TANZANIA TRAVEL GUIDE – THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO

If you’ve booked your trip to Tanzania, then it’s time to start thinking about a few other things. Some of them don’t need to be arranged long beforehand, but for others, like vaccinations and visa applications, it might be good to not wait too long. Below you’ll find lots of practical information to help you prepare your trip to Tanzania. Anything else you’d like to know? Don’t hesitate to get in touch and we’ll do our best to give you the necessary information! 

QUICK FACTS

  • Official name: United Republic of Tanzania 
  • Capital city: Dodoma (Dar Es Salaam might be the largest city but it’s not the capital)
  • Population: +- 56 million, split up into around 120 ethnic groups 
  • Surface: 947.300 km²
  • Languages: Swahili and English (and about 100 other languages spoken by ethnic groups)
  • Time: GMT + 3h
  • Country code: +255
  • Currency: Tanzanian Shilling (TZS)
  • National animal: Maasai giraffe
  • Neighboring countries: Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique
  • Driving: on the left
Tanzania national animal - giraffe - Tanzania travel guide - things to know before you go

BEST TIME TO VISIT TANZANIA

As there’s lots to say about this topic, we will dedicate a separate article to it. It’s coming soon!

PASSPORT AND VISA

Most European or United States passport holders need a passport and a visa to enter Tanzania. This visa is valid for both Tanzania and Zanzibar, as it’s the same country. Depending on your nationality, your passport should be valid for at least 6 months from either your day of arrival in Tanzania or your day of departure. We recommend making sure you have at least 2 empty visa pages for your visa and the entrance and exit stamps.

The visa costs 50 USD for most European passport holders and 100 USD for United States passport holders. For US-citizens, the visa issued will automatically be a multiple-entry visa. For Europeans, the visa is single entry. 

Visas can be obtained at borders and airports or online. We recommend you exclusively use the official government website, in order to avoid extra costs and delays. 

Please check the specific requirements for your country of residence with the relevant service in your country (e.g. ministry of foreign affairs, embassy of Tanzania in your country, …) 

MONEY

Tanzania’s official currency is the Tanzanian Shilling (TZS). A euro is worth about 2500 TZS and a US dollar about 2300 TZS. US dollars are also accepted for most tourist activities and in some restaurants in larger cities, but the exchange rates are usually not very interesting. Therefor we recommend getting TZS. There’s notes available of 500, 1000, 2000, 5000 and 10000 TZS and coins of 50, 100, 200 and 500 TZS. 

You can obtain TZS from any ATM machine or by changing your euros or US dollars. Please take into account the following limitations:

  • You can withdraw maximum 400.000 TZS (about 160 € or 175 USD) per transaction at an ATM and you can perform a maximum of 3 transactions per card per day, even if your card limit is higher than that. This means you can’t withdraw more than +- 480 € or 520 USD per day per card (if your limit allows it).
  • At most ATM’s, you can withdraw money by using Visa or Mastercard but also with a Maestro card. Your Maestro card might have to be activated to be used outside of Europe in order to allow you to withdraw money in Tanzania.
  • Tanzanian banks take charges from 0 to around 6 USD per transaction, on top of potential charges from your own bank. 
  • All exchange bureaus have been closed in Tanzania and from now on you can only change money in banks. They are usually open from around 8.30 am until around 4 pm on week days and on Saturdays from around 8.30 am until around 12.30 pm. You’ll have to present your passport in order to exchange your money. Exchange rates are better for larger bills than for smaller ones, so we advise you to bring bills of at least 50 €/USD to exchange.
  • On Zanzibar, the only reliable ATM’s can be found in Stone Town. There’s also an ATM in Paje and in Nungwi, but they don’t always work properly. 

Only dollar bills printed after 2006 are accepted in Tanzania and 2 USD bills are never accepted, no matter their age.

You’ll be able to pay by credit card in most hotels but we recommend you to verify before your departure. There’s often charges of 3 to 4% for card payments on the continent and up to 7 or 8% on Zanzibar.

Things to know before you go - Practical information Tanzania
Things to know before you go - Practical information Tanzania

HEALTH

We’re not doctors and we strongly advise you to consult with your doctor on this subject. Please inform him/her of the specifics of your trip and ask for all related health advise, whether it’s about medication to bring, vaccinations to get, physical restrictions or preparations to be made, or all other health-related subjects. 

In general, vaccinations for hepatitis A+B, DTP and typhoid are recommended for short stays in Tanzania. For longer stays, extra vaccinations are often recommended.

The vaccine for yellow fewer is officially only obligated if you’ve spent more than 12 hours in a high-risk country on your way to Tanzania but very often you will be asked to show proof of vaccination regardless of whether or not you fulfill this condition. Therefor, if your medical condition allows it, we recommend you to get the vaccine and proof of vaccination in order to avoid any problems. 

A treatment against malaria is also highly recommended. 

Healthcare in Tanzania is of variable quality. In most larger cities there’s several hospitals but prices and quality of the service can vary hugely. You’ll also need patience in high doses to get through the experience as even in the hospital, things go pole pole (slowly) in Tanzania.

We also recommend you bring a first-aid kit and some useful medication such as painkillers, plaster, antiseptic solution, medication against diarrhea and nausea, etc. Menstrual pads are usually only easy to find in larger cities and tampons are rare, so we recommend you bring those from home.  

Tap water is not safe for drinking in Tanzania. We recommend you use bottled water, which is easy to find in most of the country, especially in the tourist areas.

DIETARY REQUIREMENTS

Many dietary requirements can be catered for in Tanzania, although you should know that replacements for certain foods are often not available. Eg. it’s not hard to not eat meat or fish, but this often means you’ll simply get more rice and vegetables to replace the meat. Vegetarian alternatives that provide sufficient nutrients are usually not available or extremely expensive. When it comes to halal food, eg., it’s good to know that there’s no real halal label. We can try to get meat from Muslim butchers but this isn’t possible everywhere, so you might get vegetarian food instead. If you suffer from allergies, it’s important to make it very clear why you don’t eat certain ingredients (have a look at our useful Swahili words and phrases for travelers). In this case also, you probably won’t get a ‘real’ replacement, but simply more of another ingredient that you are allowed to eat. 

When booking a tour with us, we kindly ask you to provide as much information as possible about the things that you don’t eat, in order to make sure we can give the right information to our cooks and to your accommodation and avoid all mistakes and misunderstandings.

ELECTRICITY

Tanzania uses type D plugs, or the same ones that are used in the UK. Power is 230 V and the frequency is 50 Hz. We recommend you to check whether or not you’ll need an adaptor.

During safaris, one or more USB-connections are usually available in the car but we always recommend you bring a power bank and spare batteries. You’ll be able to charge your electronic devices in the lodges (sometimes only in the common areas) and on the campsites. On Kilimanjaro, it’s not possible to charge your devices (or exceptionally but at a very high price). 

PHONE & INTERNET

Lodges and hotels usually offer wifi but not always in the rooms. Sometimes you’ll only have access in the common areas and generally the wifi isn’t very fast. Only some restaurants and bars offer wifi and it’s usually slow as well. For this reason we recommend you to buy a local SIM card. These can be obtained from any mobile network operator’s shop and you’ll need your passport to finalize the registration. Packages are very flexible; you can buy data only, minutes only, sms only or a mix of all. 

These packages usually don’t allow you to make phone calls to countries outside Tanzania but people from abroad should be able to reach you. We therefor advise you to make sure you can reach your friends and family through the internet.  

Things to know before you go - Practical information Tanzania

RELIGION & CLOTHING

In Tanzania, about 60% of the population is Christian and about 35% is Muslim. However, on Zanzibar and on parts of the coast of the mainland, there’s about 90% of Muslims. These different religions live together peacefully and people in Tanzania generally show lots of respect towards people from other religions. 

In the whole country, it’s important to dress in a respectful manner. Locals will only make comments to tourists about how they dress on very rare occasions, but they do take offence in some cases that they consider too extreme. No matter their religion, Tanzanians almost always cover at least their knees and shoulders. Only in bigger cities or in nightclubs, you’ll see locals with uncovered knees and shoulders. 

We think it’s very important to respect local customs and to not shock or disturb the locals. Therefor, in the cities on the continent, we recommend you cover your knees at all times and not to wear tops that are too revealing. Uncovered bellies or backs are also a no-go. In villages and on the whole island of Zanzibar, except on the beach, we recommend to follow the same guidelines, but on top of it covering your shoulders and upper arms at all times (a short-sleeved T-shirt is fine). In some of the coastal areas on the mainland, it might even be considered inappropriate to lay on the beach in a bathing suit, so if you plan to visit these areas, we strongly recommend you check with us or your accommodation before you travel! Bikini’s are generally fine in tourist areas and hotels, but they are often not accepted in local swimming pools, where the minimum requirement is a one-piece bathing suit. 

LANGUAGE

Swahili (locally called Kiswahili) and English (Kiingereza) are the two official languages of Tanzania. Children usually follow primary school in Swahili and secondary school in English, so younger people who go to school usually have a decent knowledge of English.

In tourist areas almost everybody speaks good English but in more rural areas, it might be more of a challenge. Especially older people often don’t speak any English at all. Our guides all speak fluent English (and some speak French, on request) so they can help you translate if necessary. 

Have a look at these useful Swahili words and phrases if you want to impress every Tanzanian you’ll meet on your trip!

SAFETY

Tanzania is considered one of the safer countries in Africa. The country is politically stable so you shouldn’t have to worry about any unrest in that area. The country is however relatively poor and the gap between prices for daily life and prices for tourist activities are huge. Therefor we recommend to take into account some basic safety rules:

  • Don’t bring expensive juwelery or other items that will make you stand out.
  • Don’t carry too much money. A meal costs around 5 – 10 usd so on most occasions you really won’t need much. If you have to carry more money for some reason, make sure to hide it as much as possible. 
  • Don’t leave any valuable items unattended, also not in your hotel room (except in the safe) or in a safari car, eg. 
  • Don’t walk outside between sunset and sunrise, also not in a group. 
  • Don’t take random taxi’s in the street, especially not at night. Bajaji’s (tuktuks) are usually safe during the day but are definitely to be avoided at night. Bodaboda’s (motorbike taxi’s) are to be avoided all together as they bring along a high risk of accidents. Ask us or your hotel to provide a safe transport option. 
  • Be careful of pickpockets and people who try to steal your bag from a motorbike. They usually approach you from behind so that you don’t see them or from the front by driving straight towards you so that you focus on not getting hit rather than on your belongings. They rip off bags with small straps as these break easily.
  • Be careful of people that try to sell you tours on the street. Only so-called flycatchers do that and they do not work for registered tour companies, meaning you’ll have zero guarantee of where your money goes and zero assistance in case anything goes wrong.  
Things to know before you go - Practical information Tanzania

On this page, we give you the latest information at our disposal but we recommend you verify the most important things such as but not limited to information concerning the necessary visa for your nationality, vaccines for your specific case, etc. We are in no way responsible in case any of the information on this page is wrong or incomplete.

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 Things to know before you go - Practical information Tanzania