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Kilimanjaro tipping

Tipping your Kilimanjaro mountain crew after a climb is an important custom. We explain why it exists, what a tipping ceremony is like, and how much to budget for tips.

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, how 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. While we pay them the minimum wage stipulated by Government, their 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 ... it's not that we're being stingy, but rather that we're following the preferred system ...). So tips are really very important to Kilimanjaro mountain crews.

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.

Guides and porters working hard on incline on Kilimanjaro

Kilimanjaro porters work unbelievably hard on the mountain – here they are in action, proving these words to be true!

Who are the people in a mountain crew?

Every Kilimanjaro climb group is accompanied by a mountain crew. This crew consists of:

  • a lead guide
  • assistant guides
  • porters
  • helping porters (porters with additional duties)
  • 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 this work is 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.

Follow Alice mountain crew celebrating a climber's achievement

Here you have three of our awesome Kilimanjaro team celebrating a climber's successful summit with her

How big is a Kilimanjaro mountain crew?

The size of your Kilimanjaro crew depends on how many climbers are in your group. 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, at Follow Alice we've taken solo climbers up the mountain on occasion. And 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. 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.

Climbers-to-crew ratio

Table showing the climbers-to-crew ratio on Kilimanjaro
Group Picture Kilimanjaro Team Holding Flag

In this team photo of climbers and mountain crew you can see that it takes a small village to launch a Kilimanjaro climb!

The roles of the mountain crew members

So we've mentioned that a Kilimanjaro mountain crew consists of guides, assistant guides, porters, helper porters, and a cook. Below we explain their duties and how many are needed per climb group.

Lead guide

  • 1 per group
  • The overall trek leader, responsible for everyone's health and safety

Assistant guides

  • 1 for every 2 or 3 climbers
  • They lead you safely and efficiently up the mountain, answer your questions, and monitor your health

Cook

  • 1 per group
  • Prepares all your food (breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks)

Porters

  • 3 per climber
  • They carry food, camping equipment and everyone's personal belongings, set up and strike camp, and take on various other duties

Helping porters

  • The number varies per group
  • They work as porters but each has an additional duty such as serving as your waiter, washing dishes or servicing the toilet tent.

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).

Porters carry the bulk of your belongings, so that climbers only need to carry a daypack

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 compromises the well-being of its mountain crew and (by extension) its climbers.

Look for a tour operator that's a KPAP partner

The easiest way of finding a tour operator that you know treats porters well is by looking for company that's an acknowledged partner of the Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project (KPAP).

KPAP is an NPO that helps to improve the working conditions of porters by:  

  • Lending donated clothing at no charge to the mountain crew for use while climbing
  • Offering educational classes to porters
  • Educating the public on porter working conditions and climbing responsibly
  • Providing industry guidelines for proper porter treatment

Follow Alice is an approved partner company of KPAP. By climbing with us you can rest assured that your porters are being treated and paid properly. 😀 

Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project (KPAP) logo

Follow Alice is an approved partner company of KPAP

Can I climb without guides and porters?

No. As per Tanzanian law, it's illegal to climb Kilimanjaro without a mountain crew. 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.

Follow Alice Kilimanjaro climbers and crew all together at the tipping ceremony on Kilimanjaro

The Follow Alice mountain crew join the climbers for a group photo at the tipping ceremony following their Kilimanjaro climb

Why not just add a surcharge to the trip price?

One of the reasons why Kilimanjaro tour operators don't increase crew members' 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 as a rewards-based one. Mountain crews who work hard and deliver a really good service enjoy the prospect of earning bigger tips.

Finally, the tipping system is advocated by KPAP, the NPO we mentioned earlier that advocates for the fair treatment of porters.

Kilimanjaro trekkers smiling and resting

We love this photo showing how quickly you become friends with your mountain crew on a Kili climb!

How much should I be tipping?

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 type of Kilimanjaro crew member the following amount:

  • Lead guide: $20-$30 per day
  • Assistant guides: $15-$25 per day
  • Cook: $10-$15 per day
  • Helping porters: $8-$12 per day *
  • Porters: $6-$10 per day

Please ask your lead guide to indicate who is a helping porter and who is a porter. If you have a large mountain crew, it might just be about asking the number of helping porters and the number of porters, as you might not get to meet each one individually.

Use a tipping sheet to help you record who's who

Every Kilimanjaro climb group should be given one tipping sheet by the lead guide for recording tip amounts per crew member. We discuss this document in more detail in a moment. But it's worth mentioning it now so that (a) you know to ask for it if it's not given to you, and (b) you can use it early on to record the numbers of each type of crew member. You need these numbers to later on work out the group's collective tip amounts.

Something we also discuss in just a moment is that one climber per group should be given the responsibility for the tipping sheet. So it's useful to early on appoint a group leader who will keep and record details of the makeup of the mountain crew on the tipping sheet.

Guides taking a rest on Kilimanjaro

Staff taking a rest on Kilimanjaro

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

Table showing total tipping amount per Kilimanjaro climber according to trek duration

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 somewhere within the recommended amount. If the service is truly exceptional, you might consider tipping the high-end amount.

Please also note that while tipping above the high-end recommendation may be tempting when you've had super service and just enjoyed your mountain crew so much, it's not actually advisable. We say this because overtipping can lead to crews starting to depend on unsustainable tip amounts.

If you loved your mountain crew's service, please tip each crew member the highest recommended daily amount for their job type. When multiplied by the number of days you were on the mountain, the amount adds up and they'll appreciate that you're tipping them generously.

Campsite on Mt Kilimanjaro

The porters set up and strike camp for you, allowing you to spend your camp time recovering from the climb

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 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!

Sometimes the tipping ceremony takes place at camp, other times it takes place post-trek. Just ask your lead guide if you'd like to know when exactly to expect the tipping ceremony.

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 the climb group's appointed spokesperson can divide the cash into the appropriate portions for each member of the mountain crew. This is the ideal, as discussed more in just a moment.

Your tipping money needs to go up and down Kilimanjaro with you, ready for the tipping ceremony at the end!

Indoor Follow Alice Kilimanjaro tipping ceremony

Sometimes the Kilimanjaro tipping ceremony takes place indoors

Appointing a spokesperson

On the evening before you start your Kilimanjaro climb, your lead guide briefs you and your fellow trekkers about what's to come. He or she also explains how the tipping ceremony at the end of the trek unfolds.

During this briefing, you're asked to appoint a spokesperson for the group. This person will have a few duties, namely:

  1. On the penultimate day of the trek, discuss with the group how much money to give to each type of crew member as a tip. A good time to do this is during your last dinner on the mountain. You’re all together, happy from your summit, and excited to chat about your tips. You can invite the lead guide to help you decide on amounts if you’re feeling unsure. The tipping sheet you received from your lead guide is useful in helping you to record the amounts decided upon.
  2. Gather together the group’s collective tips to hand over during the tipping ceremony. If possible, please divide the tips into the correct amounts for each crew member. But we understand that this isn’t always possible given the denominations to hand. If this is the case, please fill in the amounts per crew member type on the tipping sheet in the space provided.
  3. Prepare to say a few words of thanks to the crew on behalf of the trekking group during the tipping ceremony.
Kilimanjaro tipping ceremomny

Chris speaking an outdoor tipping ceremony

So now let's discuss the tipping ceremony itself ...

Tipping ceremony procedure

It’s very important for you to understand how tips should be handed out during the tipping ceremony to ensure the efforts of all of the crew members are properly recognised, and everyone receives the correct tip.

Here’s an explanation of how a Kilimanjaro tipping ceremony works:

  1. On the final day of the trek, the lead guide assembles the entire mountain crew together with all of the climbers.
  2. The group’s spokesperson (decided at your climb briefing) says a few words of thanks to the staff, which the lead guide translates into Swahili.
  3. The spokesperson now fills in and signs a tipping sheet (if this hasn’t already been done the night before) to indicate the total amount of tip given, as well as how much is being allocated to each type of crew member. He or she now hands over the total tipping amount to the lead guide. The lead guide counts the money and then signs the form to acknowledge the correct amount has been received. The lead guide then announces, in English and Swahili, the tip amount being given to each type of crew member. In this way, every crew member knows what to expect as a tip.
  4. There’s now lots of dancing, singing and celebrating by everyone!

The lead guide will distribute the tips within the next two days. Each crew member signs the sheet to say he or she has received the correct amount. 

Finally, please note that it’s not recommended to give tips (or extra tips) privately to some crew members. Some crew members are more visible to climbers than others, but their attentions are only made possible by the behind-the-scenes work of others. For the sake of fairness, please keep your tips for each type of crew member the same. These men and women work as a team, and we encourage climbers to reward them as a team. 

An indoor Kilimanjaro tipping ceremony

Singing and clapping during a Kilimanjaro tipping ceremony

Go the extra mile ... donate trekking gear

Please consider donating some of your clothing and trekking equipment to the porters in addition to tipping them. (We stress, donations should never take the place of the tips.) The porters climb Kilimanjaro many times a year and can go through their clothes and gear rather quickly. Your donated items are of great assistance to them and they appreciate such generosity tremendously. 

Think gloves, hats, thermal socks, hiking boots, trekking trousers, and so on.

While we recognise the temptation to give items to your favourite porters, not all porters are as visible to climbers as others. Yet all of them work hard and it’s recommended that (to make things fair) items be laid out and a method like picking a number from a hat be used. If you can think of another way to provide a fair distribution, by all means, please go with that.

Follow Alice porters climbing up Kilimanjaro and carrying heavy loads

The Follow Alice porters working hard on Kilimanjaro

Look for an 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.

Infographic showing the different types of Kilimanjaro tour operators and the prices they charge

 

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.

Follow Alice mountain crew and climbers, with many porters

This photo of one of our climbing groups with mountain crew shows just how many people are needed to make a climb happen!

Our porters

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.

Follow Alice porters resting on the mountainside o fKilimanjaro

Three of our epic porters taking a literal load off for a moment on the side of Kilimanjaro

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.

chris local leader tanzania

Here's our lead guide Chris, looking calm and collected as always!

Our guides

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.

Our cook

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.

Follow alice mess tent with climbers and crew eating popcorn

Popcorn makes the perfect snack, courtesy of our cook Raja (sporting the brown-and-white beanie)

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?

Tour operator

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?

International flights

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.

Visa fee

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.

Infographic showing the Follow Alice Kilimanjaro cost checklist

 

Travel insurance

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.

 

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Follow Alice Tours (T) LTD

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