Tanzania has whatever you are dreaming about – be it tropical islands, climbing the highest mountain in Africa, diving for marine treasures or watching the annual migration of plains game.
Tanzania boasts some of the most romantic and tropical beaches in Africa – Zanzibar and Pemba. Zanzibar Stone Town was once home to Sultans and explorers and is the land of exotic spices, azure waters and white sandy beaches.
The Tanzania people are friendly and interesting, and there are more than 130 ethnic groups. Perhaps one of the most memorable sights is seeing a lone red-robed Masai warrior stalking the parched plains with his cattle or goats. Despite there being so many different cultures, Tanzania has had a peaceful history and an enviable political stability compared to some of its neighboring countries.
Almost 25% of Tanzania is designated as national parks and game reserves — from the Serengeti in the north, which sweeps uninterrupted from neighboring Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve, to Selous in the south, with its long distances and large variety of animals. No area is more protected, by geography as well as by permit, than the Ngorongoro Crater, whose steep walls create a separate ecosystem with its own representative collection of animals. Combined, the crater, Serengeti and the Masai Mara represent one of the world’s most important ecosystems, and it is estimated that some 3 million large animals inhabit this region. Many of them move around the plains of East Africa on the annual wildebeest migration, the largest movement of animals on Earth. Because these spaces are protected — and because they are so wild — the best way to see them is by guided tour, locally known as safari, which in Kiswahili means journey.
Although most visitors spend their time in the wildlife areas, travelers should make time for Tanzania’s other attractions as well. The country boasts Mount Kilimanjaro, the tallest mountain in Africa and the only mountain in the world that can simply be walked up. There are white-sand beaches on the Indian Ocean along the mainland coast. Then there are the impossibly exotic, evocative islands of the Zanzibar archipelago, with their intriguing culture, architecture, watersports and wide range of beach accommodations. Tanzania’s smaller, less-known parks are dedicated to not only big game but forests and mountain ranges, primates and birds, and the marine life along the coast.
Full Name: United Republic of Tanzania
Capital City: Dodoma
Time: GMT +3 hours
Independence: 9 December 1961
Currency: Tanzania shilling
Language and culture
The official language is Kiswahili, which is generally spoken, and various local languages abound. Although English is the second official language, it is widely spoken and understood in the cities.
Tanzania’s culture is a result of African, Arab, European and Indian influences. The African people of Tanzania represent about 130 tribal groups. The Tanzanians are friendly people, to foreigners and amongst themselves. Politeness, respect and modesty are highly valued.
Immodest attire, public affection and open anger are disrespectful to the Tanzanian people. In Zanzibar, it is important for women to dress modestly out of respect for Muslim cultural beliefs. Men should not wear shorts on the main island, and women should wear dresses that cover their shoulders and knees.
Just south of the equator, Tanzania borders Kenya and Uganda in the north; Zaire, Rwanda and Burundi in the west; and Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique in the south.
Rail and bus
Tanzania has two rail lines. The Tazara line links Dar es Salaam with New Kapiri Mposhi in Zambia via Mbeya and Tunduma. The central line links Dar es Salaam with Kigoma and Mwanza via Morogoro, Dodoma and Tabora.
Express and ordinary buses operate along major long distance routes. Express buses are slightly more expensive but are more comfortable. Ordinary buses and dalla-dallas (minivans) serve shorter routes.
» Julius Kambarage Nyerere International Airport, Dar es Salaam
» Kilimanjaro International Airport
» Zanzibar International Airport
» Mwanza International Airport
Air services have become the most significant form of internal transport for official and business travel. Small planes, from charter companies, fly to towns and to bush airstrips.
The key roads are tarred and in good condition. Road conditions in the reserves and national parks of Tanzania are extremely rough. During the rainy season, many roads are passable only with four-wheel drive vehicles. Any four-wheel drive vehicles for safaris usually have to be hired with a driver. Driving is on the left side of the road.
Passport and visas
Important Note: THIS IS A GUIDE ONLY. Please check with your nearest Tanzanian Consulate for up to date information.
Most visitors require visas with the exception of certain countries of the Commonwealth. It is advisable to obtain a visa in advance of travel as certain airlines insist on them prior to departure. Depending on nationality and country of origin, a visa may be obtained on arrival at Dar es Salaam and Kilimanjaro airports and at Namanga Gate on the Tanzania / Kenya border. Zanzibar remains independent although it is a part of the union of Tanzania. Passports and a Tanzanian visa are required even on a day’s visit.
Requirements may change so you are advised to contact your nearest Tanzanian Consulate before finalizing your travel arrangements.
Visas cost US$50-100 depending on nationality and are usually valid for three months.
Requirements for obtaining a visa are: a passport, valid for six months beyond the intended length of stay, two passport photographs, proof of sufficient funds, two application forms and a detailed itinerary stating reason for visit. Sometimes, a copy of your airline tickets is required.
All major towns in Tanzania have excellent luxury hotels. All towns will at least have a good guest house. Hotels have their own restaurants. Local food is readily available and there are many restaurants serving various cuisines like Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Continental and many more.
It’s best to drink bottled water when travelling through Tanzania – numerous brands are widely available and served in all restaurants and lodges.
Visitors must produce a valid yellow fever certificate obtained no less than ten days prior to travel. It is imperative that you obtain malaria prophylactics before entering Tanzania. Precautionary measures to take to prevent contact with mosquitoes include: insect repellent, cover up at sundown, sleep under a mosquito net and wear long sleeve clothing and long trousers in the evenings. Immunization against cholera, polio, hepatitis A & B, typhoid and tetanus is recommended if travelling by road.
Hospitals and clinics
For minor aches and pains during your travels, there are many hospitals and clinics around the country which will care for you and prescribe any medicine you may need. For emergency or out-patient cases, Dar es Salaam’s Aga Khan Hospital provides excellent care.
African Air Rescue (AAR) have clinics and out-patient care in both Arusha and Dar es Salaam, and smaller clinics offer consultations and laboratory services around the country.
Tanzania is a safe country to travel in. Tanzanians are warm-hearted and generous people and are eager to help visitors get the most out of their stay. Tanzania is a true example of tolerance and cooperation in our modern world, with an evidenced multicultural diversity that has co-existed for centuries and has a lot to offer the world by its example.
As in all countries, a little common sense goes a long way and reasonable precautions should still be taken, such as locking valuables in the hotel safe, which frees your mind to absorb the natural beauty and incredible sights that will stay with you forever.
Summer: December – March
Winter: March – May
Generally, casual comfortable clothing is suitable throughout the year. The most practical items to pack are:
» Khaki, brown, white and beige colours
» Light cotton tops and cotton trousers/shorts in summer
» Long sleeved blouses/shirts for game drives, they will protect you from the sun and from mosquitoes
» Safari trousers for evenings and cooler days
» Fleece or sweater and a warm jacket for game drives
» Swimwear is a must for the beach
» A hat, sunglasses and sunscreen
» Comfortable walking shoes
» For climbing Mount Kilimanjaro and Meru, thermal underwear, light layers, sweater, warm jacket, good socks and sturdy boots
When to go
Tanzania offers an astonishing diversity and concentration of wildlife, from the immense Serengeti and towering Mount Kilimanjaro to the remote national parks of Katavi and Mahale. The best months for climbing Mount Kilimanjaro are August to October and January to March. Tanzania boasts over 1 000 bird species, with Lake Manyara alone being home to more than 400. It is a year round birding destination, but at the height of the northern winter, some 160 species of migrating birds make their way south. Botanically, Tanzania is a treasure-trove, with habitats ranging from Afro-Alpine to semi-desert. The months immediately after the two rainy seasons provide the best floral displays. Tanzania offers excellent game viewing throughout the year as not all animals migrate and are year-round residents.
The unit of currency is the Tanzanian shilling (Tsh) and there are no smaller denominations. It’s best to carry as little cash as possible when travelling to avoid further inconvenience if anything should be lost or stolen.
That said, major currencies (like the US Dollar, the English Pound, and the Euro) are easily changed in large towns.
Forex bureaus offer faster service than banks. The bureaus usually offer a better rate on travellers’ cheques. Standard Chartered banks around the country have ATM machines that allow you to withdraw cash from your VISA card and Barclay’s Bank ATMs allow you to withdraw on both VISA and MasterCard accounts. Credit cards are accepted only at major lodges, hotels, and travel agents.
Tanzania has a good selection of traditional local crafts. These are available from craft shops in Dar es Salaam, Arusha and other major towns. There are also a number of craft centres and artists cooperatives where prices are good.
Gogo woodcarving, kanga traditional sarong-like garments, Tinga tinga paintings and Makonde carvings are amongst some of the traditional items available for purchase.