Which route should I climb? View the different options and determine the best route for you.
Which company should I climb with? Find out how to select the right operator for your budget.

Choosing a Kilimanjaro Operator

There are many different ways to book your Kilimanjaro climb, and some of them are far better than others. Here are a few tips to help you avoid some of the obvious pitfalls of booking a Kilimanjaro climb of a lifetime. This is going to be an expensive trip no matter how you do it and not everyone who begins the Kilimanjaro climb actually makes it to the summit. If you want to make sure you are getting a good deal with an experienced operator then there are a few things to consider before deciding to actually make the booking.

Book After Arriving in Tanzania

The vast majority of people will book their Kilimanjaro climb long before they get on a plane to Tanzania. You can book once you arrive but there are many risks involved.

The only advantage of booking your climb on arrival in Tanzania is cost saving. There are literally hundreds of small operators offering extreme budget trips. Some are way below cost and it takes a lot of time, confidence dealing with confusing names and faces and good luck. You will definitely save a few dollars, perhaps even a few hundred dollars.

The main disadvantage of booking your climb on arrival is that you have absolutely no idea who you are talking to or dealing with. Tanzania is one of the most corrupt countries in the world and you can take nothing at face value. Local Tanzanian outfitters have a terrible reputation for sharp practice, cost cutting scams and the blatant exploitation of their guiding and support staff. Out of some 300 listed outfitters in and around the main towns of Moshi and Arusha, there are perhaps twenty that can be considered legitimate. The remainder are fringe outfitters that use low grade guiding staff and offer extremely poor services.

Some key things to look for:

  • Spend a few days around Moshi talking to some different guides to see who you feel comfortable with and compare prices.
  • Take advice from other travellers and climbers.
  • Check out the equipment they use. Are the tents in good condition?
  • Make sure your cheap climb will have the proper size crew. It’s possible to save a bit of money by hiring a smaller crew, but you might regret this on the summit day when one or two people succumb to AMS and the whole group has to descend because of too few guides.

Make sure when you sign in that you have signed in for the number of days you have paid for. It is a common scam to sell an eight day trip, but pay the national parks for six days, and then to push as many clients as possible to succumb to AMS within the six days to save on all the parks fees you have paid for your guides, porters and yourself.

Be certain to use a company with an actual building and address. There are hundred of vendors and scalpers selling climbs as middlemen. These independent salespeople are known as flycatchers because they make money by taking a commission by introducing naïve tourists to the suspect companies. You don’t need this service and the commission will be added to your final price.

Booking Before Arriving in Tanzania

There are many ways to book your Kilimanjaro climb before leaving home, and again, there are some things to be very careful about. If you think you know exactly what you want already there are some ways to book your climb that might even save you a few dollars in the process, but for a trip like this you might regret.

Some key things to look for:

  • Book from someone who’s actually climbed Kilimanjaro themselves. Some travel agents and even sporting goods chains can show you a brochure and book your climb, but this isn’t like booking a generic trip to Hawaii or some other mass destination. Mountaineering is a serious undertaking and someone with their own experience will know all the right questions to ask you before locking in your trip.
  • Book from someone who can help you prepare for your climb after the trip is set. The information on this site just scratches the surface of the whole experience. You are going to have questions about your preparation and it’s important to actually have someone to ask.
  • Book from someone who knows the options involved. There are many ways of actually putting together a package, so someone who knows the area can recommend a safari or other activities you might be interested in after flying halfway round the world.
  • Don’t book based on price. What one website says is a price compared to another website is not the same thing. You need to think about guide to client ratio, number of porters, type of equipment, quality of the cooking, past experience. All of these can vary wildly between each company. If you want a great trip, you are unlikely to get it if you are determined to pay under US$1500. Remember that if you pay below cost your outfitter will have to find some way to cut costs, and usually this is at your or his porters expense, probably both.

Choosing a Kilimanjaro Operator

Organizers of Kilimanjaro climbs are known as operators or outfitters. Their function is retain experienced guiding and support crews and to arrange and conduct the expedition, supplying all kit, food and other climb logistics. They will also usually arrange for your transfers to and from Kilimanjaro International Airport, basic hotel accommodation before and after the climb itself, and a general flow of information and advice before, during and after the sales/climb process. The best packages are all-inclusive package except for drinks, tips and a few occasional meals at the hotel.

Some extra costs you need to count on include tips for the guides, cooks and porters (handled differently by the different guide groups, and much higher tips for any US or European guides in the group ).  Warm clothing and boots or shoes suitable for hikes like Kili to donate to the porters and guides at the end of the trip. T-shirts are ok, too, for the lower slopes, but they mostly want warm clothing.

In 1991, the park authorities made it compulsory for all trekkers to arrange their walk through a licensed agency. Furthermore, they insist that all trekkers must be accompanied throughout their walk by a guide supplied by the agency. Even after these laws were introduced, for a while it was still feasible to sneak in without paying, and many were the stories of trekkers who managed to climb Kilimanjaro independently, tales that were often embellished with episodes of encounters with wild animals and even wilder park rangers.

Fortunately, the authorities have tightened up security and clamped down on non-payees, so these tedious tales are now few in number. Don’t try to climb Kilimanjaro without a guide or without paying the proper fees. It’s very unlikely you’ll succeed and all you’re doing is freeloading – indeed, stealing isn’t too strong a word – from one of the poorest countries in the world. Yes, climbing Kilimanjaro is expensive. But the costs of maintaining a mountain that big are high. Besides, whatever price you pay, trust us, it’s worth it.

Private or Group Climb?

So you have decided to climb Kilimanjaro, and have thus taken the first step on the path that leads from the comfort and safety of your favourite armchair to the untamed glory of the Roof of Africa. The second step on this path is to consider with whom you wish to go.

There are plenty of advantages in going with a friend. There’s the companionship for a start. It’s also cheaper, because you’ll probably be sharing rooms, which always cuts the cost, and if you are planning on booking your climb through an agency in Tanzania your bargaining position is so much stronger if there are two of you. Having a companion also cuts the workload, enabling, for example, one to run off and find a room while the other looks after the luggage. It also saves your being paired with someone you don’t know when you book with an agency; someone who may snore or blow off more violently than your friend ever would. And, finally, if you do both make it to the top, it’s good to know that there will be somebody to testify to your achievements upon your return.

Those without friends willing to climb a mountain with them should not worry. For one thing, you’ll never truly be on your own, simply because the park authorities forbid you from climbing without a guide and you’ll need at least one other crew member to act as porter. Furthermore, planning to go on your own means you can arrange the trek that you want; you choose the trail to follow, the time to go and for how long; the pace of the walk, the number of rest-stops, when to go to bed – these are all your decisions, and yours alone. You are the boss; you have nobody else’s feelings to consider but your own.

If you want to join up with others, for companionship or simply to make the trek a little cheaper, that’s not a problem: you can book your trek in your home country with a tour operator (they nearly always insist on a minimum number of participants before the trek goes ahead); or you can book in Tanzania and ask to be put with other trekkers (which will often happen anyway, unless you specifically say otherwise). And even if you are walking alone, you can always meet other trekkers at the campsite in the evening if you so desire.

Trekking by yourself is fun, and not the lonely experience many imagine; unless, of course, you enjoy the bliss of solitude and want to be alone. That’s the beauty of walking solo: everything is up to you.