How to Tip on Kilimanjaro: A Comprehensive Guide

Tristan Balme How much to tip on kilimanjaro

If you’re planning a climb up Mount Kilimanjaro, you may be wondering how much to tip your support crew. Tipping is an important part of the Kilimanjaro climbing experience, as it is a way to show your appreciation for the hard work and dedication of the porters, guides, and other staff who make your climb possible. In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about tipping on Kilimanjaro, from the typical salaries of your support crew to the recommended tipping procedure.

The Make-Up of a Typical Climbing Crew

Before we dive into the specifics of tipping on Kilimanjaro, it’s helpful to understand the roles of the various staff members who will be supporting you on your climb. A typical climbing crew on Kilimanjaro might include:

Chief Guide

The chief guide is the leader of your climbing crew. They are responsible for overseeing the climb, ensuring that everyone is safe and healthy, and making decisions about the route and pace of the climb. A good chief guide will be knowledgeable, experienced, and able to communicate effectively with both climbers and other staff members.

Assistant Guide(s)

The assistant guide(s) work closely with the chief guide to support the climbers and ensure a safe and successful climb. They may lead sections of the climb, help with navigation, or provide support and encouragement to climbers who are struggling.

Cook

The cook is responsible for preparing all of the meals for your climbing crew. They will typically prepare a mix of local and international dishes, and will accommodate any dietary restrictions or preferences you may have. A good cook will be skilled at preparing high-quality meals with limited resources.

Porters

Porters are the backbone of your support crew. They carry all of the gear, food, and supplies needed for the climb, and set up camp each night. Without porters, it would be impossible to climb Kilimanjaro. It’s important to note that porters often work under very challenging conditions, and may carry loads that are much heavier than what is considered safe or ethical.

Tipping on Kilimanjaro: How it Works

Tipping is an important part of the Kilimanjaro climbing experience, as it is a way to show your appreciation for the hard work and dedication of your support crew. However, it can also be a confusing and stressful process, especially if you’re not familiar with local customs and expectations. Here’s what you need to know about how tipping works on Kilimanjaro.

Tristan Balme kilimanjaro tipping list given to me by my trekking company
This note was given to me by my trekking company. Take from it what you will.. are they trying to be helpful? Or over inflate what to tip their guys? It’s pretty confusing trying to figure out what the right amount to tip is!

How Much Should I Tip Porters?

The amount you tip your porters will depend on a number of factors, including the length of your climb, the size of your climbing crew, and the quality of service you received. As a general rule of thumb, you should plan to tip your porters between $10 and $20 per day per porter. If you’re climbing with a larger group, you may want to tip more generously to ensure that each porter receives a fair share.

Division of Tips Amongst Kilimanjaro Support Staff

It’s important to understand that the tips you give on Kilimanjaro will be divided among your entire support crew, including your guides, assistant guides, cook, and porters. The exact breakdown of the tips will depend on the specific tour company you’re climbing with, but a typical breakdown might look like this:

  • Chief guide: 20% of the total tip amount
  • Assistant guide(s): 20% of the total tip amount
  • Cook: 15% of the total tip amount
  • Porters: 45% of the total tip amount
RoleTypical SalaryRecommended TipTip Percentage
Chief GuideN/A$20-$2520%
Assistant GuideN/A$15-$2020%
CookN/A$10-$1515%
Porter$7-$10/day$10-$20/day45%

Note: The recommended tip amounts are per day per crew member. The tip percentage is based on the total tip amount. The exact breakdown of tips may vary depending on the tour company.

Recommended Kilimanjaro Tipping Procedure

To help simplify the tipping process, many tour companies will provide a recommended tipping procedure. This might include a suggested tip amount per day, as well as guidelines for how to distribute the tips among your support crew. It’s important to remember that these are only recommendations, and you should feel free to adjust the tips based on the quality of service you receive.

Should Climbers Tip with Large or Small Notes?

When it comes to tipping on Kilimanjaro, there is no hard and fast rule about whether to tip with large or small notes. Some climbers prefer to tip with small notes, as it allows them to distribute the tips more evenly among their support crew. Others prefer to tip with larger notes, as it can be more convenient and may be seen as a sign of generosity. Ultimately, the choice is yours.

Why Do Tour Companies Not Simply Include Tips in the Overall Climb Cost?

The main question I had is why tour companies do not simply include tips in the overall climb cost.

The answer (I believe) is that tipping is an important cultural practice in Tanzania, and many climbers see it as an opportunity to support the local economy and show their appreciation for the hard work of the support crew. By leaving the tip amount up to the climbers, tour companies can also ensure that the tips are distributed fairly among the support crew, and aren’t dishonestly claimed by the trekking company owner.

How Should I Interpret it if One or a Handful of Porters Secretly Supplicate Me to Bypass the Normal Tipping Procedure?

While it’s rare, some climbers may encounter porters who try to solicit tips outside of the normal tipping procedure. If this happens to you, it’s important to handle the situation carefully.

On the one hand, you don’t want to reward porters for breaking the rules or creating an awkward situation. On the other hand, you may feel a moral obligation to help out someone who is in need. Ultimately, the decision is yours, but it’s important to remember that tipping should be done fairly and transparently.

Go with a Decent Company and Save Yourself the Bother!

Finally, one of the best ways to ensure a stress-free tipping experience on Kilimanjaro is to choose a reputable tour company that has a clear and fair tipping policy. Look for companies that are committed to supporting their staff and treating them fairly, and that provide clear guidelines for how to tip. By going with a decent company, you’ll be able to focus on enjoying your climb and showing your appreciation for the hard work of your support crew.

In this guide, I recommend my top Kilimanjaro trekking companies.

Conclusion

Tipping on Kilimanjaro is an important and often confusing part of the climbing experience. By understanding the roles of your support crew, the typical salaries they receive, and the recommended tipping procedure, you can ensure that you’re showing your appreciation in a fair and transparent way. Remember, the tips you give are not just a way to say thank you, but also a way to support the local economy and help ensure that climbing Kilimanjaro remains a sustainable and ethical activity 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 Booking.com. 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.

🚌 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 Nomad eSIM. This is a little more expensive but gives you connectivity across 14 neighbouring African Countries!

✈️ 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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