Tanzania caught me by surprise in many ways. And sure some things might happen and you won’t be ever ready. But in a lot of cases, you can prepare yourself at least a little bit. There is a lot of things to know before going to Tanzania from which vaccination should you get to something more basic like which clothes should you pack with you.
Things to know before going to Tanzania
Visas are necessary
For Tanzania, it is necessary to have a visa whether you are from the EU, US or Canada. You can get a visa upon your arrival but it is much better if you apply in advance. It takes only a couple of minutes and you will get a visa to your mail within the next couple of days. You can apply online for visas here.
Visa to Tanzania cost 50 dollars. At the same time, you will need to prove that you have a return ticket back home and a passport that is valid for the next 6 months. If you are planning to re-enter Tanzania, you might need another visa that costs 100 dollars. There are also special visas for volunteering that are more expensive. So if you are coming here to volunteer, you should ask people who organize it, which visa should you apply for.
Malaria and other sicknesses are a real thing here
You must get vaccinated before coming to Tanzania. The country requires that every visitor has yellow fever and hepatitis vaccination, but there is more that you can do for your health.
Unless you will stay just at Zanzibar resorts, definitely get anti-malaria pills. I know that a lot of travelers are saying that it is not necessary, but it takes only one mosquito to get that disease. Also, get some good repellent, so you can feel safer against things that don’t have vaccines just yet. Like dengue fever.
Other than that, I would certainly recommend getting a typhoid vaccination if you don’t want to risk this sickness from local food or water.
Malaria is only in some places in Tanzania but it is still much safer to take the pills. Most of the safari parks have little danger of malaria. And it is just better to be safe than sorry.
Tanzania is safe to travel, but…
I mean it is still Africa. It is not like you are going to a country of cannibals or something like that. But there are still minor thefts, people will try to ask you for more money than you should normally pay for and so on.
Generally, it is a very safe place to travel even as a solo female traveler. You will still need some basic precautions. For example, don’t travel in shiny things with your jewelry sticking up or your phone loosely coming from your pocket. That is just asking for trouble. Also, a good thing to know before going to Tanzania – most crimes are happening in Dar Es Saalam. I don’t know why, but there were reported some thefts, muffing and kidnapping of tourists – mainly for money. So no sexual attacks or anything worse. That is just a heads up.
The easiest thing that you can do to stay safe is to book things through the hotel or trusted company – some that you find on the internet that has good reviews. That way you know that you will be safe nevertheless and at the same time, they can give you good advice on where to go and which places should you stay away from.
Weather can be tricky
It can get cold. Yep, I was surprised by that in Peru and now I got surprised by that again in the middle of Africa. It is not like it is cold everywhere, but more like if you go to higher places, so around mount Kilimanjaro or Ngorongoro crater. There it can get very cold. Overall, when we were camping in Ngorongoro, I was freezing. So it is necessary to take a jacket and maybe some warmer clothes. That is one of the things I wish to know before I travel to Tanzania.
But otherwise, Tanzanian weather is pretty nice. There is only a general thing that you should be aware of. Tanzania has a dry and rainy season. From June to October, there is almost no rain. That particular thing is really good for safari. Because there is a shortage of water, animals come closer together in specific places where still is some water.
The rainy season lasts from March to May. During these months is not only harder to spot animals but also harder to get around safari parks because they are filled with mud. You can also expect hardcore rain, which would make it very unpleasant to go outside.
Proper clothes in Tanzania is a real deal
I was surprised as well, but it does make a big difference in the thing that you are wearing. And now I’m not mentioning whether it is hot or cold. The thing here is, that if you wear bright colors or something very dark, flies will take you as a target first. Which is why it is good to find something that they won’t care too much about. Generally wearing something rather white, beige, khaki or green helps a lot. Especially if you are heading to safari parks that are filled with mosquitos. So it is better to take these clothes rather than get bitten by tsetse flies.
Otherwise, you will need a good swimsuit because you will use it on Zanzibar beaches. Other than that keep in mind that Tanzania is a heavily religious country and you need to have conservative dresses at all times.
You will get lost in Stone town
I guess there is no way around it. I wish it was, but there are just so many streets that look the same. Everyone gets lost here. So if you need to go down to the harbor to find your tour, well, take some extra time. It will be a rough ride.
Stone town is the historic center of Zanzibar city and it is filled with little streets that look almost the same all the time. So you might think that you are going one way when you are heading in a very different direction. The easiest way around would be to use google maps. They are pretty great when it comes to things like this. But keep in mind that there are a couple of side streets that are not even on google maps.
You must tip your guide or driver
And there is a good reason for this. When you go to safari or any tour, your guide would spend with you the whole day, or sometimes even several days. As far as I know, they don’t get paid. If they do, it is not a lot. And it is a seasonal job for them so you must give them something extra. Overall, they learn a lot about how to spot these animals and that takes effort.
Besides most of the drivers and guides are well trained and educated. So they deserve extra money for their services since otherwise, they don’t earn that much.
Tanzania has several airports
I mean it is not a big secret. But it is something nice to know. The biggest airport is in Dar es Saalam, but there are more international airports. Very often there are direct flights to Mount Kilimanjaro or Zanzibar. Tanzania has some great airlines. They might not be cheap but they are reliable and it is great to travel with them inland.
This means that when you are booking your flights, you might choose the exact airport where you are going. For example, if you are going to safari in the Northern part of Tanzania, you might choose the airport in Arusha or Moshi.
Ask for a good car
That is mainly if you are going on a tour of the middle of nowhere. Like if you want to hike to waterfalls or the hot springs. The thing is, there are good roads when it comes to cities. But there are almost no roads when it comes to villages. So, if you feel like you want to explore some hot springs or waterfalls, and you want to go there with a tour, ask for a big proper car.
It is the same thing for safari cars. Most of them are well-maintained jeeps that are pretty safe. But it is not all of them. And this can be dangerous both in case some animal decides to jump on your car or even in a case when you get to a bumpy road in the park. Make sure to ask if the car that you are taking to a certain trip is safe enough.
Some people might not like mzungus
Mzungu is a foreigner. White foreigner. And even though a lot of people would try to use you or be extra friendly because sometimes they see you as a white wallet, there is a lot of people who won’t like you. For example, once I thought I will go and eat in a very small and local place in Zanzibar. Well, I was wrong. I was told that they won’t serve white people.
It doesn’t happen very often but happens. But it is still not a reason to be alarmed. Most people would just tell you that they don’t like mzungus and tell you that they won’t serve them. There is still no big hostility towards the white people and everything is perfectly safe.
Not all the safari parks have all animals
So you want to go to safari, right? Good. Did you think about which animals would you like to see in the wild? No? Well, think about it for a minute. Do you want to see a lion? A cheetah? Rhino? Or something else? The truth is that not all the safari parks have all the animals. For example, Ngorongoro is a great place for seeing lions. But spotting a cheetah or rhino here is a really hard thing to do.
You can find some rhinos in Serengeti. And you can also find a lot of animals in Tarangire. And if you want to see a cheetah or leopard, then you need to head to Serengeti again. So before you go to Tanzania, think for a minute about which animals you would like to see the most and then check out if you can spot them in your park.
Hiking Mount Kilimanjaro is not as easy as you might think
The roof of Africa can be the dream of a lot of travelers. But it is a lot harder than you might think. And I count several aspects here. The first of them is hiking itself. Kilimanjaro is about 5 km. Which means several things. First, you won’t be able to hike it in one day, you will need in fact, at least 4 days to do it and that is the shortest trek. Second, the altitude will eventually catch you. Altitude is a nasty thing when it comes to hiking and you should be prepared for it.
Another thing that might be perhaps a little bit more difficult about hiking Kilimanjaro is the money aspect. Because you will need to pay for a guide, probably for a sherpa as well, cook and count the fact, that it takes several days to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. Usually, things like that cost at least 1500 Euros and you shouldn’t forget to tip all the people that helped you to get there.
Cash is the king of Tanzania
So, of course, there are a couple of ATMs in every bigger town. But that doesn’t mean that people are used to cards everywhere. Anywhere you go to, you will need cash. Perhaps not a lot of it, but you will need at least some.
There are only a couple of very fancy and rather expensive restaurants where you can use cards as well. But it is an exception.
On the tours, you will need to pay with cash as well. If you don’t have any, it is completely normal to ask a driver or a tour guide to stop for you at the closest ATM. But it is always better to have something with you.
Public transport is very confusing
I have already mentioned airplanes. But not everyone is rich enough to keep buying flight tickets. There are a lot of tourist bus companies that are definitely worth the money and will get you the place where you want to go even on time.
But if you want to use just plain local transportation like locals are using, you are stepping into a jungle. Most people would get around with little busses called Dalla-Dalla. These little busses stop on places where are no signs of bus stops and very often there are also no schedules for these buses.
It is still alright and safe to get around with them. But if you need to be on time at the airport, you better ask for a taxi.
People will ask you for money
This is one of the strangest things you should know before going to Tanzania. It doesn’t matter whether you are just using the toilet in an airport or if you are visiting Maasai village. People will always ask you for money.
I got ask for money in bathrooms in the airport from the cleaning lady, also from the hotel manager, from people in a village, that said that they need donations. And I felt sorry for them so of course, I hand them some little cash. But just embrace yourself because if you are going to Tanzania, you will probably face the same.
Maasai traditions still live
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Once you enter Tanzania, you will see a lot of commercials on a lot of different things. You will see people offering you safari tours, climbing Kilimanjaro packages but also visiting Maasai villages.
That is, in fact, one of the most famous things to do in Tanzania. If you want to see some other culture, you should do it. But keep in mind the fact, that most of the things that you will see on a tour are arranged theatre. With schools and places where they ask you for donations in the end.
However, the Maasai tradition is still alive. There are still people who live that way, they just don’t like to be shown to tourists like trained monkeys. If you are interested in Maasai culture, you should probably go and see the village and see at least a part of it because it is probably closest you will get to the real village.
Before you visit Tanzania, learn how to bargain
So a lot of us are used to principles where you get a price and you are happy with that. You just pay the price on price tag and that is it. Well, that is not how it works in Tanzania. At least not most of the time.
People would scream at you their prices. Especially if you are planning to go to markets. You will get a lot of “Good fish for 500?” And you just need to learn how to bargain if you want to survive in this world. The same things go for a taxi. Very often you would need to ask for a different price and then just work around it. It is not something nice but it will do.
Safari parks aren’t the cheapest things in Tanzania
This is one of the crucial things to know before you visit Tanzania. Safari isn’t cheap. And I know, it looks like it might be. You just drive around in nature and watching animals that are not living in your garden (I hope!). But there is more to it.
Every time you are visiting the safari park, you will need to pay entrance tickets. And because you will enter an area with endangered species the tickets aren’t the less expensive thing. At the same time, you cannot do a self-drive safari, which means that you will need to get a company that would organize the whole thing. The prices are somewhere around 300 dollars for a two-day budget safari.
Is Tanzania cheap but…
A burning question that a lot of people might ask. And the answer is – yes and no. Yes for the hotels. Even luxury hotels can be relatively cheap comparing to other countries.
But if you want to see something, you will need to pay for it. And most of the tours can get quite expensive over time. It is much easier if you are traveling in a group. But if you are a solo traveler, tours in Tanzania aren’t the cheapest ones. It is usually something about 50 dollars per hour, which means that if you have an itinerary for 12 days or more, it will get pricey.
You are entering a conservative country
It is not a big surprise that the country in Africa is conservative. And it means a lot of things. But what you need to know before going to Tanzania is the fact, that you will need a wardrobe for it. In a lot of cases, walking around in super short shorts is just not the most clever thing to do. You will need to cover your knees and possibly shoulders as well.
At the same time, you should speak respectfully about religion. That is not the biggest problem for most people. And a lot of times, people wouldn’t even ask you about it.
Another thing to know about conservative countries like this is that homosexuality is strictly illegal and any signs of affection to same-gender can lead you to a problem. Yes. And I’m sorry about it. I really hope that this will get better very soon.
One Extra thing to know before going to Tanzania: Dollars are the girls best friends
Not just girls. Everyone. The issue with Tanzanian currency is that it is constantly going up and down. And because of that a lot of people would rather ask you for dollars than their own money, just so it would be more stable.
But it is not necessary to pay just with dollars. Most of the time it is alright to pay in Tanzania currency. The only thing is that they will have to recount everything.
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