Climbing Kilimanjaro Without A Guide (3 Options)

Tristan Balme how to climb kilimanjaro without a guide

If you’re thinking about climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, you might be wondering whether it’s possible to do so without a guide. The answer is yes, but it’s important to carefully consider your options before embarking on this challenging adventure.

In this post, I’ll explore the three main ways to climb Kilimanjaro, including the pros and cons of each option. Whether you’re an experienced hiker or a first-timer, this guide will help you decide which method is right for you.

Option 1: Climbing Kilimanjaro Independently

If you’re an experienced hiker and are confident in your ability to navigate challenging terrain, you may be able to climb Kilimanjaro independently. This means that you’ll be responsible for planning and executing the climb on your own, without the assistance of a guide or porters.

While this option may be appealing to some, it’s important to note that climbing Kilimanjaro is a serious undertaking. The mountain is the highest peak in Africa, and the climb includes steep ascents, high altitudes, and unpredictable weather conditions. Additionally, the mountain is located in a remote area of Tanzania, which can make it difficult to access necessary resources and support.

If you’re considering climbing Kilimanjaro independently, it’s essential that you do your research and prepare thoroughly. You should be in excellent physical condition, have experience with high-altitude hiking, and have all the necessary gear and supplies. You’ll also need to obtain any required permits and follow all park regulations.

Tristan Balme climbing kilimanajro without a guide

Option 2: Climbing Kilimanjaro Without Porters

Another option for climbing Kilimanjaro is to do so without the assistance of porters. Porters are hired by many climbers to carry their gear and supplies up the mountain, which can make the climb easier and more comfortable. However, some climbers choose to forego this assistance and carry their own gear.

Climbing Kilimanjaro without porters can be a rewarding and challenging experience. It allows you to test your physical limits and fully immerse yourself in the climb. However, it’s important to note that this option is not for everyone. Carrying your own gear can be physically demanding, and it may detract from your ability to fully enjoy the climb.

If you’re considering climbing Kilimanjaro without porters, it’s essential that you prepare thoroughly. You should be in excellent physical condition and have experience with high-altitude hiking. You’ll also need to carefully select your gear and supplies to ensure that you can carry everything you need.

Tristan Balme climbing kilimanajro without porters

Option 3: Climbing Kilimanjaro With a Full Crew

The most common way to climb Kilimanjaro is with the assistance of a full crew. This typically includes a chief guide, assistant guides, a cook, and porters. The guides will help you navigate the mountain, while the cook will provide meals and the porters will carry your gear.

Climbing Kilimanjaro with a full crew can be a great option for many climbers. It takes much of the physical burden off of you and allows you to focus on enjoying the climb. Additionally, the crew is experienced with the mountain and can provide valuable guidance and support throughout the climb.

However, it’s important to note that climbing Kilimanjaro with a full crew can be expensive. You’ll need to pay for the services of the crew, as well as for food, gear, and permits. Additionally, you’ll need to follow the regulations set forth by the park, which can include restrictions on the size of your crew and the gear you can bring.

Tristan Balme climbing kilimanjaro with a full crew

The Make-Up of a Typical Climbing Crew

If you choose to climb Kilimanjaro with a full crew, it’s important to understand the roles and responsibilities of each member. Here’s a breakdown of the typical crew:

1. Chief Guide

The chief guide is the leader of the crew and is responsible for ensuring the safety and success of the climb. They’ll help you navigate the mountain, make decisions about the route, and provide guidance and support throughout the climb.

The chief guide runs the show. He tells everyone what they can and cant do, and is responsible for the success of the whole expedition. They also makes sure their team get paid fairly at the end!

2. Assistant Guide(s)

Assistant guides work alongside the chief guide to help you navigate the mountain. They may also assist with other tasks, such as setting up camp and cooking meals.

On my trek I was able to go off with the assistant guide at my own pace, so i didn’t need to wait around for the whole good. This was a lot of fun, and meant we could to some exploring (side quests) along the track.


The cook is responsible for providing meals throughout the climb. They’ll prepare nutritious and tasty meals to keep you fueled and energized throughout the climb.

Honestly, every day I was blown away by what they were able to prepare in such basic conditions. The cooks on Kili are absolute legends!!


Porters are responsible for carrying your gear up the mountain. They’ll carry everything from your tent and sleeping bag to your food and water (if you want them to).

The treatment of porters is constantly improving and now all bags are weighted before and at various points during the hike. They are limited to carrying 20kg on their head which is still a terrifying amount of weight, considering most have backpacks too.

I tried carrying what one of my porters carried just for a few hours and my neck was sore for a week!!


I even met a porter who was hired solely to carry the portable toilet required by a group (by law) that are going to camp in the crater. Nasty!


It’s common practice to tip your crew at the end of the climb. The amount of the tip will depend on the size of your crew and the length of the climb, but it’s typically around 10-15% of the total cost of the climb.

RoleTypical Tip for Average ServiceTip for Above Average Service (+%)Tip for Below Average Service (-%)
Chief Guide20-25% of total cost ($400-$500)Additional 5-10% of total cost ($100-$250)Deduct up to 10% of total cost ($200-$500)
Assistant Guide15-20% of total cost ($300-$400)Additional 3-5% of total cost ($60-$100)Deduct up to 5% of total cost ($100-$200)
Cook10-15% of total cost ($200-$300)Additional 2-3% of total cost ($40-$90)Deduct up to 3% of total cost ($60-$90)
Porter$10-$15 per dayAdditional $5 per dayDeduct up to $5 per day

Note that the dollar amounts and percentages are based on the assumption of a $2000 total cost for the climb. These amounts may vary depending on the specific circumstances and performance of the crew member.

Companies Who Run ‘Porter-Free Treks’

If you’re interested in climbing Kilimanjaro without porters, there are a few companies that offer ‘porter-free treks.’ These treks typically include a smaller crew, with hikers carrying their own gear. While they can be more physically demanding, they can also be a great way to fully immerse yourself in the climb.

Three Points About Climbing Kilimanjaro With No Porters

If you choose to climb Kilimanjaro without porters, there are a few things to keep in mind:

1) It’s Physically Demanding

Carrying your own gear up the mountain can be physically demanding, especially at high altitudes. It’s important to be in excellent physical condition and to carefully select your gear and supplies.

2) You Should Still Get a Good Service

Even if you’re not using porters, you should still expect a high level of service from your crew. They should be experienced with the mountain and able to provide guidance and support throughout the climb.

3) This Style of Trek is Definitely Not for Everyone

Climbing Kilimanjaro without porters is a challenging and demanding experience. It’s not for everyone, and it’s important to be honest with yourself about your abilities and limitations.

4) Climbing Kilimanjaro With No Porters Does Seem to Reduce Your Chances of Getting to the Top

While it’s possible to climb Kilimanjaro without porters, it’s important to note that this option does seem to reduce your chances of reaching the summit. The climb is physically demanding, and carrying your own gear can detract from your ability to fully enjoy the climb.


Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is an incredible experience, but it’s important to carefully consider your options before embarking on this challenging adventure. Whether you choose to climb independently, without porters, or with a full crew, it’s essential that you prepare thoroughly and understand the risks and challenges involved. With the right preparation and mindset, however, climbing Kilimanjaro can be an unforgettable experience that you’ll cherish for years to come.

Kilimanjaro Travel Planning Cheatsheet


🚑 Should I buy travel insurance for Tanzania?

100% YES! — Tanzania has now introduceed “free” healthcare but it’s only for citizens! Tourists need travel insurance in case anything happens on your visit. Also be aware many policies won't cover high altitude hiking as it's a high risk activity!

(that's right, check the t&c's on your complimentary credit card insurance

I highly recommend World Nomads as you can get specific add-ons for high altitude hiking UP TO 6000m (Which most travel insurance companies don't offer!)

🎫 Do I need a visa for Tanzania?

Probably not — Tanzania now provide a visa on arrival (VoA) for most western countires which allows you stay for up to 90 days. However, some other countries do need a pre-approved eVisa (check here!). VoAs cost $50 USD for a single entry - Note, US Citizens are required to get a Multi-Entry visa which costs $100 USD. (View visa prices here)

If transiting through Kenya (a lot of people fly via Nairobi), you'll need a Kenyan visa too. Visa's cost $20 for a 3 day transit visa and $50 for a toursit visa

(By the way, on both my interactions with the imigration officers in kenya they tried to scam me, so know what your obliged to pay and BRING THE EXACT CASH for the visa!)

💉Do I need any vaccinations for Tanzania?

YES! Make sure you are up-to-date with all your vaccines. Common travel vaccines include Hep A/B + Typhoid, and Diphtheria + Tetanus.

A yellow fever vaccination isn't a requirment to visit Kilimanjaro but is for neighbouring areas in East Africa. In reality, you will might not be allowed back into your home country on your return (I was asked for proof of vaccination upon returning to Australia) so getting this jab prior made for good peace of mind. 

Rabies is an issue in Tanzania but the vaccine is expensive and ineffective as a preventative measure (it only lasts a few years and you'll need to get them again if you require treatment). If bitten by a stray dog seek immediate medical attention!

As always, talk to your GP or specialised travel doctor a few weeks BEFORE you leave.

🏩 What’s the best Kilimanjaro Tour operators?

Your only realy two options here are Kumano Travel and Its a complicated process so I wrote this guide here on the best kumano kodo accomodation options

If you don't want to figure it all out (it's meant to be a holiday after all) you can book a package tour. Here are my recommendations for both guided and self-guided.

💸How do you pay for things in Tanzania?

Cash is king in Tanzania, so you'll want to get some folding tender out from an ATM when you land. Larger businesses and hotels will take Debit / Credit Card but most resturants, and street vendors want cash. I even had to pay for my Kili trip in cash!

I personally use a Wise debit card for all my international money needs as they only convert the funds when you make payment, plus they offer a much better spread (margin on the true exhange rate) than the banks do. They work in all the Tanzanian ATMs I tried. 

🚌 What's the public transport like in Tanzania?

There is a good basic network of local and inter-city busses in Tanzania and travel this way is very cheap. Domestic flight are also very affordable and a far more comfortable option. Checkout Busbora for booking bus tickets online.

📲 How do I get internet/data/wifi in Tanzania and on the mountain?

This one needs a whole nother article, but the short version is prepaid SIM cards are cheap and availible to tourists and locals alike (You don't need a pricey tourst SIM!)

Your cheapest option is buying a physical sim card on the street corner once landed and getting the shop assistant to help you set it up. I went with Vodacom and had generally good coverage, even up on Kili!

Another option if you're visiting other African countries is the Airalo eSIM. This is a little more expensive but gives you connectivity across 14 neighbouring African Countries and connectivity the moment you step off the plane!

✈️ What’s the best site to buy flights to Tanzania?

For finding cheap flights, I recommend Skyscanner. Once you find the flight you're looking for, I'd then suggest booking directly with the carrier (even if it costs a few $$ more than with one of the agreggators/agencies).

💧Can you drink the water in Tanzania?

Safest not to — tap water in Tanzania may be OK (the locals drink it) but is generally untreated and not reccommended for tourists. Purchase bottled water for drinking and teeth brushing.

🏔️💧Can you drink the water on Mount Kilimanjaro?

Yes — Your tour company with ensure the water provided to you is safe to drink by either carrying in bottled water, or by treating stream water with purification tablets or by boiling it. If you want to drink water from the rivers and streams you generally can but should do so at your own risk. ALWAYS follow best practice and drink from fast flowing water as far up stream as possible. I'd also recommend a Brita Water Bottle for rehydrating on the trail safely. 


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