For many, a trip to Africa is a once in a lifetime experience often marking a special time such as a birthday, honeymoon, or retirement. Even with budget safari options available, it is still quite an expensive undertaking, especially when traveling from the United States. Regardless, for those who are able to make the trip, it is an epic adventure they will never forget.
For those considering a trip to Africa to experience a safari, I think Tanzania is one of the best countries to visit. There are safari & cultural experiences that fit into most any budget. You are all but guaranteed to see some animals, and the variety of potential animals to see in Tanzania is incredible. Lots of options means you can make the experience as relaxing & luxurious or as adventurous as you choose. And an added plus for people traveling from the United States – US dollars are widely accepted in Tanzania.
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Tanzania: At a Glance
- Capitol: Dodoma (previously Dar es Salaam)
- Languages: Kiswakili, Swahili, & English
- Popular Religions: Muslim, Christian, & traditional African religions
- Currency: Tanzanian Shilling & US dollars
- Most Popular Sports: Football (soccer) & Boxing
- Best Known For: Big 5 Safaris, Mount Kilimanjaro, & Zanzibar Beaches
- Most Popular Months to Visit: July & August
- Time Difference: 7 Hours Ahead of Atlanta, GA, USA (Eastern Time)
Tanzania: General Information
The United Republic of Tanzania is the largest country in East Africa, and since the formation of the sovereign state in 1964, consists of mainland Tanzania (Tanganyika), Mafia Island, Pemba Island, & Zanzibar Island. While the centrally located city of Dodoma became the capitol of Tanzania in 1974, the most well known & largest city in Tanzania is Dar es Salaam.
Most travelers will be arriving in Tanzania through air travel. The main airport is Julius Nyere International Airport in Dar Es Salaam. However, it is also possible to find flights into Kilimanjaro International Airport as well. If you are looking to travel to Zanzibar or one of the other islands, flying into Dar es Salaam is the best option for entry, followed by catching a short domestic flight. Information on additional airports is provided by the Tanzania Airports Authority website.
Tanzania is located just south of the equator and the climate varies due to elevation and rainfall patterns throughout the country. In general, the country experiences most of its rain between November and April. On the plateau, temperatures vary with altitude, but the coast stays hot and humid throughout most of the year.
The most popular time of year to visit Tanzania is during July & August. During this time you can expect to experience cool weather during the early mornings & evenings and lots of sunshine during the day. July & August are typically the driest months, which also means more opportunity to witness animals near water sources.
Points of Interest
MOUNT KILIMAJARO – standing at 19,340 feet (5,895 meters) – is the tallest mountain in Africa. It is also the world’s largest free standing mountain. Some climbers are attracted to Kilimanjaro the climb does not require any technical equipment or specialized training, but the length & altitude of the climb are not to be underestimated. There are multiple routes to the summit, and those climbers who choose to take a longer/slower route often have greater success than those trying to rush.
SERENGETI NATIONAL PARK consists of 1.5 million hectares of plains grasslands, and is the site of the annual migration of millions of wildebeests, gazelles & zebras.
Aside from the Great Migration through the Serengeti, the NGORONGORO CONSERVATION AREA is most well known for the largest unflooded & unbroken caldera (crater) in the world, spanning 300 sq kilometers.
ZANZIBAR BEACHES are considered by many to be some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, and the island’s main city, STONE TOWN, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Getting Around Within Tanzania
Once you are in Tanzania, there are several options for getting around the country.
One of the main options for transportation is booking ahead of time through a travel agent or safari guide company, or arranging transportation with your hotel/lodge. Since this is my first trip to Africa, this is what I am opting to do for the first part of our trip. My travel agent (with True Africa) is arranging all of our vehicle transportation between sites, & some of our domestic flights. She is also making sure we have all of the necessary permits & information that we will need to visit all of the National Parks on our itinerary. For the final few days of our trip that I am planning myself, I have relied on our hotels to help us with transportation. The only exception is our layover in Dar Es Salaam, where I plan to use an Uber.
I opted for this route for our trip so we will be able to sit back & relax (as much as possible on the bumpy roads), and enjoy the experience without having to worry about directions, traffic laws, and car troubles.
Some people choose to drive themselves around Tanzania. I have not done much research on this option yet, but from what I can tell there are ways to rent a car to self-drive. Some rentals even come complete with camping equipment!
If you do choose to rent a car, a 4×4 vehicle is a must!
And be sure to consider that you will need to arrange the appropriate permits for entering National Parks or other protected areas, how you will navigate, & what you will do if you run into car. trouble. Plus, you will need to educate yourself about local traffic laws.
Another option is to rent your own car, but hire a guide to drive it for you at an additional $30 – $40 per day.
Uber is available in larger cities such as Dar es Salaam. Since I am arranging my own transportation for the last few days of the trip, I will be using Uber during our long layover in Dar es Salaam to go out for dinner and check out a local market.
AIR TRAVEL OPTIONS
There are many domestic airlines in Tanzania that provide air travel services throughout the country. Traveling by air instead of by car reduces your travel time substantially, but you will have to deal with those restrictive luggage requirements.
OTHER TRANSPORTATION OPTIONS
On the coast, you can also catch a ferry to travel between mainland Tanzania & the coastal islands of Zanzibar & Pemba. One company providing ferry service is Azam Marine. It reminds me of airline travel in that you book your ticket in various cabins, which come with a variety of increasing amenities with the increase of price. As with air travel, make sure you research the luggage requirements when deciding if a ferry trip is the right mode of transportation for you.
Tanzania: Pre-Travel Tips &
Things to Consider
If you are anything like me, the thought of traveling to Tanzania (especially for the first time) brings up a lot of questions.
- What should I pack for my trip to Tanzania?
- How in the hell am I going to keep my luggage within the 33lbs (15kgs) limit for the bush plane!?!
- What are the passport, visa, vaccination, and other requirements I need to know about?
- What cultural sensitivities should I be aware of? What languages are spoken?
- How much does a Tanzanian safari cost? What about tipping? Are credit cards accepted?
- What else should I know about a trip to Tanzania?
While I am definitely not an expert, I have been able to find the answers to many of these questions as I prepare for my first trip to Tanzania / Africa. I hope you find the links provided, as well as my personal experiences, useful as you plan your own epic adventure to Tanzania!
For more information, Check out my Tanzania Travel Planning Guide to follow along as I plan our epic adventure to Tanzania.
Passport, Visa, Vaccinations & Other Info
Tanzania requires that your passport be valid for at least 6 months AFTER your intended travel. Also, you will need 2 completely blank pages in your passport per country to be visited in Africa. Make sure your passport meets these requirements or you will be denied entry!
Check with the relevant embassy in your home country for information about visas. Many countries require a tourist visa to visit Tanzania at a cost of $50 per person. For the United States, you have to get a multiple entry visa & the cost is $100.
To apply for a visa to Tanzania, you must use their Electronic Visa Application System.
When traveling to Tanzania, or other African countries, it is a good idea to visit your personal physician or a travel clinic at least 6 week prior to travel to ensure you have all of the necessary vaccinations and medications for your trip. I am not a doctor and I am not attempting to give medical advice, but travel into Tanzania from certain area does require a yellow fever vaccination certificate & many areas of Tanzania are malaria zones. More information can be found through relevant embassies & through the Tanzania information page provided by the CDC, however, the final decision regarding your health is always up to you and your physician.
Be sure to monitor changing travel restrictions due to COVID-19. Check the website of the Tanzanian embassy in your home country for the most up to date information.
Luggage Tips / Packing Resources
Be sure to double check the size & weight restrictions for ALL flights that you will be taking during your trip to Tanzania. Pay close attention to the restrictions for bush flights or other local flights within Tanzania, as they often only allow 15kg / 33lbs.
Contact the airline for more information on options for bringing additional weight that may be available at an additional cost.
Many airlines require, or at least strongly recommend, soft sided luggage. Wheeled luggage is okay if you prefer, although many people opt for a duffle bag or large backpack. Either way, leave the hard sided luggage at home.
Follow THIS LINK to read more about luggage requirements for airline travel in Tanzania & how I got around some of those restrictions with a little extra cash! And to view my general Tanzania Safari & Beach Adventure Packing List!
Or CLICK HERE for a more in depth look at EXACTLY what I am taking to Tanzania & why I chose those particular items!
GENERAL PACKING TIPS
Include a change of clothes, medication, and other essentials in your hand luggage if you plan to check a bag during your international travels. Be sure to include a pen for those immigration forms!
Pack clothing in neutral colors such as khaki, light brown, or light green. Avoid blue & black clothing to lessen your chances of being bitten by tsetse flies.
Dress in layers. While Tanzania can be quite hot during the day, mornings & evenings can be cold, especially at higher elevations. Some people may even choose to toss a pair of flip-flops in their bag to help beat the heat.
Protect yourself from the sun by bringing along sunglasses & a wide brimmed hat. Also, don’t forget the sunscreen!
While a comfortable pair of walking shoes are a must, they do not have to be safari boots. A good pair of sneakers will also work. Just keep in mind that any shoes you bring will get dirty and dusty. Also, bring a pair of flip flops to use to cool down, enjoy the pool, or use in an outdoor shower.
Many lodges & hotels have a pool, so bring along a bathing suit to help cool off during the heat of the day or relax during siesta time.
Bring the best camera you have available. Bring a telephoto lens if that is in your budget. A smaller camera or cell phone can work as a backup, but some people choose to bring 2 cameras just in case. That’s where those pesky weight restrictions can become a real pain.
Check with your accommodations to see if laundry service is included in your rate or available at an additional charge. This will help you reduce the amount you have to pack to stay within the weight limit if you are taking bush flights. Be advised you will need to wash your own undergarments due to cultural consideration. Some lodging will provide powder, but I plan to throw a couple Tide-To-Go packets in my bag for this purpose.
Basic toiletries, such as shampoo, conditioner, and even insect repellant, are generally provided by most of the lodges & hotels in Tanzania. This can be one less thing to stuff into a small, weight restricted suitcase. But even if you aren’t picky, I recommend bringing a small amount of your own just in case. I personally travel with my own favorites because my curly hair needs all the TLC it can get – which is fine too!
And check out my What to Pack for Tanzania Post for a general overview of what to pack OR our Tanzania packing list post for in depth look at EXACTLY what I am taking to Tanzania & why I chose those particular items!
Cultural Notes & Tips
Tanzania tends to be a more conservative nation. Out of respect for cultural & religious beliefs, it is best to dress conservatively, with covered shoulders & knees, especially while in towns. Attire in lodges and at the beach is more relaxed, so feel free to dress to your personal comfort level at hotels or the beach.
Swahili & English are the two most common languages spoken in Tanzania. You may also encounter people speaking a variety of native languages as well. While most people in the tourism industry will speak English, I plan on learning a few words of Swahili. I feel learning a few common phrases in the language of a place I am traveling is a nice way to show respect for the local people.
Tanzania is a relatively safe country for tourists, especially while traveling within a safari vehicle or staying at a lodge or camp. However, as with all countries, there is always the slight chance of theft. Many lodges offer in room safes or a safe deposit box at the desk to secure passports, cash, or similar items. But it is always a good rule of thumb to leave unnecessary valuables at home or keep them on you at all times.
While many locals enjoy engaging with tourists & participating in photographs, it never hurts to ask permission before photographing someone. Some may expect a small tip in exchange for photographs. If you are traveling with a local guide, that person will be able to provide more information about what to expect & any restrictions regarding photographs.
In some areas of Tanzania you may meet people who are struggling with extreme poverty. You may experience adults or children begging for money or supplies. While some people choose to bring supplies or toys to pass out, others believe it perpetuates the problem and could leave the recipients open to abuse by others. If you prefer, there are many Tanzanian charities that will distribute any items or cash you wish to donate.
Costs, Tipping, & other Financial info
GENERAL BUDGET / COSTS OF A TANZANIAN SAFARI
An African Safari can be more expensive than some other holiday adventures, and a safari in Tanzania is no exception. It is hard to give a general idea of a safari budget since so many factors affect the cost. Cost can be reduced by traveling in off-peak season and choosing to camp and safari with a large group. If you are on a tight budget, and up for roughing it, you could probably achieve a short safari experience on $200 per person per day. Your average safari prices range between $500 – $850 per person per day depending on the style of accommodations you choose & if you prefer private game drives. This price estimate includes meals, transportation, lodging, and even laundry service – all of which will vary depending on your selections.
And keep in mind these price estimates do not include international airfare.
The local currency in Tanzania is the Tanzanian Shilling. 1 shilling is divided into 100 senti.
1 US dollar = 2318.95 Tanzanian Shillings
US dollars are also widely accepted throughout Tanzania, and often preferred in many cases.
If using US dollars, bring small bills & make sure they are issued 2006 or later.
If you are pleased with your service, you are more than welcome to tip your guides, staff at the lodges/hotels, Uber driver, etc! Tipping is not mandatory, but is intended to reward exceptional service. Tipping is generally done at the end of your stay / safari with that particular group of people, and you generally tip the guide directly or into a communal box at a lodge for the lodge staff.
General tipping guidelines:
Safari Guides: $10 per person per day (up to $40 per day per group)
Lodge Staff: $5 – $10 per person per day (placed in communal box to be divided)
ATMS / CREDIT CARDS vs. CASH
There are very few ATMS in Tanzania, and not many places accept credit cards. Those that do often charge high fees for use. Some lodges or camps do accept credit cards for additional expenses, but internet outages can take down those systems. Check with any accommodations or service providers to find out which payment methods they prefer.
In general, it would not be a bad idea to bring enough cash for food, souvenirs, excursions, tips, and any other expenses you expect to incur while in Tanzania.
TIP – Small bills are best ($1, $5, & $10 bills). Not only are they most useful for tips & payments, if you need to exchange bills, the smaller bills are exchanged at a lower rate than larger bills.
TIP – If using US dollars, the bills must be dated 2006 or later to be used in Tanzania.
TIP – When carrying large amounts of cash, separate the cash so that it is kept in various places on your person (or even divided amongst your group) for safe keeping. Some people also choose to use a money belt or pouch worn under their clothing.
Additional Tips & Information
When traveling out of your home country, it is always a good idea to consider travel insurance. Check with your credit cards, homeowners insurance policies, medical insurance policies, travel agents, and other resources to see if you may already be covered for certain circumstances while traveling. Then, consider purchasing travel insurance to cover any areas in which your other policies are lacking. The cost of your travel insurance depends upon which company you choose to use, the coverage you would like to have for your trip, and the total cost of the trip.
TIP – Have the following information handy when you start your travel insurance search: dates of your trip, ages of everyone traveling that you want included in the insurance, date of your first payment towards the trip, cost of the trip (total or per person), countries you will be visiting, and your country of origin. It also helps to have a general idea of what you want the travel insurance to cover, and what (if anything) you already have covered.
NOTE – Many people use a budget travel insurance provider such as World Nomads. I have used them once before for a trip to the Dominican Republic, but did not need to file a claim. For this trip, I used Square Mouth to search, & opted for Tin Leg insurance, which is underwritten by Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance Company. Fingers crossed I won’t need to use this policy either!
I would be shocked if you went on a safari to Tanzania & did not see some amazing wildlife. Obviously, the longer you are able to spend in the country & the variety of parks you are able to visit will increase your odds of seeing a variety of animals. But I really doubt you will go home disappointed no matter where you choose to visit or how long you are able to stay.
In Tanzania, you have the opportunity to see the Big 5: lions, elephants, Cape buffalo, leopards, & black rhino. You will also likely see gazelles, zebras, giraffes, hippos, flamingos, crocodiles, wildebeest, hyenas, & cheetahs.
As far as CATS go, Tanzania is home to 9 feline species that I hope to see during my trip: lions, cheetahs, leopards, caracals, servals, genets, African wild cats, black footed cats, & African golden cats.
While traveling, it is important to be respectful of the local wildlife, and remember to follow all of the safety protocols you are given at each stop along your adventure. Using a local guide will help keep you safe, and help improve your chances of seeing wildlife. But, regardless if you are traveling alone or with a guide, keep your distance from wild animals, follow instructions, & try not to make too much noise.
Tsetse flies are common in Tanzania, especially in the Tarangire National Park and some parts of the Serengeti. While they may look like a large fly, they have a nasty bite & on occasion carry a parasite that causes sleeping sickness. Avoid wearing blue or black & use insect repellant to reduce your chances of getting a bite. Megan Horowitz from The Dash & Dine recommends wearing a lightweight rain suit to prevent bites. You may choose to bring some antihistamine lotion just in case.
Mosquitos are also quite common in Tanzania, and can spread diseases such as malaria & dengue fever. Many lodges & guides will have insect repellant, but I recommend bringing your own just in case. You can find varying opinions about which insect repellant is best, the pros & cons of DEET, and how much DEET is too much. Do your own research & make the best decision for yourself and your family. In this case, as I tend to get eaten alive by mosquitos all the time, I will be going with an insect repellant that includes DEET.
DEET Fact Sheet provided by the CDC.
ELECTRONICS – VOLTAGE & PLUGS
Tanzania operates on a 230 volt supply & a frequency of 50Hz. The plug type used in Tanzania is typically D & G.
For comparison, in the United States, electricity operates at 120 volts & 60Hz. The plug type is typically A & B. Many higher end electronics, such as cellular phones and digital cameras, are dual voltage, but you will need to check any electronics that you plan to bring to ensure they won’t get fried. At the very least, you will need to get a plug converter to be able to charge your electronics.
TIP – Consider bringing a surge protector / power strip or some other type of charging station that will allow you to charge multiple items at once. Some accommodations only have electricity in the lodge or minimal outlets per room, so it would help to have a way to charge multiple things at the same time, in the same location.
I opted for a voltage converter with a plug adapter, that has multiple output ports for charging multiple devices at once (both plug & USB) – essentially solving 3 needs with one device!
TIP – If staying a safari camp or other remote accommodations, leave the high powered hair dryers and other such electronics at home. Most camps rely on solar power & will not have the voltage to power those devices even if you bring them along. If you can’t travel without your hairdryer, check with any lodges, hotels, or camps you are considering before booking to make sure they can accommodate your needs.
CELL PHONE SERVICE & WIFI
Mobile phone service is generally only available in the larger cities, and even then is likely not going to be the uninterrupted service you are accustomed to in your home country. It would be a good idea to let friends & family know about your travel plans ahead of time, and advise them that you may be out of contact during your trip.
Wifi is gradually becoming more available at many lodges & hotels throughout Tanzania. But, similar to the cell phone service, the internet services are subject to outages and will most likely not be at very high speeds. When wifi is available, it is often provided at an additional cost.
Many people use their time on a Tanzanian safari as an opportunity to unwind and disconnect from their mobile devices. To be courteous of fellow travelers, it is a good rule of thumb to keep devices on silent & only use them away from common areas during leisure time. I’m sure most people do this anyway, but just something to think about!
All that being said, I absolutely cannot wait to experience Tanzania. I hope one day you are able to plan your own epic adventure to Tanzania as well. Whichever way you choose to experience this amazing country – be it on a budget backpacking trip or a luxury guided safari – I am sure it will be a trip to remember.
If you have any questions about my upcoming trip to Tanzania, please feel free to reach out in the comments or send me an email!