Tanzania – Basic Travel Information
You will find good quality accommodation within the main routes popular with business travelers and tourists. This includes Dar es Salaam, Moshi, Arusha and the northern game parks such as Serengeti, Ngorongoro, Tarangire and Manyara. In the parks, accommodation varies from 5 star lodges and tented camps at the upper end, to basic camping at the lower end. Review online the options available for Tanzania hotels and lodges for your business or leisure travel needs.
In Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar at the coast, there is a wide range of accommodation to meet the needs of most travelers. Camping is however scarce outside the parks. Outside the main urban centres and tourist routes finding rated accommodation is a doubtful proposition.
Tanzania’s international air gateways are at Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar and Kilimanjaro (50 Km from Arusha). British Airways flies direct to Dar es Salaam from London, taking about 11 hours. A few European carriers fly to Dar es Salaam or Kilimanjaro via European hubs. Gulf Air and Emirates fly to Dar es Salaam using mid eastern connections. Other airlines flying to Tanzania include Air Tanzania – the national carrier, Air India, Ethiopian Airlines, KLM, South African Airways and Swiss.
Tanzania can also be reached through regional hubs at Nairobi and Johannesburg and to a lesser extent Addis Ababa. There are more flights into Nairobi than Kilimanjaro and a popular route for those heading for the northern parks is to fly into Nairobi and then connect to Arusha by shuttle bus service. There is a ferry service between Mombasa in Kenya and Dar es Salaam. On Lake Tanganyika, a passenger service runs from Kigoma to Bujumbura in Burundi, Congo (DRC) and Mpulunga in Zambia.
The Tanzania – Zambia Railway Authority runs a passenger train service from Dar es Salaam to Kapiri Mposhi in Zambia. But note that you will need to change trains at the border. Tanzania has good road links to Kenya and Zambia. Road connections to Rwanda and Mozambique are poor and are only adequate for those traveling for adventure.
All the major towns in Tanzania are connected by tarmac all weather roads. But outside this network, quality deteriorates. You can enjoy speedy connections by bus or car to Arusha, Morogoro, Moshi, Lushoto, Tanga and Dar es Salaam. It is useful to find out first the quality of the roads and estimated travel time when traveling overland. Between Air Tanzania and Precision Air you have access to most of the scheduled Tanzania domestic flights. Charter flights are available mainly from Arusha, Mwanza, Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar to other parts of the country.
Rental cars in Tanzania are reliably available from Arusha, Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar. Rail service is available to the main towns except Arusha. Long haul bus service can connect you to the main towns in the country. It is advisable to find out beforehand if the quality of rail and long haul bus service is acceptable to you. For short haul travel, the popular way to get around is by means of dalla dalla (shared taxi).
All visitors require a visa except citizens of some African and commonwealth countries. It is advisable to obtain visa’s in advance from Tanzania Embassies and High Commissions as some airlines may require it before allowing you to board. But you can also be issued with a visa on arrival at Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar and Kilimanjaro international airports and at the Namanga Gate on the Kenya/ Tanzania border. Passports must be valid for at least six months.
Nationals of countries exempt from visa requirements will be issued with a free visitors pass at the same entry points. Those traveling to Zanzibar should be aware that the Islands are nominally independent and passports and Tanzania visas are required even for a days visit. Visa requirements however vary from time to time and you are advised to check on prevailing status well ahead of travel.
Visitors entering Tanzania from yellow fever infected areas require yellow fever international certificate of vaccination. Exemptions are made for visitors arriving from non-endemic areas such as Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand. The northwestern forest region is considered a high-risk area for yellow fever. Malaria is common in Tanzania. Visitors are strongly advised to take anti-malaria medication commencing two weeks before travel.
It is recommended to take vaccinations against hepatitis A, polio and typhoid. HIV-AIDS is prevalent in the country and I cannot emphasize enough the need for protection measures. Some fresh water lakes and rivers carry the risk of Bilharzia and you are advised not to swim in such areas. Though proof of vaccination is not required, cholera is a risk throughout the country and precautions are necessary. Modern hospitals and chemists are available in Dar es Salaam, Arusha and other major urban centres.
Telephone, fax, telegram, post and Internet services are available in urban centers and locations popular with tourists. Direct dialing to many countries is available at most hotels in urban areas. In rural areas international calling is through the operator. The country code for Tanzania is 255.
Mobile phones are based on GSM 900/1800 network. Coverage is however limited and you are advised to check beforehand whether your GSM phone has access if you are traveling outside the main urban centres. Mobile telephony operators include Celtel, Mobitel, Tritel, Vodacom and Zanzibar Telecom. You can obtain a GSM card that will allow you to make international calls to any country. E-mail is accessible at Internet cafes to be found in urban centres around the country.
The local currency is the Tanzanian Shilling (Tsh). Visitors can take in any amount of foreign currency, subject to declaration. Taking out of foreign currency is limited to the amount declared upon arrival. Import and export of Tanzanian currency is however prohibited. Major currencies such as US dollars and now the Euro and travelers cheques can be converted at major hotels, banks and forex bureaus in the main towns and tourist areas.
In Tanzania plastic is not highly rated and credit cards are not widely accepted. And when accepted the exchange rate is unfavorable. But it is still a good idea to carry your credit cards, as the conversion rate will not matter in case of urgent need. If staying at one of the bigger hotels, however, your card will very likely be honored. Do not be tempted to change money in the streets however favourable the exchange rate may appear.
Peoples & Culture
Tanzania is made up of 100 or so tribal groups of mainly Bantu origin. None of these groups comprise more than 10% of the population and this perhaps contributes to the tranquility the country has experienced. The most numerous groups are the Sukuma of Lake Victoria, Chaaga of Mount Kilimanjaro, Nyamwenzi of Tabora, Hehe of Iringa and the Gogo of Dodoma.
Arab and Persian influence is strong in Zanzibar. The interaction of Arabs and Bantu Africans has resulted in the Swahili language now widely spoken in Eastern and Central Africa. Those in the know say that the purest Swahili dialect is spoken in Zanzibar. Swahili is now the Lingua Franca of Tanzania although English is widely understood in urban centers.
Make sure to experience the traditional food at the coast and Zanzibar. This is quite good and is based on seafood and rice dishes. Food in the mainland is generally a little bit stodgy and less exciting. The most popular drink is a very decent brew known as Safari Lager. Tanzania music and dance is popular throughout Eastern Africa and this attests to its quality. The lyrics are usually in Swahili. Get to listen to some of it and this may even help improve on your Swahili.
Zanzibar and the coastal areas are hot and humid and average daily temperatures hover in the 30°C range. October to March is the hottest period. Sea breezes however temper the regions’ climate and June to September is coolest with temperatures falling to 25°C. In the Kilimanjaro area, temperatures vary from 15°C in May-August period to 22°C over December – March. As you head to the peaks of Kilimanjaro, temperatures can drop to below freezing, especially at night.
The climate is temperate in the northern national parks. The central plateau suffers a dry and arid climate with hot days and cool nights. The highlands in the south and northeast are cool and temperate. For the country as a whole the hottest months are October to February. The long rains fall between March and May and the shorter wet season falls in November.
Health and the usual travel insurance are recommended. Ensure your travel insurance includes emergency evacuation.
What to Wear
Tanzania never really gets cold and light clothing is recommended. Warmer clothing such as sweaters is however necessary to get you through the evenings and early mornings if you are heading for the highlands. Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro of course requires special clothing and shoes.
On a Tanzania safari, bright coloured clothing may get you in trouble with wild animals. If you are wise you will pack brown, beige and khaki clothing. Short sleeve shirts, shorts and trouser for men are sufficient. For ladies, short sleeve blouses, slacks and skirts are ideal though in the national parks and touristy places such as Arusha and Dar es Salaam you may get along with shorts (not too short) and trousers.
At the coast and Zanzibar where Muslims are predominant women need to dress modestly so as not to offend local sensibilities. But swimwear is perfectly acceptable at beaches and hotel premises. Nudity is totally unacceptable in the whole country. It is advisable to travel light and some safari and air charters have a baggage limit of 10-15 kilograms maximum.