Top events in Tanzania

March
01

This 42.2 km (26.2 mile) route in the foothills of Kilimanjaro runs at an altitude of 800-1100 m (2625-3610 ft). Open to professionals and...

May
01

This is a charity event and fun (if not slightly absurd) family day out. On a formally laid out racetrack you can bet on the goat races (the ‘...

July
07

This festival celebrates the unique Swahili culture that grew as a result of Indian Ocean trade and the wooden sailing dhow. There are...

Kilamanjaro, Tanzania
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Kilamanjaro, Tanzania

© www.123rf.com / Paul Hampton

Tanzania Travel Guide

Key Facts
Area

945,087 sq km (364,900 sq miles).

Population

48.3 million (2013).

Population density

51.1 per sq km.

Capital

Dodoma.

Government

Federal Republic since 1964. Tanganyika gained independence from the UK in 1961. In 1964, Tanganyika joined with Zanzibar, which had been a British protectorate until 1963, and became Tanzania.

Head of state

President Jakaya Kikwete since 2005. Zanzibar is semi-autonomous and has its own parliament and president (President Ali Mohamed Shein since 2010).

Head of government

Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda since 2008.

Electricity

230 volts AC, 50Hz. Plugs are mostly UK-style square three-pin, but round three-pin plugs are also in use. Power cuts are common in the rainy season, though most large hotels and businesses have back-up generators.

Close your eyes and conjure up the quintessential image of Africa: the drama of the wildebeest migration along an infinite savannah; the incongruous snow of Mt Kilimanjaro; proud Masai warriors stalking the plains; exotic palm-fringed beaches on the spice islands of Zanzibar. Now look no further - it's all here in Tanzania.

Throngs of wildlife roam free in sprawling national parks, fishermen still plough the turquoise waters off Tanzania's coast in dhows (traditional wooden sailboats), and pristine beaches lie in wait for the sun-worshipping crowd. Best of all, Tanzania has seen little of the strife that has afflicted other African nations, meaning that all its treasures are tantalisingly accessible.

Tanzania boasts some of the most impressive National Parks and game reserves in all of Africa. The plains and savannahs of the Serengeti National Park are considered the premier spot on the continent to see wildlife roam unheeded across vast plains. Nearby, within the steep walls of the Ngorongoro Crater lies one of the most densely concentrated populations of African animals on earth. These include wildebeest, gazelle, zebra, lion, leopard, cheetah, elephant and even the elusive white rhino. Not to be forgotten, the Selous Game Reserve is larger than Switzerland, and is wild, remote and virtually untouched by any human presence save for a handful of safari camps in the north. Other parks like Ruaha will appeal to those who want to experience magnificent game watching well off the popular tourist trail of the northern circuit parks and reserves, while, for those with a penchant to get off the beaten track, the parks in the extreme west of the country, Gombe Stream and Mahale, offer the unique opportunity to track chimpanzees in their natural habitat.

With its pearly-white beaches, Tanzania has 804km (503 miles) of sublime coastline and some magnificent islands offshore. Known as the Swahili Coast, it 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 melange of cultural riches that remain today. The colourful language of Swahili (referred to as Kiswahili) was born here, and features words not only of African origin, but ones from as far away as Indonesia and China. The ruins of once sophisticated cities with their old mosques, Arabian-style houses and coral palaces still remain, while places like Stone Town on Zanzibar and Bagamoyo on the mainland are still today living testaments to the Swahili coastal tradition that has gone on for thousands of years.

A mountain that needs no introduction is Mt Kilimanjaro, snow-capped and standing as Africa's tallest mountain at 5,895m (19,341ft). Open for climbing to those with energy and time on their hands, the week-long ascent and watching the sunrise over Uhuru Peak is one of Africa's most challenging achievements. Tanzania is home to over 120 different ethnic groups and takes pride in its multicultural heritage. The tall, red-robed Masai are the best known of Tanzania's people and are easily visited as part of a safari itinerary.

Travel Advice

Last updated: 25 February 2015

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.


Crime

Although most visits to Tanzania are trouble-free, violent and armed crime is increasing. Mugging, bag snatching (especially from passing cars) and robbery have increased throughout the country. 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. On 25 July, a group of British citizens were the victims of an armed robbery while travelling by bus in the Tabora region and on 10 November two British nationals were involved in a violent robbery on a stretch of beach between Bahari hotel and Kunduchi hotel to the north of Dar es Salaam. There have also been reports of armed robberies at hotels on the island of Zanzibar.

Walk as far away from the road as possible. If you need to walk alongside the road, walk towards the traffic and keep your bag facing away from the road. Don’t carry valuables in the street or wear expensive jewellery or watches. 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 backpackers. 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 on popular tourist beaches.

Make sure residential property is secure. 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 an isolated incident in August 2012 a Swiss national was killed when suspected robbers entered his property on the Peninsula area of Dar es Salaam. A British national was also assaulted in the incident. In June 2012, a Dutch national and a Tanzanian camp manager were killed when a group of Western tourists were robbed at gunpoint while camping in northern Serengeti.

On 7 August 2013, two British women were the victims of an acid attack in Stone Town, Zanzibar. This appears to be the first acid attack in Zanzibar targeting foreigners. The Tanzanian authorities have publicly condemned the attack and committed to find the perpetrators. The motive remains unclear. You should be vigilant at all times, especially after dark.

Two explosions took place on the island of Unguja (Zanzibar) on 24 February near Mercury’s restaurant by the port and at the Anglican Cathedral in Stonetown.

Local travel

Information about travel in remote areas can be patchy. Invest in an up-to-date travel guide and only use reliable tour companies.

There is a risk from unexploded ammunition and ordnance following explosions at depots in the Gongola Mboto and Mbagala districts of Dar es Salaam. Be vigilant and avoid picking up any metal or suspicious objects. Report anything suspicious to your local police station.

National Parks

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.

Trekking

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

Take particular care in the area bordering Burundi. There have been armed robberies in this area, including vehicle hijackings. There are few facilities for visitors.

River & Sea travel

In the last few years there have been 2 major ferry disasters in which hundreds of people have died. In July 2012 a ferry travelling from Dar es Salaam to Stone Town in Zanzibar capsized. In September 2011, a ferry travelling between Pemba and Unguja (Zanzibar) sank. On 5 January 2014, a number of passengers were blown overboard in bad weather on a ferry travelling from Pemba to Unguja (Zanzibar). This resulted in a number of deaths.

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.

Piracy is a significant threat in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean and has occurred as far as 1,000 nautical miles from the coast of Somalia. Shipping which has not complied with industry best practice on self-defence measures, including on routing, is most at risk. There have been a number of piracy attacks in the waters immediately off Tanzania. Pirates are increasingly attacking smaller vessels, including tourist and fishing vessels, and coming closer to shore. Sailing vessels are particularly vulnerable to attack due to their low speed and low freeboard.

The capacity of the Tanzanian Navy to respond to pirate attacks is very limited. If you are intending to sail through high risk areas, consider alternatives like transporting the vessel by yacht carrier.

See our Piracy in the Indian Ocean page.

Road travel

If you plan to drive during a visit to Tanzania, you will 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 4x4 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 are stopped by the police, ask to see identification before making any payments for traffic violations.

Train travel

There have been several accidents on Tanzanian railways. Seek local advice for any long-distance train travel.

Political situation

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.

Violent disturbances occurred in the district of Mtwara in May 2013. A number of explosions occurred during a political rally in Arusha on 15 June 2013.

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