Nepal Trekking Information » Porters In Nepal

Porters In Nepal

Nepal is a land of remote mountain village. Most of rural Nepal is located in high mountains, inaccessible by roads. Consequently all necessities are carried into the remotest corners on porters' backs. You will see them consistently along your trek: men and women of all ages, mostly from Tamang and Rai people, bent over, with heavy baskets hanging from a flat woven plastic band across their foreheads. They carry hip-high T-shaped sticks on which they rest their loads to take breaks on the steep uphill climbs. As you walk past group of porters with your own load on your back, you begin to appreciate their hard labor and their cheerful attitude that always leaves room for a friendly "namaste" and a smile.


There are two categories of porters: those working for the local communities and the others working in the tourist trade. A smaller, third group are local vendors who buy supplies themselves and sell them along the way.


Local porters are hired by local businesses to carry supplies to shops and lodges, and they are paid by the weight of their loads. No allowances are given for food and lodging along the way, and certainly not for clothes, shoes, or other equipment. They walk incredible distances in all kinds of weather, often wearing nothing but cheap plastic slippers on their feet, working very hard for very little money. To save money, they cook their own food and sleep in caves along the way, sometimes on local teahouses' floors.


The tourist porters' jobs are marginally better. They get paid a daily rate, ranging from a measly Rs.800 to a good Rs.1000, depending on their loads, the route, and the agreement with the nepal reporteragency or the independent guide. Their daily distance is determined by the tourists' itinerary and tends to be less than that of the local porters. They often eat and sleep in the same lodges where their tourists groups are staying, though mostly in dormitories. Still, their work is extremely hard, especially on camping treks and climbing expeditions that require huge loads. Recently, some changes have taken place to make their lives a bit easier.


The non-profit organization Porters' Progress ( www.portersprogress.org ) was established in 2000 to help protect the interests and livelihood of porters. It serves as a job distribution center, and offers a lending program for equipment and clothes. Classes in English, health, hygiene and altitude sickness prevention are being held at its office in Lukla. Unfortunately many of these services don't reach the local porters who have to abide by the rules of the local economy as well as the rigidity of the Nepali cast system.


As a traveler to the remote areas of Nepal you can act responsibly by insisting on fair treatment of your porters. Discuss this with your tour operator or guide during the planning process. Any used clothing and equipment you wish to donate after your trip will be accepted with gratitude because it will help someone who would never have access to such items and whose livelihood depends on it.


And, of course, tip your porters after the successful completion of your trip, there is no minimum rate. Remember, they work hard for you, their working season is limited, and most of them have families that depend on their support. They are porters because they have no alternatives. You will never be ridiculed for being too generous!


With warm regards,
Binod Mahat