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Kilimanjaro Airport in northern Tanzania is one of the best gateways for an East African safari.
It’s the most convenient place to fly to for climbing Kilimanjaro or doing a Northern Circuit Tanzania safari.
Plan any East Africa adventure and you need to know about Kilimanjaro Airport. It offers direct flight connections to Europe as well as connections to destinations across East Africa.
And it’s beautiful, touching down besides Africa’s highest mountain, instead of touching down in a busy city.
Here’s a quick user guide.
Flights to Kilimanjaro Airport
Don’t let appearances fool you! Even though the Kilimanjaro is small and pretty basic for an international airport, it is incredibly well connected.
Direct flight routes connect the airport to destinations in Europe and the Middle East, as well as to other parts of Africa. Local flight connections to Kilimanjaro are also very convenient.
You can find regular international flights to Kilimanjaro Airport with Air Kenya, Emirates, Ethiopian Airlines, FlyDubai, KLM, Qatar Airways and RwandAir.
A variety of other international airlines operate codeshare flights with these carriers, such as Delta, Air France, Kenya Airways, Lufthansa and Turkish Airlines.
Domestic Tanzanian and East African airlines using Kilimanjaro Airport include Air Excel, Air Tanzania, Coastal Aviation, Condor, Fast Jet, Precision Air, Regional Air and Safarilink.
Kilimanjaro airport code
When booking flights in and out of Kilimanjaro Airport, it’s important to remember the airport code, JRO.
Be careful not to make the mistake of accidentally booking for flights to ARK or QSI.
ARK is the code for Arusha Municipal Airport that only operates domestic flights. Moshi Airport’s code is QSI. The runway is so little used that there is grass growing out of it. Locals run up and down the QSI runway in training for the Kilimanjaro Marathon.
Why Fly to Kilimanjaro Airport
As its name suggests, Kilimanjaro Airport is very close to Mount Kilimanjaro. You can see the snow-capped mountain from the plane window!
This makes it a dreamy start for those coming to connect with Africa’s highest peak, or anyone with idolized images of an East Africa vacation.
Not only does Mount Kilimanjaro rise just beyond the runway, some of Africa’s ultimate safari destinations are also at the airport’s front door.
Animal-filled savanna stretches out beneath the wingtips, especially if you fly in from Europe or Kenya.
Tanzania’s iconic Northern Circuit starts here, so this is the closest international airport for a safari in Lake Manyara, Tarangire, Ngorongoro Crater and Serengeti National Park. The northern circuit is the most popular route for a Tanzania safari and connects all four of these destinations.
The bustling towns of Arusha and Moshi are also not to be missed when starting or finishing your Tanzanian adventures in this part of the country. These towns are smaller and more manageable than East Africa’s major cities, especially for first-time visitors to Africa. It’s more relaxed to land in the bush, beneath a mountain, instead of landing in an enormous city like Dar es Salaam.
Kilimanjaro Airport is small. The low number of flights per day (in comparison to Nairobi for example) means it’s quicker to get through immigration and collect your luggage.
Getting To and From Kilimanjaro Airport
Kilimanjaro Airport is located halfway between Moshi and Arusha. It’s literally located on a stretch of raw African bush. You can almost imagine a giraffe walking past the runway (of course, animals don’t actually live this close).
It’s just a 45-minute drive from the centre of Arusha and about an hour’s drive from Moshi, making it an ideal starting point for any trip to Northern Tanzania.
Taxi on arrival
Upon arrival you can easily arrange a private taxi transfer with a local taxi driver. Drivers wait outside the entrance and are persistent in offering their services to new arrivals.
A private taxi transfer arranged at the airport will cost TSH 115,000 (USD 50 USD) each way, to either Moshi or Arusha. Drivers may try to ask for more, especially by claiming it is USD 50 per person. The price should be per vehicle, never per person.
It is very rare they accept less than USD 50 per vehicle because the drivers work together to maintain a minimum price.
Lodges and safari companies in the area are the easiest and most efficient way to pre-book transportation to and from the airport. The best thing to do is to ask your lodge or operator for a transfer. This should not cost more than USD 50, but it may be offered cheaper.
Free airport transfers are a good thing to ask for when booking with a safari operator. It’s not much trouble for an operator to pick you up, but this service will save you USD 100 on return airport transfers.
If you have visited Moshi or Arusha before, and plan to use Kilimanjaro Airport again, get the WhatsApp contact details of a local taxi driver. Drivers collecting you on a pre-booked booking do not need to stick to the minimum fare. So you can get airport transfers to Moshi or Arusha for as low as USD 30.
Cheap, local alternative
A cheaper alternative for those travelling light and up for a little extra adventure is taking a dalla dalla (small public bus).
Kilimanjaro Airport is on the main Moshi to Arusha road. If you’re in Arusha you can ride any dalla dalla going to Moshi. If you’re coming from Moshi, any dalla dalla to Arusha.
Get out at the KIA Bus Stop. From there you can grab a moto taxi to the airport. The total cost of the journey is approximately TSH 5,000 ($2 USD).
When traveling out of Kilimanjaro Airport you have two options. Either walk out of the airport gate and look for a moto taxi to take you to KIA Bus Stop. Or search for a local bus to Arusha that fills up in the airport car park (for Moshi you can get off at KIA Bus Stop and change). This bus only leaves when full so you do need some patience.
Hotels Near Kilimanjaro Airport
Depending on the direction you are going or coming from, it is best to book accommodation in the towns of Moshi or Arusha. There is virtually nothing suitable at the airport or in its immediate vicinity.
If you need to stay closer to the airport than Arusha and Moshi, Tripadvisor has a list of hotels near Kilimanjaro Airport that can be sorted by price, distance and popularity.
How to Choose: Kilimanjaro Airport vs. Dar es Salaam Airport
Located at two opposite ends of the country, Kilimanjaro Airport and Dar es Salaam Airport offer very different experiences to visitors.
If you want to explore the city life of Dar and its amazing nearby islands, like Bongoyo and Mbudya, then the Dar es Salaam airport is obviously best. Officially it is Julius Nyerere International Airport with the airport code DAR.
DAR is also your best international airport option if you are going on an overland Africa safari to destinations in southern Tanzania.
For climbing Kilimanjaro and exploring the Northern Circuit, nothing beats flying into Kilimanjaro Airport. It will save on valuable driving time in this region of the country.
If Zanzibar is calling, then both airports can work. Flying to Zanzibar is quicker from Dar and there are many local airlines. You can also fly to Dar and then take the public ferry to Zanzibar.
Many international flights to Zanzibar make a short stop in Kilimanjaro. There are some local flights from Kilimanjaro Airport to Zanzibar but these can be expensive.
Kilimanjaro Airport is smaller and less imposing. Dar es Salaam’s Airport is crowded and chaotic.
Kilimanjaro Airport – Future Flight Routes
Kilimanjaro Airport is destined to grow and there are rumours of new flight routes from Europe and the Middle East.
As northern Tanzania develops further into a key East Africa tourist hub, you may be stepping off the plane beneath the majestic snow-capped mountain.