Earlier this year I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro with my sister. We climbed the Lemosho route over 7 days, an uphill battle (pun intended!) but one worth the struggle. It was a once in a lifetime adventure, an epic Bucket List accomplishment. Unfortunately, our trip ended on a bit of a sour note.
You see, as a climber, you will have a group of porters with you. These people will carry most of your gear, your food, and generally work to make sure you get your ass up the mountain. You’ll have a guide, assistant guide, cook – an entire team devoted to getting you to the top. We had 12 people with us – and we were just two people!
In addition to paying a company to arrange your tour (which is mandatory; you can’t go up alone) you’ll also be responsible for tipping your team. In all honesty, figuring out how much to tip our guides and porters was way more challenging – and infinitely more stressful – than climbing Kilimanjaro.
I wish I was joking.
We had read estimates online and chatted with other climbers, but those numbers turned out to be nothing near what was suggested by the tour company and our guides. It was a confusing, stressful end to our hike and something I really wish we didn’t have to experience.
How does the Kilimanjaro tipping process work?
You’ll be tipping everyone at the end of your trip. Sometimes this is done on the mountain, but I’d suggest doing it back at your tour company’s office. That way you don’t need to bring your cash up the mountain.
You’ll write a list of every position (guide, cook, porter, etc.) and then write the tip amount beside each position and give this to your head guide. Conversely, some companies have you hand the tips out to each person individually. The expectation is that you’ll be tipping each person X amount per day, so you’ll have a list like this:
· Head guide: $$$$$
· Assistant Guide: $$$$
· Cook: $$$
· Toilet Engineer: $$$
· Waiter: $$
· Porters: $
To get your number, you’ll have to do some basic math (ugh).
Example: $5 per day per porter x 7 porters = $35 x 7 days = $245 USD
When I asked our head guide what a rough estimate was for the total amount of tips, his number came out to around $1,000 USD for the group, divided based on the hierarchy listed above. Now, for us, that worked out to a 50% tip, since our trip cost just over $2,000 USD each. Did they deserve that much? Absolutely. Is a 50% tip reasonable? Well, that’s a question you’ll have to ponder.
Having just finished the climb, when I asked the owner of our tour company he came to the same conclusion – $1,000 USD for the group – but added an important caveat:
“Or whatever you can afford.”
From what we had looked up in advance, a lot of people tip around $300 USD for the group, which is closer to 15% (a more reasonable tip for service).
We were shocked by the jump from 15% to 50%, and while our crew DEFINITELY deserved more, we weren’t prepared or totally comfortable with such a huge tip. We ended up tipping around $330 USD each, in part because we couldn’t get anything extra from the ATM.
**NOTE: You will give your tip in Tanzanian shillings**
Our head guide was visibly disappointed when we looked at the money, which he did in front of the group. It was a very awkward and unprofessional end to an amazing experience, and I want to make sure no one else has to deal with that.
How much should you tip on Kilimanjaro?
This is going to depend on your experience, but at the very minimum you’ll be tipping around 15% of your trip cost. If your guides and crew go above and beyond what you expect (such as carrying your bags when you are too tired, carrying you if you get injured, etc.) you’ll want to shell out something extra. Budget AT LEAST $300 USD per person.
Make sure you get your Kilimanjaro tip money out in advance, though. ATMs in Tanzania can be unreliable, so last-minute transactions shouldn’t be relied upon.
This chart from Climb Kilimanjaro Guide can be used as a rough guide, as well:
Looking back, I wish I had booked with a company that doesn’t require tips but pays their workers more instead. The tipping situation was stressful and awkward – not the best way to end such an amazing trip. But hopefully you’ll be a bit more prepared than we were so you can end your trip on a more epic note!
Have you climbed Kilimanjaro? What was your tipping experience like? Let me know in the comments!
P.S. Did you know I wrote a book? Check it out on Amazon!