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12 Things to know before hiking Kilimanjaro

Hiking Kilimanjaro: what you need to know

Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania is a dormant volcano and has three volcanic cones. These are Kibo, Mawenzi, and Shira. It is Africa’s highest mountain. Its summit is sixteen thousand one hundred feet from its base and it’s nineteen thousand three hundred forty-one foot above sea level.

Some records on hiking Kilimanjaro include the fastest round-trip. The Swiss-Ecuadorian mount guide Karl Egloff did this in 2014. He has a total time of six hours forty-two minutes and twenty-four seconds. The first female was Fernanda Maciel who was from Brazil. She had a record round-trip of ten hours and six minutes. Angela Vorobeva is the oldest woman to reach the summit. She did it in 2015 at the grand old age of 86. The youngest was aged seven. This was a boy from Texas Montannah Kenney.

If you are considering climbing Kilimanjaro, there are things to know before hiking Mount Kilimanjaro. These tips can help you plan for a great trek on Kilimanjaro. 

summit of Kilimanjaro

12 things to know to prepare you for hiking Kilimanjaro

1. Kilimanjaro is a hike, not a climb

Most people when they think of climbing a mountain, they think of people with axes in hand roped to other members of the team. They also think of a person clinging to the mountain climbing hand over hand. Neither one of these is true of Mount Kilimanjaro. When hiking Kilimanjaro you do not have to be a skilled climber for Kilimanjaro. Mountaineering equipment is not needed as you simply walk up the mountain. People from all over and all walks of life have made this journey.

2. While Africa is warm the mount is not

The mountain is cold. As you gain elevation temperatures drop. You should bring clothing that is suitable for cold weather. During the day it is not so bad if the sun is shining. When it gets dark, you need a down jacket and a wool hat. When walking during the day a single layer is comfortable but when night comes, you have to have more layers. There will also be nights when the temperature falls below freezing.

3. There are support people who will do the heavy lifting

The Kilimanjaro climbs have teams of guides, porters and cooks. They accompany the climbers and do all the work. They set up camp, take down camp, cook, fetch water, and clean the campsite. All you must do is show up and walk. There is enough staff that climbers do not have to carry their own packs. It is for the climbers to just enjoy the hike.

porters kili

4. You get plenty to eat while on the mountain

Most hikes use dehydrated food and powdered mixes. You will enjoy the meals on this hike. There are a cook and helpers to set up a cook tent. They use a kerosene stove as they do not permit open fires on the mountain. They cook with fresh fruits and vegetables. There is also meat, grains and snacks while climbing. You will not go hungry.

5. When changing altitudes there is a chance of acute mountain sickness

While mild forms of the sickness are expected it can become worse. Oxygen levels are lower on the higher elevations. The body creates more oxygen-carrying red blood cells so that respiration can be increased. Symptoms of acute mountain sickness include headaches and nausea. These usually go away as the body adapts. The symptoms will disappear as the body adapts. When it does not go away there is a chance of the mountain sickness become life-threatening. The staff will do twice a day checks to make sure that everyone stays well.

6. You poop in a toilet, not on the ground

This is something everyone wants to know. They want to know where they poop. There are toilet tents. It has a plastic commode with a phone booth shaped and sized covering. It lets a person have complete privacy. It even flushes with water. If you need to go while on the trail you just go behind a rock. Be warned there are no showers.


7. There is no electricity on the mountain

Cell service is even very precarious. You may get a chance to use your phone but do not count on it. There is nowhere to charge cell phones or cameras so be sure to take enough batteries to last the whole climb.

8. You can expect the climb to last at least seven days

While there are many routes you can take up the mountain you always end up at the same place; Uhuru Point. Uhuru Point is one of the Seven Summits.

Mount Kilimanjaro routes and their variations take between five to nine days to complete. Although Mount Kilimanjaro is known as a “walk-up” mountain, you should not underestimate it and its risks. The greater the number of days on the mountain, the better your chances of reaching the top. Therefore the key to a safe, successful climb is to take the longest routes possible.

We encourage customers to take 7-9 day routes for the best chance of success and the lowest risk of altitude sickness.

9. The night is tough on the summit

During the typical day, you will walk short distances with gentle elevation gains. These can be enjoyable, but the summit night is difficult. You have to get up at midnight and it is cold. When you climb the summit, you are in the arctic ecological zone. In this zone, no animals or plants can live. You will be just fine in four layers. You gain elevations around four thousand feet and then you have a nine-thousand-foot descent. It takes around ten hours. To prepare for Kilimanjaro you should bring plenty of the correct clothing.

hiking kilimanjaro

10. The climb on Kilimanjaro will cost you plenty of money

A lot of this is due to the fees. There are park permits, government taxes and numerous other fees. There are also the wages to the staff. They work hard because they are paid well, and this Is factored into the cost of the expedition. With all the fees and other charges, the cost of the expedition can easily come to $120.00 a night.

11. Getting to Kilimanjaro is easy

Even though it’s a faraway destination, Kilimanjaro has an international airport. Arusha and Moshi, which are both places where the Kilimanjaro expeditions start, are located near the airport. Most expeditions make the travel arrangements for the climbers. All you have to do when you land at the airport is to look for a driver holding a sign with your name on it.

12. What to do after climbing Kilimanjaro

Having pitted yourself against Africa’s greatest mountain, you deserve your reward.

leopard tanzania

Tanzania Safari

Tanzania has the world’s best safari. All of the so-called  “Safari Big Five”-lions, elephant, buffalo, rhinoceros and leopard can all be seen here in greater numbers than anywhere else in the world.

The Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, Lake Manyara and Tarangire national parks are all within easy reach of Kilimanjaro Airport and can be combined into a fantastic safari lasting from just 2 days up to as long as you have.

This is a great trip to add to your bucket list. If it is already on your bucket list, you will enjoy scratching it off.


Zanzibar also makes for an incredible experience. What could be better after a challenging mountain climb than relaxing on beautiful beaches surrounded by the blue waters of the Indian Ocean?

The exotic spice island of Zanzibar is an archipelago off the coast of Tanzania, consisting of Zanzibar Island, Pemba Island, and many smaller islands. Zanzibar island is approximately 90km long and 30km wide. Aside from the stunning beaches and amazing scuba diving, Stone Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site you must explore.

Stone Town is a centuries-old town that has been beautifully preserved. It is one of the most unique cities in the world blending Moorish, Middle Eastern, Indian, and African traditions and architectures. Exploring the narrow and winding streets of this ancient town with their heavy and embellished timber doors is an absolute must.

zanzibar island

Gorilla trekking 

Another fantastic option is gorilla trekking. After a short flight to Rwanda or Uganda, you will be transferred to another world! 

Seeing gorillas in their natural habitat is at the top of many people’s bucket list. It is an experience like no other and one that can be done in only a few destinations worldwide. In fact, only in central and western Africa. Take the opportunity of a lifetime and make your Kilimanjaro trek truly memorable. 

rwanda gorilla

Time to climb!

We hope this list of things to know before hiking Mount Kilimanjaro is beneficial and gets you excited and ready for your trip.

Hiking Mount Kilimanjaro is an extraordinary experience if you would like to hike the mountain or learn more about the hike email

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Hiking Mount Kilimanjaro FAQs

When is the best time to hike Mount Kilimanjaro?

Due to Mount Kilimanjaro’s proximity to the equator, this region does not experience the extremes of winter and summer weather, but rather dry and wet seasons. Therefore, we generally advise that the best time to climb Kilimanjaro is during the warmest and driest times of the year, May – October or December – March.

It is generally advised to try and avoid November and April / May, which are when the short and long rains come. However, there is a caveat as the seasons are shifting and the timing of the rains is definitely less predictable when compared to the past and of course, you must be prepared (as per any mountain) for rain (and higher up snow) at all times of the year.

Hiking Kilimanjaro on a full moon or a new moon?

Some climbers prefer to summit during a full moon. When the peak of Kilimanjaro and magnificent glaciers are lit up by the full moon, the view is absolutely stunning. For this reason alone, some climbers schedule their trek to coincide with this celestial event, occurring once a month. However, a practical reason for climbing at these times is that a bright moon along with a clear sky will improve your visibility throughout your climb, and most importantly, during the summit attempt.

However, if you’re a passionate stargazer then you would be best to trek under a new moon when the whole of Kilimanjaro lies under a blanket of beautiful stars.

In order to summit on a full moon date, you’ll need to time your climb right. This means that if you are trekking a 7-day route you should depart 5 days prior to the full moon and if you are trekking a 6-day route you should depart 4 days before the full moon.

Remember though, full moon dates are by far the most popular climbs and if you would prefer a less crowded trek, then avoiding the full moon is probably wisest.

How fit do you need to be to climb Kilimanjaro?

You need to be fit enough for “weekend walking” and able to do 5-7 hours on your feet for two days back to back. Besides being fit though you will need to look after yourself all the way and have bucket loads of determination.

The best training to climb Kilimanjaro you can do is to get your boots on and cover as many miles as you can before your climb. If you follow this advice, most days will be pretty comfortable for you. However fit you are though, summit night is a very tough experience. You will be climbing for 8-10 hours and descending for 6 – 8 hours.

What is altitude sickness?

AMS, or acute mountain sickness (also known as altitude sickness), is what happens when the body fails to adapt in time to the lack of air pressure at altitude. There are three levels of AMS: mild altitude sickness, moderate altitude sickness and severe altitude sickness. On Kilimanjaro, it’s fair to say that most people will get some symptoms of the illness and will fall into the mild-to-moderate categories.

How difficult is it to climb Kilimanjaro?

In terms of the technical aspects of ascending the mountain, Mount Kilimanjaro is not difficult to climb. Its slopes are mostly gentle, and its paths are well-trodden. Trekkers can walk up to the summit without any expertise or mountaineering skills required.

Can beginners climb Kilimanjaro?

Kilimanjaro is suitable for beginners; they do very well. Don’t underestimate the climb because you know someone who did it who you believe was not fit. Your best bet is to arrive in great shape, if you are in good shape, take your time and respect the mountain you will summit successfully.

What is the success rate of climbing Kilimanjaro?

Overall summit rates on Kilimanjaro are estimated between 45% & 65%. You may be surprised that success rates are not higher given that Kilimanjaro is not rated as hard. The reason so many people do not make the summit is that they are not allowing enough time to acclimatize when going to those heights. It takes a long time to acclimatize to low oxygen environments.

Is there phone signal in Kilimanjaro?

The short answer is “Yes”. You may get a phone signal all the way through the summit. Over the years, the mobile network coverage on Kilimanjaro has improved greatly. However, do not rely on your mobile phone for communication while climbing Kilimanjaro.

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