The Upper Mustang Trek is a mesmerizing travel experience any traveller could ever have to a semi desert region passing the traditional Nepali settlements.
Mustang was a forbidden place for any foreigners until 1992. This place is truly magical and has people in awe every time they visit.
The isolation of this place has helped people of Mustang to preserve their life style and cultural heritage that stayed almost unaffected for many years.
Being hidden behind the famous Himalayan ranges, Mustang is full of exciting trekking zones.
This place is usually very dry and parched due to less rainfall which is quite similar to the border Tibetan Plateau.
The capital of Upper Mustang, Lo Manthang, is situated in the remote Himalaya desert behind the Dhaulagiri and Annapurna mountain ranges.
It is an old and very traditional Tibetan village with exquisite and rare Buddhist arts and interesting culture.
Upper Mustang Trek to the hidden paradise of Mustang is an extraordinary experience that travellers wouldn’t want to miss out on.
This trek allows the travelers to observe the beautiful Trans-Himalaya landscape, ancient Tibetan Buddhist shrines such as Stupas, Chhortens, Kaanis, Prayers walls, century’s old monasteries.
Moreover, they can interact with the Tibetan like people which makes the trip a memory of a lifetime.
Upper Mustang is also commonly known as a ‘Mini Tibet of Nepal’ and is a very popular trek in Nepal. It has also been described as the “Mountain Desert”.
The upper mustang region is comprised of Dhaulagiri Massif along with its 35 other Himalayas above six thousand meters.
The people are still living in the upper mustang region because of its remoteness. They still follow their own traditional culture and religion of Bon-Po.
For the purpose of protection of the ancient culture, this region was closed to outside world till the year 2000.
Also, there are other traditional villages in upper Mustang which are part of capital city of Lo-Manthang.
What’s interesting is that the descendant kings of Lo dynasty still live in Lo-Manthang with his own people.
Tiji, which is an ancient festival celebrated in this region, has grabbed people’s attention because of which people go there solely to celebrate the festival.
The Upper Mustang Trek begins from the famous Jomsom village going through the trekking trail towards kagbeni eventually landing on the ancient city of Lo Manthang.
The Lo Manthang has quite a history of a thousand year old religion and ancient tribes. This place is also the place os lost kingdom of ancient Tibet.
After enjoying the Lo-Manthang and other traditional villages of the upper mustang, the travellers normally head through the trail of Kali Gandaki Valley eventually landing on the city of Jomsom.
These tourists from Jomsom can either take air-flight or vehicle ride to Kathmandu city or Pokhara city whichever their next destination is.
You’ll need to spend money a lot of things if you’re willing to make your trip a memorable one.
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Some Ideas on Upper Mustang Trekking Cost
The costs for the upper mustang trek have been described accordingly below.
a. Mustang Restricted Permit
The cost for this is quite high and could possibly scare most trekkers as it is currently priced at USD 500 per person.
The price had to set that high considering the fact that Mustang is a special region and not easily accessible to everyone.
The government requires everyone to preserve the area and also limit the number of tourists entering this region in Nepal.
Note: this USD 500 per person is only valid for 10 days and this is the minimum.
In most cases, this is more than enough for a two-week trek in the region as you would only be in the restricted area for approximately 8 to 9 days.
Along with other special permits, it is also obligatory for tourists that at least two trekkers (guide and porter do not count here) are in a group to apply for a Mustang permit.
b. Annapurna Conservation Area Project Permit (ACAP)
Along with the permit mentioned above, you are also required to obtain ACAP which costs around USD 20 per person.
If your wish is to reach Upper Mustang, you will definitely have to pass by the Annapurna Region.
Note that this permit is valid only for one time entry and exit but with unlimited number of days in the Annapurna region.
c. Trekking Information Management System (TIMS) card
The cost for this card is USD 10 per person.
This is not required if your only itinerary is the Upper Mustang.
But we can assure you that not a single soul has felt cheated by paying this much.
The reason being that the area and the trekking experience itself are definitely worth more than the 500 bucks.
2. Guide and Porter Cost
Given that Nepal has some trekking trails which doesn’t require you a guide. But the Mustang region is a place where you’ll feel the need to have one with you.
No matter what other various international travel companies inform you with, or what you may have learnt from several websites, hiring a professional guide is actually not at all expensive for the Mustang region.
And what’s surprising is per day cost of this trek is comparatively the same as the other treks.
The market average is about USD 25 to 30 per day and this already includes the guide’s food, accommodation, and insurance.
And what’s more interesting and exciting is the fact that you can also hire a porter while trekking in the upper mustang.
However, you should be aware of the cost of hiring a porter. It really is not that much different to hiring a guide due to the cost of food and insurance.
You will have to pay approximately USD 20 to 25 a day to a porter which is inclusive of food, accommodation, and insurance.
The difference in costs isn’t that big a deal but considering your own safety and experience in the area you’re about to head, you are highly suggested to take a professional guide with you.
A professional guide has also received a license from the government and underwent hard training especially in handling emergency situations and ensuring client safety.
But you’re under no pressure because this is completely your decision. It is completely your choice whether you want to be accompanied by a guide or not.
Note: you will not be allowed at entry points if you are not accompanied by either of these two.
3. Cost of transportation
Kathmandu is home to the main immigration office in Nepal making Kathmandu the only place where the restricted permit for Mustang can be issued.
So get one thing straight, your travel will always start in Kathmandu, and then travel to Pokhara, and further to Jomsom for the start of the trek.
For transportation purposes, there are many options available between Kathmandu to Pokhara such as local buses, tourist buses, daily flights and even private jeep.
However, from Pokhara to Jomsom, it is highly recommended that you take a flight.
In the off-road trails to Jomsom, local buses and local jeeps run but they are not certain to be running all the time and safety could also be an issue especially in the monsoon season.
Transportation cost ideas:
Kathmandu-Pokhara Bus: USD 8 to 30 USD one way per person. The cost includes additional services that may vary such as food and beverage, wifi, air condition, etc. There is also the option of either a tourist bus or local bus.
Kathmandu-Pokhara Flight: USD 120 one way per person
Pokhara- Jomsom Flight: USD 111 one way per person
Pokhara-Jomsom-Kagbeni bus jeep: roughly USD 30-40 per person
By now you must have already known that the Upper Mustang area is fairly a remote area of Nepal.
Because of this reason the cost of food is generally more expensive in this area than in Kathmandu and the menu choices are pretty limited.
If you’re someone who has been to other base camps in Nepal, you should be familiar with the rule that the cost of food increases as the elevation increases.
Note: the more remote the area, the higher the cost of food.
The reason behind the above mentioned note is because of the difficulty in transportation of the products in higher the elevation.
Moreover, if the area is not fully accessible to transportation, especially in monsoon time when the road could be a concern for travelers.
From Jomsom all the way up to Lo-manthang, the supplies are being transported by pure hard work by mule and guided by men on foot, and also by jeep during season time.
The amount of effort and hard manual labor that goes into each soup and curry that you will eat in the region is unbelievable.
You may want to budget roughly USD 5 per meal and maybe USD 15 to 20 on a daily basis.
But of course this would differ from how much appetite you might have in each meal and your beverages or snacks.
Generally, breakfast is cheaper than lunch and dinner. If you have been to Annapurna, the cost is relatively the same.
Everest still remains the most expensive in terms than Mustang, Manaslu and Annapurna, and mainly because of its elevation.
If you’re someone who loves exploring tasting beer, you really shouldn’t miss the local beer available in Upper Mustang.
The region has an open border and easy access with Tibet-China and is one of the cheapest destinations in the mountain to drink beer.
It’ll be quite good to have a round of beer after a trek especially in the local Chinese-Tibetan beer.
Because it is not considered a very high altitude trek, the cost of tea and coffee are relatively the same as in other mountain region but slightly cheaper than in Everest Base Camp.
Some common costs of common drinks are:
A cup of tea – USD 1.5- 4
A cup of coffee – USD 2 – 4
A bottle of beer – USD 2 – 5
A bottle of water / soda – USD 0.5 – 4
Accommodation will never be an issue at all in the Upper Mustang as tea houses and home stay have started to be established in the recent years.
When talking about the past, you will be required to bring your tent. But this is no longer the case because of demand from many trekkers.
However, you are highly suggested to be aware that during festival season, the tea houses could be very busy and may not have availability everywhere.
During the Tiji Festival where several locals and foreign trekkers would also participate in the festivities here, the accommodation can be quite an issue.
The cost for a two bedrooms is roughly USD 6 to USD 9 a night per person on average either for a home stay or tea houses.
So if you are on your own and wish to sleep alone then you will be required to pay for the whole room which is the cost for two people.
7. Other Costs
For any trek in Nepal the following are additional costs you may want to consider while making your budget:
a. Your electronic gadgets, such as Camera, iPod, mobile phone or anything is sure to run out of battery so it would definitely cost you a few dollars to charge them.
The extra cost needs to be paid due to the high investment for the small local hydropower station.
You will be on the mountain for many days and will definitely be requiring charging at least your phone or camera so you might as well buy a portable solar battery charger or a portable power bank.
Extra batteries for your camera will help as well.
b. Bucket shower heated by gas, firewood might cost you few dollars at a time.
In the mountain, it’s pointless to expect that you will have your full bath or shower every day.
As much as we want to do that, it is just not practical and economical. So you should be prepared to basically smell the same as yesterday for several days.
Instead of a bucket water, another option would be to pack some wipes with you and use that instead in the interim, or a small towel that you could use to freshen yourself in the morning or before going to bed.
c. If you visit monasteries, gumbas or stupas, they do expect some small donations for the maintenance of the area. Costs here could vary.
d. Tips are not entirely obligatory in Nepal, but after each trek, your guide and porter also expect some tips from you. Of course, this usually reflects your experience during the trek.
It comes as no surprise that this is indeed an expensive trek compared to other base camps trek in Nepal and largely due to the permit.
But we are not trying to discourage you, but rather encouraging you to please come and visit the place.
As it is said, you always get your money’s worth and there is a reason why this has the most expensive permit set by the government.
More and more trekkers are being drawn to the mystery that this region has to offer.
We encourage you to find out for yourself and experience something you’ve probably never experienced before.