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Why do prices differ between Kilimanjaro tour operators?

Kilimanjaro operators are not all the same.

Prices per person range normally from $1,500 up to $5,000 depending on which of the Kilimanjaro tour operators and Kilimanjaro hiking routes you choose. You might wonder rightly why there’s such a wide range of offers.

Let’s divide the Kilimanjaro tour operators into three segments: low budgetvalue for money and luxury tour operators.

Budget Kilimanjaro tour operators

Budget Kilimanjaro tour operators will take you on a 6 -7 day climb for as low as $1,200 to $1,800. The margins they make are as thin as it gets and as you guessed right, there is very little room to pay the porters decently, offer high quality food and equipment. Just the park fees for a 6 day climb are fixed at around $900 per trekker and can’t be lowered.

Value for money tour operators

Value for money tour operators, as we like to call them offer Kilimanjaro trips for around $1,900 to $3600. Most of these Kilimanjaro tour operators keep the cost to a minimum (with various degrees obviously) but without compromising safety, quality equipment and decent nutrition. The porters wages are fair and a higher guide to client ratio can be expected. The guides speak English well and have extensive experience on the mountain.

Luxury Kilimanjaro tour operators

Everything from $3,600 upwards can be summarized as luxury Kilimanjaro tour operators. How do they distinguish themselves and how do they justify the high prices? Amenities provided by luxury tour operators for example are extensive and can include portable showers, wine, oxygen tanks etc. You’ll still be doing the same amount of work to climb up Kilimanjaro with a luxury tour operator, however there will be some goodies waiting for you at the campsite. The luxury could reduce stress by a certain amount but the marginal benefit decreases really and is not worth it for most climbers.

Additionally, there are certain Kilimanjaro websites that are only sales agents. Meaning they take a local operator (normally in the budget segment) and add their margin on top. Those should be avoided in any case. If you are happy with a budget Kilimanjaro climb, make sure that you book directly with a budget tour operator. On the other hand, if you would like a higher level of safety and well-trained and experienced guides, make sure you do your due diligence and don’t just book with a higher priced company that forwards you to a budget tour operator.

We would put Climb Safe Kilimanjaro in the category of value for money tour operators. We does not use low price to attract customers, as we do not want to cut off each cost restate to poor service. 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. To give an example: we have a private camping toilet on all our climbs, but we decided against a portable shower which only some of the “luxury” operators might have in the higher price segment. With regards to toilets, there are either none on the campsites or they are in bad hygienic conditions.

There are so many factors to consider before you plan for a Kilimanjaro hike. Do not make your decision based on price alone. Price should be only one component of your overall decision. Mt. Kilimanjaro is not the place to shop for a cheap price, nor is it the place to overpay needlessly. What you are looking for is high quality service at a reasonable price.

There are minimum expenses every Kilimanjaro operator faces such as national park entrance fees, camping/hut fees and Tanzanian taxes by far make up the biggest expense, costing about $140 per climber per day. The other significant expenses are staff wages, food, and transportation costs. Local wages amount to around $75-$100 per climber per day (depending on group size). Food costs come out to about $20 per climber per day (includes food for staff). Transportation costs to park gate are about $100 per trip depending on the route. There are also costs associated with wear and tear on camping equipment and administrative costs for arranging your climb. By adding up all the daily costs listed here, you can estimate what it may cost to fund a Kilimanjaro climb on your own.

Even though there might be plenty of people that had great experiences with a budget tour operator, we would not recommend scraping away the last few dollars. Some tour operators forsakes basic safety measures and hires inexperienced staff who relies on tips only and damaged equipment that will expose you to risks that will make your journey not only less enjoyable but also potentially dangerous. Embarking on a cheap trip may seem attractive financially, but in reality it jeopardizes your safety and continue to mistreat porters. Climbing Kilimanjaro is a once in a lifetime experience for most people so make sure it’s a great one!

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