Journeys Magazine

Budget Travel: Climbing Kilimanjaro the Financially Savvy Way

Kilimanjaro Hiking

Climbing Kilimanjaro might be a dream of yours, but it’s wise to make sure the costs don’t turn into a nightmare. When you’re new to Tanzania, as for any place, you won’t necessarily know what’s an overpriced rip-off and what’s too cheap to be safe.

So, we’ve put together an idea of what to think about when you’re planning your trip. The cheapest deal might not be the best, but you don’t need to go for the uber-expensive option either. There are over 200 licensed tour operators offering Kilimanjaro treks. If you walk through Moshi town, almost every second person will say that they can take you up the mountain. The truth is, the number of reliable operators is limited.

Don’t choose your tour operator by price alone. What you should be looking for is quality service for a reasonable rate.

The costs: what a tour up Kilimanjaro normally includes

Every trip up Kilimanjaro will include the basic expenses of park fees, camping fees, rescue fees, staff wages, transportation and logistical costs and taxes. So what does this look like in real life? Let’s take a look at a tour – a six day climb via the Machame Route, which is a popular route.

The national park fee for Kilimanjaro is US$670 per person for a 6 day/5 night climb. Depending on your group size, each climber will be accompanied by four porters, one chef and one guide. Local wages for these crew members are about US$280. Additionally, food costs for yourself and the crew add up to about US$250. Also there may be transport costs of around US$100. Along with these major expenses there are quite a few other factors like rescue fees, equipment maintenance and taxes.

Overpriced or luxury? How to decide 

Luxury Kilimanjaro operators lure you in with promises of extraordinary climb success rates, greater safety standards and extras, but will charge prices that are not justifiable. No matter what luxury Kilimanjaro operator is promising, US$4000-5000– or even sometimes up to US$6000 for a standard itinerary- is just too much. Kilimanjaro is a tough climb and there’s no huge extra level of comfort that can be built in – unless they’re promising a piggyback up the mountain!

The extras might sound good, but they’re not practical. You’ll crave a hot shower after your trek but that doesn’t mean that the portable shower at -20°C offered by your operator will be much fun; or having bottled Kilimanjaro water (the most common bottled water in Tanzania) on your entire trek instead drinking from the clean, purified mountain water from small streams.

If you book through a tour operator outside Tanzania, the focus won’t be on your Kilimanjaro climb. They’ll offer it as part of an extensive list of tour offers, with three consequences:

Low cost or low standards? How to decide

We’re all looking for the best deal. We’re all on a budget. So how cheap can your trek be without being a scam?

At this side of the price range, every dollar saved comes at a price. On Kilimanjaro, safety should be your priority. How much is the dollar saved worth, when you’re on a high altitude trek and something goes wrong? Here are some issues worth thinking about:

Kilimanjaro is an investment, however much you pay. But if you book with a trusted, reliable and KIATO-registered company that looks after their staff as well as they look after you, you’re sure to have a memorable and safe adventure.

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