Introduction to Tanzania
Sailors return from Zanzibar with tales of the heavy scent of cloves that can be smelt even before the island is visible on the horizon. Zanzibar, known alternatively as the Spice Island, has made its impression on the world for centuries, acting as a significant trading port for Arabs and Europeans alike. Now, in a smart political move that’s had great ramifications for tourists, the island has joined forces with Tanganyika to form Tanzania. Travelling there never looked so good. The fine attractions of Zanzibar are packaged together with the mainland’s equally impressive collection of crowd-drawers: Mount Kilimanjaro (Africa’s tallest peak and arguably its most rewarding climb), Dar es Salaam (the capital and hub of cultural activity), Serengeti National Park (for East Africa’s best safari) and the sensational Ngorongoro Crater. The range and frequency of Tanzania’s highlights makes it one of your best bets for a great East African holiday.
A Brief History about Tanzania
Tanzania is probably one of the oldest countries ever to be known continuously inhabited areas on Earth; fossil remains of humans and pre-human hominids have been found dating back over two million years. About 2,000 years ago, Bantu-speaking people began to arrive from western Africa in a series of migrations. Later, Nilotic pastoralists arrived, and continued to immigrate into the area through to the 18th century. Travellers and merchants from the Persian Gulf and Western India have visited the East African coast since early in the first millennium AD. Islam was practised on the Swahili coast as early as the eighth or ninth century AD. Claiming the coastal strip, Omani Sultan Seyyid Said moved his capital to Zanzibar City in 1840. During this time, Zanzibar became the center for the Arab slave trade.
In the late 19th century, Imperial Germany conquered the regions that are now Tanzania (minus Zanzibar), Rwanda, and Burundi, and incorporated them into German East Africa. During World War I, an invasion attempt by the British was thwarted by German General Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck, who then mounted a drawn out guerrilla campaign against the British. The post-World War I accords and the League of Nations charter designated the area a British Mandate, except for a small area in the northwest, which was ceded to Belgium and later became Rwanda and Burundi). British rule came to an end in 1961 after a relatively peaceful (compared with neighbouring Kenya, for instance) transition to independence, with Julius Nyerere as the first president. After the Zanzibar Revolution overthrew the Arab regime in neighboring Zanzibar, which had become independent in 1963, the island merged with mainland Tanganyika to form the nation of Tanzania on 26 April 1964. Nyerere set up one-party rule. The communist bloc powers of China, East Germany and the USSR established friendly relations with the new regime. Corruption was rampant.
Years of socialism left the country as one of the poorest, the least developed and the most aid-dependent in the world. From the mid 1980s, the regime financed itself by borrowing from the International Monetary Fund and underwent some reforms. From the mid 1980s Tanzania’s GDP per capita has grown and poverty has been reduced and tourism has risen to proportions which are becoming almost beyond sustainability.
Geography of Tanzania
At 947’300 km², Tanzania is the world’s 31st-largest country. Compared to other African countries, it is slightly smaller than Egypt and comparable in size to Nigeria. It lies mostly between latitudes 1° and 12°S, and longitudes 29° and 41°E. Tanzania is mountainous in the northeast, where Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak, is situated. To the north and west are Lake Victoria (Africa’s largest lake) and Lake Tanganyika (the continent’s deepest lake, known for its unique species of fish); to the southwest lies Lake Nyasa. Central Tanzania comprises a large plateau, with plains and arable land. The eastern shore is hot and humid, with the island of Zanzibar lying just offshore.
Tanzania contains many large and ecologically significant wildlife parks, including the famous Ngorongoro Crater, Serengeti National Park in the north, and Selous Game Reserve and Mikumi National Park in the south. Gombe National Park in the west is known as the site of Dr. Jane Goodall’s studies of chimpanzee behaviour. The government of Tanzania through its department of tourism has embarked on a campaign to promote the Kalambo water falls in the southwestern region of Rukwa as one of Tanzania’s main tourist destinations. The Kalambo Falls are the second highest in Africa and are located near the southern tip of Lake Tanganyika. The Menai Bay Conservation Area is Zanzibar’s largest marine protected area. The Engaresero village on the Western shores of Lake Natron has been chosen by the government of Tanzania to exemplify the Maasai pastoral system given its singularity, integrity, high diversity of habitats and biodiversity. The site also has major additional significance, because of the presence of Lake Natron and the volcano Ol Doinyo Lengai, which have immense ecological, geological and cultural value. The community has demonstrated a strong resilience in facing threats to their systems, and has maintained associated social and cultural institutions, which ensure its sustainability under prevailing environmental conditions.
- Northwestern Tanzania – includes the Serengeti and access to Lake Victoria.
- North Coast of Tanzania – includes untouched beaches around Pangani
- North Coast of Tanzania
- Central Tanzania – is a vast grassland plateau
- Northern Highlands – includes Africa’s tallest mountain, Kilimanjaro
- Southern Highlands – Ruaha National Park, volcanic mountains, crater lakes, natural attractions, waterfalls, beautiful Matema Beach
- Southern Tanzania
- Western Tanzania includes Lake Tanganyika and Katavi National Park
- Zanzibar – an island off Tanzania’s coast in the Indian Ocean.
- Dar es Salaam – the biggest city and economical capital of Tanzania, home to Tanzania’s Government, Embassies and NGOs
- Dodoma – the political capital of Tanzania, home to Tanzania’s parliament
- Arusha – gateway to the Kilimanjaro and northern parks
- Moshi – another gateway to the Kilimanjaro
- Mwanza – in the northwest along the shores of Lake Victoria
- Kigoma – in the west along the shores of Lake Tanganyika
- Tabora – central west of the country
- Iringa – central Tanzania
- Morogoro – centre of the country, in between Dar es Salaam and Dodoma
- Mbeya – south of the country, gateway to Zambia
- Mtwara – southeast of Tanzania
Tanzania’s Sights and Activities
Tanzania is one of the best countries in Africa to experience a real African safari and along with Kenya it probably is the best in East Africa. For more information about a safari in Tanzania check the safari article for more details about possibilities, costs and parks to choose from. For relaxation after the safari there are plenty of beaches along the shoreline of Tanzania, such as Pangani area in the North or the beaches south of Dar es Salaam all the way to Mozambique.
Serengeti National Park
Tanzania’s oldest and most popular national park, the Serengeti National Park is famed for its annual migration, when some six million hooves pound the open plains, as more than 200’000 zebras and 300’000 Thomson’s gazelle join the wildebeest’s trek for fresh grazing. It is placed on the Unesco World Heritage List. It is possible to see all of the Big Five in the park, though with off-roading being illegal you will probably have to rely on binoculars to see any leopards, as they are generally hiding in the treetops.
A UNESCO World Site Heritage, the Ngorongoro Crater with its steep walls of 610 metres has become a natural enclosure for a very wide variety of wildlife, including most of the species found in East Africa, except the giraffe.
Aside from herds of zebra, gazelle and wildebeest, the crater is home to the “big five” of rhinoceros, lion, leopard, elephant and buffalo, and is often an excellent chance to see wildlife.
Selous Game Reserve
The Selous Game Reserve is the second biggest game reserve of Africa and you can find wild dogs, elephants, black rhinos, crocodiles, cheetahs, and many more different kinds of wildlife living in the same areas. Relatively undisturbed by human impact, this is a great place to go and usually a better option that the more crowded Serengeti National Park. Covering 50’000 square kilometres of land, this Reserve was made an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982. There are a few good lodges that you can stay at in the Reserve, as well as many different guided safaris.
Katavi National Park
Isn’t the biggest park in Tanzania but it is by far the most remote and is jam packed with game. It’s famous for having the highest density of mammals per square kilometre of all Tanzania’s parks and for its huge herds of buffalo (up to 2,000). However, the best feature is that few people know about Katavi. Because of that, it only receives about 300 visitors per year in comparison with Serengeti’s 2 millions visitors.
Kilimanjaro National Park
Kilimanjaro National Park is a Tanzanian national park, located 300 kilometres (190 mi) south of the equator and in Kilimanjaro Region, Tanzania. The park is located near the city of Moshi. The park includes the whole of Mount Kilimanjaro above the tree line and the surrounding montane forest belt above 1’820 meters as well as the WMA (Wildlife Management Area) plain behind the Kilimanjaro stretching all the way to Kenya’s Amboseli National Park. It covers an area of 1,688 square kilometres, 2°50’–3°10’S latitude, 37°10’–37°40’E longitude. The park is administered by the Tanzania National Parks Authority (TNPA).
Is the longest and second deepest lake in the world. It is also estimated to be the second largest freshwater lake in the world by volume. It is not easy to get to, but the long dirt roads are well worth it. It is absolutely stunning and its crystal clear waters are full with at least 250 different kinds of fish. Since 2004, the lake has been a massive focus to monitor the state of the lake, improve water quality, and set common criteria for acceptable levels of sediments and pollution. In fact, the water is so clean that in some places of Lake Tanganyika, you can drink it!
Has always been a point of interest and a busy harbor town throughout the centuries. These days the little town seems a bit sleepy and will give you the impression of Africa some decades back. The beaches around that area are still unspoiled and not much visited, hence a good alternative to Zanzibar.
Other Tanzanian National Parks
- Arusha National Park
- Gombe Stream National Park
- Jozani Forest Chwaka Bay National Park (Zanzibar)
- Kitulo National Park
- Lake Manyara National Park
- Mkomazi National Park
- Mahale Mountains National Park
- Mikumi National Park
- Ruaha National Park
- Rubondo Island National Park
- Saadani National Park
- Saanane Island National Park
- Tarangire National Park
- Uduzungwa Mountains National Park
Events and Festivals in Tanzania
In Tanzania, the best places to enjoy festivals are Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar.
Bagamoyo Arts Festival – Held in the coastal town of Bagamoyo, between Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar, this week-long festival is great to be a part of! The Babamoyo Arts Festival features traditional and contemporary music and dance, as well as grand exhibitions, acrobatic shows, and workshops.
Eid al-Fitr – Zanzibar is the place to witness Eid al-Fitr, the end of Ramadan. The best site is Makunduchi where there is much pageantry, dancing and dining.
Karibu Travel and Tourism Fair – For those in Arusha in May/June, the Karibu Travel and Tourism Fair is a must to partake in, the biggest of its kind in East Africa. There are all sorts of Tanzanian items for purchase, from gemstones and furniture to safari gear and wine.
Kiliman Adventure Challenge – A triathlon if there ever was one, the Kiliman Adventure Challenge involves three gruelling events in February to discover the “KiliMan.” Events include a hike up Mount Kilimanjaro (not judged), follwed by a mountain bike jaunt around the great circumference, and finally the Kilimanjaro Marathon.
Kilimanjaro Marathon – A separate entity from the Kiliman Adventure Challenge, the Kilimanjaro Marathon is a road race under the guise of the world’s highest solitary mountain. There’s also a half marathon and fun runs so everyone can get involved. The events take place in late February when it’s the coolest.
Mapinduzi Day (Revolution Day of Zanzibar) – The day celebration takes place every year on the 12th of January to mark Zanzibar’s liberation from the Omanis and British rule in 1964. The celebration start the night before at midnight, with the sound of guns and canons, followed by major fireworks in Mnazi Moja ground for night long music and dancing celebration. On the 12th of January it mainly features a military, police, government parastatal entreprise parade, in the national stadium of Zanzibar.
Mwaka Kogwa Festival (Zanzibar) – A four-day event held in July/August, the Is a must see for visitors to Tanzania. This festival is where locals will gather, men thrash each other with banana stalks to settle arguments from the previous year, and women dress up, sing, and dance. There is even a straw hut that is set on fire and a big feast after that! It is a really great look into local Tanzanian culture.
Mzalendo Halisi Music Festival – A two-day music festival in May, Mzalendo Halisi is staged in Kigitonyama in northwest Dar es Salaam. It features traditional Tanzanian music by local performers along with art and cultural exhibitions.
Sauti za Busara – Held in Zanzibar every year in February, this Festival is the celebration of Zanzibar and East African Music, many Music Stars from Africa and beyond are always present during this amazing Music festival. A must not miss rendez-vous should you be in Zanzibar during the first 10 days of February.
Union Day – Arguably one of the biggest celebrations in Tanzania, Union Day is celebrated on April 26, when the Zanzibar Islands joined Tanganyika (now known as the Republic of Tanzania) in 1964. Locals get dressed up in their traditional garb in the main cities and you can expect plenty of flag waving and parades.
Wanyambo Festival – The Wanyambo Festival is one of the best opportunities to check out the local culture of Tanzania in early January. The event is staged in the northern area of Dar es Salaam known as Makumbusho, with lots of traditional music, dance, costumes, and food.
Zanzibar International Film Festival and Festival of the Dhow Countries – held in early July every year, this festival is one of music and movies. It used to be two festivals now forming a week long festival. This a great festival for music and movie lovers as there is something to do every day with local screenings throughout the city and great World premiere movies projections.
Tanzania generally has a warm tropical climate with humid weather year round. Temperatures are generally around 30 °C during the day and still above 20 °C at night at most places around the coast and on Zanzibar as well as places more south and west. In the central and central north though conditions are somewhat different with temperatures during the day slightly lower during the cooler June to September period, but a bit higher in the hot December to February period. Night temperatures can drop below 10 °C at night though during the cooler June to September period, mainly because of the altitude of places like Arusha and the capital Dodoma. The central parts of the country have a totally dry time during these months as well, whereas the coastal areas and Zanzibar never are entirely dry. Instead, they have a long wet season from March to May with April being the wettest month. It can rain for several days on end, whereas during the short wet period from late October to early December rain usually comes in late afternoon downpours. Note that some parts like the Ngorongoro Crater Rim and the higher parts of the Kilimanjaro mountain never get really hot.
Tanzania, Getting There
The reborn Air Tanzania is the national airline of the country and is based at Julius Nyerere International Airport (DAR) near Dar es Salaam. for the time being it only offers flights within Tanzania. However the three of the four International airports, with Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO) and Zanzibar Abeid Karume International Airport (ZNZ) offer direct flights to many cities of East, Southern Africa, and extremely well connected Worldwide, with the following major airlines flying Tanzania:
Air Burundi, Air Edelweiss, Air India, Air Malawi, Air Rwanda, Air Tanzania, Air Uganda, Condor, Egypt Air, Emirates, Ethiopian Airlines, FastJet, Fly 540, Fly Dubai,Kenyan Airways, KLM, LAM Mozambique Airlines, Mango Airlines, Meridiana, Neos, Oman Air, Precision Air, Qatar Airways, South African Airways, Swiss International Air Lines, Turkish Airlines
Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO) is probably of more importance to travellers as it is closer to the Kilimanjaro mountain and safari parks. There are direct flights, from many worldwide airport hubs, with Air Edelweiss, Condor, Ethiopian Airlines, FastJet, Kenya Airways, KLM, Precision Air, Qatar, Turkish Airlines and many others.
Should you combine your Tanzania Northern circuit safari another safari in the South of Tanzania or / and with a beach extension in Zanzibar, we would suggest you to fly via Nairobi to Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO) with an open-jaw flight and fly out of Dar es Salaam International Airport or Zanzibar International Airport, it is more convenient as there are many regional airlines connecting together all Tanzanian and Zanzibar Destinations.
Centrally located in Zambia, north of the capital Lusaka, Kapiri Mposhi is the starting point of a two nights train ride to Dar es Salaam on the Tanzanian coast. From here you can travel further by boat or plane to the tropical island of spices, Zanzibar. This so called TAZARA Railway (Tanzania-Zambia Railway) operates scheduled services twice a week, leaving in both ends of the line on Tuesdays and Fridays around 4:00pm, arriving on Thursdays and Sundays at 9:30am in Zambia, but after noon in the other direction in Dar es Salaam.
Travelling to and from Tanzania is straightforward, provided you have your car papers and insurance in order. A bribe usually is not necessary, though you never know in Africa. You can use a lot of border crossings, mainly with Kenya, Zambia, Rwanda and Malawi.
Buses connect Dar es Salaam with Lusaka in Zambia, taking almost 30 hours to cover the distance. Buses also travel several times a week between Dar es Salaam and Lilongwe in Malawi.
You would be surprise to know that there is a network of buses from Ethiopia, through East Africa, all the way down to South Africa and up again from South Africa, through the West Coast of Africa, all the way up to Mauritania and Morocco. As a matter of facts you could almost drive along the entire Coast of Africa, with the exception of a few countries, such as Equatorial Guinea, Liberia, Libya, Somalia, Eritrea… Last but not least the well known overland journey from Cape to Cairo road is unfortunately not feasible anymore, for safety reasons due to Soudan unrest!
There are boats across Lake Tanganyika to and from Zambia and across Lake Malawi to and from Malawi.
The trip to Zambia starts in Kigoma, usually on Fridays or Satudays. There are ferries between southwestern Tanzania and Mozambique via Malawi on the MV Songea between Mbamba Bay and Nkhata Bay. From here it goes on to Likoma Island (Malawi), Cóbuè and Metangula (both in Mozambique) on the MV Ilala. The MV Ilala departs from Monkey Bay (Malawi) at 10am Friday, arriving in Metangula (via Chipoka and Nkhotakota in Malawi) at 6am Saturday, reaching Cóbuè (Mozambique) around midday, Likoma Island at 1.30pm and Nkhata Bay at 1am Sunday morning. In southern direction departures are at 8pm Monday from Nkhata Bay and at 6.30am Tuesday from Likoma Island, reaching Cóbuè at 7am and Metangula at midday.
Getting around Tanzania
Tanzania has four international airports located within its borders and over 100 smaller airports or landing strips. In addition to many smaller good regional airlines, Precision Air flies between Bukoba, Kigoma, Kilimanjaro, Musoma, Mwanza, Shinyanga, Tabora and Zanzibar. Also now Air Tanzania has several flights within Tanzania, especially interesting for Mwanza, and slowly but surely start to expand its network in all of Tanzania and beyond. As there are many airstrip in Tanzania travel by air is pretty easy, however can be quite costly. The Tanzanian islands of Zanzibar, Pemba and Mafia too are well deserved.
Tanzania Railways Corporation has services from Dar es Salaam to the interior at Tabora. Here, a branch goes to Kigoma in the west and one goes south to Mwanza.
Tanzania and Zambia Railway Authority has now trains between Dar es Salaam and Zambia three to four times a week, with an amazing scenic journey through Selous Game Reserve and many stops in Tanzania on the route as well.
Tanzania has a surprisingly well maintained network of tarred roads, which constitutes for 80% of its passenger traffic, and some secondary dirt roads which are passable at all times. Many other roads on the other hand become impassable after heavy rains. It is best to rent 4wd vehicles, especially if you want to explore the beautiful national parks that Tanzania has to offer.
Traffic drives on the left and cars can be hired at major cities like Dar es Salaam and Arusha, Moshi, Mwanza, Zanzibar also with a driver if you prefer. An international driving license together with a national driver’s licence is preferred as long as it is valid and as long as it is in English. For Zanzibar ask your car rental organization to organize a Zanzibar driving permit, it doesn’t even cost 10 US$, but saves you a lot of hassles with unscrupulous policemen, pretending that your driving license is not valid to make a quick buck at your expense! Note that it can be expensive to rent cars in Tanzania, so it is best to split up the costs with several persons.
There are dozens of bus companies, one of which is Dar Express, Scandinavia Express (yes, you have read it right!), offering services between all major cities and regional towns, like Dar es Salaam, Arusha, Tabora, Dodoma, Mwanza, Moshi, Morogoro and Kigoma.
Alongside the large bus companies are smaller independents who run ‘Dala Dala’s’. These are small people carriers, transit vans and converted pick-up trucks. They run all the main routes and many more. Simply turn up, hop on and off you go. There are two slight drawbacks, they only go when they are full and even when they are full, they can squeeze more on. In general though, they are cheap, fast and fun.
Azam Marine run frequent, fast and comfortable hydrofoils and catamarans between Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar, taking around one and a half hour each way. There are also services from Zanzibar to Pemba.
There are ferries on Lake Tanganyika and Lake Victoria. There is an overnight service on Lake Victoria between the ports of Bukoba and Mwanza which takes 10 hours. The service on Lake Tanganyika runs between Kigoma in the west of Tanzania and Mpulunga in Zambia at the south of the lake, stopping at other Tanzanian places as well.
It’s a great country to cycle through. Traffic can be bad at times, so it can be dangerous especially since bikes don’t have the right of way. It’s best to keep an eye out for cars. In the rural areas, watch out for the wildlife and predators!
Visa Formalities for Tanzania
Nationals of the following countries do not need a visa:
Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, Botswana, Brunei, Cyprus, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Kenya, Kiribati, Lesotho, Malaysia, Malawi, Malta, Maldives, Mauritius, Namibia, Nauru, Sao Tome & Principe, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Seychelles, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Swaziland, Tuvalu, Tonga, Uganda, Vanuatu, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Also no visa is required for stays of less than 3 months for citizens of Namibia, Romania, Rwanda, Hong Kong and all commonwealth member states (except the United kingdom, Canada, Bangladesh, New Zealand, Nigeria, India, & South Africa). The latter Commonwealth countries and most other nationalities can get a visa upon arrival for a fee which is usually around $50, but can be higher for some foreigners.
You can get the visa upon arrival at Dar-es-Salaam International Airport, Kilimanjaro International Airport, Zanzibar International Airport and Namanga boarder crossing point between Tanzania and Kenya. Some other points might join this list later, but for now you will need a visa beforehand if travelling from Mozambique or Rwanda for example.
Multiple entry visas are usually more expensive as well, US$ 100 but need to be applied at an Tanzanian Embassy or High Commission in your country of residence, this visa is valid for a year with a maximum stay of 3 months at a time.
In general, it is advised to obtain a visa before you arrive in Tanzania, because some rules tend to change now and then. Most times though, travellers will be fine to get one upon arrival.
The following nationalities cannot get a visa on arrival:
Afghanistan, Algeria, Bangladesh, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Gambia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Liberia, Libya, Mali, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sri Lanka, Somalia , Sudan, Syria, Togo, Tunisia, Turkey and Yemen.
Some of the East African countries, Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda for the time being have already implemented the East Africa Multiple Entry visa. However the East African Community (EAC) has not yet managed to implement this visa to Tanzania, and currently Burundi for obvious reasons. Which basically is one visa which is valid in five countries: Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi. The trial phase was a success and is now available to other tourists than Germany, France, the US, Italy, Japan, Canada, South Africa, the UK, Netherlands, Belgium and the Scandinavian countries. Please refer to any of the East African Embassies for more information.
Money in Tanzania
The local currency is the Tanzanian Shilling (TZS), which can only be obtained in Tanzania. Coins are available in 50, 100, 200 and 500 and banknotes are in denominations of 500, 1’000, 2’000, 5’000 and 10’000 shillings. Please note that older or torn notes are not accepted everywhere, so you should carry newer bank notes. The 10,000 notes can be difficult to break when shopping in small shops, a.k.a. dukas. In Tanzania, it’s usually the customer’s responsibility to provide exact change. But if they do agree to provide change, you could be left with several 1000 and 500 notes of very poor quality. However, you won’t have such problems in the large hotels and restaurants catering to foreigners.
US dollars are welcome in all shops, but they often give back in Shilling at unfavourable exchange rates. ATM’s can be found in many large cities and usually have their own security guards. Please note that the daily cash withdrawal limit is about US$ 500 which you receive in local Tanzanian Shilling.
Foreign currency can be exchanged at banks, bureau de changes and most hotels have forex facilities (keep in mind that the rates here can be higher and better than the ones in banks). Please note that money exchange on streets is prohibited and even dangerous. Major banks are open from 09:00am-5:00pm Monday till Friday and from 09:00am-01:00pm on Saturdays.
International credit cards are accepted by most stores, restaurants, hotels, camps, lodges, car rental firms etc. However they are not widely used and many small shops in rural areas will not accept them. You will have to pay a surcharge between 3,5 to 5%, if you use a credit card.
Tanzania does not have any restrictions about the amount of foreign currency or travellers cheques you may bring with you.
Working in Tanzania
There is a wide assortment of volunteer organisations sending volunteers and interns to Tanzania to do work in health care, orphanages, education, and development projects. Finding a paying job may be more of a daunting task, taking more time and making use of local connections, but a job could be certainly obtainable when sought hard enough.
Studying in Tanzania
Various schools and volunteer programs offer courses ranging from Beginners Swahili to Economic Development. Dar es Salaam also has a well-established University, which has exchange programs with several universities in the US and other countries.
The two most spoken languages are the Bantu Swahili language and English, the latter inherited by colonial rule. They serve as the two official languages. Currently, around 80% of people from Tanzania speak Swahili as a first language, and up to 20% of them speak it as a second language. Most Tanzanians are not only bilingual, knowing how to speak Swahili as well as their local language, but many are also trilingual and are able to speak English.
Tanzania is a multilingual country; they have many languages that are spoken in their country but no single language is spoken natively by a majority of the population. There are over 129 languages that exist in Tanzania, 126 are still actively being spoken and 3 are no longer spoken or ‘extinct’. .
Within Tanzania’s various populations and ethnic groups, they typically speak their mother tongues within their own communities. Among the languages spoken in Tanzania, all of the four major languages of Africa’s language families are present including: Bantu, Cushitic, Nilotic, and Khoisan. The two official languages, English and Swahili, are used to varying degrees of fluency when communicating with other populations. In 1984, the nation announced that Swahili is the language of the political sphere and primary/adult education, and English would be the language of secondary education/universities, technology, and the courts. People are encouraged to use Swahili, particularly in urban areas, as often as possible in a successful attempt to unify the many different ethnic groups that live in Tanzania, unlike Kenya which has recurrent ethnic tensions among different communities.
Eating in Tanzania
The food in Tanzania is of a relatively high standard, with less chance of catching stomach complaints than in other countries in the region.
As with many other African countries, their most common cultural dish is Ugali. Usually composed of corn, with a similar consistency to a stiff paste or porridge, this dish isn’t bad to eat for those who have never tried it before! Other local foods that are typically eaten are mixtures of cassava and millet flours (also used for ugali), rice, cooked green bananas, beef, goat meat, beans, fish, and leafy green vegetables.
Street food is also cheap and plentiful. Barbecued maize on the cob is very nice, as are the chipped potatoes (fries), cooked over a roaring fire.
Mandazi is a sweet doughnut-styled food that is mostly made fresh each morning. Great with coffee in the morning, it makes an ideal snack.
Drinking in Tanzania
Bottled water is cheap and widely available throughout the country. You shouldn’t drink the tap water unless you have no other option, and it must either be filtered with a high quality filter and purifier or brought to a boil before consumption. Recent tests on tap water have found it contaminated with e-coli bacteria.
Konyagi is a wonderful gin-like beverage, sold only in Tanzania. Domestic beers are Kilimanjaro, Serengeti and Safari, which are western-style and very good. Imports include Tusker, Stella Artois, and Castle. Locally produced banana-beer is also available at times, but questionably safe to drink. Traditionally, you will drink this out of a hollowed gourd. First drink the guests, who then pass it to the elders. In some parts of Tanzania, fermented bamboo juice (Pombe) is the common tipple.
Passion fruit, mango, and orange juices are available in many restaurants, and excellent when the fruits are in season. Soft drinks are widely available; Stoney Tangawizi (ginger ale – tangawizi means ‘ginger’, in Swahili) is one of the most popular. Other popular beverages are Orange Fanta, Bitter Lemon, Soda Water, Tonic Water, and Lassi (a sweet or salty yogurt drink).
Sleeping in Tanzania
Although Tanzania is still considered as developing country, there are many great places to stay, especially the parks, on Zanzibar and some larger cities. Accommodation options range from backpacker hostels and cheap pensions to luxurious hotels and lodges and anything in between.
One of the other great places to stay in Tanzania is in the south in a place called Selous Game Reserve, which is Africa’s largest reserve as well as a World heritage site. You can see all kinds of wildlife there including elephants, cheetahs, rhinos, hippos, and crocodiles. Although accommodation is somewhat limited there, there are plenty of nice places to stay.
In Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s largest and richest city there are many different hotels and guest houses to stay.
Health in Tanzania
There are no vaccinations legally required to travel to Tanzania. There are two exceptions though. You have to have a cholera stamp (prove of the fact that you don’t have that disease) when going to Zanzibar. And you need a yellow fever vaccination if you have travelled to a country (7 days or less before entering Tanzania) where that disease is widely prevalent. A yellow fever vaccination is recommended anyway!
Still, it’s a good thing to get your vaccinations in order before travelling to Tanzania. The general vaccination against Diphtheria, Tetanus and Polio (DTP) is recommended. Also both hepatitis A as well as typhoid would be recommended.
If you are staying longer than 3 months or have a particular risk (travelling by bike, handling of animals, visits to caves) you might consider a rabies vaccination. Vaccination against Tuberculosis as well as hepatitis B are also sometimes recommended for stays longer than 3 months. When staying longer than 6 months, vaccination against meningitis might be recommended, depending on your contact with other people.
Like most African countries south of the Sahara, Malaria is prevalent in the country. Don’t underestimate this tropical disease and take precautions. Buy repellent (preferably with 50% DEET), and sleep under a net.
Finally, other possible health issues include diarrhea and other general travellers’ diseases like motion sickness. Watch what you eat and drink and in case you get it, drink plenty of fluids (to prevent dehydration) and bring ORS. Also note that Southern Africa and thus Tanzania as well has a high percentage of people with AIDS.
Safety in Tanzania
In general Tanzania is a safe country to travel around, though you are advised to keep an eye out when in Dar es Salaam, especially at night. Better to avoid quiet streets and take taxis instead. Your biggest hazards will probably be natural ones, like heat or the altitude when going up Mount Kilimanjaro, or mosquitos which can transmit diseases. Also traffic can be a problem, with regular accidents.
Communication in Tanzania
Major tourist areas and cities have internet cafes and many hotels offer (free) wifi nowadays. Connections can be slower at more remote places.
Also safari oriented places offer some sort of internet connections as well, by computers or wifi.
Also mobile data is relatively fast in most of the cities 3G, and 4G LTE in Dar es Salaam, Arusha and Stonetown in Zanzibar, while Edge is the standard for rural areas. The fastest networks are Tigo, Vodafone and Halotel.
Phone in Tanzania
The International Dialling Code for Tanzania is +255, followed by area codes (e.g. (0)22 for Dar es Salaam, or (0)27 for Arusha). Calling from Tanzania, you dial 00 plus the relevant country code (44 for the UK, 1 for the USA).
There are six cell providers in Tanzania: Airtel, Zantel, Vodafone, Tigo, Halotel and TTCL, only five of them have reliable roaming facilities. Connections are good in Tanzania, even in remote places such as Tarangire, Manyara, Ngorongoro Crater, and some parts of the Serengeti (the western and northern region of the Serengeti not). You can buy the prepaid cards in amounts ranging from 500 to 10’000 TZS and select one of the numerous call and data bundles, surely more advantageous than roaming. You can even buy a cell phone while in Tanzania. The price for a simple cell phone ranges between $25 and to $80 for a basic smart phone, the sim card costs around more or less 1’000 to 2’000 TZS, but need to be registered with a passport copy.
Avoid roaming charges with you home cellphone and turn it off. Instead, use a local SIM card or just wifi.
Post in Tanzania
Tanzania Posts Corporation is the national postal services of Tanzania. There are post offices in most major cities and towns throughout the country, which are generally open Monday to Friday from 8:00am to 4:30pm and Saturday from 9:00am to noon. Services are generally quite reliable though not very fast. Prices for international airmail services between 1’000 to 2’500 TZS, to other countries in East Africa between 500 to 1’500 TZS. For Europe and North America for postcards and letters up to 20 grams. Small packages start from 10’000 to 20’000 TZS, but it’s generally better to do business with international parcel services like TNT, UPS, DHL or FedEx.
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