With warm hospitality, hearty meals, and breathtaking mountain views. No wonder the tea houses in Nepal are popular amongst trekkers and mountaineers. Whether you’re planning a trek through the Annapurna Circuit, Everest Base Camp, or any of Nepal’s other stunning trails, understanding the role of tea houses is essential to your journey!
This blog explains everything you need to know about the Nepali tea houses, how they work, the facilities provided there, and, of course, the insider tips for trekkers for a comfortable experience.
So, as always, let’s start from the basics. No better place to begin!
A Complete Guide To Tea Houses In Nepal
Table of Contents
What Is A Tea House?
Nepali tea houses are an integral part of the trekking experience in Nepal, particularly in the Everest, Annapurna, and Langtang regions. These establishments were primarily started for selling tea years ago, true to their name. However, due to its popularity and demand over the years, it expanded to provide shelter, food, and other basic amenities for the trekkers who pass by.
These charming and cozy lodges, mostly constructed using plywood, offer respite for weary trekkers and also a unique cultural experience. They are far better and much more comfortable than your tent to cope with the rain and cold weather one is sure to encounter there. It also allows you to pack light, removing sleeping bags, tents, and cooking utensils.
Arrangement of Beds
Tea houses typically have two individual beds in a room. A single queen or king-size bed for two people is rare. Very few of them have three sharing or four sharing beds in a room.
Every room has a small light and no fan or air-conditioning, not that you would require one out there.
Blankets & Sleeping Bags
The need to bring sleeping bags on the Everest Base Camp (EBC) trek can be avoided, thanks to tea houses. The blankets provided at the tea houses are thick enough to allow one to withstand the temperature. One tends to layer up during the night at higher altitudes. You’ll be given extra blankets (based on availability) if required. At higher altitudes, typically during or after Namche Bazaar, you can find high-end tea houses providing electric beds.
Twin’s Tip: Don’t take the rooms below or adjacent to the tea houses’s restaurants, as they tend to be noisy due to the constant movement in and out of them.
All the tea houses have a restaurant that serves food for the staying guests. They also sell snacks, bottled water, beers, tissue paper and toilet rolls, energy bars, and chocolates, just to name a few. It is anything you might require on your trip, and you can find it here. Apart from the tea house restaurants, you can also find restaurants where they sell only food. The prices climb alongside your trek to higher altitudes. In translation, the higher the altitude, the higher the food price. For instance, bottled water might cost as low as 20 NPR at Kathmandu but go up to 100 NPR at Namche Bazaar, 300 NPR at Chukung, and a whopping 500 NPR at Gorakshep.
The tea houses are also equipped with chimneys that are lit during the evenings since the temperature is prone to drop, which helps keep the guests warm.
Twin’s Tip: There are cafes at Namche Bazaar where you can enjoy freshly baked cakes and drinks. The most popular ones are the Everest Bakery and Namche Bakery. In Namche Bazaar, you can taste different cuisines, even Japanese!
Food & Drinks
The food here is prepared from scratch. Preparing your meals typically takes 30 to 60 minutes if you’re trekking off-season. We suggest that you order your meal first before freshening up. This would get you ready just in time to eat.
The menu is almost the same at all the tea houses, with varying prices depending on the region and quality. Be prepared to have a lot of potatoes, and they seem to exist everywhere!
Both cold and soft drinks are available at all the tea houses, including beer and wine. However, we recommend you not consume alcohol during high-altitude treks like EBC. Better safe than sorry!
Eating non-vegetarian food is also one of the things we do not recommend while trekking. The meat is carried unpreserved by porters and animals over many days. Sometimes, when these porters trek alongside you, you can smell the raw meat and even see the blood. Although locals are used to eating them after a good and deep cleaning, the others might not have the stomach to digest them. Avoiding meat to prevent any chances of upsetting your stomach or food poisoning is much better.
Breakfast, Lunch, And Dinner
You can order pretty much anything on the menu at any given time of the day. The food is prepared upon order and served piping hot to you. The menu usually includes varieties of tea, soup, porridge, dhal bhat, noodles, momo, spaghetti, pancakes, bread, fried rice, eggs, spring rolls, snacks, and an unbelievable amount of dishes made with potatoes!
“Dhal bhat power 24 hours” is a popular saying among the trekkers. Dhal bhat is a popular dish with unlimited servings at all the tea houses. It comprises rice, lentils (dhal) curry, potatoes, pickles, spinach (Nepali Saag), and papad. It is a popular choice among trekkers for its generous quantity, leading to a full and content tummy!
You need energy while trekking at high altitudes. This is a given. So are packed lunches. They are helpful when there are no tea houses on the trail or in case you find a tea house during off-hours. On our EBC and three passes trek, we packed our lunches on the days we were scheduled to cross the three high passes and ate them en route.
We highly suggest you order your breakfast and lunch the previous night. Mention the timings by when you need it. The packed lunch option mentioned on the menu is expensive and not worth it. You can order any of the aforementioned dishes from the menu for your packed lunch and breakfast. We ate breakfast at 5:30 AM at the tea house and started our trek at 6 AM with the packed lunch for all three passes. They do not charge extra for this service! And there’s your Twin’s Tip!
Although most locals drink tap water at the tea houses, we recommend you treat the water before drinking. Exercise caution, yeah? Alternatively, you can choose to buy bottled water. We used Sawyer, a squeeze water purification system throughout our Everest Base Camp and three passes trek, which helped save a lot of money. Read the blog on smart hacks for saving money while on the trail.
Twin’s Tip: Do not buy hot water. All you gotta do is keep your flask near the chimney for some time and allow it to get hot.
The tea houses charge between 200 NPR and 1000 NPR for 24-hour Wi-Fi. At the tea house we stayed in Gokyo, the Wi-Fi was available on a time basis- for an hour, 6, or 24 hours. Once again, as we said, the prices go up along with the altitude. As for us, we wanted to feel disconnected from the world and opted out of the Wi-Fi facility.
The Wi-Fi speed is close to average at the tea houses. However, once it starts getting crowded, the speed gets reduced significantly.
Charging The Electronics
You’ll be unable to find charging sockets inside the room at most tea houses, especially at higher altitudes. So, if you plan on booting up your devices, you might as well forget it.
Charging your devices is going to cost you. The price ranges from 200 to 1000 NPR for charging your devices completely or on an hourly basis. It’s better to have extra batteries if you bring a GoPro or camera.
Our 10,000 mAh power bank lasted for the entire trek, even after taking pictures and videos and documenting our journey. This is subjective as it depends on the model you are using and the battery capacity. We used iPhones with good battery health. Another alternative is to use lightweight, portable solar panels.
Tea houses have a single shower or bathroom for the guests. The tap is connected to a gas cylinder that generates heat. The basic shower head or the tap would supply hot water. At few tea houses, the hot water is provided in a bucket. You must bring your toiletries like shower gel, paste, toothbrush, and toilet paper rolls.
You are charged as per the servings of bucket water or the time taken to shower. We understand that a hot water shower is very relaxing, but it is difficult to transport gas cylinders in the mountains, so make it quick!
Each tea house has one or two shared restrooms for all the guests – about 20 to 50 people. They are of two types – Western and Indian squat toilets. Finding flush in the western type toilets is rare and a luxury. Be warned! Water will be filled in large containers, and you will have to bring your toilet rolls or tissue paper. A waste bin is kept to dispose of the used tissue papers and menstrual pads.
Indian squat toilets are usually clean and well maintained, but the western toilets are not flushed properly even when you pour large amounts of water. The first few people to use the restrooms have the cleanest experience, which worsens as time passes. Consider this your sign to be the early bird!
Also, note that accommodations with attached bathrooms may not be available at higher altitudes.
How Much Does Your Stay Cost At Tea Houses?
The price range of a tea house can swing between 100-1000 NPR for a room, depending on the season. If you’re trekking during the offseason, the locals are generous enough to offer the stay for FREE, provided you eat at least twice in the tea house during your stay. We stayed for free and were charged 100-500 NPR in most places as we chose to trek during the start of the season.
The prices are higher if you opt for a resort or go for additional comforts like an attached washroom or electric beds.
Only the Nepalese Rupee (NPR) is accepted. Only very few tea houses accept card payments. So, carry enough cash!
Booking Your Stay At Tea Houses
Usually, trekkers don’t pre-book their stay at tea houses. The process usually follows: Shout a “Namaste” from the door, and the owner or caretaker will answer you. Pre-booking is not required unless you’re trekking during the peak season. If you’re with a guide, they’ll book for you. If you’re trekking solo, get references from the tea house you’re staying in and book your next tea house by calling them at least a few days before. However, during the off-season, we suggest you do not pre-book for flexibility, and you have the privilege to check the rooms in person and then make decisions.
In the months of May and October, Gorak Shep gets crowded to the point that people sleep on the restaurant benches, tents, and or even on the ground. So, book your stay if you’re trekking during the peak season!