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Tipping Your Kilimanjaro Mountain Crew

Posted: Tuesday January 24, 2023

If you are about to go and climb Kilimanjaro or planning to do so in the future, you may be wondering about tipping.

It’s a question we often get asked here at Monkey Mountaineering and it’s an emotive subject and one on which almost everyone will have a different opinion.

There are no right or wrong answers, however, the aim of this short article is to put tipping on Kilimanjaro into perspective and to offer our thoughts on how much to tip your mountain crew.

Every year thousands of traveller’s flock to Kilimanjaro to climb to its spectacular summit.  Not all these trekkers are successful but the one thing they all have in common is that their efforts and endeavours are supported by a dedicated, committed, and hardworking team of locals.  This team, or Mountain Crew consists mainly of Porters, Chefs and Guides who carry heavy loads up and down the mountain, set up and collapse camps, cook meals and clean up, produce clean safe drinking water, guide the way, and generally look after trekkers whilst they are on the mountain.

Unfortunately, not all trekking companies look after their mountain crews equally with some receiving very poor levels of pay.  If, when booking your trek to Kilimanjaro, you have used a company that is a partner for responsible travel, (Partner companies can be found here) your Porters will receive a minimum rate of pay of 20,000Tsh per day (this equates to just under £7 or US$9 per day) with Chefs and Assistant Guides receiving 30,000Tsh per day and Guides 40,000Tsh per day.  Whilst these are good wages in Tanzania, Porters pay still falls short of the recommended living wage of US$14 as recommended by the Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project (KPAP).

As I said right at the start, this is an emotive subject, however tipping is part of the culture on Kilimanjaro, and it is an important source of income for those working on the mountain.

That said, tipping shouldn’t be linked to summit success but rather to whether your Mountain Crew have done a good job in looking after you.

Get to know your Mountain Crew whilst on the trek, learn their names and find out about where they live, what they do when not working on the mountain.  You might be pleasantly surprised by what you learn and even if you aren’t it will give you a valuable insight into the local culture.

Getting to know your crew also encourages them to go the extra mile for you on your trek.  It also helps to reduce the incidence of a practice called ‘kirunje’.  Whilst ‘kirunje’ is rare, it involves extra porters turning up who have not worked on your trip, in the hope that they will also receive tips.

So, towards the end of your trek, if you feel your Mountain Crew have done a good job in looking after you (and there’s no reason why they shouldn’t have) then there is no reason why you shouldn’t reward them with tips.

The only question remaining is how much to tip.  Ideally, you should look to top up a Porters daily pay to the living wage.  Based on a minimum pay of US$9 per day, the minimum tip for a Porter should therefore be US$5 per day.  As an example, if you have been in a group of 6 on an 8 day Lemosho Route trek with 20 porters, you might expect to contribute US$135 towards Porters tips.

To put this in perspective, if you have booked your trip with a KPAP Partner in the UK this is probably less than 5% of what you paid!  This is a minimum amount so feel free to increase it to reflect the level of service you have received.  As you can see, this minimum level of tip is roughly 55% of the Porters daily pay and this logic should be applied to the remaining Staff in your Mountain Crew (Guides, Chefs, Assistant Guides etc) when working out how much to tip.

In summary, tipping is an important part of the culture on Kilimanjaro but should only be practiced if you are satisfied with the level of support you have received from your Mountain Crew.

If you do tip, and there’s not normally a good reason why you shouldn’t, then you should aim to top wages up to the recommended living wage or tip at least 55% of respective daily rates of pay.

Comments and feedback are welcomed and if you have found this short article useful, please like and share it.  Thanks for reading.

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