Kili can be a budget buster but it's one of those 'must do's' for most of us as well so here are some tips to finding the best deals without compromising quality of the tour companies. The most important piece of advice is to wait till you arrive in Moshi or Arusha before booking anything. Have your list of reputable companies and contact them asking when they have groups going to climb Kili. If you are happy with the date and route they are taking make sure you specifically ask HOW MANY PEOPLE are in the group. This is your tool for negotiating a better price. I was able to find a group of 9 people going on a 6 day Machame Route for $1,200 each person all inclusive with a reputable company excluding tips. I met a few groups who arranged that same trip prior to arrival in Tanzania and they were charged $1800 per person. Opting out on extras such as airport transfer (you can get a shuttle for 10,000 Tsh but they're not easy to spot, you have to go looking for them at the Kilimanjaro airport parking lot) and expensive hotels (you can find decent rooms yourself for $10-$20 /night) will bring the price down considerably.
Another thing that isn't advertised that every one should consider is supporting a company that treats their porters fairly. I was informed by a european Kili guide that there is an NGO in Moshi called Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project (KPAP) They have been working hard trying to give porters a voice in this industry. You would be surprised to find that most of the trekking companies do not give them adequate pay, food or even shelter on the mountain. This NGO tried implementing through the help of the government, a partnership program that would recognize the tour companies who are complying with the standards they've set. Unfortunately politics have got in the way and many of the big tour companies with financial influence within the government managed to ban this organization from the park and forcing them to take down their list of companies still adhering to the standards of being publicly displayed. I managed to get the list, updated as of Feb 14, 2014 so here are the companies still abiding by these standards set out from KPAP:
AFRICAN SCENIC SAFARIS- www.africanscenicsafaris.com
AMAZING USAMBARA TREKKING - www.amazingusambaratrekking.com
GLADYS ADVENTURE - www.gladysadventure.com
MOUNTAIN KINGDOM SAFARIS - www.mksafaris.com
REAL LIFE ADVENTURE - www.reallifeadventure.com
TREK2KILI - www.trek2kili.com
AFRICAN ZOOM - www.africanzoom.com
BIG EXPEDITIONS - www.bigexpeditions.net
DIK DIK TOURS - www.dikdik.ch
DUMA EXPLORER - www.dumaexplorer.com
EAST AFRICAN VOYAGES - www.eastafricanvoyages.com
FAIR TRAVEL TANZANIA - www.fairtraveltanzania.com
GOOD EARTH TOURS AND SAFARIS - www.goodearthtours.com
SUMMITS AFRICA - www.summits-africa.com
Please show your support by considering these companies for your trip first. If you contact them, please mention that you considered them because they are associated with KPAP's Partner Program to help reinforce how important fair treatment to the porters is for us as a customer.
Contact info for KPAP (Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project):
Karen Valenti - Program Manager
Headquarters are located behind The Coffee Shop and Glady's Adventure in Moshi.
GIVING AWAY CLOTHING TO PORTERS:
Many people generously give away their used gear to the guides and porters after completing their trek. But the they often sell that gear for money instead. Another alternative to consider is to take all your used gear to KPAP headquarters where they have implemented a lending program for porters to use the equipment free of charge.
GEAR FOR KILI:
Most companies will lend you gear for free or a fee but you can also find rental trekking gear at:
Gody Camping Equipment Hiring in Arusha: Godfrey - +255754374227 / +255782374227
Located just around the corner from the info centre near the clock tower
Gladys Adventure and Safaris in Moshi.
Or KPAP may lend you equipment in exchange for a donation to the organization.
Ponchos are highly recommended over a rain jacket as well as gaiters.
Hope this helps!