What is a Kilimanjaro tipping ceremony?
The Kilimanjaro tipping ceremony is an important and fun custom that happens at the end of every Kilimanjaro climb. Amidst song and dance, climbers give their mountain crew tips and these are an important source of supplementary income. Your mountain crew is the team that accompanies you throughout your Kilimanjaro climb; it consists of a lead guide, assistant guides, a cook and porters.
We really encourage our climbers to budget money for the tipping ceremony. Read on to learn who makes up the mountain crew, how much to tip them, and for all the other info you might need.
But first, here’s a video showing a Follow Alice tipping ceremony in action …
Is tipping on Kilimanjaro compulsory?
As the word itself suggests, tipping on Kilimanjaro is not compulsory. That said, it’s a well-established practice and is expected. As mentioned, Kilimanjaro staff rely on climbers’ tips to subsidise their salaries. The porters’ salaries are, in fact, inadequate on their own to provide them with a liveable wage. (We explain a little further on why this is the case …) So tips are really very important to them.
Tipping on Kilimanjaro is an essential and customary way of thanking your mountain crew for all of their hard work. And man do they work hard!!
It’s worth noting here that we’ve never met anyone who’s climbed Kilimanjaro and then not wanted to tip their mountain crew! The tips are a key way of acknowledging and thanking your crew for all of their hard work in helping you to safely summit the mountain. Keep reading to learn exactly what a mountain crew does on a Kilimanjaro trek.
Who are the people in a mountain crew?
Every Kilimanjaro climb group is accompanied by a mountain crew. This crew consists of guides, porters and a cook. These men and women are incredibly hardworking individuals who are specially trained to support you throughout the climb. Their support extends to the logistical, practical, emotional, medical, and more. Whatever is needed, they’re there to help you!
The majority of the Kilimanjaro guides and porters are local Tanzanian men (and some women) between the ages of 18 and 40. Most Kilimanjaro porters are not employed on a permanent basis. Instead they freelance for different companies. For many it’s their main source of income and how they survive. This is another reason why tipping on Kilimanjaro is so vital to the welfare of your support staff.
How big is a Kilimanjaro mountain crew?
The size of your Kilimanjaro crew depends on how many climbers are in your group and how much equipment is needed. The more people in a group, the more porters and guides that are required. Kilimanjaro climbing groups generally vary from two to 20 people. That said, we’ve also taken solo climbers up the mountain on occasion. And at Follow Alice we cap our groups at 12, though other operators do take larger groups.
To give you a sense of numbers, a group of four climbers, for example, would have a mountain crew of around 21 people. While a group of 12 climbers, on the other hand, would need a much larger mountain crew of around 57 people. The table below shows the number of people in a Follow Alice mountain crew per group size.
Table showing climbers-to-crew ratio
The roles of the mountain crew members
So we’ve mentioned that a Kilimanjaro mountain crew consists of guides, porters and a cook. The table below explains their duties and says how many are needed per group.
|Lead guide||Overall trek leader, responsible for your health and safety||1 per group|
|Assistant guides||Lead you safely and efficiently up the mountain, answer your questions, and monitor your health||1 for every 2 or 3 climbers|
|Cook||Prepares all of your food (breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks)||1 per group|
|Porters||Carry food, camping equipment and everyone’s personal belongings, set up and strike camp, and take on various other duties||3 per climber|
If you’re wondering why each trekker needs three porters, you won’t be the first! But the reason for this is that everything you need for your six to nine days on the mountain must be carried there and back. We’re talking:
- Food, crockery and cooking equipment
- Chairs and tables
- Sleeping tents, a mess tent and a toilet tent
- Sleeping bags and sleeping mats
- Medical supplies
- Personal belongings
That’s an awful lot of stuff needing to be carried! And each Kilimanjaro porter is only allowed to carry a maximum of 20 kg (excluding their own personal gear).
Companies that use a small mountain crew
Some Kilimanjaro trekking companies – what we refer to as ‘budget operators’ – use smaller mountain crews to lower their costs. In this way they’re able to offer a much cheaper Kilimanjaro climb. However, these companies overload and overwork their staff.
Every single porter and guide is an essential part of the team. They all work hard to ensure your Kilimanjaro climb is enjoyable and, above all else, safe. Please ask any Kilimanjaro climb company that you’re researching how they determine the size of their mountain crew. You don’t want to trek with a company that compromise the well-being of its mountain crew and (by extension) its climbers.
Can I climb Kilimanjaro without guides and porters?
No. As per Tanzanian law, it’s illegal to climb Kilimanjaro without a guide and porters. Climbing Kilimanjaro is a challenge and a serious commitment. You need an experienced team of support staff with you in order to have a safe and enjoyable trip.
Why doesn’t Follow Alice just add a surcharge to the price of the trip to cover tips?
One of the reasons why Kilimanjaro tour operators don’t increase crew member’s salaries and do away with the tipping ceremony is that many crew members – and the porters especially – are in favour of the tipping custom. The tipping system allows them to earn a liveable wage while staying below the tax threshold.
Another reason the mountain crew prefer the tipping system is that a set wage isn’t as motivating. Mountain crews who work hard and deliver a really good service enjoy the prospect of earning bigger tips.
How much should I be tipping on Kilimanjaro?
It can be tricky to work out an exact amount to set aside for tipping early on in the planning phase, as you don’t yet know how many climbers will be in your group, and therefore how large your mountain crew will be. But a good rule of thumb is to set aside 10% of your climb price for tipping.
With that ballpark figure in mind, we now explain the norms for tipping amounts and how to work out an average tipping amount based on your group’s size.
A good rule of thumb: plan to tip around 10% of your climb price.
Daily tipping amounts per mountain crew member
In keeping with industry recommendations for tipping, we suggest that as a group you tip each Kilimanjaro crew member the following amount:
- Lead guide: $20 per day
- Assistant guides: $15 per day
- Cook: $10 per day
- Helping porters: $8 per day *
- Porters: $6 per day
* Some porters have additional duties like serving as assistant cook, waiter or dishwasher, or overseeing the toilet tent or camp setup. To honour the helper porters for their additional responsibilities, we ask that you consider giving them a slightly larger tip than the other porters.
The longer your climb, the more you tip
Most Kilimanjaro treks are six to nine days. Given that crew members should be tipped on a daily basis, the longer your climb, the more you’ll tip. The table below offers some figures for different route durations.
Total tipping amount per climber
|7-day climb||8-day climb||9-day climb|
|Group of 4 climbers+||$250+||$280+||$310+|
Please tip according to the service received
The amount you tip is, of course, premised on receiving good service. This is one of the reasons for having tips: the mountain crew are motivated to work hard to earn good tips. If you decide you aren’t happy with the service, by all means tip less than the recommended daily amounts. If the service is good, please tip near the recommended amount. If the service is truly exceptional, you might consider tipping a bit more.
When do I hand over my Kilimanjaro tips?
Climbers give tips to the mountain crew during the tipping ceremony at the end of a climb. This ceremony usually takes place on the last or penultimate day of the climb, often just before leaving Kilimanjaro National Park. The last day of the climb is also when we at Follow Alice hand out certificates of achievement to our climbers!
What currency should I use for my tips?
Kilimanjaro tipping can be done in US dollars or Tanzanian shillings (TSh). Other currencies aren’t helpful to the crew. We suggest withdrawing enough dollars or euros before you travel to Tanzania, or drawing the cash at the airport. Once you head to Kilimanjaro for your climb, you won’t have an opportunity to get your hands on cash. Please note that it’s very important that US bills are new (post 2006), crisp and untorn. Otherwise they won’t be accepted by the local banks.
It’s very helpful to bring an assortment of notes for tipping on Kilimanjaro. In this way you or the crew member who distributes the money can easily divide the cash into the necessary portions.
Your tipping money needs to go up and down Kilimanjaro with you, ready for the tipping ceremony at the end!
How should I hand over my tips?
If you don’t have the right change to give each crew member their money individually, by all means hand it to the lead guide to distribute among them. But please announce the amount you’re giving to each type of crew member, as they can then ensure they receive that amount. Also, please give the lead guide time to translate the amount you’re giving for any crew members who don’t speak English.
Go the extra mile … and donate trekking gear
Sometimes climbers donate items of clothing and equipment to the crew after their trek. Despite climbing Kilimanjaro multiple times a year, many guides and porters still have little access to good quality, long-lasting gear. Think gloves, hats, thermal socks, hiking boots, trekking trousers, and so on.
So if you have any equipment you no longer need after the trip, the porters will be very grateful receivers. If you’re unsure who specifically to give your items to, please give them to your lead guide to pass on for you.
Look for a Kilimanjaro tour operator who pays proper wages
The suggested tip amounts above are for climbers travelling with companies who pay their mountain crew the industry-recommended minimum salary. Porters, for instance, should be paid around 20,000 TSh (US$9) per day by their employer. If they receive an additional $6 per day from the climbers as tip, then they’ve achieved the minimum liveable wage of $15 per day.
Some budget tour operators are able to offer clients a lower climb price by not paying their staff properly. As you can see in the infographic below, you should be suspicious of any Kilimanjaro tour operator offering a climb fee below $1,900. We suggest that you ask them how much they pay their mountain crew. You don’t want to climb Kilimanjaro with a company that exploits its staff!
At Follow Alice we always pay our mountain crew the recommended wage, and sometimes more.
Meet the Follow Alice mountain crew
The Follow Alice Kilimanjaro team is headed by the highly capable and charismatic Chris Sichalwe. Chris selects our guides, porters and cook, and has put together a fantastic team who wins over climbers time and time again with their impressive work ethic and friendly, supportive attitudes.
Our crew consists of men and women from all over Tanzania. Kilimanjaro climbs are an important source of income to the Kilimanjaro region and Tanzania as a whole, and we’re so pleased to be part of this thriving industry that benefits both locals and climbers in such meaningful ways.
We’re not just saying this, but our porters are among the very best on Kilimanjaro! These men and women consistently blow us away with their commitment, hard work and cheerful attitude. The porters often stride on ahead of the climbers and guides each day to set up camp before you reach it. In this way you arrive at camp and chairs and your cosy tent are ready and waiting for you!
Their duties extend beyond portage and camp setup, however. Some porters are helper porters, individuals with extra responsibilities such as looking after the toilet tent, waitering at meals, and washing up the dishes.
Our lead guides
Every Kilimanjaro climb group has one lead guide who holds overall responsibility for the trek group. At Follow Alice we have two lead guides who take it in turns to lead our climbs: Chris and Robert.
Chris Sichalwe started Follow Alice with Reto and Daniel when he lead the two friends up Kilimanjaro in a 2014 climb. He’s the reason our Kilimanjaro climb adventure has proved so successful! Chris has been ranked as one of the top 10 lead guides on Kilimanjaro, amongst a pool of nearly 300!
Our other lead guide is Robert Sichalwe, Chris’s younger brother and another true gem. Robert has been a Kilimanjaro guide for five years, and loves his job. He especially enjoys meeting new people from around the world, and how they make each climb unique. His favourite routes to climb are the Lemosho and Northern Circuit, as they’re so varied and scenic.
Guides are so important on a Kilimanjaro climb, as they’re there to literally walk alongside you, encourage you, answer your questions, and monitor your health. All of our guides speak fluent English and are licensed by the Kilimanjaro National Park to operate as guides on the mountain. They are trained to deal with acute mountain sickness (also known as altitude sickness) and administer mountain first aid. Importantly, they’re familiar with the network of shortcuts down the mountain should they need to quickly escort a climber suffering from altitude sickness down to safety.
Rajabu Hamza is our Follow Alice Kilimanjaro cook. A local from the Kilimanjaro region, he’s a real wizard, consistently whipping up incredibly tasty and nourishing meals in an environment where most of us would be impressed with ourselves for boiling some two-minute noodles!
Every single porter, cook and guide is an essential part of the Follow Alice team.
Additional Kilimanjaro climb costs to consider
Some of the other costs to consider for Kilimanjaro are summarised in the infographic below. We then briefly outline each item below. But for a more detailed Kilimanjaro cost analysis, please read How much does it cost to climb Kilimanjaro?
Your tour operator is the company you climb Kilimanjaro with (like Follow Alice). You can’t climb Kilimanjaro without a tour operator, as discussed above. Tour operators can and do offer very differing climb prices, something we explain in Why do prices differ so much between Kilimanjaro operators?
You’ll need to factor your airfares to and from Tanzania into your Kilimanjaro budget. The best airport to fly into is Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO). Most tour operators will fetch you from JRO.
Vaccines and malaria tablets
Here is more info on recommended vaccinations and medications for Tanzania. Tanzania is in a malaria zone, so you should consider taking anti-malaria tablets to be safe from contracting the disease.
The Tanzanian visa fee is $50 for pretty much all countries. The exception is the US, where citizens must purchase a longer, $100 Tanzania visa. Conveniently, visas can be purchased upon arrival in the country. Read more about obtaining a Tanzania visa.
To climb Kilimanjaro, you should take out traveller insurance. More specifically, you want traveller insurance that covers you for high-altitude hiking (in other words, covers you for climbing up to 6,000 m above sea level). Read more about the requirements for your Kilimanjaro travel insurance.
Single supplement fee
Solo traveller? No worries, you’re part of a worldwide trend and we’d love to have you climb Kili with us! Just know that most Kilimanjaro package fees are based on double occupancy, so this means solo travellers (or those wanting single accommodation), need to pay a single supplement fee. This can vary from operator to operator. At Follow Alice, the Kilimanjaro single supplement fee is $200.
Have any questions regarding the Kilimanjaro tipping guidelines? Please feel free to speak to us or leave a comment below.
More useful Kilimanjaro topics
If you’d like to know more about climbing Kilimanjaro, you might enjoy reading: