WHY DOES A KILIMANJARO CLIMB COST THAT MUCH?
If you’ve taken a look at our mountain climbing packages or requested some quotes from other tour operators, you have probably noticed that prices vary hugely. The cheapest offers start at just over 1000 or 1500 USD per person (depending on the route), and the most expensive packages are being sold for several thousand dollars. Those expensive packages usually offer a level of luxury that not many people require whilst climbing a mountain, so they are not within the scope of this article. But even within the ‘standard’ offers, price differences can be important, and for all of them it is safe to say that no matter what, climbing Kilimanjaro is never a cheap adventure. We – deliberately – do not offer the cheapest tours, and we want to explain to you, in all transparency, why does a Kilimanjaro climb cost that much?
The short answer to this question is ‘because we are a registered tour business who cares about your safety, pays its taxes, uses qualified crew members, treats them with respect and pays them a decent salary‘. But let’s break it down and give you a little bit more details!
PRICE FACTORS THAT TOUR OPERATORS HAVE NO IMPACT ON
There is a minimum cost for any tour, determined by factors that we have little or no impact on. We will use the example of a 7-day climb over Machame route for 4 people, which is a popular option for climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.
- National park and rescue fees for this 7-day Kilimanjaro hike cost 602 USD per person, and camping fees equal 354 USD per person, adding up to a total of 956 USD per person for access to the park and the sleeping facilities alone.
- Transport from Moshi to the gate and back. We need to transport you, all the staff members (keep reading for more information about how many exactly they are) and all the gear and luggage, so this usually happens in a minivan or bus. Around 25 USD per client.
- Food for the clients. Around 100 USD per client.
- Camping gear like tents, chairs, tables, … Around 100 USD per client.
Please keep in mind that each route has its own price, so eg. 7 days on Machame route is a bit cheaper than 7 days on Lemosho route.
HOW RESPONSIBLE TOUR OPERATORS CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE
The total of the costs above is around 1200 USD per person and we still have two very important aspect to cover: the working conditions and salaries of our crew members and taxes. This is the part that explains the big price differences between different tour operators.
We follow the guidelines of the Kilimanjaro Porters Association Project (KPAP), who defend the rights of porters on Kilimanjaro and make sure they’re paid according to the minimum wage determined by the Tanzanian government. They give recommendations about the number of porters, their minimum salary and tip, how many meals they should get, etc.
Below you’ll find the recommendations of the porters association (left) and an example of amounts offered by tour operators that don’t follow KPAP guidelines (right).
KPAP tour operators:
- At least 3 porters per climb on camping routes and no porter can carry more than 20 kg. This results in higher numbers for smaller groups.
- A minimum salary of 20.000 TZS (around 10 USD) per porter per day.
- 3 meals per porter per day.
- KPAP doesn’t specify minimum wages for guides and cooks but most KPAP tour operators pay at least 50.000 TZS per day per guide and at least 30.000 TZS per day per cook.
Non-KPAP tour operators:
- As little as 2 porters per climber.
- Salaries of 10.000 TZS (around 5 USD) per porter per day.
- 1 meal per porter per day.
- Salaries are around 25.000 TZS per day for guides and around 15.000 TZS per day for cooks.
Please note that it’s forbidden to climb Kilimanjaro without guides and practically impossible to climb without porters.
Let’s go back to our example of a 7-day climb over Machame route for a group of 4 people. We’d provide 2 guides, 16 porters and 1 cook. Non-KPAP tour operators would also provide 2 guides and 1 cook but limit the amount of porters to around 10. Keeping in mind the salaries mentioned above, the cost for a KPAP tour operator is 342 USD per client, and only 126 USD per client for non-KPAP operators. This is our cost, so not our sales price as it doesn’t include taxes, contribution to social security, the cost of the 3 meals per day or profit. It also doesn’t include entrance fees to the national park for the crew members. These additional costs add up to around 200 USD per climber.
In addition to this, we declare all our income and pay taxes on the full amount of your climb. We print official receipts for every client payment and can give you a copy upon request. If we add office costs and office salaries related to the organization of your climb, these business fees add up to around 400 USD per client for our example.
SO WHAT’S A REASONABLE PRICE FOR THIS CLIMB?
Let’s put all the numbers for our example together and add them up! We’ll exclude tips for now, as most tour operators don’t include them in the price they give you in their offers, and neither do we.
- Park fees, rescue fees and camping fees: 956 USD per person
- Transport fees: 25 USD per person
- Food: 100 USD per person
- Camping gear: 100 USD per person
- Salaries for mountain crew: 342 USD per person
- Extra costs such as taxes on crew salaries, social security, entrance fees for the crew, 3 meals per day for the crew, etc.: around 200 USD per person
- Business fees (taxes, office costs, etc.): 400 USD per person
This brings the total cost for this climb to around 2123 USD per person for a business that follows KPAP guidelines and pays all necessary taxes. As you can see in our Machame route package, we sell this tour for 2470 USD per person, leaving 347 USD per person to cover the profit we need for the development of our business and our general expenses. The above mentioned business fees only include those that are specific to your climb and not our general expenses such as yearly permits, accounting fees, city taxes, buying and maintenance of cars, office equipment, etc. So our actual profit is much lower than these 347 USD per client.
You’ll also understand that it’s easy to save 400-600 USD per climber just by lowering the amount of crew members and their salaries, and by not paying due taxes.
We make it our promise to provide decent, respectful working conditions to all our crew members and to pay all of them an ethical salary for the hard work that they do. We also pay all taxes according to Tanzanian law. We hope you agree with us that this is the only way to run a business and that you’re willing to spend a little bit more money in order to achieve this. Every extra dollar that you spend does not end up in our own pockets, but will go towards creating ethical working conditions for our crew and paying due taxes. And it might not even be as much as you expect when you consider the full picture. Keep reading to know more…
We strive to include everything that can be logically expected into the standard prices of our climbing packages, and provide clear information about what’s included and what is not. Please check each package to see the full list. With us, you don’t have to worry about suddenly having to pay more, even though we told you everything was included. We deliver what we promise.
One thing that isn’t included, are tips. Tanzania is a country where tips are expected for tourist activities, and while it obviously also depends on the quality of the service you have received, we want to be transparent with you concerning standard expectations. You are lucky that we are an ethical tour operator, as you will be expected to tip less, because we already pay our crew a decent salary. KPAP recommends a total salary of about 16 USD per day for porters, 10 of which should be paid by the tour operator and 6 should come from tipping. This amount is to be divided by all climbers. For our 7-day climb in a group of 4, there’s a total of 16 porters, so every climber would have to pay a total tip of 168 USD for all porters, or a total tip of 672 USD for the group of 4. To this, you need to add tips for your guides and your cook.
Of course, if you received an excellent service, you are very welcome to tip more, and we recommend the amounts below.
- Guides: 15 – 25 USD per guide per day, to be divided by all climbers (minimum according to KPAP: 15 USD)
- Cooks: 10 – 15 USD per cook per day, to be divided by all climbers (minimum according to KPAP: 10 USD)
- Porters: 6 – 10 USD per porter per day, to be divided by all climbers (minimum according to KPAP: 6 USD)
There’s some extra functions such as assistant guides, waiters and summit porters. Each have their own tipping guidelines but we will not go into details in this article. For more details and to know the number of crew members for each climb and group size, please have a look at our detailed tipping guidelines.
When you compare offers to see how much climbing Mount Kilimanjaro costs, we recommend that you don’t only consider the price of your package, but also keep in mind the company’s tipping recommendations, as they are often much higher than ours for companies that sell cheaper tours. In the end, you might end up paying (almost) the same amount of money to a company that doesn’t value your safety, nor the comfort or the working conditions of their crew members.