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In the Annapurna, Everest and Langtang regions tea house trekking has been popular for many years. Initially the 'tea houses' were more or less extensions of a larger family home and as the name suggests would brew up tea for thirsty trekkers passing by. Accommodation was often no more than a floor and meals were whatever the family could spare. Now it's a fully formed industry with a wide range of supplies being shipped by porters and pack animals. In the Everest and Annapurna regions there are now hundreds of trekking lodges. Indeed some villages seem to be nothing other than a host of trekkers lodges.
Whilst the name 'tea house' may have stuck, most accommodations are purpose built nowadays and so the trekking lodge has evolved.
These trekking lodges are invariably independent, family owned affairs and whilst they can vary considerably, for the purpose of illustration our description of these trekking lodges is by default generic. A general rule of the further away from the transport hub (road/air) you go, the more basic the trekking lodges become, although there are some surprising exceptions.
A trekkers lodge offers very basic, "no frills" accommodation. They are after all a place to rest and refresh in remote, isolated mountainous regions of Nepal whilst on trek.
The laws of economics tend to apply. In areas that get a lot of trekkers there is a wider choice of trekking lodges and as they are all competing against one another, the chances are they have quite reasonable standards and slightly better facilities. At higher altitudes/more remote areas that don't get the same trekking traffic, well, they tend to be more basic and of a lower standard.
Most offer at least a simple, private room to sleep in.
Usually you get a basic wooden bed, with a bit of a thin (often foam) mattress. So, you do need a sleeping bag when staying in these trekking lodges and the addition of something like a thermarest is down to personal taste.
The room itself will possibly contain nothing else than two separate wooden beds (we did say that this is no frills accommodation). There may/may not be electric lighting, and usually there won't be any plug points in the room. Chances are that if you have a light bulb, that will be it.....a bare light bulb hanging from a ceiling!
Quite often the bedrooms will be divided from each other by nothing more than a plank of wood! Although some of the more recent 'purpose builds' may have stone walls dividing rooms. They afford some privacy, but these are not luxury hotels. Some lodges may only provide dorm style sleeping arrangements, particularly those at high altitude/in very remote areas.
Usually bedrooms are not heated, hence we recommend a four seasons sleeping bag to keep yourself warm at night, particularly on high altitude treks where night time temperatures will often be well below freezing.
The lodges will have a communal area where everyone gathers to eat. Usually this room will have a stove/fire to provide some heating and warmth.
Washing and toilet facilities are usually shared, although some lodges may have basic private bathrooms if they are close to the road/air hub. Washing facilities are usually a hand basin with running (cold) water. Soap is extra! Towels are not usually provided.
Many lodges now have western style flush toilets, although you may still come across the Turkish "squat style" toilet, which you flush with a bucket of water. At high altitude flush toilets have a habit of freezing, so these lodges often have a toilet hut with a "long drop" earth toilet. It's a good idea to bring your own toilet roll as many lodges will not provide toilet paper, or if they do it will be a bit....er......rough. You really need to bring along an effective hand sanitiser.
Many lodges are also able to provide warm showers. Usually this necessitates an additional payment (circa $2) to the lodge owner. It's more than likely that any hot/warm water will come from solar power and so there will only be a limited amount. It's best to "book" a shower the night before rather than to expect it to be readily available. The shower itself may be a "bucket" shower i.e. a bucket of hot water with holes in the bottom of the bucket in more remote places
As for food, the lodges will cook things such as dal bhat (Nepali dish rice and lentils with vegetable curry), momos ( tasty Tibetan dumplings filled with vegetables, cheese and canned fish etc) and the renowned Sherpa stew in the Everest region. It is also possible to get "have a go food" such as spaghetti and pasta dishes; pizzas; vegetable burgers and chips and fried rice. For breakfast there is porridge, muesli, cornflakes, chapattis (locally made bread) and a range of egg dishes. Although meat may be on the menu (usually chicken or yak) we do not recommend you opt for meat dishes in trekking lodges as keeping meat fresh and hygienic is a real concern.
Most lodges will sell beers, soft drinks and snacks. As these are carried in (and the empties carried out), the simple rule of the further away from the transport hub the more expensive they become.
The supply of electricity in most trekking lodges is very limited. If you need to recharge camera/phone batteries the lodge will sometimes have a charging point for which a small fee would be payable.
In other areas particularly the Upper Mustang and Manaslu regions it is also possible to trek from lodge to lodge. However as these areas do not receive anything like the number of trekkers as the Everest and Annapurna regions, these lodges are usually a lot more basic and simple. In the Mustang region the lodges are often rather quaint as they date back to the times when traders travelling between Tibet and India required places to overnight.
Things do of course change and as the continuing development of roads into the more remote regions of Nepal increases, the proximity to a road is also likely to slowly bring lodges in such areas to a better standard. New places will be built and it is impossible to keep track of all new, planned and ongoing developments.
What are they like?
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