need it than to need it and not have it! For your cash, bring new style bills (with the big faces) including some $10's and $20's. You can get a limited number of rupees each day in Kathmandu at a cash machine with your credit card, but you won't get dollars. You can change cash money into rupees at the hotel, and there are numerous money changer shops nearby. NOTE: everybody checks your money for counterfeit and no one takes old bills (bring NEW style US bills, not old style). Merchants will often try to give you ripped bills (rupees) for change. Tell them you want an un-ripped one, otherwise you'll never be able to spend it. You will probably want to change $100 into rupees (get small bills) to carry on the trek for stopping at the tea houses, shopping in Namche, etc. You will probably want another $100 for spending in Kathmandu for food and gifts. It is difficult to change money once the trek starts. Bring the rest of the money with you in case of emergency. If you have extra left over rupees at the end of the trip that are unspent, change them back before you leave Nepal, otherwise you will not be able to change them once you leave the country.
I prefer cash, but you will probably also want to bring a credit card too, but remember that you will likely get hit by your bank with 3% fees on foreign credit card purchases. If you plan to use your credit card you should call your bank and let them know you will be traveling abroad, otherwise using it might trigger a fraud alert on your account which results in your card getting turned off.
How does the tip pool work?
Ang Jangbu will split up the tip pool among all the different people who work for us: the porters, trek staff, cooks, hotel staff, Kathmandu staff, Base Camp staff, climbing Sherpas, and others that help the team.
What other medical info should I consider?
While it's always nice to have a doctor as a participant on our trips, we cannot guarantee a doctor's presence. We ask that you carefully complete the Medical Information form included in the registration materials. We need to be informed of any allergies you may have, medicines you are currently taking and any medical conditions that could possibly effect your ability to safely participate on a climbing expedition.
In addition to the first aid items listed on the equipment list, there are a few additional medications that you should consider. These should be discussed with your personal physician and some will require a prescription. We want everyone to bring some of the antibiotic Ciprofloxacin and some Immodium in case of bad traveler's diarrhea. There is the possibility of Cipro resistant diarrhea in Nepal and Tibet so you should also bring some azithromycin ("Z-pack") which will work for this and also bronchial infection. A sleeping medication can be useful for napping on the international flights and for the first few days in Nepal (due to the big time change). We do not recommend the automatic use of Diamox while climbing but you might find a small dose (125mg) useful if altitude sickness symptoms appear. Discuss this and your other medication requirements with your physician. Any medication should be used only if necessary and use should be discussed thoroughly with your physician and with your guide before you take the medication.
Water purification is also very important. An effective and inexpensive method is the use of iodine crystals or tablets. These are available commercially at mountaineering stores as a product called 'Polar Pure' or 'Potable Agua'. Filters, such as the ones made by MSR, are also good. Either can be used or both can be used in combination. Bottled water is also readily available while on safari. We also recommend that each participant bring a small bottle of a hand disinfectant such as Purell. Anything that we can do to stay healthy is worthwhile. Health issues will be discussed during the expedition and we encourage you to contact us if you have any questions before or during the trip.
Do I really need to bring the high altitude medications Nifedipine and Dexamethasome?
Our IMG guides are very experienced with dealing with altitude illness, but we are not allowed to provide prescription drugs to our customers. For this reason we ask each trekker to consult with their own physician and to bring their own emergency medications to use (while descending!) in case of onset of high altitude pulmonary or cerebral edema symptoms. These include Nifedipine and Dexamethasome, which will help to "buy some time" to get down to a lower altitude. The Nifedipine is useful for pulmonary edema (take one 30mg sustained release tablet every twelve hours) and the Dexamethasome is useful for cerebral edema (take one 4mg tablet every 6 hours). Our suggestion is that climbers each bring a few tablets of each medication (2 tabs of Nifedipine and 4 tabs of Dex is plenty) and that should be sufficient to provide one day of treatment so the patient can get down, if they start to get sick. For more information see this recent article in WILDERNESS & ENVIRONMENTAL MEDICINE, 21, 146–155 (2010).