For many, Tanzania may be the most well-known country in Africa. It is the country that has become synonymous with the Serengeti, Mount Kilimanjaro, and Zanzibar. People from all over the world flock to Tanzania to have a safari in some of the best national parks in the world.
The country is staggeringly beautiful, populated by a warm Swahili culture, and home to some of the best wildlife on this planet. Here are our top Tanzania travel tips to know before you go.
Tanzania Travel Tips
Hakuna Matata is real
You know The Lion King?
Scratch that I know you know The Lion King. It’s pretty tough not to know the song Hakuna Matata, that Timon and Pumbaa sing to young Simba. While the opening song “The Circle of Life” may not be Swahili, (it’s Zulu), Hakuna Matata is a real saying in Swahili! Yes, “Hakuna Matata” in Swahili does indeed mean “no worries.” So, when the days get hard Zanbari’s will be sure to let you know that it will be alright in the end. However, most Tanzanians will use “Hamna shida” outside of the tourist hotspots themselves.
Going off other Lion King celebrities Nala means gift in Swahili, while Rafiki is a friend, and Simba is a lion.
Have Some Deep Pockets For A Safari
The fuel, food, and camping costs are less than many other African nations we have traveled. However, where you save on those costs, you’ll slowly lose money to the Tanzanian park fees. Tanzanian Parks charge foreigners an arm and nearly a leg to enter their parks.
I’m all for paying for the conservation of a natural environment; however when the price is fifty times more than the local price I feel that I am just getting had. The Serengeti, for instance, costs a whopping $76 to enter, the Ngorongoro Crater Conservation will run you $76, and to actually drive any vehicle into the crater it will set you back $297 (a day). Make sure to have your credit card handy because this is the only method of payment accepted at the gate.
Play Nice With the Police
This only really applies to self-drivers, but the Tanzanian police are littered across the roads of the country just waiting to hand out “tickets.” You will be able to see them from afar in their all white police uniforms sticking a hand out telling you to stop in the middle of the road.
Be sure to stick to the speed limits and only overtake other cars when it’s safe. Self-drivers should also equip their car with a fire extinguisher, wear shoes, safety vest, and red triangles or a bribe may be brewing up. Most fines are 30,000 shillings and the police will attempt to get you to pay on the spot.
If you suspect you are getting bribed insist on an official receipt from the police or tell them you will pay at the next police station. If you really weren’t breaking any rules this should get them off you back, it has gotten us out of many “tickets.”
Throughout our six weeks in Tanzanian, I can’t even count on my hands and toes the number of times we were pulled over. We probably got asked for a bribe five of those times and only ended up paying 30,000 Tanzanian shillings in two instances. One when we were going 11km over the limit and one when we were going 3 km over the speed limit. Yes. 3 km’s.
When dealing with police my best Tanzania travel tip is to remain calm, patient, and polite. Kill ’em with kindness.
Beaches, Plains, and Mountains – Oh My!
Tanzania travel has so much to offer tourists it’s overwhelming. Tanzania has beautiful turquoise beaches in Zanzibar, lush mountain vistas in the Usumbara mountains, the tallest peak in Africa, wild jungles in the Mahale Mountains, and endless plains in the Serengeti. With a country that’s rich in wildlife and culture, it’s hard to get bored.
If you make the effort to travel to Tanzania we would recommend experiencing several different climates. The most popular route for many is to finish a safari or Kilimanjaro climb with some much-needed relaxation on one of the best hotels on Zanzibar.
The national currency of Tanzania is the Tanzanian Shilling. At the time of writing the exchange rate is around 2200 shillings to $1 USD. We found ATM’s in most major town; however, almost all ATMs have a high withdrawal fee (8000-15000 shilling).
USD is accepted at many tourist hotspots in Tanzania, but it is common to receive a bad exchange rate. You may as well leave your credit cards tucked away since they are rarely accepted outside of tourist hotspots and hotels. Check out how we deal with our cash and cards while abroad.
The Tanzanians are Amazing
“I’m sure you won’t find the Tanzanians very friendly,” someone had told us just a few months earlier. We were very much anticipating arriving in Tanzania, but more than a few people had described the locals as unwelcoming, cold, and just overall rude. Hearing this about Tanzanians certainly was not inviting; however, from the second we crossed the border we were blown away by how friendly everyone was.
Not one day passed in the country without hearing children shout “Jambo,” or “hello”. Or meeting adults who would say “Karibu sana” or “welcome” and asking us “habari” or “how are you.” They smiled, they waved, and they welcomed us into their country. It melts my heart thinking about the kindness of the Tanzanians.
Kilimanjaro is there! And so is the beer!
I was surprised to learn how many people don’t know Mt. Kilimanjaro is in Tanzania. The town of Moshi, at the base of Kilimanjaro, is where many adventurers come to start their trek to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro.
Kilimanjaro is the highest point in Africa at 5895 meters. It’s one of the biggest tourist attractions in Tanzania, but it will set you back about $1500-$3000 to climb it on the cheap end. If you want the views without the climb I recommend heading to Moshi anyway and trying to get up into the mountains or hike to base camp. Don’t forget the Kilimanjaro beer that is one of the national beers of Tanzania and is readily available at any bar – sweat and hike not included.
Don’t Drink the Water
It is best not to drink the water in Tanzania. We’ve been getting around most of Africa without having to produce unnecessary waste and save money with ourLifestraw Go; however, in Tanzania, we aren’t even using that.
Bottled water is cheap and readily available here and you can expect to pay anywhere from 1000-2000 shilling per 1.5 liters. I still recommend purchasing the Lifestraw Gofor other points in Africa and for those times when you are in desperate need of filtered water.
Ahh, the Internet!
Surprisingly enough, the internet actually works quite well in Tanzania (writing this from the back of a taxi right now). Yes, it’s true the internet connection around Africa is generally very poor; however, the 3G connection in Tanzania is spot on. We have been able to get a secure and stable 3G connection from in the middle of the Usambara mountains to the base of Kilimanjaro.
The next best part? The data in Tanzania is very affordable. We decided to get a sim card with Vodacom as soon as we entered the country. The sim card itself cost us 1000 Tanzania shilling, while the actual data cost us 12,000 shilling for 10 GB valid for seven days. No more completely wireless nights here!
Plan Your Trip to Tanzania
We never travel without travel insurance with World Nomads. World Nomads offers incredible flexible and great plans!
Sometimes it’s nice just to have a real book in your hands when traveling. We recommend picking up a Lonely Planet to get you through the wireless nights. Are you going on safari? We always carry our Robert’s Southern Africa Bird Book and a good mammal guide.
You’ll need this adaptor in Eastern Africa.
Make sure to protect your eyes from the sun in Africa since you’re near the equator. There are a lot of options for sunglasses and everyone should own at least a pair. It’s best to make sure they do have UV protection for the health of your eyes.
We made our first investment in quality polarized sunglasses with a pair of SMITH Optics Lowdown 2. Truthfully, not everyone needs to invest $150 in a pair of sunglasses, but they do make a huge difference from the crappy $10 ones.
Skin cancer is for real! Don’t forget your SPF when traveling to the around Africa. We recommend ordering some online before leaving the house as you will need it underneath the African sun and it can be very hard to find outside major cities.
We highly recommend getting an eco friendly sun cream that does not contain harmful chemicals. They’re mineral based and usually only cost a few dollars more to help protect our oceans. If you’re not going to swim in the ocean just go with a reliable name brand.
Hiking Shoes or Boots
If you’re wondering what necessities to bring to Africa then sturdy shoes are perhaps the most important thing you will need before you get to Africa.
I cannot stress a good pair of shoes enough because if you land anywhere outside of South Africa a quality pair of hiking shoes will be hard to come by. If you plan to walk around a lot get thick rubber soled shoes as acacia thorns are prone to stab through thin shoes. Cameron learned the hard way one day when he pulled a thorn out of his foot that went straight through his thin rubber sandals.
Lightweight pants that are made from synthetic material are tremendous to have in your pack. It’s what we wear most days when traveling around Africa as they’re comfortable, antibacterial, and protect our legs from mosquitos (malaria).
We recommend neutral colored pants as they’re great at hiding dirt and can match most shirt colors. What’s great is they’re useful beyond Africa as they are a travel staple and we pack a pair everywhere we travel.
I like two pairs, one pair is made by prAna and rolls into capris and the other are convertible pants. For men, prAna makes the Stretch Zion Pant, a tremendous pair of hiking pants for a reasonable price.
I love my buff. I usually wear it for keeping my hair back, but it’s also served its purpose as a scarf and wet rag too. Buffs last for years and aren’t only helpful in Africa. I actually wear mine every day when I’m snowboarding in the mountains. It’s been one of my top travel accessory investments ever!
Grayl Ultralight Water Bottle
It’s not advisable to drink the tap water in most of Africa. We previously used the Lifestraw Go for all those times during our travels when the water is questionable. However, over time we became annoyed with the water bottle as the filter aged and clogged. Plus the bottle leaks when it is on its side.
We now switched to the Grayl Ultralight Purifier. It’s a more simplistic design than the Lifestraw that is more effective and does not leak. Most importantly it is a purifier, not a filter. The Grayl water bottle system purifies water vs. filters which removes viruses and virtually removes all threat of waterborne illnesses.
Overland Tour in Africa
Traveling Africa on your own can be daunting to many travelers. However, there is no need to fear with overland tour companies who will show the ropes and a great time. You can check out some of them here to compare the different companies and possibly score a discount.
- A Quick Guide to Tanzania’s Selous Game Reserve
- Inside Tanzania’s Amazing Ruaha National Park
- A Complete Guide to the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania
- Why You Need to Stay on Ushongo Beach in Tanzania
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