How to Plan an Everest Base Camp Helicopter Tour? Guide on EBC helicopter tour cost, itinerary, best time, and health concern
Getting to Everest Base Camp in Nepal is an arduous journey that takes around 12 days and requires you to trek from the airport at Lukla to the base camp at over 5,000 meters. Covering a total distance of around 130 kilometers, the trek to EBC is one of the most popular trekking routes in the world.
If you have the money, and are not into hiking, then there is a way to get to Everest Base Camp (EBC) without all that long walking and acclimatization. Chartered helicopter rides leave from Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport regularly, heading for Mount Everest and the base camp. A tour of EBC by helicopter is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and gives you the chance to see the peak of this massive mountain up close from the air, as well as stopping at Kala Patthar to get some photos and at the base camp itself for a short time.
Choosing the tour operator
There are literally hundreds of tour operators that offer this trip and knowing which one to use can be a problem. With such a range of flights on offer, many people tend to just choose the cheapest they can find, which could potentially turn out to be a nightmare. So how do you know which are the best ones to use?
If you are planning the trip before you travel, then you have the opportunity to do some research on the companies that are offering the tour. All of the tours are the same, and offer you the same itinerary, though often for a different price. There are also those that land at different places, instead of the usual Kala Patthar, the best place from which to view mount Everest on the EBC trekking trail.
Tibet Vista in Kathmandu
The internet is one of the best places to find out about the different companies that offer these tours, and the website, TripAdvisor, is one of the best sites to find out what the companies are really like. All the reviews on TripAdvisor are real reviews from real people that have done what you are looking at doing, and usually give an honest and unbiased description of the trip and the value for money. You also get the opportunity to ask the reviewers their personal opinion about the companies through the messaging system on the posts. - Here you can check the reviews of Tibet Visa on TripAdvisor
Lonely Planet is another site that offers independent reviews of companies in the travel industry, and the reviews are also made by real people. They also have their own reviews of the different companies and places within the tourism industry, based on their own journalists’ experiences in travel.
If you are already in Nepal and are looking for a company to take you to EBC by helicopter, there are plenty of companies that offer this, which are based at either Tribhuvan International Airport, Lukla Tenzing-Hillary Airport, or in offices in Thamel, the tourist center of Kathmandu. Your hotel may be able to recommend a good tour operator for this, though they may be on a commission for doing so. Asking around with the people at the airports or approaching people that you see getting off the helicopter rides about their experiences can help too. And you still have the option of surfing the internet for more information about the companies and their services. - Know more about Tibet Vista - Tibet Tour Operator in Kathmandu
How much does it cost?
The actual cost of the tour to EBC by helicopter varies, depending on whether you are renting the entire helicopter for yourself and friends/family, or if you are joining in one of the tours that allow join-in with others as a group. Not all operators offer this option to join others on a re-determined date, so you may need to hunt around for those deals.
Taking the flight by yourself or with your family or friends is the most expensive option, unless you are splitting the cost with friends and the flight is full. Normally, the flights take 4-5 people on each trip, and the average cost of the flight starts at around US$ 4,500 per flight. You can book the entire flight for just one person if you wish, though you will have to pay the cost of a full flight, and you will get the personal service of the helicopter for the duration of the flight.
Taking a helicopter to view the scene of Everest Base Camp
The companies that offer the join-in flights normally have set dates when they have available seats and set prices for the seat you will occupy. On average, a seat on a join-in flight will cost around US$ 999 per person, based on five people joining the flight. However, it is best to read the small print on their terms and conditions before agreeing to the flight and making the booking, as there are sometimes terms that allow them to cancel and charge a fee if the flight is not full on the date of the flight.
Most of the flights to Everest Base Camp are for around three to five hours duration, including time to eat breakfast, and if you leave early in the morning, around 7:00am, you will normally be back in Kathmandu at around 12 noon. The companies based in Kathmandu also normally offer a pick-up and drop-off service from your hotel to the airport and back as part of the total cost of the tour.
For majority of the companies offering the standard itinerary as either a private flight or a group trip, certain things are included and excluded from the price you pay.
1. Transfers between your hotel and the airport both ways, normally from anywhere in Kathmandu.
2. Seat on the helicopter as part of a group of up to 5 people.
3. Applicable permit arrangement for entering the Sagarmatha National Park area (not including park fees).
4. Use of guide and his/her wages, medical insurance, meals, and transport.
5. Included medical kits on board for medical emergencies.
6. Fare for the helicopter ride on the day of the flight.
7. Breakfast (only included with limited companies).
1. Personal expenses such as food, drink, and gratuities for the pilot and guide.
2. Cost of warm clothing for travel to high altitudes.
3. Kathmandu Airport taxes.
4. Mount Everest (Sagarmatha) National Park Fees.
5. Personal accident insurance in case of injury or flight crash.
Helicopter tour itinerary
The normal itinerary for a tour to EBC by helicopter starts and ends in Kathmandu, though there are some that leave from Lukla. For an average flight to EBC and back, the following is the usual itinerary used by most companies offering this service:
Pick up from your hotel in the early morning and transfer to the airport to board the helicopter to Everest Base Camp. Flight to Lukla for refueling, which takes around 45 minutes. From Lukla, fly to Everest to take aerial photos above the mountain. Land at EBC for a maximum of 15 minutes to take photos of the base camp. (This is normally limited to the time it takes to take a few photos, and if one of the party is sick, then the flight takes off immediately.) Flight to Kala Patthar, at 5,545 meters above sea level, for photos of Mount Everest from the best place to get a view of the summit. Flight to the Everest View hotel for breakfast (which is rarely included in the price) and exploring the area around the hotel for up to one hour. Flight back to Kathmandu and transfer to your hotel.
When to take the trip by helicopter
With the weather being so erratic around Mount Everest, when to take the trip is a major decision to make. The optimum times for flights to EBC by helicopter actually coincide with the best times of the year to make the climb to the summit, as these are the times when the weather is most favorable.
March to May is the recommended best time to take this trip, when the weather is at its clearest and the temperature is at its best. From March to May the temperatures average around 15-20 degrees in the daytime, making it a pleasant trip to the base camp, which can sometimes be around 5 degrees in the early morning, with the wind-chill factor included.
The weather from March to May is at its clearest
Mid-September to December is another good time of year to take the flight, as the weather is clearer after the summer monsoon rains. The days are a little shorter in the latter part of the year, as winter is already on its way, but the temperatures are warm enough to make it comfortable still during the daytime.
December to March is possible for the flights, as the days are still clear, though the temperatures can be extremely cold, reaching as low as minus ten degrees even in the daytime. The winds are often stronger in the winter months, and flights can be cancelled at minimum notice due to high winds at the base camp. Summer is not often used for the trip by helicopter, as the rains can make it harder to control the aircraft and much harder to land.
How to Deal with the Quick Altitude Ascent?
As you will be traveling from an altitude of around 1,300 meters to the extreme altitudes of more than 5,500 meters, there is a very high risk of altitude sickness once you get out of the helicopter. With no time to acclimatize properly to the massive increase in elevation, it is common for passengers to feel sick and nauseous, with major headaches and dizziness within just a few minutes of getting out of the helicopter at both EBC and Kala Patthar.
Most of the flights have oxygen pumped into the cabin but may not have personal oxygen bottles for those that are suffering from altitude sickness. It is advisable to take a small cannister with you in case of sickness and the other symptoms of altitude sickness. If a member of your party is suffering from the severe effects of altitude sickness, you should move them to a much lower altitude immediately for care and treatment.
Sounds Great?! Tibet Vista, the pioneer of Tibet and Nepal tourism, can also help you carry out the great trek to Everest Base Camp in Nepal.
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