Are you travelling to Tanzania? Our Tanzania Travel Guide has decisive information you would like to know about Tanzania before you travel there.
Tanzania is the largest country in East Africa, bordered by Kenya and Uganda to the north; Rwanda, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west, and Zambia, Malawi, and Mozambique to the south.
TANZANIA TRAVEL AND GEOGRAPHY
A large central plateau makes up most of the mainland, at between 900 m and 1800 m. The mountain ranges of the Eastern Arc and the Southern and Northern Highlands cut across the country to form part of the Great Rift Valley.
A land of geographical extremes, Tanzania houses the highest peak (Mount Kilimanjaro), the lowest point (the lake bed of Lake Tanganyika), and a portion of the largest lake (Lake Victoria, shared with Uganda and Kenya) on the African continent.
TANZANIA TRAVEL AND CLIMATE
Tanzania's weather varies from humid and hot in low lying areas, such as Dar es Salaam, to hot during the day and cool at night in Arusha. There are no discernible seasons, such as winter and summer -- only the dry and wet seasons. Tanzania has two rainy seasons: The short rains from late-October to late-December, a.k.a. the Mango Rains, and the long rains from March to May.
Many popular resorts and tourist attractions on Zanzibar and Mafia Island Marine Park close during the long rains season, and many trails in the national parks are impassable during this period. For that reason, in most cases tours are restricted to the main roads in the parks. Travelers should plan their trip accordingly.
During the dry season, temperatures can easily soar to above 35°C in Dar. You should seek shelter from the sun during the midday heat and use copious amounts of sunblock, SPF 30+.
Best times to visit are:
• June to August: This is the tail-end of the long rainy season and the weather is at its best at this time of year -- bearable during the day and cool in the evening.
However, this is not necessarily the best time of year for safaris, as water is plentiful in the parks and animals are not forced to congregate in a few locations to rehydrate, as they do in the middle of the dry season right after Christmas.
• January to February: This is the best time to visit the Serengeti. It is usually at this time that huge herds of Wildebeest, Zebra and Buffalo migrate to better grazing areas.
At this period you could observe some of the 1.5 million Wildebeest that inhabit the Serengeti undertake their epic journey. Be advised this is most likely the hottest time of year in Tanzania, when even the locals complain about the heat. You've been warned!
TANZANIA TRAVEL AND HOW TO GET IN
Tanzania Visa Information
No visa is required for stays of less than 3 months for citizens of Namibia, Romania, Rwanda, Hong Kong and all commonwealth member states (except the United kingdom, Canada, Bangladesh, New Zealand, Nigeria, India, & South Africa).
A Tourist Visa will set you back US$50 or US$100 for a three-month single entry and a three-month double entry visa, respectively. The visa can be obtained upon landing in Dar es Salaam, Kilimanjaro, Mwanza and ports of entry.
Be advised that the wait can be especially long if your flight arrives at the same time with other international flights. Visas are valid for the duration from the date of issuance. However, obtaining a visa before arrival is HIGHLY recommended.
Holders of a US passport can only obtain a US$100 multiple-entry visa. For travelers departing from the U.S., paying a US$20 fee for rush service, which takes three working days, is also an option to be considered.
The website of Tanzania Embassy in the U.S. should be checked for current and complete requirements, Visas may also be obtained from any of Tanzania's diplomatic mission abroad.
TANZANIA TRAVEL BY PLANE
There are two major airports; one in Dar es Salaam, Julius Nyerere International Airport (IATA: DAR) (formerly known as Mwalimu Julius K. Nyerere International Airport and Dar es Salaam International Airport), and one in Kilimanjaro, Kilimanjaro International Airport (IATA: JRO), which is halfway between Arusha and Moshi.
TANZANIA TRAVEL BY PLANE FROM EUROPE
• KLM Royal Dutch Airlines (Amsterdam), +255 22 213 9790 (Dar) & +255 27 223 8355 (Arusha). Daily flights with stopover in Kilimanjaro.
• British Airways (London-Heathrow), +255 22 211 3820. Flights on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday.
• Swiss International Air Lines (Zurich), +255 22 211 8870. 5 flights a week (Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday) with a stopover in Nairobi, Kenya.
TANZANIA TRAVEL BY PLANE FROM MIDDLE EAST AND ASIA
• Emirates (Dubai), +255 22 211 6100. Daily flights.
• Qatar Airways  (Doha), +255 22 284 2675, 1019, Julius Nyerere International Airport, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Daily flights.
• Air India (Mumbai), +255 22 215 2642. Flights on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
TANZANIA TRAVEL BY PLANE FROM AFRICA
South African Airways (Johannesburg), +255 22 211 7044. Twice daily flights.
• Ethiopian Airlines (Addis Ababa), +255 22 211 7063. Daily flights (except for Monday) with a stopover in Kilimanjaro.
• Kenya Airways (Nairobi), +255 22 211 9376 (Dar) & +255 24 223 8355 (Zanzibar). Three daily flights with some stopping in Kilimanjaro.
• Carriers originating from Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe also maintain regular flights to Dar es Salaam.
TANZANIA TRAVEL BY PLANE DOMESTICALLY BY
• Air Tanzania, +255 22 211 8411, firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Precision Air +255 22 212 1718, Along Nyerere/Pugu Road, P.O Box 70770, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org also flights to/from Kenya.
• Coastal Aviation, +255 22 211 7959, P. O. Box 3052, 107 Upanga Road, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, email@example.com.
• ZanAir, +255 24 223 3670, P.O.Box 2113, Zanzibar, Tanzania, firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Regional Air provides almost daily service to all major cities, including Dar es Salaam, Arusha, Mwanza, Mbeya, Zanzibar, and most national parks.
Domestic flights are often late but generally reliable.
TANZANIA TRAVEL BY TRAIN
The Tanzania - Zambia train service, known as TAZARA, operates trains twice a week between New Kapiri Mposhi, Zambia, and Dar es Salaam, leaving from Dar es Salaam on Tuesdays and Fridays. A domestic railroad network links the country's major cities, including Kigoma, Mwanza, Dodoma, Tabora, and Dar es Salaam.
The domestic train service is usually reliable, and ticket prices are affordable. Ticket prices differ, however, according to 'class', typically first, second, and third. First and second classes offer cabins with two and four beds, respectively.
Third class is open seating. Hot meals and beverages are usually available from the dining car.
It is not uncommon for the train kitchen to purchase fresh produce at many of the stopping points along the way. It is also possible to purchase fruit and snacks directly from local vendors who frequent the many train stations on each of Tanzania's many train routes.
TANZANIA TRAVEL BY CAR
Warning: It's not advised to drive in Tanzania, or throughout most of Africa, unless you have already experienced the driving conditions in developing countries. Nonetheless, here is some useful information for those thinking to undertake the challenge.
Drive on the left side of the road
• Tanzanians drive on the left (like in the UK, India, Australia, Japan, and other countries), as opposed to driving on the right, like in North America and most European countries. Experienced drivers from "right-hand drive" countries will need about half a day of driving around before adjusting to the change.
Although the gear shift, windshield wipers and turn signal activators are reversed, luckily, the pedals are not. Just follow the traffic. However, even with some practice, you should always be vigilant, as you could easily find yourself disoriented, which could put you at risk of a head-on collision or hitting a pedestrian, if you are used to driving on the opposite side of the road.
Choice of vehicle
• If you're hiring a car when you get here, your best option is a 4x4 sport utility vehicle with good road clearance, especially if you plan on going on safari in any of the national parks. Look for the Land Cruiser, Hilux Surf (4Runner), and Range Rover vehicles.
Avoid mini-SUVs, such as the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CRV, because they can't always negotiate the poor road conditions in most of Tanzania's national parks. Another issue is 4-wheel drive options.
Vehicles with always-on 4x4 are not the best choice for off-road driving. These vehicles were designed for driving in the snow on paved roads or through small mud holes.
What you encounter in national parks in Tanzania is quite different and demands a proper 4-wheel drive vehicle capable of traversing large mud holes and sandy roads. Even then, you may still get stuck.
• The two main roads are the "Dar es Salaam to Mbeya" road (A7/A17), which takes you to the Southern Highlands through the towns of Morogoro, Iringa, and Mikumi National Park, and near the Selous and Ruhaha National Parks.
The other road is the "Dar to Arusha and the Serengeti" road (B1), which takes you to the Northern Circuit by the towns of Tanga and Moshi, and Mount Kilimanjaro, Saadani, Tarangire, Ngorongoro and Serengeti National Parks.
Dangers and annoyances
• Tanzanians drive very fast and won't hesitate to overtake in a blind curve. Also, most commercial vehicles are poorly maintained and overloaded, and you'll see many of them broken-down along the main highways. NEVER assume their brakes are working or that the drivers have fully thought through the dangerous maneuver they are undertaking.
• Most roads in Tanzania are poorly maintained and littered with potholes and dangerous grooves formed by overloaded transport vehicles. All main roads cut through towns and villages, and often traffic calming tools (a.k.a. speed or road humps) ensure vehicles reduce their speed when passing through.
Unfortunately, few are clearly marked while most are hard to see until you are right upon them, and if you are coming too fast, you could be thrown off the road.
SLOW DOWN when entering any town, or you might not be able to avoid these and other hazards. This defensive driving attitude is also prudent because animals and children often bolt out into the street.
If you are involved in an accident with a pedestrian, drive to the nearest police station to advise them.
DO NOT exit your vehicle and attempt to resolve the situation, even if you are sure it was not your fault. Tanzanians are some of the nicest people you will ever meet in Africa, but they have been known to take matters into their own hands.
This is largely due to their mistrust of the police and the belief that anyone with money, e.g. rich foreigners, can buy their way out of a problem.
• If you encounter a convoy of government vehicles, move out of the way. They have priority, although this is debatable, and will not hesitate to run you off the road if you don't give way. You could also be fined by the police for your failure to give way.
FYI: In Tanzania, you can determine vehicle registration by the license plate colours. Yellow plates, starting with "T" and followed by three numbers, are privately owned vehicles. Official Tanzanian government plates are also yellow, but they display only letters and usually start with "S" (the fewer the letters, the higher up in the food chain the owner is). Green plates are diplomatic; Red are international development agencies; Blue are UN and similar organizations; White are taxis and buses, and Black are the military and the police. This coding does not apply in Zanzibar and Pemba.
• Drivers following you will activate their right turn signal light to indicate they wish to pass you. If the road is clear, activate your left turn signal; if not, activate your right turn signal. Look for this when attempting to pass.
What to bring
•A large jerry can (20 liters) with emergency fuel. (FYI - Don’t enter a national park without a full tank of gas.)
Tanzania Travel By bus
The bus is a great way to get into Tanzania. Fly to a place like Nairobi, and then you can catch a bus down to Arusha -- a great base for Mount Meru and Ngorongoro Crater.
Also, you should not forget the south central part of Tanzania, away from tourist hawkers. Roads in Tanzania aren't in good condition; there are no highways, and there are very few multiple lane segments along main roads.
Buses slow down or stop in most villages because of traffic, police, and speed calming tools. For your reference, the trip from Dar to Iringa takes at least 6 hours in a private vehicle. It's mostly a two-lane road, recently rebuilt by the Chinese, so it's in good condition for the most part.
Westbound and northbound buses leaving from Dar ply the same road (A7) until you get to Chalinze, which is about halfway, less than two hours, between Dar and Morogoro.
If you are going to Arusha, the bus will veer north on the A17. Other notable destinations along this route are Saandani National Park, Pangani, Tanga, Lushoto, Kilimanjaro, and Moshi.
From Arusha, you can also take a bus to Mwanza and Kigoma, but once you've past the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, the roads are in extremely poor condition, and you are in for a bumpy ride.
If you continue on past Chalinze you'll pass by Morogoro (also the turn off for Dodoma), the entry point into the Selous Game Reserve, Mikumi National Park, the old main gate to Udzungwa Mountains Parks, and Iringa, which is the turn off for Ruaha National Park.
Iringa is the place to explore the southern circuit, with a new campsite at the Msosa gate to the Uduzungwas (the Iringa side of the park) and the gateway to Ruaha (possibly Tanzania's best park). It is a great place to stay for a few days.
After Iringa, you'll either go west, to Mbeya, or south, to Songea. Head to Mbeya if you want to either visit Lake Tanganyika, enter into Malawi, or head north to Kigoma.
North of Mbeya, the roads aren't sealed, so it will be a long and very unpleasant trip. If you want to see Lake Nyasa (a.k.a. Lake Malawi), take the bus to Songea. Although you are within a stone's throw of Mozambique, there are no official entry points into Mozambique.
Finally, if you're headed south of Dar, then you'll take the B2. This is the main route to the Selous and the Rufiji River. Along the way, you can also stop in Kilwa, Lindi, and, finally, Mtwara. The road isn't sealed the whole way, so, again, bring on a cushion.
Outside Dar, roads between other cities and villages are in very poor condition, although they are slowly being improved. For instance, traveling from Arusha to Dodoma is slow.
It can be faster to return to Chalinze and then board a bus to Dodoma. This is pretty much the case for any travel between cities that are not located along the road to Dar.
The border town of Namanga is a hectic outpost that epitomizes much of Africa. The bus even waits here for you to cross the border. You can even get off on the Kenyan side, walk across the border, and get on the bus again on the Tanzanian side. From Dar by bus it is also possible to travel to Malawi, Uganda, and Rwanda.
Tanzania Travel Bus Lines
• Tawfiq Buses connect Mombasa with Tanga and Dar in Tanzania.
• Scandinavia services many cities, including Lusaka, Zambia.
• Royal Coach travels to Arusha, and is one of the nicest buses available.
• Dar Express services many cities, including Nairobi, Kenya.
• Sumry connect the beautiful southern part of Tanzania, Iringa and Mbeya to Dar and further S.W.
Tanzania Travel and how to Get around
The bus is the most common way to travel around in Tanzania. Most buses have a simple design, and the roads are poor, although 1st class air-con buses are available on the Dar-Moshi-Arusha route.
Nearly all buses go in and out of Dar es Salaam. The main bus station in Dar (where all buses go), Ubungo, is 8 km west of the city center.
A number of the better "intercity buses" provide you with complimentary drinks and biscuits. Scandinavian Express is a good choice if you want to travel by bus, as their routes cover much of the country, although they have fallen on hard times of late.
They operate their own terminal in downtown Dar es Salaam. In Dar, shared taxis, called Dalla-Dallas, can be taken cheaply to most places within a city.
Private taxis are also a convenient choice, but be sure to negotiate the price before you use them. Fellow travelers might be able to offer advice about a reasonable fare. Some places (e.g. Dar Es Salaam Airport) have a strong taxi cartel and post fixed prices.
If you can afford it, flying around Tanzania is faster and safer. See "By plane" in the "Get In" section above.
Even the busiest roads are in poor condition, and bus drivers are not known for their patience or great driving skills. Road accidents claim more lives in Tanzania than any other cause of death.