Tanzania Travel Guide: Essential Facts and Information

Tanzania Travel Guide Essential Facts and Information
••• Wildebeest and Flamingos, Ngorongoro Crater. Ignacio Palacios/ Getty Images

One of the continent's most iconic safari destinations, Tanzania is a haven for those looking to immerse themselves in the wonder of the African bush. It is home to some of East Africa's most famous game reserves - including the Serengeti National Park and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Many visitors travel to Tanzania to see the annual Great Migration of wildebeest and zebra, but there are many other reasons to stay.

From the idyllic beaches of Zanzibar to the snow-capped peaks of Kilimanjaro, this is a country with limitless potential for adventure. 

Location: 

Tanzania is located in East Africa, on the shores of the Indian Ocean. It is bordered by Kenya to the north and Mozambique to the south; and shares inland borders with Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Rwanda, Uganda and Zambia. 

Geography:

Including the offshore islands of Zanzibar, Mafia and Pemba, Tanzania has a total area of 365,755 square miles/ 947,300 square kilometers. It is a little more than twice the size of California.

Capital City:

Dodoma is the capital of Tanzania, although Dar es Salaam is the country's largest city and its commercial capital. 

Population:

According to a July 2016 estimate published by the CIA World Factbook, Tanzania has a population of almost 52.5 million people. Almost half of the population falls into the 0 - 14 age bracket, while the average life expectancy is 62 years of age.

 

Languages:

Tanzania is a multilingual nation with many different indigenous languages. Swahili and English are the official languages, with the former spoken as the lingua franca by the majority of the population.

Religion:

Christianity is the predominant religion in Tanzania, accounting for just over 61% of the population.

Islam is also common, accounting for 35% of the population (and almost 100% of the population on Zanzibar). 

Currency:

Tanzania's currency is the Tanzanian shilling. For accurate exchange rates, use this online converter

Climate:

Tanzania lies just south of the equator and on the whole enjoys a tropical climate. Coastal areas can be particularly hot and humid, and there are two distinct rainy seasons. The heaviest rains fall from March to May, while a shorter rainy season occurs between October and December. The dry season brings with it cooler temperatures and lasts from June to September.

When to Go:

In terms of weather, the best time to visit is during the dry season, when temperatures are more pleasant and rains are rare. This is also the best time for game-viewing, as animals are drawn to waterholes by a lack of water elsewhere. If you're planning on witnessing the Great Migration, you need to make sure that you're in the right place at the right time. Wildebeest herds gather in the southern Serengeti at the start of the year, moving northwards through the park before eventually crossing into Kenya around August. 

Key Attractions:

Serengeti National Park

The Serengeti is arguably the most famous safari destination in Africa.

For parts of the year, it is home to the vast wildebeest and zebra herds of the Great Migration - a spectacle that remains the park's biggest draw. It is also possible to see the Big Five here, and to experience the rich culture of the region's traditional Maasai tribespeople. 

Ngorongoro Crater

Set within the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, the crater is the largest intact caldera in the world. It creates a unique ecosystem filled with wildlife - including giant tusker elephants, black-maned lions and endangered black rhino. During the rainy season, the crater's soda lakes are home to thousands of rose-colored flamingos. 

Mount Kilimanjaro

Iconic Mount Kilimanjaro is the world's tallest free-standing mountain and the highest mountain in Africa. It is possible to climb Kilimanjaro without any specialised training or equipment, and several tour companies offer guided hikes to the summit.

Tours take between five and 10 days, and pass through five different climate zones. 

Zanzibar

Located off the coast of Dar es Salaam, the spice island of Zanzibar is steeped in history. The capital, Stone Town, was built by Arab slave-traders and spice merchants who left their mark in the form of elaborate Islamic architecture. The island's beaches are blissful, while surrounding reefs offer ample opportunity for scuba diving. 

Getting There

Tanzania has two main airports - Julius Nyerere International Airport in Dar es Salaam, and Kilimanjaro International Airport near Arusha. These are the two main ports of entry for international visitors. With the exception of a handful of African countries, most nationalities require a visa for entry into Tanzania. You can apply for a visa in advance at your nearest embassy or consul, or you can pay for one on arrival at several ports of entry including the airports listed above. For more information, visit this website

Medical Requirements

There are several vaccinations recommended for travel to Tanzania, including Hepatitis A and Typhoid. Zika Virus is also a risk, and as such pregnant women or those that are trying to conceive should consult a doctor before planning a trip to Tanzania. Depending on where you're going, anti-Malaria prophylactics may be necessary, while proof of Yellow Fever vaccination is compulsory if you're traveling from a Yellow Fever endemic country. For complete vaccination advice, check the CDC website

This article was updated and re-written in part by Jessica Macdonald on March 15th 2017.