Tanzania Travel Guide
Karibu means ‘welcome’ in Swahili, and you’re certainly going to feel at home when you arrive in Tanzania and get the opportunity to explore its national parks and meet its people.
Below you’ll find all of the information you’ll need to prepare for your upcoming trip to Tanzania.
VISA Application Info:
To make your entry into Tanzania as easy as possible, we recommend you apply for online VISA before buying a flight ticket, however, visitors from some countries can get a visa at major airports and at border crossings.
Masai boys may have many responsibilities, but they are also every bit as mischievous and adventurous as children everywhere.
Tanzania has two official languages: Swahili and English. Swahili, which has its origins in Zanzibar, is the most commonly spoken language in both Tanzania and Kenya.
English is widely spoken, however you may wish to bring along a Swahili to English phrasebook to give you access to the basics. The locals are always appreciative if you know a little bit of Swahili!
Below you’ll find a few useful Swahili phrases to get you started.
Useful Swahili Phrases
- Karibu: Welcome.
- Habari/Hujambo: Hello.
- Habari?/Habari yako?: How are you?
- Nzuri: Good. Standard reply to how are you.
- Samahani: Sorry.
- Asante: Thank you.
- Chakula: Food.
- Rafiki: Friend.
- Hapana: No.
- Ndio: Yes.
Time in Tanzania
Tanzania is in the +3 GMT time zone. The sun rises at approximately 6.30 in the morning and sets at around 18.45 in the evening.
The locals also use what is known as Swahili Time, which is quite a bit different to the conventional way of keeping time as we know it. 1:00 in the morning is the first hour after the sunrise (approximately 7am) and 1:00 in the evening is the first hour after sunset (approximately 7pm).
That being said, most businesses will operate using the standard way of measuring time.
Our Destinations | Tanzania Parks and Other Attractions
1. Serengeti NP. The Serengeti is arguably the world's most well known, and best wildlife viewing destination. Commit to 4-5 days here and you're saying "yes" to the best, witnessing one of the most undisturbed wild habitats on the planet. Predator-prey drama unfolds with rigor in this 5,695 square-mile park. And did I mention the possibility of observing 2 million animals migrate each year? Yeah, that's a thing.
2. Ngorongoro Crater. This primordial caldera is a UNESCO World Heritage Site for a reason. The Ngorongoro Crater is hyper-condensed wilderness. It's a steaming, geologic coliseum of action, of lion prides and stampeding wildebeest, hungry hyenas and black rhinos. If you're itching to see the Big 5, in Ngorongoro you're likely to spot all five in one place.
3. Tarangire NP. Tarangire boasts some of the highest concentrations of elephant herds on the planet, plus tons of birding and water-loving beasts, due to lakes and rivers being central to the park's layout.
4. Kilimanjaro NP. Consider Mount Kilimanjaro as Tanzania's gravitational core. At 19,341 feet (5,895 meters) it's Africa's tallest peak and the highest free-standing mountain on the planet. Lucky for you, Kili is a non-technical ascent and can be accessed without any mountaineering experience.
5. Arusha NP. Arusha National Park covers Mount Meru, a prominent volcano with an elevation of 4566 m, in the Arusha Region of north eastern Tanzania. The park is small but varied with spectacular landscapes in three distinct areas. In the west, the Meru Crater funnels the Jekukumia River; the peak of Mount Meru lies on its rim. Mount Meru offers a breathtaking ascent and finishes with a narrow ridgeline summit approach. Most trips take 3-4 days.
6. Empakaai Crater. Consider this an inverted mountain climb. Head past Ngorongoro Crater to the highlands and you'll weave through hill villages and colorful markets, into the lush, high-elevation rim of Empakaai Crater. We offer walking safaris here, where you descend into a jungle-hemmed caldera and witness a lake crowded in pink flamingos.
7. Zanzibar. Spoiler alert! The Spice Islands are 100% all they're chalked up to be. Set your expectations high, because nothing spells relax-and-restore than 4-6 days of beachcombing, snorkeling and diving in Zanzibar after your safari or mountain climb.
8. Pemba. Perhaps this smaller, idyllic island was what Zanzibar might have been a few decades ago. Choose Pemba if you've got a Robinson Crusoe fetish or seek world-class diving. It's a dream honeymoon destination, too. And if you're a nature-lover, it's enough just to visit for sightings of the endemic Pemba flying fox!
9. Maasai Markets. There are 120 different tribes in Tanzania, and you will experience this ethnic diversity on your very first day in Arusha. Take a few hours at the city's magnificent markets. We love the Maasai markets, where you'll find incredible textiles, jewelry, and rows of smiling faces.
10. Hadzabi Hunter-Gatherers. Ever wonder what it feels like to hunt for your breakfast each morning? Join the Hadza near Lake Natron for a walking safari to find out. Interacting with these local people puts you in touch with one of the most important elements to Tanzania: its human-nature relationship. Tribes here have lived for millennia among wild animals, and this encourages a different level of respect and humility for the land.
About Food in Tanzania
Tanzania’s tourism industry means that there is a great variety of high quality food available. Hotels and restaurants provide cuisine from all around the world as well as local cuisine, so you can immerse yourself fully with Tanzanian food or sample the comforts of home.
Traditional Tanzanian food features plenty of meat (especially beef, chicken, and fish), rice, and vegetables. It’s simple, hearty food often accompanied by ugali, a flour and water based dough similar to polenta and eaten by hand.
Tanzanian’s love seafood, and Zanzibar is a culinary paradise for those who love freshly caught fish, shrimp, and the like.
You’ll also notice the Indian and British influences on Tanzanian cuisine, with everything from spicy curries to old British staples such as fish & chips popular with locals and visitors alike. In larger cities you’ll encounter steak houses, burger joints, and stores selling cuisine from around the world.
Vegetarians are also well catered for in Tanzania. With fresh fruits such as mangoes, coconuts, and pineapples available in abundance. With Tanzanian food so rich in vegetables, legumes, and rice – you’ll be able to find delicious vegetarian food without any trouble.
For the most part, food in Tanzania is perfectly safe to eat. It would be advisable to avoid eating cold, pre-prepared foods.
Is it safe to drink tap water in Tanzania?
It is not safe to drink tap water in Tanzania. In fact, it is advisable to use tap water only for showering or washing your hands.
To avoid health problems, use only bottled or filtered water for drinking and brushing your teeth.
Bottled water is cheap and readily available in Tanzania, and all lodges and restaurants will have it available. Shadows of Africa’s safari vehicles always come stocked with plenty of bottled water to ensure you remain hydrated while on safari.
Money, Credit Cards, Traveller’s Cheques, and ATMs
The official Tanzanian currency is the Tanzanian Shilling. They have coins for 50, 100, and 1000 shillings; and notes for 500, 1000, 2000, 5000, and 10,000 shillings.
The US Dollar is widely used, but may not be accepted in some establishments. It is also important to note that most businesses that do accept US currency will not do so if it is torn or wrinkled.
Notes must not be older than 2006, as local businesses will automatically reject these due to a past counterfeiting problem.
Banks & Currency Exchange
Currency can be exchanged at banks, currency exchange offices (which are plentiful in the city), and in most hotels. Hotels generally offer the least favourable exchange rates.
Banks in Tanzania are open from 9am until 3.30pm Monday to Friday, and from 9am until 11am on Saturdays.
The tax rate in Tanzania amounts to 16% for most products and services. There is no process for reclaiming this amount upon departing the country.
ATMs that accept both Visa and MasterCard are available in most cities. You will be able to withdraw from your accounts in local (Tanzanian shillings) currency by entering your PIN. The daily withdrawal limit amounts to roughly $300 USD.
Be sure to alert your bank that you will be traveling to Africa. Many banks will deem transactions made out of your native country as suspicious, and may lock access to your accounts if you have not forewarned them.
International credit cards (especially Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Thomas Cook) are accepted in most stores, restaurants, hotels, camping sites, lodges, car rental companies, etc. Many smaller stores will not have EFTPOS facilities, so it is generally better to carry cash. Credit cards typically attract a 5-15% tax.
Traveler’s cheques are not accepted anywhere in Tanzania.
Visas & Passports
Entering Tanzania requires both a valid passport and a Tanzanian visa. While the information below is up to date at the time of writing, it is advisable to always check ahead to ensure visa processes or charges have not changed.
Who needs a visa?
With the exception of Hong Kong, Jamaica, Barbados, Malaysia, and roughly a dozen African nations; everybody entering Tanzania is required to have a tourist visa.
To enter Tanzania, you’ll also need a passport with at least six months validity remaining. If you are planning to apply for a visa upon arrival, you will also need two free, adjacent pages remaining in your passport.
How to obtain a visa
Visas are available upon arrival in Tanzania, whether you’re landing at the airport or are making a border crossing.
The cost of a visa upon arrival is $50 for non US citizens, and $100 for US citizens. This should be paid in USD. Other currencies are not accepted.
If you have any further questions about the visa process, please don’t hesitate to contact us. That’s what we’re here for!
Tipping is customary in Tanzania, and is very much a part of the incomes of many people in the hospitality and tourism industry.
As a general rule of thumb, tipping for satisfactory service should be as follows:
Driver/Guide: US $15 - US $20 per day per guide
Chef: US $15 - US $20 per day per chef (adventure camping safari only)
Our safari staff should be tipped equally.
Head Guide: US$15 - US$20 per day per guide
Assistant Guide: US$10 - US$15 per day per guide
Cook: US$10 - US$15 per day per cook
Porter: US$5 - US$10 per day per porter
Tip amounts listed for safari and Kilimanjaro are per group, not per individual traveler. For instance, if four people are on safari, they should each contribute $5 if they want to tip their driver-guide 20 USD per day.
Electricity and Electronic Devices
Tanzanian power outlets use 220-240V, 50Hz. If you are traveling from a country with a voltage less than 220V should check whether or not their electronic devices have a dual voltage power supply. If not, you may need to purchase a converter before leaving.
Generally speaking, most electronics (smart phones, digital cameras, tablets, and computers) work on a dual voltage basis. Electrical appliances such as razors and hair dryers do not..
Tanzania uses the 3 pin ‘British’ plug, which is comprised of three square/rectangular pegs. Travel adaptors can be purchased at airports and at most larger department stores.
When on safari, it is advisable to bring along items that run on batteries. While most hotels and our Shadows of Africa safari vehicles do have power outlets in which you can charge your devices, in campsites or lodges that run on generators, you may not have access to electricity to charge your appliances.
Tanzania is one of the safest countries in East Africa, but you never can be too careful when you’re on the road. While safari areas are generally very safe, the country is no stranger to criminal activity. Like any other country in the world, there is always some risk of theft.
It is advisable that you listen closely to your guide’s advice at all times, and that is especially true in some urban areas. Either leave your valuables (such as many, electronics, credit cards, and documentation) behind in your hotel room’s safe, or carry them with you in concealed inner pockets.
Don’t flaunt your valuables in public, as this may draw unwanted attention to you. Pickpockets are particularly active in heavily touristed areas, so it pays to be cautious when in cities and areas popular with tourists.
It is always a good idea to make copies of all of your important documents and keep them in your luggage.
As a developing country, Tanzania has issues with a number of potential harmful diseases. Thankfully, many of these can be vaccinated against before you travel.
Before departing for your trip, it is advisable that you speak with your physician about getting vaccinated against the following:
- Hepatitis A & B
These are in addition to the vaccinations that all travelers should have up to date regardless of where they are traveling, such as: MMR (measles, mumps, rubella), diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis, chickenpox, polio, and a flu shot.
It is also advisable that you speak with your physician about measures that you can take to minimize your chance of exposure to malaria and cholera.
Finally, if you are traveling from an area where yellow fever is a problem, you will be required to have a yellow fever vaccination as a condition of entry. If you are traveling from such an area and do not have a vaccination certificate, your visa application may be denied.
Malaria is prevalent throughout Tanzania, except in high altitude areas (above 1,800m) such as Mt. Kilimanjaro and Ngorongoro. Malaria medications differ from country to country dependent on conditions, so be sure to advise your physician that you’ll be traveling to Tanzania. Saying you’ll be traveling to Africa is not enough, as conditions differ greatly between countries. You should begin taking your malaria medication a few days before your trip, and continue to take it for a short period after you have returned home.
HIV/AIDS are no more a problem here than they are anywhere else in the world. Provided you are not taking undue risks, you have nothing to fear.
When it comes to medical attention, nurses and doctors in Tanzania are highly qualified, especially in cities such as Arusha and Dar Es Salaam. Most camping sites, lodges, and hotels have on site physicians and are in close contact with the Flying Doctors Service should an evacuation be needed.
Trekking and Mountain Climbing
Those participating in particularly physically demanding activities such as mountain climbing or extended trekking should consult with their personal physicians and check whether they are healthy enough to undertake such adventurous activities.
If you suffer from or are suffering from a cold, diabetes (or any other health problem concerning blood-sugar level), or a respiratory illness you should not participate in these activities. If you suffer from any medical or physical condition that may hinder your ability to handle such physical exertion, you will be required to provide Shadows of Africa with a letter of written consent from your doctor.
All of our safaris and climbing programs include Flying Doctors rescue insurance for the duration of your tour.
Advice for a Safer and More Pleasant Trip
Rules and Regulations
Tanzania, like all countries, has rules and laws that need to be followed. These include:
- It is illegal to sunbathe topless;
- It is illegal to urinate in public;
- The buying, selling, and use of drugs is illegal;
- It is advisable not to talk on the telephone while inside a bank;
- It is forbidden to take plants, animals, seeds, minerals, archaeological finds, corals, ivory, or sea turtle shells out of Tanzania;
- Without prior authorization, you should not photograph the President or certain public facilities such as military bases, airports, bridges, police stations etc.
There is no dress code for safari, however it is advised that you were inconspicuous clothes in brown, green, beige, khaki, or other neutral colours so as not to draw attention to yourself or frighten the animals away.
As driving distances can be quite long while on safari, it is advisable that you dress lightly and comfortably. With evenings able to get quite cold, it is also advisable to bring along warmer clothes.
Guests of certain lodges may also be expected to wear trousers and collared shirts for dinner (for men) or dresses (for women)
Tanzania is a conservative country, so don’t dress provocatively.
Animals on Safari
You should never feed animals while you are on safari.
In addition to this, you should try to remain as quiet and still as possible so as not to startle the animals. Always listen to your guide’s instructions. They are experts when it comes to Tanzania’s wildlife, and will advise you how best to act.
Never get out of the vehicle without your guide’s implicit instructions. It may appear safe, but you never know what’s lurking in the tall grass!
What to pack
Packing for your first safari can be a bit daunting. What do you bring? What don’t you need? Below you’ll find our recommended list of things to bring along with you when you’re on safari.
- A backpack;
- A warm sweater or light fleece;
- A windbreaker or waterproof jacket;
- Walking shoes or boots;
- A long sleeve dress shirt and trousers;
- Sunscreen and lip balm;
- Insect repellant;
- Batteries and/or charger for your camera;
- A flashlight or headlamp;
- Guide books;
- Phone and charger.
You may also wish to bring your own first aid kit. While all of our Shadows of Africa vehicles have their own on board first aid kit, it never hurts to be prepared.
- Anti-malarial medication;
- Antihistamines for allergies and insect bites;
- Cold and flu medication;
- Anti-Diarrheal medication;
- Medicines for rehydration after diarrhea or sunstroke;
- Insect repellant;
- Sunscreen and lip balm;
- Eye drops;
- Moisturiser for treating sunburn;
- Antiseptic lotion;
- Rubbing alcohol;
- Bandages and plasters;
You may also wish to bring along water purification tablets and any medications you take for any existing medical conditions.
Don’t let the above list daunt you. Many of these items are only necessary in extreme cases, but it’s better to have something and not need it than it is to need something and not have it!
Telephones and Internet
The international code for calling Tanzania is +255.
Almost all campsites and lodges in Tanzania offer phone and internet services. Internet cafes can also be found in Arusha, Dar Es Salaam, and Karatu.
All of Shadows of Africa’s vehicles are equipped with HF radio, used for both tracking the movements of animals and in cases of emergency.
There are four mobile providers in Tanzania: Zain, Zantel, Vodacom, and Tigo; all of which offer roaming services. Mobile network coverage for both data and phone calls is quite good across Tanzania. You should still be able to access your phone while on safari, although some areas of the national parks do not receive coverage.
You can buy prepaid Zain cards for $5 to $50, and you can even purchase cheap phones for as little as $35-$80. Vodacom offers an unlimited data pack for your phone for 25,000 Tanzanian Shillings (approximately $13) that is quite popular as well.
In emergencies, your relatives can also reach you by calling our telephone numbers or emailing us in the office.
The postal service in Tanzania is well organized. Sending and receiving letters poses no problem at all, however telegrams are less reliable.
Most hotels offer fax, email, and internet services for guests to use.
Stamps can be purchased at the post office, in souvenir shops, and in most hotels.