There is one other thing I need to say before we look at what you actually get for your money on Kilimanjaro.
Don’t think that by paying more you are automatically improving your chances of getting to the summit.
What you will be paying for is, probably, a safer trek, one with more experienced guides and better emergency equipment should things go wrong. But it won’t really improve your chances of getting to the summit significantly. It will just improve your chances of getting down off the mountain if you get into trouble up there. We write a lot more about this on our Which company to choose page.
But let’s have a look now at what you can pay for a Kilimanjaro climb – and what you can expect in return:
The cost of climbing Kilimanjaro: the budgets
For those with a budget of less than US$1000 for their Kilimanjaro climb
If you have less than US$1000 for your Kilimanjaro climb, then my advice is simple: stay at home. Because you won’t find a decent climb this cheap. You can always come for a day’s walk on the mountain, and you can possibly afford to climb Kili’s diminutive neighbour, Meru, too. Indeed, you can possibly afford to do both.
But forget about climbing Kili to the top for this price. It’s very difficult to find a trek for less than US$1000, and probablty highly dangerous if you do find one. What’s more, the company that offers it will have minimal safety standards and little or no customer service. They will doubtless pay their staff appallingly too.
The cheapest Kilimanjaro climbs (US$1000-1500)
The cheapest way to organise a climb is to just turn up at the airport, get a taxi to Moshi or Arusha, and begin negotiating with the companies there. That said, you need to have confidence in your bargaining skills, and – at the risk of sounding like a salesman! – it’s a good idea to have a copy of our book. That way, you know how to haggle, what to look out for, and what should be in any contract that you sign.
Even at this bargain-basement price threshold you should still get your park fees paid for. The price should also include all your meals on the mountain. A porter to carry your bag and a guide to lead you will also be included. While transfers to and from Kili at the start/end of the trek should also be thrown in. (Though at this budget level, the lift back to town at trek’s end may fail to materialise. So you may have to find your own way home).
If you book your trip in Moshi then it is still possible, just, to get a trek for US$1000-1200. But this trek will be for just five days, which we really don’t recommend, and with a company that we won’t be able to recommend either. In short, it won’t be possible to guarantee the reliability or honesty of any company charging so little.
At this price, the cost of climbing Kilimanjaro won’t just be yours to bear…
One thing I will be able to guarantee, however, is that the company’s treatment of porters will be terrible; and the wages they pay to their staff measly – no matter what the company claims. If you decide to climb with one of these companies then you could always ease your conscience by dishing out higher tips. But then, of course, that negates any savings you have made by opting for the cheaper company in the first place.
Between US$1200-1500 there’s a slight improvement. But only a slight one. And you can still forget about finding a company that treats its mountain crew – the porters, guides and cooks – fairly or paying them well.
(The cheapest company we found that is a partner of KPAP, and thus is guaranteed to treat its staff well and pay them a fair wage, charges around US$1750 for their budget six-day trek.) So presumably you can get a five-day trek for about US$1500 with them. But as we mention throughout this website and the guide book too, we really don’t recommend a five-day trek. Because it’s simply too dangerous, as it doesn’t allow you enough time to acclimatise safely. See our section on altitude sickness for more information on this.
So if you have have only US$1500 or less for your trek, then our advice is to delay your trip, save up some more money and try another year. Or you can come, but leave your conscience at home; because you won’t find a company that treats its porters/crew well for this price. The only exception to this rule is if you find the cheapest KPAP company, and opt for a five-day trek – having first, hopefully, acclimatised on another mountain.
Budget Kilimanjaro climbs (US$1500-2000)
Between US$1500 and US$2000 you will get a lot more choice and find several companies that are partners with KPAP. In other words, you’ll have some reassurance that they will treat their staff well). The quality of the treks in this price bracket start to improve exponentially too. Companies may start to provide private toilets and mess tents, for example. The quality of food certainly improves and the quality of the guides do too. Furthermore, they should also all carry oxygen with them (the one and only bit of emergency equipment that we think is absolutely essential).
So if you’re on a tight budget, this is the price bracket to aim for. You will still probably have to take a six-day trek rather than the preferred 7 or 8 days (remember, the longer the trek, the greater your chance of acclimatising safely and thus reaching the summit). The food, equipment and service may not be of the highest quality either. But overall everything should be ‘good enough’. Your trek should run reasonably smoothly and successfully, any dietary requirement you may have should be catered for, and whether successful or not, you should return from your climb happy with the experience. Which is much better than the price ranges above, where we can’t even be sure you’ll return from your climb at all.
Mid-range Kilimanjaro treks (where the cost of climbing Kili is US$2000-3000)
Between US$2000 and US$3000, you are right in the mid-range of companies and there are several very good value choices here. Most of the larger Tanzanian companies inhabit this territory, and several have their own hotels now. One or two even have a lodge in one of the national parks. This means that you could be in their care from the moment you arrive at the airport to the moment you fly out at the end.
There’s a lot of competition in this price bracket. Some companies, therefore, try to distinguish themselves. This they may do by, for example, offering unusual routes. Or perhaps by offering packages that include a safari or sightseeing tour beforehand.
They might be nice to their staff too…
Some companies in this bracket will be KPAP partners. In other words, you can be pretty sure that they treat their porters well and pay a fair wage. Some operators will also have guides who are WFR (Wilderness First Responder) qualified, so their first-aid skills should be up to scratch.
Many of the companies that are owned in part by Westerners. Some people will be comforted by the fact that there is a person ‘like them’ in the company. While other trekkers will go the other way, and insist on a company that is wholly Tanzanian-owned, safe in the knowledge that every penny/cent/euro/shilling of the money they spend on their trek will stay within the country, rather than some of it being siphoned off to the American/European director’s offshore bank.
One thing that definitely improves in this price bracket from those offering treks below US$2000, is that the safety procedures tend to be superior. Often trekkers will be monitored with a pulse oximeter. This measures the oxygen saturation in your blood which is a useful way of telling how well someone is coping with altitude. They should all have well-rehearsed evacuation procedures too, which they should be able to tell you about comprehensively before you’ve even booked your trek.