Many people want to climb Kilimanjaro cheaply. But if you have done some research, you have already found that this is not possible. And you probably have also discovered that there are a wide range of prices charged for climbing Mount Kilimanjaro by different outfitters. There are more than 200 licensed operators on Mount Kilimanjaro. The choices may be overwhelming. Do not make your decision based on price alone. Price should be only one component of your overall decision. High altitude trekking is not the place to shop for the cheapest "deal", nor is it the place to overpay needlessly.
We often are asked how we can be priced thousands of dollars less than the competition.
There are minimum expenses Kilimanjaro operators face, such as park fees, staff wages, food, equipment, transportation and other logistical costs. Kilimanjaro National Park (KINAPA) entrance and camping/hut fees by far make up the biggest expense, costing over $130 per climber per day. The other significant expenses are staff wages, food, and transportation costs. Local wages amount to around $30-50 per climber per day (depending on group size). Food costs come out to about $10 per climber per day. Transportation can cost about $100 per trip depending on the route. Add up the daily costs shown above and you can estimate what it costs to fund a Kilimanjaro climb. So instead of asking how we can be priced so low, you should be asking how those other companies can be priced so high?
Do not assume that a high cost operator is providing a superior climb for the money.
Do not assume high budget operators are better simply because they charge more. These operators pitch greater summit success, high safety standards and added luxury... and then they take advantage of climbers by charging exorbitant fees. Do not be misled. It is mind boggling that some operators will charge $4,000, $5,000, even $6,000 per person for large parties on standard itineraries. It should not cost more than $3,000 per person to climb Kilimanjaro! The premium you pay goes straight to the pockets of the operator.
The high priced operators are typically international companies who use foreign guides. But ask yourself, who knows the mountain better? A foreign guide, flown in for a few climbs per year, or a local guide, who has encountered and handled various situations, with hundreds of clients, during his many years of climbing? Who can better tell you about the trail, the wildlife, the fauna, and culture?
The luxuries provided by these operators can be silly. A portable shower - at these low temperatures? The high budget operators heavily market the added safety of using pulse oximeters, oxygen and Gamow bags. But tests show that pulse oximeters are unreliable in the detection of altitude sickness. Some "safe" operators supply oxygen to boost climbers, so they can climb higher - a truly dangerous practice. And the actual use of Gamow bags on the mountain is unheard of, because descent is the best, and always available, remedy. Nonetheless, there are those who are more comfortable paying inflated prices to climb Kilimanjaro.
Ultimate Kilimanjaro offers quality climbs at reasonable rates. At our price levels, we can satisfy all park fees, pay decent wages to staff, supply adequate food and equipment, while still providing great service to our clients. We are adventurers at heart, and therefore we strive to make climbing Kilimanjaro affordable. We don't believe that doing something extraordinary should break the bank.
It is customary to tip your staff upon completion of your trip. The decision on how much to tip should not be determined based upon whether or not you reached the summit, but by how well the guides, cooks and porters served you while you were on the mountain. Below are some approximate figures on how much to tip your staff on a full eight day climb, provided that their service was satisfactory. The figures are the total tips given by the group, not per client. If you spend less days on the mountain, please adjust your tip accordingly. Solo clients may tip less than these amounts.
8 Day Route (per 12 person group)
1 Lead Guide $100 - $150
2 Assistant Guides, each $70 - $90
2 Cooks, each $70 - $90
2 Waiters, each $55 - $75
38 Porters, each $45 - $65
On an eight day trip, each client should expect to tip between $250 to $300. The figures are roughly $15/day for guides, $10/day for assistant guides, $10/day for cooks, $8/day for waiters, and $7/day per porter. Note that the cook and waiter will also perform the duties of a porter on the trip, and that preparing and serving meals are additional duties.
Each group will have one lead guide. There will be one assistant guide per three clients, one cook per eight clients, and one waiter per eight clients. The number of porters in your party depends on the selected route and the number of days. Generally, there are two porters per person on the Marangu and Meru route, and three porters per person on all other routes. For example, a party of two climbers on an 8 day Lemosho climb would typically have 10 staff total - one guide, one assistant guide, one cook, one waiter and six porters. Make an effort to know your porters and their roles.
It is against company policy for guides or porters to discuss tips during your climb. However, it is common place that after the climb, guides attempt to increase tip amounts for the crew by suggesting specific figures for satisfactory performance. Unless there were extenuating circumstances that justify higher tips, please try to stay close the guidelines above, as gracious tips from customers have raised staff's expectations for ever increasing amounts.
At the completion of your trip, one member from your party should collect money from the group. The act of tipping is a formal gesture here. Once you have departed the mountain, back at the hotel, the guide will assemble the staff. It is customary for someone in the group to say a word of thanks to the staff, translated by the guide, prior to handing over the tips. When practical, tips for the guides, the cook and the waiter should be distributed to them directly. You should not give the entire tip to the guide for distribution to the staff. But tips for the porters can be given to one porter to be properly distributed to the individual porters at the exit gate.
Tips can be made in US dollars or Tanzanian Shillings. It is very important that US bills be new, crisp and untorn. Do not tip with marked, wrinkled, torn or old (older than 2002) US bills; they are not accepted in the country.
The suggested tips for the safari are $15-30/day for the guide (who is also the driver).
Please consider donating your clothing and equipment to the climb team in addition to tipping them. Remember that the staff climbs Kilimanjaro many times a year and can go through their clothes and gear rather quickly. Your donation is of great assistance to these individuals, many of who are unwilling to spend their money on material goods they consider a luxury rather than a necessity. They will appreciate your generosity tremendously.
There are a few ways to distribute donated items. If there are enough items so that each staff member can have one item, then donations can be distributed at the tipping ceremony. These items will be laid out and the guide will call staff members forward individually. If there are not enough items for each staff member, then donations can be given informally to individuals, perhaps those with the greatest need or who were of particularly good service. Lastly, you can ask the guide to help you.