Climbing Kilimanjaro cost vary considerably, from cheap, budget operators to large Western travel agents selling outsourced climbs at an inflated price. There are various, unavoidable fixed costs to any tour operator and if a climb seems too cheap, you’ve got to ask yourself why. Where are they making ‘savings’ (read: compromises) and what impact might this have on your safety and comfort on the mountain?
What about your crew? Staff expenses are the main way that cheap operators cut costs, by not paying a proper wage, and providing little (or no) equipment and gear. This won’t make for a happy team and gives rise to welfare issues.
All tour operators on Kilimanjaro need to be licensed and registered by KINAPA, the National Parks Authority. However, travel agents worldwide can sell treks up Kilimanjaro that they outsource to local operators.
You want to find a balance between “too cheap to be safe” and “overpriced”.
Every year, people die on Kilimanjaro, many of these are porters, which you won’t find reported in the Western press.
We take our responsibility to our guides and porters very seriously. There are countless reports of porters not being paid a living wage, of them having little to no cold-weather gear, inadequate food, and sleeping in crowded, uncomfortable conditions. The Kilimanjaro Porter’s Assistance Project was set up to counteract this unethical treatment and we aim to exceed their guidelines.
Having a high guide-to-client and porter-to-client ratio means that porters are not overloaded, carrying more weight than they should be, in an attempt to keep prices low.
Sleeping conditions, adequate gear, and food are just as important for porters. Our guides perform the same health checks for the porters every day, to ensure no one is suffering from altitude sickness or other complaints.
When you see how hard your porters work, you’ll be thankful that you climbed with a company that makes it our mission to ensure staff welfare.
Climbing Kilimanjaro is tough. And it can be dangerous. For your safety and comfort, at the very least, you’ll want:
For any trek up Kilimanjaro, there are various fixed costs to any operator:
Kilimanjaro National Park imposes fees on both visitors and crew. These can be broken down into the following:
The cost to an operator can easily be around $160-200 per climber, per night, in Park Fees alone. So if it’s too cheap, where are they making savings?
Staff wages are a considerable cost and making savings here directly takes money out of the pockets of the lowest-paid people on the mountain. Making sure the porters and guides have proper gear and training is a significant cost to any reputable operator.
Every year we hear stories of unscrupulous operators relying on the high unemployment rate in Tanzania to staff their climbs with desperate porters who agree to work for no salary, in the hope of a tip at the end.
While the cost of food in Tanzania is not high, it still has to be carried up the mountain, stored in safe and sanitary conditions and prepared by well-trained mountain chefs. On the longer routes, we may need to resupply with fresh produce a few days into the trek.
We don’t compromise on food quality to save money. We understand different dietary requirements and how to fulfill them.
Gear and equipment on the mountain takes a battering. You want to be sure that your operator maintains all gear to a high standard, replacing it frequently. When you choose a climb, you want to be sure you’re getting:
You’ll also want to know that your crew are have proper trekking gear and sleeping conditions.
We provide one professional, trained mountain guide for every two climbers. This ratio allows for safe monitoring of all our climbers and good management in and around camp. We’ve seen groups of 8 climbers with one guide, which might save money but possibly at the higher cost of safety.
When you see the amount of equipment that needs to be carried up the mountain, from the tents to the kitchen equipment, toilet facilities and food you’ll realize why we need a very large team of porters.
There are strict weight limits imposed by the National Parks Authority on how much an individual porter is allowed to carry. This is quite often ignored, in an attempt to cut costs, and results in porters being overloaded. As part of our commitment to porter welfare, we strictly limit the loads they carry.
Usually, there are around 3-4 porters per climber. This ratio varies depending on the route and the length of the climb.
Experience is important, but so is training. Your guide needs to know how to conduct daily health checks, recognize the early signs of altitude sickness, and know how to use everything in their medical kits.
Top-quality guides know their worth and don’t come cheap. An attempt to save money by employing untrained guides can be catastrophic in the event of an emergency.
Essential, well-maintained safety equipment, and proper processes in place in the case of an emergency:
Teamwork is very important, particularly in the case of an emergency. Building a team of porters and guides who all work well together ensures the efficient running of the camp, and in the event of an emergency, a well-rehearsed evacuation procedure.
The quality of equipment and food has a big impact on your comfort, and enjoyment of your climb. If you can’t sleep because you’ve got an old tent that leaks and the food you’ve eaten is sub-standard and unappetizing, this will compromise your chances of summit success.
Days on the trail can be tough, and part of your recovery is being able to relax and be comfortable in camp. Camping needn’t be a hardship, but it starts by investing in the right equipment and gear.
With the rise in tourism on Kilimanjaro, there’s also the environmental impact. All rubbish has to be carried off the mountain, and this comes at a cost. Part of a well-run operation is educating the crew about conservation and having rigorous policies about reducing waste and “leave no trace” principles.
The increase in popularity of climbing Kilimanjaro has brought opportunities for employment to the area, but with this has led to some unscrupulous employment practices. A happy crew equals a happy climber.
The Kilimanjaro route you choose will also affect how much your climb costs. Longer routes, with more days on the mountain, increase your chances of summit success by having a better acclimatization protocol. Some people try to save on the cost by opting for the shortest route possible.
If your goal is to reach the summit, then you need to give your body a chance to adapt to the altitude and acclimatize properly. It’s not much good if you’ve booked a five-day climb and have to turn back on day 3 with altitude sickness.
For this reason, we do not offer the five-day Marangu route, as for most hikers it gives insufficient time for acclimatization and as a result, has a much lower summit success rate.
We recommend 6 days as a minimum, but 7-8 days on the mountain gives you the best acclimatization protocol and offers the highest chance of a safe and successful summit.
In addition to the cost of your climb, there are other costs involved in climbing Kilimanjaro, that you’ll need to budget for:
See the Kilimanjaro gear list for everything you’ll need to bring with you. Chances are, you’ve got some items in your closet already, but if you’ve never been hiking before you’ll be starting from the beginning.
Keeping an eye on REI, Moosejaw, Backcountry and Amazon for sales, buying last year’s kit from Steep & Cheap are some ways to save money. Renting kit that you’re unlikely to use again is a good idea for expensive items such as sleeping bags, or down jackets.
Depending on what you’ve got already and how good you are at hunting down bargains, you’ll probably need to budget $500-800 for good quality trekking gear.
How you get to Kilimanjaro is another expense. We recommend you book well in advance to secure your airline tickets, and check your visa requirements so there are no last-minute surprises. Visas for most overseas visitors are not free, so you’ll either need to arrange one in advance or pay at the airport (if possible).
Tanzania requires all travelers to have a yellow fever certificate if arriving from a country at risk of the disease. You’ll need to make an appointment at your local travel clinic, or with your physician to determine what vaccinations you’ll need.
You might also need malaria prophylaxis, and the recommended brand, Malarone, is often surprisingly expensive.
You’ll need adequate travel insurance to cover you for all eventualities including cancellation, lost luggage, and most importantly medical evacuation and treatment in the event of an emergency on the mountain.
Kilimanjaro helicopter rescue service operates out of Moshi to provide emergency evacuation in the case of injury on the mountain, altitude sickness or other illness. Your travel insurance needs to cover you for trekking to 6,000 meters and emergency evacuation.
Some people question why you need to leave tips for your crew if you’ve already paid for your climb. Once you see how hard your team works, how they’re up before dawn to cook and serve breakfast. How they break camp after you leave, then do it all over again in the afternoon, and go to bed much later than you, you’ll be happy to show your appreciation.
We recommend you tip at the end of your climb, not during, and any gifts of old clothes or boots are always welcome.
Our climbs include two night’s accommodation before you set off and one night at the end. If you want to arrive earlier to get used to the time difference, then this will be an additional cost. You’ll need to budget for any alcohol purchases, souvenirs, meals out and incidentals while you’re traveling.
Ultimately, who you climb with is your decision, we hope we’ve given you enough information to make an informed choice and an understanding of the costs involved. Why “cheap” often comes at a very high price in terms of your safety (and the safety of your crew). We’ve worked hard to cost our Kilimanjaro climbs competitively without compromising on safety and comfort for all involved. And we recognize that without the dedication of our crew, we wouldn’t be on the mountain at all.
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