Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro – Cost and Prices
The true price of a cheap Kilimanjaro climb
What does it cost to climb Kilimanjaro, and what should a Kilimanjaro climb cost you?
The prices for Kilimanjaro climbs vary wildly. To climb Kilimanjaro can cost you anything from $1000 to $4000 and above.
(There are some operators advertising cheap Kilimanjaro climbs that cost below $1200. Don’t go there. Actually, don’t go below $1700. You’ll see why.)
That is the cost of your Kilimanjaro climb itself. It does not necessarily include you accommodation before and after, it definitely does not include the equipment you need to buy, the vaccinations, the flight…
Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is not a cheap holiday!
Of course you try to save money where you can. The temptation is big to go hunting for the cheapest Kilimanjaro climb.
DON’T! Do not start your search for a Kilimanjaro climb by looking at the cost first.
If you do, you may end up paying the ultimate price, or someone else may have to pay it for you…
Every year both climbers and porters die on Kilimanjaro. Needlessly.
Also, was it really such a great buy if you then fail to make it to the summit? Would you really feel good to know that children have to go hungry or aren’t able to continue their education, just so you could save a few bucks?
I didn’t think so.
Few tourists are aware why the cost of climbing Kilimanjaro is so high and where the budget operators cut corners to drop the prices. Let’s look at where your money actually goes, what you pay for, and why.
The true cost of a Kilimanjaro climb
Several hundred climb operators are competing for business on Kilimanjaro, which has resulted in a cut throat price war. Good for you, you may think. Drops the prices.
Well, sure, it does,. But if operators drop prices they also have to cut expenses to stay profitable.
The steep Kilimanjaro National Park fees are something that nobody can change. For a six day/five night camping trek you pay about $800 in fees alone!
So where can operators save? And how does it affect you?
The links and information below will shed some light on that.
The very first place where budget Kilimanjaro operators will cut costs is staff expenses. And I am not talking about the lovely lady in the office who takes your booking. I am talking about the porters.
Booking a cheap Kilimanjaro climb? The money you save is coming straight out of the pockets of your Kilimanjaro porters, and porters’ wages are not the only place where money is saved at their expense. Read that page before you book a cheap Kilimanjaro climb!
Of course, all other staff on a budget climb are also paid less and treated with less respect. Few staff on Kilimanjaro climbs have permanent or at least reliable employment. Most of them freelance.
If someone does not get decent pay, does not get appreciated and has no idea who he will work for next time, how do you think that affects their motivation? How much will they care if you reach the summit or not? And whether you enjoy the experience or not?
Also, your safety depends on how many guides/assistant guides are on your team and how well trained they are by the company.
Hopefully you will have a great Kilimanjaro climb in good weather and without any complications. But if things turn pear shaped, the one thing you want to be sure of is that your Kilimanjaro guide is one of the best!
A trick of the trade to make Kilimanjaro climbs LOOK cheap is to not include all costs up front. I already mentioned porter wages and tips on the Kilimanjaro porters page, but there are other costs and fees that can be dropped. You will still have to pay the money when you get there! Read carefully about what is included in a climb when comparing prices and be wary of those hidden costs.
Another place where money can be saved is equipment and food. Neither is a luxury!
This is not about comfort for softies and weaklings. This is about making it to the summit or not. If you can’t sleep at night because you are cold and miserable, then you won’t be making it to the summit.
Quality equipment that keeps you warm and dry even in the worst weather costs money. And there is so much other equipment, for the kitchen, the mess tent and more, that budget operators can leave behind to cut costs. It makes the trek physically harder on you and decreases your chances to reach the summit.
The cost of food on a Kilimanjaro climb is not a major factor. Food can be bought cheaply in Tanzania. But carrying food up the mountain costs money. So the quality fresh stuff, the fruit and vegetables, are the first to get cut from the shopping list of a budget operator.
You need quality food to sustain you for the rigour of the six or more days ahead of you. It should be high in fluids and high in carbohydrates. (Important at altitude!)
And it should taste good! You will have no appetite. Loss of appetite is one of the symptoms of being at altitude. But you have to eat. Your body needs the fuel! So the food better be nice. You want your operator to pay attention to this.
How well is the cook trained? And the rest of the staff? What about food hygiene? Training costs money.
Don’t be surprised if you end up with a bad case of traveller’s diarrhea if climbing with a budget operator. It happens very easily and it doesn’t exactly increase your summit chances.
And what about the rubbish? Do you think a budget operator will spend money on making sure it is all carried back down the mountain again? Or voluntarily spend money on clean up crews? Just wait till you see the busier trails and campsites on the mountain.
Environmentally responsible behaviour also costs money.
There are a thousand little things where a budget operator can cut corners and save money. I haven’t mentioned a fraction of them and most of them you will never notice or be aware of. The things I can make you aware of may seem like little things to you, something you’ll cope with, something you can do without. But it adds up!
What it comes down to is that your chances of reaching the summit and your chances of coming back down alive increase and decrease with the cost of your Kilimanjaro climb.
You want to book a climb that is run by mountaineers, people who understand mountains, who understand the risks and know how to manage them. People who care about you, about how much you’ll enjoy the trek, about their staff and about the mountain.
You will not find those people for $1200. In fact, you won’t find them for under $1700. For a six day Kilimanjaro climb, booked in advance, that is the absolute minimum cost that you should budget for, and you will be sacrificing quality of experience at that level (e.g. you will be climbing on a more crowded or less scenic Kilimanjaro route).
Kilimanjaro climbs that cost less are guaranteed to cut corners. But not every climb above $1700 is guaranteed to be a quality, safe one! Not by a long shot. You better do some thorough research if you want to book in that range!
There are other factors that determine the final cost of your Kilimanjaro climb and that allow you to save some money.
The larger the climb group, the lower the price per person. There are operators who put over 20 people in one group. Add to that at least two porters per person, cooks, assistant guides and guides… And you have a whole army trekking up that mountain! I think I’d rather spend a few dollars extra…
A private climb with two people is very expensive, but a group of up to twelve people is bearable and affordable. At least that’s how I experienced it.
What will also determine the overall cost is the route you’ll be taking.The more scenic and less crowded routes are more expensive. That’s discussed in the section about Kilimanjaro climb routes. So $1700 might be a half decent climb up the Marangu route, but you won’t be finding that on the Lemosho route.
And last but not least, booking from overseas is more expensive than booking when you get there. BUT, you have the piece of mind of knowing when your trek will depart, that it will indeed depart, and you have the time to do research and ensure you are with a responsible operator. (About 90% of Kilimanjaro climbers book from overseas.)
Rely on booking when you get there, and the accommodation costs may quickly add up while you try to do your research, organise everything and find an available place on a good climb team.