Tanzania Travel Tips

Tanzania Safari Travel Advice

At Good One Tour, we live and breathe providing our clients with unbiased advice and extraordinary safari experiences. Our Africa Safari Experts are permanently based in Africa, are well-travelled, and have extensive first-hand knowledge of the destinations they recommend. They regularly inspect new lodges, experiences and activities to ensure these offerings meet our clients’ expectations.

When to visit

There is no truly bad time to visit Tanzania; the optimum months depend on which parts of the country you plan to visit and your main interests.
Peak tourist season in the north coincides with the European winter, with Jan/Feb being particularly good, since it is when the wildebeest calve. The low season typically runs from mid-April to September, but tourism surges over June and July, when migratory activity peaks in the Serengeti and June. May, though sometimes wet, can be an excellent month to visit, with a good chance of catching the migration in the far south, and relatively few other tourists around.
The coast and offshore islands are best avoided over the high rainfall months of March to May. This hot and humid part of the country is most pleasant during the relatively cool and dry months of Jun-Oct, which is also when the risk of malaria is lowest.
The southern circuit is best between July and Nov, and should be avoided from April to June, when several lodges close in anticipation of the peak rainy season.
The dry months of March and September are generally rated best for trekking on Mount Kilimanjaro and Mt Meru, though both mountains can be climbed at any time of year.
November to April offers the best bird watching, with resident species supplemented by a number of Palaearctic and intra-African migrants.

Requirements

A valid passport is mandatory, and it shouldn’t expire within six months of your intended date of departure from Tanzania.

Visas are required by most visitors and cost US$30-60, depending on your nationality. They can be obtained on arrival at any international airport or land border – a straightforward procedure that requires no photographs, nor any other documentation aside from a passport.

A standard tourist visa is normally valid for three months after arrival and allows for multiple entries to Tanzania from neighbouring Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda, but not from other countries.

For those who prefer to arrange a visa in advance, Tanzanian embassies or high commissions exist in Angola, Belgium, Britain, Burundi, Canada, China, CIS, Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Guinea, India, Japan, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Netherlands, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sudan, Sweden, Uganda, USA, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Getting there

There are three international airports. Dar es Salaam is used by most international airlines, and is convenient for business travellers or those exploring the southern safari circuit. The mainland alternative is Kilimanjaro International Airport (KIA), which lies midway between Moshi and Arusha and is well placed as a springboard for safaris to the Serengeti and other northern reserves. Some international flights land at Zanzibar.

Air Tanzania, British Airways, Gulf Air, KLM, Lufthansa and Swissair all fly to Tanzania from Europe, while African airlines servicing Tanzania include EgyptAir, Ethiopian Airlines, Kenya Airways and South African Airways.

Once in Tanzania, a good network of domestic flights connects Kilimanjaro, Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar, as well as other less visited towns. Private airlines also run scheduled flights connecting to most parts of the country, including Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar, Pemba, Mafia, Serengeti (Grumeti and Seronera), Ngorongoro, Lake Manyara, Mwanza, Rubondo Island, Kigoma, Selous, Ruaha, Katavi and Mahale.

Many tourists land at Nairobi (Kenya) and then fly on to Arusha with any of several regional operators. Several safe and affordable shuttle bus services connect the two cities via Namanga border post, departing at around 08.00 and 14.00 daily and taking four hours in either direction.

Tanzania Packing List

Carry at least one change of shirt and underwear for every day you will be on safari, as it can be tedious to organise laundry en route. Dusty conditions practically enforce a daily change of clothes, so it can be a good idea to set aside one or two shirts for evening use only.

Shorts and a tee-shirt are perfectly adequate daytime wear on safari, but long trousers and warmer clothing might be required at night, to protect against cold and against mosquitoes. Socks and underwear should be made from natural fabrics.

Anybody who intends to climb Kilimanjaro should seek specialist advice about clothing from their operator.

The predominantly Islamic inhabitants of the coast and offshore islands are used to tourists and are reasonably tolerant of Western dress codes. Nevertheless, it is still advisable to err on the side of modesty, especially in urban settings and inhabited areas.

Binoculars are essential to watch distant wildlife in the game reserves. For most purposes, 7×21 compact binoculars will be fine, but birdwatchers will find a 10x magnification more useful, and should definitely carry a good field guide.

If you wear contact lenses, bring all the fluids you need, possibly a pair of glasses as a fallback – many safarigoers find the combination of sun, dust and dryness irritates their eyes.

Cash, travellers’ cheques, credit cards, passport and other important documentation are best carried in a money belt that can be hidden beneath your clothing. This should be made of cotton or another natural fabric, and the contents could be wrapped in plastic to protect it against sweat.

Other useful items include a torch, a penknife, a compact alarm clock and strong mosquito repellent.

Night Drive Experience

Public Holidays

In addition to Good Friday, Easter Monday, Idd-ul-Fitr, Islamic New Year, and the Prophet’s Birthday, which fall on different dates every year, the following public holidays are taken in Tanzania:

January 1

 New Year’s Day

January 12

Zanzibar Revolution Day

February 5

CCM Day

April 26

Union Day (anniversary of union between Tanganyika and Zanzibar

May 1

International Workers’ Day

July 7

Saba Saba (Peasants’) Day

August 8

Nane Nane (Farmers’) Day

October 14

 Nyerere Memorial Day

December 9

 Independence Day

December 25

Christmas Day

Photography

Wildlife photography will be very frustrating without a reasonably big lens, ideally 300mm or larger. Fixed fast lenses offer the best quality but are costly and cumbersome, so most people settle for a zoom, which allows you to play with composition without changing lenses. Tele-converters are a cheap and compact way to increase magnification but incur a loss of quality.

A solid beanbag, which you can make yourself very cheaply, will help avoid blurred images when photographing wildlife from a vehicle. Another option is a clamp with a tripod head screwed on.

Plan when it comes to charging digital camera batteries and storage devices. Most hotels/lodges have charging points, but it’s best to enquire in advance. When camping you might have to rely on charging from the car battery. Either way, make sure you have all the chargers, cables, and converters with you, as well as sufficient memory space to store your photos.

Tanzanians generally find it unacceptable to be photographed without permission, and many people will expect a donation before they agree to be snapped. Don’t try to sneak photographs as you might get yourself into trouble, especially with the Maasai, who are very touchy about this.

Communications

Internet cafés are prolific in larger towns such as Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar, Arusha, Mwanza, and Moshi, and browsing is faster and more affordable than in most African countries, though it may seem rather ponderous to Europeans used to ultra-fast broadband.

Internet access is not usually available in game reserves and national parks, and the few lodges that do offer browsing facilities or email services tend to charge very high rates. It will simplify matters greatly to warn people at home that you’ll be out of internet range whilst on safari.

International phone calls can be made at any TCC Extelcomms center or upmarket hotel.

The satellite network for mobile phones is excellent in and around towns, but patchier in national parks and game reserves.

An alternative to paying the expensive international rates that apply to calls made from Tanzania on a non-Tanzanian mobile phone would be to buy a local SIM card and use the local pay-as-you-go service, which is very cheap for local and international calls and text messages.

Tanzanian numbers starting with 07 are mobile, while all other numbers are landlines. In both cases, the leading zero must be dropped and an international code of +255 added if you are dialing from outside of Tanzania (e.g. +255 749 759 872 becomes 00255 749 759 872 dialed from the UK or other EU countries).

Three zeros must be prefixed to any international number dialed from within Tanzania.

Accommodation

A good selection of accommodation, ranging from local budget guesthouses to world-class business and boutique hotels, is available in regularly visited urban centers such as Dar es Salaam, Arusha, and Zanzibar, but hotels in less popular towns tend not to meet international standards.

Accommodation in the game reserves and national parks is almost uniformly excellent, and ranges from large and impersonal but well-run ‘hotels in the bush’ with up to 100 rooms, to exclusive tented camps that usually consist of 6-20 accommodation units.

Relatively affordable camping facilities are available in most Tanzania National parks and Game reserves.

Food & drink

On safari, all meals are usually taken at your lodge or camp, and standards range from adequate to excellent. Most lodges offer a daily set menu, so it’s advisable to specify in advance if you are vegetarian or have other specific dietary requirements.

Most lodges offer the option of a packed breakfast and/or lunch box, which are variable in standard, but do allow you to eat on the trot rather than having to base game viewing hours around meal times.

In larger towns such as Dar es Salaam, Mwanza, Morogoro, Arusha, and Moshi, several bespoke restaurants offer high-quality international cuisine, with Indian eateries being particularly well represented.

Local staples include a stiff maize porridge called ugali or a cooked plantain dish called matoke or batoke, both of which are typically served with bland stews made with chicken, beef, mutton, or beans. Excellent seafood is available along the coast.

The usual bottled soft drinks (known locally as sodas) are available. Around ten different lager beers are bottled locally, of which Castle, Kilimanjaro, and Serengeti seem to be the most popular.

South African wines are widely available at lodges and hotels, and they are generally of a high standard and reasonably priced by international standards.

Craft shopping

Popular items include Makonde carvings, Tingatinga paintings, batiks, musical instruments, wooden spoons, and various small soapstone and malachite carvings.

The colorful vintage (the singular of this is kitenge) worn by most Tanzanian women can be picked up cheaply at any market in the country.

The curio shops near the clock tower in Arusha are the best place to shop for curios, offering decent quality at competitive prices, but a good selection is also available in Zanzibar and in many upmarket hotel shops.

Prices in shops are fixed, but those offered at stalls are highly negotiable. Unless you are good at bargaining, you may well end up paying more at a stall than you would in a shop!

Etiquette

Formal greetings are taken seriously; even if you speak no Swahili it is polite to greet somebody with a smiling ‘jambo’ or ‘habari’ before you enter into conversation.

It is considered poor taste for men and women to display open affection, for instance by holding hands in public, or kissing or embracing would be seriously offensive. Oddly, it is quite normal for friends of the same sex to walk around hand-in-hand.

In Islamic societies, it is considered offensive for a woman to expose her knees or shoulders, a custom that ought to be taken on board by female travelers, especially on parts of the coast where tourists remain a relative novelty.

It is customary to tip your guide at the end of a safari and or a Kilimanjaro climb, as well as any cook or porter that accompanies you. A figure of roughly US$5-10 per day is accepted as the benchmark, though it is advisable to check this in advance with your safari company.

In restaurants, a tip of anything from 5-15% would be acceptable, depending on the circumstances.

Crime

Crime levels are relatively low, though it’s wise not to walk around an unfamiliar town after dark – taxis are readily available.

The risk of casual theft is greatest in bus stations and markets, where you should avoid carrying loose valuables in your pocket or daypack

In any urban situation, try to avoid advertising your wealth in the form of a dangling camera, expensive jewelry, handbag, or externally worn money belt.