Zanzibar and Mombasa are famous for their sun kissed coastline miles of white sandy beaches. Some popular, some deserted, but always with warm seas. Almost everyone combines their safari with a stay in on the beach, and most visit the main Zanzibar island of Unguja and in Mombasa at Diani, Watamu, Malindi, Lamu or Bamburi
Some beaches are shared with the locals who use the beach for fishing or farming seaweed for a living. At times this activity is heavier than at other times. If you plan to swim in the ocean a lot then you should consider whether this type of activity would make it harder for you to enjoy the ocean. Note that the tide can also impact your ability to enjoy the ocean. Sometimes, a low tide can mean a long walk to the ocean. Other times, a high tide can mean that there may not be any room for walking along the beach. Tide charts can easily be found online to help you plan your trip.
Climate Generally dry and hot with cool nights/mornings June-October and mid-December-March; short rains November to mid-December; long rains April-May but the seasons can vary. The coastal strip is hot and humid all year round. Temperatures on Mount Kilimanjaro and Meru drop to below freezing.
Pack lightweight, washable clothes plus a sweater for early morning game drives, as well as a sun hat, sunglasses and sunscreen. Long sleeves and trousers in lightcolored fabrics help discourage insect bites. Brightly colored clothing may alarm the animals. You can buy clothes in Dar, Zanzibar and Arusha if necessary. Shorts are acceptable only while on safari for both men and women. Women should bring a wrap skirt (for over shorts) or wear capri-length or long pants to cover legs in villages and towns as revealing clothes can cause offense. On the beach and within the confines of beach hotels normal swimwear is acceptable (but not nudity).
For climbing on Kilimanjaro or Meru, take thermal underwear, light layers, sweater, rain jacket, good socks and sturdy boots.
Don’t indiscriminately hand out pens, money and sweets– it just encourages begging. As anywhere, gifts should be given as a true expression of friendship, appreciation or thanks.
Visas are required. Visas cost $50 USD per person ($100 USD per person for US Citizens) and can be obtained on arrival but you may wish to get them in advance.
Take out travel insurance to cover loss of baggage or valuables, personal accident and medical expenses. Access 2 Tanzania has teamed with Travelex Insurance Services to offer a selection of travel insurance options. All Travelex policies offer primary coverage – meaning they pay first, not your personal insurance policies. Check out to compare plans. This plan provides insurance coverage for your trip that applies only during the covered trip. You may have coverage from other sources that provides you with similar benefits but may be subject to different restrictions depending upon your other coverages. You may wish to compare the terms of this policy with your existing life, health, home and automobile policies. If you have any questions about your current coverage, call your insurer, insurance agent or broker. The purchase of this plan is not required in order to purchase any other travel product or service offered to you by your travel retailer.
English is widely spoken in the cities, but not spoken much in the villages. A few words of Swahili can be useful and will be appreciated greatly by locals.
Major foreign currencies – particularly USD and EUROS are accepted and are convertible at banks and bureau de changes in the main towns and tourist areas. In general, credit cards are of little use in Tanzania. Credit cards are not widely accepted and when they are accepted, they carry poor exchange rates and are subject to processing fees (between 5-10%). Some banks in Arusha, Dar es Salaam and Moshi offer ATM facilities against international credit cards, but again the rates are typically poor and the amount that can be withdrawn is limited. ATMs are not available at all elsewhere. Don’t change money in the street.
Distances in Tanzania are vast, and travel by road can be wearing. Keep your distance from animals and be quiet to avoid distressing the wildlife. Follow instructions of your guide. Don’t leave your vehicle in the parks except in designated places. Keep to recognized tracks to avoid damaging vegetation.
Bring film and batteries for your camera with you. Protect your cameras from dust and keep equipment and film cool. It is courteous to ask permission before photographing local people. If you intend to take a lot of people pictures, it can be nice to bring an instant camera with you so that you can leave a picture with the people you photograph. Excellent binoculars are a must. If you do not have binoculars, Nature Bound Africa can supply your car with a pair upon request and free of charge.
Tanzania is generally a safe country, but don’t invite temptation. Keep an eye on your belongings. Don’t walk in the towns or cities at night – take a taxi. Don’t carry cameras or large amounts of cash; beware of pickpockets. Use hotel safety deposit boxes to safeguard valuables and obtain a receipt. Leave valuable jewelry at home.
The tourist areas and hotels sell a wide range of souvenirs, jewelry and trinkets. Don’t be afraid to haggle at roadside stalls.
Tipping on Safari
Tipping at Mt. Kilimanjaro
- Tipping recommendations from the trekking group (not per climber):
- Guides: $15/day
- Assistant Guides: $10/day
- Cook: $10/day
- Porter: $5/day
- Expect 1 guide per 2 hikers, 1 assistant guide per 3 hikers, and 1 cook per 8 hikers. Porters as follows:
- 2 porters per hiker on the 5-day Marangu Route and Mt. Meru (minimum of 4 porters)
- 3 porters per hiker on a 6 or 7-day trek (minimum of 5 porters)
- 4 porters per hiker on the 8-day Lemosho Route (minimum of 8 porters)
- Sometimes extra porters are required based on the weight of the luggage.
- Budget $200-250 per hiker for tips for a 6-day trek.
- small denominations of Tanzanian shillings (or US dollars); tipping in shillings is preferred
- rubber bands (or envelopes)
- small notebook and pen
- calculator and the current exchange rate; Tsh to dollars and dollars to Tsh (i.e. if 1.00US$ = 1,325tsh than 1,000tsh = .75US$ apprx)
African cultures are nearly opposite to Western cultures in many ways. When in a rural village, it is important to respect the local culture so we will always be welcome. Most of the Tanzanians you will encounter in a village have had little exposure to foreigners. In all cases, communication is a great path to mutual understanding and if you should get into any misunderstandings or run into any problems, feel free to talk with your guide.
Society And Social Obligations Vs. Individuality And Independence
There are strong social obligations in Tanzania that are opposite to the independence prized in many Western countries. Greetings are very important, and spending time socializing is also valued in Tanzania. Tanzanians are generally very accommodating and helpful to outsiders. Your friends, local family, and local co-workers will often accompany you and want to help you in any way possible. As a guest, some people may want to serve you. Be aware that this may make you feel uncomfortable, but their goal is to make you as comfortable as possible.
Tanzanians are incredibly friendly and welcoming people and do not be surprised to get invited frequently to peoples’ homes for “chai” (tea). They will offer you drinks or food. You may be considered rude if you refuse but of course do not consume things you are uncomfortable with. Also understand that it is generally culturally unacceptable to refuse a gift. Whoever invites people for drinks or a meal generally pays for everything instead of splitting the bill. If other people pay for your drinks or meals do not be surprised.
There is a community concept in Tanzania that people who have something should share it with their friends and family, and that property is ours rather than mine or yours. This is in sharp contrast to Western values of me and mine. Be prepared that people will ask you to give them things, pay for things, or buy things. Western people often interpret this as people trying to take advantage of them. There is simply a cultural difference of sharing whatever you have coupled with an assumption that you have a lot to give. This is opposite to Western culture where we value independence and often do not like to ask for help or things especially from others. It is best to say “no” if that is how you feel. Realize, too, that Tanzanians often say “no” to each other as well. When they ask for something, such as for help sending them to school, your camera, or for you to buy something from them, they are not really expecting you to say “yes,” they are just trying their chances. Feel free to say “no” without an explanation. A simple, “Siwezi” (I can’t) or “Sina” (I don’t have any) if someone asks you for something you are uncomfortable giving, or “Asante” (Thank you) while shaking your head and smiling if someone asks you to buy something you don’t want, is a culturally appropriate response. As a result of poverty, many people do genuinely need help, but you should talk with your guide before providing assistance to someone. It is your choice to help an individual, but keep in mind it can create jealousies and set precedents for future expectations. Try to be sensitive to the economic disparities and try to keep symbols of wealth such as cameras, walkmans, jewelry, or large amounts of local currency out of public view.
While in Western societies time makes things happen, in Tanzania people generally make things happen. This means that meetings which are scheduled for 10 am often do not start until everybody gets there at 11:30 am. Smaller buses leave when all the seats are full, rather than on a set schedule. There is an increasing effort here to try to be more on time, but be aware that people may interpret time differently than you. “Sasa hivi” (right now) could mean an hour from now. People are not trying to be disrespectful, time just has a different meaning.
While privacy is very important in Western cultures, it is practically nonexistent in Tanzania. This means that people may openly stare at you, and may ask questions that seem personal, such as “are you married, any children, what religion are you?”
Men and women are generally not friends in Tanzanian society. You may of course become friends with people of different genders, but be aware that if you spend a lot of time with any individual of the opposite sex, the community will assume you are having an affair. Public displays of affection between members of the opposite sex will be very offensive to the rural community. On the other hand, do not be surprised to see men holding hands in friendship. Women in particular may experience badgering from men including frequent marriage proposals. Wearing a wedding ring and telling people you are married goes a long way.
Tanzanians have a very different dress code than westerners, which we need to respect. In urban areas western dress is appropriate, although generally throughout Tanzania shorts are only worn by primary schoolaged boys. For an adult, wearing shorts is culturally equivalent to walking around in underwear. In villages, men should wear long pants and shirts with collars and women should either wear skirts, lightweight dresses or pants that cover below the knee and shirts that cover shoulders. Depending upon the nature and location of your village visit your shoe choices can vary. If walking around a village area wear a sturdy pair of walking shoes. If you are doing formal meetings (at a school for example) then a nicer pair of close-toed shoes would be preferable. If in doubt, choose the culturally sensitive, conservative approach. If you dress shabbily, it may be interpreted as a lack of respect for the community.
Aside from general polite behaviors such as not swearing, smoking, or using other drugs considered offensive in many societies, there are special behaviors that are deemed respectful in Tanzanian society. Greetings are very important. A good start is: “Habari yako?” (How are you), or “Hujambo” and answer “Nzuri” (Fine/good). Give and take things and eat with your right hand only when ever possible. If you are a woman and choose to wear a kanga over a skirt as local women do, the local community will be very happy. Also be aware that sniffing food is considered rude. Feel free to try a taste of something, and press fruit to see if it is ripe rather than smelling it. Be prepared that many people may call you “mzungu” (westerner) if your skin is white, may not believe you do not come from India or Asia if your features suggest such an ancestry, or may believe you know Swahili if your skin is black. They are not trying to insult you and racial terms do not have the same connotations in Tanzania as they do in the west.
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