Mount Kilimanjaro FAQ
When is the best time to climb Kilimanjaro?
Although it is possible to climb Kilimanjaro all year round, generally months with good weather is recommended as adverse weather conditions such as excessive rain, winds, snow/ice and extreme cold can be draining on the body and significantly lower your chances of summiting and also increase safety risks.
Typically, the months of January & February and also September & October are considered to be the best months in terms of dry weather and moderate temperatures. June to August are also good months in terms of dry weather but temperatures will be much cooler. Some rain can be expected in November, December and March. April and May are the rainiest months and climbing conditions are usually considered poor. If you are considering climbing in the wetter months, the Rongai route is recommended since the northern side of the mountain receives less precipitation.
As you can expect, the months with favourable climbing conditions are also the busiest months in terms of the number of people on the trails.
How many days does it take to climb Kilimanjaro?
The shortest route to the summit taken by most trekkers is the Marangu route which can be done in four nights, five days. Having said this, the Marangu route also has the highest failure rate when it comes to summiting. Why? Because reaching the summit isn’t just about a climber’s physical fitness level, but also whether the climber’s body has had enough time on the mountain to acclimatize to the high altitude.
There is a definite correlation between the number of days spent on the mountain and reaching the top – the longer the climb, the better the chances of summiting.
Our advice is whatever route you select add an acclimatization day and have a safe and enjoyable climb.
Opting on a short route and climbing based on the minimum number of days may seem like a good idea to save costs but in reality you significantly reduce your chances of summiting and if you are travelling all the way to Tanzania for the purpose of climbing Kilimanjaro, the additional cost of an acclimatization day is well worth it and overall will make for a safer and more enjoyable climb.
Which route should I take to climb Mount Kilimanjaro?
There are more or less six established ascent routes – Marangu, Machame, Lemosho, Shira, Rongai and Umbwe. The Lemosho and Shira routes start from the westside of the mountain, while Machame and Umbwe routes approach the mountain from the south. The Marangu route starts from the southeast and lastly, the remote Rongai route commences from the north close to the Kenyan border.
In determining which route to select, consider the route’s difficulty, the number of days (longer is better to allow your body to acclimatize) and your preferences when it comes to traffic on the trail and scenery.
Route Minimum Number of Days to Climb* Difficulty Level Trail Traffic
Marangu 5 Medium High
Machame 6 High High
Lemosho 6 Medium Low
Shira 6 High Low
Rongai 6 Medium Medium
Umbwe 5 Very High Very Low
*We strongly suggest adding an acclimatization day to the minimum number.
Can you tell me a little bit about each route?
Also referred to as the “Coca-Cola” route, it is often considered the easiest route on Kilimanjaro given its gradual incline and short duration, but misleading due to the high failure rate to summit. The ascent and descent routes are on the same path and it is the second most popular route after Machame so the traffic on the trail is high. The Marangu route is considered the least scenic of the six routes.
Marangu is the only route which offers dormitory style accommodations in small basic huts. Climbers are supplied with bunks beds, mattresses and pillows, but climbers are required to provide their own sleeping bags. The huts have communal dining areas and basic washrooms.
Often referred to as the “Whiskey” route, Machame is the most popular route on the mountain and the trail is busy during the high season. Machame route is very scenic and the trail takes climbers through the montane forest, the moorlands of Shira Plateau, the barren and rocky landscape around Lava Tower, into Barranco Valley with its unique and indigenous vegetation. Climbers will experience breathtaking views from the top of Barranco Wall and a good glimpse Kibo’s Southern Icefield from Karanga Valley. The Machame route descends using the Mweka route.
Machame is considered a more difficult route than Marangu with longer climbing days and steeper trails and climbers sleep in tents at designed campsites for the duration of the climb.
The Lemosho route, similar to Machame, takes climbers through breathtaking scenery and ever changing landscapes and due to its low traffic and high summit rate, it is a good choice for those climbers with hiking and camping experience and time to do a longer climb.
Lemosho route also winds through lush montane forest on day 1 before ascending to endless vistas of the moorlands and the Shira Plateau on day 2. Typically on day 3 or 4 (depending on the number of days you choose) Lemosho meets up with the popular Machame route near Lava Tower. As with Machame, the Lemosho route descends using the Mweka route.
The minimum number of days required for this route is six days, although eight days is recommended to best enjoy the scenic trail at a leisurely pace.
The Shira route is nearly identical to Lemosho but bypasses the trek through the montane forest and the climb starts at a much higher elevation on the Shira Plateau. Some climbers may experience symptoms of high altitude from day 1 if they fail to quickly acclimatize to the high elevation. Shira route meets up with Lemosho on day 2 and follows the same trail for the remainder of the climb.
The remote Rongai route starts near the Kenyan border and has low traffic compared to the Marangu and Machame routes. Rongai is also a good choice for climbers in the rainy season as the northern side of the mountain receives less rain than the other routes starting from the west and south.
Rongai route winds through remote and wilderness areas with very few climbers before meeting up with the popular Marangu route at Kibo camp. Rongai route descends down the Marangu route.
The short and steep Umbwe route is widely considered the most challenging and difficult route on Mount Kilimanjaro.
Due to its fast ascent, only those climbers who are physically fit and confident with their ability to acclimatize should attempt this route. The fast elevation gain on this route usually does not allow for a climber’s body to proper acclimatize if attempted in the minimum number of days and accordingly, there is a high failure rate to reach the summit.
Umbwe route meets up with Machame, Lemosho and Shira at Barranco Camp and then follows the southern circuit to the summit and descends using the Mweka route.
How cold is it on the Kilimanjaro?
Climbing Kilimanjaro will take you through four ecological zones in only a matter of days depending on your route from rainforest, to moorland, to alpine desert, to finally the arctic zone.
At base of the mountain, the average temperature will range from 20 to 27 Celsius depending on the month of the year. The temperature will quickly decrease as you gain elevation and pass through the different ecological zones. At Uhuru Peak, the night time temperatures can drop down to – 25 Celcius or even lower depending on wind chill. The weather on Kilimanjaro can be extremely variable and change very quickly. It is advisable to be prepared for extreme weather including rain, gusty winds and cold nights.
What should I pack for my Kilimanjaro climb?
- Four season sleeping bag suitable for conditions reaching – 10 to -15 Celcius, sleeping mattress and small travel pillow
- Daypack (25-30 litres) and waterproof cover
- Large duffel bag to be carried by your porter
- Small & medium ziplock bags and plastic garbage bags. Ziplock bags are handy for a multitude of uses and large plastic bags for dirty clothes, gear, etc.
- Headlamp (bring spare batteries and spare bulb)
- Insulated water bottle or Camel Back/Platypus (the latter is recommend as it is easier to access and you will drink more frequently)
- Telescopic trekking poles
- Camera and/or video camera and extra memory cards and battery (note battery life is much shorter under freezing conditions)
- Earplugs (busy camps can be noisy)
- Pocket Knife
- Stuff sacks for sleeping bag and clothing
- Travel book, novels, deck of cards or other games for afternoon entertainment
- Waterproof trekking boots, well broken in & gators
- Extra shoes, like gym shoes or flip flops to where in camp
- Thick thermal outer socks and inner lining socks
- Waterproof/windproof breathable trousers (side zipper recommended)
- Hiking pants (convertible to shorts)
- Base layer or thermal long underwear
- Underwear, bras
- Waterproof outer gloves and inner liner gloves
- Waterproof/windproof insulated jacket
- Thick sweater or fleece top
- Base layer or thermal long sleeve shirt
- Long sleeved, light weight, moisture wicking shirt
- Scarf for cold and bandana for dust
- Wide brimmed hat for the sun
- Toque and balaclava
- Extra shoeslaces for your hiking boots
- Toilet paper
- Kleenex or facial tissue
- Sun block
- Lip balm with sun protection
- Skin lotion (the cold and wind will dry your skin more than usual)
- Wet wipes
- Small soap
- Travel towel – light-weight and takes very little space
- Toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss
- Insect repellent
- Nail clippers/scissors
- Razor & shaving cream/gel
- Contact lens solution & extra set of lenses
- Feminine hygiene product
- High altitude medication
- Anti malarial medication
- Band aids & moleskin for blisters
- Bandages, gauze pads
- Painkiller (Tylenol, Ibuprofen)
- Antiseptic cream (Polysporin)
- Stomach ache/indigestion medicine (Pepto Bismol)
- Anti-diarrhea medicine (Imodium)
- Re-hydration salts
- Prescription antibiotic effective against a broad range of bacteria including travelers diarrhea (Ciprofloxacin)
- Any other prescription medications
- Sterile syringes & needles
- Eye rinse/moisturizing drops
MONEY & DOCUMENTS:
- Plane tickets
- Travel Insurance Policy & Emergency Contact Number
- Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate (if applicable)
- List of Emergency Contact Number from home
- U.S. dollars in large and small denominations ($20, $50 & $100 bills should be issued after 2003)
- Credit cards and ATM bank cards
- Medical history
Avoid over packing and bring only what you need. Porters are limited to carrying 15 kilograms of your personal belongings. If your duffel is overweight, you will need to hire and pay for an additional porter. If you forget anything, most gear and equipment may be rented, although the quality may be less than what you might expect.
All extra luggage items you will not use on your climb, such as clothing, gear and equipment for safari or Zanzibar can be safely stored at the hotel.
It is not uncommon for checked luggage on international airlines to be lost or delayed and accordingly, we recommend that you wear or carrying on items which are absolutely essential to your Kilimanjaro climb, including one complete hiking outfit including your hiking boots. In your carry on baggage, make sure you should bring your toiletries, medications, camera and all important documents.
What do I need to carry in my day pack?
You only require items that you may need during the day until you reach your next camp and the items may vary from day to day depending on trail conditions, weather and your mountain guide’s recommendations. Typically such items may include rain gear at the lower altitude, warm clothing & gloves at higher altitude, snacks, hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, lip balm, camera gear, drinking water, lunch and all important documents including your passport and cash.
All other unnecessary items should be packed and locked into your duffel bag and be ready for the porters before setting off for the day. The porters will carry the duffel bag from campsite to campsite.
What kind of food can I expect on the mountain and what about drinking water?
All meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and drinks will be provided while on the mountain. An example of what you can expect on the mountain:
- Breakfast Lunch Snack Dinner
- Tea, coffee, hot chocolate
- Toast or crepe with margarine, peanut butter, jam, honey
- Eggs and sausage
- Fruit Water or juice
- Boiled Egg
- Roasted chicken
- Candy bar
- Fruit Tea, coffee, hot chocolate
- Roasted peanuts
- Popcorn Tea, coffee, hot chocolate
- Stewed vegetables with Beef, Chicken or Fish
- Rice Pilaf
- Fruit Salad
Plenty of drinking water will be boiled and cooled each day and provided to you before setting off on your day’s hike to keep you well hydrated. When you reach your next camp in the afternoon further drinking water will be available to you. There is no need to chemically treat the water but you may wish to do so.
You may wish to bring your own favourite snacks, Gatorade powder, candy bars, etc. with you.
If you have any special dietary requirements or restrictions, please let us know at the time of booking.
What is altitude sickness and will it affect me?
Kilimanjaro is a serious mountain and the dangers associated with climbing Kilimanjaro should not be taken lightly. Although not widely discussed, it is estimated that every year nearly 1,000 climbers are evacuated from the mountain and approximately 10 deaths are reported and in the vast majority of the cases, it is due to altitude sickness.
For anyone climbing Kilimanjaro, it is essential for you to know the symptoms of altitude sickness or Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) to avoid an emergency or life threatening situation.
Acute Mountain Sickness is caused by the failure of the body to adapt quickly enough to the reduced oxygen as the climber reaches higher altitudes. Although the percentage of oxygen (about 21%) remains the same from sea level to the top of Uhuru Peak, the barometric pressure decreases with altitude and accordingly, the amount of oxygen taken in by your lungs and absorbed by your body with every breath also decreases.
At an elevation of 3,600 metres the barometric pressure is about 630 mb (480 mmHg) while the barometric pressure at sea level is approximately 1000mb (760 mmHg) resulting in roughly 40% fewer oxygen molecules per breath.
Lower air pressure at high altitude can also cause fluid to leak from the capillaries in the lungs and the brain which can lead to fluid build up and result in a life-threatening condition known High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE) and High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE).
There are four factors related to AMS: (1) high altitude; (2) fast rate of ascent; (3) exertion of the body; and (4) dehydration. The main cause of AMS is climbing too high too quickly. Your body has the ability to adapt to decreased oxygen at higher elevations if given enough time.
At over 3,000 metres 75% of climbers will experience at least some symptoms of mild AMS which include:
- Shortness of breath
- Increased heart rate
- Nausea & Dizziness
- Loss of appetite
- Restless sleep
Climbers suffering mild AMS may keep ascending at a moderate rate and symptoms will generally subside as the climber acclimatizes.
If you start suffering mild AMS while hiking, please communicate this to your mountain guide so that he is aware and can keep an eye on your symptoms.
Symptoms of moderate AMS include:
- Severe headache not relieved by regular headache medication
- Nausea and vomiting
- Weakness and fatigue
- Shortness of breath
- Ataxia or decreased coordination
Normal activity becomes difficult for a person suffering moderate AMS and the person must turn around and descend to a lower elevation. Descending even only few hundred metres will result in improvement of symptoms. Continuing to higher altitude while suffering moderate AMS can lead to severe AMS and death.
Symptoms of severe AMS include:
- Shortness of breath at rest
- Inability to walk
- Loss of mental acuity (HACE)
- Fluid build-up in the lungs (HAPE)
- Severe AMS requires emergency descent of 600 metres and anyone suffering from HACE or HAPE requires evacuation to a hospital for treatment.
- What can I do to acclimatize properly while climbing Kilimanjaro?
- Climb pole pole (slowly, slowly in Swahili), follow your mountain guide’s lead, stop often drink and to enjoy the views. Don’t be in a hurry to get to the next camp. Include an acclimatization day into your itinerary.
- Take deep breaths and do not overexert yourself.
- Climb high, sleep low. Climb to a higher altitude during the day, then sleep at a lower altitude at night. By adding an acclimatization day, additional hikes can be incorporated into your itinerary to help your body adjust.
- Stay well hydrated. You should be sipping water continuously while you are climbing at least 3 litres while on the trail. Camelbacks or Platypus encourage drinking and is highly recommended. Make sure you eat enough food to keep up your strength even if your appetite starts to diminish.
- If you begin to show symptoms of AMS, let your mountain guide know so he can monitor your symptoms. If you do not feel well, do not say you feel fine. You may be risking your life.
- If your mountain guide determines that you are unwell and it is in your best interest to abandon the climb and he tells you to descend, it is an order. Respect the decision of your mountain guide and follow his instructions.
What can I do to train for climbing Mount Kilimanjaro?
First, before you start any training, get a medical check up and ensure that you are in good physical health and also inquire whether high altitude trekking is acceptable for your age, fitness level and health condition. Determine if any pre-existing medical conditions or any medications you are taking can cause problems on the climb.
We ask that you inform us of any current or prior medical conditions that we should be aware of at the time of booking.
As for training, although Kilimanjaro can be climbed by most people with an average fitness level, the climb is a much more enjoyable experience if you have properly trained and are physically fit.
The best and only exercise that you really need to do to prepare for climbing Kilimanjaro is hiking. It’s best to start training three or four months prior to your climb. If you have never hiked before, start gradually hiking a short distance at a slow pace and gradually increase the distance, elevation gain and start carrying a day pack. Be sure to wear the hiking boots you will use for your climb. Try to get to a point where you are able to comfortably hike four to six hours with an elevation gain of 500 – 600 metres while carrying an 8 kilogram day pack on two consecutive days (over a weekend) and you will be ready.
How early do I have to book my climb and what do I need to do?
If you plan on travelling during the high season (June – October, December – March), we suggest you book your climb as far in advance as possible, 6 to 8 months, especially if you are climbing the Marangu route as there are a limited number of spaces available in the huts at each camp. We can book on short notice, however, your climb will be subject to availability and we will require full payment immediately upon confirmation.
To start planning your climb, fill out our online inquiry form or email us at (…………………..) or call us at +255 784 200 220 (Tanzania time is GMT+3). We will respond to all inquiries promptly however due to time differences, there may be a 24 hour delay in email replies.
How Do I pay for my Kilimanjaro climb?
We request that your deposit to secure a climb and the balance of Kilimanjaro climb payment be made in US dollars by wire transfer into Sokwe Africa Safari U.S. dollar bank account. Unfortunately we do not accept credit card payment at this time.
All deposits and payments received into the company’s bank account will be held on your behalf and we only disburse funds to the appropriate suppliers as necessary until such time we have completed delivering our services to you.
What is your cancellation policy?
Cancellations are effective upon the date of receipt of written notification in our office.
91 days or more prior to departure are subject to a cancellation penalty of 10% of the total climb price;
90 to 61 days prior to departure are subject to a cancellation penalty of 50% of the total climb price; and
60 days or less prior to departure are subject to a cancellation penalty of 100% of the total climb price.
What is included and not included in your Kilimanjaro climbs?
KILIMANJARO CLIMB INCLUSIONS:
- All accommodations in Arusha and on the mountain
- All transfers to and from the airport, your hotel and to the park gate
- All park fees, camping fees and mandatory rescue fee
- All meals and drinks while on the mountain
- All shared equipment (tents, cooking utensils, crockery, etc.)
- Services of a professional mountain guide and porters.
KILIMANJARO CLIMB EXCLUSIONS:
- International Airfare to and from Kilimanjaro International Airport
- Tanzanian tourist visa fee payable upon arrival at Kilimanjaro International Airport
- Personal equipment & items (clothing, hiking boots, climbing gear, sleeping bag, sleeping mat, water bottles, etc.)
- Comprehensive travel & medical insurance
- Gratuities to your mountain guide(s) and porters
- Laundry, drinks at your Arusha hotel.
What is the best way to get to Tanzania?
If you are coming from North America or Europe, we recommend flying KLM to Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO). If you are coming from China, we recommend flying Ethiopian Air to Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO).
If you are planning a visit to Zanzibar after your climb, we recommend that you either (i) arrange your flight so that you arrive at JRO and depart through Dar Es Salaam International Airport (DAR) or consider arriving into Tanzania through DAR and then take a connecting flight to JRO to start your climb.
The flight between JRO and DAR is approximately about one hour.
Please confirm all international flights and seating prior to departure.
Do you need a Tanzanian Tourist Visa?
Tourist visas can be obtained upon arrival at Kilimanjaro International Airport or Dar Es Salaam International Airport by simply filling out an entry form (provided during your flight) and payment of the visa fee. Please ensure you have two blank pages in your passport and your passport does not expire within six months of your arrival date.
The tourist visa fee is US$50 with the exception of the following citizens: Pakistan (US $ 200), USA (US$100), Ireland (US$100).
Are there luggage restrictions?
For international flights, please check with your individual airline as check in and carry on luggage restrictions vary from airline to airline. With respect to domestic internal flights from Arusha to the Serengeti or Arusha to Zanzibar, the luggage restriction is 15 kg or 33 lbs and we recommend use of duffel bags rather than rigid suitcases. Excess luggage can be accommodated at the discretion of the airline and additional charges will apply.
Are there any airport taxes?
Airport taxes are not included in the price of internal Tanzania flights and are payable in cash. Be sure to have US dollars on hand to pay applicable airport taxes which range from US $5 to US $15 per flight.
Can you book my flights?
Unfortunately, we do not book international flights, however, all domestic internal flights included in your itinerary (if applicable) will be arranged by us and the cost is included in the itinerary price.
Is Tanzania a safe country to visit?
Since its independence in 1961, Tanzania has been a politically stable country and one of the safest countries to travel to in Africa.
We do however recommend that you use common sense and take safety precautions as you would when travelling in any foreign country.
Leave jewellery and expensive watches at home.
Keep all your important documents and cash in a money belt hidden under your clothes at all times (even on game drives or while dining at the lodge)
Keep a copy of all important documentation (passport, itinerary, insurance policy, credit cards, etc.) locked in your suitcase
When shopping, carry a few dollars for spending money in an easily accessible zippered pocket or shoulder bag rather than displaying your money belt
Do not walk around town after dark in Arusha, Dar Es Salaam or Zanzibar – always take a taxi even if you are only going a block or two.
Do I need travel Insurance?
Safaris are a considerable investment and we strongly urge you to purchase comprehensive travel insurance. Coverage should include trip cancellation, delay or interruption, lost or delayed baggage, emergency accident, illness and evacuation, 24-hour medical assistance and traveler’s assistance. African Max DMC does not include travel insurance or any protection plan in its safari price. However, we can arrange for your Travel Insurance if you need it as a separate package.
What vaccinations and medications do I need for travel to Tanzania?
We highly recommend that you consult with your physician or a travel medical doctor for advice several months in advance of your trip as you may need a series of vaccinations. Please ensure that you indicate that you will be travelling to Tanzania and will be participating in a high altitude trek. Your doctor will be able to suggest which vaccinations and medications are advisable. Anti-malarial medication is strongly recommended and should be discussed during your doctor’s visit.
All vaccinations are voluntary for entry into Tanzania with the exception of Yellow Fever vaccination. If you are entering Tanzania from Yellow Fever infected country such as Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Rwanda, you will be required to show a Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate upon arrival in Tanzania. Please ensure you carry this Certificate with your passport. If you are entering Tanzania from Europe, you will not be required to show a Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate.
What if I have special needs or requirements?
If you have any special needs or requirements, whether its allergy to specific foods or a medical condition we should be aware of, please let us know when you book your climb.
Can you use US Dollar in Tanzania?
Although the currency in Tanzania is the Tanzania Shilling (Tsh), the U.S. dollar is widely accepted. However please note that for larger U.S. dollar denominations ($20, $50 and $100), only bills issued after 2003 will be accepted in Tanzania due to counterfeiting and fraud.
Major credit cards are accepted at larger safari lodges and major souvenir shops and larger tourist towns offer ATM bank machines where you can withdraw cash using your bank card or credit card. Please note that ATM bank machines only dispense Tanzanian shillings.
Traveller’s cheques are hard to cash and not recommended.
Will my mobile/cellular phone work Kilimanjaro?
There is some mobile or cellular coverage on Kilimanjaro but reception may be inconsistent and network signals weak depending on which route you are on and where on the mountain. Your cellular/mobile phone will work in Arusha and Moshi.
How much should I tip to the mountain guide(s) and crew?
We feel that the gratuity system in Tanzania is not only customary, but to a certain degree obligatory. In Tanzania, a tip is not so much a bonus for particularly attentive service but rather a payment to supplement their base salary.
Obligatory payment of gratuities seems like an oxymoron and seems to go against the spirit of tipping, however, majority of Tanzanians who work in the tourism industry support many extended family members through the tips they earn, common in African culture, so please consider it a way for you to kindly and generously give back to the local people.
Tips for the mountain guide(s) and porters should be handed out on the last day and given directly to each person.
Please see below for recommended tipping guidelines for your safari:
- Mountain Guide: $30 – $40 per day
- Each Assistant Guide: $25 – $30 per day
- Each Cook: $25 – $30 per day
- Each Porter: $10 per day
- Transfer driver in Arusha/Moshi: $10 – $20 per vehicle
- Hotel Porters/Baggage Handlers: $1 to $2 per bag
- Hotel/Lodge/Camp Staff: $10 per group per day using gratuity box (read below)
At most hotel and lodges will have a gratuity box will be located in the reception area and we recommend that you use the gratuity boxes rather than providing individual tips to the staff that directly assist you. There are many behind the scenes staff ensuring your pleasant stay (cooks, room attendants, house keepers, security guards, etc.) and by using the gratuity box, your tip will be shared equally amongst all staff.