Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa, is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. For the budget traveler, though, it can seem like a near-impossible feat. While Kilimanjaro’s higher altitude expenses, such as international flights, medical checkups and gear rental, can quickly add up, there are a few tips to help climbers find ways to make the journey financially more feasible.
The first thing to be aware of is the timing. Go during the “shoulder season” months between November and March when prices tend to drop. Choosing only the most necessary items when it comes to gear is another way to save money. Don’t buy new gear — rent it or borrow it from someone. Many hiking and outdoor stores now offer rental services. If you don’t want to take on too much gear, consider booking a Kilimanjaro climbing tour from a reputable company. Although the total cost will be higher, the company will provide all the necessary gear, food, and guide services as well as any necessary permits.
Deals and discounts can be found by shopping around, comparing prices, and looking online for special offers. Sometimes the biggest savings come from lower-cost flights and lodgings on the way. Consider flying into the closest major airport, such as Jomo Kenyatta International in Nairobi, to get the best deal. You can also look for small, local companies that provide cheaper safari packages.
Another way to save money is to find alternative accommodations. Hotels and resorts in the area can be pricey, so look for cheaper hostels or campsites. These are usually situated near major attractions and national parks, so they provide a more immersive experience. Hostels and campsites also often provide discounts, so it pays to ask around.
Some climbers choose to go DIY. This can be a great way to save money, as you’ll be responsible for booking your own flights and accommodations, as well as bringing all your own gear. However, it can be time consuming and overwhelming to find all the necessary components for the journey. Be sure to budget for permit fees, as these must be paid in order to climb the mountain. If going it alone is your choice, then research the area thoroughly before setting off.
Finally, consider the cost of getting physically fit enough for the climb. For people who have never hiked before or are out of shape, it can be overwhelming to try to build their strength in the short time before their journey. Consider taking a few months to focus on diet and exercise to get your body prepared for the climb. Add regular cardio and strength training exercises at home as well as practice hikes in nature to build your endurance.
Preparing for Altitude
As with any high-altitude expedition, climbers will need to prepare for the impact of ascending to high heights. Research the symptoms of altitude sickness and talk to your physician if necessary. Pack medical kits and medication, such as aspirin and acetazolamide, which can be helpful in reducing symptoms of altitude sickness. Make sure to stay hydrated and avoid any drugs or alcohol to prevent potential altitude sickness.
When you reach the summit of Kilimanjaro, the air pressure is much thinner than it is at sea level. As a result, you will be more susceptible to dehydration, hypothermia and other potentially deadly conditions. To prevent these issues, make sure to pack enough layers of clothing and a waterproof windproof jacket in case of poor weather. Also, bring a warm fleece, hat, and gloves to protect against extreme cold.
Also, make sure to pack energy snacks, such as trail mix and energy bars. Finally, research the risks associated with mountaineering, such as rockfalls and other hazards, and plan to minimize them as much as you can. It pays to read up on the local terrain, weather patterns, and any possible obstacles you may encounter.
In recent years, new technology has been developed to aid climbers in their ascent of Kilimanjaro. There are now mobile-based navigation apps, such as Komrads, that can provide real-time updates on conditions along with waypoints. Some of these apps can even provide route-finding tips to help climbers find the safest and most efficient route up the mountain.
When it comes to packing, climbers can use modern devices to save weight. Bringing a lightweight laptop with music, movies, and other entertainment for the trek can help stave off cabin fever and save weight. Smartphones have an array of great features to help climbers stay connected, including satellite-based messaging, social media apps, and mapping tools.
Other gadgets and devices, such as portable power banks, solar chargers, and USB chargers, can be helpful in keeping your devices powered up during the journey. Lightweight, high-performance trekking poles can also come in handy and save energy on the climb. Finally, investing in an all-weather camera can provide a great way to record memories of the climb for years to come.
Budget Friendly Locals
Spending time with the locals can be a great way to get a better understanding of the region and culture. There are several budget-friendly activities to try. Stay in homestays or lodges, as these can be much more affordable than large hotels. Local markets are a great way to find bargains on food and souvenirs. Also, look out for cultural performances, such as village dances or festivals, as these can be a great way to get to know the locals.
There are ample opportunities to get involved in community-based projects in the area. People who are looking for volunteer work can find many options that range from teaching English to helping with construction and medical services. Many of these are low-cost or even free, so they can be a great way to give back to the local community.
Finally, another way to save money and get to know the local culture is to learn how to cook traditional dishes yourself. Use locally grown ingredients to try the flavors that are unique to the area. Be sure to ask permission first before journeying into the local market or village.
No matter how much you prepare or budget, safety should be of paramount importance when climbing Kilimanjaro. The weather on the mountain can be unpredictable and dangerous, so be sure to check on conditions ahead of time and make your plans accordingly. Choose a reputable guide and tour company that has experience in the area and make sure to discuss safety policies with them.
When hiking, be sure to stick with the group and follow the guide’s instructions at all times. Make sure to bring sufficient water and proper nutrition to avoid dehydration and exhaustion. Also, trekking poles are a great tool to help with stability and walking over rough terrain. Wear the proper clothing and shoes to stay warm and to prevent blisters and prevent slipping over rocky surfaces.
Finally, be sure to carry a headlamp with fresh batteries, a whistle, and a cell phone with a satellite connection in case of emergency. A medical kit with a CPR mask and splints can also help if someone falls ill or gets injured on the climb. Don’t be afraid to ask questions of your guide or the locals to make sure you have a safe, budget-friendly experience.
Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro can be expensive, but it does not have to break the bank. There are many ways to make the journey more financially achievable, such as renting instead of buying gear, signing up for discount packages, going at the right time of year, and preparing for the climate. Also, harnessing technology to save weight, embracing the locals, and following safety protocols will all help to make the expensive journey much more budget-friendly.