We’ve answered everything you need to know about climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.
1) How do I get to Mount Kilimanjaro?
Tanzania has three major international airports: Dar es Salaam (DAR), Zanzibar (ZNZ) and Kilimanjaro Airport (JRO). The latter is the most convenient for Kilimanjaro, standing only 42km away from the mountain town of Moshi and 50km from Arusha. In addition to flights to Tanzania, you may consider flights to Nairobi in Kenya, which is only a 5h shuttle bus ride to Arusha or a 1h plane ride to Kilimanjaro Airport. Note, however, that by choosing to fly to Kenya you may need a multiple-entry Kenya visa (if you are flying out of Kenya, too, for example, and spend longer than a fortnight in Tanzania), which can cost as much as $122 – thereby reducing or eliminating any saving you may have made in airfares.
In deciding which flights to book, you should take the full trip into consideration, e.g. if you would like to spend a couple days in Zanzibar after the climb, it might be best to book one way tickets from your home to Kilimanjaro Airport for the climb, from Arusha to Zanzibar after the climb and then from Zanzibar back to your home.
2) How many days ahead of the trip should I arrive?
We recommend arriving one day early (called “arrival day”). This will give you time to relax, meet your fellow travelers and get a proper briefing before the climb starts. We know though that traveling to Kilimanjaro can be a challenge and will accommodate your arrival time as best as we can (e.g. if you arrive only late at night the day before the climb starts).
3) Do I need a visa to travel to Tanzania?
You will need a passport that is valid for at least six more months as well as a flight card which you will receive on the plane. Finally you need a Tanzanian visa. US, Canadian, British and most European citizens can simply obtain their visas upon arrival at the airport. The cost is $100 for US passport holders and $50 for others. If you are a citizen of a different country, please check with your embassy whether you can obtain a visa upon arrival.
4) What vaccinations do I need?
There are no specific vaccine requirements needed to enter Tanzania. However, be aware that the government of Tanzania requires proof of yellow fever vaccination upon arrival if you are traveling from a country with risk of yellow fever. We suggest you talk to your doctor about getting the following vaccinations which are standard in developed countries: Hepatitis A & B, Typhoid, Yellow Fever, Tetanus, Polio, MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) and Meningococcal Meningitis (Africa/Asia). Please check the Fit For Travel website for more up to date information.
5) What luggage should I bring?
When climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, you will need to bring at least 2 bags. One should be a daypack which you will carry during your hike. The second bag can be a larger duffle bag or backpack. The daypack, which you can think of as your carry on luggage, will contain your water, your lunch, snacks, rain gear, camera and maybe an extra layer of clothing. The second, larger bag, will be carried by your porter and contain all your other clothing and toiletries. It might be a good idea to bring a third small bag so that you can leave any unnecessary items (e.g. city clothes) at the lodge or in our local office before you go on the climb. This way you also keep them clean and free from dust until you return.
About the Mount Kilimanjaro trip
1) What is climbing Kilimanjaro really like?
We have put together this short documentary to show you what its really like climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.
2) When is the best time to climb Kilimanjaro?
Kilimanjaro is climbable all year round. The best months to climb though are July to October and December to February, which are the warmest and driest months. July, August, and September tend to be the busiest months on the mountain. Another factor to take into consideration is the full moon: Summiting Kilimanjaro on a cloudless evening is without a doubt an unforgettable experience. Now imagine seeing the glaciers glitter in the moonlight of a full moon – absolutely stunning. You can also summit the mountain to celebrate New Years Eve. Why not join us on our New Years Eve idea 2018, a unique once in a life time adventure. Climb Mount Kilimanjaro this New Years Eve and Follow Alice into 2019 with your friends above the clouds!
3) Which route should I take?
There are multiple routes up the mountain. We recommend the Lemosho and Machame route. Those two routes offer the best balance of high success rates, beautiful scenery and smaller crowds.
4) How difficult is the climb? And is it safe?
Kilimanjaro requires no technical climbing experience and any moderately fit person can summit the mountain. However, for most people, it will be one of the most difficult things they have ever done in their lives. Kilimanjaro is a safe climb taking the routes we recommend. However, there are always deaths on these big mountains. Kilimanjaro is no different. The most common cause of death is probably altitude related and that is from going too fast and not taking the time to acclimatise. Our local guides and staff are prepared to keep you safe and have the ability to treat climbers who become ill or injured. Your health and well-being is our first priority.
5) What equipment do I need? And does it get cold?
We have listed a variety of mountaineering clothing and gear that you will need for your climb. A detailed list can be found here. The two critical pieces of equipment that you might need to buy are warm, waterproof hiking boots and an insulated, synthetic or down jacket for the cold summit day. Most other equipment is often part of many people’s winter/skiing wardrobe already (e.g. long underwear, fleece jacket etc) and we provide things like sleeping bags and trekking poles for free. Due to the great elevation gain on a Kilimanjaro climb, you will experience all kinds of weather, from +30°C (+86°F) on the plains surrounding Kilimanjaro all the way down to -7 to -29°C (+20°F to -20°F) at the summit. So make sure you are prepared and bring the right set of clothing!
6) What kind of food is prepared? Can you cater for special diets?
You will be provided by our cook and his assistant with breakfast, lunch and dinner each day spent on the mountain. The food, specifically selected to help your climb, are high energy carbohydrate foods that are easily digestible. The primary carbohydrate of the meals are rice, potatoes and pasta and some meats. Fresh fruit and vegetables accompany every meal. Most meals will also have a selection of hot drinks like instant coffee, tea, and hot chocolate. You may want to bring some supplementary “comfort” foods, such as candy, gum, chocolate, health bars or powdered energy drinks. We can accommodate vegetarian and vegan diets. For those with special diets, please contact us to discuss what we can or cannot do.
7) How do I shower and use the bathroom on the mountain?
This is an outdoor adventure in the African wild. There are no showers on the mountain. Warm water will be supplied in a bowl and you will be able to wash your face and hands. For the rest you can bring wet wipes. At each campsite, we set up a private toilet tent which contains of a plastic toilet. There are also simple, hole-in-the-ground public toilets (usually very dirty and not recommended to use). If you need to use the bathroom on the trail, find a spot behind a tree or rock.
8) What is the accommodation like?
During the climb, you sleep in 3-person 4-season dome-style mountain tents, two people per tent. These tents are modern and have an outer flysheet and large vestibules where you can store your equipment during the night. On the day before (arrival day) and after (departure day) the climb, you will stay in a comfortable lodge set in spacious grounds shaded by banana trees near Arusha or Moshi – with stunning views, rooms and facilities to match. We understand that coming from a week on the mountain, you want to treat yourself with a hot shower, great food and maybe a good bottle of wine to celebrate!
9) What do you recommend for post climb: Safari or Zanzibar?
If all goes according to plan, you will be coming off the mountain knowing that you are one of the very few who have succeeded in climbing Kilimanjaro – well done! Now, it’s time to relax and take in some of the amazing sights and experiences East Africa has to offer. Choosing between a safari in the wildness of the Tanzanian plains and relaxing vacation on the great white sandy beaches of Zanzibar is tricky. The week on the mountain will be exhausting – so if you’re eager to charge the batteries before the busy everyday life starts again, go with Zanzibar! But if you feel this might be the only time you come visit Eastern Africa, we encourage you to go on a once-in-a-lifetime safari with us.
About the group
1) What does a typical group look like? How many people?
On our Kilimanjaro climbs, we aim to build groups of 6-10 fellow travellers, with 12 people being the limit. Follow Alice groups are typically made of 20 to 35 years old, sociable people from around the world who are looking to share an unforgettable adventure with you.
2) Can I join a group as a single climber?
Yes, we even encourage you to sign up! We make sure to match you in a bigger group of like-minded fellow travellers that will soon be your new friends. There is nothing greater than “being stuck with each other” for a week on a mountain in Africa!
3) What makes travelling in a Follow Alice group unique?
No matter if you came alone, with a partner or in a group of friends, you will instantly meet a circle of (new) friends from all over the world when travelling with Follow Alice. We work hard to make all of our trips unique and tailored to your specific needs. We see you as a friend rather than a client! And while you are searching for that perfect adventure, we know the internet is a big place! Don’t make the mistake of joining a random tour operator or random travel group – trust us, it’s easily done. We don’t bother with fancy marketing initiatives to reel in random people. Instead, through friends, friends of friends and our network of trusted travel ambassadors, we ensure that when you explore with Alice, you are exploring with friends.
It can be quite overwhelming trying to find the right tour operator for your Mount Kilimanjaro climb. Prices per person range normally from $1,500 up to $5,000 depending on which of the Kilimanjaro operators and Kilimanjaro routes you choose. You might wonder rightly why there’s such a wide range of offers. Find out why prices differ so much between Kilimanjaro operators, and why we recommend choosing a value for money operator like ourselves. Our approach to pricing is determined by offering an affordable price, without cutting costs on the important factors such as safety, quality of the equipment, hygiene and our staff.
4) What staff will support our group on the mountain?
Your Kilimanjaro guides and porters are your greatest asset on the mountain. Quality guides and porters will make for a wonderful time on the mountain, while a mediocre staff can put your life in danger. Each of our experienced guides is licensed by the Kilimanjaro National Park, trained in acute mountain sickness (AMS) as well as basic mountain first aid and speaks fluently English. Typically, each of our groups has one guide per two climbers, and each climber has three porters. Porters carry all gear, tents, cooking supplies and water. You will learn to respect these guys by the end of day 1 of your climb – each porter carries about 20kg (44lbs) of kit on their back up the mountain! Learn more about tipping your Mount Kilimanjaro guides and porters and why this is such an important consideration before your climb.
Preparation and safety
1) How do I best prepare for the climb?
Being prepared for your Kilimanjaro climb maximises your experience! Kilimanjaro requires no technical climbing experience and any moderately fit person can summit the mountain. However, you should not underestimate the mountain. If you have the time, we suggest you start with some physical training 2-4 weeks prior to the climb, which might include aerobic cross training or hiking to familiarise your body with the rigors of the climb. The fitter you are, the easier the climb will be for you. Despite all the preparation, the biggest challenge for any person climbing up Kilimanjaro are the effects of altitude, which seem mostly unrelated to fitness, age or gender.
2) How should I dress for climbing Kilimanjaro?
You should follow the “layering principle” when you dress up for Kilimanjaro. Staying warm and dry is imperative for a successful climb, and you can achieve it easily if you know how to properly layer:
- 1 base layer (e.g. thermo underwear, long sleeve shirt, sock liners, thin gloves): Moisture-wicking items that are worn against the skin. By moving sweat away from your body, the base layer should keep you dry and provide some insulation. Synthetics for this layer, no cotton!
- 2 mid layers (e.g. fleece pants, sweater, down jacket, thick socks): The primary purpose of these layers is to provide warmth. Therefore, while searching for mid layers, you should look for those that have good insulating qualities. Use fleece, down or heavier synthetics!
- 1 outer layer (e.g. waterproof jacket and pants, knit hat, waterproof skiing gloves): The outer layer is designed to provide protection from the wind, rain and snow.
Don’t let the changing temperatures on Kilimanjaro stump you – be prepared for any weather condition.
3) What equipment should I buy? What should I rent?
We recommend you bring/buy your own equipment for personal items such as hiking boots, thermo underwear, waterproof pants, down jacket, gloves etc. For more unusual items like sleeping bag, trekking poles etc, we provide you with those items for free. Please let us know in advance what items from the equipment list you would like to rent, so we can arrange everything for your arrival.
4) How much luggage can I bring?
You should limit your larger duffle bag or backpack to 15kg (33lbs) as this will ease the burden of the drivers, vehicles and most importantly, the porters. Baggage should be of the round squashy type rather than hard suitcases which are often difficult to fit into jeeps and carry up the mountain. Note that luggage restrictions on domestic flights are often also 15-20kg (33-44lbs) per person, so be mindful when packing your bags. For your daypack, try to keep it under 9kg (20lbs) for your own benefit when climbing up the mountain.
5) Do I need to bring any medicine, eg. for altitude sickness?
Avoiding altitude sickness is key. Do this by walking slowly. Drink lots of water and eat enough food. Go on all optional acclimatization hikes. Consider taking Diamox. Also prevent other illnesses by disinfecting your hands after every time you use the bathroom and before any meals. Moreover, Tanzania has a moderate risk for Malaria. Malaria occurs in all areas below 1,800m (5,900 ft) and we recommend that you take precautions against malaria prior to the commencement of your trip. If you’re planning to use Diamox on your Kilimanjaro climb, please consult your doctor as some malaria prophylactics cannot be used in conjunction with Diamox.
6) What safety measures are taken by staff?
Our guides are highly experienced to manage altitude sickness, which is the biggest obstacle on the mountain. They intimately know the network of shortcuts to escort climbers to safety, and they are trained to act quickly and calmly under any circumstances. We cover each of the things to consider about Kilimanjaro safety in depth in our Kilimanjaro Safety article. Please remember that the purpose of this article is not to scare you, but to keep you well informed. At Follow Alice our priority is your safety. We want you to know how to climb Kilimanjaro and how to do it in the safest way possible. It is safe to climb Kilimanjaro, but only when you are educated on the risks. Its a challenge, but thats what its all about right!?
7) What happens if I need to descend early?
Some climbers may fall short of reaching the summit, but not at the expense of the overall experience. Even for those who never reach the top, the trip to the wonders of Kilimanjaro will still be highly rewarding. If one or more people of the group decide they cannot continue, or if a guide deems it unsafe for a person (or a group) to continue the climb, they are escorted to the most convenient campsite and wait for the others to return.
8) What happens if I get injured or sick on the mountain? Do I need special insurance?
All climbers pay a rescue fee to the Kilimanjaro National Park (included in our price). If you cannot continue the climb because you get injured or sick, the guides and porters will gladly assist you on the way down. There is no extra charge for coming down early and be taken back to the lodge, but we will not be able to refund you for the days you missed on the mountain. Moreover, we will ask all of our travelers to purchase a special adventure travel insurance that covers any possible medical expenses and evacuation costs that may occur on the mountain – just to be safe!
Please ask any other question you may have.