What You Need to Know Before You Go to Tanzania

Tanzania Visas, Health, Safety and When to Go

Africa, Tanzania, Ngorongoro crater a view of the geological formation
••• PhotoStock-Israel/Moment/Getty Images

These Tanzania travel tips will help you plan your trip to Tanzania. This page has information about visas, health, safety and when to go to Tanzania.

Visas

Citizens of the UK, the US, Canada, Australia, and most countries in the EU, need a tourist visa to enter Tanzania. Application details and forms can be found on Tanzanian Embassy web sites. US citizens can apply here. Tanzanian embassies issue single ($50) and double ($100) entry visas (handy if you're planning to cross over to Kenya or Malawi for a few days).

They do not issue visas for more than two entries.

Tanzanian tourist visas are valid for 6 months from the date of issue. So while planning ahead for visas is a good thing, make sure the visa is still valid for the length of time you plan to travel in Tanzania.

You can obtain a visa at all airports in Tanzania as well as at the border crossings, but it is advised to get a visa beforehand. In order to get a visa, you have to have proof that you plan to leave Tanzania within 3 months of your arrival.

As with all visa matters -- contact your local Tanzanian Embassy for the latest information.

Health and Immunizations

Immunizations

No immunizations are required by law to enter Tanzania if you are traveling directly from Europe or the US. If you are traveling from a country where Yellow Fever is present you will need to prove you have had the inoculation.

Several vaccinations are highly recommended when traveling to Tanzania, they include:

It is also recommended that you are up to date with your polio and tetanus vaccinations. Rabies is also prevalent and if you're planning to spend a lot of time in Tanzania, it may be worth getting the rabies shots before you go.

Contact a travel clinic at least 3 months before you plan to travel.

Here's a list of travel clinics for US residents.

Malaria

There's a risk of catching malaria pretty much everywhere you travel in Tanzania. While it's true that areas of high altitude like the Ngorongoro Conservation Area are relatively malaria-free, you will usually be passing through areas where malaria is prevalent in order to get there.

Tanzania is home to the chloroquine-resistant strain of malaria as well as several others. Make sure your doctor or travel clinic knows you are traveling to Tanzania (don't just say Africa) so s/he can prescribe the right anti-malarial medication. Tips on how to avoid malaria will also help.

Safety

Tanzanians are well known for their friendly, laid-back attitude. In most cases, you will be humbled by their hospitality despite the fact that most people are a lot poorer than you. As you travel in the touristy areas, you will probably attract your fair share of souvenir hawkers and beggars. Remember that these are poor people who are trying to earn money to feed their families. If you aren't interested then say so, but try and remain polite.

Basic Safety Rules for Travelers to Tanzania

  • Make a copy of your passport and keep it in your luggage.
  • Don't walk on your own at night in the major cities or on empty beaches especially in Pemba and Zanzibar.
  • Don't wear jewelry.
  • Don't carry too much cash with you.
  • Wear a money belt that fits under your clothes.
  • Don't carry a lot of camera equipment especially in the major cities.
  • Beware of thieves posing as police officers.

Roads

Roads in Tanzania are pretty bad. Potholes, road blocks, goats and people tend to get in the way of vehicles and the rainy season completely wipes out half the country's roads. Avoid driving a car or riding a bus at night because that's when most accidents happen. If you are renting a car, keep the doors and windows locked while driving in the major cities. Car-jackings occur fairly regularly but may not end in violence as long as you comply with demands made.

Terrorism

In 1998 a terrorist attack on the US Embassy in Dar es Salaam left 11 dead and 86 injured. The US, UK, and Australian governments are all warning that more attacks may occur specifically in Zanzibar and/or Dar es Salaam.

Vigilance is required, but there's no need to avoid visiting these places -- people are still visiting New York and London after all.

For more information on terrorism check with your Foreign Office or Department of State for the latest warnings and developments.

When to Go to Tanzania

The rainy seasons in Tanzania are from March to May and November to December. Roads become washed out and some parks even have to close. But, the rainy season is the perfect time to get good deals on safaris and enjoy a quieter experience without the crowds.

  • The best months to climb Kilimanjaro are January, February, and September when it is warm and dry.
  • The best time to see the annual migration of millions of wildebeest and zebras is February to March when they have their young. The dry season (June to November) in general is the best time to go on safari in Tanzania since the animals congregate around the waterholes and river banks.
  • The best time to enjoy the beaches of Zanzibar and Pemba is between July and October when there are fewer tourists escaping the European winter and there's little chance of rain.

Getting To and From Tanzania

By Air

If you're planning to visit Northern Tanzania, the best airport to arrive at is Kilimanjaro International Airport (KIA). KLM has daily flights from Amsterdam. Ethiopian and Kenya Airways also fly into KIA.

If you're planning to visit Zanzibar, southern and western Tanzania, you'll want to fly to the capital Dar es Salaam. European carriers that fly into Dar es Salaam include British AirwaysKLM, and Swissair (which codeshares with Delta).

Regional flights to Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar and parts of northern Tanzania regularly fly from Nairobi (Kenya AirwaysAir Kenya) and Addis Ababa (Ethiopian Airlines). Precision Air has several flights per week to Entebbe (Uganda), Mombasa and Nairobi.

By Land

To and From Kenya: There are several bus services available between Tanzania and Kenya. Buses regularly go from Mombasa to Dar es Salaam (12 hours), Nairobi to Dar es Salaam (about 13 hours), Nairobi to Arusha (5 hours), and Voi to Moshi. Some bus companies originating in Arusha will drop you off at your hotel in Nairobi and also offer pick-ups at Nairobi's international airport. 

To and From Malawi: The border crossing between Tanzania and Malawi is at the Songwe River Bridge. Direct buses between Dar es Salaam and Lilongwe depart several times a week and take around 27 hours. Your other alternative is to get to the border crossing and take minibusses in either direction to the closest towns -- Karonga in Malawi and Mbeya in Tanzania. Spend the night and then continue on the next day. Both towns have regular long-distance bus services.

To and From Mozambique: The main border post is at Kilambo (Tanzania) which you can get to via minibus from Mtwara. To cross the border requires a trip across the Ruvuma River and depending on the tides and the season, this could be a simple quick canoe trip or an hour long ferry ride. The border post in Mozambique is at Namiranga.

To and From Uganda: Daily buses travel from Kampala to Dar es Salaam (via Nairobi -- so make sure you get a visa for Kenya to transit). The bus trip takes at least 25 hours. A more manageable crossing is from Kampala to Bukoba (on the shores of Lake Victoria) which gets you to Tanzania in about 7 hours. You can also take a short 3 hour trip by bus from Bukoba (Tanzania) to the Ugandan border town of Masaka. Scandinavian also runs buses from Moshi to Kampala (via nairobi).

To and From Rwanda: Regional coach services travels from Kigali to Dar es Salaam at least once a week, the trip takes about 36 hours and crosses into Uganda first. Shorter trips between the Tanzania/Rwanda border at Rusumo Falls are possible but the security situation fluctuates so inquire locally in Benako (Rwanda) or Mwanza (Tanzania). Buses also run at least once a day from Mwanza (it will take all day) to the border of Rwanda, and from there you can catch a minibus to Kigali. Catching the bus from Mwanza means a ferry trip to start with so the schedule is fairly fixed.

To and From Zambia: Buses run a couple times a week between Dar es Salaam and Lusaka (about 30 hours) and between Mbeya and Lusaka (about 16 hours). The border that is used most often is at Tunduma and you can get minibusses from Mbeya to Tunduma and then cross into Zambia and take public transport from there.

Getting Around Tanzania

By Air

To get from northern Tanzania to the capital Dar es Salaam, or to fly to Zanzibar, there are several scheduled flights you can take.

Precision Air offers routes between all the major Tanzanian towns. Regional Air Services offers flights to Grumeti (Serengeti), Manyara, Sasakwa, Seronera, Dar es Salaam, Arusha and more. For quick flights to Zanzibar from around Tanzania, check out ZanAir or Coastal.

By Train

Two railway lines have passenger services in Tanzania. Tazara trains run between Dar es Salaam and Mbeya (handy to get to the border of Malawi and Zambia). The Tanzania Railway Corporation (TRC) runs the other railway line and you can travel from Dar es Salaam to Kigoma and Mwanza, and also along the Kaliua-Mpanda and Manyoni-Singida Branch Lines. See Seat 61's passenger-train schedules to find out when the trains run.

There are several classes to choose from, depending on how squashed you like to be on long train rides, choose your class accordingly. For 1st and 2nd class berths, book at least a few days in advance.

By Bus

There are plenty of options to travel by bus in Tanzania. The biggest express bus operator is Scandinavia Express Services which has routes between major cities and towns throughout the country.

Other major express bus companies in Tanzania include Dar Express, Royal, and Akamba. For basic schedules, costs and trip time see this handy guide from Encounter Tanzania.

Local buses run between smaller towns as well as large towns but they are often slow and very crowded.

Renting a Car

All the major car rental agencies and plenty of local ones can provide you with a 4WD (4x4) vehicle in Tanzania. Most rental agencies do not offer unlimited mileage, so you'll have to be careful when caculating your costs. The roads in Tanzania aren't very good especially during the rainy season and gas (petrol) is expensive. Driving is on the left side of the road and you'll most likely need an international driving license as well as a major credit card to rent a car. Driving at night is not advised. If you're driving in the major cities beware that car-jackings are becoming more commonplace.

If you're planning a self-drive safari in Tanzania then the Northern circuit is a lot easier to navigate than the western or southern wildlife parks. The road from Arusha to the Serengeti takes you to Lake Manyara and the Ngorongoro Crater. It's in reasonable condition, although getting to your campsite may not be as easy once you're within the park gates.