Climb Kilimanjaro Cheap

Mount Kilimanjaro is the tallest mountain in Africa. The desire to stand on its summit draws thousands of climbers to Tanzania every year. Mount Kilimanjaro is known as "Everyman's Everest", because even at a height of 19,341 feet, scaling the peak requires no techical skills and even those with modest ability can climb Kilimanjaro successfully.

Climbing Kilimanjaro is a once in a lifetime achievement. However, Kilimanjaro cannot be climbed independently. Tanzania National Park regulations require all climbers to book through a Kilimanjaro outfitter, and that can be very expensive.

Below are some typical prices for a 7 day Machame Climb in 2014 guided by well known outfitters:

Abercrombie & Kent: $5,695
Mountain Madness: $5,455
National Geographic Expeditions: $4,795
Tusker: $4,490
Alpine Ascents: $4,400
Peak Planet: $2,800
Ultimate Kilimanjaro: $2,250

Those figures are out of reach for many people, especially once airfare, tips and equipment is added to the total cost. But there is a way to do the climb for much cheaper than advertised by these companies above.

First, before we discuss how to reduce the cost of a Kilimanjaro climb, we should look into what the mandatory expenses are.

Park fees

The Kilimanjaro National Park charges fees for the following items (July 2013):

Entry fee, $70 per day
Hut/Camp fee, $50 per night
Rescue fee, $20 per trek
Porter/guide entry fee, $1 per person per trip

The park fees alone for a 7 day Machame climb will amount to approximately $860 per person. Adding/subtracting days on the mountain will increase/reduce your fees by about $120 per day.

Staff wages

The minimum recommended wages for Kilimanjaro crew members are set by the Kilimanjaro National Park. The recommended wages are:

Guides: $20 per day
Assistant guides/ cooks: $15 per day
Porters: $10 per day

Depending on which route and how many days you spend on the mountain, the number of porters per person will vary. It ranges between 2-4 porters per client. The number of guides, assistant guides and cooks will depend on the size of the trekking party.

On a 7 day Machame climb for 4 people, the staff wages are estimated to be approximately $1200 total, or about $300 per client.

Food costs

Everyone, clients and crew alike, need to eat on the mountain. Typical meals are rice, pasta and bread, with beef, chicken, or fish, and vegetables and fresh fruit. It is estimated that the average person eats about $5 worth of food per day. On a 7 day Machame climb for 4 people, the total food bill is calculated to be about $650, or about $160 per client.

Transportation costs

Kilimanjaro operators begin their climbs from either Moshi, Arusha or Marangu. Certain Kilimanjaro routes, like Marangu or Machame, have nearby trailheads while others, such as Rongai and Lemosho, require lengthy drives to reach the starting point. The transportation cost depends on which route you take.

A reasonable estimate is that the fuel costs amount to about $50-$100 per trip.

Equipment costs

Mount Kilimanjaro can have very harsh and extreme weather conditions. With ecosystems ranging from the alpine desert to the humid rainforest, and weather from unabated sun to blizzards, the equipment on the mountain takes a beating. Tents, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, stoves, tables, chairs, lanterns do not last very long when in the hands of a busy Kilimanjaro operator. Most items need to be replaced within a year. This is the hardest cost to estimate, but we believe $30 per client is a fair number.

Total costs

Together the park fees, staff wages, food, transportation and equipment costs for a 7 day Machame trek amount to about $1250 in costs for the climb. This is the absolute bottom price for a fully supported climb on Mount Kilimanjaro, and it assumes zero profit for the tour operator.

Outside of the Kilimanjaro climb, climbers have expenses for accommodations, meals and transportation. Most Kilimanjaro operators include these services in their retail prices, so be sure to factor these costs when dissecting an operator's price tag.

Do not forget that you should tip your guides and porters. The mountain crews receive very little money in terms of wages for the work they do, so do not under compensate them. A minimum of $150 in tips per client for a 7 day Machame climb is appropriate.

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