The true cost of climbing Kilimanjaro and why there are no cheap Kilimanjaro climbs!
Congratulations! You have decided to climb the magnificent Mt. Kilimanjaro and of course your first concern is your budget.
When you ask your web browser you will find prices for a Kilimanjaro climb can range from $1200 to $4000 and above.
Reason being, many Kilimanjaro climb operators are competing for business on Kilimanjaro. The result is a cut throat price war.
You may even come across some climbing companies advertising Kilimanjaro climbs that cost below $1200.
While there is no need to pay $4000 and above, as there is only so much luxury to be had on Kilimanjaro, there is a minimum price you should be willing to pay.
The minimum cost for a Kilimanjaro climb is $2000 and above, depending on how many days you are planning to spend on Kilimanjaro, and how many climbers are in your group.
Do not consider paying less than $2000 unless you are part of a large group on the 5 Day Marangu Route. (Not recommended as the 5 Day Marangu Route has a low summit success rate).
To help you understand why, below is a breakdown of the type of costs included in a Kilimanjaro climb:
Expensive Kilimanjaro National Park fees which are non- negotiable and collected by the Tanzanian Government
Mountain gear (sleeping tents, mess tents, rain proof bags etc.)
Food (climbers and crew)
Crew salaries/adequate number of porters for the 20kg weight limitation
Transfers for climbers and crew to/from Kilimanjaro Park entrances
1. Kilimanjaro Park Fees
Many climbers are not aware how much of their climb cost goes toward Kilimanjaro Park fees. For transparency we have created the table below. Fees are expected to increase in 2023.
As you can see, even on the shortest route, the 5 Day Marangu Route, Kilimanjaro Park fees alone add up to $745 per climber.
This means if you are shopping for a Kilimanjaro climb which costs less than $1200, you are expecting to pay no more than $455 for your mountain gear, food, crew salaries and car transfers.
Kilimanjaro Park fees are non-negotiable!
Gear, food, salaries, and staffing are exactly where budget operators cut their costs, to provide you with a low cost climb.
2. Mountain Gear
Sleeping tents, mess tents, rain proof bags to keep your clothing dry, are all crucial for a safe climbing environment and need to be of high quality and well maintained. After all the last thing you want is to sleep in a leaky tent or find out your clothing has gotten wet between camps. However high-quality gear is expensive, and maintenance is costly.
Hence, this is where budget operators often fall short.
In addition, to lower their cost, they do not provide adequate sleeping quarters for their porters and are likely to pile up too many in one tent. Less tents, less cost. Not getting enough sleep, is a safety issue for both crew and climbers.
Climbing companies that have partnered with KPAP (Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project), a non-profit organization in Tanzania supporting the fair and ethical treatment of porters, are required to meet a set of standards for which budget operators most often do not qualify.
While the average person on a typical workday burn around 2,500 calories, climbers and crew on Kilimanjaro can burn 6,000 to 8,000 calories a day. Therefore, it is imperative that sufficient nutritional food be provided to maintain the energy for hiking at altitude.
Unfortunately, being on a tight budget, while still trying to make a profit, this is another area where cheap climb operators are cutting their costs.
This not only jeopardizes a successful summit for the climbers, but also makes for porters carrying heavy loads while hungry.
Climbing companies that have partnered with KPAP (Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project), are required to provide a minimum of 3 meals per day for their crew.
Budget operators are not able to provide 3 meals of adequate portion for their crew due to their low climb price.
4. Crew Salaries/Adequate Number of Porters
Climbers assume the standard minimum wage established in 2014 guarantees an appropriate living wage for the mountain crew. Not the case! A minimum wage does not guarantee a living wage. Not only that, whatever minimum wage was established is not enforced. Hence, there are variable wage amounts being paid by climbing companies to achieve a lower climb price.
Budget operators do not pay the minimum wage amount, which is the reason why their climb price is lower.
Note: A porter’s daily salary does not even come close to the park fees you are paying daily to overnight on Kilimanjaro.
Another way for budget companies to cut costs is to overload porters, even though officially Tanzanian Government regulations do not allow a porter to carry more than 20kg. Cheap climb operators have a way to get around this regulation. Less porters, less cost.
High unemployment and lack of job opportunities in the foothills of Kilimanjaro makes young men and women eagerly accept work as a porter, even though they are often overworked and underpaid, in other words exploited.
Climbing companies that have partnered with KPAP (Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project) are required to pay minimum wages, have a transparent tipping method, and must ensure their porters do not carry more than 20kg.
Budget operators are not with KPAP. If you know of one who is, please let us know.
5. Transfers To/From Kilimanjaro Park Entrances
To start a Kilimanjaro climb, climbers and crew will have to be transferred to the Kilimanjaro Park entrance gate. Depending on the route, the transfer can take anywhere from 1 to 4 hours. Petrol is expensive in Tanzania, as such transportation is not cheap.
Because transportation is necessary and budget operators cannot negotiate petrol prices, they will resort to cutting more costs on the aforementioned points 2 thru 4.
Low climb prices are an indication that corners have been cut and working conditions of the mountain crew are compromised.
While the crew may receive a smaller than minimum wage salary, the food provisioning may not be enough (this applies to both porters and climbers), and the sleeping space may be inadequate for the crew, the climber may experience an unsafe climbing environment and fail to summit.
As such the following questions arise:
Would you be comfortable climbing, knowing that your support crew is being exploited because you wanted to save a few bucks?
Was it really such a great buy if you fail to make it to the summit?
Embrace guilt free climbing.
Whomever the climbing company of your choice, by choosing a KPAP and International Mountain Explorers Connection partner company you can ensure your mountain crew is well taken care of, and your climbing environment is as safe as it can be.
To find a KPAP partner company please click here.
To read Anya’s story in honor of porters please click here.