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Unless you already happen to be somewhere in east Africa, the flight to the Kilimanjaro area is going to be a major expense – quite often it’s anywhere from US$1700 to US$2300. Kilimanjaro International Airport is about 40 kilometers from the common base camp city of Moshi or a shorter distance to Arusha, but flying directly into that airport is usually the best way to go.
You probably need a visa for Tanzania
Before going too much further it’s important to note that most people will need a visa to be admitted to Tanzania. They currently cost US$50 for a 6-month single-entry permit, and they can normally be obtained upon arrival at the airport, but it’s advisable to get them in advance so you are sure nothing will go wrong. It’s been stable for a while now, but these things can and sometimes do change with no notice. You can contact Tanzania’s Embassy in Washington DC for more information on tourist visas.
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The fastest, most expensive way
Yes, Kilimanjaro International Airport, which is sometimes abbreviated as KIA — not to be confused with its airport code of JRO — is usually the best option for the fastest possible trip if money is no object. As of late 2007 KLM, British Airways and Ethiopian Aires are the major international airlines to fly into KIA. Sometimes it’s only a couple hundred dollars more expensive than the other options, which is flying into Nairobi and usually means one full day of travel to get down to Arusha or Moshi. Other times the price difference can be substantially more. It’s always worth plugging your dates in to see what the fares are, and fortunately there are alternatives if the price seems outrageous.
The best alternative
Nairobi, Kenya is about 6 hours away by regular shuttles buses, and flights to Nairobi are often at least a few hundred dollars cheaper than direct flights into KIA. Compare the two options for yourself to see what the difference is, and based on that you can determine whether it’s worth it to you. The roundtrip shuttle will add about US$70 to your journey, and you’ll also need to get a single-entry 7-day transit visa for Kenya for US$20 going in each direction, which adds another US$40 total.
Unless you arrive early in the morning, you’ll probably also be spending a night in Nairobi going this way as well. Nairobi is an interesting city, but also one where you need to really keep your guard up. It didn’t earn its nickname of Nairobbery for no reason.
If you are coming from North America, it’s a good idea to check the total price of a flight from your city into Nairobi first, but also check prices from your city to London and then London to Nairobi because at times booking these separately can be substantially cheaper.
One last option
You can also fly into Tanzania’s largest city of Dar es Salaam, which is about an 8-hour drive or bus ride from Moshi, or a 90-minute flight into the Kilimanjaro International Airport. This option is really only worth considering if you want to further explore Zanzibar, which is right off the shore of Dar es Salaam, or elsewhere within Tanzania at the beginning or end of your trip. Many travelers fly into Nairobi and fly out of Dar es Salaam, as they tend to end their vacation on Zanzibar and it doesn’t make sense to commute all the way back to Nairobi by bus.