What you need to know before visiting Tanzania
So you are thinking about visiting Tanzania! Well I can’t blame you, its a wonderful country with many things to see and wonderful cultures to experience. From food, music and art, to nature, wildlife and white sand beaches – there is something for everyone in Tanzania. A key component to having a successful trip to Africa is preparation, preparation, preparation! From experience I have learned that there is a lot more administrative prep work that goes in to traveling through Africa than Europe or Asia for example, so to make it easier for you Africa travellers out there, I have written a checklist of what you need to know so you can prepare for your trip to Tanzania!
In order to enter Tanzania your passport needs to be 6 months valid AFTER you intend to leave the country. So make sure to check your passport so you don’t have issues at immigrations. You also have to have at least 2 blank pages in your passport for visa stamps so check that as well.
Visa can be arranged at the Tanzanian embassy in your country before traveling. Visa can also be attained on arrival in the country’s international airports. A single entry tourist visa lasts 90 days and costs 50 USD. Americans can only obtain multi entry visa for 100 USD. If you plan on getting a visa on arrival, bring cash to pay because it will process quicker. But in the Julius Nyerere International airport in Dar es Salaam they do also take cards. Check the official website to get up to date information on the visa rules for your country.
Make sure you advice your physician about vaccinations before you travel to Tanzania. Vaccines against typhoid and hepatitis A and B are good to take. If you are traveling from an area where yellow fever is present you are required to be vaccinated against that and show a yellow fever card in order to enter Tanzania.
Malaria is a serious disease and can be deadly. Therefore, you should use profylaxis while you are in Tanzania to avoid getting malaria. The dose is to be taken a few days before your journey until a few days after you return home. To be honest I haven’t taken profyjaxis in years and I have been just fine but for someone who isn’t used to the climate it is a good idea to be safe.
Other Health precautions
Another issue you can get in Tanzania is an upset stomach if you are not used to the different foods. If you know you have a sensitive stomach bring tablets for that and be smart about where you eat. If you are at a local stand and the preparation of food doesn’t look hygienic, simply don’t eat from that place. A good rule of thumb is not to eat any un cooked foods such as salads to avoid ingesting tap water. To have a travel health insurance wherever you travel in the world is a smart choice. If there is an emergency, it is nice to know that you are protected.
You can not drink tap water in Tanzania. Either buy water bottles or bring a filter so you can clean the tap water before drinking it. A 1,5 liter water bottle will cost you between 1000-2000 tsh depending on if you buy it from a hotel, local shop or supermarket. I always brush my teeth with the tap water and have not been harmed by it yet, but if you find yourself in a very rural place it may be a good idea to brush your teeth with bottled water. The tap water is perfectly fine to boil and drink as tea or coffee.
Ok, maybe you don’t need to know the whole language. But to know a few phrases of Kiswahiili is really appreciated by the people and they get a good laugh. It’s hands down one of the best ways to connect with Tanzanians. Read this blog to learn some essential Kiswhahili phrases.
The currency in Tanzania is the Tanzanian shilling (tsh). $1 USD is approximately 2,500 tsh. In most places you have to pay cash, cards will not be accepted. However, in big hotels, restaurants and malls they do accept card. Currency can be exchanged in exchange offices and you can also take out local currency in an ATM which are plentiful in cities. Make sure to ta take out money in a well lit and guarded atm.
Weather – When to go
Tanzania is a big country so it can be very hot and it can be very cold! It all depends on which area you are visiting and during what times of the year. The temperatures don’t fluctuate too wildly across the year, instead there are rainy seasons. The long rainy season lasts between march and June while the short rainy season lasts between november-december. During the long rainy season, the weather is much cooler with temperatures being 20-28 degrees celsius. So if you don’t like rain, don’t come during the long rainy season which hits Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar pretty hard. With climate change the rainy seasons fluctuate a bit more, so the rains are not super predictable.
Is there Internet?
I’m glad you asked, yes there is, and it actually works pretty good! Well at least if you are not trying to upload videos, in those cases the internet is pretty slow in my experience. To get internet you can buy a SIM card for only 1000 tsh with any of the big phone operators like Vodacom, Tigo, Airtel, Halotel etc. All of them offer data packages of 10GB for 15,000-20,000 tsh that lasts for seven days. I like vodacom because it works really well in most parts of the country and you get up to 4G surf. So rest assure, you can be in Tanzania and still be connected to friends and family at home without much trouble.
Oh yes we got Uber!
If you are in Dar es Salaam you are lucky because there are Ubers and even tuk tuk Ubers for super affordable prices in the city. It’s actually so cheap I even feel a bit bad when paying the low faire after riding long distances. With an internet connection you can order an uber anywhere in the city. BUT be sure to pay in cash because Tanzanian uber drivers are not happy when you step out of the car “without” paying. Uber is still pretty new in Tanzania and card transactions is still uncommon for most people so you may end up arguing with an Uber driver trying to explain you are paying, just not with cash. You can change the payment selection in “settings” inside the uber app. Another thing to note is that there are no private addresses in Tanzania so when ordering an uber to a private residence like an airbnb for example, your best bet is to call the driver and explain to them how to get to you. For some reason Uber drivers here don’t like looking at maps so you can’t always drop a pin of your exact location. Call your uber driver and give him/her directions or walk to a landmark that is visible on the map making it easier for the driver.
Local transportation is called “dala dala” and are basically mini buses taking people around town. A ride in a dala dala within the town costs 400 tsh so they are super cheap and they are always readily available. Dala Dalas are often crowded and can be difficult to understand since there are no signs on the bus stops. The final destination of dala dalas are painted on the vehicles, but if you are unfamiliar to the system it will be impossible to know the in between stations. If you insist on using dala dalas then I recommend asking passengers on the bus stations or even in the bus and they will be happy to explain which bus you should take to reach your destination.