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9 Things you Need to Know Before Going to Tanzania

Posted by Mike James on 14/03/2017

Are you planning a visit to Tanzania? Then you’ll most likely have been doing some research, checked out safari options and have a rough plan of what you intend to do when you hit the African soil. It’s easy when you are planning a big trip full of exciting activities to overlook some of the smaller details. Browsing your guidebooks, you’ll be paying attention to all of the amazing places you can visit.

To help you make the most of your trip, we’ve put together a checklist of 9 things you’ll need to know before you head off on your holiday of a lifetime.

1. When to go

Tanzania is a popular tourist destination in Africa and around 75,000 British nationals visit there every year. It’s a year round destination, but be aware that rainy season runs from March through to May. Game safaris are at their best from January to March, which is baby season. June to September, at the tail end of the wet season, is also a good time for seeing lots of wildlife. Bird watching is particularly good between October and April.

2. Must-visit places in Tanzania

The magnificent Mount Kilimanjaro is one of the main attractions in Tanzania and many tourists flock to the area to either climb or get close to it. It’s a jaw-droppingly beautiful piece of landscape that shouldn’t be missed.

Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
Mount Kilimanjaro, photo credit: Antonio Soletti via unsplash

Tanzania has some great safari parks. The renowned Serengeti National Park is famous for its annual migration of over 1.5 million white-bearded wildebeest and 250,000 zebra, and for its numerous Nile crocodile. The park also has the largest population of lions in Africa. With any luck you’ll get to see cheetahs and leopards, as well as elephants, giraffe, and the almost extinct black rhinoceros. The selection of wildlife to see here is huge.

Situated in the north, Ruaha National park is the largest safari park in Tanzania. It’s wilder and more remote than its southern counterparts. Being off the beaten trail there are less tourists so well worth the visit. The best time to visit is at the end of the dry season when game concentrates around the water holes and rivers.

Set in the west of Tanzania is the smallest park in Tanzania, Gombe National Park. The park lies along the hills of the eastern shore of Lake Tanganyika, and is only accessible by boat. This park is most famous for Jane Goodall’s pioneering research into the behaviour of chimpanzees. Besides chimpanzees, there are other species of baboons and monkeys, as well as over 200 species of birds. You’ll also see the occasional hippopotamus and leopard. The lake is teaming with colourful cichlid fish.

Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
Serengeti National Park, Tanzania, photo credit: joel herzog via

As well as being a popular destination for safaris, Tanzania also has a beautiful coastline and the island of Zanzibar is yet another good reason to visit. With stunning beaches and an interesting history you’ll find the former centre of the spice trade to be an exotic jewel in the Indian Ocean’s crown. Historical Stone Town is peppered with Swahili and Islamic influences and is home to the landmark former sultan’s palace. The magnificent beaches at the north of the island are simply stunning.

Dar es Salaam is a vibrant waterfront city on the east coast. It’s more than likely your starting point when you visit Tanzania, and its well worth taking the time to spend a couple of days exploring. Kariakoo Market is one of the busiest and most thrilling markets in the city, so well worth a visit. The chaotic Kivukoni fish market is an experience if you can get down to the portside at 7am. Steer clear of the city’s main beaches. They’re not renowned for cleanliness, so save beach lounging for Zanzibar, or take a trip to one of the smaller nearby islands. Otherwise, Dar es Salaam offers an interesting museum, fabulous dining and a vibrant music scene. It’s a place you can fall in love with if you linger.

Tanzania Tips Photo 4
photo credit: pixabay

3. The language

Swahili is the official language, but English is widely spoken. Here’s some basic Swahili for starters:

HELLO – hujambo (hoo-JAHM-boh)

GOODBYE – kwaheri (kwah-HAIR-ee)

PLEASE – tafadhali (tah-fah-DHAL-ee)

THANK YOU – asante (ah-SAHN-tay)

YOU’RE WELCOME – karibu (kah-REE-boo)

YES – ndio (nDEE-oh)

NO – hapana (hah-PAHN-ah)

4. The culture

The country has over 100 different ethnic groups, so there are many different traditions and cultural practices to learn about. Getting involved in local culture while you are in Tanzania is a must. You will find many excursions ranging from visiting local villages to hunting with Bushmen.

Hadzabe Tribe of the Lady Boss
Hadzabe Tribe of the Lady Bossy, photo credit: pixabay

5. Dress code

There isn’t exactly a dress code, but women should dress modestly, especially in cities, where overexposure of flesh is frowned upon. Also, if you’re the touchy feely type, avoid touching others of the opposite sex in public as this may offend some locals, particularly in busy cities.

6. Buses and bumpy roads

If you are travelling anywhere by road, you’ll have to get used to potholes. They are everywhere and some are big! Be aware that many buses are old, barely roadworthy and usually overfilled. For popular routes you’d be wise to book in advance and for longer journeys there are express services that make less stops.

Keep your bag with you. Never put it up on the roof. Bus stations and timetables are chaotic, so you’ll need to get used to going with the flow. Road accidents are probably your biggest safety risk while travelling in Tanzania, with speeding buses being the biggest issue. Ask locals for the most reputable bus companies.

7. Train travel

It’s best to book train travel in advance. The TAZARA train takes travellers 1,160 miles from Dar es Salaam all the way to central Zambia. It’s advisable to book overnight sleeper carriages. Men and women can only travel together if booking the entire compartment. The Central Line train goes from Dar es Salaam to Kigoma and Mwanza. Sleeper cabins on the Central line don’t have linens (just mattresses). On any of the trains, don’t leave luggage unattended and when sleeping secure your window.

8. Beware of overloaded or unseaworthy ferries

In the last few years there have been 3 ferry disasters along the coastline of Tanzania. Hundreds of people died. If you believe a ferry to be unseaworthy or overloaded, don’t get on it.

9. Vaccinations

It’s advisable to check with your GP or travel clinic what the up-to-date vaccinations are plenty of time ahead of your travel date. Make sure all of your routine vaccinations are also up to date. You’ll need Hepatitis A and Typhoid vaccinations, as well as anti-Malaria medication. Depending on the areas you intend to travel to, you may also need Cholera, Hepatitis B and Rabies vaccines.

The government of Tanzania requires proof of yellow fever vaccination upon arrival if you are travelling from a country with risk of yellow fever.

We hope you have an awesome trip to Tanzania.

featured photo credit: pixabay