Full of treasures from the white sand shores of Pemba to iconic game reserves like the Serengeti, Tanzania is an exceptional destination for adventurous travelers. Like most countries, however, it has its fair share of problems. Poverty has led to a relatively high rate of violent crime including robberies, carjackings, and muggings. Solo female and LGBTQ+ travelers are particularly at risk of attracting unwanted attention. Outside of Tanzania's cities, threats to traveler safety include tropical diseases and poorly maintained roads.
- Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Department of State has issued a "reconsider travel" warning for all travel to Tanzania.
- Prior to the pandemic, the U.S. State Department advised travelers to "exercise increased caution" in Tanzania due to crime, terrorism, and the targeting of LGBTQ+ individuals.
Is Tanzania Dangerous?
Crime-wise, Tanzania's big cities are by far the most dangerous places to be. General safety rules include booking accommodation in affluent areas, avoiding townships or informal settlements unless you visit on part of an organized tour, and making sure not to walk alone at night. If you plan on renting a car, keep the doors and windows locked when driving in the city and especially at traffic lights. Never leave valuables visible inside the car when you park.
Although several small-scale terrorist attacks have occurred around the country, the last major incident took place in 1998 when the bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Dar es Salaam resulted in the death of 11 people. Terrorist attacks in Tanzania often target local security forces rather than tourists, but attacks in popular areas or near large social gatherings can cause indiscriminate damage to people nearby.
Many tourists have also reported being kidnapped and forced to withdraw money from ATMs at gunpoint after accepting help from a stranger or getting into an unlicensed taxi. Never accept lifts from strangers and be wary of anyone trying to help you hail a taxi on the street. The safest bet is to arrange official taxis through a reputable source such as your hotel or tour operator.
Generally, crime is not an issue in Tanzania's game parks and reserves. Although the bush is home to plenty of dangerous animals, it's easy to stay safe by simply following park rules and regulations and always listening to your guide. Basic tips include staying in the safari vehicle at all times (unless you're told that it's safe to get out) and checking shoes for venomous spiders and scorpions before putting them on. Don't feed wild animals if they approach you at campsites—you're only encouraging aggressive behavior.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention strongly recommends typhoid and hepatitis A vaccinations for most visitors to Tanzania. Your doctor may recommend a number of other vaccinations as well depending on which area of the country you're traveling to and what you plan on doing while you're there. These include cholera, hepatitis B, rabies, and yellow fever. If you plan on traveling to Tanzania from a country where yellow fever is endemic, you will need to prove that you have been inoculated against the disease by presenting a vaccination certificate at immigration.
Malaria is a risk in all areas of Tanzania with an altitude of less than 5,906 feet (1,800 meters). Anti-malaria pills are recommended and there are a number of different types to choose from, although many of them come with displeasing side effects. Dengue fever is another mosquito-borne illness that is common in Tanzania and can cause severe illness. For both malaria and dengue fever, the best medicine is prevention, so pack plenty of insect repellant and stay indoors when mosquitos are most active.
Is Tanzania Safe for Solo Travelers?
If you aren't accustomed to traveling alone and have never traveled in Africa, Tanzania can be a difficult solo trip for first-timers. You'll already stand out as a foreigner and being alone can also make you an easier target for scams or worse. But just because you're arriving alone in Tanzania doesn't mean you have to travel alone. Research tour operators in the country based on what kind of trip you're looking for so you can not only join a group of fellow travelers but also move around with local guides who know the area.
Another option is to start your trip in a hostel where you're likely to meet potential travel companions and can possibly merge itineraries to explore Tanzania together. Just be sure to thoroughly research the hostel and the neighborhood it's located in before reserving a bed to minimize any risks.
Is Tanzania Safe for Female Travelers?
If you are a solo female traveler, you may want to take extra precautions when traveling in Tanzania, although unwanted attention is more common than actual assault. To avoid being made to feel uncomfortable, consider dressing conservatively. This is especially true in the Islamic areas of Tanzania, which include Zanzibar and much of the Swahili Coast. Make sure to research hotels carefully and always stay in a safe area. If you're backpacking, book a private room or a bed in a girls-only dorm rather than a unisex one.
If traveling alone seems intimidating, an organized tour can be a great way to stay safe and meet new people.
Safety Tips for LGBTQ+ Travelers
Homosexuality is illegal in Tanzania and LGBTI persons are openly persecuted by the government. In November 2018, Dar es Salaam regional commissioner Paul Makonda encouraged members of the public to report gays to the authorities for round-ups. Gay male sex carries a jail sentence of up to 30 years. LGBTI persons are advised not to be affectionate with members of the opposite sex in public and the U.S. Department of State even recommends that travelers remove evidence of same-sex relationships from their social media pages.
Safety Tips for BIPOC Travelers
Tanzania is a majority Christian country with a large Muslim population, particularly on the islands of Zanzibar. There's an unquestionable tension between the two groups, although the conflict stems more from political differences than theological ones. Places of worship for both faiths have been the targets of terrorist attacks, and Muslim residents on the Christian-majority mainland have reported discrimination and Islamophobic attitudes. While most of this conflict plays out in Tanzania's politics and affects residents more than tourists, visitors who are religious should exercise caution when visiting churches or mosques and also be aware that it's a delicate topic before debating religion with locals.
Safety Tips for Travelers
- Don't walk around with jewelry, high-value electronics, or other indicators of wealth. Carry the minimum amount of cash you need and consider bringing credit cards instead of ATM cards.
- Bag-snatching is common, whereby a thief on a motorbike or in a car drives close to the sidewalk and seizes bags from unsuspecting tourists as they pass. To prevent this, keep your distance from the road, always walk towards oncoming traffic, and, if you must carry a bag, keep it loosely over the shoulder furthest from the road.
- If you're planning a Kilimanjaro or Mount Meru hike, make sure to research your chosen operator carefully to make sure that they use reliable equipment and knowledgeable guides. Altitude sickness is a real risk, but one that can be alleviated by allowing time to acclimatize.
- If you're headed to the coast, avoid walking on secluded beaches alone, especially in Pemba and Zanzibar. Even if you walk in a group, consider leaving your valuables at home.
U.S. Department of State. "Tanzania Travel Advisory." August 6, 2020.
FBI.gov. "East African Embassy Bombings- FBI." Retrieved on December 28, 2020.
SafeTravel. "Tanzania." Retrieved December 28, 2020.
CDC. "Tanzania, including Zanzibar." Retrieved December 28, 2020.
Human Rights Watch. "Tanzania: Obstructions to LGBT Health, Rights | Human Rights." Retrieved on December 28, 2020.