Tanzania travel guide
If you close your eyes and conjure up the quintessential romantic image of Africa, what you’ll most likely imagine is Tanzania: the drama of the wildebeest migration along a seemingly-endless savannah; the incongruous snow and glaciers of Mt Kilimanjaro; the iconic and statuesque Maasai warriors; the exotic palm-fringed beaches on the spice islands of Zanzibar. It’s all here.
Tanzania boasts some of the most impressive national parks and game reserves in Africa. The Serengeti National Park is considered the continent’s premier spot to see wildlife roam unheeded across vast open plains.
Nearby, within the steep walls of the Ngorongoro Crater lies the most densely concentrated population of African mammals on earth. Not to be forgotten, the Selous Game Reserve is larger than Switzerland, and is wild, remote and still virtually untouched by humans.
Even further from the beaten path are parks in the extreme west of the country which offer the unique opportunity to track chimpanzees in their natural habitat on the fringes of Lake Tanganyika, one of Africa’s Great Lakes.
Beyond its safari stalwarts, Tanzania has no less than 804km (503 miles) of sublime coastline and pearly-white beaches with some magnificent islands offshore. Known as the Swahili Coast, this was a favoured stop on ancient trading routes between the Indian sub-continent and the Middle East. Spices, jewels and slaves once passed through, bringing with them a mélange of cultural riches that remain today.
Tanzania’s not short on mountains either. The striking and snow-capped Mt Kilimanjaro is Africa’s tallest at 5,895m (19,341ft) and climbing it is an unforgettable experience. Its slightly smaller sister Mt Meru is arguably even prettier, and a quicker climb.
Tanzania is home to more than 120 different ethnic groups and cultures, but it has seen little of the ethnic or religious-based violence that has afflicted certain other nations in the region. In fact the country is an inherently peaceful place and embraces its multicultural heritage, which adds to its broad appeal.
945,087 sq km (364,900 sq miles).
55,155,473 (UN estimate 2016).
54 per sq km.
President John Magufuli since 2015. Zanzibar is semi-autonomous and has its own parliament and president (President Ali Mohamed Shein since 2010).
President John Magufuli since 2015.
230 volts AC, 50Hz. British-style plugs with three square pins are mostly used, but plugs with three round pins are also in use. Power cuts are common in the rainy season, though most large hotels and businesses have back-up generators.
Last updated: 10 October 2017
The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. ‘We’ refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
Several police officers were ambushed and killed in an attack in the Pwani coastal region, about 100km south of Dar es Salaam on 13 April 2017. Following this incident, and reports of the murders of several local officials, there’s a heightened security presence in the area. On 29 March 2017, the Regional Commissioner of Pwani issued a decree covering the Rufiji area requiring drivers of motorcycles, popularly known as Boda Bodas, to stop carrying passengers at 6pm. You should take extra care when travelling in Rufiji and surrounding areas, including at police checkpoints and monitor local media for the latest information.
Around 75,000 British nationals visit Tanzania every year. Most visits are trouble-free.
A re-run of elections took place in Zanzibar (Unguja and Pemba) on 20 March 2016. There’s a continuing risk of heightened tension and unrest in Zanzibar.
You should take care, be aware of your surroundings and avoid large crowds or public demonstrations. Make sure you have a means of communication with you at all times and monitor local media for updates.
Although most visits to Tanzania are trouble-free, violent and armed crime is increasing. Take sensible precautions to protect yourself and your belongings.
Terrorists are likely to try to carry out attacks in Tanzania.
There is a threat of piracy in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean.
In the last few years there have been 3 ferry disasters in which hundreds of people have died. If you believe a ferry is overloaded or not seaworthy, don’t get on.
Long distance buses are often involved in accidents which can be fatal.
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission.
Safety and security
Although most visits to Tanzania are trouble-free, violent and armed crime is increasing. The British High Commission continues to receive several reports each month of British nationals who are the victims of mugging and bag snatching (especially by passing cars or motorbikes) and armed robbery and burglary have increased throughout the country. In December 2016, a European family were robbed at gun point and their campsite guard killed at south Beach, 20km southeast of Dar es Salaam. In Dar es Salaam, British tourists have been kidnapped, robbed and forced with the threat of violence to withdraw cash from ATMs and arrange cash transfers up to £5,000 through Western Union after being befriended by strangers or using unlicensed taxis.
Walk as far away from the road as possible. If you need to walk alongside the road, walk towards the traffic. Avoid carrying large amounts of cash or other valuables including expensive jewellery or watches. Leave your passport in the hotel safe and carry a photocopy for ID. If you’re attacked, don’t resist. If you carry a bag, it is safer to hold it loosely by the handle or hanging off your shoulder rather than by securing the strap across your chest. Don’t accept lifts from strangers or use unlicensed taxis. Ask your local hotel to book a taxi and always ask to see the driver’s ID. Avoid walking alone, particularly in isolated areas and on beaches.
Take particular care in places frequented by tourists. In Dar es Salaam, tourists have been targeted in the city centre, at Ubungo bus station, the peninsula area and Coco beach. In Zanzibar incidents have taken place in Stone Town and at hotels and on popular tourist beaches.
Make sure residential property is secure and lock all doors and windows, especially at night. Your security guard should insist on official identification before allowing anyone to enter your property or compound. If in doubt don’t let them in and raise the alarm.
In 2013, two British women were the victims of an acid attack in Stone Town, Zanzibar. This appeared to be the first acid attack in Zanzibar targeting foreigners.
You should remain vigilant at all times.
Information about travel in remote areas can be patchy. Invest in an up-to-date travel guide and only use reliable tour companies.
Careful planning is important to get the best out of your safari. If you choose to camp, only use official sites. Make sure you are properly equipped and seek local advice when travelling to isolated areas. Some parks are extremely remote, and emergency access and evacuation can be difficult.
There are risks associated with viewing wildlife, particularly on foot or at close range. Always follow park regulations and wardens’ advice, and make sure you have the correct documentation or permit before entering a national park.
On 1 July 2016, the Tanzanian government introduced VAT at 18% for all tourism-related services in Tanzania. The change means that services previously not taxed such as tour guiding, park fees, and transport are now subject to VAT. Prior to 1 July VAT applied to some services that tourists pay for such as accommodation and meals.
If you are trekking or climbing, only use a reputable travel company, stick to established routes and always walk in groups. Make sure you are well prepared and equipped to cope with the terrain and low temperatures. The extreme altitude on Mount Kilimanjaro can cause altitude sickness.
Burundi border/Kigoma region
Take particular care in the area bordering Burundi/Kigoma region. There have been armed robberies in this area, including vehicle hijackings. You should only drive in daylight hours. There are few facilities for visitors.
River & Sea travel
In the last few years there have been 3 ferry disasters in which hundreds of people have died. These were ferries travelling between Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar and between the islands of Zanzibar.
Use a reputable ferry company and if you believe a ferry to be overloaded or unseaworthy, don’t get on. Familiarise yourself with emergency procedures on board and make a note of where the life jackets and emergency exits are located.
You should also beware of aggressive ticket touts at Tanzanian ports.
Recent piracy attacks off the coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden highlight that the threat of piracy related activity and armed robbery in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean remains significant. Reports of attacks on local fishing dhows in the area around the Gulf of Aden and Horn of Africa continue. The combined threat assessment of the international Naval Counter Piracy Forces remains that all sailing yachts under their own passage should remain out of the designated High Risk Area or face the risk of being hijacked and held hostage for ransom. For more information and advice, see our Piracy and armed robbery at sea page.
Road conditions are generally poor and driving standards are erratic. There are a large number of accidents, often involving inter-city buses. There have been a number of serious bus crashes that have resulted in fatalities and injuries to tourists. If you have concerns about the safety of the vehicle, or the ability of the driver, use alternative transport.
If you plan to drive yourself during a visit to Tanzania, you’ll need your UK licence and an International Driving Permit. To drive in Zanzibar you’ll need your UK licence and a local Zanzibar driving permit (which you can get through your hire car company). Carry several copies of your driving licence, permits and insurance documents.
Self-driving in Tanzania can be challenging and the quality of car hire companies is variable. Consider using taxis instead. There are no roadside rescue or breakdown services. Road maps are hard to come by and not always up to date. Service stations are infrequent and may not have supplies of fuel.
Driving conditions in Tanzanian’s national parks can be unpredictable as the roads around the parks, mainly dirt tracks, are generally poor and can become hazardous or impassable after heavy rain. A 4×4 vehicle is often required.
Keep doors locked, windows up and valuables out of sight, as vehicles are sometimes targeted by thieves. Be particularly careful at night when there is a higher incidence of crime and drunk driving. Avoid driving out of town at night. If you become aware of an unusual incident, or if somebody out of uniform tries to flag you down, it is often safer not to stop.
There are frequent police road blocks. If you’re stopped by the police, ask to see identification before making any payments for traffic violations. If you’re involved in a road accident, co-operate with the local police.
There have been several accidents on Tanzanian railways. Seek local advice for any long-distance train travel.
Demonstrations and political rallies happen regularly across Tanzania (including on the islands of Unguja (Zanzibar) and Pemba). Some have turned violent and resulted in fatalities. Police may use tear gas for crowd control. Keep up to date with local and international events and avoid all demonstrations and large gatherings. If you become aware of any nearby protests, leave the area immediately and monitor our Travel Advice, Twitter and local media for up-to-date information.
Terrorists are likely to try to carry out attacks in Tanzania. Although Tanzania hasn’t suffered a major terrorist incident since the bombing of the United States embassy in 1998, there have been a number of smaller scale incidents. Most attacks target the local security forces, although attacks against western interests can’t be ruled out.
Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners. Be vigilant at all times, especially in crowded areas and public places like transport hubs, hotels, restaurants and bars, and during major gatherings like sporting or religious events. Previous terrorist attacks in the region have targeted places where football matches are being viewed.
Extremists linked to the Islamic terrorist group Al-Shabaab based in Somalia pose a threat across the east Africa region, and are thought to be active in Tanzania. There is also thought to be some support for Daesh (formerly referred to as ISIL). However, many incidents in Tanzania are of unclear origin and may be conducted by criminal gangs.
Although there have been no significant terrorist attacks in Tanzania in recent years, the authorities in Tanzania successfully made a number of arrests in connection to terrorism throughout 2016.
Previous attacks include:
in May 2016, 3 people were killed when a group armed with machetes and axes attacked a mosque in Mwanza district, north-west Tanzania
in May 2016, 8 people were killed when an armed group raided houses in Kibatini village, 55km from Tanga in north-east Tanzania
in August 2016, 4 police officers were killed in the outskirts of Dar es Salaam in an attack on bank, and in July 2015 an attack on a police station in Dar es Salaam killed 6 people including 4 police officers; the motivation behind these and several similar attacks is unclear
There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.
Find out more about the global threat from terrorism, how to minimise your risk and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack.
Visit your health professional at least 4 to 6 weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures. Country specific information and advice is published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre on the TravelHealthPro website and by NHS (Scotland) on the fitfortravel website. Useful information and advice about healthcare abroad is also available on the NHS Choices website.
Medical facilities are limited, especially outside Dar es Salaam. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of medical treatment abroad, evacuation by air ambulance and repatriation.
Malaria and dengue fever are common to Tanzania. There have also been cases of sleeping sickness occurring after bites from tsetse flies in the north, including the Serengeti. Other diseases, such as cholera and rift valley fever, occur mostly in rural areas where access to sanitation is limited.
In the 2015 Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic, the UNAIDS/WHO Working Group estimated that around 1,400,000 adults aged 15 or over in Tanzania were living with HIV; the prevalence percentage was estimated at around 4.7 of the adult population. You should exercise normal precautions to avoid exposure to HIV/AIDS.
If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 112 and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.
Local laws and customs
Tanzanians are welcoming and well disposed towards visitors, but you should be sensitive to local culture. Loud or aggressive behaviour, drunkenness, foul language and disrespect, especially towards older people, will cause offence.
There is a high proportion of Muslims in Tanzania, especially along the coast and on Zanzibar and Pemba. Respect local traditions, customs, laws and religions at all times and be aware of your actions to ensure that they don’t offend, especially during the holy month of Ramadan or if you intend to visit religious areas.
In 2017, the holy month of Ramadan is expected to start on 27 May and finish on 25 June.
You should dress modestly. Women should avoid wearing shorts and sleeveless tops away from tourist resorts, and particularly in Stone Town and other places where the local population may be offended. There have been cases where women travelling alone and in small groups have been verbally harassed.
Homosexuality is illegal in Tanzania (including Zanzibar).
Carry identification (a copy of your passport) at all times.
All drugs are illegal in Tanzania (including Zanzibar) and those found in possession will be fined. There are severe penalties, including prison sentences, for drug trafficking.
There are criminal laws on the protection of wildlife and fauna in Tanzania. Avoid bringing wildlife products such as jewellery into Tanzania as you risk delay, questioning or detention when trying to leave the country. These products, whether bought or received as a gift in Tanzania, are illegal. Foreigners have been arrested recently for trying to take products, including horns and seashells, out of the country without a certified export permit issued by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism. If you’re caught you may be detained or fined.
The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.
The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.
All British passport holders need a tourist or business visa to enter Tanzania. You should get one from the Tanzanian High Commission before you travel
It is possible to get a tourist or business visa for a single entry on arrival at main ports of entry to Tanzania, but this is subject to the fulfilment of all immigration requirements. You won’t be able to get a multiple entry visa on arrival. For further information about visas visit the Tanzanian Ministry of Home Affairs website.
If you are planning to work or volunteer, you will need a valid work permit. Your employer or volunteer organisation should arrange this before you travel.
From December 2015, Carrying on Temporary Assignment (CTA) passes are no longer valid. If you’re working on a short term assignment you must apply to the Ministry of Labour and Employment for a short term work permit. The application should be submitted prior to entering the country.
If you overstay the validity of your visa or permit you can be arrested, detained and fined before being deported.
Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of your visa application.
UK Emergency Travel Documents
UK Emergency Travel Documents, with a minimum of six months’ validity, are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from Tanzania.
Yellow fever certificate requirements
Check whether you need a yellow fever certificate by visiting the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s TravelHealthPro website.
Tanzania lies on an active fault line stretching from the north of the country to the south and tremors occur from time to time. The last significant earthquake (magnitude 5.7) happened on 10 September 2016 in the Kagera region, north west Tanzania. The US Federal Emergency Management Agency has advice about what to do before, during and after an earthquake.
The Tanzanian Shilling is the official currency of Tanzania, but $US are also widely accepted. Dollar notes printed before 2003 are usually not accepted. You can exchange money at many authorised dealers, banks and bureaux de change. Get a receipt after each transaction.
Most banks in major cities have ATMs, but they are not always reliable and sometimes break down or run out of money. To minimise the risk of card cloning, only use ATMs located within the bank. Travellers cheques are not widely accepted.
Travel advice help and support
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London on 020 7008 1500 (24 hours).
Foreign travel checklist
Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.
The FCO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.
When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.
Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.
Refunds and cancellations
If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.
For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Registering your travel details with us
We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.
Previous versions of FCO travel advice
If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.