Climbing Mt Kilimanjaro - No. 1 Guide Online

by Kshaunish Jaini

Climbing Mt Kilimanjaro is something that, for most of us, will be a once in a lifetime experience. It is an endeavor that requires planning, patience, training and a not-insignificant amount of money. This guide (get the complete guide on your kindle) should help you plan your trek and give you a fair idea of what to expect, in terms of preparation, costs and your expectations from the trek. 


1. Where is Mount Kilimanjaro
2. The Kilimanjaro Climb
3. What is the best time to climb Kilimanjaro
4. How long does it take to climb kilimanjaro
5. Kilimanjaro Routes
  5.1 The Marangu Route      5.2 The Machame Route
  5.3 The Shira Route      5.4 The Lemosho Route
  5.5 The Rongai Route      5.6 The Umbwe Route
  5.7 The Northern Circuit      5.8 The Mweka Route
6. Notable Points on Kilimanjaro Trek
  6.1 Uhuru Peak      6.2 Furtwangler Glacier
  6.3 Gillman’s Point      6.4 Stella Point
  6.5 Reusch Crater      6.6 The Western Breach
7. How much does it cost to climb Kilimanjaro
   7.1 The Kilimanjaro Climb
   7.2 Flights to Kilimanjaro
   7.3 Tips for Porters
   7.4 Transport
   7.5 Insurance
   7.6 Accommodation
   7.7 Equipment
      7.7.1 Essentials
      7.7.2 Clothes
      7.7.3 Medical Kit
      7.7.4 Other Equipment
   7.8 Food
   7.9 Climbing Mt Kilimanjaro - Breakdown of Cost
8. Flights to Kilimanjaro

9. Kilimanjaro packing list
   9.1 Kilimanjaro Gear List
   9.2 Essentials
   9.3 Clothes
   9.4 Medical Kit
   9.5 Other Equipment
10. Kilimanjaro weather
11. Mount Kilimanjaro facts
   11.1 Kilimanjaro height
12. Kilimanjaro deaths
13. Altitude and AMS
14. KPAP - Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project
15. Kilimanjaro Tours
   15.1 Kilimanjaro Safaris
      15.1.1 Tanzania Wildlife
      15.1.2 Lake Manyara National Park
      15.1.3 Serengeti National Park Where is the Serengeti Wildebeest Migration
      15.1.4 Tarangire National Park
      15.1.5 Ngorongoro Crater
16. Tanzania travel
   16.1 Tanzania Visa
      16.1.1 US tourist visa fees for Tanzania
      16.1.2 Other countries tourist visa fees for Tanzania
   16.2 Tanzania Vaccinations
17. Swahili Phrases
18. Conclusion

Where is Mount Kilimanjaro

Map of the world showing the location of Mt Kilimanjaro

Mt. Kilimanjaro lies in Tanzania in Africa, south of the Equator. It is close to the border between Tanzania and Kenya. It is located very close to the equator. Kilimanjaro is a dormant volcano, and it is the highest peak in Africa, making it a member of the seven summits. It is in fact formed of three volcanoes lying on top of one another. The three volcanic cones are Mawenzi, Shira and Kibo. Mawenzi and Shira are extinct but Kibo, which is the highest peak, is dormant.

The exact location of Kilimanjaro is 3.0674° S, 37.3556° E. Though it lies completely in Tanzania, you will find many references to it in Kenyan tourism advertisements. This is because it is just across the border from Kenya, and some of the best views of Mt. Kilimanjaro are from Kenya. Being the highest free standing mountain in the world, it does make for some striking images, especially with the African wildlife around.

The Kilimanjaro Climb

Trekkers walk across the alpine desert towards the base of Kibo Peak on Mount Kilimanjaro.

Climbing Mt Kilimanjaro. Kibo seen in the distance as trekkers walk across the alpine desert towards the base of Kibo Peak on Mount Kilimanjaro.

What is the best time to climb Kilimanjaro

The main climbing seasons for Kilimanjaro are from June to October and from January to March. These are actually the “dry seasons” in the region. Dry because of the low rainfall during this time in the region. You can read more about the interesting weather patterns in this region, which effectively causes the Great Wildebeest Migration, here .  Though the season is called dry, you should be aware that the temperatures on Kilimanjaro can drop quite low.

Although Kilimanjaro can be climbed in ALL SEASONS, the probability of rain is drastically higher during the rainy season in the months of April, May and November. Drawbacks of attempting Kilimanjaro in the rainy season are:

This is also the least busy time to trek Kilimanjaro. I would recommend the Rongai route since its location on the leeward side of the mountain means it receives less rainfall than all other Kilimanjaro routes .

Group of people hiking towards Kilimanjaro.

Group of people, well equipped for the weather, hiking towards Kilimanjaro.

Other than the popular dry period, Mt Kilimanjaro also sees a lot of climbers over Christmas and New Years, though the weather is not the best. If you are looking at avoiding crowds, you can use this as a reference to plan your Kilimanjaro climb for the most suitable weather conditions and crowd.

Monthwise reference to hike Kilimanjaro:

Starry night at camp, Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, Africa

The night sky from Mt Kilimanjaro is magical.

Other times - The summit of Mt Kilimanjaro offers an unparalleled view of the sky. Since you will be, usually, making your summit attempt at night, this is an excellent opportunity to experience interesting astronomical events. These can range from a full moon, to comet showers. Many people also try and summit on particular summit days that are important to them - birthdays, anniversaries, New Year’s day are some that I have encountered.

Climbing Mt Kilimanjaro under a full moon is both magical and eerie . You can check the full moon dates for Kilimanjaro region here .


How long does it take to climb Mt Kilimanjaro

This question has many answers. The first thing that you should know is that there are many different routes to the top of Mt Kilimanjaro. Of these seven are active routes. These routes can be covered in anything from four to ten days.

Trekkers Passing Through Moorland On Kilimanjaro

Climbing Mt Kilimanjaro is not easy. Plan on about 7 days for your trek

When deciding how long you need to complete your climb up Mt Kilimanjaro, you need to factor in your experience and fitness level. If you regularly hike up high peaks and are familiar with acclimatization and find it easy to acclimatize during these hikes, you may be okay with a shorter climb. A bad reason to opt for a shorter time is the cost. Usually, costs for a shorter trek are lesser as the associated costs of park fees, porters and logistics are lesser. However, a shorter trek means a much lesser acclimatization time. Acclimatizing properly is vital to the success of your trip. On average, people take between 6 and 8 days to complete the trek up Mt Kilimanjaro, depending on the route.

Kilimanjaro also offers the option of day trips. These are possible because of permits that allow you to be present on the mountain for one day. Since you won’t be having a huge load, or require multiple porters, you can actually climb quite high on the mountain before turning back. These day trips are especially favourable if you want to see the abundant wildlife in the first two climatic zones.

Kilimanjaro Routes

Climbing Mt Kilimanjaro is no mean feat. But if you do your research and prepare properly, it CAN be done. Kilimanjaro has two main peaks, Kibo and Mawenzi. Kibo is the famous summit which has the iconic board congratulating you on reaching the summit. It is the one that you will see in most pictures. Mawenzi is a much more difficult summit that lies to the east of Kibo. It is jagged and cannot be climbed without the knowledge and experience of climbing equipment and techniques.

Climbers wander through the remains of the glaciers in the crater of Mt. Kilimanjaro.Your choice of route to the summit of Kilimanjaro will be instrumental. You may even walk through glaciers like this.

When I talk about summiting Kilimanjaro, I will be referring to Kibo. It is a valid assumption that if you are reading this, you are thinking about climbing up Kibo and not Mawenzi.

As I mentioned earlier, there are seven routes that you can use to climb up to the summit, and one for descent. These are:

Of these routes, six are only used for ascending the mountain (Shira, Lemosho, Machame, Umbwe,Rongai and the Northern circuit). That means that though you will be walking up the mountain on these paths, you are not allowed to descend the mountain on these paths. The Mweka route is a descent-only route, and logically, you are not allowed to climb up Kilimanjaro using this route. Marangu, being an exceptional route with huts along the trail, is both an ascent and a descent route.  

Further, a lot of these trails, mix and follow common paths, especially towards the summit.

The Marangu Route

Minimum time allowed for the Marangu Route: Five days
Recommended time: Six or Seven days
Success Rates: around 50%

The only route on Mt Kilimanjaro where you have huts, which means that you don’t have to camp on the mountain, making it more comfortable. Marangu is the oldest trekking route on Kilimanjaro, and is still believed to be the most popular route on Kilimanjaro. This has been surpassed in popularity by Machame only recently.

Huts on Marangu route where trekkers stay the night

Huts on the Marangu route offer an alternative trekking experience while climbing Mt Kilimanjaro. Photo by Kezee

Marangu also is the route with the lowest success rates for summiting. This is because this route has the toughest acclimatization profile of the routes. It is also cheaper than the other routes, because you are officially allowed to complete this route in five days (and four nights) and as such the park fee is lower. This also means that you will be on the summit between the third and the fourth day and thus would have ascended the same elevation with about two days lesser to acclimatize. This leads to a higher probability of failure.

This route is also popularly known as the ‘Tourist Trail’, or the ‘Coca Cola Route’ (as earlier you could buy items, most notably Coca Cola, enroute). The main reason why the Marangu Route is popular, or considered easy is because of the presence of huts on the trail, which definitely make for a more comfortable sleeping place than a tent. This also means that you will not have to pack, or carry, items such as a sleeping bag, or a sleeping mat on this route. When climbing on this route, you will be ascending faster than any other route, so if possible, insist on one acclimatization or rest day in between.

Since there are established huts on this trail, your journey is pretty well mapped out:

On this route, I strongly suggest taking a rest day (acclimatization day) at the Horombo Huts. This does not mean that your guide will let you rest for the whole day. An acclimatization day usually means that you will go on a short trek to adjust to the higher altitude and be back in time to give your body enough time to acclimatize. Horombo also caters to a larger number of people, having 160 beds at last count, compared to the 80ish beds that the other huts on the trail have. This is again, to cater to the people descending down the route as well as those taking an extra day in the middle.

The Machame Route

Minimum time allowed for the Machame Route: Six days
Recommended time: Seven Days
Success Rates: between 70 and 85 percent depending on the number of days

A group approaching the final camp at Barafu on the Machame route on Kilimanjaro

A group approaching the final camp at Barafu on the Machame route on Kilimanjaro

Currently the most popular route for those climbing Mt Kilimanjaro, the Machame route is widely considered to be a very enjoyable route. It is also more difficult than the Marangu route and you have to camp along this trail, since there are no huts available. Surprisingly, the success rates for Machame are higher than Marangu. This is because of the extra time taken to acclimatize properly during the ascent.

This route also passes through some of the best parts of Kilimanjaro - The cloud forests, the Shira Plateau, the Lava Tower, the Barranco Wall, and you will also see the massive Groundsels that make for some spectacular photos.

Hiker taking a rest under the giant senecio plants that grow on the slopes of Kilimanjaro

Hiker taking a rest under the giant senecio plants that grow on the slopes of Kilimanjaro

Even though the Machame Route is tougher than the Marangu route, it is more popular. Since it is comparatively harder than the Coca Cola trail, it is called the “Whiskey Route”, a popular and fond name bestowed by the early climbers here. Another aspect of climbing Mt Kilimanjaro via this route is that you have a choice of paths for your final assault on the summit - you can either opt for the longer Barafu Trail, or the tougher, but shorter, Western Breach.

Your itinerary on the Machame Route will look something like this:

The Shira Route

Minimum time allowed for the Shira Route: Six days
Recommended time: Seven Days
Success Rates: between 70 and 85 percent depending on the number of days

The Shira route has the highest starting point of all the routes mentioned here. The trail starts from the Shira Gate at 3600m. This is disadvantageous in that, it requires trekkers to adapt to the altitude quicker. Thankfully though, your first stop, at the Sima Camp, is at a similar altitude, allowing your body time to adjust.

A group of trekkers relaxing on Shira Plateau at sunset

A group of trekkers relaxing on Shira Plateau at sunset

This trail later joins the Lemosho route, and crosses the Shira Plateau, after which it is named. One of the other disadvantages of this trail is, because it starts higher, trekkers on this route miss hiking through the beautiful forest zone. There are multiple criss-crossing paths on this route and there is no fixed guideline on how to traverse this path. A short suggested guideline is below:

The Lemosho Route

Minimum time allowed for the Lemosho Route: Six days
Recommended time: Eight Days
Success Rates: between 80 and 90 percent depending on the number of days

Clear view of the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro as seen looking across the Shira Plateau.

Clear view of the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro as seen looking across the Shira Plateau. Taken on the Lemosho Route.

The Lemosho route is the newer route that crosses the Shira Plateau and is widely accepted as the best route to climb Mt Kilimanjaro. Not only is it one of the quietest routes on Mt Kili, but it also has some of the best views of the mountain. The Lemosho route also offers an option of summitting via either the Western Breach, or via the Barafu route. As I mentioned above, this route also passes through the scenic forest cover, which only adds to the beauty of the trail. The best advantage this route has, is the steady climb and the longer duration makes for an excellent acclimatization profile. The eight day version of this route also has one of the highest success rates for summitting. The recommended route is as follows:

You can also ascend via the Western Breach where the trail diverges from the Barranco Hut, goes to the Arrow Glacier Campsite from the Lava Tower Camp, and then to Uhuru Peak.

The Rongai Route

Minimum time allowed for the Rongai Route: Five days
Recommended time: Seven Days
Success Rates: between 65 and 80 percent depending on the number of days

Hiker on the snow covered Rongai route to Mount Kilimanjaro

Climbing Mt Kilimanjaro via the Rongai Route. Photo Credits

This is an interesting trail, because as it is most often quoted, this is the only trail that starts from the Northern Side of Kilimanjaro. This is advantageous since the Northern Side offers spectacular views of Mt Kilimanjaro. The official name of this trail is the Loitokitok route, which is named after the town where the trail starts. To make matters a little more confusing, many signs call this the Nalemuru Route (named after the river). This route has been gaining in popularity and the infrastructural development, i.e. roads to the starting point, are partly responsible. The initial part of this route is different to all the others as you will pass through cultivated land.

The main reason why Rongai is a popular route is its proximity to the Amboseli National Park, which means that there is a greater chance of wildlife sightings while you are trekking on this route. The path recommended is as follows:

The Umbwe Route

Minimum time allowed for the Umbwe Route: Six days
Recommended time: Seven Days
Success Rates: between 70 and 85 percent depending on the number of days

Trekker climbing Mt Kilimanjaro departing from Barranco

Climbing Mt Kilimanjaro via the Barranco Camp on Umbwe Route

The Umbwe route is, in essence, the shortest and the most taxing route on Mt Kilimanjaro. The trail is quite steep at some points and the initial part of the trek has you exerting considerable concentration to avoid falling down on the forest trail. The trail is tough, but still non-technical, and the gorgeous views make up for the hard effort being exerted on your muscles. The initial part of the Umbwe route also offers unparalleled solitude as very few trekking agencies operate on this route.

The Umbwe route usually consists of this path:

The alternative to the Western Breach, is to take the Barafu Route. This makes it a longer trek, but is preferred by many operators as they consider it safer. The Barafu route diverges from step 2 where instead of going to the Arrow Glacier Camp, you move to Karanga Camp from Barranco Hut.  

The Northern Circuit

Minimum time allowed for the Northern Circuit: Eight days
Recommended time: Nine / Ten Days
Success Rates: About 95 percent for the 9 days climb

Lobelia guards Kibo, Northern Circuit, Kilimanjaro National Park, near Arusha, Tanzania, Africa.

The Lobelia stores water in its rosettes; it takes 8 years to blossom. Seen on Mt Kilimanjaro

The most recently opened route on Mt Kilimanjaro, the Northern circuit starts on the western side of Mt Kili. You start at the Londorossi Gate and follow the initial path taken by the Lemosho Route, and joins the Northern trails after you cross Shira. The Northern side of Mt Kilimanjaro has the added advantage of being more remote. The Northern circuit is also the longest of the routes, with some agencies taking upto eleven days for the trek. The gradual ascent also means that the trail has the best acclimatization profile of the lot, but is consequently more expensive. Since the trek starts in the west, circuits around the northern slopes of Mt Kili, and descends from the Mweka route in the South East, you will see almost all the angles and views of Mt Kilimanjaro. A reference for the path is as follows:

The Mweka Route

The designated descent route for five of the routes mentioned (Shira , Lemosho, Machame,  Umbwe and the Northern Circuit), this trail has an interesting history. It was proposed by the Kilimanjaro Park Authorities (KINAPA) to be the descent route to clear the popular routes of congestion and limit their erosion, pollution and soil degradation. Those climbing Kilimanjaro via the Rongai Route, descend via the Marangu Route.

Trekker descending down Mt Kilimanjaro while her guide looks on

Descending down Mt Kilimanjaro. Photo by Becker

However, because much of the trekking population descends via Mweka, this route degrades quickly, resulting in loose rocks that can cause the unwary to stumble and fall. Repair work is undertaken regularly to keep the Mweka route in serviceable condition.  

It is on this route that you will most probably interact for the last time with your porters, and give them their tips in the tipping ceremony , illustrated by an excerpt from the book One Step at a Time, and kindly shared by Dr. Joel Batzolfin.

Notable Points on Kilimanjaro Trek

Uhuru Peak

A hiker standing on Uhuru Peak, Mount Kilimanjaro. Summit sign and glacier in the background.

Standing on Uhuru Peak, the summit of Kibo and highest mountain in Africa, Mount Kilimanjaro at 5895m amsl

The highest point in the whole continent of Africa and the goal of every trekker on Mt Kilimanjaro. At a height of 5895m above sea level,  Uhuru peak is the highest summit on Mt Kilimanjaro’s crater rim. First reached by Hans Meyer in 1889, the peak was named by Tanzania’s first president Julius Nyerere as Uhuru Peak, which translates to ‘Freedom Peak’, when Tanzania gained its independence in 1964.
Till then it was known as Kaiser Wilhelm Spitze or Kaiser Wilhelm Peak as was named by Hans Meyer.

The topic of it’s height is also a hotly debated one, with official figures (since the British Ordnance Survey in 1952) putting it at 5895, but contested by several independent sources. GPS data from a 1999 study puts it at a lower height of 5892.55m.Source

Furtwangler Glacier

Hikers on a walk around the Furtwangler Glacier

On the way back from the crater, Nina and I convinced Jonas to take us on a walk around the Furtwangler Glacier to see it up close. Everyone else retired to camp and went to sleep. Photo by Mouser

This glacier, on the crater floor, is named after Herr Furtwangler, the first person to ski down the slopes of Mt Kilimanjaro. It has sadly, been greatly reduced, but remains an important landmark

Gillman’s Point

The Gillman point lies on the crater rim and has a steep ascent, especially when climbing from the Kibo huts. Gillman’s point lies at 5719m, and it usually takes about an hour and a half to reach Uhuru from here.  

Stella Point

The signpost at Stella Point, the last milestone before the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro

Climbing the mount Kilimanjaro, Machame route - Stella Point (5756m) - the last milestone before the top

An important waypoint, especially on the Barafu Route, it is what is called, a false summit as it towers above in your line of sight. Once you reach stella Point, Uhuru is not far away! Stella point also lies on the crater rim and is named after Stella Latham

Reusch Crater

The Reusch crater is a majestic sight. The crater contains a 360m wide and 120m deep Ash Pit, which drives home the point that Mt Kilimanjaro is a volcano.

Hikers pointing to the ash pit in the Reusch crater.

Trekking to the Reusch crater. The ash pit makes a majestic sight. Photo by Mouser

Named after Pastor Richard Reusch, the crater honours him, and marked his 25th climb of Mt Kilimanjaro. He went on to further climb the mountain, a total of 65 times! He is also known to have taken an ear off the Frozen Leopard, which was featured in Ernest Hemingway's book, The Snows of Kilimanjaro.

The Western Breach

Though it sounds like something out of a war movie, the Western Breach is an area of the Kibo Crater, through which at some point in the past, lava has broken through and breached the crater wall - hence the name. This is an interesting, quite stunning breach and allows an access route to the summit.

How much does it cost to climb Mt Kilimanjaro

There are several factors that contribute to the cost of a Kilimanjaro climb. The most expensive aspect of your climb will be the trek itself. A decent trekking experience will set you back by about USD 1500 to USD 2000. Here are the details of the breakdown:

The Kilimanjaro Climb

This is the most expensive and the major component of your budget. Your climb budget is what you pay your agency and usually includes everything you will need on the mountain. These are the approximate costs associated with your climb:

Do note that these are approximate prices and will vary depending on your route, number of days, accommodation preferences at the beginning and at the end of the trek, the number of porters you hire to name a few. If you decide to not join a group, your trek will, of course, be more expensive.

A group of trekkers passing through the moorland zone on Rongai Route with Kilimanjaro looming in background

A group of trekkers climbing Mt Kilimanjaro via the Rongai route

Common things that are included are accommodation, both one day before your trek starts and the day it ends in a hotel, camping or hut accommodation on the mountain, food and water during the trek. Your agency will also provide you with basic utilities like a dining and a sleeping tent, utensils for your meals and hot water. A major component of this price is the national park fees . You will also have to cater for vehicle entry fees, camping fees / Hut fees, Rescue fees, Crew fees and taxes etc. and these are included in this price. The fee is usually based on a daily limit, but the minimum fee fixed by the Tanzanian government is for a five day trek. We strongly recommend a minimum six day trek and ideally 7 or 8 day trek. Despite the higher price tag for longer routes, the success rates due to better acclimatization are unarguable.

The National Park or Conservation Fees is different for Tanzanian residents (and other EAC members ) and, as is usual, is much higher for non-residents. Do remember to carry your own first aid kit and snacks (energy bars) as well, because vendors are no longer allowed to sell these things on the route.

Looking down on Mt Kilimanjaro from flight

Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa is the tallest freestanding mountains in the world.

Flights to Kilimanjaro

You can read more about these below , but a typical flight to Kilimanjaro will cost about USD 700 to 1500. This depends on your starting location, your ending location, your travel dates and when you book. The following should give an approximate idea:

These figures are only indicative. The airline industry is quite variable in terms of price and depends not only on the distance and fuel costs, but also on expected traffic on the routes (demand), competition (supply), local and global events, personal information about you and even the time of the day that you book.   

Tips for Porters

Besides your trek and the flights, tipping porters is the other major cost associated with climbing Mt Kilimanjaro. Like the American service industry, the tips for porters on Kilimanjaro, are not just a bonus or a reward for an exceptional above-and-beyond service, but a major part of their earnings to subsidize extremely poor and unsustainable wages paid to them by the trekking agencies on the mountain. Due to excess supply and lower demand, the actual wages paid out to the porters is a negligible amount.

Kilimanjaro porters carrying bags of tourists climbing the Mountain.

Kili Porters carrying bags of tourists climbing Mt Kilimanjaro

Tips, though not explicitly mentioned, are obligatory and you should budget for them accordingly. Here is a handy guide on how you should distribute them. Note that the below sum will be shared among the climbers in the group. It is not payable individually.

The average person will need 3 or 4 staff/ crew members per trekker, and they usually consist of a guide and 2 or 3 porters, one of whom will be a cook. This ratio goes down as more trekkers are added to a group, but there will still usually be a minimum of 3 support staff per trekker.

Tips are given by the whole group so you can decide accordingly. Do ensure that you hand your tips to your porters personally! That said, no matter the size of your tip, they will almost always be followed by head shaking and groaning and even tearful states of misery. As long as you understand that you have paid a fair tip and they see that you are not going to be budged, they will be happy with the fruits of their labours. You can see this article for details on this as well as the KPAP website. We will also discuss this in more detail later in this article.


Though the cost of transport is usually included in your booking price, it is important to know how much it amounts to, as you are the one who is paying for it. Usually this includes the pickup from and the drop back to the Airport, unless you are going for an extended vacation in East Africa. Many people do combine it with an African Safari, as it makes economical sense.

You will mostly be based in Arusha or Moshi. Besides the journey to Arusha from the Airport (about an hour and a half from JRO), the next step is to drive to the beginning of your trekking point. Now this is dependent on the route you have chosen, but here are some indicative figures:

A litre of petrol(gasoline) costs approximately 1 USD in Tanzania at the time of writing, and you can verify the current rates here .


When getting Insurance for your trip, do make sure to include that you will be climbing Kilimanjaro - a mountain that is over 5000m tall. Doing so will raise your premium, but make sure that it covers everything and it will be well worth it. Reading the small print is essential and I cannot stress the importance of it. In case something happens and you make a claim for it, you need to be absolutely sure that your evacuation, medical, hospitalization and repatriation expenses are covered.

Things to look out for in your travel insurance:

This insurance package may cost something around the US$ 100 figure. It will be deeply linked to your origin country and state and your trip duration. Do not skimp on this as this will be the best hedge for your vacation!

Note that there is helicopter evacuation is available on Kilimanjaro only at certain points, which I will refer to later in this article. The AMREF Flying Doctors of Africa conduct helicopter evacuation service, and tourists looking to climb Kilimanjaro or go on a Tanzania safari or Kenya safari can buy the Maisha Tourist Cover scheme , costing US$16 and up for a 30 day evacuation coverage in Kenya, Tanzania and Zanzibar.

Some medical insurance companies I recommend are:


Any accommodation that you book before and after your trek will have to be booked separately. The easiest way to go about it is to go through your booking agency, if you trust them. Be aware that, as with everything, they will charge a commission for this. 

Basic accommodation for tourists starts at US $5 to $10 per night and may vary on based on the particular time of the year that you are looking to book. Anything cheaper than this is suspect and I would not recommend it. Tanzania is still a developing country and as such faces acute infrastructural shortages especially regarding cleanliness, hygiene and public health. Do be careful when booking your accommodations in Tanzania - be it Arusha, Moshi, Dar es Salaam or Zanzibar. That said, the most expensive accommodations can range upto US $4000 a night! You can be assured of the best services money can buy in these places.


Equipment is basically divided into two parts. One that you will need to buy (even better if you already own them), and the second that will be provided by your agency, whether already included in the price or rented separately. Renting is a great way of ensuring that you do not end up paying for equipment that you won’t use much as well as save space and weight on your flight. Details about the packing list are further below .

Trekker sitting on a rock smiling on Kilimanjaro on the Machame Route

Appropriately dressed trekker on Kilimanjaro on the Machame Route.



Medical Kit

Other Equipment


Climbers having dinner in a mess tent on Kilimanjaro

Dinner in the mess tent on Kilimanjaro. Eating well on the mountain is crucial. Photo by Kessy

The major difference which is felt between luxury and budget operators is the food that you are served on the Kilimanjaro trek. Do also note that the money you pay has to cover not only the your food, but the food for your porters, and guides as well. With a decent group size of about 10 people, your crew will be between thirty and fifty people and your budget will have to cater for their requirements as well.

Climbing Mt Kilimanjaro - Breakdown of Cost

Assuming a 7 day trek

Park Fees
Conservation Fee -  $70 * 7 days -        $490
Camping Fee        -  $50 * 6 nights-      $300
Rescue Fee           -  $20 per person-     $20
Entry Fee for crew -  approx -               $20

People Costs
Guide                     - $20 * 7 days -       $140
Assistant Guide     - $15 * 7 days -       $105
Porters x 3             - $10*3*7 days-      $210

Food Costs
You plus crew       -  7 days -                $250

Transportation Costs
Pickup to from hotel + airport              $150

Total-  $1,685

Variations may include more porters, guide fees and different transport costs, plus the costs of the climbing company. There is usually one main guide for the group and one assistant guide per three or four people. Having more people in your climbing group will reduce the shared costs of the guides, transport and food.

Of course, this is just the part of the fee that is covered by the trekking agency when they quote you your price. The costs for equipment, tips for your crew, flights, visa and passport and other myriad things are not included in this estimate.

Looking up to Mt Kilimanjaro from Shira campsite

Mt Kilimanjaro is a once in a lifetime trek. It is difficult AND expensive

Flights to Kilimanjaro

When you book a flight to Kilimanjaro, there are four major airports that you can fly into in Tanzania, and one into Kenya (Nairobi). There is a detailed article where I talk about how to get to Kilimanjaro . This not only includes flights, but also how to travel to Kilimanjaro overland. The airports catering to international flights in Tanzania are:

There is also the small Arusha airport (ARK - flight schedule ) which caters to private chartered flights, although most flights here come through from JRO.

Kili Summit seen through the clouds from the air plane

You can see the summit of Mt Kilimanjaro when you fly in to Tanzania. Photo by Harsh

The most convenient Airport for your Kilimanjaro climb is, as the name suggests, Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO). Most people climbing Mt Kilimanjaro fly into JRO these days. That said, Nairobi and Dar Es Salaam are the regional hubs and flights to these airports are much more frequent and cheaper. That said, they are still about seven to ten hours away from Arusha or Moshi by road, and the money saved by traveling here and then to Arusha is not significant. Do make sure that you check prices for all these airports as sometimes you can get a really good deal and save over a hundred dollars per person. This is of course, only valuable if you have more time than money. Also note that, when planning your trip, July and early August comprise of the high seasons for these routes. If you are planning your trip during this time, book everything as early as you can! If you want to travel overland and save on costs, check the Riverside shuttle , which conducts daily bus service from Nairobi to Moshi and Arusha from US$ 35 onwards.

As of 2017, you will find the following Airlines operating flights to Kilimanjaro from Europe:

Many flights that you see (like Emirates, Air France, British Airways, Qantas) may also have connecting flights with one of the local operators:

If you’re flying in from the USA, it is extremely rare to find direct flights to JRO, and as of the current moment, there are no flights flying directly here. However, most of the major airlines will fly you to a local hub, from where another airline will complete the final leg of the journey. Airlines departing from the US are listed here - Delta, Alaska, KLM, Condor, Etihad, Turkish Airlines.

If you are traveling from SouthEast Asia, Etihad, Qatar and Ethiopian Airlines are the most popular airlines that usually tie up with either Kenya Airways or one of the local operators mentioned above for the last stretch.

Most of us, book flights via the marketplace services that allow instant comparison amongst different airlines and dates. A few of the ones I recommend are listed below:

Kilimanjaro packing list

Listed below are the Clothing and Gear you will need on a Mt. Kilimanjaro hike. A more detailed article on the Packing list is here .

Well equipped and dressed climbers prepare for the final push to the summit.

Well equipped and dressed climbers prepare for the final push to the summit. Photo by Kevin

Kilimanjaro Gear List


It also contains anything that I’m not using immediately, but I need during the day. These include hiking poles, raincoat, iPod, sunglasses, towel (especially when drying it on the outside of the backpack with some clips), a trowel - for burying excrement and keeping the trail clean, a pillowcase, a whistle and any one of the layered clothing like jackets that I am not currently wearing. I also keep my iPhone in my backpack.

Trekkers celebrating their successful climb on Uhuru peak

It is important to have the right clothes. Without them you will be exceedingly uncomfortable and may result in you not being able to summit. Layering is important. Photo by Kevin


Gear for Climbing Kilimanjaro ready to be packed

Gear for Climbing Kilimanjaro. Photo by Williams

Medical Kit

Other Equipment

Kilimanjaro Weather

Mt Kilimanjaro is Big. If fact, it is so big, that it changes the climate around itself and has it’s own weather  system. Mt Kilimanjaro, in terms of weather, is a huge huge obstruction to the trade winds that bring along with it, precipitation. When moisture laden winds encounter an obstruction, there are two ways they can go - around the obstruction or over it. It is usually a combination of both. Mt Kilimanjaro, however, is so big that it forces these winds to go higher, which results in them cooling. These form the basis of rain or snow on and around the mountain. These patterns are studied in detail by scientists and, interestingly, paragliders.

A view of Mount Kilimanjaro during the trekking to the summit

Mount Kilimanjaro has it's own mini climate. Seen during the trek to the summit

Due to the location and topography of Tanzania, the seasonal trade winds that collide with the mountain follow the following pattern:

These are the general conditions that lead to the weather conditions on Kilimanjaro, but in reality, the weather here is quite unpredictable. You may find weeks in April, where it doesn’t rain. Or a lowering of pressure may force the cloud cover higher, resulting in rains (or snowfall) on the upper reaches of the mountain.

This forms a small, but important, part of the weather ecosystem of the region. For more information on broader rain patterns and how they will influence your climb, see this article . If you are also planning a safari, see this article to see how they affect migration patterns, see this article .  Doug Hardy also maintains relevant information about the latest climate and weather patterns on Kilimanjaro, here .

Mount Kilimanjaro facts

Kilimanjaro height

Man celebrating at the summit of Kilimanjaro, Uhuru Peak

At 5895 m, celebrating a successful ascent to the Uhuru Peak

The highest point on Mt Kilimanjaro is Uhuru peak. It has an official height of 5895m and this is prominently displayed in all the marketing materials and on top of Uhuru itself. There is some debate on the actual height, as this figure comes from the British Ordnance Survey in the 1950s. The Official German figures before 1950 put the height at 5892m.

Surveys conducted by the Karlsruhe Institute along with UCLAS in Arusha using GPS techniques puts the height at 5892.5 m. This study was conducted in 1999 and subsequent studies in 2008 have put it at an even lower figure of 5890.8 m.

The peak of Kilimanjaro used to be even higher due to the large quantities of ice and snow, but the current official estimated put it at 5895 m, about 4m higher than what the latest studies show.

Kilimanjaro Deaths

Because of the thousands (between 30 and 50 thousand) of people who attempt climbing Mt Kilimanjaro every year, it is assumed that Mt Kili is a safe mountain. This isn’t helped by those attempting to climb the mountain in a unique fashion, whether it’s cycling, skiing down, or even walking backwards! These feats are extraordinary and should be respected as such, but this in no way should make you assume that climbing Mt Kilimanjaro is easy. It is not.

The main villain on Kilimanjaro is the Altitude, and his henchman is the Cold. KINAPA, which is the official Kilimanjaro National Park Authority, claims that one in four people fail to reach the summit and have to turn back due to AMS. One in Four. About a thousand people have to be evacuated every year.

Unofficial figures put the death toll on Kilimanjaro at approximately 10 people per annum. There are other reports that claim upto 30 deaths on the slopes of Kilimanjaro every year. Till official figures are released, there is no way of pinpointing exactly how many deaths on Kilimanjaro occur every year.

Almost all of these, with the exception of freak accidents, are related to AMS and Altitude Sickness. Porters comprise of the majority of those who die on the slopes of Kilimanjaro every year. This is attributed to the altitude, the cold and the lack of proper clothing that is available to these poor folk.

The authorities do make attempts to reduce casualties. Guides are now expected to be trained in reacting to anyone showing signs of AMS. They take this seriously and with thousands of people vying for the honour of being a lead guide, the spots go to the ones who demonstrate the maximum proficiency in their profession. Trekkers are registered every evening when they reach the campsite and the better agencies even monitor their health.

A part of the park fees comprises of a $20 component labelled Rescue Fees. This small fee helps them maintain a bare minimum of infrastructure, including stretchers, oxygen tanks and medical kits, which is utilized in escorting down those unable to make it to the summit. Helicopter evacuation is still not possible at all locations on the mountain. There are just three points - Shira, Barranco and Horombo, where evacuation by chopper is possible on Kilimanjaro and all of these are about five hours from the summit by stretcher.

Altitude and AMS

Altitude sickness is the most common problem, and something you are sure to encounter to some degree or another when climbing Mt Kilimanjaro. Altitude sickness is experienced when your body fails to adapt to the thinner air on higher altitudes. Do know that everyone, unless they’ve acclimatized immediately before climbing Mt Kilimanjaro, will experience the symptoms of altitude sickness!

Almost all of the trekkers who are evacuated down the mountain do so because they are suffering from AMS. AMS stands for Acute Mountain Sickness and is the formal name for altitude sickness. AMS is your body failing to adapt in time to account for the thinness of air. Since the air is thinner (by over 50% at the top of Mt Kilimanjaro), it requires more breaths to fill your lungs with oxygen. If the air is 50% thinner, you will need twice as many breaths! This is what happens when people experience irregular breathing due to AMS. Your body, having failed to adapt, tries a second method of breathing faster to get more oxygen to your vital organs - your brain, your heart, your muscles. When your vital organs don’t get enough oxygen, they malfunction.

Trekkers resting at Gilman's Point as the sun shines down

Climbers taking a break at Gilman's Point. The last stage is the most difficult because of the altitude and has many people returning without summitting. Photo by Gerald

This is why your guides and porters will call out "Pole, Pole" with regularity, in an effort to stop you from gaining altitude too fast. When your body detects that you are gaining altitude, it will initiate some changes. You will start to breathe faster and deeper, your body will produce more red blood cells, as these carry oxygen from your lungs to your heart, thus leading to thickening of your blood. Since these physiological changes take time, it is best to give your body fair warning. Thus, the mountaineers’ age old adage of climbing high and sleeping low. This simply alerts your body that there is a lack of air pressure, and hence lesser oxygen, and give it enough time to produce more red blood cells. This is also why we recommend our readers to take, at least six, and ideally eight days for climbing Mt Kilimanjaro.

AMS is usually classified into three categories, depending on the severity. Mild, moderate or severe. Most trekkers will experience some form of mild or moderate AMS. For these, the solution is to take care and ascend very slowly. Diamox helps. This is also why you are recommended to drink almost four litres of water. Daily. Mild AMS feels like a bad hangover. Headache, nausea, a bad mood and lack of appetite are common symptoms. Moderate AMS is more serious. Those suffering from moderate AMS will be constantly out of breath, may throw up and the headache is splitting and will not abate.

If anyone is suffering from severe AMS, DESCEND IMMEDIATELY. Besides those mentioned above,  symptoms include slurred speech, sleepiness, confusion and coordination problems. One of the ways this is treated is the Gamow Hyperbaric Bag (which increases the pressure inside and thus mimics the pressure at lower altitude), but descending is the best option.

Preventive measures that can be taken to avoid AMS are diamox pills or Oxygen Systems like ALTOX. You can also read more about Altitude sickness and it’s prevention here .

KPAP - Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project

KPAP is a nonprofit organization, that assists porters of the climbing companies that voluntarily collaborate with their Partner for Responsible Travel Program. To understand the reason why they exist or what they are trying to achieve, it is essential to know about the Porters of Kilimanjaro and their lives. This is a detailed article that touches on the topics of the porters on Kilimanjaro, Guides, tipping and their welfare.

Porters in the distance carrying trekker's luggages up Mt Kilimanjaro

KPAP helps porters by providing them with proper clothes for their trek.

In short, the porters on Kilimanjaro, will do the same trek as you, but carrying your luggage, without proper clothes or shoes, eating one meal a day and sleeping ten people to a tent meant for four. They negotiate the extremely tough terrain on Mt Kilimanjaro, regularly, but have no access to even the basic necessities of life. Furthermore, since there are way more porters looking for jobs, than trekkers looking for porters, they end up with the short end of the stick, not even getting a fair wage for their efforts. KPAP is an offshoot of IMEC (International Mountain Explorers Connection) that looks after porters welfare and fights for their rights in other such tourist spots around the world. Some of the information I have received here, is courtesy of Ms. Karen Valenti, who runs KPAP from Moshi. Other information is from their website and other sources on the web.

The main aim of KPAP is to improve the working conditions of Porters on Mt Kilimanjaro. They have four major ways in which they achieve this. (the following points are derived from the project details in their manifesto):

Kilimanjaro Tours

Kilimanjaro Safaris

Tanzania Wildlife

Elephants with Mt Kilimanjaro in the background

Mt Kilimanjaro and the Wildlife are Tanzania's most recognizable features.

Tanzania is home to some of the most iconic wildlife and has dedicated National Parks that are home to them. In Tanzania, you get the chance to see the “Big 5” game animals (traditionally, the most difficult to hunt). These include lions, rhinos, elephants, rhinos and buffalo.  You will also find African wildlife in abundance. While I will not go into details, some of the wildlife you can expect to see are zebras, giraffes, wildebeest and antelopes among others like hippos and crocodiles. You will also find monkeys of differing species like the colobus and the Blue Monkeys jumping in the trees. Other animals are also abundant, like baboons, leopards, cheetahs, civets, servals,spotted hyenas, hunting dogs, bush pigs and smaller animals like the honey badger, the aardvark, porcupines and bushbabies. This list only scratches the surface of the wonderful list of animals that call eastern africa home.

It also hosts a tremendous variety of birdlife as the different regions offer shelter and food for all varieties of birds. Some of the ones you are likely to spot are the Hartlaub Turaco, the speckled mousebird and  varieties of hornbills. The white necked raven is also often found on the slopes of Kilimanjaro. On slightly higher altitudes you may find raptors, Augur buzzards, crowned eagles and if you are lucky the Lammergeyer - a giant, majestic vulture.

Check this article Tanzania Safari - a Complete Guide  for everything you want to know about the safari scene. You may want to inquire safari prices from top local operators here .

Lake Manyara National Park

Wildebeest crossing with Flamingoes in Lake Manyara in the background

Wildebeest crossing with Flamingoes in Lake Manyara in the background

Lying on the eastern edge of the Ngorongoro National Park, it is usually visited as a short introduction to a safari in East Africa. It’s location is a major factor as it is about an hour and a half away from Arusha and an hour away from the Ngorongoro crater.

Lake Manyara itself occupies a major area (about two thirds) of the national park, leaving a small strip of land surrounding it for the rest of the park. Therefore the concentrations of game here is lower than the surrounding parks.  The main attraction here are the famous tree climbing lions. This does not occur anywhere else in the world and why these lions climb trees is still uncertain, but makes for a wonderful sight.

Lake Manyara also has abundant and varied birds and animals as the dense vegetation provides plenty of shelter and food.

Serengeti National Park

Where is the Serengeti
Mighty Lion Caesar watching the lionesses who are ready for the hunt in Serengeti

Lion in the Serengeti getting ready for the hunt

The Serengeti is Tanzania’s oldest national park and covers an area almost equal to the size of Northern Ireland. Almost 15,000 square km large, this protected park is one of the world's last great wildlife refuges. It shares a common border with the Masai Mara Game Reserve, which is basically the same National park that extends into Kenya. It stretches up to Lake Victoria to the West.

The Serengeti derives its name from the Maasai word Siringet, which means Endless Plains. The Serengeti ecosystem protects the largest remaining concentration of game animals roaming the plains, in Africa. Talking about the sheer numbers, there are more than three million large mammals in the Serengeti. It is also home to an estimated four million different animals and birds. These animals roam the park freely. The seasonal rains also lead to the spectacular Wildebeest Migration, where huge herds migrate to the Northern regions of the park in search of food and water.

Wildebeest Migration

An added advantage that is offered by Tanzania is that, if you plan your trip well, you can also have a chance to view the Great Wildebeest Migration that takes place annually and is one of the most exciting spectacles of the Animal Kingdom. Basically, every year, about a million and a half wildebeest and about 200,000 zebras and other animals migrate from the southern regions of the Serengeti to the Masai Mara in Kenya in search of greener pastures. This mass migration brings out the predators as well and lead to some of the most epic hunts, especially when the wildebeest are crossing the Mara river.

Do read this article delving into the details of the Great Migration and everything related to it. It is an insightful, well written piece and should answer most of your queries regarding the Wildebeest Migration in Africa.

Great migration of antelopes wildebeest in the savannah Africa

Great migration of the wildebeest in the Serengeti, Tanzania

Tarangire National Park

The Tarangire National park comes fully alive during the dry season from June to October, when there is a particularly high concentration of wildlife, especially along the Tarangire River. The park is located about 100 kms southwest of Arusha and covers an area of about 2600 square kms.

With more than 300 species of birds, the Tarangire National Park attracts a lot of ornithologists, especially in October and May.

Ngorongoro Crater

The Ngorongoro Crater is one of the Greatest Natural wonders of the world.About eight million years ago,this area was an active volcano, the cone of which collapsed on itself, forming this incredible crater that is over half a kilometer deep and 20 kilometres in diameter, This 300 square km. crater accounts for about a tenth of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.

The Ngorongoro crater, is famous because it has unusually high concentrations of wildlife. The conservation area stretches from Lake Natron in the northeast, to Lake Eyasi in the south, and Lake Manyara to the east. This area also includes the Olduvai Gorge which is one of the most important anthropological sites in the world. Discoveries here have led to our understanding of how Humans evolved.

The Ngorongoro crater is home to a vast variety of wild game and birds. With the exception of impala, the tapi and the giraffe, almost every species of African mammals that inhabit the plains live in the crater!

Looking into the Ngorongoro crater from the lip in the dry season. Elephant in the near distance

Looking into the Ngorongoro crater from the lip in the dry season. Photo by Nakanishi

If you plan a visit here, note that only four-wheel-drive vehicles are allowed into the crater. It is also compulsory to have a game ranger with you at all times.

Tanzania travel

Tanzania Visa

For the purpose of this guide, it is assumed that you will require an Ordinary / Tourist visa. A single entry visa enables you to enter Tanzania once and is valid for 90 days from the date of issue. Also note that this section covers only the visa for entry to Tanzania. If you are flying in to Kenya or any of the neighbouring countries, you will also have to get a visa for that country. (Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda offer a single visa under an East Africa Common Visa plan. Tanzania is not a member of this initiative)

The easiest way is to obtain Tanzania Visa on arrival at any entry point into Tanzania such as at Dar-es-salaam International Airport, Kilimanjaro International Airport, Zanzibar International Airport, Namanga (Tanzania - Kenya Border Post to the North), Tunduma (Tanzania - Malawi Border post to the South), Taveta and Holili (Tanzania - Kenya Border post to the North East). Along with your visa application documents, you will need a passport that is valid for at least six months, a few passport size photographs. Some embassies also insist that you pay in cash. I have never experienced this, but fellow travelers have.

US tourist visa fees for Tanzania

The cost of a tourist visa for US citizens is US $100 on arrival. The Tanzanian embassy website also notes that US citizens are allowed multiple entries on the same visa. This is valid for 90 days from the date of issue.

Other countries tourist visa fees for Tanzania

A Single-entry tourist visa costs US $50 or £40 on arrival.

A double entry visa costs £70 or US $100

The tourist visa is valid for 90 days from the date of issue. You can re-enter Tanzania on the same visa (providing it is still valid) if you are coming into Tanzania for a second time from Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda or Burundi.

Tanzania Vaccinations

This is an image of a passport and other travel documents including vaccination certificate, phone card, currency, and airline information.

Tanzania is still a developing nation and as such there is still a lot to be done for the Public Health. What this means for you, dear traveller, is a pre-emptive strike against pathogens and germs that threaten to mess with your health and your holiday.

The best way by far is to visit your doctor about six weeks before your trip and ask them about the innoculations and vaccinations required for Tanzania . This ensures that you will get the latest information about the health conditions there and be prepared for it! Briefly, these are the vaccinations you should worry about:

Even though each vaccination has been mentioned separately, many of these will be combined into one dose. You can read more about the vaccinations required for Kenya and Tanzania here.

Though not covered under vaccinations, you should consider taking a course of anti-malarial tablets. Mosquitoes will not be a problem when you are climbing Mt Kilimanjaro, since your starting point itself is higher than the maximum altitudes where these mosquitoes are found (around 1200m). But you should consider taking them because you are at risk before and after your climb. Tanzania is considered as one of the highest risk countries for contracting Malaria. The two most recommended antimalarials are Malarone and Doxycycline. Do consult your doctor before taking them. Also, liberally use mosquito repellent, which are now available in the form of easy to carry and apply sprays, and wear long sleeved clothes. This helps with all mosquito related diseases like zika, yellow fever, dengue and chikungunya.

Swahili Phrases

The main language spoken here is Swahili, which is not surprising given that it is the National Language of Tanzania. Most of the signs you encounter will be written in Swahili, or Kiswahili (official). The second most common language, especially around the Kilimanjaro region is Chagga. This is also the name of the tribe that many, if not most, porters on Kilimanjaro belong to.

Maasai Men doing a ritual dance

The Masai and the Chagga are the tribes that call Kilimanjaro home

Here are a few useful phrases and words that you will encounter on your trek:

You will find yourself requiring a few of these:

Here are a few others you just may need:






1 - moja


10 - kumi60 - sitini
2 - mbili11 - kumi na moja70 - sabini
3 - tatu12 - kumi na mbili80 - themanini
4 - nne20 - ishirini90 - tisini
5 -  tano21 - ishirini na moja100 - mia
6 - sita22 - ishirini na mbili200 - mia mbili
7 - saba30 - thelathini1000 - elfu
8 - nane40 - arobaini2000 - elfu mbili
9 - tisa50 - hamsini100,000 - laki

Along with English, Swahili, is the official languages in Kenya and Tanzania.Swahili is the most widely spoken language in sub-Saharan Africa.

Tribal Shepherd leading in flock in Africa

KiSwahili is the language most spoken by the locals


I hope this guide has been useful in helping you plan for your trip to climb Mt Kilimanjaro. In case you have further questions, my email address is [email protected] . You can also visit the AlienAdv blog , browse our website for various trips and generally feel free to reach out to me regarding your adventures. The best way to support our work would be to book a trip via AlienAdv. If you would like to see more guides like this, you can buy this guide on Amazon as well. I would be glad to receive suggestions on how to improve the guide and some of your experiences on Mt Kilimanjaro.


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