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Nepal (Annapurna trekking) - guide?

Hi,

So 2 buddies of mine and myself are meant to spend around 12 days in Nepal hiking around the Annapurna circuit and checking out Kathmandu in early September.

We are considering forking up $1,100 each to pay a company to set the trip up for us (that price includes pretty much everything but international flights and a nepal visa). However, we've heard it's possible to do it on our own and save a lot of money (while gaining the freedom of being on our own).

Here are my questions:
- How much money would it cost us (including park fees, visa, accomodation, food, anything else I'm forgetting, etc.) to do an equivalent trip to the $1,100 one we're considering, but on our own?
- We're not the most experienced backpackers but we're not idiots. What are the pros/cons of having a guide? Can we mitigate the lack of local market knowledge by just doing research beforehand and talking to people while we're there to figure out where the path starts, where accomodations are, etc..?
- This will be sandwiched in between a larger trip and as such we won't have room for large jackets, tents, sleeping bags, hiking boots. Will we need jackets for the Annapurna circuit at this time of year? Will we need tents or sleeping bags, and if so, can we rent them when we're there? I'm assuming we'll be able to buy really cheap hiking boots somewhere in India (where we're going beforehand) or Kathmandu.
- Will 12 days total in Nepal be enough to spend some time in sherpa villages and do our trekking?

I look forward to hearing your answers.

Thanks guys,
Andrew

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