Five Things First Time Travellers To Tanzania Should Know
- Tanzania's two official languages are English and Swahili. However, Swahili is more commonly spoken, especially outside of the main tourist areas. Learn a few phrases before you go, the locals will appreciate it, and it will make your trip that much easier.
- Tanzania has its own way of telling time. Instead of the day starting at 12:00 a.m. the first hour of the day begins at sunrise. This means that while it's 7:00 a.m. everywhere else in the world, it's only 1:00 a.m. in Tanzania.
- It's not safe to drink the tap water. To avoid getting sick, only use the tap water for showering or washing your hands. Stick to bottled water for drinking and brushing your teeth. It's cheap and available at all hotels, restaurants and supermarkets.
- The official currency is the Tanzanian Shilling. However, due to inflation, the US Dollar is widely used. It's important to remember that the locals won't accept any notes older than 2006 including newer ones that are torn or wrinkled.
- Tipping is part of the culture in Tanzania. For Kilimanjaro guides, you're expected to tip guides USD 20 per day, and porters get USD 15 each day. In restaurants, the general rule of thumb is 10% of your total bill if there is no service charge.
Best Time To Visit Tanzania
Tanzania's climate is split between a wet and dry season. Both have their advantages and deciding which one to choose will depend on what you want to see and do.
The dry season runs from June to October. It's the best time of year for safaris and to witness the great wildebeest migration. Due to the lack of rain, animals make their way to the waterholes where there is less vegetation, creating prime viewing opportunities.
There are also fewer mosquitos, and perfect weather is almost guaranteed. The only downside to visiting during these months is that its Tanzania's high season. Safaris, hotels and flights will be expensive, and the national parks will be teeming with tourists.
Tanzania's wet season is from November to May. During this time, it's calving season in the Serengeti and the best time of year to witness excellent predator action. It's also a great season for bird watchers as many of the migratory birds have returned.
The less than perfect weather means you'll be able to pick up some great deals. Flights, tours and accommodation will be at their lowest and crowds minimal. The rains also tend to happen in the afternoons, giving you plenty of time to sightsee before the downpours.
Dar es Salaam
Dar es Salaam is the former capital city of Tanzania and is the country's economic hub. It's a bustling metropolis that is a mixture of African, Indian and Arab influences.
While most people use the city as a springboard to the country's more popular destinations, that doesn't mean there isn't anything to see.
Spend at least a day here and explore the lively markets, visit the national museum and marvel at the colonial churches.
Dodoma is the capital of Tanzania. Founded in 1907, it plays an important part in the country's politics but not much else.
It's home to a few mosques and church that represent the religious diversity in Tanzania. On the city's outskirts, you'll find farms that are fast becoming the centre of Tanzania's wine industry.
Mwanza is the second largest city in Tanzania. While it's an important port for the country, it's rapidly grown over the years thanks to proximity to the various national parks.
Its top attractions include Lake Victoria, Saanane Island National Park and the Bujora Cultural Centre. Mwanza also has a variety of colonial buildings in its city centre and Hindu temples that reflect its Indian influence.
Top Attractions in Tanzania
Mount Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain on the continent, earning it the nickname "The Rooftop of Africa". It's also one of the world's Seven Summits and people from around the world attempt to climb it each year.
Hikers will walk past five different climate zones. You'll start in a rainforest, before making your way into a moorland of unique vegetation. The final section is a barren arctic zone that concludes Mount Kilimanjaro's visual feast.
While the mountain is possible to climb throughout the year, the conditions are best during the dry season and have a higher success rate.
Serengeti National Park
Serengeti National Park is home to thousands of animals. It's Tanzania's biggest and most popular national park. Tourists from all over the world come here to witness its annual migration.
In June, millions of zebra and wildebeest make their way across the Serengeti in search of water. It's been dubbed "The Greatest Wildlife Show on Earth" and is an incredible event to witness.
The park is also home to 500 species of birds and countless other wildlife species. Keep a lookout for lion, leopards and cheetahs on the prowl as well as the bat-eared fox and massive herds of elephants.
No visit to Zanzibar would be complete without a stop in Stone Town. Built during the 19th century, it's the world's oldest Swahili city.
Explore the historic buildings, visit the 200-year-old churches and shop for souvenirs at the bustling Central Darajani Market. With so much to see around every corner, it's one of the best places to simply wander around and get lost.
Some of Stone Town's highlights include the People's Palace, the Hamamni Persian Baths and the city's oldest structure, the Old Fort.
Ngorongoro Conservation Area
The Ngorongoro Crater is nearly three million years old and was once one of the tallest mountains in the world. Today, it's home to a water supply that attracts thousands of animals, making it one Tanzania's top wildlife destinations.
Thomson's gazelles, wildebeest, rhinos and elephants are just some of the big game that visit the crater. Hippos can also be seen submerging themselves in Lake Magadi whose shallows are usually covered by flocks of flamingoes.
Besides the wildlife, Ngorongoro is also home to the Maasai people. Visitors can travel to their villages and visit one of the cultural bomas for a unique Tanzanian experience.
If you're looking to explore Tanzania's marine heritage, head to Pemba Island in the Zanzibar archipelago.
It boasts some of the best scuba diving in the Indian Ocean. Swim past the lush coral gardens, tropical reef fish and megafaunas like manta rays and the many species of shark.
Back on land, the island's 1,000-metre peaks attract mountain bikers from all over the world. It's also well-known across Africa for its juju traditions and magic. Many people make a pilgrimage to Pemba to learn voodoo and seek the help from the island's traditional healers.
Major International Airports in Tanzania
- Julius Nyerere International Airport
- Abeid Amani Karume International Airport
- Kilimanjaro International Airport