All You Need To Know About Kilimanjaro (5,895m) On A Budget
Kilimanjaro(5,895m) is a dormant volcano located in the heart of Tanzania that can boost two mighty titles, the highest mountain in Africa as well as the highest free-standing mountain in the world. Everest might be the ‘holy grail’ of all mountains, but Kilimanjaro is the ‘holy grail’ of trekking mountains.
Here is a post on all the details you need to know on Kilimanjaro as well as the factors and decisions you need to make for a trip to Kilimanjaro.
If you wish to know more in detail about what the trek is like, check out my Lemosho 7 day trek!
If you are looking for someone to arrange your Kilimanjaro trek, I can also help to arrange through my company Little Monsters Travel. Please do contact me via email: [email protected] / Website/ Whatsapp +65 88531035/ +65 97511216
- The distinct exotic allure of Kilimanjaro being situated in Africa. I mean, just roll that name off your tongue, doesn’t it inspire you already?
- The altitude of Kilimanjaro (5,895m)
- Kilimanjaro (5,895m) is also one of the easiest high altitude peaks which can be completed by beginners
- It requires little to no prior hiking experience or any technical climbing expertise
- Only perseverance, fitness and a prayer that one would have no AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) are needed to get you up there.
Mount Kilimanjaro seems like a dream for recreational trekkers or total beginners who wish to reach the summit and brag about getting to a high altitude summit.
Who Should Do It
The terrain and trail aren’t very difficult for Kilimanjaro. In fact, to me, it had one of the easiest trails.
Although it seems a no-brainer for beginners to attempt Kilimanjaro, it is still a high altitude trek with risks and dangers and most agencies and information online do not highlight that. In fact, there are mortalities on Kilimanjaro which are never published and many more who are injured on the mountain.
Most of the success rates published by the agencies are usually nonsense. How would the agencies know how many percents of people they brought reached the summit? Do they keep statistics? Do they prove it to you? I doubt it.
Despite all that, Kilimanjaro is still an extremely accessible trek, even for absolute beginners.
So let me categorise the different kinds of people who should do it.
- People with money: Kilimanjaro is an expensive trek
- Those okay without showering for at least 5 days
- Beginners who wish to experience a high altitude trek
- Beginners who wish to experience a multi-day trek
- Trekkers who wish for a pretty straightforward summit
How Fit Do You Have To Be
Fitness is an extremely tricky issue concerning mountaineering. Good cardio fitness usually means being able to complete the trek or summit. Good fitness means greater comfort and enjoyment of the trek. It is just one of the factors.
Similarly, for Kilimanjaro, they are dominated by many backpackers who lacks fitness. There are many volunteers, first-timers with no experience who succeeds. This is because Kilimanjaro in terms of terrain difficulty is manageable for most beginners.
As Kilimanjaro is of a high altitude and requires many days, one would need mountain endurance.
It can be done as long as you have willpower and endurance. In terms of fitness, being able to walk 10 hours a day would be ideal. If you are an overweight couch potato who hasn’t climbed any stairs or ran for years, please save your heart, body and the porters some trouble and do not attempt Kilimanjaro.
If you have average fitness, training up for Kilimanjaro would make it a better experience.
When Is The Best Time for Kilimanjaro
The best time simply put is the dry season. This is in general from June – January. June to October is the preferred dry season usually, but it is also the most crowded.
There is a period of time which is a no-go for Kilimanjaro. That is during the rainy season of March-May. Almost nobody goes during that period and it will be foolish to attempt it. Imagine having 7 days of thunderstorms, it ain’t fun.
Nov-Dec has higher rainfall supposedly. However, do note that with climate change, the seasons are shifting slightly. When I went in 2018, it didn’t rain for the whole month of Dec 2017 which was an anomaly.
There are reports that Kilimanjaro will not be snow-capped anymore sometime soon. I guarantee that for now, there is still quite a bit of snow in the summit, even during the dry seasons.
To aid in your preparation for Kilimanjaro, I felt that it was important to understand background information and factors which would facilitate decision making.
People often get confused between Moshi and Arusha. For Kilimanjaro, the base town is Moshi. Therefore, always start from Moshi or approach agencies in Moshi for you to have a higher chance of getting a good price.
Any travel agency in Arusha would most likely outsource to a Moshi agency. Arusha is a bigger town and is the base for the Safaris. Similarly, Moshi companies outsource to Arusha companies for Safaris.
Therefore, a good rule of thumb is to always find Moshi agencies. Why? Although the bigger agencies might be in Arusha, Kilimanjaro takes up a higher number of days as compared to Safaris in general so cost wise it makes sense to find Moshi agencies.
There is an exception for this when you find an Arusha company who has their own office in Moshi or an Arusha company big enough. This is often the case because I think there are more people who visit the Safaris than do Kilimanjaro.
The Power of Kilimanjaro National Park
The Kilimanjaro National Park is almost like an omnipotent being which dictates the rules for the Kilimanjaro Trek. They have a huge amount of control and power. One of the main reasons for the extremely high cost of Kilimanjaro trek is the park fees dictated by them. This will be explained later in the cost calculation.
- They dictate the National Park fees like entrance fees, camping fees, hut fees, crew fees, rescue fees etc
- They determine the type of routes. Although Kilimanjaro is such a big mountain, there are only 7 official routes. What this means is that there are only 7 ways to enter the national park.
- They are responsible for all the campsites and maintenance of them
- Registration has to be done in every campsite
- They dictate the routes up and down. There are official exit points. For example, Mweka Gate is an exit point, but one cannot enter from there. Similarly, Londrossi Gate is an entry point, but one cannot exit from there.
- They mandate the minimum number of crew and set up for the trek.
Interestingly, you cannot simply exist in the same way you enter. There are official exit points. Only Marangu route has the same ascent and descent. It seemed silly to me because I thought I could exit at a higher point, or via Shira, but no I had to walk down a few more hours to the gate. I guess it makes sense for crowd control as you do not want people who are descending to mix with people who are ascending.
This is the best map of Kilimanjaro which I could find online so it is quite clear and a good reference point.
To understand the routes, one would have to first know where you can enter (starting point) and exit(ending point) Kilimanjaro. There are only 5 entry gates into Kilimanjaro and only 2 ways you can exit the mountain.
- Londrossi Gate
- Rongai Gate
- Machame Gate
- Marangu Gate
- Umbwe Gate
- Mweka Gate
- Marangu Gate
How to Decide on the Routes
Camping vs Hut
For Kilimanjaro, there is a choice of either going camping or staying in huts, but never a mix of it.
There are different costs associated with camping (50 USD a day) and huts (60 USD a day). Camping might costs less in terms of National Park Fees, but logistically it requires more porters.
It costs more to stay in the huts but requires fewer porters.
Therefore, if you detest camping and wish to stay in the huts, you can eliminate all other choices and go straight for Marangu Route (the blue route in the east) as it is the only trek with huts.
The Number of Days
Each route has a typical minimum number of days needed. The lesser the number of days, the cheaper it is in general. You will spend less on tips too.
Most of the time, the decision for the number of days hinges on the number of days needed for acclimatisation.
A surface browse of the itinerary would lead you to conclude that a longer number of days generally point towards more favourable acclimatisation but that is not necessarily true. You are only acclimatising to the routine of mountain trekking which does help, but not necessarily to higher altitude or preparation for the summit.
For most routes, it wouldn’t matter as the acclimatisation days are all done below 4,000m.
I might be wrong but there are in fact no continuous campsites or stays above 4,000m. I am wrong, the Rongai route does provide that with staying at Mawnzi Camp (4,300m) before Kibo Camp (4,700m).
The highest point before the summit (5,985m) is Barafu Camp (4,600m) or Kibo Hut (4,700m) which are the last camps of different routes. Unless you are requesting to stay there for a few days which no one does, there is basically no acclimatisation to help with the summit of almost 6,00m. However, it does help in terms of general mountaineering acclimatisation, especially for below 4,000m.
Therefore, if you are more experienced and know that you have no issues with AMS before 4,000m, extra days on the mountain do not help.
The Popularity of the Route
If there are more people taking the route, it becomes more competitive. A basic case of demand and supply. So in general, the lesser used routes like Rongai etc are more expensive than the more popular ones. A rule of thumb from the cheapest to the most expensive is: Marangu – Machame – Shira – Lemosho. Rongai lies around Shira and Lemosho pricing. The rest are usually more expensive than Lemosho and also less popular.
Some routes are more difficult than others. I did Lemosho variation which is very similar to Shira and the terrain was easy. I believe most of Kilimanjaro terrain isn’t difficult, with the exception of circuits which take you to steeper terrains. This consideration is only whether you wish to challenge yourself by going to Arrow Glacier etc.
Type of Routes
Here is a brief summary of all the routes for a general idea.
Marangu ‘Coca Cola‘ Route
Duration: 5-6 days
The Marangu Route is the most classic trek on Kilimanjaro. It is the oldest and most well-established trek and commonly known as the “Coca-Cola” route due to it being the easiest and supposed possibility of getting Coca-Cola along the way. It is the only route which offers sleeping huts. Additionally, the ascent and descent are done on the same path.
The number of days needed for Marangu is usually around 5 days, it does not offer much for acclimatization but it could be the cheapest route.
Machame ‘Whiskey’ Route
Duration: 6-7 Days
Machame is the most popular route now on Kilimanjaro and is known as the “Whiskey” route. I am not sure why popular routes have a name. I think maybe the route is like whisky due to the number of people which ascend and descend, like how whisky goes down your throat?
This is basically the defacto choice if you want to camp and don’t want to think.
Duration: 6-8 days
The Lemosho route is one of the newer routes on Mount Kilimanjaro and considered one of the most beautiful routes on Kilimanjaro with panoramic views on various sides of the mountain. It supposedly has a great balance low traffic, scenic views and high summit success rates due to the longer days.
The route begins in the west and rather than simply intersecting Shira Plateau (like Machame). Once you hit Shira Camp, the route is the same as the Machame Route.
Honestly, after doing Lemosho, you are essentially paying for the first 2 days of difference which is not that significant or drastic a view.
I kept reading so much online “hype” of Lemosho but I feel it is like a “Manaslu”, a concerted sales pitch done by the agencies to push this trail due to the other routes being too competitive and crowded. You can check out my Lemosho Trip.
The start point for Lemosho can be quite confusing and this is often mixed with Shira.
Duration: 6-8 days
The Shira route is nearly identical to the Lemosho route. In fact, Shira was the original route and Lemosho is the improved variation. The Shira route bypasses the forest trek of Lemosho Route by using a vehicle to transport climbers to Shira Gate, located near the Shira Ridge.
This part is extremely confusing and intertwined with Lemosho. This is because often on the itineraries the starting point for Lemosho is Londrossi Gate which leads you to Morum Barrier Gate(1 version of Shira Route).
For Lemosho, there is a Lemosho Gate which you use to get to Mti Mkubwa Camp to do the forest trek to Shira Camp 1.
Ultimately, both routes are extremely similar and I have a feeling the agencies got the names mixed up.
What matters, in the end, is whether you wish to take the vehicle to 3,000m on the first day and skip the forest trek.
Duration: 6-7 days
The Rongai route is the only route that approaches Kilimanjaro from the north, close to the Kenyan border. The route is more remote, apparently more gradual and slightly less scenic. Having said that, the scenery in Kilimanjaro can get really stale after awhile.
Having seen the route, I believe it is the best for acclimatisation due to staying above 4,000m camps for nights.
Duration: 8-10 days
This is not really a route but more of a combination of various routes. The trek follows the Lemosho trail in the beginning before traversing the mountain instead of heading straight to the peak and joining up with the other routes.
Despite all the articles online praising it, I have my doubts about it. To me, it is for people who wish to be different, really like spending a lot of days on the mountain and Kilimanjaro especially. Honestly, you could spend these number of days in Nepal and there might be more valuable.
Duration: 6-7 days
The Umbwe route is a short, steep and one of the most direct router. It is considered to be very difficult and is the most challenging way up Mount Kilimanjaro. Due to the quick ascent, Umbwe does not provide the necessary stages for altitude acclimatization.
The Umbwe route should only be attempted by those who are very strong hikers and are confident in their ability to acclimatize. This is considered one of the more challenging routes.
Can You DIY It
No, you can’t DIY it unless you sneak in yourself. As the mountain is a huge area, I suspect it is highly possible to sneak in and do it yourself. However, please do not try to do so as it causes inconvenience to others, especially if you get injured.
This applies to get your own guide and porters. The registration at the National Park requires an agency with a proper license. Even if you were to find your own guides/porters, they would need to get help from an agency too for the registration process.
Conclusion: Don’t DIY and get a proper travel agent
What Happens If You Are Injured
There are helicopter evacuations only if you are seriously injured. For most cases of broken bones, AMS etc, you would either have to make your way down or get stretchered down on this.
Yes, you are gonna be tied on this like some BDSM gone wrong and brought all the way down, the same way you would have hiked down. It is going to be a painful and bumpy ride that neglects how many broken bones you have. So don’t be silly, always know your own body and don’t get injured.
I’ve heard that there are finally helicopter evacuations from the base camp!
How to budget for Kilimanjaro
This section is for those who wish to understand how much everything costs for trekking in Kilimanjaro. It involves some maths and calculations.
If you are don’t really care about the details, skip to the bottom to see the summary.
Budgeting for Kilimanjaro is made up of 3 main aspects
- Kilimanjaro National Park Fees
- Kilimanjaro Crew Fees
- Kilimanjaro Agency Fees
National Park Fees
Tip: You can actually pay the fees directly to the national park at the start yourself, so it is pretty transparent. Once you understand this, it becomes quite clear how much more you would need to pay
What Are the Various Components of the Park Fees?
This is fees charged by the park department for the upkeep of the national park. The fees are USD 70 per trekker per day. This fee is charged for the number of days you intend to spend inside the park. Remember, you pay upfront for the number of days you intend to stay in the park regardless of route.
For example, on a 7 days route, the conservation fees would be USD 490 (USD 70 x 7 days).
On all routes except Marangu, you would be camping at the public campsites. These campsites, as well as common areas such as toilets, are maintained by the park department. The camping fees are USD 50 per trekker per night.
For example, on a 7 days Machame route, you would need to pay an additional USD 300 (USD 50 X 6 nights).
This is only applicable to the Marangu route where you would be sleeping in huts along the route instead of camping. Some of the huts are Mandara, Horombo and Kibo. The hut fees is USD 60 per trekker per night.
For example, on a 6 days Marangu route, hut fees would be USD 300 (USD 60 x 5 nights).
Rescue fees are charged by the park department to provide rescues on the mountain. It is just 20 USD per trekker per trip.
Crater camping Fees
In the rare case you wish to camp on the crater (no idea why), the cost would be USD 100 per trekker per night.
Guide and Porter Entrance Fees
In addition to paying park fees for yourself, you are also responsible for paying the park entrance fees for your crew, for your guides, cooks and porters. The park entrance fees is USD 2 per trip per person.
Motor Vehicle Fees
There is a charge for basically every vehicle entering the national park. It is 40 USD per vehicle. Most of the time, for 4 people you will fit into 1 vehicle with the other porters and guides so that they will save on this cost.
The Value Added Tax (VAT) is charged by the government of Tanzania. The government started charging VAT on Kilimanjaro treks from July 2016. Currently, it is set at 18%.
Discounts Available from the Park Department
There are discounts for children under the age of 16 years, residents and expats of Tanzania and East African citizens.
Children aged between the age of 5 and 15 years
Kilimanjaro is apparently very kid-friendly
Children aged between the age of 5 and 15 years get a discount on conservation fees as well as camping fees but the rest are still applicable.
- Conversation fees are reduced from USD 70 per day to USD 20 per day
- Camping fees are reduced from USD 50 per day to USD 10 per day
Children below the age of 5 years
Park department charges no conservation fees or camping fees for children below the age of 5 years, but the rest are still applicable.
- No Conversation fees
- No Camping fees
Expatriates/Residents living in Tanzania
If you are an expat or a resident living and working in Tanzania, the park department discounts your conversation fees. There are no discounts on camping fees, hut fees or rescue fees.
- Conversation fees are reduced from USD 70 per day to USD 35 per day
- No change in camping fees. Camping fees are still USD 50 per day
- No change in hut fees. Hut fees are still USD 60 per day
- No change in rescue fees. Rescue fees are still USD 20 per trip
East African Citizens
You can get discounts if you are a national of Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda & South Sudan. Please note that this is applicable to the citizens of these countries and not residents. If you are a national of one of these countries, you must produce your passport at the entry gate.
Calculating Park Fees
Example: 7 Days Machame Route
This is a camping route and involves 6 nights of camping. For minor aspects like crew fees and vehicle motor fees, the assumption is 70 USD (15 crew + 1 vehicle), with 4 pax being an average so it’ll be rounded up to 20 USD.
- Conservation fees = USD 70 x 7 days = USD 490 per trekker
- Camping fees = USD 50 x 6 nights = USD 300 per trekker
- Rescue fees = USD 20
- Crew Fees + Vehicle Fees = USD 20
- Total (exclusive of taxes) = USD 490 + USD 300 + USD 20 + USD 20 = USD 830
- VAT = 18% of USD 827.5 = USD 149.4
- Total (inclusive of taxes) = USD 830 + 149.40 = USD 979.4
Example: Marangu 5 days
For Marangu, it is huts for 4 nights.
- Conservation fees = USD 70 x 5 days = USD 350 per trekker
- Camping fees = USD 60 x 4 nights = USD 240 per trekker
- Rescue fees = USD 20
- Crew Fees + Vehicle Fees = USD 20
- Total (exclusive of taxes) = USD 350 + USD 240 + USD 20 + USD 20= USD 630
- VAT = 18% of USD 630 = USD 113.4
- Total (inclusive of taxes) = USD 630 + 113.4 = 743.4
Park fees per pax for the various routes (Important)
To help you, here is a list of some of the park fees for the more common routes. These are the fees the National Park charges.
- Machame 6 days = USD 837.80 per trekker
- Machame 7 days = USD 979.40 per trekker
- Marangu 5 days = USD 743.4 per trekker
- Marangu 6 days = USD 896.8 per trekker
- Lemosho 7 days = USD 979.40 per trekker
- Lemosho 8 days = USD 1021 per trekker
- Rongai 6 days = USD 837.80 per trekker
- Rongai 7 days = USD 979.40 per trekker
- Umbwe 6 days = USD 837.80 per trekker
- Umbwe 7 days = USD 979.40 per trekker
So now, you should have a significant idea of how much the national park collects for any trip. This forms a big part of the cost, but not everything.
Salaries of the crew
The salaries of the crew differ for each company. Some companies have a reputation for providing good payment and wages to their crew. This next section is quite hypothetical. As the National Park Fees are so high, doing some calculation would easily give you a sense of how much each type of agency has the ability to pay their crew based on the salaries.
Number of crew members
The average ratio of trekkers to support is 1 to around 4 support crew. There is a fixed system for the minimum number of guides and assistant guides but I don’t know the exact numbers. Porters is an extremely tricky thing because they can only carry up to a certain weight ( 15-20kg) and some of them are employed just to make the National Park happy and give more jobs to the people. So in summary, here is a good estimate.
- 3 porters to 1 trekker
- Minimum 1 guide, if group size is 3 or more, add an assistant guide.
- Minimum 1 cook
- For every 8 trekkers, add another assistant guide
Scenario 1: High Salaries
These are the estimated salaries of the guide, cook, assistant guide and porters per day on a high side (just to give you an idea)
1 X Guide: 50 USD
1 X Assistant Guide: 30 USD
1 X Cook: 25 USD
12 X Porters: 10 X 12 = 120 USD
Total salary per day: 225 USD
7 days salary = 1575 USD
Divided by number of pax (4) = ~400 USD
Machame Route 7 Days (4 pax) = 979.40+400 = 1379.40 USD.
This is the cost of excluding any profits from the agencies. This would mean that unless your agency charges more than 1,400 USD for Machame Route, they would have no chance for profit, or no chance to provide such salaries to the crew.
Scenario 2: Low salaries
This time, I will approach it from the other end of the spectrum.
1 X Guide: 25 USD
1 X Assistant Guide: 15 USD
1 X Cook: 10 USD
12 X Porters: 5 USD X 12 = 60 USD
Total: 110 USD
7 days: 770 USD
Divided by number of pax = ~200 USD
Machame Route 7 Days (4 pax) = 979.40+200 = 1179.40 USD
Therefore, it will almost be impossible for a 7 days Machame Route, or any camping route essentially of 7 days to go below 1,200 USD.
Kilimanjaro Agency Fees
My estimate is that an agency would wish to earn around 200+ USD per pax for it to be worth their time. Of course, if there are a lot more people, they wouldn’t mind earning less because the overall absolute value is still higher.
If you do the calculations on top of doing a market check, you’ll realize what is the different tiers of agencies.
What is a good price range?
The price range, of course, depends on the route. So the lower end of the prices reflect a good estimate of the cheaper routes, and the higher end reflects the more expensive routes.
Budget agencies: 1,200 USD – 1700 USD
Mid-Tier Agencies: 1,700 USD – 2,500 USD
Luxury Agencies: Above 2,500 USD
This a good visual pricing table was done up.
Can you do it below 1,000 USD?
Initially, my aim was to do Kilimanjaro within 1,000 USD. After analyzing it, it is almost impossible to do so. Therefore, anyone offering you to do it is most likely a scam/tout, a really bad agency who doesn’t pay wages or a really desperate one trying to fill up slots. If you only have 1,000 USD as your budget, the best choice is to do the Marangu Route 5 days and insist on the minimum number of porters.
There is a tipping culture (spoiled by the Americans) which I actually don’t agree with. It creates a weird system where people expect tips or emotional blackmail you for tips.
Remember, tipping is a huge cost, almost an additional 10%. Take it a climbing tax on your trip.
Always ask your agency what their tipping policy is.
Some of the more luxury agencies include tipping in their pricing. Others mandate a fixed rate you have to give to the crew. Some agencies don’t pay salaries so tips become the salary of the crew.
Tipping I guess is similar to giving wedding hongbaos. There is an expected rate, but if you are of a different situation you can give less (not none). This tipping guide is just what I think is passable and will get you out of situations without many complaints.
These approximate rates are not per trekker, but overall. Of course, if you wish to give more, feel free to go ahead.
- Guide = $15 per day
- Porter = $5 per day
- Cook/ Assistant Guide = $10
If you are lazy to do your own excel and calculate the prices manually, I have a solution, follow the formula below.
List of the Park Fees per pax + 200 USD (Crew salaries) 200 USD (Agency) + Tips (10%) = Minimum budget for the trip
Anything above that generally means more money for the agencies and crew members. This could mean better tents, tables etc.
How to Choose Your Kilimanjaro agencies?
As highlighted above, there are various tiers of agencies based on the budget. Paying more than 2,500 USD would result in a luxury outfitter if not you are just getting scammed.
So what is the difference in what they offer?
Honestly, I went with a budget agency and the food was pretty good. I had a lot more food than all my previous hikes in other countries. 2I really wonder how much better the food can be in the mountains if you pay more.
I already had 3 full meals a day with at least 3 courses for each meal. It always starts with soup or some snacks, before a main and ending off with fruits. I guarantee that you would be full.
If your agency doesn’t provide enough food, that is just a bad agency.
A better agency might provide more meat, better soups etc.
Having said that, I can’t fathom how much better the food can go to make such a significant difference to you so I would say that there is not much value in paying more just for food.
If the budget agency is really small, they would end up renting the equipment from other shops or agencies. These would mean older tents, sleeping bags, mattresses etc.
The budget agencies usually have their own set of equipment, just that they are the cheaper ones, older or they keep lesser sets.
If you were to pay for a more expensive package, the equipment better be good. You should be getting a spacious tent, nice dining tables and field chairs, thick mattresses and comfortable warm sleeping bags. They would add a lot more comfort to the trip.
Not only that, the luxury outfitter would ensure that their crew are well-equipped and are comfortable on the mountain. If the crew is comfortable, they would be less likely to be in a rush and is more able to pay attention to your needs.
Additionally, they would have oxygen tanks, oxymeters etc. These are additional safety equipment the luxury outfitters should provide.
The comfort is always nice to have, but I wouldn’t pay that much. I would just want to make sure I have a proper sleeping bag ( 3 layer they call it) and a tent, that should be good enough for Kilimanjaro. Everything else to me is just a money sink.
The guides in Kilimanjaro are mostly working freelance, like everywhere in the world. Of course some of them “belong” to an agency because that particular agency gives the most consistent business.
If you go for a budget agency, there is a high chance the guide and porters speak minimal or no English. However, for my budget agency, the guide spoke English well enough for me to converse about music, life etc.
So if you pay more, a knowledgeable English guide could be one of the perks.
Is a budget agency really risky?
There is a risk, but it isn’t that risky if you are smart about it.
There are many dodgy “budget” agencies that frankly don’t make the cut or scam the hell out of you. Additionally, some of these agencies can be unethical and not pay the crew any salaries, asking them to get their money from the customers via tips. This creates a desperate environment where it lies the possibility of them trying to steal something from your tent or keep demanding a fixed value of tips from you.
Also, the crew might not have enough clothing, food or proper equipment for the trek. This could create a situation where they are cramped in a tent, shivering without having enough food and desperate to descend. If they fall ill, it becomes even more of an issue. More often end up neglecting you and wish to descend as fast as possible.
Despite all these, I would say that this could happen to any outfitter. An agency which charges 2,500 USD might simply pocket all the profits instead of allocating some of that into better equipment, wages, the hiring of guides/porters etc
So ultimately, it boils down to how you research on the background of the agency. Other than checking off if there are any bad reviews online, it would be good to ask the porters and the guides themselves which are the good agencies when you are there. A tell-tale sign in the reviews is if they outsource the trek to someone else.
My personal belief is to not use an agency which has to employ a lot of hustlers (I can’t remember the local term for it) who offer the treks at almost any price just to get you. It is usually a red flag for me that shouts “dodgy scammy agency”.
Walking around in Moshi and Arusha would usually garner shouts of “Kilimanjaro trek?”. Most of these people are not working for the agencies or know anything about the trek, they are usually hustlers, paid by the agencies or they hound the agencies to give them a commission for bringing customers in. Not all of them are, but most of them.
Some of the hustlers are just simply guides/porters looking for a job. Those are fine as long as you arrange properly with them.
A clear red flag is if they were to continuously reduce the price to attract you, but they are not the owner. This is a clear no-go for me because they wouldn’t have the power to decide the price. Moreover, they usually know nuts about trekking.
If you had agreed, for example, 1000 USD with the hustler, 2 scenarios would most likely happen.
- You would be extremely disappointed because the ending price by the agency would be more than 1,000 USD, or you would be scammed to pay more in the end.
- The agency might choose to honour the price quoted, but then you get really shit service or the guides and porters don’t get salary and hound you for money
Tip: Always ask for the company name, find out where the address is and visit the agency directly.
Well, I can’t believe I am addressing this for a trek. There is no Wifi on the trek. If you have a sim card, you can actually get data until Barafu camp. However, the reception can be quite spotty and also quite weather dependent.
Renting of personal equipment
Compared to other established places, there are not many shops offering rental or selling of trekking equipment.
Do ask your agency to help you and they would need at least a day before to help procure your hiking shoes or jackets. This is because it isn’t like Kathmandu or Leh where there is an abundant number of hiking shops abound.
Most of the porters buy their stuff from the clothes market which is slightly out of Moshi centre.
Kilimanjaro is an amazing high altitude trek that is extremely accessible for beginners. However, the price is a huge deterrent. It is a similar system to that of Mount Kinabalu in Malaysia. Most people seem resigned to doing it at 3,000 USD but I hope I have dispelled that myth here and shown how there are better and cheaper ways to do Kilimanjaro.
In my opinion, a budget agency or mid-tier agency is the way to go as long as they are reputable enough. This is because the types of equipment and food available don’t differ too much. Afterall, you are on a mountain, how much luxury or comfort do you need? I would rather splurge it on comfort in a city, save that money for another hike somewhere else or use it for the Safari.
To know in greater detail about what the trek is like, check out my post on my Lemosho 7 day trek!
If you like what I have done and wish to look for someone to arrange your Kilimanjaro trek, I can also help to arrange through my company Little Monsters Travel.
Other links to refer to
- A visual guide: http://www.venturefar.com/kilimanjaro/planning/