Tipping on Kilimanjaro always seems to be a bit of a mystery. The more you research, the more confusing it seems to get, so I’m going to try and make it a bit clearer with this Kilimanjaro tipping guide.
Just remember, there is no 100% right or wrong way to tip on Kili and every company seems to have a different opinion on how much you should tip, so I’ve looked around and tried to pull it all together, to help you plan, as best I can.
Tipping on Kilimanjaro
Historically, some of the workers on Kilimanjaro (porters especially) weren’t (and some still aren’t) always paid very well and had (and still have) to work under terrible conditions, especially considering the backbreaking (and potentially dangerous) work they do.
Without the porters, most people would not be able to climb Kilimanjaro.
They carry all your equipment, food and clothing up the mountain, so all you have to carry is your daypack.
As a result, KPAP was founded. KPAP, stands for the Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project, a not-for-profit organisation who regulate standards for workers on Kilimanjaro. KPAP ensure that the porters:
- are paid at least 20,000 TSH per day (approx. $9 per day).
- receive their salaries within 2 days of completing the climb.
- eat 3 meals per day on the mountain.
- have sufficient equipment and clothing on the mountain.
- are cared for when injured or sick.
- only carry 20kg of weight.
Believe it or not, there are still a lot of companies that don’t treat their employees fairly, yet the competitive nature of the work and lack of employment opportunities mean a lot of porters still work under these conditions.
What that means for you, aside from the obvious ethical issues, is that whilst you may pay less for your climb, you are expected to to overcompensate with the tips.
When climbing Kilimanjaro, you should always try to use a company that treats their employees fairly. I use a KPAP registered company for trekking on my Rock My Kilimanjaro & Serengeti Adventure tours and you can find a list of members here.
Alternatively, there is also KIATO (Kilimanjaro Association of Tour Operators) who have a similar mission, although there isn’t a ton of info on their website and they don’t mention pay, but they do have a list of members here.
The company I trekked with in 2009 are also registered here and I know their staff were treated properly – it was a small family company and our group consisted of just me, my guide, cook and 3 porters, so I got to know them pretty well.
I’m not saying that every company who isn’t part of KPAP or KIATO is bad, but at least if they are registered you know that there’s some kind of regulations in place and the porters are being paid and treated fairly.
When climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, tipping is not compulsory, however it is deeply ingrained in the culture and highly expected, so if you feel that you have received a good service from your local guides and porters, please do tip them.
If you haven’t received good service, then you are not obliged to tip.
KPAP states that each porter should receive at least 32,000 TSH per day ( approx. $14) from wages and tips. KPAP registered companies have to pay their porters at least 20,000 TSH per day ($9 – which is considered a good basic wage, but not a good living wage) and state that the clients should make up the extra 12,000 TSH ($5) per day in tips.
They also say that if the company isn’t registered with KPAP you should try and find out what the porters are paid and tip accordingly (ie. top up to the required amount). That, my friends, is much easier said than done…
I’ve looked at the tipping guidelines of lots of the KPAP registered companies, with most stating you should tip the porters around $6 – $10 per day (rather than the $5 stated by KPAP), which, would take the wages up to around $15 – $19 per day.
So there’s a little history for you.
How Much Should I Tip on Kilimanjaro?
After looking around at the various companies that are KPAP registered, the general consensus for how much you should give your support crew seems to be this….
- Main Guide: $20 per day
- Assistant Guide: $12 – $15 per day
- Cook: $12 -$15 per day
- Porter: $5 – $10 per day
This is split between the whole group, not per individual climber. The number of support staff you have will determine the tips you give, but it generally works out that the bigger the group, the less you pay in tips.
The company you travel with will usually dictate the number of support staff you need. Usually the better companies have a better staff to client ratio.
Often in a group, you’ll have a lead guide, an assistant guide per every 3 climbers, 1 cook (although in bigger groups you’ll have 2 – work to one cook for every 8 – 10 people or so), then 2 – 3 porters per person (number of porters is usually determined by the route and length of climb).
So based on the ‘recommended’ tipping amounts, here are a couple of examples:
If you were a group of 4 climbing over 8 days, you would likely have a support team of around 15 (1 guide, 1 assistant guide, 1 cook and 12 porters) and you would tip:
- Main Guide x 1: Should receive $20 x 8 days = $160 in total
- ($160 / 4 climbers)
- = you tip $40
- Assistant Guide x 1: Should receive $12 – $15 x 8 days = $96 – $120 in total
- ($96 or $120 / 4 climbers)
- = you tip $24 – $30
- Cook x 1:Should receive $12 – $15 x 8 days = $96 – $120 in total
- ($96 or $120 / 4 climbers)
- = you tip $24 – $30
- Porters x 12: Should each receive approx. $5 – $10 x 8 days = $40 – $80 in total
- ($40 or $80 x 12 porters = $480 or $960 / 4 climbers)
- = you tip $120 – $240
You tip: $208 – $340
If you were a group of 12 climbing over 6 days you would likely have a support team of around 40 (1 guide, 4 assistant guides, 2 cooks and 32 porters), you would tip:
- Main Guide x 1: Should receive $20 x 6 days = $120 in total
- ($120 / 12 climbers)
- = you tip $10
- Assistant Guide x 4: Should each receive $12 – $15 x 6 days = $72 – $90 in total
- ($72 or $90 x 4 assistant guides = $288 or $360 / 12 climbers)
- = you tip $24 – $30
- Cook x 2: Should each receive $12 – $15 x 6 days = $72 – $90 in total
- ($72 or $90 x 2 cooks = $144 or $180 / 12 climbers)
- = you tip $12 – $15
- Porter x 32: Should each receive $5 – $10 x 6 days = $30 – $60 in total
- ($30 or $60 x 32 porters = $960 or $1,920 / 12 climbers)
- = you tip $80 – $160
You tip: $126 – $215 But as mentioned, it very much depends on the number of support crew you have which you won’t always know until the day of the climb, depending on how much stuff you have.
Why are the tips so high on Kilimanjaro?
Some people don’t agree with tipping so much on Kilimanjaro.
When I posted these amounts in a Facebook group in response to the question ‘How much should I tip on Kilimanjaro?’, I got mixed responses. Most people agreed with me, some were even happy to pay a lot more. However, there were some negative comments.
One chap thought that $20 tip per day for a guide was too much. His argument was that tourists were being ’emotionally blackmailed’ into paying guides daily tips that were the equivalent of a months wages in some industries and I was part of the problem for spreading this propaganda and promoting ‘corruption and exploitation’ of tourists – whoa whoa whoa… don’t shoot the messenger, I was trying to be helpful here pal!
For the record, he’d never climbed Kilimanjaro.
I get what he was saying, but overall, lets say a Kilimanjaro guide works 22 days a month, for 7 months a year (Kili is seasonal) and gets $20 tips each day he works, then that’s approx $3,080 in tips per year.
Then wages… if the porters earn 20,000 TSH a day, the guides maybe earn about 40,000 TSH a day (total guess). So that’s about $2,657 + $3,080 = $5,737 a year. For a skilled guide who’s worked his way up over a number of years and has the responsibility of keeping his clients alive, I personally don’t think that’s ‘too much’.
The porters will earn maybe half of that in a year. Only a little more (or sometimes less) than you probably paid for your Kilimanjaro climb.
When those guys are keeping your spirits up, making sure you eat properly, carrying all your stuff and sometimes you up the mountain, just so you can fulfil a lifelong dream, you tend not to resent having to tip. Especially when you look at the bigger picture.
I wouldn’t have made it up the mountain without them and I find that most people who have climbed Kili are happy to tip the recommended amounts.
You may be sent different amounts from your tour operator, but the ones above are the general guidelines, set by an NGO, not a ‘must do’ or a legal obligation and you can, realistically tip what you want and what you think your guides ‘deserve’.
The Tipping Ceremony
Tips are usually given on the last day of the climb, either at the last camp (on the way down from the summit) or at the gate and the whole group usually contributes to the tip pot and tips together, rather than individually.
Every company has a slightly different way that they want you to distribute tips and and will usually tell you before your climb.
There are varying opinions on whether you should give the tip to the main guide to distribute fairly – as this is a good incentive for everyone to pull their weight as the main guide will know who’s done what or whether you should give the tips individually to each guide.
KPAP suggests giving everyone their own individual tips.
But if you do give them to the head guide to distribute, making sure he lets everyone know (in English and Swahili) the total of tips given.
It is also suggested that if handing out the tips to the porters yourselves, you should know exactly how many crew members there are and get to know them, because a) this will help you work out the amount to tip and b) stop any porters who weren’t on your climb showing up at your tipping ceremony and trying to get make a little extra cash – apparently it happens.
Tips can be given in Tanzanian Shillings or US Dollars. Dollars should be dated on or after 2013 and must be in good condition.
Hope this helps!
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Plan Your Trip to Mount Kilimanjaro
Getting There: I always search for flights on Skyscanner. The nearest airport is Kilimanjaro is Kilimanjaro International Airport, which lies between Arusha and Moshi (slightly closer to Moshi).
Where To Stay in Moshi: Some treks include accommodation pre or post-Kilimanjaro but if they don’t here are some good options:
- Budget: The Secret Garden or More Than a Drop
- Mid-range: Honey Badger Lodge
- High-end: Kilimanjaro Wonders Hotel
Travel Insurance: This is Africa, so make sure you have comprehensive travel insurance that will cover you for all of the activities you want to do including Mount Kilimanjaro. I recommend World Nomads or Outbacker.
Resources: I’m a big fan of Lonely Planet guidebooks and usually travel with one wherever I go.
Operators: There are a number of great operators out there, so do your research and compare. Just make sure your operator abides by the KPAP regulations and are on this list.
Tours: Want to climb Kili with an awesome group of like-minded adventurous travellers? Then join a small group tour and come on one of my Rock My Adventure tours. I work in association with KPAP approved companies only.
Read More About Kilimanjaro:
- How to Prepare for Climbing Kilimanjaro & Top Tips for Reaching the Top
- Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro: The Ultimate Kilimanjaro Packing List
- Part 1: Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro – The Journey Begins
- Part 2: Conquering Kili – The Roof of Africa
See all Tanzania posts here.
Want to climb Kili with an awesome group of like-minded travellers? Then come with us on the Rock My Kilimanjaro & Serengeti Adventure!
I hope you have an amazing and successful Kilimanjaro trek! If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments below!
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