How to plan climbing Mount Kilimanjaro: Our bucket list dream adventure!


As keen mountaineers and climbers we have tackled some great mountains and rock faces around the world. We love nothing more than clinging on to the side of a cliff face with just our bear hands and feel most alive in the wilds of the mountains. After last year conquering the two day trek up 4,095m (13,440ft) Mt. Kinabalu on Borneo we want to step it up and and tick off a major bucket list adventure… climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. At the moment we’re not quite ready for the challenge, with other plans in place, including currently living in New Zealand on working holiday visas. But that doesn’t stop us planning out the adventure and hopefully helping others do the same. Here’s our how to Climb Kilimanjaro guide.

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Training, physical fitness and acclimatisation

At 19,341 feet/5,895 meters Mt Kilimanjaro is the highest point on the African continent and the world’s highest free standing mountain! So it does without saying that climbing it is going to be tough! Depending on the route, your speed, the weather and other conditions it could take between 5-9 days to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, that’s quite an undertaking! So first and foremost you need to make sure you are in good enough shape to do the hike. It is considered a walk up mountain and most people of reasonable fitness should find it achievable. But given the outlay of money and time, the organisation and the anticipation of reaching the top, you don’t want to be let down by your fitness. One of the key elements is not only physical fitness but mental resilience with the trek lasting so many days! You should do a lot of challenging walks and hikes before, train on other mountains and also replicate what you will be wearing and and carrying too. 

One of the biggest reasons people fail to summit Kilimanjaro is altitude sickness rather than general fitness. This can strike anyone and acclimatisation is key when considering how to Climb Kilimanjaro. Choosing a route that climbs gradually and takes longer is a good way to do so. You can also look into medications that help prevent it too but make sure you seek professional advice first.

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Insurance and cover

Climbing any mountain is a dangerous activity and your usual travel insurance is unlikely to cover it under their standard policy. You should contact your insurance provider and check what you are and what your are not covered for. You can take out specialist extreme sports cover additionally, for example when we visited Switzerland and were climbing, canyoning, paragliding etc, we took out an additional adventure sports insurance that covered us for the week we would be in Interlaken. You should also make sure you insurance covers Tanzania too. How to Climb Kilimanjaro responsibly: get good insurance!

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Visas and vaccinations

 Before you start thinking about how to Climb Kilimanjaro you need to get into the country first. Most visitors to Tanzania will need a visa, some, such as UK passport holders can gain a single entry visa on arrival at the airport but you should check this before travelling and check if you need to have a visa before you travel. You should have 6 month left on your passport and often will require proof of onward travel. The cost of a visa on arrival is $50 for most countries and $100 for the US.

Travelling to Africa you will also need vaccinations, You should enquire about these as early as you can as some require rounds of injections several week apart. The most important vaccinations are: Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Typhoid, Yellow fever (You may need to show your vaccination cards when travelling to other countries after visiting this part of the world). You may also want Rabies injections and also to take anti malaria’s. You should bear in mind anti malaria’s can make you sick and might effect your fitness for the climb so be sure to speak to your doctor about which ones are best for you. Ebola is currently not an issue in Tanzania. 

Pick the right route for you

There are seven routes to the summit of Kilimanjaro and each one varies in its difficulty, time it takes to hike, scenic views and numbers of people. One of the most important decisions you make is which route to take and this can make all the difference in summiting the roof of Africa. Some routes take as little as 5 days, others around 10 days. It might be tempting to go for the quicker route to save time and money, but those that take longer have a higher success rate due to allowing climbers to acclimatise more gradually. Out of the seven the ones with the highest success rates are:  Northern Circuit,  Rongai and Lemosho  and Marangu is often considered the easiest.  You should speak to your guide about the best way to climb Kilimanjaro for you.

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Book onto a tour that suits your adventure

It is impossible to climb Kilimanjaro without a guide and so choosing the right tour operator is key to having the right experience. They will sort out park fees, porters and tents for you and will help you organise registering with park authorities before you climb and along the route. Picking the right guide is key to success, some provide first class service, for a higher fee of course, and some at the bottom end are borderline negligent with you and their staff.

Pack carefully 

When you think about how to Climb Kilimanjaro you realise packing for a trip like this is not an easy task. You could be climbing for possibly 10 days and will also be spending some more time in the country before and after too. The climates on the route are also very diverse too, ranging from rainforests to deserts and the glacial peak. You should also bear in mind that your porters will only carry 15kg of gear for you. Getting the balance between being prepared and packing light is key. Layering is a good way to prepare for the different climates. You will need sun protection as well as warm clothing, sleeping bags and good sturdy hiking boots.

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Pick the right time for your climb

You can climb Kilimanjaro all year round but some months are more comfortable than others and some months are a lot more crowded. The main two seasons for hiking are: from January to March, and from June to October. The weather is cooler and there are less people on the mountain generally between January and March. The weather is generally warmer from June to October but it is also often busier too. The months of April, May and November are generally quite wet and should be avoided. 

How much will it cost?

Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro is expensive and can range between $2,400-$5,000 ( £1800- £3900 / AUD $3300-$6800) per person. This includes guides, park fees, transport to the mountain and back, camping, food and porters. You will also have to factor in airfare, accommodation before and after, vaccinations, insurance, visas and general spending money. If you are looking to do it on a budget you should wait till you get to Moshi before booking anything. It is possible to pay as little as $1500 but there many be corners cut! How to Climb Kilimanjaro: save enough to do it properly and responsibly! 

How to Climb Kilimanjaro, what are your tips?

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