Tanzania Travel Guide – Everything You Need to Know

Welcome to Tanzania, a land of breathtaking landscapes, vibrant cultures, and some of the most spectacular wildlife on the planet. Nestled in East Africa, Tanzania is a paradise for nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers alike. From the iconic plains of the Serengeti and the pristine beaches of Zanzibar to the towering peak of Mount Kilimanjaro, this diverse and enchanting country offers a wealth of experiences for travelers. Whether you’re embarking on a thrilling safari, immersing yourself in local cultures, or simply relaxing on the shores of the Indian Ocean, Tanzania promises an unforgettable journey into the heart of Africa. Join us as we explore the wonders of tourism in Tanzania and the incredible adventures that await you.

What’s the Best Time to Visit? 📅

The best time to visit Tanzania as a tourist depends on your specific interests and the experiences you want to enjoy, as the country offers diverse climates and attractions. Tanzania can generally be divided into two main travel seasons:

1. Dry Season (June to October):

  • Best Time for Safari: This is the most popular time for wildlife safaris in Tanzania. The dry season offers excellent game viewing opportunities as animals congregate around water sources, making them easier to spot.
  • Great Migration: If witnessing the Great Migration of wildebeest and zebras in the Serengeti is a priority, visit between June and July when they typically begin their northern migration or from September to October when they return to the south.

2. Wet Season (November to May):

  • Green and Lush Landscapes: This is when Tanzania’s landscapes are at their most vibrant and lush due to the rain. The countryside is beautiful, and birdwatching is exceptional.
  • Lower Crowds: Compared to the dry season, there are fewer tourists, and accommodations may offer lower rates.
  • Calving Season: If you’re interested in witnessing the wildebeest calving season in the southern Serengeti, visit between December and March.

Specific Considerations:

  • Mount Kilimanjaro: If you plan to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, the best times are during the dry seasons from late June to October and from late December to February. These periods offer the most favorable weather conditions for the trek.
  • Zanzibar and the Coast: For beach vacations on the Tanzanian coast and islands like Zanzibar, the dry season from June to October is ideal for clear skies and calm waters. However, Zanzibar and the coast are enjoyable year-round, and the wet season can be a good time to visit if you prefer fewer tourists.
  • Cultural Experiences: If you’re interested in cultural experiences, consider planning your visit to coincide with local festivals and events. For example, the Lamu Cultural Festival on Lamu Island in November or the Mwaka Kogwa Festival in Makunduchi, Zanzibar, in July.

Ultimately, the best time to visit Tanzania depends on your priorities and interests. If wildlife and safaris are your focus, the dry season offers the best game viewing. However, if you’re interested in lush landscapes and a quieter experience, the wet season can be equally rewarding. Always check local conditions and weather forecasts for your specific destination in Tanzania when planning your trip.

What’s the Best Way to Get Around? 🚌

Getting around Tanzania as a tourist can be an adventure in itself, with various transportation options available to explore this vast and diverse country. Here are some of the best ways to get around Tanzania:

  1. Domestic Flights:
    • Tanzania has several domestic airports, and flying between major cities and safari destinations can save you time and provide stunning aerial views.
    • Airlines like Precision Air, Coastal Aviation, and Auric Air operate domestic flights.
  2. Safari Tours and Game Drives:
    • For exploring national parks and wildlife reserves, booking a safari tour or game drive with a reputable tour operator is a popular and convenient option.
    • 4×4 safari vehicles are equipped for wildlife viewing and can access remote areas.
  3. Long-Distance Buses:
    • Long-distance buses are an economical way to travel between cities. Companies like Dar Lux and Scandinavian Express operate comfortable buses on popular routes.
    • Be prepared for long journeys and check the schedule and safety standards of the bus company.
  4. Taxis and Rideshares:
    • Taxis are readily available in major cities like Dar es Salaam, Arusha, and Zanzibar. Use reputable taxi services, and negotiate fares before starting your ride.
    • Rideshare apps like Uber and Bolt are available in some urban areas.
  5. Bajajis and Tuk-Tuks:
    • In smaller towns and urban areas, you’ll find bajajis (three-wheeled taxis) and tuk-tuks as convenient modes of transportation for short distances.
    • Negotiate fares before starting your ride.
  6. Ferries and Boats:
    • To reach coastal destinations and islands like Zanzibar, Mafia Island, and Pemba Island, you can take ferries and boats. Services operate regularly from Dar es Salaam and other coastal cities.
  7. Renting a Car:
    • Renting a car with a driver is an option for those who want more flexibility and independence. It’s especially convenient for exploring off-the-beaten-path destinations.
    • Self-driving in Tanzania is possible but can be challenging due to road conditions, traffic, and local driving habits. Ensure you have proper documentation and a reliable vehicle.
  8. Walking and Cycling:
    • In cities and towns, walking is a great way to explore local neighborhoods, markets, and attractions.
    • Cycling can be enjoyable in areas with low traffic and scenic routes, such as Arusha and Zanzibar.
  9. Hiking and Trekking:
    • For those embarking on treks, such as Mount Kilimanjaro or Ngorongoro Highlands hikes, guided tours and trekking companies are essential.
  10. Motorcycles and Scooters:
    • In some urban areas, you can rent motorcycles and scooters for short trips, but ensure you have the necessary licenses and safety gear.
  11. Hot Air Balloon Rides:
    • In places like the Serengeti, you can take hot air balloon rides for a unique perspective of the wildlife and landscapes.
  12. Hitchhiking:
    • While not as common among tourists, hitchhiking is practiced by some travelers, especially on rural routes. Exercise caution, and use good judgment when accepting rides.

Always plan your transportation in advance, especially for long journeys and safaris, and book accommodations accordingly. Tanzania’s diverse landscapes and attractions make it a fantastic destination for exploration, so choose the mode of transport that best suits your itinerary and travel preferences.

What’s the Official Language?

The official languages of Tanzania are Swahili (Kiswahili) and English. Swahili holds a prominent place in daily communication and is widely spoken throughout the country.

Here are some useful Swahili phrases for tourists:

  1. Hello – Jambo (informal) / Hujambo (formal)
  2. How are you? – Habari gani?
  3. I’m fine – Nzuri
  4. Thank you – Asante (informal) / Asanteni (formal)
  5. Please – Tafadhali
  6. Yes – Ndiyo
  7. No – Hapana
  8. Goodbye – Kwaheri
  9. Excuse me / Sorry – Samahani
  10. What is your name? – Jina lako nani?
  11. My name is [Your Name] – Jina langu ni [Your Name]
  12. How much is this? – Hii ni bei gani?
  13. Where is the bathroom? – Choo kiko wapi?
  14. Water – Maji
  15. Food – Chakula
  16. Help! – Saidia!
  17. I don’t understand – Sifahamu
  18. Numbers: Learn basic numbers like moja (one), mbili (two), tatu (three), etc., to help with shopping and bargaining.

Learning a few Swahili phrases can enhance your interactions with locals and show your appreciation for their culture. Tanzanians generally appreciate when visitors make an effort to use their language. Additionally, English is widely spoken in urban areas and among educated populations, so you can communicate effectively in English as well.

Where to Stay? 🏨

Tanzania offers a wide range of accommodation options for tourists, catering to various budgets and preferences. The choice of where to stay depends on your travel itinerary and the experiences you seek. Here are some popular types of accommodations in Tanzania:

  1. Lodges and Tented Camps:
    • Many national parks and wildlife reserves in Tanzania offer lodges and tented camps that provide a safari experience in close proximity to wildlife. These range from budget-friendly to luxury accommodations.
  2. Hotels and Resorts:
    • Major cities like Dar es Salaam, Arusha, and Zanzibar have a variety of hotels and resorts, ranging from budget to high-end luxury. These are suitable for urban exploration, business trips, or beach vacations.
  3. Guesthouses and Bed & Breakfasts:
    • Guesthouses and B&Bs offer a more intimate and homey atmosphere. They are often family-run and provide a chance to interact with locals.
  4. Hostels:
    • For budget travelers and backpackers, hostels are available in some urban areas and backpacker-friendly destinations. They offer dormitory-style rooms and shared facilities.
  5. Campsites:
    • If you enjoy camping, many national parks and reserves provide campsites. Some are equipped with basic facilities, while others offer a more primitive experience.
  6. Treehouses and Unique Accommodations:
    • Some lodges and camps offer unique accommodations like treehouses or stilted bungalows, providing a one-of-a-kind experience.
  7. Safari-Style Accommodations:
    • In addition to traditional lodges and tented camps, some accommodations offer “safari-style” luxury, where you can enjoy modern amenities while feeling immersed in the wilderness.
  8. Beachfront Villas and Resorts:
    • Along the coast and on Zanzibar Island, you’ll find beachfront villas, boutique resorts, and all-inclusive beachfront properties for a relaxing seaside getaway.
  9. Eco-Lodges:
    • Tanzania has eco-friendly lodges in its natural and rural areas, focusing on sustainability and providing opportunities for eco-tourism.
  10. Homestays:
    • In some rural areas and cultural tourism destinations, you may have the opportunity to stay with local families, providing an immersive cultural experience.
  11. Luxury Safari Lodges:
    • If you’re seeking a high-end safari experience, Tanzania boasts a selection of luxury lodges and camps with top-notch service, gourmet dining, and exclusive wildlife viewing.

When choosing where to stay in Tanzania, consider factors such as your budget, the destinations on your itinerary, the type of experiences you want (e.g., safari, beach, cultural), and the level of comfort and amenities you desire. It’s advisable to book accommodations in advance, especially during peak tourist seasons, to secure your stay, especially in popular national parks and beach destinations.

What to Eat? 🍽️

Tanzanian cuisine is a flavorful fusion of East African and Indian influences, with a focus on spices and aromatic dishes. While exploring this diverse country, be sure to try these must-try Tanzanian foods:

  1. Ugali: This staple food is made from maize (corn) flour and water, resulting in a dense, starchy side dish often served with meat, vegetables, or sauce. It’s similar to polenta.
  2. Nyama Choma: Tanzanians love grilled meat, and nyama choma is a popular dish featuring skewered and grilled meat, often served with a spicy tomato and chili sauce.
  3. Pilau: A fragrant rice dish cooked with spices like cloves, cinnamon, and cardamom, often featuring meat or vegetables. It’s a delicious and aromatic specialty.
  4. Zanzibar Pizza: Found mainly in Zanzibar, these “pizzas” are actually more like savory crepes or wraps filled with a variety of ingredients like egg, vegetables, cheese, and meat, then fried to perfection.
  5. Mishkaki: These skewered and marinated meat kebabs are a popular street food and a tasty snack option.
  6. Biryani: An aromatic and flavorful rice dish often cooked with chicken, beef, or fish, along with a blend of spices and saffron.
  7. Chapati: A flatbread that’s soft and flaky, often served as a side or used to wrap meat and vegetables. It’s a common accompaniment to meals.
  8. Mandazi: These sweet, doughnut-like pastries are a popular snack and breakfast item in Tanzania. They come in various shapes and flavors.
  9. Kachumbari: A fresh tomato and onion salad with chili peppers and cilantro, providing a zesty and spicy kick to meals.
  10. Kisamvu: This is a dish made from cassava leaves cooked with peanut sauce, creating a rich and savory flavor.
  11. Wali Wa Nazi: A creamy coconut rice dish often served with fish or chicken. The coconut milk adds a delightful tropical twist.
  12. Supu Ya Ndizi: A hearty banana soup, usually made with green bananas and coconut milk. It’s a unique and satisfying dish.
  13. Urojo: Also known as Zanzibar mix, this is a tangy and spicy soup featuring a mix of ingredients like potatoes, lentils, and fried cassava.
  14. Maharage Ya Nazi: A dish of red kidney beans cooked in a creamy coconut sauce, typically served with rice or ugali.
  15. Kaimati: Sweet dumplings made from deep-fried dough and coated in sugar syrup. They are a delightful dessert or snack.
  16. Samaki Wa Kupaka: A flavorful and creamy fish curry with coconut milk, served with rice or chapati.
  17. Mtori: A traditional Chagga dish made from green bananas and meat, cooked to create a creamy stew with a unique flavor.
  18. Chipsi Mayai: A popular street food, this dish consists of french fries (chips) and eggs cooked together, often served as a fast and satisfying snack.
  19. Vitumbua: Small, sweet rice cakes that are crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. They are often enjoyed as a snack or dessert.
  20. Baobab Fruit: Try the unique and tangy baobab fruit, which can be eaten fresh or used to make juices and smoothies.

Don’t miss the opportunity to savor these delightful Tanzanian dishes and experience the rich culinary traditions of this East African nation.

What to See? 🔍

Tanzania boasts a wealth of stunning natural landscapes, wildlife-rich national parks, and cultural attractions. Here are some must-see places in Tanzania for tourists:

  1. Serengeti National Park: Known for the Great Migration, the Serengeti is one of Africa’s premier wildlife destinations. Witness vast herds of wildebeest, zebras, and other animals on the move.
  2. Ngorongoro Conservation Area: Explore the Ngorongoro Crater, a natural amphitheater teeming with wildlife. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and offers some of the best game viewing in Africa.
  3. Mount Kilimanjaro: Embark on the adventure of a lifetime by climbing Africa’s highest peak. Kilimanjaro offers various routes for trekkers, each with its own unique landscapes.
  4. Zanzibar Archipelago: Discover the captivating islands of Zanzibar, Pemba, and Mafia, known for pristine beaches, historic Stone Town, and vibrant Swahili culture.
  5. Serengeti Plains: Witness the iconic savannah landscapes of the Serengeti, characterized by vast grasslands dotted with acacia trees and roaming wildlife.
  6. Tarangire National Park: Famous for its large herds of elephants, Tarangire offers fantastic game drives, particularly during the dry season when animals gather around the Tarangire River.
  7. Lake Manyara National Park: Explore the diverse habitats around Lake Manyara, home to tree-climbing lions, flamingos, and a rich variety of birdlife.
  8. Selous Game Reserve: This vast and less-visited reserve is known for its boat safaris along the Rufiji River, offering opportunities to spot crocodiles, hippos, and a range of bird species.
  9. Mahale Mountains National Park: Trek through lush forests to see chimpanzees in their natural habitat on the shores of Lake Tanganyika.
  10. Ruaha National Park: Visit Tanzania’s largest national park for a more remote safari experience, with diverse landscapes and wildlife.
  11. Mikumi National Park: Often called “Little Serengeti,” Mikumi is easily accessible from Dar es Salaam and offers great wildlife viewing opportunities.
  12. Olduvai Gorge: Discover the cradle of humanity and the site of important archaeological discoveries, shedding light on human evolution.
  13. Lake Natron: This soda lake in the Rift Valley is known for its red-hued waters, large flamingo populations, and unique landscapes.
  14. Gombe Stream National Park: Made famous by Jane Goodall’s research, Gombe is another chimpanzee tracking destination on the shores of Lake Tanganyika.
  15. Mafia Island Marine Park: Snorkel, dive, and relax on the pristine beaches of Mafia Island, known for its coral reefs and marine biodiversity.
  16. Bagamoyo: Explore this historic coastal town with a rich Swahili and colonial heritage. It was a key trading post during the slave and ivory trade eras.
  17. Arusha National Park: Located near Arusha, this park offers a mix of landscapes, including forests, lakes, and the stunning Mount Meru. It’s a great place for hiking and game drives.
  18. Kigoma: Visit this lakeside town on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, known for its scenic beauty and as a gateway to Gombe Stream National Park.
  19. Materuni Waterfalls: Located near Moshi, hike to these picturesque waterfalls and enjoy the lush surroundings.
  20. Lake Eyasi: Explore the cultural diversity of the area, including interactions with the Hadza and Datoga tribes, as well as the chance to see flamingos on the lake.

These are just a few of the must-see places in Tanzania, a country blessed with an incredible range of natural and cultural wonders that will leave you in awe of its beauty and diversity.

What to Do? 📸

Tanzania offers a wealth of incredible experiences for tourists, ranging from thrilling wildlife safaris to cultural encounters and adventurous activities. Here are some must-do things to make the most of your visit to Tanzania:

  1. Embark on a Safari: Go on a game drive or wildlife safari in world-renowned parks like the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, Tarangire, and Selous. Witness the “Big Five” and other incredible wildlife in their natural habitat.
  2. Climb Mount Kilimanjaro: Conquer Africa’s highest peak, Mount Kilimanjaro, by embarking on a trekking adventure. Choose from various routes that suit your level of fitness and preference.
  3. Meet Chimpanzees: Trek into the Mahale Mountains or Gombe Stream National Parks to encounter chimpanzees in the wild. These parks offer unique opportunities for primate tracking.
  4. Relax on Zanzibar’s Beaches: Explore the stunning beaches and turquoise waters of Zanzibar and its neighboring islands. Snorkel, dive, or simply unwind on the picturesque shores.
  5. Explore Stone Town: Wander through Stone Town in Zanzibar, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, to discover its historic architecture, markets, and the House of Wonders.
  6. Visit Local Markets: Immerse yourself in Tanzanian culture by exploring bustling local markets like Darajani Market in Stone Town and Arusha’s Central Market.
  7. Experience a Cultural Tour: Participate in cultural tours and visit Maasai villages to learn about traditional lifestyles, dances, and crafts.
  8. Witness the Great Migration: Time your visit to witness the Great Migration in the Serengeti, where millions of wildebeest and zebras traverse the plains in search of greener pastures.
  9. Hot Air Balloon Safari: Experience a sunrise hot air balloon safari over the Serengeti for a breathtaking and unique view of the wildlife below.
  10. Hike in the Usambara Mountains: Explore the lush, green Usambara Mountains on foot, with hiking trails leading to picturesque viewpoints and charming villages.
  11. Go Birdwatching: Tanzania is a paradise for birdwatchers, with a diverse range of bird species. Lake Manyara and Arusha National Parks are great places for birding.
  12. Sample Local Cuisine: Savor Tanzanian dishes like ugali, nyama choma (grilled meat), pilau, and fresh seafood. Don’t miss the opportunity to try street food and local delicacies.
  13. Take a Dhow Cruise: Experience a traditional dhow cruise along the coast or around Zanzibar’s islands, enjoying sunset views and snorkeling opportunities.
  14. Swim in Natural Pools: Take a refreshing dip in natural swimming pools at waterfalls like Materuni and Ndoro Waterfall.
  15. Stroll Along Lake Shorelines: Enjoy leisurely walks along the shores of Lake Victoria, Lake Tanganyika, or Lake Eyasi, taking in the serene views and local life.
  16. Visit Historic Sites: Explore historical sites like Bagamoyo, a former slave trade center, and Olduvai Gorge, known for its archaeological significance.
  17. Engage in Watersports: Try kayaking, paddleboarding, or kite surfing in coastal areas or on the lakes of Tanzania.
  18. Attend Local Festivals: If your visit coincides with local festivals and events, such as the Zanzibar International Film Festival (ZIFF) or the Ngorongoro Marathon, consider participating.
  19. Relax at a Spa: Pamper yourself with a relaxing spa treatment in one of Tanzania’s luxury lodges or resorts.
  20. Capture the Beauty: Don’t forget your camera to capture the stunning landscapes, wildlife, and vibrant cultures you encounter during your Tanzanian adventure.

Tanzania offers a wide range of experiences, ensuring that every traveler can find something memorable to do while exploring this diverse and captivating country.

Culture and Safety 🦺

Traveling to Tanzania as a tourist offers the opportunity to immerse yourself in a rich and diverse culture while enjoying the country’s natural beauty. However, it’s essential to be aware of cultural norms and safety considerations to ensure a rewarding and safe experience:

Culture:

  1. Respect Local Customs: Tanzanian culture is diverse, with over 120 ethnic groups, each with its traditions and customs. Be respectful of local customs, especially in rural areas. Learn about cultural norms and ask for guidance when needed.
  2. Greeting: Greetings are important in Tanzanian culture. Use polite language and a friendly demeanor when greeting people. Common greetings include “Jambo” (hello) and “Karibu” (welcome).
  3. Dress Modestly: In many parts of Tanzania, particularly outside urban areas, dressing modestly is important. Women should cover their shoulders and knees, and men should avoid wearing shorts in some communities.
  4. Conservative Areas: In Zanzibar and some coastal areas with predominantly Muslim populations, dressing conservatively is especially crucial. Women should cover their heads in mosques and some public places.
  5. Photography: Always ask for permission before taking photos of people, especially in rural areas. Some locals may be uncomfortable with photography, so respect their privacy.
  6. Bargaining: Bargaining is common in local markets, but do it respectfully and with a smile. Avoid aggressive or disrespectful bargaining tactics.
  7. Eating with Hands: It’s customary to eat with your right hand, as the left hand is considered impolite. Wash your hands before and after a meal.

Safety:

  1. Health Precautions: Consult a healthcare professional before traveling to Tanzania. Ensure you have necessary vaccinations and take malaria prophylaxis if required. Carry a basic medical kit with essential medications.
  2. Water and Food: Drink bottled or treated water and eat at reputable restaurants and lodges to minimize the risk of foodborne illnesses. Avoid street food in areas with questionable hygiene.
  3. Travel Insurance: Purchase comprehensive travel insurance that covers medical emergencies, trip cancellations, and other unforeseen events.
  4. Currency Exchange: Use official currency exchange services or banks to exchange money. Be cautious of street money changers.
  5. Road Safety: Tanzania’s road conditions can vary, and traffic can be chaotic, especially in cities. Use seat belts, drive cautiously, and consider hiring a reliable driver for long journeys.
  6. Wildlife Safaris: Follow the instructions of your safari guide and respect wildlife. Keep a safe distance from animals and never feed them.
  7. Emergency Contacts: Know the local emergency numbers, including the police (112), medical emergency services (115), and fire department (114).
  8. Travel Advisory: Check for travel advisories and updates from your government’s embassy or consulate before and during your trip. Tanzania may have specific travel advisories depending on the political climate.
  9. Local Laws: Familiarize yourself with local laws and customs. Possession and use of drugs are illegal, and penalties can be severe.
  10. Cultural Respect: Respect local cultures and traditions. Learn about the local customs and be mindful of local sensitivities.
  11. Alcohol: Alcohol is available in Tanzania, but excessive drinking in public places is discouraged. If you consume alcohol, do so responsibly.

By respecting local customs, staying informed about safety precautions, and using common-sense travel practices, you can have a safe and culturally enriching experience while exploring Tanzania’s diverse landscapes and cultures.

Conclusion

As your adventure in Tanzania comes to an end, you’ll leave with cherished memories of a country that captivates the soul. Tanzania’s vast and varied landscapes, teeming wildlife, and warm hospitality offer an unparalleled travel experience. Whether you’ve witnessed the Great Migration on the Serengeti, scaled the roof of Africa on Mount Kilimanjaro, or basked in the idyllic beaches of Zanzibar, Tanzania has left an indelible mark on your heart. The rhythmic beats of local music, the vibrant colors of Maasai attire, and the friendly smiles of its people will echo in your memory, beckoning you to return to this remarkable corner of Africa. Until next time, Tanzania remains an inviting land of adventure and discovery. Karibu Tena—welcome back.