So you’ve already made the great decision to come to Tanzania, now it’s time for some useful practical details to think about before you leave! This will probably be my most boring post ever, but on a travel blog that focusses on Tanzania, it would be silly to leave that part out.
- Official name: Republic of Tanzania
- Capital: Dodoma (and not Dar Es Salaam like many people think. Dar Es Salaam is however the biggest city).
- Tanzania is big and driving times are long. Make sure to check the nearest airport and don’t just assume Dar Es Salaam is your best option. In fact, it probably isn’t.
- Official language: Swahili, but a lot of people speak English
- Currency: Tanzanian Shilling, TZS or TSH. 1 USD is equivalent to around 2300 TZS and 1 euro to around 2500 TZS.
- Time: GMT + 3 h
- Country code: +255
Health care is easily accessible in cities such as Dar Es Salaam, Arusha, Moshi etc. with hospitals, pharmacies etc. that can take care of you in case something goes wrong. Prices are usually high for foreigners, so don’t forget to get the right kind of insurance. In remote areas, eg. on safari, it’s definitely a different story and it’s wise to bring your own medicine for emergencies.
No vaccinations are required to enter Tanzania. You might read or hear that a vaccination for yellow fewer is required, but this is only true if you’ve spent more than 12 hours in a country with yellow fever on your way to Tanzania. Careful, this includes layovers and potential delays in these countries.
To know which vaccinations are recommended, it’s wise to contact your doctor a few weeks/months before your trip. For short trips it’s usually a good idea to get vaccinations for hepatitis A+B, DTP and typhoid, for longer stays your doctor might recommend more shots.
Malaria is present in Tanzania, so if you want to be on the safe side don’t forget a preventive treatment. It’s also a good idea to bring mosquito repellent and make sure the places you sleep have mosquito nets.
Tap water is not safe for drinking so I recommend to stick to bottled water, which is available almost everywhere without any problem.
- Make sure your passport has 2 empty pages and that it’s valid at least 6 months after you enter Tanzania.
- Children need their own visa and the price is the same as for adults.
- The visa is valid for both Tanzania and Zanzibar. It’s one country.
- Where to get the visa? At borders or airport and you can (but don’t have to) apply online before you arrive. I recommend you only use the official government website to make your application.
- Visa cost:
- 50 USD or 50 USD for most Europeans. You’ll get a single-entry visa that should be valid for 90 days. At some airports they tend to give visas for shorter periods, so make sure it covers the full duration of your stay. If not, you can extend at the nearest immigration office.
- 100 USD for Americans. There’s no single-entry visa for Americans and you’ll automatically get a multiple entry visa.
Transport - getting there & getting around
The main international airports of Tanzania are Julius Nyerere International Airport in Dar Es Salaam, Kilimanjaro International Airport in Kilimanjaro region, about halfway between Moshi and Arusha, and Abeid Amani Karume International Airport in Zanzibar. It’s wise to keep your itinerary in mind before you book plane tickets as Kilimanjaro Airport is far from the other 2 and you can’t, eg., be picked up by car in Dar Es Salaam to start a safari in the Serengeti on the same day. There are however several daily flights between these airports.
Major airlines like KLM and Turkish Airlines fly directly from Europe to Tanzania, others connect through other big cities such as Addis Ababa (Ethiopean Airlines), Kigali (Rwandair), Doha (Qatar Airways) etc. I recommend having a look at websites such as Skyscanner to find the best options for your location as there’s just too many options to mention them all here.
You might also be using the smaller airport of Arusha for your flights to Zanzibar but no international flights arrive or depart from here.
Many of the national parks have airstrips, so flying right into the parks is also an option.
I’ve written a separate article with everything you need to know about how to get around once you’re in Tanzania.
Money & ATM's
The best way to live the local experience is by paying in Tanzanian Shillings. You can usually pay in dollars at hotels and for tourist activities but the rest of the time it’s often not possible. Euros are accepted almost nowhere. Paying by card is also not widely accepted, so I strongly recommend you to make sure you have cash.
ATM’s however are easy to find in cities and towns but not in rural areas so it’s necessary to take cash. You can’t withdraw USD or other currencies at most ATM’s in Tanzania, only TZS.
Besides getting money from ATM’s, you can also change your money into TZS. It’s easy to change eg. USD or euros so you don’t have to change before you leave home.
Good to know
- 1 USD is equivalent to around 2300 TZS and 1 euro to around 2500 TZS.
- US dollar bills printed before 2007 are not accepted in Tanzania.
- 2 USD coins are not in circulation in Tanzania
- You can withdraw max. 400.000 TZS per transaction at ATM’s and often there’s a limit to the amount of transactions per card per day (often 3 or 4)
For Tanzania you’ll need type D plugs, which are the sames ones that are eg. used in the UK. Power is 230 V and the frequency is 50 Hz. Depending on where you come from, you might need an adapter.
There’s frequent power cuts and these can last eg. an entire afternoon or longer so it’s a good idea to always keep your electronic devices charged and make sure you have a power bank and spare batteries.
On safari there’s normally electricity available in the cars and at the accommodations. Depending on how fancy your accommodation is, you might have access to power in your room/tent or only in the common areas.
On Kilimanjaro there’s a few options to charge your electronic devices but they’re very expensive. Keep in mind that due to the cold your batteries might run out quicker than normal.
Phone & internet
Wifi is not widely available in Tanzania and at those restaurants that offer it, the speed is often so low you might finish your meal before you manage to post that 1 picture on your Instagram. The same goes for hotels and lodges, and several of them only offer wifi in the common areas.
You can easily buy a local SIM card and the normal price for this is around 3000 TZS. There’s basically only pre-paid options available in Tanzania and there’s lots of different packages available, some focus on internet, some on sms, some on calls etc. So it’s pretty easy to find what you need. Since a while you need your passport to register a SIM card so don’t forget to bring it.
Be aware that standard packages don’t allow you to make phone calls outside of Tanzania and international packages are very expensive and not available for all countries. So it’s recommended to make sure you can reach your friends and family at home through the internet.
What to wear
Tanzanians usually dress modestly, and they appreciate when tourists do the same. You will rarely get comments if you dress differently, but I’d recommend to keep local habits in mind. On the mainland the majority of Tanzanians are Christian but on Zanzibar almost 90% of the population are muslim and this has an impact on the ‘requirements’ for both places.
As a general rule, it’s a good idea to keep your knees covered. If you don’t cover them, try to not wear shorts that show too much of your upper leg. On the mainland it’s accepted to wear sleeveless tops almost everywhere but on Zanzibar it’s best to also keep your shoulders covered. It’s fine to wear more revealing clothes on the beaches of Zanzibar (but it’s not accepted on some beaches on the mainland) but it’s recommended to cover up a bit more when you head to the towns and cities.
Tanzania is – in my opinion – a very safe country if you take into account ‘normal’ things you’d also do anywhere else in the world or even at home: don’t wear your most expensive Rolex, don’t carry 1000 USD in your pocket, don’t walk around alone (and preferably not even in a group) after dark, etc. Keep in mind it gets dark around 7 PM every night in Tanzania, so relatively early.
If I’d have to tell you one specific thing to be extra careful of, it would be thefts by people on motorbikes. They drive by, destabilize you by driving straight towards you and then steal whatever they can. To avoid this, put your phone away at any time while you’re walking. Use a backpack, handbag etc. with strong straps so that they can’t break when somebody tries to rip off your bag from a motorbike. You could carry your most valuable items close to your body in a special pocket.
The good news is that in Tanzania you can usually find something to eat no matter your special requirements. The bad news is that you might find yourself eating rice and beans 24 days in a row because replacements are often unavailable.
For vegetarians and even vegans it’s not super difficult to find decent food. I’ve been a vegetarian for 20+ years and there’s always something to eat. In very local restaurants you’ll often be limited to rice and beans or chipsi mayai (a type of omelette with french fries inside) but in restaurants that serve western or Indian dishes, there’s usually plenty of choice. As said above, actual meat replacements are hardly ever available.
It’s also not super hard to find options in case you have allergies but I recommend you to be very clear when you place your order and mention the risk if you were to eat certain foods. Orders get messed up a bit too often here so you need to be careful.
There’s no real halal label in Tanzania but it’s easy to find meat from muslim butchers. In restaurants you’ll have to check what’s available. Many restaurants don’t serve any pork but that doesn’t necessarily mean the other meat is officially halal.
Looking for tips for other dietary requirements? Let me know and I’ll see if I can reply!