Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is an epic adventure trip. We’re excited for you that you’re considering doing it! There’s plenty to think of as part of your Kilimanjaro preparation. Among other things you have to organise your travel to Tanzania, choose a good tour operator, prepare yourself physically for the rigours of the trek, and pack the correct clothing.
You also need to make a budget to work out the cost to climb Kilimanjaro. Of course everyone’s budget will look different based on various factors (where you live in the world, for instance) and certain decisions (like how many days you want to spend hiking). We’ve put together this blog post to help you work out your personalised budget for Kilimanjaro. Accordingly, we discuss all the different financial considerations of the endeavour:
- Travel to Tanzania
- Tanzania visa
- Travel insurance
- Using tech devices in Tanzania
- Medications and vaccinations for Tanzania
- Camping and trekking gear
- Trekking clothing
- Choosing a Kilimanjaro tour operator
- Solo traveller supplement
- Choosing a Kilimanjaro route
- Spending cash
- Tipping on Kilimanjaro
At the end of the blog post we have a table you can use to figure out your personal budget based on all that’s been discussed. In this way you’ll arrive at a workable total for your Kilimanjaro adventure trips. Let’s get stuck into some details!
Travel to Kilimanjaro
To climb Kilimanjaro you have to get there and back. The mountain is in the northeast of Tanzania in the Arusha region. The town of Moshi and the city of Arusha serve as popular pitstops for visitors on either side of their climb. Moshi is a 66 km drive from Kilimanjaro National Park, and Arusha an 83 km drive. At Follow Alice, we overnight in Moshi or Arusha before and after the climb.
Tanzania international airports
You will want to investigate flights to the following three international airports in Tanzania:
- International Kilimanjaro Airport (JRO)
- Julius Nyerere International Airport (DAR)
- The Abeid Amani Karume International Airport (ZNZ)
JRO is where most people fly in for their Kilimanjaro climb. It offers wonderful proximity to Mt Kilimanjaro. It’s also just 67 km from Moshi, and 46 km from Arusha. It’s also a good starting point for safaris in the north of the country.
DAR is just outside the port city of Dar es Salaam and is the country’s main airport. Importantly, it’s the gateway to safaris in the south of the country. ZNZ is the airport on the island of Zanzibar, a popular tourist destination for its beautiful beaches and rich culture and history.
We mention all three of the above airports because many Kilimanjaro climbers like to include a Zanzibar and/or safari excursion in their Tanzania holiday. If you choose to fly into DAR or ZNZ (or even somewhere else in East Africa, like Nairobi in Kenya), we recommend catching a flight to JRO to get to Kilimanjaro, otherwise you’ll need to organise ground transport, which is time-consuming and also costly unless you travel by train.
You will need to consider airport transfers to drive you from the airport to the lodge in Moshi or Arusha.
If you’re coming to Kilimanjaro from another airport, you’ll need to factor in the cost of an internal flight or hiring a shuttle to get you there. Alternatively, you could road trip to get there, but we don’t really recommend this option (especially if you’re not used to driving on the left of the road!)
Catching the train to Kilimanjaro
As of December 2019 the Tanzania Railway Corporation restarted the Dar es Salaam to Moshi passenger line. This is the first time in 25 years that a passenger train from the city port to Kilimanjaro has been available. There are, at present, two journeys a week on offer.
A 90-day, single-entry travel visa to Tanzania costs $50. This visa allows you to travel between the mainland and Zanzibar, an important consideration if you’re wishing to add this exciting beach destination to your travel itinerary.
Note that things are a little different for US citizens visiting Tanzania. A tourist visa will cost you $100, not $50. This price difference is the result of a special Tanzania-USA travel agreement. The tourist visa it buys is valid for a year, and allows for multiple 90-day entries into the country. You can also travel between the mainland and Zanzibar as often as you like.
Remember that to get a visa your passport will need to be valid for six months from your date of arrival in Tanzania, as is standard practice in most countries. So if your passport is ageing out, best you get onto renewing it quick quick!
You can apply for a Tanzania visa online. Note that you’ll be applying for a Tanzania Tourist Visa, also known as an Ordinary Visa. We recommend this route as being the easiest. You can also obtain a visa when you land in Tanzania. Chat to us if you have any questions about applying for your Tanzania Visa.
While insurance is a somewhat unsexy topic, it’s a crucial one and we recommend you don’t skip reading this section!
Traveller’s insurance is a must for anyone undertaking to climb Kilimanjaro. In fact, travel insurance for climbing up to an elevation of 6,000 m is a requirement.
When taking out travel insurance, we suggest choosing one that offers cover for all of the following (which is what we do personally when travelling):
- Delayed, cancelled or interrupted travel
- Medical insurance
- Lost or damaged luggage
Delayed, cancelled or interrupted travel
Delayed travel covers things outside of your control like a traffic jam preventing you from reaching the airport on time, a mechanical issue with your plane, or severe weather preventing the plane from reaching its destination. It also covers missed connections that are out of your control. Trip cancellation covers having to abort your trip beforehand for reasons such as injury, illness, severe weather, or a natural disaster or terrorist attack at your destination. Trip interruption covers the costs involved when you have to abort your trip post departure, for any of the same reasons listed for trip cancellation. Both trip cancellation and trip interruption should also cover having to cancel or abort a trip as a consequence of illness or injury of a travel companion or family member.
Regular medical aids don’t cover medical expenses incurred outside of your own country. This is why medical insurance is a critical component of any traveller’s insurance. Proper medical insurance covers medical emergency as well as medical evacuation. This means that should you fall ill or be injured, your insurance will pay for all hospitalisation and doctor fees as well as all transportation to and from hospital (including ambulance services) and to get you back home.
Cover for lost or damaged luggage
The cover for lost or damaged luggage is important. You can’t climb to the summit of Kilimanjaro without the proper gear! There are shops in Arusha and Moshi offering all the varied equipment you might need, so should your luggage go missing you could use the insurance money to gather together what’s needed and still continue on with your trip. That said, one of our top travel tips is to travel with essentials like your hiking boots and your expensive winter jacket on you. Replacing lost undies and thermals is far less of an issue than breaking in new boots while doing the hike of your life.
We recommend that you cover yourself to the tune of at least $200,000 for each of the above categories of insurance (except for luggage). We recommend World Nomads. They offer comprehensive yet affordable insurance that crucially covers you for “hiking up to 6,000 m”. Whichever travel insurance you choose, we’ll require you to send us the details of your policy before you head to Tanzania.
Note that many credit cards offer free, automatic travel insurance when you book your flights with them, so do look into this. The cover usually isn’t enough on its own, but it’s a useful extra. Also, pay special attention to exactly what is and isn’t covered by your credit card. This is to ensure your independent traveller’s insurance covers all gaps and shortfalls.
Cost of Kilimanjaro travel insurance
While it’s only a ballpark figure, you can expect your travel insurance for Kilimanjaro to cost around $200 if you opt for the sort of package we’ve discussed above.
Using tech devices in Tanzania
Tanzania uses types D and G plugs and operates on a 230 V supply voltage and 50 Hz. Depending on where you’re coming from, this might mean purchasing a universal adaptor and even a voltage converter or transformer. If you’re travelling with friends, a team adaptor might suffice?
If you’re travelling from the UK, the Electrical Safety First website offers the following useful info on Tanzania travel adaptors.
Buying a local SIM card
International roaming rates often seem designed to make one cry. We recommend buying a cheap SIM card in Tanzania and loading however much airtime and data you want onto it. They don’t even cost two dollars (or euros).
There are five network providers in Tanzania: Vodacom, Airtel, Zantel, Tigo and Halotel. We recommend going with Vodacom or Airtel, as these are the biggest players offering the widest coverage. We recommend simply buying one at the airport when you land in Tanzania. If you’d like to know more about the country’s network providers and the regions in which each one shines, read buying a SIM card in Tanzania.
Reception on Kilimanjaro
For some the chance to climb Kilimanjaro is a chance to leave tech behind for a few days. But we know that many of you will want your gadgets, especially your mobile phone, on the climb, so these details are for you.
You’ll have steady access to electricity in Tanzania right up till the moment you leave to drive to the Kilimanjaro National Park. After that you’ll need to charge any devices with your own power source. Note that solar charges aren’t ideal, as the sun isn’t always out on Kilimanjaro. We recommend bringing a standard power bank if you want to charge devices on the mountain. Fortunately they are fairly inexpensive these days.
Reception has improved dramatically in recent years and you can now find a signal on most of Kilimanjaro. Reception can be slow at times, but it’ll certainly be good enough to send you dearly beloveds regular reassurances that you haven’t fallen off the mountain. Data streaming is still problematic, and we suggest you don’t rely on it. Rather save up the pics you want to share on Instagram for when we’re back at the lodge after the climb.
Medications and vaccinations for Kilimanjaro
Ideally you should go see your GP one or two months before you plan to travel to Tanzania. You may want to get vaccinated and/or get your hands on any necessary medication, such as anti-malaria meds. Depending on how healthcare works in your country, you may need to add this visit to your budget.
Vaccinations for Tanzania
It’s important when travelling to get vaccines that target diseases well known to exist in the destination country. For Tanzania you want to be vaccinated against Hepatitis A and B, typhoid and rabies. You’ll also be required to present proof of yellow fever vaccination if you’re travelling in from a country where the disease is present. Here’s the full lowdown on travel vaccines for Tanzania if you’d like to read more on the topic.
It can also be useful to get a booster vaccine before travelling internationally for your standard baddies like meningitis and measles. If you visit your local GP you can ask him or her what’s advisable for a trip to Tanzania. Note that if you live in the UK, it’s possible to get some vaccines for free through the NHS.
Tanzania and malaria
Did you know that word malaria comes from the two Latin words mal and aria, which together mean ‘bad air’? This is because Romans thought malaria hovered in the air. Of course we now know the disease is transmitted via mosquito bite.
All of Tanzania is a malarial zone, and so we recommend anti-malaria medication before heading to Kilimanjaro. You will need to speak with your doctor about this medication. Check out this website for the most up to date information on malaria in Tanzania.
Kilimanjaro and altitude meds
Kilimanjaro is very nearly 6,000 m (19,685 ft) above sea level. In other words, Kilimanjaro altitude sickness is a very real danger. If you decide to take medication to help with the altitude, speak to your doc to prescribe you the ones that best suit you.
Camping and trekking gear
Kilimanjaro is a non-technical mountain, meaning it doesn’t require any sort of climbing gear like crampons and ropes. You also don’t have to have any mountaineering training or experience. This is because all the trails leading to the summit are simple hiking trails.
That said, the mountain trails are rocky and rough in places. And there’s an arctic climate at the summit. In fact, did you know there are glaciers at the top of Kilimanjaro? With the rocky terrain and cold conditions in mind, you do need to come prepared with the right gear and clothing. We discuss your Kilimanjaro packing list in detail in another post. For the purposes of this post on the climb Kilimanjaro cost, we want to draw your attention to the potential costs involved in certain trekking gear and clothing.
Most people who climb Kilimanjaro do it camping style. Only those trekking the Marangu route stay in hut accommodation. Given that you’ll almost certainly be flying into Tanzania to do Kilimanjaro, you can’t be expected to supply your own camping equipment. The good news is that any good tour operator will provide basically everything you need for camping, like tents, a mess tent, cutlery, cooking equipment, the food itself, and so on. That said, always check before booking with a tour operator as to exactly what’s provided as part of the package fee.
Gear provided by Follow Alice
At Follow Alice we provide a tent per every two climbers. This means you will share your sleeping space with one other. We also provide you with a high-quality four-season sleeping bag and an insulated sleeping mat at no extra charge.
If you wish to bring along your own camping stuff like a sleeping bag and don’t yet have them, please factor these into your budget. When choosing a sleeping bag and sleeping mat, we recommend choosing ones that can handle temperatures as cold as -20° C. We have no affiliation at all with North Face, but we do recommend their four-season sleeping bags as being good quality and suitable for the cold temperatures high up Kilimanjaro. Note that you’ll also need to bring along a headlamp for getting easily and confidently around camp at night. These can also be rented locally in Tanzania. Chat to us if you need any help with renting gear for your Kilimanjaro climb.
Getting together the correct clobber for when you climb Kilimanjaro will likely cost you more than the camping and trekking gear, as this must be organised by you personally. As already mentioned, we list all you need to bring in our Kilimanjaro packing list post. But if you’re a novice trekker, we just want you to note that you may need to purchase certain items, like thermal inner-wear, a good pair of trekking boots, trekking trousers, and a proper winter jacket. That said, by all means ask friends and family members for items you can borrow to reduce your costs!
Down jacket provided by Follow Alice
The great news is that we at Follow Alice have a store of down jackets you can rent from us for $40 for the entire trip. Not only does renting one save you having to fork out on this expensive item, you can also rest assured that you’ll have exactly the right sort of jacket for Kilimanjaro. Our down jackets are 900 down and offer protection against the harsh conditions on Kilimanjaro!
Choosing a Kilimanjaro tour operator
If you’re in the early days of your Kilimanjaro research, you might not yet realise that you can only legally climb Kilimanjaro through a licensed tour operator. This is one of the regulations set by the Kilimanjaro Park Authority. So if you were pondering a solo Kilimanjaro climb, time to bin that idea!
What’s covered in a tour operator’s fee?
Every tour operator charges a package fee for taking you up Kilimanjaro. This fee covers the following expenses:
- Kilimanjaro National Park fees
- Mountain crew cages
- Equipment and supplies
- Kilimanjaro safety equipment and training
- Indirect taxes
- Accommodation before and after the climb
- Tour operator’s commission
Below we discuss each item very briefly so you understand what it is and why it’s included.
Kilimanjaro National Park fees
There are various Kilimanjaro National Park fees, including an entry permit and rescue fee, that each climber must pay. These fees are charged on a per person, per day basis. Tour operators work all of these fees into their package fee so they can pay for them on your behalf. One less piece of admin for you – hooray!
Mountain crew wages
It takes a small army to get climbers to the summit of Kilimanjaro. Every climber requires a guide, cook and three porters. As a group, we therefore employ several individuals to make our climb possible.
So who exactly makes up the mountain crew? We’re glad you asked …
|Lead guide||He leads you safely up and down the mountain. He’s also a wonderful source of knowledge and inspiration.||1 per group|
|Assistant guides||They assist the lead guide in leading you safely up and down the mountain. They also provide vital advice and encouragement.||1 per 2 or 3 climbers|
|Cook||They provide all your meals on the mountain (breakfast, lunch and dinner). They also do the washing up – score!||1 per group|
|Porters||These guys carry all your food and gear, set up and dismantle camp, and more. And they work incredibly hard and are true superstars.||3 per climber|
One of the reasons for the large crew is that everything you need on the mountain has to be carried there and brought back down again. Even those who hike the Marangu route, which offers hut accommodation, require the assistance of guides, cooks and porters. Each guide, cook and porter should be paid a certain amount per day to avoid exploitation. They get paid individually, and a good trekking company will ensure your package fees are sufficient to pay the crew fairly.
Equipment and supplies
Your package fee also covers the costs involved in buying, maintaining and replacing all the equipment and supplies necessary for a Kilimanjaro expedition.
Equipment refers to all the ‘things’ that are needed to set up and run a camp. Think water containers, buckets, crockery, gas cooker, foldaway tables, tents, sleeping mats, sleeping bags, the portable toilet, a first aid kit – the list goes on. (You can see now why so many porters are needed for the climb!) Supplies refers to all the items that get used up on each climb, like food, dishwashing liquid, toilet paper, medicines and so on.
Kilimanjaro safety equipment and training
This is an area that separates the wheat from the chaff in terms of Kilimanjaro tour operators. Good tour operators never cut corners when it comes to climbers’ safety. This means training staff (as well as regularly updating their training) in mountain safety and first aid. It also means carrying important equipment like oximeters and emergency oxygen.
Amortisation refers to gradually writing off the costs of large assets. In the case of a Kilimanjaro tour operator, one such asset is the 4×4 vehicle necessary to get you to the start of the trail. Amortisation is therefore a component of a tour operator’s fee.
The Tanzanian Government charges all business certain taxes and annual fees. Kilimanjaro tour operators therefore work a percentage of this into their package fee.
Accommodation before and after climb
All Kilimanjaro tour operators work on the premise that you’ll spend one night before the climb and one night after the climb somewhere local. The region is too remote for anything else. These are your arrival and departure days. Most operators will work the cost of accommodation for your arrival and departure days into your package fee. That said, be sure to check its included to help you in your climb Kilimanjaro cost comparisons. As already mentioned, we at Follow Alice put our clients up at a comfortable lodge in either Moshi or Arusha (depending on if you are also doing a Tanzania Safari).
Tour operator’s commission
This part of the package fee is what the tour operator makes as profit. Organising a Kilimanjaro expedition is a huge feat that takes endless hours of hard work.
Advice on choosing a Kilimanjaro tour operator
If you’re only just starting to research your climb to the roof of Africa, the first thing you need to know is that Kilimanjaro tour operators can charge anywhere between $1,500 and $5,000 per person. Also, there are over 300 registered Kilimanjaro tour operators! But don’t feel overwhelmed with choice! We provide you with insights into the different types of tour operators to help you whittle down those that suit your needs. You’ll also see why the prices vary so much and why the cheapest deals are often a very risky investment.
But before we go another step and risk losing you to a caffeine call or phone notification, we have one piece of very important advice for you. The advice: please don’t decide on a tour operator based on price alone. If you read on, you’ll see why we stress this point.
To help us discuss the different types of Kilimanjaro tour operators, we like to group them accordingly:
- Budget tour operators
- Value-for-money tour operators
- Luxury tour operators
We discuss the differences in the three groups in just a moment. But first, some ballpark figures for the different types of Kilimanjaro tour operators …
Kilimanjaro tour operator package fees
Budget Kilimanjaro tour operators are those who charge anywhere below $1,900. We advise against using such operators as they usually are only able to offer such low rates because they cut corners on matters like staff wages and Kilimanjaro safety training and equipment. More on that in a moment.
Value-for-money Kilimanjaro tour operators charge between $1,900 and $3,200. We consider ourselves – Follow Alice – to be a value-for-money Kilimanjaro tour operator. This is because we try to offer the most competitive rates possible while still looking after our staff, safeguarding our clients’ health, and also striving to provide a pleasant and comfortable experience.
Luxury tour operators generally charge in the region of $3,200 to $5,000, or even more! There’s nothing wrong with opting for a fancy outfitter if that’s your vibe. Just remember that no matter the thread-count of your napkin at meal time, it’s still you who has to do the hard work of getting to the summit!
At the end of the day you’ll be spending thousands of dollars on your Kilimanjaro climb no matter which tour operator you choose. You’re investing in a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, and as with any investment, you shouldn’t leave things to chance.
Different types of Kilimanjaro tour operators
As already mentioned, there are three different types of Kilimanjaro tour operators available to you:
- Budget tour operators
- Value-for-money tour operators
- Luxury tour operators
We briefly discuss the pros and cons of each type of operator. (Note that we also have another blog post that offers a focused discussion on why prices differ so much between different Kilimanjaro operators.) The goal here is to help you understand where your money goes with each type of operator. We hope you’ll then feel equipped to decide on the sort of one that best meets your needs and so plan your budget.
Budget Kilimanjaro tour operators
We strongly advise against working with a budget tour operator on your Kilimanjaro climb. While their prices are very attractive, they employ dubious practices to make them so. Without going into too much detail, we explain why we say this according to the following important points:
- Subpar safety policies
- Unprofessional mountain crew
- Poorly paid mountain crew
- Lean camping amenities and food
- Risk of fraud
- Mistreatment of mountain crew
Subpar safety policies
Every year there are five to 10 fatalities on Kilimanjaro. This is an upsetting number as it’s completely unnecessary. With the right training and safety equipment in place, nobody should lose their life while engaged on this adventure. But sadly some budget operators cut costs by foregoing training their staff in first aid.
Some budget tour operators also look to save a few bucks by not purchasing or monitoring the condition of important safety equipment. How sad for your climb to end because your guide can’t offer you some needed oxygen or patch up your cut? A proper mountain crew monitors your health every day and allows for extra acclimatisation if necessary. Inexperienced mountain guides sometimes push their groups when an extra day of acclimatisation is actually all that’s needed to help those with altitude symptoms adapt and so successfully complete the climb.
Unprofessional mountain crew
Not only do you want a mountain crew that’s skilled and properly equipped, we imagine you’d like a cohesive, friendly, encouraging and all-round professional crew. You’d also like one with good general knowledge about the local nature, customs and history. Learning things as you progress along the trail like the rarity of a plant you see and the survival habits of an animal you spot can enrich your experience greatly.
Poorly paid mountain crew
Budget tour operators almost always under pay their staff. On occasion they pay them nothing at all and these men are remunerated only through clients’ tips. This is truly disheartening. Further, some tour operators don’t provide their staff with adequately warm clothing. They also don’t provide them with sufficient food.
We feel confident you don’t wish to partake in such mistreatment. At Follow Alice we know that a content, healthy and respected mountain crew is the backbone of a good trekking operation. We really encourage you to ensure you choose a Kilimanjaro tour operator committed to fair wages and treatment of employees.
Lean camping amenities and food
Some tour operators offer what we might euphemistically call lean or rudimentary camping facilities. We don’t think that’s what clients want. At Follow Alice we’re pretty confident that you want some sort of chair to sit in at the end of a gruelling day of trekking. We think you want a reasonably comfy and cosy tent and mat to lay down on at night. You also want nourishing and plentiful food to fuel your legs for the hard climb. And we’re pretty sure you want a clean loo for when nature calls you out of nature and into the toilet tent. Be wary therefore of budget tour operators, as they won’t all provide such things.
Proper camping facilities and good meals are vital comforts on Kilimanjaro. The climb itself will test your limits, so tasty meals and comfy seating and bedding are essential to lifting your spirits and reestablishing your resolve. Don’t be the forlorn soul on Kilimanjaro looking longingly at the neighbouring camp – be the one lolling on the air couch with a hot chocolate in hand thinking about how great life is.
Risk of fraud
We’re sorry to report that there are some fraudsters out there posing as Kilimanjaro tour operators. Some ask for an upfront payment before disappearing, it seems, off Planet Earth. Others cancel the trip and fail to refund you. Some even demand further payments while on the mountain! Shocking, we know, but you don’t need us to educate you on the dubious side of human nature. The main point here is to encourage you to research the history and reputation of the tour operator you’re looking to book with.
To summarise, budget Kilimanjaro tour operators don’t treat their staff well, play fast and loose with clients’ safety, provide sub-optimal food and camping facilities, and are occasionally even fraudsters. Enough said!
Value-for-money Kilimanjaro tour operators
Value-for-money Kilimanjaro tour operators basically offer everything budget operators don’t:
- A well-trained and professional mountain crew
- Proper wages for mountain crew
- A focus on client safety
- Nutritious and plentiful food
- Quality camping facilities
What they don’t offer are the frills and finery that would up the price beyond what it needs to be. The target market is the majority of Kilimanjaro climbers, with the assumption that you’d like to pay the smallest package fee possible while still having a safe and enjoyable climb. Further, we find that many don’t like the idea of making Kilimanjaro too comfy – many adventurers like the idea of toughing it to a degree. It makes for steelier stories back home.
The value Follow Alice offers
At Follow Alice, we use highly experienced mountain guides, quality cooks, and well-trained porters. In fact, our lead guide, Chris Sichalwe, has been up and down Kilimanjaro over 300 times and has been voted among the top 10 Kilimanjaro guides out there! He’s incredibly knowledgeable about the mountain and loves sharing his insights with clients.
At Follow Alice we pay all our staff liveable wages and strive to create a healthy work environment based on mutual respect. Our camping facilities include double occupancy sleeping tents, a mess tent, a toilet tent, camping chairs, and more. Our menu is specially designed to give you the nutrition you need to keep on climbing. And our mountain crew is trained in first aid and carry all the necessary equipment to monitor and take care of your health on the mountain.
If you’d like to know more about the tent accommodation we offer at Follow Alice or what the food is like, read our Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro FAQs.
Luxury Kilimanjaro tour operators
Luxury Kilimanjaro tour operators offer what value-for-money operators offer, but they also offer more. The target market for such operators is naturally small. The differences or extras offered by luxury Kilimanjaro tour operators include things like five-star accommodation on either side of the climb, a smarter drive to the start line, foam mattresses, the option of single-occupancy tents, fancier food, and comfort or gift packs containing items like lip ice and moisturiser. We encourage you to research the add-ons offered by luxury tour operators to ensure they justify the higher package price.
Solo traveller supplement
Solo traveller? Most Kilimanjaro packages are based on double occupancy. This means that if you are a solo traveller or would like your own accommodation (on and off the mountain) you will have to pay a single supplement fee. This can vary from operator to operator. At Follow Alice the single supplement fee is $200.
Choosing a Kilimanjaro route
Did you know that Kilimanjaro is a dormant volcano? It has three volcanic cones: Kibo, Mawenzi, and Shira. The mountain’s highest point of Kilimanjaro – Uhuru Peak – is on the crater rim of Kibo. Though different surveys have come up with slightly different figures, the sign on Uhuru Peak states the height of mountain as being 5,895 m above sea level.
It takes between five and nine days to climb Kilimanjaro. The exact day count depends on the route you choose, as some routes are longer than others. You can also choose to take one or two more days than the required minimum on each route to make the hike a little easier. More days also allow for better acclimatisation, and we cannot overstate the importance of proper acclimatisation to the success of your climb. We discuss the length and day counts of each of the Kilimanjaro routes with you in just a moment. But first, an important note on climb duration and expense …
Longer Kilimanjaro routes cost more
Obviously the fewer days spent on the mountain, the smaller the expense. This is because the longer you spend on the climb the higher the wages of the crew looking after your group. It also means more money towards food and other supplies. But when engaging on an expedition like climbing Kilimanjaro, we advise you not to try to cut costs everywhere. You should be thoughtful about matters that could affect your health and safety, your enjoyment of the trip (many of us will only get to do this epic feat once in our lives), and your chances of succeeding in summiting the mountain.
Not everyone who climbs Kilimanjaro reaches the top, usually because they develop acute mountain sickness (AMS) symptoms and must descend. AMS symptoms include nausea, dizziness and headaches. A key reason for developing AMS is not providing your body enough time to acclimatise. An extra day of ‘climb high, sleep low’ might be all that it takes for your climb to be successful, so we really do recommend thinking through your day count carefully before opting for the shorter hike just to save money.
The seven Kilimanjaro routes
There are currently seven trekking Kilimanjaro routes, all of which lead you to Uhuru Peak for a triumphant stance and victorious gaze over the terrain you’ve conquered. The profile and length of each route is shown in the table below. Note that success rate refers to how many climbers make it to the summit. The success rate for each route is linked to its acclimatisation profile – the longer the route, the more time one has to acclimatise to the higher altitude. Longer routes therefore have higher success rates.
|Lemosho||7-8 days||Arguably the most beautiful route up the mountain. It’s popular, but not as crowded as the Machame route.||High|
|Machame||6-8 days||A very scenic route and the most popular. It’s therefore the most crowded route.||High|
|Marangu||5-6 days||The original route and the only one with hut accommodation. Not very scenic. We don’t recommend this route.||Low|
|Rongai||6-7 days||The only route that approaches the top from the north. It’s a good option in the wet season as it receives the least rainfall. It’s the easiest route – though still not easy!||Medium|
|Shira||7-8 days||Takes you up the western slope of Kilimanjaro. You drive to a high starting point, so there’s a risk of altitude sickness right out of the gate.||High|
|Northern Circuit||9-10 days||The newest and longest Kilimanjaro route. It’s very scenic, and is one of the least crowded routes.||High|
|Umbwe||5-6 days||The shortest, steepest and hardest Kilimanjaro route. We don’t recommend this route.||Low|
Kilimanjaro National Park fees per day
The Kilimanjaro National Park Authority has made it compulsory for all who climb Kilimanjaro to spend a certain number of days over the endeavour. Those trekking via Rongai or Marangu have to take at least five days, while those trekking any of the other Kilimanjaro routes have to take at least six days. This rule was implemented to reduce the chances of climbers developing acute mountain sickness through inadequate acclimatisation. It also aims to reduce the number of emergency evacuations that must take place.
You might wonder how the park authorities can enforce such a rule, but you must remember that nobody can climb Kilimanjaro solo – to climb the mountain you must engage a tour operator.
Each day that you are on the mountain costs you. One of the big expenses of climbing Kilimanjaro is therefore the cumulative park fees, which are charged per person, per day. Specifically, every day that you’re on the mountain you must pay the following mandatory Kilimanjaro National Park fees (amounts given in US dollars).
Kilimanjaro National Park fees
|Item||Fee per day|
|Kilimanjaro Park entry permit||$60|
|Kilimanjaro Park camping permit||$60|
|Kilimanjaro Park rescue fee||$20|
* These fees are accurate as of December 2019
Every day you’re on the mountain you therefore must pay $100 simply for the privilege of being there.
Kilimanjaro routes offered by Follow Alice
If you choose to climb Kilimanjaro with Follow Alice, you can choose between climbs that take six to nine days. Anything shorter than six days is too risky from an acclimatisation point of view, and we want all our clients to have the satisfaction of reaching their goal and standing in glory on Uhuru Peak. We lead groups on climbs up the Lemosho, Machame and Northern Circuit routes. We’ve chosen these routes for their beauty and good acclimatisation profiles. The table below shows the different route options we offer, with prices in US dollars. If you decide to do the hike with Follow Alice, then you’ll be able to pinpoint the Kilimanjaro climb cost to quite specifically by knowing the exact package fee you’re in for.
|Northern Circuit||9 days||$3,185|
* Prices are accurate as of December 2019
Note that we also offer the exciting option of a New Year’s Eve Kilimanjaro climb! Why not celebrate the start of 2020 while standing on the roof of Africa?!
You won’t have to worry about spending money for the mountain. That said, on either side of your climb you may wish to have some cash for the odd purchase like a souvenir, drink or snack.
The currency in Tanzania is the Tanzania shilling (TSh). Hyperinflation means $1 or €1 buys you roughly 2,500 TSh. (For exact and up-to-date currency exchanges, you can visit XE.) Tanzanian shillings come in the following notes: TSh 500, TSh 1,000, TSh 5,000 and TSh 10,000. The following coins are also in use: TSh 20, TSh 50, TSh 100 and TSh 200.
Note that you can’t get Tanzanian shillings outside of the country. Most people bring in US dollars with them. These notes need to be post 2006 and un torn, otherwise they won’t be accepted anywhere in Tanzania. Alternatively, you can use a Visa or Mastercard to draw cash from an ATM. ATMS are readily available throughout the country.
Cost of basic items
A bottle of water costs about TSh 660, a small Coke TSh 1,140, a bottle of beer TSh 2,500, and a cappuccino TSh 4,330. As you can see, euros and dollars go a long way in Tanzania! So if you’re wanting to bring along cash for the odd small purchase like a bottled drink, you really don’t need much. And just so you know, bargaining in tourist areas for things like souvenirs is standard practice and expected.
Tipping on Kilimanjaro
Tipping your Kilimanjaro support staff is not compulsory, but it is expected. In fact, tipping on Kilimanjaro has a long history. We urge you to abide by this custom, as not only does it form an important component of staff income, but you’ll probably feel pretty awkward during the tipping ceremony if you’re the only climber not doing any giving. And yes, you read right – there’s a tipping ceremony at the end of every Kilimanjaro climb! It’s a lot of fun, involving song and dance, and is a great moment to collectively celebrate your adventure and show gratitude for the incredible support offered by your climbing crew.
Recommended amount to budget for tipping
We recommend budgeting around $250 to $300 for the entire Kilimanjaro mountain crew per climber. If it seems a large amount at first blush, remember that you’ll be dividing it between your whole mountain crew. Also, don’t underestimate how important these folks are to your climb – they work so hard, smile while doing it, encourage you when you’re feeling tired and demotivated, and much more. We’re pretty confident you’ll want to thank them with every penny you have on you.
Kilimanjaro mountain crews actually really like receiving US dollars and euros. So you don’t need to exchange money for Tanzanian shillings if you have either of those currencies on you. Just a couple of notes though: please ensure the notes are in good condition (they have no tears and aren’t crumpled beyond recognition), or the crew might have trouble exchanging them. Also, if bringing dollars, only notes produced after 2006 have value in Tanzania. If you’re coming from a country with another currency, then please get your hands on Tanzanian shillings for the tipping ceremony.
Work out your personal cost to climb Kilimanjaro
And finally it’s time for you to work out your own Kilimanjaro budget. Use the table below to make some calculations and arrive at your personalised Kilimanjaro budget. Once again, amounts are given in US dollars.
|Travel to Tanzania||The price of international flights from your country|
|Travel to Arusha region||Cost of an internal flight or the drive to Arusha if not flying to Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO)|
|Tanzania tourist visa||$50 (US citizens pay $100)|
|Travel insurance||Around $200|
|Universal adaptor||Price of a universal adaptor and voltage converter if you don’t yet have|
|Tanzanian SIM card||$2|
|Doctor visit, meds and vaccinations||Variable amount|
|Camping and trekking gear||No costs involved if using a tour operator like Follow Alice|
|Trekking clothing||Cost of whatever clothes you need to buy (you can rent a down winter jacket from Follow Alice for $40)|
|Kilimanjaro tour operator package fee||Price varies according to tour operator and route. Between about $2,000 and $3,000 for a value-for-money tour operator.|
|Single supplement (if you want your own accommodation)||Around $200|
|Kilimanjaro mountain crew tips||$250 to $300|
|Spending cash||Personal preference|
Et voilà – you’re done! That said, if you’d like to talk through the specifics of the cost to climb Kilimanjaro with someone, please feel free to give us a shout. We’d love to help you work things out to make your dream to climb Kilimanjaro a reality!