The pinnacle of Africa has drawn climbers from around the world and on a clear day you can view the great continent from almost 20,000 ft in the air. The climb is rewarding but difficult and needs to be trained for well in advance before making the ascent. Since the elevation sits about 10,000 ft lower than Mt. Everest and no rope or mountaineering gear is needed for the ascent makes potential climbers think that the journey is easier than in reality. The common issues climbers have is a “lack of” whether it be a lack of physical and mental training, proper climbing attire, gear, funds and/or acclimation to the climate. Mount Kilimanjaro affects climbers differently due to the five atmospheric changes that climbers have to endure. It is for this reason why it is often better to opt for the longer journey to the top, all though it costs more and takes an extra day or two it gives you body a chance to deal with the sudden changes in oxygen levels. Getting above 10,000ft can cause problems from headache to high altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE) so climbing almost another 10,000ft above this altitude in the next day or two puts your body in a situation it is not use too. Taking the longer trek could be the difference between you making it to the summit or not.
Since the destination has become quite popular means that it is easy for climbers to get to and from the Kilimanjaro National Park. Flights come in directly to the Kilimanjaro International Airport (IATA: JRO) from Amsterdam through various airlines. The biggest town between the airport and the park is Moshi and the main entrance is near Marangu which is east of Moshi. Both towns have markets, eateries, and lodging available. Many hotels are located down dirt roads towards the mountain and are sometimes miles from the paved road.
Although many of us would like to make the climb on the cheap, it seems to not always be the best option to take. Since you have to be accompanied by a guide means that you will likely have to join a group anyways. Plan to spend around $1,000 for the guide, park fees, and this is for the most basic of treks and likely most ill-prepared. There are tours better than others but cost is always a factor. So offer more amenities than others as well as take longer (recommended) to summit. It is all up to how you wish to take on this beast of a mountain. But one thing is for sure and that you will not forget the experience and money is just money. So take your time, save up for the better package and gear and use that extra time to train for the ascent.
Take note that many digital cameras get all wonky-like at high altitude/cold weather so you might blow the dust off of old trusty and bring it along.