Tanzania Travelling Tips

 

Tanzania Entry requirements - VISA

A valid passport is mandatory, and it shouldn’t expire within six months of your intended date of departure from Tanzania. Visas are required by most visitors and cost US$30-60, depending on your nationality. They can be obtained on arrival at any international airport or land border - a straightforward procedure that requires no photographs, nor any other documentation aside from a passport.

A standard tourist visa is normally valid for three months after arrival and allows for multiple entries to Tanzania from neighboring Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda, but not from other countries.

For those who prefer to arrange a visa in advance, Tanzanian embassies or high commissions exist in Angola, Belgium, Britain, Burundi, Canada, China, CIS, Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Guinea, India, Japan, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Netherlands, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sudan, Sweden, Uganda, USA, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Citizens of the UK, the US, Canada, Australia, and most countries in the EU, need a tourist visa to enter Tanzania. Application details and forms can be found on Tanzanian Embassy web sites. US citizens can apply here. Tanzanian embassies issue single ($50).

Getting there

There are three international airports. Dar es Salaam is used by most international airlines, and is convenient for business travellers or those exploring the southern safari circuit. The mainland alternative is Kilimanjaro International Airport (KIA), which lies midway between Moshi and Arusha and is well placed as a springboard for safaris to the Serengeti and other northern reserves. Some international flights land at Zanzibar.

Air Tanzania, British Airways, Gulf Air, KLM, Lufthansa and Swissair all fly to Tanzania from Europe, while African airlines servicing Tanzania include EgyptAir, Ethiopian Airlines, Kenya Airways and South African Airways.

Once in Tanzania, a good network of domestic flights connects Kilimanjaro, Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar, as well as other less visited towns. Private airlines also run scheduled flights connecting to most parts of the country, including Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar, Pemba, Mafia, Serengeti (Grumeti and Seronera), Ngorongoro, Lake Manyara, Mwanza, Rubondo Island, Kigoma, Selous, Ruaha, Katavi and Mahale.

Many tourists land at Nairobi (Kenya) and then fly on to Arusha with any of several regional operators. Several safe and affordable shuttle bus services connect the two cities via Namanga border post, departing at around 08.00 and 14.00 daily and taking four hours in either direction.

When to visit
There is no truly bad time to visit Tanzania; the optimum months depend on which parts of the country you plan to visit and your main interests. Peak tourist season in the north coincides with the European winter, with Jan/Feb being particularly good, since it is when the wildebeest calve. The low season typically runs from mid-April to September, but tourism surges over June and July, when migratory activity peaks in the Serengeti and June. May, though sometimes wet, can be an excellent month to visit, with a good chance of catching the migration in the far south, and relatively few other tourists around. 

The coast and offshore islands are best avoided over the high rainfall months of March to May. This hot and humid part of the country is most pleasant during the relatively cool and dry months of Jun-Oct, which is also when the risk of malaria is lowest.

The southern circuit is best between July and November, and should be avoided from April to June, when several lodges close in anticipation of the peak rainy season. The dry months of March and September are generally rated best for trekking on Mount Kilimanjaro and Meru, though both mountains can be climbed at any time of year. November to April offers the best bird watching, with resident species supplemented by a number of Palaearctic and intra-African migrants.

Health and Immunizations

Immunizations

No immunizations are required by law to enter Tanzania if you are travelling directly from Europe or the U.S.A. If you are travelling from a country where Yellow Fever is present you will need to prove you have had the inoculation.

Several vaccinations are highly recommended when traveling to Tanzania, they include:

  • Yellow Fever
  • Typhoid
  • Hepatitis A
  • Diptheria

It is also recommended that you are up to date with your polio and tetanus vaccinations. Rabies is also prevalent and if you're planning to spend a lot of time in Tanzania, it may be worth getting the rabies shots before you go.

Contact a travel clinic at least 3 months before you plan to travel. Here's a list of travel clinics for US residents.

Malaria

There's a risk of catching malaria pretty much everywhere you travel in Tanzania. While it's true that areas of high altitude like the Ngorongoro Conservation Area are relatively malaria-free, you will usually be passing through areas where malaria is prevalent in order to get there.

Make sure your doctor or travel clinic knows you are traveling to Tanzania (don't just say Africa) so he/she can prescribe the right anti-malarial medication.

Safety

Basic Safety Rules for Travelers to Tanzania

  • Make a copy of your passport and keep it in your luggage.
  • Don't walk on your own at night in the major cities or on empty beaches especially in Pemba and Zanzibar.
  • Don't wear jewelry.
  • Don't carry too much cash with you.
  • Wear a money belt that fits under your clothes.
  • Don't carry a lot of camera equipment especially in the major cities. 


Photography
Wildlife photography will be very frustrating without a reasonably big lens, ideally 300mm or larger. Fixed fast lenses offer the best quality but are costly and cumbersome, so most people settle for a zoom, which allows you to play with composition without changing lenses. Tele-converters are a cheap and compact way to increase magnification, but incur a loss of quality.

Plan ahead when it comes to charging digital camera batteries and storage devices. Most hotels/lodges have charging points, but it’s best to enquire in advance. When camping you might have to rely on charging from the car battery. Either way, make sure you have all the chargers, cables, converters with you, as well as sufficient memory space to store your photos.

Tanzanians generally find it unacceptable to be photographed without permission, and many people will expect a donation before they agree to be snapped. Don’t try to sneak photographs as you might get yourself into trouble, especially with the Maasai, who are very touchy about this.

Accommodation
A good selection of accommodation, ranging from local budget guest houses to world-class business and boutique hotels, is available in regularly visited urban centers such as Dar es Salaam, Arusha and Zanzibar, but hotels in less popular towns tend not to meet international standards.

Accommodation in the game reserves and national parks is almost uniformly excellent, and range from large and impersonal but well-run ‘hotels in the bush’ with up to 100 rooms, to exclusive tented camps that usually consist of 6-20 accommodation units. Relatively affordable camping facilities are available in most parks and reserves.   

Food & drink
On trekking and safari, all meals are usually taken at your lodge or camp, and standards range from adequate to excellent. Most lodges offer a daily set menu, so it’s advisable to specify in advance if you are vegetarian or have other specific dietary requirements.

Most lodges offer the option of a packed breakfast and/or lunch box, which are variable in standard, but do allow you to eat on the trot rather than having to base game viewing hours around meal times.

Local staples include a stiff maize porridge called ugali or cooked plantain dish called matoke or batoke, both of which are typically served with a bland stews made with chicken, beef, mutton or beans. Excellent seafood is available along the coast.

The usual bottled soft drinks (known locally as sodas) are available. Around ten different lager beers are bottled locally, of which Castle, Kilimanjaro and Serengeti seem to be the most popular.

Craft shopping

Popular items include Makonde carvings, Tingatinga paintings, batiks, musical instruments, wooden spoons, and various small soapstone and malachite carvings. The colourful vitenge (the singular of this is kitenge) worn by most Tanzanian women can be picked up cheaply at any market in the country. The curio shops near the clock tower in Arusha are the best place to shop for curios, offering decent quality at competitive prices, but a good selection is also available on Zanzibar and in many upmarket hotel shops. 

Tipping and gratuities
As a custom, tipping is not compulsory, but is usually expected as a sign of appreciation of good service in lodges, bars and restaurants and permanent tented camps. All your Mountain crew will expect to get tips as well as safari guides for a large part of their income, so be sure to bring extra cash for tipping.

Electricity
Tanzania's past, has left it with several different international standards of delivering power. Electricity is delivered at 220 Volts, but varies on the connections, so be sure to bring a Universal Adapter. Also, if outlets are not available in your permanent tented camp, the main building or bar area will have outlets so you can recharge your camera. Our safari vehicles have inverter charger which provides 220 Volts while on the car.

Money and Cash
The local currency in Tanzania is the shilling. Major credit cards are accepted in our office, hotels, lodges and camps "in the bush". Also US dollars, Euros and travelers checks are readily accepted as well, but small denominations are recommended for cashing at lodges and camps.

Gifts
Chances are you will make loads of friends during your time in Tanzania, whether you’re there for a few days or a few weeks. Be prepared. Small gifts as gestures of friendship are most appreciated.

Good ideas include soccer balls (you can carry them over deflated in your luggage with a small pump), frisbees, jump ropes and other games, writing journals and pens, photographs of you and your family, baseball caps or tee-shirts, music, posters, and books.

Getting Along with Tanzanians

Language. Most Tanzanians will quickly guess that you’re a visitor and will likely welcome you most as such. Tanzanians are some of the friendliest people on the planet. And while many people speak English (secondary school in Tanzania is taught in English), you can show your respect by trying to speak a bit of Swahili. The effort is always appreciated. Five key words to know:

  • Jambo: “hello”
  • Ahsante: “thank you”
  • Shikamoo: a word of respect to elders (people of all ages can say shikamoo when they greet any Tanzanian who is older or who is a revered elder in his or her community). They will respond with marahaba
  • Pole: This is a word of empathy that you can say when you see someone working hard, suffering, toiling, etc.
  • Tafadhali: “please”

In Tanzania, as it is everywhere, “please,” “thank you,” and a little respect go a long way!