Nearly everyone who climbs Kilimanjaro brings a mobile phone with them. The primary reason is to keep in communication with their friends, family and coworkers.
Cell Phone Reception
Is there cell phone reception on Kilimanjaro?
As you might expect, cellular service is neither consistent nor reliable on the mountain. However, there are a handful of locations where you might be able to get a signal. Though these areas are limited usually to one or two chances per day.
Your guide can let you know where you can turn your phone on and give it a try. Or, when you notice the porters checking their cell phones, you can assume that they are in a good spot.
Note that you should have your phone on airplane mode so that it is not constantly searching for a cell signal, which will run down your power. Only turn on the mobile network when you intend to send or receive calls or messages.
Emailing and/or texting uses the least data, and would be the most likely available option when you have a signal. You probably will have problems sending photos. But if you are really fortunate, you might be able to talk or even FaceTime!
There is no wifi anywhere on the mountain.
What Can Interfere With Cell Phone Service?
Weather can play a role in the strength of cell phone signals. Water vapor is the biggest atmospheric condition that can interfere with cellular networks. This signal impedance happens because water conducts electricity, which allows water vapor in the atmosphere to reflect or refract radio waves on the frequencies used by cellular networks. So rain, snow, fog, clouds, and even high humidity can cause reception to drop off.
Should I Bring a Cell Phone on the Mountain?
Yes. Besides using your phone to possibly communicate with, the phone is a convenient way to take videos and photos. Hiking with a cell phone in your pocket is convenient because it is slim, light and very functional. And the quality of the cameras on phones today is very high. We do recommend that client take their smart phones with them at a minimum if only to capture moments on their adventure.
If you do not wear a watch as many people forego them nowadays, you might want to have your phone so you can check the time. This comes in handy throughout the day as we are on a schedule on the mountain – from wake up calls to meal times and more.
Also, as you lie in your tent, you probably will wake up multiple times each night. It is good to know what time it is so you can gauge how much sleep you are getting. Knowing the time also will help you decide whether or not to try to keep sleeping or just to get up if it is close to dawn.
Lastly, smart phones also have flashlights, music (bring your headphones if you plan on listening to music), games, and step counters. These functions may be useful or entertaining to you while on your trip.
The Bottom Line
Do not rely on your mobile phone for communication while climbing Kilimanjaro. You may or may not have cell phone reception. The ability to make or receive calls, texts and emails is uncertain. It is best to assume you will NOT have any service.
Do not tell people you will contact them everyday while you are on the mountain. There is a good chance you will not be able to reach them, which in turn results in a lot of worry and anguish on their end. Let your contacts know that you are on an expedition and that they probably won’t hear from you until you are off the mountain.
Even so, we suggest bringing your cell phone with you on the mountain. You might be able to use it to communicate. Additionally, you can use it for other purposes, such as taking photos and videos, keeping time, listening to music, or playing games.