Tanzania is one of the most popular countries in Africa, and for good reason. The warm climate, natural scenery, fantastic wildlife, and friendly people all combine for a great vacation experience. But whether you’re going on a safari or just staying in Dar es Salaam, here are 10 things to know before going to Tanzania.
The people are great
Getting involved with the local culture in Tanzania is a must. The country has well over 100 ethnic groups and there are plenty of cultural practices to learn, delicious traditional foods to try, and fun conversations to partake in. If you don’t want to do it on your own, many tour groups offer excursions where you can stay in local villages or even go hunting with bushmen.
Kilimanjaro is huge
Mount Kilimanjaro is one of the main attractions in Tanzania and many tourists plan to either climb it or get close enough to see it on their journey. At 5895 meters high and 40 kilometers wide, pictures simply can’t do it justice (even the one above). Prepare for your jaw to drop at the sheer size of it in person.
Roads get bumpy
The roads in Tanzania probably aren’t what you’re used to. Potholes, weird grooves, places that aren’t paved, and wandering animals don’t exactly make for the best driving conditions. If you’re prone to getting car sick on long rides, this is where you might want to take a Dramamine or similar motion sickness pills. And if you’re renting a car, make sure to get it insured.
And you’ll need to drive on the left
If you aren’t coming from somewhere like the UK or Australia, you’re probably going to be in for a bit of a learning curve when everybody is driving on the left-hand side of the road. Like traveling to a high altitude, it takes a bit of time to acclimate to it. If you have to go on a long drive, take a bit of time to drive around a bit before heading out on a busy road. Tanzanians are known to drive fast and overtake cars like no one’s business.
Travel can be cheap
It isn’t just rich people who are traveling across the country or on safari. You can take advantage of all of the country’s splendors by traveling in comfort by train. The TAZARA train takes travelers 1,160 miles from Dar es Salaam all the way to central Zambia for an affordable price. Just be prepared to book in advance as it’s often full for weeks at a time.
If you happen to be staying overnight at somebody’s home or just hanging out out for awhile, it’s a good idea to pick up a small gift. Try bringing a small token from your home country and it will be much appreciated.
Time is a bit different
The clocks tend to run a bit different in Tanzania and are based on the Kiswahili standard. The day starts at 0 hours (6 a.m./sunrise) and ends at 12 (6.p.m./sunset). You might not run into this if you’re only doing safaris, but if you plan to hang out in cities, it could cause some confusion — just be aware of it.
You’ll need to drink bottled water
As you were probably aware, most of the water in the country isn’t safe to drink and you’ll need to stick exclusively to bottled water. Most hotels and shops will have plenty of bottled water available. Just be careful to check the seal and make sure it hasn’t been refilled.
Be sure to stay healthy
This somewhat goes without saying, but like other parts of Africa, diseases like yellow fever, traveler’s diarrhea and typhoid are not uncommon. However, malaria should be your number one concern and can be found virtually anywhere in Tanzania. Check with a travel clinic before going and make sure you have all of your shots and a supply of malaria pills.
You won’t have enough time
Whether you plan to go for a few weeks or a month, you probably won’t have enough time to explore everything you want to see. Like Kilimanjaro, parks around the country like Serengeti and Ngorongoro are massive and require several days to visit. You’re almost sure to be longing to stay some more to take all of the country in. But that’s okay, Tanzania isn’t going anywhere and you can always come back for more!