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15 Things To Know Before Travelling To Tanzania

Travelling to Tanzania for the first time?  The blog post includes everything you need to know to make your first trip successful.

Tanzania is a country I fell in love with during my six months of slow travel. I had the most unforgettable experiences and connected with incredible people.

It’s one of my favourite destinations that offers so much, from diverse landscapes and natural beauty to a rich food culture—there’s something for everyone.

This beautiful destination has won several awards from being voted to have Africa’s best beach destination (Zanzibar) to the best national park The United Nations World Tourism Organization ranks Tanzania as Africa’s second top tourism performer.

It’s one of the most unique destinations in the world that provides a perfect and unique amalgamation of wildlife experiences, pristine beaches, home to the tallest mountain in Africa (Kilimanjaro) and many UNESCO heritage sites.

Did you know Tanzania has the best safari park in Africa (The Serengeti National Park)? This is where the world’s largest migration of animals such as wildebeest takes place each year, moving from Tanzania to Kenya. 

Coming from someone with extensive knowledge of this place, there are certainly some key insights you should be aware of before your visit. This post will equip you with important things to know to help you plan for an incredible trip to Tanzania.

Me in Zanzibar watching the sunset

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Tanzania E-Book

Where Is Tanzania Located?

Tanzania is the largest East African country and is situated in the South of the equator. It borders Kenya and Uganda to the north; Rwanda, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west; and Zambia, Malawi, and Mozambique to the south.

Although Dar Es Salaam is the largest city and port city in the country, Dodoma is the official capital city of Tanzania.

1. The Entry Requirements For Tanzania

You do not need to show a COVID vaccination certificate or negative COVID test to enter Tanzania. If you are visiting Tanzania, your passport should be valid for 6 months.

If you are a resident of Tanzania, your passport must be valid for 6 months from the date you arrive. Check with your travel provider to ensure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.

Check whether you need a yellow fever certificate by visiting the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s TravelHealthPro website.

Depending on which country you are a passport holder will determine the type of visa you can get and if you can apply for a visa online or get a visa on arrival.

There is a list of nationals from countries such as Ghana, Jamaica, Uganda, Kenya and South Africa that do not require a visa to enter Tanzania.

Getting a visa online is the best option as you can save more time and effort by not lining up in long queues at the immigration in Tanzania. You can apply for different types of visas online depending on your purpose of visit. The Tanzania e-visa processing time is 7-9 days.

Travelsmart tip: It is highly recommended that international travellers coming to Tanzania should print out a copy of their approved Tanzania eVisa before their trip.

Visas are required for British and U.S. passports travelling to Tanzania. This can be a tourist or business visa. Foreign nationals may apply for a visa online in advance of travel or can get a visa on arrival.

It’s important to note that USA nationals cannot apply for a Single entry visa and are required to apply for Multiple Visas. (due to a bilateral agreement between the two countries).

Map of Tanzania

Single Entry Visa (Tourist)

This allows you up to 90 days of entry and you will have to leave after the 90 days are up.

Requirements:

  • Copy of the applicant’s valid passport (biographic data page);
  • Return ticket of the flight;
  • Duly filled in the declaration form
  • 50 USD visa fee.

Multiple Entry Visa (Tourist)

You can enter and leave the country as many times in 1 year as long as this doesn’t exceed the 90-day entry. American nationals who wish to visit Tanzania for tourism or holiday purposes MUST select this type of Visa while applying Online.

Requirements:

  • Copy of the applicant’s valid passport (biographic data page);
  • 100 USD Visa fee;
  • Valid passport or national ID of the person to be visited in Tanzania (host) OR;
  • An invitation letter from the host Institution detailing the reasons and frequency of Visits OR; Attached Certificate of the marriage of a spouse and a passport/national ID, if the applicant comes to visit a spouse.
  • You can also provide other credible details to prove that you are a person who needs to travel to Tanzania regularly.
  • A return ticket for the flight.

Business Visa

A business visa may be issued for a period not exceeding 90 days to foreign nationals who wish to enter the United Republic of Tanzania for business purposes.

Visa On Arrival Requirements For Tanzania

If you’re a national who falls under the list of needing a referral visa to enter Tanzania, you are not eligible for a visa on arrival. For other nationals, you can get a visa on arrival in person at one of the five entry ports which are:

  • Julius Nyerere International Airport (JNIA)
  • Kilimanjaro International Airport (KIA)
  • Abeid Amani Karume International Airport (AAKIA)
  • Namanga border
  • Tunduma border.

For non-US nationals, a tourist single entry visa on arrival costs $50, and US citizens can only get a multiple entry visa on arrival which costs $100. This must be paid in US dollars. Other forms of payment are not accepted.

To be eligible for a visa on arrival, you will be asked to provide evidence of your return journey at immigration. Applicant’s passports must be valid for 6 months from the date of visa application. You will also be required to show proof of vaccination certificate for yellow fever.

While it is possible to get a Tanzania visa on arrival, it is recommended by most foreign travel entities that you apply for a visa for Tanzania in advance to avoid delays. Also, some travellers have requested 90 days for the visa on arrival but have not received up to 90 days.

 

2. The Best Time To Visit Tanzania 

The best time to travel to Tanzania depends on which regions you would like to explore and cultural holidays. I think any time of the year is a good time, but I’ll break down the differences. 

If you are travelling to Zanzibar only, you should be aware of travelling during the holy month of Ramadan. As Zanzibar is a Muslim-majority island, during Ramadan, many restaurants and tours change their schedule. The best time to visit Zanzibar is during the dry season from June to October.

One of my favourite and best times to visit Zanzibar is during the shoulder season from the end of October to December because it’s not yet the high season for tourists, and it’s also not the rainy season. If you don’t want to experience the rainy season, avoid the months of March, April and May.

The best time for safari in Tanzania and wildlife viewing is during the dry season between June and October. Overall, the most popular time to visit Tanzania if you’re experiencing different regions is during the dry season, which falls from July to September.

These are considered the best months to experience, the Great Migration, safaris, trekking and beach holidays in Zanzibar and cities like Dar Es Salaam. 

Zanzibar

3. Cash Is King In Tanzania 

The currency is the Tanzanian Shillings (TSH/ TZS). One of the most important things to know before travelling to Tanzania is about the currency. The national currency of Tanzania is the Tanzanian Shilling.

At the time of writing the exchange rate is around 2,819.62 shillings to £1. The maximum withdrawal amount you can take out at an ATM in Tanzania is 400,000 shillings, which is roughly £136/$164.44.

You can use your international visa and MasterCard in ATMs in Tanzania but it is a good idea to check with your bank provider and notify them before travelling to Tanzania.

Most ATMs charge a fee per transaction. For example, Stanbic Bank charges 8k Tsh, Exim Bank charges 10k Tsh, Asba Bank charges 17.5k Tsh, Eco Bank, KCB Bank and Diamond Trust Bank offer free withdrawals.

You will find ATMs in cities and towns but when travelling to remote areas, ATMs may be hard to find. USD is accepted at many tourist hotspots in Tanzania, but I would advise still paying in Tanzanian shillings as you will get a better rate.

When travelling to remote areas or shopping in local markets, always carry cash with you. Nala Money, Transferwise, World Remit and Wise are mobile apps you can download on your phone to send money to Tanzania. 

Tanzanian Shillings

4. Mobile Money Transfer Is Popular

According to Techcable, in 2023, 72% of Tanzanians used mobile money services which is up from 60% in 2017, while 22% of the population used commercial banks.

What is Mpesa?

Mpesa, a mobile-based money transfer service is another popular method of paying vendors, supermarkets and small businesses including sellers of goods and services. It’s very handy to have when you don’t want to carry large sums of money around. It’s particularly useful to users who have no bank accounts and live in remote rural areas.

They can access the numerous M-Pesa outlets distributed across the country. Money that needs to be deposited and stored is given to the M-Pesa Agent, who transfers the amount in digital form to their M-Pesa account that sits on their phone.

Money can be withdrawn from the agent, too. Using an M-pesa wallet allows you to directly receive or send money without having to go to a bank counter.

To give you an idea of what you can use Mpesa to pay for, I used it to pay for groceries in the supermarket, dinner at a restaurant, tickets for a sip and paint party and an entry fee into an event. It’s one of my favourite things that makes life easier when living or travelling around Tanzania.

How to use Mpesa?

To use Mpesa, you will need to have a local SIM card with networks such as Vodacom (Mpesa) and Tigo (Tigo Pesa). If you have a UK or US bank account, you can use the money transfer mobile apps such as World Remit to deposit money to your Tanzanian number which is connected to your Mpesa account and then send money to sellers of goods and services that accept Mpesa.

Once you buy a Vodacom line and register it, you’ll automatically be registered to M-Pesa. Or, if you’re an existing unregistered customer you can visit a Vodacom shop with a valid Identity (passport) – to complete the electronic registration process.

Once registered, you’ll be prompted to activate the M-Pesa account by changing the system-generated start key PIN to a personalised PIN.

Mpesa and Tigo board

5. The Weather Is Not Hot All Year Round

Tanzania has a generally pleasant climate year-round, though there are significant region-to-region differences. Tanzania lies just south of the equator. Due to its size, the climate in Tanzania varies greatly. There are dry and rainy seasons in Tanzania. March, April, and May are considered to be the main rainy season, or the ‘long rains’.

Along the coast and on the islands, tropical downpours are more common in the afternoon; they’re heavier and more predictable. There is a high humidity level and the daily temperature reaches the mid-30s.

The long dry season lasts from June to October, when it’s rare to see rain, even on the islands. Temperatures vary hugely with altitude and location, but it’s usually a fine, clear sky and sunny weather – it’s a great time to visit Tanzania. During November and December, there’s another rainy season: the ‘short rains. These are much lighter than the main rains and less reliable.

One of the biggest misconceptions people have about Tanzania is that it’s always hot because it’s on the African continent. I’m here to tell you that’s not the case.

I experienced humid and rainy seasons when I was in Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar. As I travelled up to Arusha, Kilimanjaro, and Moshi, I naively assumed the weather would be hot.

At one point when I was in Arusha, it felt colder than the UK winter months, and the warmest item of clothing I had was a denim jacket. Do not make the same mistake as me!

Make sure you pack warm clothes such as jumpers, scarves, and jackets, especially if you’re travelling up to the Northern circuit to go on a safari or climb Mount Kilimanjaro.

Mount Meru

6. Health Precautions To Consider

Make sure you advise 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 to enter Tanzania.

There is Malaria in Tanzania. It is recommended to use prescribed medicine like anti-malaria tablets to prevent malaria. Check with your travel doctor or pharmacist before you travel.

7. Safety In Tanzania

Tanzania is a relatively safe and peaceful country; however, you should still practice the same caution as you would in any country and your home.

Always get up-to-date information at the FCDO Travel Office travel advisory department before travelling to Tanzania.

Be aware of scams as a tourist. Walking alone at night is not recommended, especially on the beach or at popular tourist destinations such as Stone Town.

Avoid carrying large amounts of cash or other valuables including expensive jewellery or watches. Although the general crime level is low, muggings and pickpocketing do occur. Leave your passport in the hotel safe and carry a photocopy of your ID at all times.

I recommend booking tours through trusted companies and your hotel. Most importantly get travel insurance as soon as you book those flights to Tanzania. My favourite travel insurance is Safety Wing and AXA is also good.

Despite being a peaceful island, Zanzibar does have a problem with sex tourism, especially with European women, resulting in Black and African women being harassed or treated like prostitutes.

I and a few friends have been victimised by this problem despite dressing conservatively, respecting the culture, and willingly learning Swahili to communicate with locals.

“They assume all women come here to ‘hunt’ for men,’. Now, this is not unique to Zanzibar. It is a common issue for Black women travellers around the world. The reality is that when women travel overseas, they face challenges that their male counterparts don’t even consider.

Therefore, I would prefer you to be aware of these issues, so you can remain vigilant of your surroundings, follow your instincts, and enjoy the island’s beauty.

The vast majority of my time in Tanzania as a solo female traveller living and exploring the country was very safe. But I have experienced a few incidents where my safety was compromised, and they all involved men.

Rooftop in Dar Es Salaam

8. What To Wear In Tanzania

Tanzania is a religious country and it is reflected in how conservative people dress normally. On the mainland, the population is almost evenly split between Islam, Christianity (mostly Roman Catholicism), and indigenous religions. Over 99% of the population of Zanzibar is Muslim.

In public spaces like open markets and banks, dress modestly to respect the culture. When going out for a night out or beach parties in general, people dress how they like usually.

You can wear swimwear at the beach and in tourist areas but when walking around in the markets try and blend in with the locals. For women, it is not recommended to wear short skirts or show a lot of cleavage.

Paje, Zanzibar

9. What Language Is Spoken In Tanzania? 

Swahili (also known as Kiswahili) is the official language of Tanzania. English is also widely spoken as a second language, reflecting Tanzania’s colonial past. There are more speakers of Swahili than of English in Tanzania.

However, I would strongly suggest learning some basic words in Swahili as you’ll find many locals that approach and don’t work in tourism will speak Swahili also known by its native name Kiswahili over English. Learning some key phrases in Swahili will help you when moving around.

Before I came to Tanzania, I used the Duolingo app to learn some basic Kiswahili which was initially helpful but I found that It’s essentially Kenyan Swahili. Tanzanians tend to speak more formally while Kenyans tend to speak a much more colloquial or casual form of Swahili which was reflected on the app.

I found the best way to learn was through conversations with locals. Learning how to count in Kiswahili, the names of money notes, and greetings will help you greatly.

Tip: Jambo is a popular term you’ll hear locals say to use but I would use the phrase Mambo instead as Jambo screams you’re a tourist. Mambo translates to “What’s up?” Or “How are things?” which is an informal greeting said among younger Swahili speakers.

If you want to level up with barely any effort, say “Mambo” instead of “Jambo”. A common response to Mambo is Poa (cool). Asante means “Thank you!” You will use this word the most in your conversations.

10. You can Not Drink Tap Water In Tanzania

It’s advisable to avoid consuming tap water in Tanzania. Opt for bottled water or use a filter to purify tap water before drinking.

While tap water is safe for boiling and preparing tea or coffee, consider using bottled water for brushing your teeth, especially in remote rural areas. 

spigot with water dropping

11. Single-use Plastic Is Banned In Tanzania

Leave your plastic bags at home. You’ll notice even from shopping in supermarkets to outdoor markets that plastic bags are not used. Since 1 June 2019, plastic bags have been banned for environmental reasons. Airline passengers will be asked to surrender plastic bags on arrival.

The ban does not include ‘ziplock’ bags used as part of airline security procedures. Anyone found carrying a single-use plastic bag can be subject to a hefty fine!

green grasses

12. Tanzania Uses The Same Plug As The UK

For Tanzania, there are two associated plug types, types D and G. Plug type D is the plug which has three round pins in a triangular pattern and plug type G is the plug which has two flat parallel. In Tanzania, the standard voltage is 230 V and the frequency is 50 Hz.

You can use your electric appliances in Tanzania if the standard voltage in your country is between 220 – 240 V (as is in the UK, Europe, Australia and most of Asia and Africa). Tanzania uses the same plug as the UK.

Type G electrical plug type

13. Tanzania’s Etiquette and Customs

Handshakes are an important part of Tanzanian social etiquette. If you’re the first to extend a hand, make sure it’s your right hand. Your left hand is considered for use of toilet duties. It is best to use that right hand for eating, greeting, and giving or receiving objects.

Extravagant public displays of affection are frowned upon in Tanzania. Hugging, kissing and holding hands is something that should rather be kept private.

Masai, entertaining tourists on the beach in Nungwi. Zanzibar, Tanzania, East Africa.

14. Taking Photos Of Locals In Tanzania

Always remember to ask before taking a photo of a local person as it is deemed very disrespectful not to. Always ask for permission beforehand.

Some ethnic groups even believe that the flash of a camera steals a part of a person’s soul. I also would not recommend taking photos of government buildings as this may get you into trouble.

15. Tanzania’s Culture and Traditions of Food

You’ll notice some dishes are eaten using your hands. If you are unsure of what to do, you can always ask someone or a waiter at a restaurant. It’s important to wash your hands before getting your hands in the meal.

Remember the right-hand rule – especially when reaching for food on a communal plate. Once you have received your food, do not smell your food. This is seen as rude.

A feast of Tanzanian local food

Conclusion

Travelling to Tanzania offers a diverse and enriching experience with its stunning landscapes, rich wildlife, and vibrant culture. Understanding key aspects before your trip is crucial for a smooth and enjoyable adventure.

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15 things you MUST know if you are visiting Tanzania for the first time

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2 Comments

  1. January 11, 2024 / 10:08 am

    Tanzania looks so beautiful! Even the cash is beautiful!

    • January 12, 2024 / 5:52 pm

      Haha thanks Chloe! It’s such a beautiful country with so many diverse landscapes! 😊

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