Everything You Need To Know Before Climbing Kilimanjaro

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Taking on an adventure of this nature takes a lot of careful planning to ensure your trip unfolds seamlessly. This post compiles all the details, big and small, for the most comprehensive list of everything you need to know before climbing Kilimanjaro. Start your planning early so that when the time comes, you can sit back and enjoy climbing to the roof of Africa.

Choosing a Company for Trekking Kilimanjaro

Hikers stand with their guides for a photo in front of the sign at the peak of Kilimanjaro.
Our group at the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro.

This is probably the most important decision you will make when planning your Kilimanjaro summit. The company you choose will be responsible for your safety and wellness during the climb. According to Tanzanian law, you must have at least one guide and two porters for climbing Kilimanjaro. As you do your research make sure to consider the price, success rate, amenities and most importantly the reviews. Click here for a full review on the company I settled on!

Price of climbing Kilimanjaro

Expect climbing Kilimanjaro to cost a considerable amount of money. As I did my research on everything I needed to know about climbing Kilimanjaro, most companies cost a few thousand dollars. This is pretty common because of the resources it takes to guide groups of people safely to the roof of Africa. I’m sure there are plenty of ways out there to find an extremely discounted price for trekking Kilimanjaro, but I settled on the most bang for my buck. Pay your deposit and you’ll secure your spot for climbing Kilimanjaro.

Amenities and what’s included in the climbing price

Piggybacking off of the cost consideration, comparing what is included and excluded could save money in the long run. For example, if a company includes airport transfers and meals this could save you from having to purchase a cab or expensive food. If you are an experienced traveler, it might be worth it to a la carte your adventure. For most travelers, the convenience is worth the money. Sticking with the same company to arrange your entire trek leaves less room for error. It’s also always nice to land in the country and know that you will be taken care of from start to finish.

Success rate and duration of trekking Kilimanjaro

If you work a regular job like myself, it might be difficult to get a ton of time off work. I try to condense my vacations into about a 10-day window. So for me, it’s important to find a company that can accommodate my time frame. As I searched through Kilimanjaro trekking companies, most had charts to determine price versus duration versus success rate.

The success rate is based on how many people make it to the summit. This is important because after flying around the globe and spending a ton of money you want to accomplish the initial goal! Choose whichever climbing route and time frame makes sense for you. More on that below. Check out my Summit Day post!

The reviews for a Kilimanjaro climbing company

This is always my go-to way to determine which company makes the most sense. By reading reviews from real people, you can gauge how the company treats its customers and the overall trekking experience. I also gravitated towards companies that are owned by local Tanzanians. This was a hugely important aspect for me since I wanted to support the local economy. I use sites like Trip Advisor as well as sifting through tons of blog posts like this one!

Choosing a Route When Trekking Kilimanjaro

Hikers along the Machame Route with the peak of Kilimanjaro in the background.
A few steep ascents along the way to Barafu camp.

There are 7 well-recognized routes when climbing Kilimanjaro. Consider what matters most to you during your trek. It was important to me that the route could be accomplished in about 7 days, with great scenery and a high success rate. Here is everything you need to know about climbing Kilimanjaro and a very brief description of each trail.

Northern Circuit

A fairly high success rate due to its recommended 9 day trekking time frame. This route is much less crowded than the others but still has amazing views. Click here for more information on this route.

Lemosho Route

It’s possible to do this route between 6 and 8 days. It is less crowded initially until it joins up with the Machame route for the summit. This route has a great balance between a high success rate and beautiful scenery. Click here for more information on this route.

Rongai Route

This route can be completed in 6 or 7 days and has very low traffic. The views aren’t as varied as other routes, but the trek is through mostly wilderness along the Kenyan border. This is a route that has a fair success rate and could be a good option during the rainy season since it doesn’t seem to get as much precipitation. Click here for more information on this route.

Machame Route

Known as the “whiskey route” this is the most popular trail when climbing Kilimanjaro. This route takes between 6 and 7 days to complete and has some of the best views on the mountain. It is a difficult route but has a decent success rate. Click here for more information on this route.

Shira Route

Very similar to the Lemosho route, this trail starts at just under 12,000′ making it a bit more difficult to acclimate. This route can be done in 7 to 8 days and has a lower success rate. Consider this one if you have some backpacking or climbing experience. Click here for more information on this route.

Marangu Route

Known as the “Coca Cola route” this is the oldest trail for climbing Kilimanjaro. Though this route has a gradual slope and is considered fairly “easy”, it isn’t always recommended. This path can get crowded, especially during the rainy season, because the accommodation style is huts rather than tents. Also, this route doesn’t have the best views compared to the other routes. Click here for more information on this route.

Umbwe Route

This is probably the most difficult route up to summit Kilimanjaro. It is a very steep climb and has a very low success rate even with the recommended 6 to 7 days of climbing. This trail is usually only completed by experienced hikers who are positive they can acclimate quickly. Click here for more information on this route.

Purchase Flights Before Climbing Kilimanjaro

A full view of Mount Kilimanjaro

Usually, I recommend traveling during the off-season, but for climbing or hiking, it might not be that easy. You have to choose your climbing dates based off of what season you want to summit Kilimanjaro.

Look for cheaper tickets

Some of the advice I always give to friends and family when searching for flights is to always do your research. I plan ahead and keep an eye on flights using Skyscanner. Skyscanner is an amazing tool to track prices and see when the cheapest tickets are available. Here are a few more tips and tricks to traveling on a budget.

The best times for climbing Kilimanjaro

These are the best times to summit Kilimanjaro due to it being the dry season. Though the weather is better the crowds will be much heavier along all of the trails.

Beginning of December through beginning of March

Temperatures on the mountain tend to be pretty cold during this time frame and snow is possible at the summit. Incase you are planning to tack on a safari to your trip, late January to February is calving season in the Serengeti. This means a ton of baby animals and also more activity from predators.

Late June through end of October

This timeframe also offers some of the best wildlife viewings if you decide to add a safari to the end of your climb. The wildebeest migration happens in June and July. On the mountain, it can be very cold in the evenings, but during the day the skies are clear and it warms up nicely. Less precipitation means this is a more popular time to climb.

March to May

The peak of the rainy season. Lower prices can be an advantage, but the weather will be an issue for both climbing and wildlife viewing.

Vaccines and Other Medications

A view from Stella Point on Mount Kilimanjaro as the sun rises above the clouds.
One of the most beautiful sunrises I’ve ever seen.

Obviously, I’m not qualified to offer any medical advice, but I will share with you everything you need to know before climbing Kilimanjaro and what I considered. First, I wanted to be up to date on all of my routine vaccines like MMR, polio and DTP as well as Hep A and Typhoid. The yellow fever vaccine is only required if you are arriving in Tanzania from a country that has a high risk of yellow fever. The U.S.A. is not on that list so the yellow fever vaccine is not required. Check with your doctor to see what other medications and vaccines you should consider bringing with you.

Another couple of helpful medications for me that I brought along were Diamox and Zofran. Again, always listen to your personal medical professtional, but I utlized the Diamox to help me acclimate to the elevation since I was coming from sea level. I won’t get into the science of it, but Diamox is a diuretic that tells your kidneys to get rid of the bicarbonate through urination that has built up due to exhaling more CO2 than usual. So basically your kidneys will be working overtime to stabilize your bloods pH levels, in turn helping you to better acclimitize to the higher altitudes.

I also brought along the Zofran in case I had any nausea from the altitude, which I had when I trekked to Everest Base Camp a year ago. Other items in my medkit were a bottle of Tylenol and ibuprofen as well as some anti-diarrheals.

Travel Insurance and Visa

Hiker sorts through backpack and other gear while climbing Kilimanjaro.
Sorting through gear at Barranco Camp.

These are two very important and necessary items that had to be included in everything you need to know about climbing Kilimanjaro.

Tanzanian Visa

Depending on where you are from, this information may difer. Check with your home country’s website (if you are from the U.S.A. click here) for the most up to date travel information on Tanzania. As far as the Tanzanian visa, you have two options. You can apply for the visa ahead of time or obtain it upon your arrival.

Most climbers fly into Kilimanjaro Airport (JRO) and can get the visa just after you exit the plane. Fill out the arrvial form provided for you on the plane and get in line as soon as you disembark. The line will be long and can take quite a while, but based on my experience applying for the visa ahead of time won’t save you a ton of time. We ran into a group of ladies who had gotten their visa ahead of time and paid double what we did while still having to wait in a long line.

As you walk into the Arrival Hall, take the form from the plane, along with your visa and cash, and grab a spot in line. After you get your visa in the first window, you’ll be directed to another line which is where you will get your visa pasted into your passport. You can then grab your bags and continue on to find your transportation. Some websites mention passport photos are required, we were not asked for them, but I did have a few just incase.

IMPORTANT: Your cash should be crisp and new. Older bills might not be accepted. Also, do not accept help from anyone. Get in line and talk to an airport offcial. If you accept help from someone they may require you to tip them.

Travel Insurance

This is a personal preference, but for me climbing a mountain in a foreign country calls for insurance! I currently have the Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card which contains insurance in its benefits package. Check with your credit card to see if you’d be covered under them. Otherwise, check out World Nomads for a plan that would fit your needs!

*Check out this guide for a complete checklist of everything you should know before you start planning your trip to Africa.

Begin Training to Summit Kilimanjaro

A hiker on the way to Lava Tower climbing the Machame Route on Mount Kilimanjaro.
A gradual ascent towards the Lava Tower along the Machame route.

This piece of the puzzle is so incredibly important for everything you need to know before climbing Kilimanjaro. Being in the right shape in order to be able to handle the altitude as well as the trek itself is paramount. Train with this simple guide. Focus on high-intensity interval training and running to work on increasing your heart and lung fitness. Also, add in flexibility and strength training for strong muscles to carry you up to the summit of Kilimanjaro.

Pack Your Bags!

Gear photo for Kilimanjaro
Kilimanjaro Gear Photo

This is one of the most exciting tasks for me to accomplish before any adventure. There are a few items that you need to make sure you pack like a warm winter jacket, water bottles, and a sleeping bag. Check out my complete packing list for climbing Kilimanjaro.

Embrace the planning stage and enjoy the process before you begin your climb to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. If you have any questions or comments on “Everything You Need To Know About Climbing Kilimanjaro” feel free to reach out below or on my Facebook page!

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