Tanzania has two official languages: Swahili and English. Swahili, which has its origins in Zanzibar, is the most commonly spoken language in both Tanzania and Kenya.
English is widely spoken, however, you may wish to bring along a Swahili to English phrasebook to give you access to the basics. The locals are always appreciative if you know a little bit of Swahili!
Below you’ll find a few useful Swahili phrases to get you started.
Useful Swahili Phrases
- Karibu: Welcome
- Habari/Hujambo: Hello
- Habari?/Habari Yako?: How are you?
- Nzuri: Good. The standard reply to how are you
- Samahani: Sorry
- Asante: Thank you
- Chakula: Food
- Rafiki: Friend
- Hapana: No
- Ndio: Yes
Tanzania is in the +3 GMT time zone. The sun rises at approximately 6.30 in the morning and sets at around 18.45 in the evening.
The locals also use what is known as Swahili Time, which is quite a bit different from the conventional way of keeping time as we know it. 1:00 in the morning is the first hour after the sunrise (approximately 7 am) and 1:00 in the evening is the first hour after sunset (approximately 7 pm).
That being said, most businesses will operate using the standard way of measuring time.
Tanzania’s tourism industry means that there is a great variety of high-quality food available. Hotels and restaurants provide cuisine from all around the world as well as local cuisine, so you can immerse yourself fully with Tanzanian food or sample the comforts of home.
Traditional Tanzanian food features plenty of meat (especially beef, chicken, and fish), rice, and vegetables. It’s simple, hearty food often accompanied by ugali, a flour, and water based dough similar to polenta and eaten by hand.
Tanzanian’s love seafood and Zanzibar is a culinary paradise for those who love freshly caught fish, shrimp, and the like.
You’ll also notice the Indian and British influences on Tanzanian cuisine, with everything from spicy curries to old British staples such as fish & chips popular with locals and visitors alike. In larger cities, you’ll encounter steakhouses, burger joints, and stores selling cuisine from around the world.
Vegetarians are also well catered for in Tanzania. With fresh fruits such as mangoes, coconuts, and pineapples available in abundance. With Tanzanian food so rich in vegetables, legumes, and rice – you’ll be able to find delicious vegetarian food without any trouble.
For the most part, food in Tanzania is perfectly safe to eat. It would be advisable to avoid eating cold, pre-prepared foods.
It is not safe to drink tap water in Tanzania. In fact, it is advisable to use tap water only for showering or washing your hands.
To avoid health problems, use only bottled or filtered water for drinking and brushing your teeth.
Bottled water is cheap and readily available in Tanzania, and all lodges and restaurants will have it available. Shadows of Africa’s safari vehicles always come stocked with plenty of bottled water to ensure you remain hydrated while on safari.
Money, Credit Cards, Traveller’s Cheques, and ATMs
The official Tanzanian currency is the Tanzanian Shilling. They have coins for 50, 100, and 1000 shillings; and notes for 500, 1000, 2000, 5000, and 10,000 shillings.
The US Dollar is widely used, but may not be accepted in some establishments. It is also important to note that most businesses that do accept US currency will not do so if it is torn or wrinkled.
Notes must not be older than 2006, as local businesses will automatically reject these due to a past counterfeiting problem.
Banks & Currency Exchange
Currency can be exchanged at banks, currency exchange offices (which are plentiful in the city), and in most hotels. Hotels generally offer the least favorable exchange rates.
Banks in Tanzania are open from 9 am until 3.30pm Monday to Friday, and from 9 am until 11 am on Saturdays.
The tax rate in Tanzania amounts to 16% for most products and services. There is no process for reclaiming this amount upon departing the country.
ATMs that accept both Visa and MasterCard are available in most cities. You will be able to withdraw from your accounts in local (Tanzanian shillings) currency by entering your PIN. The daily withdrawal limit amounts to roughly $300 USD.
Be sure to alert your bank that you will be traveling to Africa. Many banks will deem transactions made out of your native country as suspicious and may lock access to your accounts if you have not forewarned them.
International credit cards (especially Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Thomas Cook) are accepted in most stores, restaurants, hotels, camping sites, lodges, car rental companies, etc. Many smaller stores will not have EFTPOS facilities, so it is generally better to carry cash.
Credit cards typically attract a 5-15% tax.
Traveler’s cheques are not accepted anywhere in Tanzania.
Visas & Passports
Entering Tanzania requires both a valid passport and a Tanzanian visa. While the information below is up to date at the time of writing, it is advisable to always check ahead to ensure visa processes or charges have not changed.
Who needs a visa?
With the exception of Hong Kong, Jamaica, Barbados, Malaysia, and roughly a dozen African nations; everybody entering Tanzania is required to have a tourist visa.
To enter Tanzania, you’ll also need a passport with at least six months validity remaining. If you are planning to apply for a visa upon arrival, you will also need two free, adjacent pages remaining in your passport.
How to obtain a visa
Visas are available upon arrival in Tanzania, whether you’re landing at the airport or are making a border crossing.
The cost of a visa upon arrival is $50 for non-US citizens and $100 for US citizens. This should be paid in USD. Other currencies are not accepted.
If you have any further questions about the visa process, please don’t hesitate to contact us. That’s what we’re here for!
Tipping is customary in Tanzania and is very much a part of the incomes of many people in the hospitality and tourism industry.
As a general rule of thumb, tipping for satisfactory service should be as follows:
- Safari and Kilimanjaro climbing guides: $$20 per person per day
- Cooks, Porters, Caddies etc.: $15 per person per day
Electricity and Electronic Devices
Tanzanian power outlets use 220-240V, 50Hz. If you are traveling from a country with a voltage less than 220V should check whether or not their electronic devices have a dual voltage power supply. If not, you may need to purchase a converter before leaving.
Generally speaking, most electronics (smartphones, digital cameras, tablets, and computers) work on a dual voltage basis. Electrical appliances such as razors and hair dryers do not
Tanzania uses the 3 pins ‘British’ plug, which is comprised of three square/rectangular pegs. Travel adaptors can be purchased at airports and at most larger department stores.
When on safari, it is advisable to bring along items that run on batteries. While most hotels and our Shadows of Africa safari vehicles do have power outlets in which you can charge your devices, in campsites or lodges that run on generators, you may not have access to electricity to charge your appliances.
Tanzania is one of the safest countries in East Africa, but you never can be too careful when you’re on the road. While safari areas are generally very safe, the country is no stranger to criminal activity. Like any other country in the world, there is always some risk of theft.
It is advisable that you listen closely to your guide’s advice at all times, and that is especially true in some urban areas. Either leave your valuables (such as many, electronics, credit cards, and documentation) behind in your hotel room’s safe, or carry them with you in concealed inner pockets.
Don’t flaunt your valuables in public, as this may draw unwanted attention to you. Pickpockets are particularly active in heavily touristed areas, so it pays to be cautious when in cities and areas popular with tourists.
It is always a good idea to make copies of all of your important documents and keep them in your luggage.
As a developing country, Tanzania has issues with a number of potentially harmful diseases. Thankfully, many of these can be vaccinated against before you travel.
Before departing for your trip, it is advisable that you speak with your physician about getting vaccinated against the following:
- Hepatitis A & B
These are in addition to the vaccinations that all travelers should have up to date regardless of where they are traveling, such as MMR (measles, mumps, rubella), diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis, chickenpox, polio, and a flu shot.
It is also advisable that you speak with your physician about measures that you can take to minimize your chance of exposure to malaria and cholera.
Finally, if you are traveling from an area where yellow fever is a problem, you will be required to have a yellow fever vaccination as a condition of entry. If you are traveling from such an area and do not have a vaccination certificate, your visa application may be denied.
Malaria is prevalent throughout Tanzania, except in high altitude areas (above 1,800m) such as Mt. Kilimanjaro and Ngorongoro. Malaria medications differ from country to country dependent on conditions, so be sure to advise your physician that you’ll be traveling to Tanzania. Saying you’ll be traveling to Africa is not enough, as conditions differ greatly between countries. You should begin taking your malaria medication a few days before your trip and continue to take it for a short period after you have returned home.
HIV/AIDS are no more a problem here than they are anywhere else in the world. Provided you are not taking undue risks, you have nothing to fear.
When it comes to medical attention, nurses and doctors in Tanzania are highly qualified, especially in cities such as Arusha and Dar Es Salaam. Most camping sites, lodges, and hotels have on-site physicians and are in close contact with the Flying Doctors Service should an evacuation be needed.