Tanzania

Tanzania Travel Guide

Tanzania, one of the largest countries in East Africa, is a tourist jewel that is too often overlooked by visitors to Africa. Home to the continent’s highest peak (Mount Kilimanjaro), its lowest depression (the bed of Lake Tanganyika), its most famous national park (the Serengeti), and part of its largest lake (Lake Victoria), Tanzania’s natural wonders are perfectly complemented by its excellent range of tourist attractions and activities.

Travellers to Tanzania most commonly come in search of one or more of four famous travel experiences: a sun-soaked getaway to the island paradise of Zanzibar for an exotic beach vacation complemented by a visit to the historic, UNESCO-listed Stone Town; a snorkelling and diving holiday in the Spice Islands, especially Mafia Island, where a gorgeous coral reef system and the opportunity to swim with whale sharks draws underwater enthusiasts from all over the world; safari tours of Tanzania’s world-famous game and wildlife parks, particularly the magnificent Serengeti National Park which annually plays host to the largest mammal migration in the world; and a visit to Mount Kilimanjaro National Park, often combined with the challenge of climbing the mighty peak, which rises out of lush rainforest and can be summited by comparatively inexperienced hikers.

Best time to visit Tanzania

Tanzania’s climate is characterised by distinct wet and dry seasons. Tanzania has two rainy seasons: the ‘Mango rains’ last from late-October to late-December; and the chief monsoon season runs from March to May. The best time to visit Tanzania is between June and August, when daytime temperatures are bearable, and nights are cool rather than sultry. For visitors to the Serengeti, the famous migration occurs in January and February – but be warned that this is an extremely hot time of the year, with the mercury rising as high as 104°F (40°C). Read more on Tanzania’s Climate and Weather.

What to see in Tanzania

-Stone Town’s Anglican Cathedral is a must for those interested in African history.

-Laze on one of Zanzibar’s famed northern beaches like Kendwa and Matemwe, while watching picturesque dhow boats sail by.

-The Makumbusho Village Museum in Dar es Salaam offers visitors the interesting opportunity to view traditional Tanzanian tribal homes.

-The Central Market in Stone Town is a vibrant place full of sights, smells and sounds that will linger long in the memory. Read more about Tanzania Attractions.

What to do in Tanzania

-Go scuba diving in the Spice Islands, at popular dive sites around the Mafia and Pemba Islands.

-Go on safari in the Serengeti and see the world-famous mammal migration there, with in excess of one million wildebeest making the epic northward trip.

-Ramble around Zanzibar’s historic Stone Town district, and admire the gorgeous buildings and colourful bazaars that line the maze-like streets.

-Travel to Mount Kilimanjaro National Park and attempt a hike up Africa’s highest summit.

Getting to Tanzania

Cheap flights to Tanzania are available from a variety of British, European and Middle Eastern destinations. The flight to Julius Nyerere International Airport in Dar es Salaam takes about 10 hours from major British airports. American travellers will usually have to book an indirect flight to Tanzania from the US, stopping over in London or Amsterdam. Get more information on Tanzania Airports.

Read

The Book of Secrets by MG Vassanji, The Snows of Mount Kilimanjaro by Ernest Hemingway, Great Sky Woman by Steven Barnes, and Shout at the Devil by Wilbur Smith.

Watch

The African Queen (1951) and Darwin’s Nightmare (2004).

Eat

Mtori (cooked beef, prepared with bananas), mchicha (a vegetable-based stew with meat or fish added to it), and ugali (a polenta-style side dish made from corn flour).

Drink

Konyagi, an alcoholic beverage somewhere between gin and vodka.

What to buy

Beaded African jewellery, carved soapstone figurines, Masai blankets and Tingatinga artworks.

What to pack

Pack sunscreen, lightweight clothing, after-sun lotion and effective insect repellent for a holiday in Tanzania. Remember that Tanzania is a predominately Muslim country, and that modest dress is required (no matter the heat). If you’re planning to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, don’t make the mistake of starting the hike in brand-new shoes.

What’s on in Tanzania

The TanzaCat Catamaran Regatta (September) is popular among sailing enthusiasts, with thousands of foreign visitors making their way to Dar es Salaam’s Msasani Bay. Mafia Dance (August), held on Mafia Island, is east Africa’s biggest electronic dance music festival, offering 14 days of pumping tunes in an idyllic beach setting.

Did you know?

-The Great African Rift Valley, one of Tanzania’s chief geological features, is visible from space.

-The name Tanzania is a portmanteau of Tanganyika and Zanzibar.

-The coconut crab, found on Zanzibar, is the largest crab in the world.

A final word

A land overflowing with natural sights and wonders, Tanzania offers visitors a selection of unforgettable holiday experiences ranging from the swaying coconut palms of a Zanzibar beach to action-packed wildebeest migrations on a Serengeti safari.

tanzania_map

The Basics

Time

GMT +3

Electricity

230 volts, 50Hz. Rectangular or round three-pin plugs are used.

Language

Swahili and English are the official languages. Several indigenous languages are also spoken.

Travel Health

Travellers are advised to take medical advice at least three weeks before leaving for Tanzania. Visitors should consider vaccinations for hepatitis A, typhoid, yellow fever and polio. Those arriving from an infected country are required to hold a yellow fever vaccination certificate. There is a risk of malaria all year and outbreaks of Rift Valley Fever occur; travellers should take precautions to avoid mosquito bites and take malaria medication. Food prepared by unlicensed vendors should be avoided, as meat and milk products from animals may not have been cooked thoroughly. Sleeping sickness is a risk in the game parks, including the Serengeti, and visitors should take precautions against bites by tsetse flies. There is a high prevalence of HIV/Aids. Cholera outbreaks are common throughout the country and visitors are advised to drink bottled or sterilised water only. Travellers climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro are at risk for altitude sickness.

Medical services are available in Dar-es-Salaam and other main towns, but facilities and supplies are limited even in cities, and often non-existent in rural areas; visitors with particular requirements should take their own medicines. Comprehensive medical insurance is advised.

Tipping

Waiters in the better restaurants should be tipped around 10 percent. Guides, porters and cooks in the wildlife parks and on safari trips expect tips. The amount is discretionary according to standard of service and the number in your party.

Safety Information

Most visits to Tanzania are trouble-free. As in other East African countries, the threat from terrorism is quite high in Tanzania and visitors should be cautious in public places, tourist sites and hotels, particularly in Zanzibar’s Stone Town. The area bordering Burundi should be avoided. Street crime is a problem in Tanzania, especially in Dar es Salaam, and tourists should be alert and cautious. Lonely beaches and footpaths are often targeted; women are particularly vulnerable to attacks. Visitors should leave valuables in their hotel safe and not carry too much cash on them at any time.

Armed crime is on the increase and there have been serious attacks on foreigners in Arusha and on Pemba Island. There have also been reports of robberies and kidnapping on Zanzibar, and piracy in the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden is a serious concern with commercial and tourist vessels being fired upon and several British tourists taken hostage.

Road accidents are common in Tanzania due to poor road and vehicle conditions, violation of traffic regulations and exhaustion among long-distance drivers. There have also been a number of ferry accidents in Tanzania in recent years. Caution should be exercised – if a bus or ferry seems overloaded or in poor condition don’t get on.

Local Customs

Tanzanians are known to be friendly and generally welcoming, but travellers should be sensitive to local cultural mores. Aggressive behaviours and public drunkenness is considered rude. Tanzanians feel strongly about showing respect for their elders.

Visitors to Zanzibar should be aware that it is a predominantly Muslim region and a modest dress code, especially for women, should be respected when away from the beach and in public places. Topless sunbathing is a criminal offence. Smoking in public places is illegal. Tourists should be especially careful during Ramadan when public drinking, smoking and even eating can be problematic.

Homosexuality is illegal in Tanzania.

Business

Although Tanzanians come across as relaxed and friendly, it is important to observe certain formalities, especially with greetings. It is advisable to learn a few Swahili catch phrases when greeting, followed by a handshake. Women and men rarely shake hands in Swahili culture; however, if the woman extends her hand, the man is obliged to take it. Tanzanians are to be addressed as Mr, Mrs, and Ms, followed by the family name. Business dress is seldom very formal but lightweight suits are recommended for formal occasions. Business hours are similar to Western countries, but a longer lunch break is taken during the hotter months, and business continues later in the evening from Monday to Friday.

Communications

The international country dialling code for Tanzania, as well as Zanzibar, is +255. There is good mobile phone coverage in main cities and towns, with operators using GSM networks; rural areas may have limited coverage. There are international roaming agreements with most international operators. Avoid making telephone calls from hotels; they can be very expensive. Internet cafes are available in the main towns and resorts.

Duty Free

Travellers to Tanzania do not have to pay duty on 250g tobacco or 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars, 500ml of alcoholic beverages, and 473ml perfume. Restrictions apply to firearms, plants, plant products and fruits.

Visa Info

Entry requirements for Americans

A visa is issued on arrival, and a passport valid for six months from date of entry is required. Visitors must hold return/onward tickets and all documents required for their next destination.

Entry requirements for UK nationals

A visa is issued on arrival, and a passport valid for six months from date of entry is required. Visitors must hold return/onward tickets and all documents required for their next destination. Those with British passports with endorsements other than ‘British Citizen’ should confirm official requirements.

Entry requirements for Canada

A visa is issued on arrival, and a passport valid for six months from date of entry is required. Visitors must hold return/onward tickets and all documents required for their next destination.

Entry requirements for Australians

A visa is issued on arrival, and a passport valid for six months from date of entry is required. Visitors must hold return/onward tickets and all documents required for their next destination.

*Entry requirements for South Africans

South Africans do not require a visa if intending to stay for a maximum of up to 90 days, provided that the passport is valid for six months from date of entry. Otherwise a visa is required for longer stays. Visitors must hold return/onward tickets and all documents required for their next destination. Business travellers will be required to pay a fee on arrival.

Entry requirements for New Zealanders

A visa is issued on arrival, and a passport valid for six months from date of entry is required. Visitors must hold return/onward tickets and all documents required for their next destination.

Entry requirements for Irish nationals

A visa is issued on arrival, and a passport valid for six months from date of entry is required. Visitors must hold return/onward tickets and all documents required for their next destination.

Passport/Visa Note

Most visitors entering Tanzania require a visa. Passports must contain one unused visa page. Visitors may obtain a visa on arrival at Dar-es-Salaam or Zanzibar airports, costing between US$ 50 and US$ 200 depending on nationality, payable in cash. All visitors also require proof of sufficient funds and should hold documentation for their return or onward journey. Passports should be valid for at least six months from date of entry. Those arriving from an infected country must hold a yellow fever vaccination certificate. It is highly recommended that passports have at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.

Note: Passport and visa requirements are liable to change at short notice. Travellers are advised to check their entry requirements with their embassy or consulate.

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