Coming to Tanzania alone to climb Kilimanjaro? Here’s some advice …
People who have a burning desire to climb Kilimanjaro comes in all shapes and sizes, are all ages and from every country in the world. Their motives for doing so are similarly many and varied.
The problem is, what do people do when they can’t find anyone to go with them?
The short answer is, of course, not to worry. You can still climb Kilimanjaro. Because just because you’re travelling to Tanzania by yourself doesn’t mean you have to walk up Kilimanjaro by yourself.
For one thing, you can always join a group trek – either for companionship or simply to make the expedition cheaper (because it will nearly always be cheaper to join a group climb than to have a private trek just for yourself).
And if you’ve come to Tanzania by yourself because you want to climb Kilimanjaro by yourself too – well that’s possible as well (though you will still have to go with a team of porters and guides etc. You can’t literally climb Kilimanjaro by yourself anymore as we discuss in this link.) Though it’s more expensive, trekking companies can book private treks for just one person too.
Below we look at the pros and cons of joining a public trek versus booking a private trek just for yourself – as well as offer some invaluable advice for following either method:
Tips for choosing the right public trek on Kilimanjaro
1) Perhaps the most important piece of advice here is to choose your Kilimanjaro company carefully. Don’t just choose them because they have a public trek that fits with your schedule and on a route up Kilimanjaro that you’d like to take too.
Obviously, those are very important factors to take into consideration. But you should also confirm the company’s policy towards running treks. Some companies, for example, may run a trek only if there is a minimum of two people on it. Which is a worry if you are the only one who is currently booked on it. Because if nobody else signs up for that trek, all your plans may come to nothing.
So ask your company to confirm that other people are already booked on the trek, or that the trek will definitely run even if nobody else does join. And don’t pay any money until they can confirm this. Otherwise, you may end up paying for a trek that isn’t going to happen; and even if they give you your money back following this cancellation, you won’t be able to get any compensation from your airline if you decide to cancel your flights because the trek isn’t running.
2) You should also bear in mind that not all companies treat solo trekkers the same. For example, at Kilimanjaro Experts we provide all ‘solo trekkers’ with their own tent – so you don’t have to share. We also make sure you get your own single room when you’re in Arusha before and after the trek. Because while it’s lovely to meet strangers and enjoy the camaraderie that builds when climbing up Africa’s Highest Mountain together, it’s also lovely to have a place to get away from them too! We also provide airport transfers from and to Kilimanjaro (and/or Arusha Airports) free of charge, even if you’re the only one travelling on those flights.
But we accept that this is unusual. Because most other companies will either try to make you share a single tent. Some may even ask you to share a room in Arusha/Moshi before and after the trek. And some may agree to provide airport transfers, but will then ask you to wait at the airport on arrival for a couple of hours until their other clients turn up. Or, at the end of the trip, ask you to travel to the airport unnecessarily early so they can drop off their clients who are on an earlier flight.
So make sure you know exactly how your company is going to treat you. And if they are going to charge a single supplement, ask them how much it will be, and what you will get for this extra payment. It’s only fair that they make it clear what you’re getting for your money.
3) If you wish, ask your company if you can you contact the other trekkers beforehand. If they are unwilling to do that, then, if it’s important to you, ask if you can get an idea of your fellow climbers’ approximate ages, their gender and nationality? And if you have specific requirements when it comes to your fellow companions then ask if they have a certain trek that will be more suitable for you.
For example, if you’re a female, would you prefer it if you weren’t the only woman on the trek? Or maybe you would prefer to trek with other climbers who are of a similar age to yourself? Or possibly you don’t want to be the only solo trekker on the climb, but want to climb with others who also booked and are travelling by themselves? (For example, next month – October 2019 -on our trek schedule we have a full moon trek running that just happens to be filled with nothing but solo trekkers, ie people who have never met, and who all joined this trek separately.)
Just contact your trek agency and ask them if they have a trek that will meet those criteria – by getting on the right trek for you, you’ll almost certainly have a much happier time.
4) If you want to go on safari afterwards, again ask your trek company if they have any safaris that you can join. Unlike treks, safaris are often arranged privately and it can be difficult to find a public safari that you can join. However, if you have a company that’s amenable and flexible, they may be able to pair you with someone else who is also travelling by themselves and wants to go on safari. Or perhaps they can put you with a group that doesn’t mind your joining them. It will certainly make it cheaper for you.
5) When it comes to choosing accommodation for before/after the trek, try to choose a hotel that is more lively and sociable. I realise that this is probably tricky, as in most cases you’ll have no idea how lively a hotel is until you get there. But again the company with which you booked your trek should be able to help you. They may also be able to tell you where the other climbers on your trek are staying.
If not, then look at the photos of the hotels on the internet, choose one with a pool or bar or somewhere else where people can congregate. If none of them appeal, then at least choose one that’s close to the centre of Moshi or Arusha. Because you don’t want to be stuck in a soulless, empty hotel in the middle of nowhere, with no-one but the receptionist for company.
6) Be more aware of any safety and security issues both on Kilimanjaro and in Tanzania. Because you’re travelling by yourself, so the chances are you’re going to be by yourself more often too, both on the mountain and before/after the trek in Moshi and Arusha. So it’s essential that you know how to keep yourself from harm – because there won’t be anyone else looking out for you.
On the mountain there isn’t much crime except for a recent spate of robberies from tents. This, we think, may be caused by larger companies thinking it’s neat to put all their tents in a single long row. Which does, admittedly, look impressive – though also makes these tents more liable to be visited by thieves, as they’re more difficult to watch over and police. Eventually these companies will learn…
But before and after your trek, when you’ll probably be based in either Moshi or Arusha, the potential for harm is that much greater.
Both of these places are fairly safe during the day. But it’s not advisable to walk around after dark. This is especially true if you’re by yourself, of course, when you’re essentially a sitting target just asking to be mugged (or worse).
So make sure you read the advice about these town in our Kilimanjaro guide book. We also talk about safety and security in Tanzania on this website. Please read – and keep yourself out of harm’s way on your holiday.
What about a private Kilimanjaro trek just for yourself?
The above advice assumes that you want to be social and meet other travellers, both on and off the mountain. But for some people, the whole reason why they are travelling alone is because they want to be alone.
And while it’s impossible to trek up Kilimanjaro completely by yourself – you have to sign up with an agency, and they in turn will organise a guide, cook and porters for you – it is possible to have a trek just for yourself. There are advantages with adopting this approach too.
For one thing, planning to go on your own means you can arrange exactly the trek that you want: you choose the trail to follow, the time to go and for how long; the pace of the walk, the number of rest-stops, when to go to bed – these are all your decisions, and yours alone. You are the boss; you have nobody else’s feelings to consider but your own.
Secondly, even if you do book a private trek for just yourself, you’ll never truly be on your own. In addition to your crew, you can always meet other trekkers at the campsite in the evening if you so desire. And if you would rather not meet anyone else, well, that’s your decision and there won’t be anybody around to judge you.
Thirdly, because you share the mountain crew with nobody else, so a stronger friendship is almost inevitably built between you and your guide. So if you want to ‘bond with the locals’, having a private trek just for yourself is a great way to facilitate this.
If you can also join in with the running of the trek – eg by helping to put up the tent, or helping with preparing the food on your Kilimanjaro climb, you’ll help to build that bond faster, and it will make the whole expedition feel like more of a team effort too.
In summary, trekking by yourself is fun and not the lonely experience many imagine; unless, of course, you enjoy the bliss of solitude and want to be alone. That’s the beauty of walking solo: everything is up to you.