Kilimanjaro tipping your Kilimanjaro mountain crew after a climb is an important custom. We explain why it exists, what a tipping ceremony is like, and exactly how much to budget for tips.
What is a Kilimanjaro tipping ceremony?
The Kilimanjaro tipping ceremony is an important and fun custom that happens at the end of every Kilimanjaro climb. Amidst song and dance, climbers give their mountain crew tips—money that is an important source of supplementary income.
Your mountain crew is the team that accompanies you throughout your Kilimanjaro climb. The team consists of guides, a cook, and porters.
Is Kilimanjaro tipping compulsory?
As the word itself suggests, tipping on Kilimanjaro is not compulsory.
That said, it’s a well-established practice and is expected. We really encourage our clients to budget money for the tipping ceremony.
As mentioned, Kilimanjaro staff rely on climbers’ tips to subsidise their salaries.
While we pay them the minimum wage stipulated by the Government, their salaries are, in fact, inadequate on their own to provide them with a liveable wage. We explain a little further on why this is the case. it’s not that we’re being stingy, but rather that we’re following the preferred system.
So tips are really very important to Kilimanjaro mountain crews.
‘Tipping on Kilimanjaro is an essential and customary way of thanking your mountain crew for all of their hard work. And man do they work hard!!’
It’s worth noting here that we’ve never met anyone who’s climbed Kilimanjaro and then not wanted to tip their mountain crew!
Your tips are a key way of acknowledging and thanking your crew for all of their hard work in helping you to safely summit the mountain. Keep reading to learn exactly what a mountain crew does on a Kilimanjaro climb.
Who are the people in a mountain crew?
Every single Kilimanjaro climb group is accompanied by a mountain crew. This crew consists of:
- a lead guide
- assistant guides
- helping porters (porters with additional duties)
- a cook
These men and women are incredibly hardworking individuals who are specially trained to support you throughout the climb. Their support extends to the logistical, practical, emotional, medical, and more. Whatever is needed, they’re there to help!
The majority of the Kilimanjaro guides and porters are local Tanzanian men (and a few women) between the ages of 18 and 40. Most Kilimanjaro porters are not employed on a permanent basis. Instead, they freelance for different companies.
For many, their work on Kilimanjaro climbs is their main source of income and how they survive. This is another reason why tipping on Kilimanjaro is so vital to the welfare of your support staff.
How big is a Kilimanjaro mountain crew?
The size of your Kilimanjaro crew depends on how many climbers are in your group. The more people in a group, the more porters and guides that are required.
Kilimanjaro climbing groups generally vary from two to 20 people. That said, at Follow Alice we’ve taken solo climbers up the mountain on occasion. And we cap our groups at 12, though other operators do take larger groups.
To give you a sense of numbers, a group of four climbers, for example, would have a mountain crew of around 21 people. A group of 12 climbers, on the other hand, would need a much larger mountain crew of around 57 people.
The table below shows the number of people in a Follow Alice mountain crew per group size.
The roles of the mountain crew members
So we’ve mentioned that a Kilimanjaro mountain crew consists of guides, assistant guides, porters, helper porters, and a cook. Below we explain their different duties and how many of each are needed per climb group.
- 1 per group
- The overall trek leader, responsible for everyone’s health and safety
- 1 for every 2 or 3 climbers
- They lead you safely and efficiently up the mountain, answer your questions, and monitor your health
- 1 per group
- Prepares all your food (breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks)
- 3 per climber
- They carry food, camping equipment and everyone’s personal belongings, set up and strike camp, and take on various other duties
- The number varies per group
- They work as porters but each has an additional duty such as serving as your waiter, washing dishes or servicing the toilet tent
If you’re wondering why each trekker needs three porters, you won’t be the first! The reason for this is that everything you need for your six to nine days on the mountain must be carried there and back. We’re talking:
- Food, crockery and cooking equipment
- Chairs and tables
- Sleeping tents, a mess tent and a toilet tent
- A chemical toilet (or toilets, depending on group size)
- Sleeping bags and sleeping mats
- Medical supplies
- Personal belongings
Companies that use a small mountain crew
Some Kilimanjaro trekking companies – what we refer to as ‘budget operators’ – use smaller mountain crews to lower their costs. In this way they’re able to offer a much cheaper Kilimanjaro climb. However, these companies overload and overwork their staff.
Every single porter and guide is an essential part of the team. They all work hard to ensure your Kilimanjaro climb is enjoyable and, above all else, safe.
Please ask any Kilimanjaro climb company that you’re researching how they determine the size of their mountain crew. You don’t want to travel with a company that compromises the well-being of its mountain crew and (by extension) its climbers.
Look for a tour operator that’s a KPAP partner
The easiest way of finding a tour operator that you know treats porters well is by looking for company that’s an acknowledged partner of the Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project (KPAP).
KPAP is an NPO that helps to improve the working conditions of porters by:
- Lending donated clothing at no charge to the mountain crew for use while climbing
- Offering educational classes to porters
- Educating the public on porter working conditions and climbing responsibly
- Providing industry guidelines for proper porter treatment
Shiri Adventures is an approved partner company of KPAP. By climbing with us, you can rest assured that your porters are being treated and paid properly. 😀
Can I climb without guides and porters?
No. As per Tanzanian law, it’s illegal to climb Kilimanjaro without a mountain crew.
Climbing Kilimanjaro is a challenge and a serious commitment. You need an experienced team of support staff with you in order to have a safe and enjoyable trip.
Why not just add a surcharge to the trip price?
One of the reasons why Kilimanjaro tour operators don’t increase crew members’ salaries and do away with the Kilimanjaro tipping ceremony is that many crew members – and the porters especially – are in favour of the tipping custom. This is because the tipping system allows them to earn a liveable wage while staying below the tax threshold.
Another reason the mountain crew prefer the tipping system is that a set wage isn’t as motivating as a rewards-based one. Mountain crews who work hard and deliver a really good service enjoy the prospect of earning bigger tips.
Finally, the tipping system is advocated by KPAP, the NPO we mentioned earlier that advocates for the fair treatment of porters.
How much should I be tipping?
It can be tricky to work the exact amount to set aside for tipping early on in the planning phase, as you don’t yet know how many climbers will be in your group, and therefore how large your mountain crew will be.
But closer to the climb, when the size of your climbing group is set, you can use the tables below to work out exactly how much to bring.
But first, we just want to show you how much is recommended per type of mountain crew member. Mountain crews have a hierarchical structure based on experience and duties, and it’s important to divvy up tips accordingly.
Daily Kilimanjaro tipping amounts per mountain crew member
So, in keeping with industry recommendations for tipping, we suggest that as a group you tip each type of Kilimanjaro crew member the following daily amount:
|Crew member||Daily tip in USD|
Please ask your lead guide to indicate who is a helping porter and who is a porter. If you have a large mountain crew, it might just be about asking the number of helping porters and the number of porters, as you might not get to meet each one individually.
The longer your climb, the more you tip
Most Kilimanjaro climbs are six to nine days. Given that crew members should be tipped on a daily basis, the longer your climb, the more you’ll tip. The tables below provide overall tips per climber for different route durations.
Total tip amount (in USD) per climber for a SEVEN-day Kilimanjaro climb
The top row indicates the number of climbers in your climb group. Please scroll right for the complete table.
When do I hand over my Kilimanjaro tips?
Climbers give tips to the mountain crew during the tipping ceremony at the end of a climb.
This ceremony usually takes place on the last day of the climb, often just before leaving Kilimanjaro National Park. The last day of the climb is also when we at Follow Alice hand out certificates of achievement to our climbers!
Just ask your lead guide if you’d like to know when exactly to expect the tipping ceremony.
What currency should I use for my tips?
Kilimanjaro tipping can be done in US dollars or Tanzanian shillings (TSh). Other currencies aren’t helpful to the crew.
We suggest withdrawing enough dollars before you travel to Tanzania, or drawing the necessary cash at the airport. Once you head to Kilimanjaro for your climb, you won’t have an opportunity to get your hands on cash.
Please note that it’s very important that US bills are new (post 2013), crisp, and untorn. Otherwise they won’t be accepted by the local banks.
It’s very helpful to bring an assortment of notes for tipping on Kilimanjaro. In this way the climb group’s appointed spokesperson can divide the cash into the appropriate portions for each member of the mountain crew. This is the ideal, as discussed more in just a moment.
Appointing a spokesperson
On the evening before you start your Kilimanjaro climb, your lead guide briefs you and your fellow trekkers about what’s to come. He or she also explains how the tipping ceremony at the end of the trek unfolds.
During this briefing, you’re asked to appoint a spokesperson for the group. This person will have a few duties, namely:
- On the penultimate day of the trek, discuss with the group how much money to give to each type of crew member as a tip. A good time to do this is during your last dinner on the mountain. You’re all together, happy from your summit, and excited to chat about your tips. You can invite the lead guide to help you decide on amounts if you’re feeling unsure. The tipping sheet you received from your lead guide is useful in helping you to record the amounts decided upon.
- Gather together the group’s collective tips to hand over during the tipping ceremony. If possible, please divide the tips into the correct amounts for each crew member. But we understand that this isn’t always possible given the denominations to hand. If this is the case, please fill in the amounts per crew member type on the tipping sheet in the space provided.
- Prepare to say a few words of thanks to the crew on behalf of the trekking group during the tipping ceremony.
Kilimanjaro tipping ceremony procedure
It’s very important for you to understand how tips should be handed out during the tipping ceremony to ensure the efforts of all of the crew members are properly recognised, and everyone receives the correct tip.
Here’s an explanation of how a Kilimanjaro tipping ceremony works:
- On the final day of the trek, the lead guide assembles the entire mountain crew together with all of the climbers.
- The group’s spokesperson (decided at your climb briefing) says a few words of thanks to the staff, which the lead guide translates into Swahili.
- The spokesperson now fills in and signs a tipping sheet (if this hasn’t already been done the night before) to indicate the total amount of tip given, as well as how much is being allocated to each type of crew member. He or she now hands over the total tipping amount to the lead guide. The lead guide counts the money and then signs the form to acknowledge the correct amount has been received. The lead guide then announces, in English and Swahili, the tip amount being given to each type of crew member. In this way, every crew member knows what to expect as a tip.
- There’s now lots of dancing, singing and celebrating by everyone!
The lead guide will distribute the tips within the next two days. Each crew member signs the sheet to say he or she has received the correct amount.
Finally, please note that it’s not recommended to give tips (or extra tips) privately to some crew members. Some crew members are more visible to climbers than others, but their attentions are only made possible by the behind-the-scenes work of others. For the sake of fairness, please keep your tips for each type of crew member the same. These men and women work as a team, and we encourage climbers to reward them as a team
Go the extra mile … donate trekking gear
Please consider donating some of your clothing and trekking equipment to the porters in addition to tipping them. (We stress, donations should never take the place of the tips.)
Mountain crews climb Kilimanjaro many times a year and can go through their clothes and gear rather quickly. Your donated items are of great assistance to them and they appreciate such generosity tremendously.
Think gloves, hats, thermal socks, hiking boots, trekking trousers, backpacks, and so on.
While we recognise the temptation to give items to your favourite porters, not all porters are as visible to climbers as others. Yet all of them work hard and it’s recommended that (to make things fair) items be laid out and a method like picking a number from a hat be used. If you can think of another way to provide a fair distribution, by all means, please go with that.
Look for an operator who pays proper wages
The suggested tip amounts above are for climbers traveling with companies that pay their mountain crew the industry-recommended minimum salary. Porters, for instance, should be paid around 20,000 TSh (US$9) per day by their employer. If they receive an additional $6 per day from the climbers as tip, then they’ve achieved the minimum liveable wage of $15 per day.
Some budget tour operators are able to offer clients a lower price by not paying their staff properly. As you can see in the infographic below, you should be suspicious of any Kilimanjaro tour operator offering a climb fee below $1,900. We suggest that you ask them how much they pay their mountain crew. You don’t want to climb Kilimanjaro with a company that exploits its staff!
At Shiri Adventures, we always pay our mountain crew the recommended wage, and sometimes more.