Mount Kilimanjaro seen from a distance with animals in foreground

Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro FAQs

Aug 18, 2022
Reading time: 17 minutes

Other titles for this post could be "All your practical Kilimanjaro questions answered" or "We help you prepare for Kilimanjaro and travelling there". From visas and vaccines to what to expect of your group and mountain crew, we've got the answers for you!

No preamble necessary, we think – let's get tucked into the Q&As!

What is climbing Kilimanjaro really like?

We have put together a short documentary to show you what it's really like climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. Find out what it's really like to summit the roof of Africa at 5,895 m (19,341 ft) above sea level. No matter where you are in the planning stages, it’s an extremely useful watch as you:

  • Meet the mountain crew who make this magnificent once-in-a-lifetime experience possible.
  • Watch the team trek through five unique ecosystems.
  • And find out what it really takes to conquer one of the world’s greatest natural wonders. 

 

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How do I get to Mt Kilimanjaro?

Tanzania has three major international airports:

  1. Dar es Salaam (DAR)
  2. Zanzibar (ZNZ)
  3. Kilimanjaro Airport (JRO)

The latter is the most convenient for Kilimanjaro, sitting only 42 km away from the mountain town of Moshi and 50 km from Arusha.

In addition to flights to Tanzania, you may consider flights to Nairobi in Kenya, which is only a five-hour shuttle bus ride to Arusha or a one-hour plane ride to JRO. Note, however, that by choosing to fly to Kenya you may need a multiple-entry Kenya visa (if you're flying out of Kenya, too, for example, and spend longer than a fortnight in Tanzania), which can cost as much as $122. This would reduce or even eliminate any saving you may have made in airfares.

In deciding which flights to book, you should take the full trip into consideration. For example, if you'd like to spend a couple of 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 there to Zanzibar after the climb, and then from Zanzibar back home.

Pineapple and beach in Zanzibar, Tanzania

Many folks like to head on safari or to Zanzibar as a reward after the rigours of Kilimanjaro

How many days early should I arrive?

We recommend arriving one day early (what we refer to as “arrival day”). This will give you time to relax, meet your fellow trekkers, and get a proper briefing before the climb starts. More importantly, if there's any delay to your flight or your luggage goes AWOL, there's enough wiggle room so that this delay doesn't derail your climb. Seriously – this extra day really is a good idea, especially with post-pandemic airlines being in a little bit of a pickle right now.

All that said, we understand that travelling to Kilimanjaro can be a challenge. So we'll accommodate your arrival time as best we can (for example, if you only arrive late at night the day before the climb starts, we'll still be there to collect you!).

All smiles on the way to the Kilimanjaro summit

Every campsite has a sign with some altitude figures

Do I need a visa for Tanzania?

Yes, most foreigners need a Tanzanian visa to visit the country. US, Canadian, British and most European citizens can simply obtain a visa upon arrival at the airport. The cost is $100 for US passport holders and $50 for others. US citizens do get a longer visa, however.

If you're a citizen of a different country, please check with your embassy if you can obtain a visa upon arrival – of if you even need one. Certain African nationals, for instance, can enter Tanzania without a visa.

Please also note that you need a passport that's valid for at least six months after your departure date.

What vaccinations do I need?

There are no specific vaccine requirements for entry into Tanzania. However, be aware that the Government of Tanzania requires proof of yellow fever vaccination upon arrival if you are travelling from a country with risk of yellow fever.

While it's not mandatory by any means, 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 and rubella) and meningococcal meningitis (Africa and Asia).

Please check the Fit For Travel website for more up-to-date information.

Which is the best route?

There are seven different Kilimanjaro routes up the mountain. We recommend the eight-day Lemosho, seven-day Machame and nine-day Northern Circuit routes. These routes offer the best balance of a high success rate and beautiful scenery.

Lucy group Kilimanjaro 7-day Lemosho route

A group of Follow Alice climbers on the Lemosho route

Is Kilimanjaro a technical mountain?

Kilimanjaro requires no technical climbing experience nor climbing equipment. This makes it the most accessible of the Seven Summits in many ways.

Any decently fit person can summit the mountain. That said, for most people, it will be one of the most difficult things they ever do in their lives! As we discuss in Kilimanjaro vs Everest Base Camp, it's even harder in our opinion than trekking to Everest Base Camp!

When is the best time to climb?

Kilimanjaro is climbable all year round. Yippee!

The best months to clim, however, are July to October and December to February, as these are the warmest and driest months respectively.

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 with the moon as your guide instead of headlamp is without a doubt an unforgettable experience. Also imagine seeing the glaciers glitter in the moonlight – absolutely stunning! Learn more in our post Kilimanjaro full moon climbs.

You can also summit the mountain to celebrate New Year's Eve. Why not join us on a New Year's Eve climb, a unique once-in-a-lifetime adventure?

You will pass through varied terrain

The moorland section has some really unusual and striking vegetation

What kind of food is prepared?

You'll be provided with locally sourced, healthy and nutritious meals cooked fresh every day by your cook and his assistant.

Our menus have been carefully designed to ensure the food is delicious, easy to digest, and provides plenty of energy. Expect fresh veg, fruits, meat, nuts and snacks along the way, as well as clean water throughout.

The primary carbohydrates of the meals are rice, potatoes and pasta, as well as some meat. 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 and powdered energy drinks.

Can you cater for special diets?

Any special requests regarding your menu? No worries. We can accommodate vegetarian and vegan diets as well as gluten-free diets. For those with special diets, please contact us to discuss what we can or cannot do.

Eating in the mess tent on Kilimanjaro

Staying cosy before a meal in the Follow Alice mess tent

How do I shower and use the loo?

This is an outdoor adventure trip 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 a plastic toilet. There are also simple, hole-in-the-ground public toilets (usually very dirty and not recommended). If you need to use the bathroom on the trail, you'll find a spot behind a tree or rock. But you'll need to have a little baggie for putting used toilet paper in that you then carry to camp and dispose of in a bin.

As we discuss in Advice for women climbing Kilimanjaro, ladies should consider bringing along a urinary device like a Shewee which lets you pee standing up. An antimicrobial pee cloth like a Kula Cloth is also a good idea.

Follow Alice toilet tent on Mt Kilimanjaro

Most operators provide their climbers with a private toilet tent

What is the climate like?

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° to -20° F) at the summit. So ensure you are prepared and bring the right clothing! You can learn more in Mount Kilimanjaro climate.

hu-chen-mjy-iDgnvpg-unsplash-1024x684.jpg

The glacier at the top of Kilimanjaro

What is accommodation like?

On the day before the trek (arrival day) and the day after the trek (departure day), we stay in a comfortable lodge in Moshi. It has lovely views as well as lovely rooms and facilities to match.

During the climb, you sleep in three-person, four-season dome-style mountain tents, two people per tent. If you'd like a tent of your own, you'll need to pay a single-person supplement.

Our tents are modern and have an outer flysheet and large vestibules where you can store your equipment during the night.

Orange-Follow-Alice-sleeping-tent-on-Kilimanjaro

One of our Follow Alice sleeping tents

How many people are in a typical group?

On our Kilimanjaro climbs, we aim to build groups of 6 to 10 fellow travellers, with 12 people usually being the limit. Follow Alice groups are typically made up of sociable people from around the world looking to share an unforgettable adventure with you.

 

 

Can I join a group as a single climber?

Yes, we love it when solo travellers to sign up for a trip with us! We'll put you in a group and your fellow travellers will soon become your new friends. There's little that's more bonding than being 'stuck' with each other for a week on a mountain in Africa!

How do I prepare physically for Kilimanjaro?

Don't underestimate how tough Kilimanjaro is. Too many people do, and don't make it to the top!

Depending on your current fitness, we suggest that you start your physical training at least two or three months prior to the climb. Please read How should I train for Kilimanjaro? to learn more.

Remember, the fitter you are, the more enjoyable the whole experience will be for you.

What equipment and clothing do I need?

In our detailed Kilimanjaro packing list we identify a variety of mountaineering clothing and gear you need for your climb.

Moorland Kilimanjaro

For most of the climb you need really warm clothes

The two most critical pieces of equipment that you might need to buy are:

  • hiking boots
  • a winter jacket

You might like to learn about bringing the right sort of boots in The best hiking boots for Kilimanjaro.

Most of the other clothing that you need is part of many people’s winter or skiing wardrobe already (like long underwear and a fleece jacket). We provide you with a four-season sleeping bag and sleeping mat free of charge. And you can rent trekking poles from us for US$15. 

 

 

Try to keep your daypack under 9kg (20lbs)

Many climbers find trekking poles useful, especially on the descent

What luggage should I bring?

When climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, you will need to bring at least two bags:

  • One is the backpack that you carry yourself each.
  • The second bag is your duffel bag which a porter carries for you.

The backpack, which you can think of as your carry-on luggage, will contain your water and lunch for each day, as well as other items like snacks, rain gear and camera. This backpack should have a capacity of around 30 to 50 litres. You can learn all you need to know on this topic in How to choose a backpack for high-altitude trekking.

Your duffel bag will contain all your other clothing, equipment and toiletries.

It might be a good idea to bring a third, small bag that you can use to store anything you don't want to take on the mountain. This can be left securely at your hotel.

Guides and porters working hard on incline on Kilimanjaro

Porters carry the bulk of your goods and everything else on a Kili climb

How much luggage can I bring?

You should limit your duffel bag to 15 kg (33 lb) when full, as this will ease the burden on the porters. Baggage should be of the round, squashy type rather than a hard suitcase. Note that luggage restrictions on domestic flights are often also 15 to 20 kg (33 to 44 lb) per person, so be mindful when packing your bags.

For your own backpack that you carry each day, try to keep it under 9 kg (20 lb) for your own benefit. If you'd like advice on choosing the backpack itself, please read How to choose a backpack for high-altitude trekking.

We also have a Kilimanjaro packing list video you might enjoy ...

 

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What staff supports us on the mountain?

Your Kilimanjaro guides and porters are your greatest asset on the mountain. Quality guides and porters 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 fluent 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 come to respect these guys greatly by the end of Day 1 of your climb – each porter carries about 20 kg (44 lb) of kit on their back up the mountain!

Florence-smiling-and-giving-thumbs-up-on-Kilimanjaro

Meet Florence, one of our excellent guides!

Learn more about Kilimanjaro tipping and why this is such an important consideration before your climb.

 

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What safety measures do you have?

Our guides are highly experienced to manage altitude sickness, which is the biggest obstacle on the mountain. They also have an intimate knowledge of the network of shortcuts to escort climbers to safety, and they're trained to react quickly and calmly under any circumstances. 

We cover each of the things to consider about Kilimanjaro safety in-depth in How we keep you safe on Kilimanjaro.

Please remember that the purpose of this article is not to scare you, but to keep you well informed. At Follow Alice, our top 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. It's a challenge, but that's what it's all about, right!?

Chris renewing his Wilderness First Responder training

Our Kilimanjaro guides regularly undertake certified mountain safety refresher courses

What if I need to descend early?

Some climbers may fall short of reaching the summit. But even for those who never reach the top, the climb is almost always still an incredible and rewarding experience.

When one or more people in the group decide (in conjunction with their guide's advice) they cannot continue on the ascent, they're escorted to the most convenient campsite and wait for the others to return.

Note that nobody fit and healthy enough to make a go for the summit will be denied the chance because of the condition of another climber! We always have enough guides on every climb to ensure all climbers are accompanied, even if the group must temporarily split up.

Is climbing Kilimanjaro safe?

There are always deaths on these big mountains. And Kilimanjaro is no different.

The most common cause of death on Kilimanjaro is altitude sickness. This comes about when you to ascend the mountain too quickly, not giving your body enough time to acclimatise. (But more on that just in a just moment ...)

That said, Kilimanjaro is a safe climb if you travel with a good tour operator and you follow one of the routes we recommend.

Our local guides and staff are trained to keep you safe and have the ability to treat climbers who become ill or injured. Your health and well-being really are our top priority on every Kilimanjaro climb. If you'd like to know more on this score, please read How we keep you safe on Kilimanjaro.

Follow Alice guides and porters are always on hand to help

It takes a team for anyone to reach Kilimanjaro – you simply can't get there on your own!

What is altitude sickness?

Altitude sickness, or acute mountain sickness (AMS), is a negative health effect of high altitude.

The percentage of oxygen in the atmosphere at sea level is about 21%. As you climb higher up the mountain, the percentage remains the same but the number of oxygen molecules per breath is reduced.

At 3,600 m (12,000 feet) above seal level, there are roughly 40% fewer oxygen molecules per breath. The body therefore finds it hard to adapt and function as normal with less oxygen.

Altitude sickness is caused by a failure of the body to adapt quickly enough to these lower levels of oxygen. Often climbers make the mistake of going too high (altitude) too quickly (rate of ascent).

But don’t worry, it's perfectly normal to get altitude sickness on Kilimanjaro. It's therefore more than likely that you'll experience some form of altitude sickness when climbing Kilimanjaro.

More than 75% of Kilimanjaro climbers experience at least some form of mild mountain sickness when above 3,000 m.

Note that age, sex or physical fitness have no effect on your likelihood of getting altitude sickness. And just because you haven’t had it before, doesn’t mean you won’t develop it on another trip. This is why we always advise clients to take as many precautions against developing AMS as possible.

Do I need to bring any medicine?

Tanzania has a moderate risk for malaria. Malaria occurs in all areas below 1,800 m (5,900 ft) and we recommend that you take precautions against malaria prior to the commencement of your trip.

When heading to Tanzania to climb Mount Kilimanjaro , you want to take precautions against malaria and altitude sickness.

Avoiding altitude sickness is also key. Here are our top tips for avoiding the dreaded altitude sickness on Kilimanjaro:

  • Go on all optional acclimatisation hikes before your Kili climb.
  • Choose a longer route that gives you more time to acclimatise.
  • Walk slowly. Pole, pole, as Tanzanians always say. Slowly, slowly.
  • Drink lots of water, as this mitigates the effects of altitude sickness.
  • Consider taking a preventative altitude sickness medicine like Diamox. Your doctor will prescribe this.
  • Read our blog post The best acclimatisation for climbing Kilimanjaro.

Prevent other possible illnesses by disinfecting your hands every time after you use the bathroom as well as before any meals.

Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro FAQ

Some of the team celebrating at Uhuru Peak!

What if I get injured or sick on the climb?

All climbers pay a rescue fee to the Kilimanjaro National Park (included in our package 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 and being taken back to the lodge early, but we will not be able to refund you for the days you missed on the mountain. Moreover, we ask all of our travellers to purchase a special adventure travel insurance that covers any possible medical expenses and evacuation costs – just to be safe!

You can learn more on this topic in How we keep you safe on Kilimanjaro.

Is there internet connection on Kilimanjaro?

As of August 2022, you can connect to the internet up until almost 4,000 m above sea level! And the Government of Tanzania says there will be connectivity all the way to Uhuru Peak (5,895 m) by the end of the year.

Whether or not you wish to WhatsApp, Instagram your trip and so on is up to you. For many, the chance to disconnect from the world while on a Kilimanjaro climb is part of the adventure's appeal.

That said, the new high-speed internet available on the mountain offers certain safety benefits, and we like that those who wish – mountain crew included – can stay in touch with their families when on their climbs if they wish.

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 Tanzanian plains and a 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!

That said, if you feel this might be the only time you come to visit East Africa, we encourage you to go on a once-in-a-lifetime safari with us.

Zebra in Lake Mburo National Park Uganda

An African safari is always a good idea, and a lovely, relaxing post-Kili adventure!

 

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Follow Alice Ltd

207 Regent Street

London, W1B 3HH

United Kingdom

 

Follow Alice Tours (T) LTD

PO Box 1923, Moshi

Tanzania

 

Follow Alice Tours (T) LTD is registered in Tanzania and holds all the necessary licences to run Kilimanjaro climbs and safaris.

 

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