Tipping on Kili: how to reward your crew

Should you tip porters and guides on Kilimanjaro?

Like a herd of elephants on the African plains, the subject of tipping on Kilimanjaro is a bit of a grey area. What is certain is that, in addition to the cost of booking your trek, you will also need to shell out tips to your crew at the end of it all.

This is a contentious issue. Indeed, the subject of tipping on Kilimanjaro is, perhaps, the one subject that we get more emails and letters about than any other.

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The gratuity system on Kilimanjaro follows the American-style: that is to say, a tip is not so much a bonus to reward particularly attentive service or honest toil, as a mandatory payment to subsidize the poor wages the porter and guides receive. In other words, tipping is obligatory.

To anybody born outside the Americas this compulsory payment of gratuities seems to go against the very spirit of tipping. Nevertheless, it is very hard to begrudge the guides and porters a decent return for their labours – and depriving your entourage of their much-needed gratuities is not the way to voice your protest against this system.

Porters dancing

Clearly satisfied with the size of their tips, these porters started to dance uncontrollably.

How much money should you give out as tips on Kilimanjaro?

As to the size of the tip you should give on Kilimanjaro, there are no set figures or formulas, though we do urge you to let your conscience instruct you on this matter as much as your wallet. One method that’s currently very popular is for everybody to contribute 10% of the total cost of their trek towards tips. So if you paid US$2000 for your trek, you should pay US$200 into the tip kitty. (If there are only one or two of you, it would be better to pay slightly more than 10%.)

Another approach we’ve heard about is where each member of the trekking staff receives a set amount, from US$20 to each of the porters to US$40-50 to the assistant guides, and US$60-70 to the guides; or a per diem amount such as US$5 per porter per day, US$7 for the assistant guide, US$10 for the guide. These are mere guidelines, and you may wish to alter them if you feel, for example, a certain porter is deserving of more than his normal share, or if your trek was particularly difficult.

So a rough guide to tipping guides and porters for your entire trek would be:

  • US$20 to each of the porters
  • US$40-50 to the assistant guides
  • US$60-70 to the guides

Or if you are tipping guides and porters by the day:

  • US$5 per porter
  • US$7 for the assistant guide
  • US$10 for the guide

Having collected all the money, the usual form is to hand out the individual shares to each porter and guide in turn. Whatever you do, do not hand all your tips to the guide unless the trekking company has in place procedures to ensure that he distributeds it fairly and doesn’t trouser most of it. For more details of this, see the KPAP website.

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