Are they experienced?
In any line of work, experience matters the most. Especially in the high Himalayas, your guide must know the trail like the back of your hand. Additionally, they must be adept at handling any challenges that will occur during the trek. Basically, you will spend every day for more or less 12 days and depend upon this person not just for a good time but also life and death.
The main purpose of hiring a trekking agency is to limit the number of decisions you have to take on the trail and simply get lost in the surroundings and your journey. An experienced guide will make your trip a memorable one by providing you with information about the trail, guiding you to local entertainment spots, attending to your needs, speaking to people on your behalf, and more.
Check the agency's website for information on their guides and trekking leaders.
Look how they communicate
Good trekking agencies are actively communicating with their clients. Most people in this business tend to be straightforward while talking to you. Notice how they reply to queries. If they answer clearly to your questions and provide details, they know what they are talking about. If you claim to be an expert on something, you shouldn’t have a problem answering simple questions, right? Ask specific questions that are not likely answered by an amateur.
Keep in mind, English is a second language for Nepalese people. You will definitely notice inconsistencies in their grammar or the command of the language, even while you are talking to them face-to-face. With that comes the risk of sounding unprofessional, but they are friendly and professional in person.
Check out Reviews
Look what previous clients have to say about them. Agencies often post reviews on their website but choose to omit the bad ones. So, review websites like Trip Advisor is a good place to start, where forging reviews are difficult. Watch out for the specifics from previous trekkers. Would they recommend the agency to other people? Would they trek with the same agency again? How accommodating and friendly was the agency to the trekkers?
A good agency will always have an amicable relationship with its customers. By nature, Nepalese people are friendly, and especially in the tourism industry will above and beyond to make your trip a memorable one. 20% of all customers of Himalayan Scenery and Treks in any given season are repeat customers or people recommended by our previous customers.
Are they priced very cheap?
Anybody and everybody hunt for a good bargain, especially when the trip, with everything included, costs thousands of dollars. Fortunately, most agencies do provide a budget Everest base camp trek experience. In the trekking industry, most prices are fixed, and even though Nepal is a cheap country to travel to, the cost is significantly up in the Everest region. So, it’s more than concerning when someone offers too good of a deal.
A good agency pays its employees well and will get you the best food, accommodation, and services on the trail and in Kathmandu. With Himalayan Scenery, you will stay at our own hotel, Arushi Boutique Hotel, in Thamel, while you are in Kathmandu. Paying more doesn’t necessarily mean a better experience on the trail, however, paying less than usual can. Cheap travel often comes with a hefty price to pay later on.
Are they priced too expensive?
As I mentioned, Nepal is a cheap country to visit by western standards and all the tours are operated by local Nepali agencies. So, it’s pretty economical to travel to the Everest base camp with a local agency. So, if anybody is charging a huge amount of price, there better be a reason behind this.
Most upscaled prices for this trek come from non-native trekking agencies which are located outside of Nepal. They in turn assign the tour to a local agency, enjoying a juicy commission in the process.
There are in fact premium packages like the Luxury Everest base camp tour. In this package, you will fly in a helicopter to Lukla, instead of a plane, like in the standard package. You will stay at the best lodges on the trail, have unlimited food, instead of one item per meal, and upon completion of the trek, return to Kathmandu on a helicopter, instead of walking down.
Are they Licensed?
This might not seem like a big deal but you will be surprised how many people operate their business without a valid license, or worse, a suspended one. A trekking agency should be registered with the Ministry of Tourism, Nepal Tourism Board, and the Trekking Agencies Association of Nepal. Agencies often display their certificates on their website, but if they have not, be sure to ask for these details.
In addition to the agency, the guides themselves have to have a valid guide license. Obtaining a guide license is not a difficult task for people in the tourism industry. So, imagine one without. Having licenses does not make an agency trustworthy, but it’s proof that they are registered with the proper authorities in Nepal and are answerable if anything happens.
Are they Social?
Trekking agencies in Nepal are generally active on Facebook and Instagram. Check out their social media accounts to see whether they are active. Activity on social media means activity in the field. Activity on the field means staying updated with the trail, the latest rules, new developments, current weather, possible trail changes, and more.
You can also check if people are being able to reach the base camp or not. Agencies often post success stories on social media to congratulate their clients. You can also send inquiries through social media before booking.
Does the itinerary feel too rushed?
Often, to save money, agencies design a rushed itinerary. Doing so will be a bad experience and can cause health problems due to altitude sickness. As you reach 5400 meters in altitude during the Everest base camp trek, a properly planned itinerary is a must.
There are acclimatization days in Namche and Dingboche that should not be skipped at any cost. Compare the itineraries and in case you find rushed ones, avoiding such agencies will be the best decision you will make during your booking process.
Are they well equipped?
A good agency does regular trips to the Everest base camp and has multiple crews on the trail. They are well-equipped to handle anything that comes. Altitude sickness is a common problem during this trek, so, they always have oxygen in hand in case of emergency. The guide and the team should also be fully equipped with and trained to give first aid to the trekkers.
The team at Himalayan Scenery Treks travels well-equipped with even an oximeter to check the level of oxygen in the blood and a sphygmomanometer to check blood pressure. Talking of equipment, if you miss any, you can request to rent it with your agency. Check if they provide this service and others mentioned before.