Tanzania Travel Tips
From the snows of Mount Kilimanjaro, the vast plains of the Serengeti and the unique Ngorongoro Crater, to the barefoot luxury of its Indian Ocean islands, Tanzania offers some of the most wonderful locations in Africa.
Tanzania is a country of wide open spaces and magnificent wildlife, of palm-fringed islands in azure seas, of smiling faces and warm hospitality.
Tanzania is a land of tropical forests, savannah grassland and shimmering lakes – it has some of the largest most unspoilt wilderness areas in the world .Visitors can explore the unspoilt wilderness in the many national parks and game reserves. Tanzania has some of the largest elephant herds in Africa and is also home to chimpanzees, now rarely seen in the wild.
Perhaps as famous as Tanzania’s untouched wilderness is the tropical island paradise of Zanzibar with its unique blend of cultures, ancient spice trade and Stone Town, a world heritage site.
Tanzania enjoys the cultural heritage of more than 120 tribes spiced with touches of Chinese, Persian and Arab influence from traders of long ago. It is a treasure trove of art and handicraft, from Maasai beadwork to Makonde carvings in ebony and mahogany or carved jewellery boxes from Zanzibar.
Visitors to Tanzania can enjoy all the comforts and amenities of modern life, making the adventure of exploration extremely enjoyable.
What to pack.
Light sandals or rubber flip flops. Some places require you to remove your shoes before entering. Good walking shoes if you plan on doing a lot of sightseeing.
You should have raincoat or umbrella if you are traveling in the rainy season. Monsoon rains are heavy.
Flashlight, for those irritating power cuts. Many hotels do have generator backup systems though.
Clothes should be light as it is very hot and humid. A jersey or windbreaker is recommended for those winter nights. Women are ‘frowned upon’ for wearing revealing clothes. Miniskirts are a definite no. Try to wear shorts or a long skirt, and try to keep the shoulders covered.
The national language of Tanzania is Kiswahili. English is the official language and is widely spoken and understood across East Africa.
Although Tanzania is considered to fall in the tropics, climate and temperature varies depending on altitude and proximity to the ocean. Coastal areas are hot and humid, and central regions hot and dry. It is never cold in Tanzania, except at mountain altitudes. The main rainy season is between March and May, except in the northwest highlands, where the rain falls in November/December and again from February to May.
Lightweight casual clothes can be worn all year round, with a jacket or sweater for early winter mornings and evenings. On safari keep clothes to a minimum and mostly of neutral coloring – khakis, browns and greens. A sunhat, sunglasses, sunscreen and insect repellant are a must. Bring a hat, good walking shoes and sun screen. Don’t forget swim wear and binoculars. Some city restaurants and clubs have dress codes – casual jacket and tie for men, informal dresses for women.
Most hotels and lodges will offer a laundry service. For low budget travelers there are no coin operated Laundromats at all so consider drip dry clothing and be prepared for hand washing. In most places one could hire someone to do your washing.
When to come
Between December and mid-March, the days are sunny, hot and dry and the nights are cool. Best time for deep sea fishing and scuba diving is between August and March when the ocean is calm and water is clear. Rains fall mainly from April to June.
Throughout the year, Standard Time in Tanzania is three hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time, two hours ahead of Central European Winter Time, and eight hours ahead of Eastern Standard Winter Time in the U.S.
It is obligatory that you have travel insurance. Even though there is not any insurance certificates checkup when you enter the airports, for your own peace of mind, make sure that you are adequately covered.
Kilimanjaro International Airport, Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar are the main points of entry. Scheduled services link these cities to Arusha, the gateway to Tanzania’s game parks, Mount Kilimanjaro, and other centers.
The most popular and well known form of local transport in Tanzania is the ‘daladala’ the small buses that operate within and around most of the towns. Since these can sometime be slightly daunting for newcomers to Tanzania, there are taxis readily available for a reasonable price according to your destination. In order to avoid being overcharged we advise you simply to have an estimate of the recommended price for your journey and to negotiate and set a reasonable fare with the driver before getting into the car. If it is transport from the airport, taxis should be available outside most airports. These will all have a set rate, depending on the length of your journey and normally the drivers will not budge from this price.
Standards and services range from up-market to tourist. Deluxe and first class hotels are found in the main cities and the resorts on the coastline of the country. Luxurious lodges are set in exotic locations, while comfortable tented camps are found in the main game parks.
Tanzania is considered to be a photographers dream destination. From panoramic scenery, wildlife and birds to people and vibrant ceremonies. Rich color and good low lighting conditions abound. It is considered rude to take pictures of people without asking them first. Members of local tribes will expect payment for posing. Always bring plenty of film and videocassettes if you’re bringing a camcorder as well as batteries – as these items are difficult to get in Tanzania. Keep your cameras in a dust resistant, padded case and out of the midday sun. A 200mm – or longer – telephoto lens will prove very useful on safari, and an ultra violet filter and lens cap are strongly recommended. Please note that taking pictures of government and military personnel and installations is prohibited!.
Postal services are fairly well organized in Tanzania and you should have no problem sending or receiving letters. Public telephones are widespread in most of the cities.
All major hotels have fax machines at the disposal of their guests as well as telex services. Telephone directories will list all the international dialing codes. Both local and long distance calls are metered on a time basis.
There are many Internet cafes in major towns and at some of the hotels and resorts, so in a non-emergency, this is the best form of communication. The local telephone company is inadequate, so if you need to phone internationally, best you ask at the Internet café. They usually have facilities, or they will be able to direct you to someone who has. Be careful, it may be expensive.
There are numerous banks in the major towns as well as much bureau de change. Hours of business vary from bank to bank, but most are open from 9h00 to 14h30, Mondays to Fridays, and 9h00 – 12h30 on Saturdays. Hotels and lodges change money outside these hours.
International credit cards are accepted by some restaurants, hotels, lodges, camps, car rental firms, etc. However, many small shops will not accept them. American Express, Visa and Master Card Traveler’s Checks are widely accepted.
Currency unit is the Shilling. Bank notes are in denominations of 500, 1000, 2000 5000, and 10000 shillings. Coins are in denominations of 50, 100 and 200 shillings.
Traveler Checks and cash are accepted at hotels and Bureau de Changes. US$ and Euros and Pounds are the preferred currency. Regarding US$, if you plan on taking cash, make sure you take large bills of $50 or $100 as these for some unknown reason always get a better rate. Don’t go running to the first Bureau you see at the airport, as these, along with the hotels and resorts, normally have the poor exchange rate. If you are planning on taking a taxi into town, rather pay the fare in US$ and go to a bureau in town.
Try to pay for as much as possible in the local currency – Tanzanian Shillings, – always bearing in mind the exchange rate. If the locals see you have foreign currency, they will try to relieve you of it. Remember to keep some of your home currency for your return, just in case. You will also have to pay a departure tax of $30 when you leave.
There are a few consulates on the island, but all embassies are situated in Dar Es Salaam.
Travelers should carry an adequate supply of medicines and first aid accessories with them as supplies may be limited in the country. Most chemists in the major towns are open from 08h30 to 12h30 and 14h00 to 17h00 Monday to Friday, and 08h00 to 13h00 Saturdays. There are no emergency chemists open after hours or Sundays.
It is advisable to take out emergency medical insurance prior to entering Tanzania. Consider buying travel insurance covering accidents, illness or hospitalization for the period of your stay. Temporary membership in East African Flying Doctors’ Service is also recommended for safari goers.
Remember to consult your physician before coming to Tanzania if you have any health problems. Medical facilities in the country are very restricted, so best to make sure. The
flying Doctor service is available. Please contact us if you require any more info on this.
Mosquito or insect repellent.
Mosquitoes, like little vampires, favor night conditions. Be sure to take a repellent, and cover all exposed areas of your body. It is recommended that you wear trousers and long sleeved shirts at night should you be outdoors. If you are forced to wear a short sleeved shirt indoors, make sure you apply or spray your arms with repellent. At night before you go to bed, make sure your mosquito net is either touching the ground, or is tucked in, and your exposed areas are protected with repellent. For the irritating bites, always have the anti histamine cream with you.
Most of Tanzania regions are situated in a malaria zone, so it is recommended that you consult your physician on the right prescription for you. Expecting women should not take malaria prevention drugs, and are cautioned before entering any malaria area. Please take great care well in advance.
Yellow Fever Certificate.
The inoculation is obtainable from your nearest travel clinic or from your local physician. Staple it into the front of your passport if you are afraid of losing it. Most African countries require this certificate, so don’t ever be without it when traveling in Africa.
Power supply is 220/240 Volt 50 Hertz. Plugs are usually 13 amp 3 pin square – British Type.
Do not leave appliances plugged in all day, as there are many power fluctuations which might harm them. The US and the Japanese citizens will have to get an appropriate adapter and a step down power transformer. If your plug does not match, then enquire at a local shop, they should be able to assist.
Driving is done on the left side of the road. Drivers require a valid license that must include a picture of the holder. If you’re doing a vehicle trip through Tanzania it is a good idea to carry a range of tools and essential spares with you. Two spare wheels and a couple of spare tubes are a must due to the condition of the roads. Spare jerry cans of fuel and water, a towrope, compressor, winch and a spotlight are useful items to have. Many of the villages along the main routes offer tire mending services at a very reasonable fee.
Be very careful in towns and villages not to leave your vehicle open and unattended. People with little are easily tempted. You should have no problem sleeping outdoors in designated camping areas or remote places along the way, but get into the habit of locking things away before you go to sleep.
If you are planning on renting a car or motorbike, make sure you have a valid international driver’s license. You may be stopped in one of the many roadblocks, by the traffic police. Make sure you have the correct documentation, to avoid troubles.
If a police car approaches with a siren hailing, you have to pull over to the side of the road and stop, no matter which way it is going. Once it has passed, you may pull out and continue.
If you plan on driving in Stone Town in Zanzibar, make sure you know the roads, as there are many one way streets and the drivers may be reckless.
Don’t walk alone in apparently deserted areas, especially in and around the cities. It is preferable and usually more enjoyable to walk with company or in groups. Don’t carry large sums of cash in your purse, pocket, or display expensive jewelry. Be aware of the possibility of pickpockets and bag snatchers in crowded areas. Make photocopies of the first few pages of your passport, air ticket, and other important travel documents. Keep this separate from the originals. Don’t leave money or valuables in a hotel room. Most hotels offer safety deposit box service, and ensure that you have adequate insurance coverage before leaving home.
In the wildlife areas, always remember that whereas some animals have become accustomed to the presence of people they are still wild animals. Keep your distance. It is illegal to feed any animal, make excessive noise to attract their attention, or deviate from designated roads for that closer photograph. Never get out of your vehicle except at designated points. Close all windows and zippers when you leave your room or tent and spray it with insect repellant.
Drink only bottled water or from flasks of filtered and boiled water provided by most hotels and lodges.
Customs and Immigration
All visitors must have a valid passport and are subject to clearance through customs. In addition, all non Commonwealth citizens require a visa, to be obtained from Tanzanian Missions abroad or at the port of entry. Personal effects, including cameras, binoculars, and film are allowed into the country duty free. Visas can be obtained from any Tanzanian Diplomatic mission or port of entry, except the citizens from the following countries, used to obtain a ‘referral visa’ – not obtained at port of entry – Somalia, Lebanon, Thailand, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon, Togo, Senegal, Mali, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Ethiopia, Turkey, Afghanistan, Eritrea, Refugees and Stateless people. Please verify this, well in advance.