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What are teahouses like? What about food?
Many of our treks feature accommodation in trekking lodges….called teahouses historically in Nepal.
About 85% of people who go trekking in Nepal are undertaking a tea house trek.
What are they like? Well, as they are usually independent, family owned affairs…..they can and do vary. However, they are usually very small, simple and basic.
If you’ve never been teahouse trekking in Nepal before or even “hut to hut” trekking in the European Alps, the trekking lodge/teahouse lifestyle may well be new to you (see the bottom of this page for alternatives).
But, if you’ve some notion of hotel standard accommodation, this is a “get real” moment. We’re talking Himalayas here and accommodations that are often many, many days from the nearest road….remote and often isolated….absolutely everything carried in and carried out, or locally “what’s available” sourcing.
By default our descriptions below of teahouses is generic….there are so many of them nowadays.
At around 5500m, the trekking lodges here at Gorak Shep on the Everest Base Camp Trek are probably the highest in the world - weeks of walking from the nearest road and several days from the nearest airstrip at Lukla and very, very basic as a result.
At around 4300m, this is one of a handful of trekking lodges at Annapurna Base Camp on the Annapurna Sanctuary Trek
Most Everest Treks pass through or stay at Thyangboche Village and the lodges here have remained very simple affairs, although the views are pretty cool!
Usually we include all your meals on trek. It saves you having to carry lots of money with you on trek, as well as finding that you’ve run out of money part-way though a trek. There’s little chance of finding an ATM in the Himalayas!
Contrary to the old and persistent “trek rumours” there is no such thing as a dirt cheap meal in the Himalayas….particularly the main trekking regions.
But, you certainly won’t go hungry on trek, that’s for sure and although meals provided by the teahouses varies, it is invariably plentiful in quantity.
Meals in teahouses are usually taken in a communal dining area, rather like most Alpine Huts. What’s “on the menu” can depend upon factors like, what is available locally, how remote the teahouse is and even how busy the teahouse is. With limited cooking facilities, a busy teahouse may provide a set menu in order to be able to feed everyone adequately.
So, what we list below should not be considered definitive….these are “typical” dishes that could be considered generally available….meat dishes (usually chicken) may also be provided as well as other more locally sourced specialities.
DO NOT EXPECT TEAHOUSES TO BE ABLE TO PROVIDE SPECIAL DIETARY REQUIREMENTS BEYOND VEGETARIAN
MEALS ON TREK
Typical communal dining areas in a tea house
A typical breakfast will consist of porridge, pancakes, toast, muesli and other cereals, eggs (various ways), tibetan style bread, tsampa etc.
Tea and coffee would be included.
Lunch (sometimes lunch will be at a teahouse, other times it will be a picnic)
Dal Bhat ( the traditional Nepalese dish-a lentil curry and very filling), fried noodles, noodle soup, rice (often fried), momo’s (Tibetan dumplings), chapatis with a curry sauce, or even sandwiches!
Tea/Coffee/other refreshments would not be included
First Course - Soup (home-made vegetable/Noodle based)
Dal Bhat, various noodles dishes, various rice based dishes, momo’s, chapati, spring rolls, stews, spaghetti, pizza, dhido (mashed potato made with millet or buckwheat), potato and buckwheat pancakes, other potato based dishes e.g chips!
Puddings/Tea/coffee/other refreshments would not be included.
Whilst your meals as indicated above are included, refreshments and snacks aren’t. So, you need to budget accordingly.
But, beware…..the further and higher you go on trek, the more expensive some of these items become. This is because getting supplies to and from the more remote teahouses costs more…..then there’s the rubbish etc that needs to be taken out too.
Generally speaking prices will be around…
1 x litre mineral water $US1-4
Beer 330ml -US $3-6
Soft drinks e.g. Cola 500ml - $US3-5
Tea/Coffee - $US1-2
Snacks/Crisps/Chocolate bars etc $US 2-4
In a word “simple” and the general rule is that the further you are from an air/road access point the more basic they become by default.
Ask yourself just how are these places built in such isolated and often high altitude locations?
Considering their “non vehicle access” locations, it’s amazing they exist and function at all.
So, don’t have high expectations. Rudimentary and functional is what a teahouse is all about. A place to eat and sleep with the basic “creature comfort” necessities.
Bedrooms may be just two basic wooden beds, with very thin mattresses in a rather compact space. Not much more than that really. So, sleeping bags are essential. It’s likely that your “room” will have no electricity and certainly no heating. A simple place to sleep with some privacy. Fopr extra comfort think about bringing a camping mat/thermarest- a personal choice.
Walls might be “paper thin”, so take ear plugs in case you’re in the next room to a loud snorer!
We can only generalise here, as some teahouses that are close to access points do sometimes have “additions” like a private western style toilet, electricity and maybe even a shower! But, like we said previously, the further and higher you go by default the more basic teahouses usually become. A flushing toilet at 5000m will likely freeze for example.
Generally the teahouses will provide some communal washing facilities. Some will be nothing more than a shared wash basin. But, many will have some form of shower facility. Usually this will be at extra cost (say a $1-$2 paid to the teahouse owner) and hot water may be limited in supply, so you might need to “book a shower”.
Toilets will again be communal and many now have western style, flushing toilets. You will need to bring your own loo roll (or buy it from the teahouse). But, in the really high altitude and remote teahouses, the toilet may be external “earth” types (water freezes) or the “Turkish style” toilet. Tea houses that are reasonably close to roads, mountain airstrips do sometimes have basic en-suite, but it would be folly to expect en-suite every night on a trek, more of an unexpected bonus….nothing more.
Most trekking lodges/teahouses are family owned and run-often the family home too
Tea house trekking in Nepal - great fun if it's right for you
Most teahouses will have some electricity. But, in remote areas of the Himalayas they will not But, supply is always limited. Often teahouses may be reliant upon a local source of power e.g. hydro and many also have their own power generators. But, usually there’s only enough electricity to power a few light bulbs. So, if you need to recharge batteries, expect to pay extra locally for this. As to what adaptor plug you will need to use in Nepal to recharge camera batteries and mobiles....well, we've got just about every variation there is. So, we'd suggest you take an adaptor that covers the whole range of plug variations, although the most commonly found are either two or three round prongs (not the flat prongs as in the USA). Indeed, make the most of any re-charging opportunity when you are in tourist hotels in the likes of Kathmandu and Pokhara. The supply of electricty cannot be taken for granted or relied upon anywhere. When it's working the supply is 220V and 50HZ. If your electronic devices are 110V and 60HZ, you'll need a voltage converter.
What are the alternatives to trekking lodges/tea houses?
If tea houses in Nepal are just simply too basic for you, then your trekking options become very, very limited.
However, there are a small number of higher standard “Luxury Lodges” in the Everest and Annapurna region. But, they come at a premium price too!
See our Nepal Luxury Treks
You could of course choose fully supported camping instead. In fact on many more remote, high altitude or “off the beaten track” treks it’s the only option anyway. But, camping is actually more expensive, as you need a large support crew.
See our WHAT’S IT LIKE ON A CAMPING TREK IN THE NEPAL HIMALAYA? article for more.
Or you just might have to accept that trekking in the Nepal Himalayas isn’t for you.
Pretty similar to that you will have experienced if you go “hut to hut” trekking in the European Alps i.e you respect the teahouse and the other people staying there but with the odd cultural addition.
Certainly you shouldn’t cause a noise disturbance to others either communally or in your own rooms…walls may be very thin and your neighbours can quite possibly hear everything too!
Clomping around in your hiking boots isn’t welcome either. Change into lightweight footwear e.g trainers, sandals, crocs etc
Haggling is an absolute “no” at a teahouse and will cause great offence and unpleasantness in return….do not haggle!
Do not enter the kitchen……unless invited to do so.
Respect the personal space and privacy of the teahouse owners…..the teahouse may also serve as their home too. Particularly they may have a place to go and pray and it really is offensive to intrude into their privacy.
Don’t smoke inside your room or in the communal areas…even worse (and some people do so sneakily) do not use a cooking stove in your room…..these are all really dangerous fire hazards. Usually anyone breaching the general and common sense safety of others will be asked to leave.
Never enter any kitchen in Nepal including a teahouse kitchen unless you have been invited first......it's a cultural thing