How to Tell if Your Kilimanjaro Climb Cost is Worth the Price
How much does a Kilimanjaro climb cost?
Unlike a ticket to Disney World, you can’t quickly Google a set price and budget it into your trip planner. There are over 200 guiding companies and thousands of agencies, and the price of a Mount Kilimanjaro hike varies wildly between each of them. Perform a quick search and you’ll find Kilimanjaro hiking packages between $1,000 — $8,000+.
Though the most expensive rates don’t necessarily guarantee you’ll have the best time, climbing Kilimanjaro is one adventure you can’t afford to pinch pennies on. Today we’ll break down everything that should be included in your Kili climbing package so you know exactly what you’re paying for (and if it’s really worth the expense).
Is Your Kilimanjaro Climb Cost Worth It?
Everyone – from luxury camping outfits to international touring companies – wants to offer hikes to the Roof of Africa. So, make sure you check for these 12 telltale signs to know if the price of your Mount Kilimanjaro hike is worth it:
#1. You’re booking with a trustworthy, compliant operator — not a subcontracting agency
Out of the 100’s of the overseas agencies that sell climbs up Kilimanjaro, only a handful of them are actually registered and licensed climbing companies in Tanzania. In fact, most overseas companies subcontract their Kilimanjaro climbs to local operators, giving up full control of how their climbs are actually run.
Subcontracting agencies cannot guarantee the same high quality safety standards you may be expecting. The only thing they have going for them is that they’re able to run their climbs very inexpensively (using inexperienced and often untrained guides with subpar equipment, as we’ll talk about later).
So, put your safety first and look for a company that’s licensed to lead their own climbs up Kilimanjaro. They should be involved in the minute-to-minute logistics of your experience every step of the way. You’ll pay a bit more, sure, but it’s worth the extra cost to travel with an experienced company instead of some fly-by-night operation.
#2. You should have up to six experienced guides with you at all times
Climbing Kilimanjaro can be dangerous — several people die each year even though all hikers are required to have guides with them on the mountain.
When you see extremely low package prices, it may mean fewer and/or less experienced guides. And this should raise a few red flags because the collective experience of your guides will be the number one factor in whether you make it to Uhuru Peak. Inexperienced guides are not only unsafe to have by your side, but they also make the hike less enjoyable. Low-budget operators will use freelance guides who have very little training, poor English skills and almost zero high-altitude medical skills.
What’s more, some companies only use 1 guide per group – regardless of the group size – because it costs them around $100–$150 per climber per day.
If one member of a group gets altitude sickness and has to descend early, then one guide is not enough. They will be left with having to decide whether they should stay with the group or descend with the sick or injured climber.
Guides worth their weight in gold work for trail companies who value their expertise and pay them accordingly.
#3. Your guides have high altitude medical emergency training
A majority of the deaths that occur on Kilimanjaro are due to lack of high altitude medical expertise.
Kili trail guides should attend training each year with a focus on high altitude medical emergencies. The Kilimanjaro National Park gives a bare minimum of first aid instruction to prospective guides but, beyond this, no formal medical training is given.
Tusker Trail was the first company to establish a comprehensive medical training course for its guides, designed by Tusker founding guide and high altitude expert, Eddie Frank. The course is recognized by high altitude doctors worldwide and is the standard for high altitude training on Mount Kilimanjaro.
#4. Your hike allows for ample time to acclimate to the altitude
How long does it take to climb Mount Kilimanjaro?
That’s a great question, and the answer varies. Since park fees add up each day, one of the biggest ways questionable operators will reduce the cost of your Kilimanjaro climb is to hike the mountain as quickly as possible.
But these shorter hikes are much less successful than those trekking on 10–12-day hikes. That’s because it takes your body time to adjust to the changing altitude, which means it’s better to hike slowly. Ascending too quickly increases your chances of experiencing the symptoms of acute mountain sickness (AMS), also known as altitude sickness. This could leave you feeling lightheaded, short of breath and nauseous. It also could force you to abandon your climb early.
What good is booking the cheapest, fastest route if you won’t enjoy the climb or even make it to the top?
#5. All Kilimanjaro National Park fees are included
Covering park entrance fees for yourself your guides, and your porters means you may spend upwards of $200 per climber each day just in national park fees alone.
That’s over $1,000 for a week’s climb.
No guide can sneak you through the back entrance of Kilimanjaro, so every outfitter will need to charge this standard base just to let you set foot on the trail. When companies charge less than $1,500 total, you know they’re definitely cutting corners elsewhere. That’s most likely with overloading porters and reducing the support needed for them.
#6. The company pays a living wage to their porters
Many budget trekking companies mistreat the porters who carry all the gear up the mountain by failing to abide by wage laws put in place by the Tanzania Park Authority. Many are not paid a living wage and instead only work for the tips hikers give them.
Since most porters are not actual “employees,” they often won’t be given proper hiking attire, gear or equipment to keep themselves safe. Some very low-cost operators will only feed their porters every other day to keep food expenses down!
Look for a company that hires 4–5 porters per climber and makes it known that they pay them a fair living wage.
#7. Delicious warm meals are included every day of your climb
It’s a common misconception that you’ll be living on trail mix while you’re hiking Kilimanjaro.
Cheap outfitters will often sacrifice nutritious food (like fresh fruit, veggies, and hot meals) because it costs too much to buy and carry them up the mountain. Yet high altitude climbing demands nutrient-dense adventure cuisine packed with fluids, quality proteins and healthy carbs.
Expect your food costs to run anywhere from $20–$40 per climber per day. This also covers the food that your guides, cooks and porters will be eating, too.
Look for meal plans that include hot breakfast and dinner every day you’re on the mountain. While hot lunches are a perk, prepare for picnic lunches a few days, too. Additionally, make sure you know the standards for how the chefs and staff have been trained when it comes to proper food handling and hygiene. The last thing you need is food poisoning or traveler’s diarrhea while you’re on the trail.
#8. Your guides will carry safety equipment and know how to use it
You’ll want more than a first aid kit to climb Kilimanjaro safely. Even though we hope everyone has a safe journey, your guides should always be prepared for emergencies by carrying the right medical equipment — and they should be well-versed in how to use it.
Specifically, check that companies are bringing along:
- Pulse oximeters (which help your guides find out how well you’re acclimatizing to the altitude)
- Rescue stretchers
- A portable altitude chamber
- Multiple oxygen tanks (to alleviate many minor altitude problems and stop them from developing into more serious emergencies)
You’d be surprised to find out how many companies lack these critical items and don’t know how to use them.
#9. Your company utilizes their own evacuation system
In an emergency, evacuation off Kilimanjaro is either provided by the national park or by your climbing company.
One small detail to note: the park does not provide evacuation from everywhere on Kilimanjaro — only on the most popular routes. And they won’t rescue you above 15,000 foot, where most altitude problems occur.
Most of the budget companies on Kilimanjaro are not skilled medical personnel and rely on the park services in an emergency, which isn’t the most ideal. Find a trekking company that does NOT rely on the park service and instead performs high level evacuations by their own medically trained team.
#10. Quality camp gear, equipment, and vehicles are standard
You don’t want to find out when you’re settling into camp that your budget trekking company brought along subpar equipment instead of the high-quality gear they advertised.
Off-brand tents with holes and rips will get you wet and keep you cold. Sleeping bags without proper insulation will have you shivering instead of snoozing and worn down mattress pads will make you feel like you’re literally sleeping on a mountain of rocks. What about the maintenance of the vehicles your company is running? Are they safe, well-maintained and 4WD to make it through the difficult roads?
Don’t sacrifice your safety and climbing experience for mix-and-match secondhand gear and equipment that’s not properly maintained.
A high-quality Kilimanjaro operator will inspect all their gear and equipment for disrepair and continually replace tents, sleeping bags, etc. for your safety and comfort.
Make sure your company brings:
- 4-season waterproof mountain tents
- Thick air/foam mattresses
- Kitchen tents and all equipment for mountain meal preparation
- 4-season basecamp dining tents with dining tables and comfortable chairs
- Propane gas lighting for the dining tents
- A private toilet tent
#11. Transportation and a stay in a local hotel before and after your climb
Expect to room in a local hotel around the mountain for at least 2 nights before the climb and 1 night afterward. And, if you happen to descend early, a quality trail company will give you an “extra” hotel night free of charge.
Find a company that books well-reviewed places close to the center of town, the market and restaurants you can explore. Plus, look for companies that also provide transfers to/from Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO) and transfers to/from the park gates in their own vehicles.
#12. You’ll receive a pre-departure manual so you know all this in advance
Once you book your trip, you should be matched with a trekking coordinator who will act as your main point of contact. They’ll be able to go over all the details about your upcoming adventure and answer all your questions with informed answers, built on their experience on Kilimanjaro.
Then you should receive a detailed Kilimanjaro manual where you’ll find everything you need to know to prepare for your climb, including a recommended gear list, work-out program, required inoculations and much more.
If you don’t hear back from your hiking company after you book your trip, something sketchy may be going on.
Make Your Kilimanjaro Climb Cost Worth the Price with Tusker
When you break down your Kilimanjaro climb cost, what you’re really looking for is quality service, expert-level experience and uncompromised safety at a price you can afford.
We include all that and our prices to climb Kilimanjaro start just under $4,000. Our 40+ years of Kilimanjaro climbing experience has taught us that the health and safety of our climbers is our number one priority — and that’s what you’ll be paying for.
Having led thousands of hikers to the summit, we’ll take care of all the important details so you can enjoy the journey to the top, worry-free. Every single one of our climbers descends transformed. And once you do, the experience will be priceless and SO worth it.
If you’re ready to stand on top of the world, check out everything you need to know about a Mount Kilimanjaro hike to get started today!