Where to stay in Tanzania
Tanzania has a vast spread of accommodation options, ranging from luxurious game lodges in game-filled national parks, heritage buildings in the winding alleys of Stone Town, sprawling resorts and rustic beach huts lining Zanzibar's beaches, and extending down-budget all the way to a plethora of middling mid-range hotels and the cheap, rough-around-the-edges guest houses.
Hotels in Tanzania vary from superbly finished, expensive luxury hotels with all the trimmings found in the cities and popular tourist areas, to mid-range generic hotels favoured by local business people, and cheap board and lodgings in the regional towns, which, although sometimes adequate, have little atmosphere and can have security issues.
The island of Zanzibar has probably the best assortment of accommodation choices, from luxury resorts to beach bungalows and budget hotels. On the beach are large and modern, fully-contained resorts aimed at package holidaymakers, while the capital of Stone Town boasts many hotels housed in converted, atmospheric heritage buildings, often with ornate four-poster beds and decorated with antiques and Persian carpets.
Referred to locally as ‘board and lodgings’, these are often offshoots of local bars and provide very cheap accommodation, but offer little more than a bed in a bare room with a door that may or may not lock. At these you will want to ensure rooms are clean, there is water in the bathrooms and special attention to possessions should be paid while staying there. These cannot be booked in advance.
There are public campsites in many of the national parks. Some have standard facilities, including taps, toilets and firewood; others are more basic with just a cleared space to park a vehicle and pitch a tent. Permits for camping in the parks must be paid for along with entry to each park. It is advisable to check the prices and site procedure before arrival. A list of public and private campsites is available from the Tanzania National Parks (www.tanzaniaparks.com).
Lodges: There are safari lodges in all national parks and game reserves. Some of these have hundreds of rooms and are aimed at families and tour groups, so while they have decent standards can feel a little impersonal. Others are top-end luxury lodges or tented camps with just a few decadent rooms, boasting impeccable service in stunning locations. Expect to pay exorbitant prices for even the most 'budget' lodge, with bookings essential for popular lodges in the Serengeti and Ngorongoro National Parks. Reservations can be made through specialist tour operators as part of a safari trip, or by contacting the lodges directly.
Resorts: There are dozens of beach resorts on Zanzibar and at a few places on the mainland coast that are aimed at holiday-makers looking for the typical sun, sea and sand experience. Most have been built sensitively, with rooms in low blocks of buildings covered in makuti thatch. These offer B&B, half-board, full-board or ‘all-inclusive’ rates (extras like watersports and children’s activities may be included). Bookings can be made directly through the resort or through the local tour operators. Room rates at beach resorts tend to be seasonal – the high season runs from the beginning of June to mid-October and again from Christmas to mid-February; at these times reservations should be made well in advance.