Booking your trek after you’ve arrived in Tanzania

The overwhelming majority of trekkers book their Kilimanjaro climb before they arrive in Tanzania.  This is only sensible. After all, you will have enough on your plate once you get to Tanzania climbing to the top of Africa’s highest mountain, without having to sort out the whole trek beforehand as well.

Booking your trek before you arrive in Tanzania

Booking your trek in advance of your arrival in Tanzania gets rid of the hassle. It’s so much nicer to land in Tanzania and know your trek is booked, rather than arranging everything when you arrive. This is especially true when you consider than few tour companies will sell you a climb up Kilimanjaro and nothing more. Nearly all will include such things as airport pick-up and drop-off at the start/end of your trip. Accommodation for before and after your trek should also be included. Sightseeing trips, and maybe even the odd safari or Zanzibar excursion may also be offered. Pay them some more and maybe they may even throw in the flights and insurance and sort out your visas too.

With no need to arrange these things yourself, booking from home will save you a considerable amount of time. It will also ensure you know exactly when you’ll be walking. (Wait until you arrive in Tanzania before booking, on the other hand, and you might have to wait for several days before you find a suitable trek.)

Booking in advance of your arrival in Tanzania also means you can plan your trek more precisely months in advance. You can also ask your agent any questions you may have way before you fly into Tanzania.

Booking your trek in Tanzania

Waiting until you arrive in Tanzania before booking your trek has its advantages too. You may be able to get your trek cheaper for a start, as you can negotiate face to face. If you’ve brought dollars in cash then you can avoid the hefty (4-5%) credit card fee or the charge for making a bank transfer. There are other advantages too. If you ask, there should be no reason why you cannot meet the guides and porters before you agree to sign up – and even your fellow trekkers, all of whom have a huge role to play in making your trek an enjoyable one. You can also personally check the tents and camping equipment before booking.

Furthermore, the fact that you can book a trek the day before you start gives you greater flexibility, allowing you to alter your plans so that you can pick a day that suits you; whereas when booking with an agency at home you often have to book months in advance, the tour is usually organized to a pretty tight schedule and altering this schedule at a later date maybe difficult or even impossible. Another point: while the money you spend on a trek may not be going to the most destitute and deserving of Tanzania’s population, at least you know that all of it is going to Tanzanians, with little, if any, going into the pockets of a Western company.

How to book your trek after you’ve arrived in Tanzania

There are two towns where you should look for an agency for your trek. Arusha, which has the greatest number of tour and trekking operators; and Moshi. (A third option, Marangu, has few agencies these days.) Agencies in Dar es Salaam and other Tanzanian towns are usually nothing more than middlemen for operators in Moshi and Arusha. Book a tour with an agency in Dar, for example, and you’ll probably end up on a trek organized by an agency in Moshi or Arusha. The only difference is you would have paid more for it. Furthermore, if you book outside of Arusha or Moshi, you have less chance of inspecting the equipment or testing your guide before you set off.

Arusha or Moshi?

Regarding the difference between Arusha and Moshi:

In general Arusha is the home of the more established and larger safari companies/trekking agencies. However, perhaps due to its location, the Arusha-based companies tend to concentrate just as much on safaris as they do on Kilimanjaro treks. 

Moshi, on the other hand, is a smaller place. The agencies here tend to focus more on climbing Kilimanjaro than on safaris. It would also be fair to say that the Moshi-based companies tend to be a little cheaper than those in Arusha too. Indeed, most budget operators have their offices in Moshi. What’s more, Moshi is a more convenient place to shop for a trek. It’s smaller, and many of the agents have offices either in or near the town centre. Moshi also has the two biggest and best mountain equipment rental stores for those who need to hire something.

Reading the above, therefore, it would seem that you should base yourself in Moshi rather than Arusha. And it’s true that Moshi captures the lion’s share of the Kilimanjaro-trekking business. Indeed, some of the trekking companies in Moshi do a roaring trade. But beware: there is still a fair bit of monkey business going on here too, and you do need to be on your guard against cheetahs.

Dealing with a Tanzanian agency

Wherever you decide to shop for your trek, the golden rule when shopping around is as follows:

Stick to agencies that have a TALA licence for trekking

You should also check that licence thoroughly to ensure it covers trekking. If they don’t have a licence, or the one they show you looks a bit suspect, or is out of date, take your business elsewhere.

Other advice for finding the right company for your Kilimanjaro trek

l Ask other travellers for their recommendations of a good agency.

l Contact us via our website to find out our latest recommendations.

l Shop around. Don’t sign up with the first agent you talk to but consult other agencies first to compare.

l Read the section on what should be included in your trek package and learn it off by heart (or take this book with you!) so you know what to ask the agency.

l Ask about the number of people on your trek and the number of porters you’ll be taking.

l Look at their customer reviews Don’t just look at the content of the review. Look at the dates too. If the latest review is more than a few months old, it either means they aren’t busy, or the reviews are so bad they don’t want to show you them. Ask if you can speak with someone who’s climbed with them recently, too – this is often an enormous help.

l If you have any dietary requirements or other special needs, ask them if these will be a problem. Try to find out how they will comply with your wishes too. For example, if you are a vegetarian, ask the agent what kind of meals you can expect to receive on the trek. 

l Ask to see a print-out of the day-to-day itinerary

l If you think you’ve found a good company, ask to see the equipment you will be using, In particular, make sure the tent is complete, untorn and that all the zips work. 

If you are a solo traveller

l Check the sleeping arrangements, particularly if you’re not trekking with friends but have joined a group. Are you going to have a tent to yourself? Or are you going to be sharing with somebody you’ve never met before?

l If you are alone and on a budget, ask if it is possible to be put with a group. This should certainly make things cheaper. (This is normally done automatically anyway; indeed, if you are travelling alone and were quoted a very low price, you can expect to be put with another group.)

Following on from the last point, many of the operators at the budget end lump all their customers together into one large trekking group. This makes it cheaper for them as certain fixed costs can be shared. So don’t be surprised if you end up being joined by trekkers who booked with another company. Once again, make sure you know about any arrangements like this before you sign anything or hand over any money. And if you want to be on your own, tell them.

Finding that you have to share a tent with a stranger is just one of the potential hazards of booking with a budget company. Or rather, it’s one of the advantages of paying a bit more and going with a ‘better’ agency. Sign up with a more expensive company and you should also find that they have better safety procedures and emergency equipment. The guides should be more knowledgeable too. So unless money is really tight don’t look for the cheapest company. Look for the best-value one. And hopefully the reviews in our book will help you to decide which agencies offer the best deals.

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