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: 13 March 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.
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.
While there have been no successful piracy attacks since May 2012 off the coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden, 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.
If you plan to drive during a visit to Tanzania, you’ll need an International Driving Permit.
Take care when driving. Road conditions are generally poor and 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.
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.
If you’re stopped by the police, ask to see identification before making any payments for traffic violations.
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.