Tanzania lies just south of the equator and therefore enjoys a pleasant tropical climate with little fluctuation in monthly temperatures throughout the year. There is no explicit division into seasons, such as winter or summer. There is, however, a wet and dry season. March till May due to heavy rainfalls is considered as the long, rainy season, while November till December with much lighter and shorter rainfalls is considered the short one. The long, dry season lasts from June to October and the short one falls on January and February, before it starts to rain again in earnest in March.
The hottest and most humid part of the country is the coast. The interior of Tanzania is much milder and cools down significantly at night. Still, the average temperature throughout the year is 30°C (86°F) during the day and drops to a pleasant 20-15°C (59-68°F) at night. However, temperatures around the rim of Ngorongoro Crater drop dramatically during the nighttime, especially between June and August. Even colder, with temperatures dropping below freezing, are the Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Meru areas, where you can experience permanent snowy peaks.
Traveling by air is the most convenient way to get into Tanzania.
If you are flying from outside of Africa, your port of entry will most probably be:
Other airports in Tanzania handling domestic and international flights are:
Air Tanzania Airlines is the major Tanzanian airline, with many domestic and some international flights to countries in the region.
Traveling with your own car from neighboring countries is very uncommon and far more difficult to realize than in other parts of the world. The majority of rental companies doesn’t permit their cars to cross international borders. Therefore consider other means of transportation in the first place when planning to enter Tanzania from other countries.
However, if you do decide to choose this option of traveling, have in mind that you will need the following documents for renting a car in Tanzania: driver’s license, registration papers, third-party insurance, carnet de passage, Fuel Levy, FVP Levy and some others. More information can be found on the website of Automobile Association of Tanzania.
Roads in Tanzania are mostly unpaved and in very poor condition. Especially during the rainy season, many roads are only traversable with a four-wheel drive vehicle. Therefore traveling by bus can be very time-consuming and uncomfortable. Despite these obstacles, it is a very popular way to get into the country.
There are international buses which cross the border with Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Zambia. For visa formalities, you will need to get off the bus at each side of the border in order to enter Tanzania. Keep in mind that you will need to pay the required visa fees while crossing the border, as they are not included in the bus ticket price.
If you travel from other countries, you will be required to take a vehicle to the border with Tanzania and board a different one on the other side.
Only a few bus companies have their own internet website or other reliable sources of up-to-date connections and departure hours. Therefore it’s best to acquire detailed information at a local bus station or with a tour operator. Some bus companies that operate to Tanzania are: Scandinavia Express Services (connecting Tanzania with Kenya, Uganda and Zambia),
TAZARA is a bi-national Railway Authority jointly owned by the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania and the Government of the Republic of Zambia. It runs trains from Dar es Salaam into the heart of Zambia’s Central Province, terminating at New Kapiri - Mposhi. From there, it is further linked by road and rail to Zambia’s capital city, Lusaka (about 200 km or 124 miles).
The journey takes two nights but the trains have sleeping-cars and a restaurant car. The journey is a great adventure, to view both countries’ landscapes. The railway is 1,860 km long and was only opened in 1976, built with support of Chinese funding.
For more information and direct booking go to:
Traveling around the country can be incredibly difficult and very time consuming. Due to its poor road infrastructure it can be frustrating in terms of reliability of the service and its quality. Therefore you need to prepare for different kind of experiences. Don’t be surprised if you will be told to that your domestic flight might have few hours of delay just because the pilot is still awaited to arrive or that the bus you are taking a ride with will have few flat tires along the way which will be fixed by the driver himself in a very relaxed mode.
Besides the main airports of Dar, Kilimanjaro and Zanzibar, there are a few other local airports spread across the mainland and the tropical island paradises of Pemba, Mafia or Fanjove.
Additionally, most national parks have their own airstrips operated by charter companies which can take you there directly from any town in the country.
There are various carriers offering domestic flights within Tanzania. They’re usually equipped with small airplanes that carry up to twelve person. Due to the growing market competition, you might be able to find really cheap flight fares, if booked in advance. Some of the well-known carriers are:
There is a good website called flyezee.com, which can help you to find the cheapest and most convenient flights within Tanzania.
Traveling by bus is the most popular way to get around the country. Buses are cheap and can get you to most destinations which otherwise cannot be reached. Long-distance buses are generally in good condition, especially those which are called “luxury”. Some have toilets, air conditioning and offer complimentary drinks and cookies onboard.
Unfortunately, most private bus companies operating in Tanzania don’t have an internet website. Therefore in order to book your trip, you need to go to the bus station a few days in advance and buy the ticket at a booking office, as most bus companies have their own.
The other possibility is to arrive at the bus station about an hour prior to the scheduled bus departure and buy the ticket directly before the ride. Remember to go to the ticket office or buy the ticket upon embarking the bus. Do not buy it from various salespeople. They who will try to scam you and sell you the ticket for a different ride, with a different bus company and at a higher price.
Don’t be surprised if your bus doesn’t leave on time as they usually wait until full. It is also common that buses break down on the way and you will have to wait in or outside the bus till the bus driver (sometimes with some additional “mechanic” who is riding along) fixes the bus. So, depending on road conditions and the number of required repairs, you might get to your destination with a few hours of delay.
A good choice in terms of bus company, is Scandinavia Express Services. It’s reasonable, efficient, has comfortable buses and it’s own website. Other bus companies which are popular and reliable are Dar Express, Royal Coach and Kilimanjaro Coach.
Minibuses known as dalla-dallas can take you to most places within cities. They also link smaller towns and villages over short distances and can be flagged down from the side of the road. They are mostly overcrowded with bags and even live animals (such as chickens) under the seat or on the roof. There is no schedule with times of arrival and departure. Sometimes there are no stop signs but the locals know what street corners the dalla-dalla stops are. Usually, the bus route is written in front and on the side of the buses.
If you decide to go with such a minivan, all you’ll need to do is hop on, pay the conductor and take a ride until your stop. When approaching your stop, you will need to shout 'Shusha!' (meaning ‘let me off’). The conductor will inform the driver who will stop immediately at the side of the road.
Regular taxis can be found easily outside of hotels and at established taxi stands. Don’t use taxis which cruise the streets and have a front passenger who introduces himself as a friend of the taxi driver (see section on Scams in Tanzania).
Be sure to negotiate the price before getting in, as none of the taxis have a meter. Some might have a price list but be aware that those are probably very high rates. You should always negotiate before the ride. If you are not sure what a fair price is to pay, especially when going a longer distances, ask at the hotel or some locals for advice on the pricing.
There are no vaccinations required for entry into Tanzania, expect for travelers coming from countries where yellow fever and cholera are endemic.
The health service in Tanzania is undergoing a steady improvement in providing healthcare to its citizens all over the country. But in the same time, it is still fighting with financial constraints and limited medical resources.
While health insurance is not required when visiting Tanzania, it is highly recommended. Before choosing the right insurance, make sure that it covers activities such as scuba diving, hiking or motorcycling, as many companies exclude those from their policies.
Additionally consider to purchase an air evacuation services in case of medical emergencies. AMREF Flying Doctors provide air ambulance transfer between medical facilities in Tanzania and provide support to international insurance and assistance organizations locally.
When you decide to take the offer, the guy takes you for the ride but on the way, he will pick up one or two “friends or relatives”. Soon, you will realize that you are on the outskirts of the city. The guys will tell you that they are dangerous and can harm you. As they claim, all you have to do is give them all your money and the credit cards with PIN numbers (in this situation do as they ask). They will then stop by an ATM machine, withdraw everything they can from your accounts. Afterwards they let you free.
Therefore, be awareof accepting unsolicited offers of assistance. We also recommend that you pre-book taxis and use only the licensed ones.
This scam may happen upon arrival at any airport in Tanzania, when you’re waiting for your visa to be approved and your passport stamped at the customer counter. While queuing, an immigration officer asks you to put the visa fee of $50 inside your passport. He/she then offers to take the passports straight to the counter and put them on top of the pile in order to “speed up the process”.
When you arrive at the counter, the officer tells you that the bill you gave them was a fake and you need to give him a new one. Therefore, we recommend to stay in the line and wait for your turn. If not, make a photo of the bill’s serial number before handing it over to the officer.
Remember that the USD bills should be in good condition, clean, without tears, and without writing on them. Only recent series bills (look on the front for the series) will be accepted. Take the most recent $100-bills dated after 2006. Older bills will not be accepted in Tanzania.
If you are planning a safari tour while visiting Tanzania, make sure that you check the tour operator in a very detailed way before making any arrangements and prepayments(!). Some of the fraudulent companies have a very good looking website, many reviews, a very attentive customer service that will answer all your question. When you decide to book the safari with them, you will be asked to make a prepayment (which is absolutely fine in most cases). In case of the counterfeit safari tour operator, the contact after the prepayment might stop immediately or get less frequent.
If you don’t find out about the scam before you leave for vacation, you for sure will be surprised upon arriving at the airport as no company’s representative will be waiting to pick you up, as agreed.
Therefore you need to make sure that this company is a registered company. Check internet forums for reviews on the firm. If possible, call any of the lodges that you are going to stay at during the safari, and ask if everything is booked and paid for by the tour operator.
Tanzanian Shilling (TZS)
Tipping in Tanzania is not expected, but certainly appreciated. If the quality of service is good, then it is customary to leave a tip to show your appreciation to those who have served or guided you. But if you are confused how much of a tip to leave in a restaurant, just „round up” the amount or leave 5-10% of your bill if you were fully satisfied with the service and food.
Tipping may be somewhat obligatory during a guided tour such as a safari or trekking. Many tour operators have a guideline of what their recommended tipping policy is. In general, a daily tip of around 22 000 – 44 000 TZS ($10-20) for a safari or trekking guide/driver per group will be appreciated. If there is a cook traveling with you, a tip for him of up to 22 000 TZS ($10 USD) per day from the group would be also well seen.
ATMs are widely available in cities. You can find them at almost all banks. Service is 24h.
ATM withdrawal fee with bank-issued debit cards come with various fees depending on the bank.
Credit cards are not widely accepted for hotel payments. If they are accepted, it’s often only with additional commissions. It’s best to rely mainly on cash and ATMs.
CRDB Bank and National Microfinance Bank are the major banks in Tanzania.
Bargaining is accepted all over Tanzania. It is a way to socialize, to slow down a transaction and to chat. Therefore take time to do the shopping while in the country.
Prices in places such as hotels, restaurants and supermarkets are fixed.
$100 and $50 bills offers the best exchange rates into Tanzania shillings. The bills should be in good condition, clean, without tears, and without writing on them. Only recent series bills (from 2006 or later) are accepted. Older bills are not accepted in Tanzania.
When leaving the country, remember to exchange all Tanzanian shillings back into USD or another foreign currency. It is not possible to exchange Tanzania shillings into other currency outside of the country.
The oldest human fossils were found around Olduvai Gorge in northern Tanzania. It is believed to be the birthplace of humanity and the area of discovery is often referred to as "The Cradle of Mankind". The fossils were found by a team of archaeologists led by Louis and Mary Leakey during the time period between 1960-1963 and called Homo habilis ("handy man").
Nomadic tribes began settling the territory within Tanzania's current borders about 10 000 years ago. Later on, Khoisan-speaking people were joined by Cushitic speaking groups who introduced cattle farming and basic agriculture to the area.
Around 2000 years ago, Bantu speaking settlers started their migration eastwards from their homeland between West and Central Africa. They brought more sophisticated tools and weapons made out of iron and wood as well as some new ideas about political and social organization of the country.
From the first century AD, travelers and merchants from Egypt, India, Persia and Arabia started to visit the east coast of Africa in order to obtain ivory, gold, sandalwood, slaves and other precious items. The Arabs who began to settle in the cities along the coast, spread Islam and the Arabian culture.
The first European to reach the east African coast was Vasco da Gama who arrived in 1498. From 1505 the Portuguese controlled the island of Zanzibar and spread their power also into the eastern coast. Their control lasted until the 18th century, when Arabs from Oman began ruling over the region.
During that time, Zanzibar became a center for slave trade with thousands of captives sold to customers in the Middle East, European colonies in the Far East and Indian Ocean Islands.
Around mid-19th century, European travelers and discoverers from Europe started to reappear in the region. In 1885 as a result of the Conference in Berlin organized by Otto von Bismarck, first Chancellor of Germany, the division of Africa between colonial powers was agreed on. Germany has been given the territory east of Lake Tanganyika. Its administration was handed first to the German East Africa Company. Later, in 1891, the German government took over direct control.
However from the beginning, Germany faced strong resistance as their colonial economy had only one goal – to use the local people to draw wealth out of the region into their own colonial pockets. Peasants were forced to work on cotton and coffee plantations and no investments were made in regards to their quality of life.
The resistance took its peak in 1905 during the so called Maji Maji Resistance. Although it has united a number of local tribes against the German colonial power, it ended with the death of around 120 000 Africans due to starvation and fighting.
After the Germans were defeated in World War I, the Treaty of Versailles granted Great Britain the administration of Tanganyika's territory under the authorization from the League of Nations. The first civilian administrator was Sir Archer Byatt. He took measures to regain some limited powers back to Tanganyika's African leaders and also allowed to form political clubs such as the Tanganyika African Association, which later became the core of the nationalist movement.
After World War II, Tanganyika became a United Nations Trust Territory under the administration of the British government. And since 1945, the first African members were being elected as part of Legislative Council established in Dar es Salaam.
In the 1950s Julius Nyerere formed a political party, the TANU (Tanganyika African National Union) and won the Legislative Council elections between 1958-1960. In 1961, he became the nation's prime minister and Tanganyika received first internal self government, followed by the declaration of independence on 9 December 1961.
On 26 April 1964, Tanzania has been formed as a federation of two separate countries: Tanganyika (independent from 1961) and Zanzibar (independent from 1963). The name of the country derives from the first syllables of both countries TAN +ZAN. The country's first president was Julius Nyerere, who was the initiator of the union. Nyerere adopted a policy of socialism, which emphasized justice and equality but also aimed to nationalize the economy. He aimed for self sufficiency of the country. He forced people to move to larger villages where they would produce and share food and other goods with the whole community. Soon the economy begun to struggle under his socialist policies with developing corruption in all nationalized institutions, bureaucratic procedures and excessive tax rates.
In 1985, Nyerere stepped down as president and Ali Hassan Mwinyi succeeded him. Shortly after, he announced to study the benefits of instituting a multiparty democracy, and in October 1995 the country's first multiparty elections since its independence took place.
Tanzania is located in Eastern Africa, sharing borders with 8 countries: Zambia, Malawi, and Mozambique to the south; Rwanda, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west; and Kenya and Uganda to the to the north. It has also a maritime boundary to the east (Indian Ocean).
With an area of 947,303 square kilometers (365,756 sq. mi.) Tanzania is the thirteenth largest country in Africa.
Two highest peaks in Tanzania are located in the northeast region and both are inactive volcanoes. Mount Kilimanjaro is Africa’s highest mountain and one of the highest free standing mountains in the world (5,895 meters / 19,341 feet). Even though it is not far from the equator, it is covered with snow. It is also a highly popular trekking spot, as it lures around 55 000 people each year.
At 4,566 meters (14,979 feet) stands Mount Meru which is the second highest mountain in Tanzania and the fifth highest one in Africa.
Often referred as “Africa’s Garden of Eden”, in 2003 it has been chosen by millions of people from all over the world as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa.
It is the world’s largest inactive and unfilled volcanic caldera which collapsed into itself 2-3 million years ago. It is 610 meters (2000 feet) deep and its floor consumes 264 sq. kilometers (102 sq. miles). It is home to around 30 000 animals such as elephants, cheetahs, lions, buffaloes and black rhinos.
Tanzania’s landscape is covered by charming lakes and rivers. The major rivers that run across the country are the Nile, River Congo, River Rufiji, and River Ruvuma.
With 600 kilometers (370 mi) the Rufiji river is the largest river and lies entirely within Tanzania’s borders. It covers most of the southern part of the country and drains into the Indian Ocean.
Swahili and English are the two official languages spoken in Tanzania. Swahili is used by 90% of the population and used at primary level of education. It is also used in social and political affairs.
English on the other hand is used at secondary school level and all the way up to university, as well as in foreign trade, diplomacy and higher courts.
In 2015, as part of far-reaching plans to reform Tanzanian education, the government announced that the education in the country will have Swahili as the sole language of instruction.
At the local level, there are 126 languages (!) spoken in the country, as various ethnic groups speak their tribal language as their mother tongue. Therefore the two official languages are used rather for communication and during public education and the level of fluency varies greatly throughout the society.
The name Swahili comes from the plural from of the Arabic word “sahil” which means boundaries or coast. Together with the prefix “ki” it means a coastal language.
Around 35% of the vocabulary comes from Arabic but during the last five centuries it has been greatly influenced by German, French, Portuguese and English. For example you can find similarities with English in words like: polisi (police), boksi (box), baiskeli (bicycle), soksi (socks) or picha (picture) and many others.
In terms of pronunciation, Swahili is generally not difficult for English speakers. It has no lexical tones and the written words are read out in the same way they are written.
Also basic grammar rules are easy to understand. For example, particles at the beginning of the word indicate tense (present “na”, past “li”, future “ta”) and particular person (I “ni”, he/she/it “a”, we/us “tu” , they “wa”).
An exemplary sentence with go (kweda):
|Hello||Habari / Jambo|
|How are you?||Hujambo?|
|Fine, thank you.||Sijambo, asante.|
|How much does it cost?||Bei gani?|
|Which direction?||Mwelekeo upi?|
|Straight ahead||Moja kwa moja|
|Turn left.||Pinda kushoto|
|Turn right.||Pinda kulia|
|It was delicious.||Chakula ni kitamu|
The Tanzanian cuisine has been influenced by many cultures from all over the world, especially with the inflow of merchants from Persian Gulf and India, as well as settlers from Portugal, Germany and Great Britain who controlled the country over the course of the history.
Typical Tanzanian dishes are made out of simple ingredients and are largely based on starches such as beans, pilaf and cornmeal. As the country still fights with a high poverty rate, meat is not widely consumed throughout the country. If so, it is saved for special family occasions such as weddings or births of babies. But the local cuisine is rich in spices such as curry, cinnamon, cumin, red pepper and cloves. Many dishes also include coconut milk.
Tea plants were introduced to Tanzania in 1902 and the commercial production began in 1926. It increased over time, especially when the Brits took over the tea plantations after World War II. Nowadays, with 32 000 tonnes of tea per year, the country is one of the top producers of tea in Africa and makes up about 1% of the world tea production.
Chai is a popular local drink, which is tea with milk, spices and lots of sugar (one cup can contain up to 3 spoons of sugar!). It is the most popular beverage enjoyed throughout the whole day and a must-have when socializing with friends or family.
When in Tanzania, it is worth visiting one of the Tea Rooms spread around the country. Try a cup of chai with some East African specialties such as chapatti (fried bread) or mandazi (Coconut Doughnut).
This popular alcoholic drink produced in the Kilimanjaro region is made from fermented bananas. The production process is time consuming and without any support of modern technology. Mashed bananas are cooked in a pot for several hours and then left to ferment for several days. Then they are strained through shredded grass and banana leaves. After some water is added, the mixture is bittered using bark flour of Mseswe trees to tone down the sweetness of the bananas. After another few days of resting, the drink is ready. The initial taste is sweet, followed by a slightly sour taste.
This is the country’s national dish. It is a stiff dough made of cornmeal, millet or sorghum flour. Ugali is cooked in boiling water or milk until it gets a thick porridge or a dough-like consistency. It is severed with a sauce and vegetables, meat or beans. Ugali is a filling dish that is easy and cheap to make and therefore became an important part of the diet for many locals, especially in the poor, rural areas.
- Before eating, it is customary that everyone washes their hands. Should you be invited to a traditional home, you might be offered a bowl to wash your hands in it.
- If you have been offered some food, don’t smell it, just eat it. Sniffing your food indicates that the food is bad and so is the cook. Even if you are not hungry, take a small bite. Refusing is considered rude.
- As the left hand is used for toilet duties, consuming food as well as other activities (such as greeting, giving or receiving objects) is done only with the right hand.
- In restaurants you will be given cutlery but many Tanzanians use their hands to eat.
- Meals are often consumed on a mat or a low stool, especially in less touristy restaurants that are outside of city centers.
- Greeting is very important in the Tanzanian culture. Always take time to do so. Ask first about how the person is doing, the well-being of their family and other general questions.
- Tanzanians, especially the older generation do not use handshakes when greeting. If so, is more often used by the younger generation.
- It is normal for men to hold hands in public space. It is a sign of a good friendship and not of homosexuality which is still a taboo in the country.
- Learn a few simple words in Swahili like “Jambo” (meaning hello), “Shikamoo” (used when greeting someone older than yourself) and “Asante sana” (thank you).
- Tanzania is a male dominated society. The government is trying to avoid discrimination of women and protect their rights by introducing various laws and regulations. Under the statutory law both genders are equal. However there are customary Indian and Islamic laws where women are under the power and control of men. These laws are also taken into account by Tanzania's judicial authorities.
- The primary school education is obligatory both for girls and boys. Since 2002, school tuition was eliminated which resulted in a significant progress of girls finalizing their primary school education.
- The secondary school education, mainly in rural areas, is rarely undertaken by girls due to poverty, early marriage, household duties and pregnancy.
- At workplaces, women are often hired for lower positions and are responsible for tasks that are not officially part of their jobs.
- Physical and sexual harassment on girls and women is widespread but mostly unreported due to the lack of awareness of rights and knowledge of where to seek help.
- According to UNICEF, in 2013 over half of Tanzanian women thought that a husband is justified in beating his wife under certain circumstances.
With more than 4 million wild animals and representatives of 430 species and subspecies, Tanzania has the largest concentration of animals per square kilometer in the world.
Tanzania shares its national anthem with South Africa and Zimbabwe. It’s titled “Mungu Ibariki Afrika” (God Bless Africa) and was composed by Enock Sontonga.
The Tanzanian flag carries 4 elements of Tanzania’s daily life.The green represents nature’s beauty, the yellow represents the mineral deposits of the country, the black represents the people, while the blue represents the great lakes.
Zanzibar is known as the Spice Islands. It is the largest producer of cloves in the world.
Nearly 40% of the whole population lives in extreme poverty, and nearly 60% lives below the World Bank’s designated poverty line of $1.25 a day.