Tanzania is home to stunning wildlife, pristine beaches, friendly people and fascinating cultures – oh and Mount Kilimanjaro!
Tanzania is home to the famous Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa, as well as sixteen national parks. This means that Tanzania is the perfect destination for trekkers, wildlife lovers and adventure seekers alike. From the offshore hideaways of Zanzibar to the vast planes of Serengeti National Park, nothing encapsulates the African experience quite like a tour of Tanzania. Take in all the heart of Africa has to offer and explore these beautiful bucket list destinations.
Here are the top 8 things to do when in Tanzania:
Mount Kilimanjaro is the world’s highest free standing mountain and one of the continent’s most magnificent sights. When climbing Kilimanjaro, expect to witness breathtakingly beautiful views and experience peaceful quiet moments. Share stories with your guide and fellow travellers beneath brilliant stars. You will be overwhelmed by a pure feeling of joy and satisfaction upon reaching the summit – nearly 5,900m (19,340ft) above sea level – early in the morning when the sun comes up. Read our article on what its like to climb Kilimanjaro.
“whatever greater power you believe in, when you see the sun rising from the top of that volcano, you get to feel it. It gave all of us a great story to tell our grandchildren some day :)”.
Bernardo Guimarães da Fonseca
Ah, the Serengeti. Is there any more iconic African locale south of the Sahara Desert? A visit to the Serengeti is the highlight of any African safari holiday. It stretches 5,700 square miles and is home to the largest concentration of big game mammals in the world; truly a treat for the eyes! The national park is home to more than 2,000 lions and hundreds of species of birds.
As with Lake Manyara National Park, the best time to visit depends on what you’re looking to see while you’re on your wildlife safari holiday. If you come to behold the majesty of the great Wildebeest migration, come between December and July. While you may see some of the larger predators during that time, you can best see lions, cheetahs and more from June to October. Due to the sheer size of the Serengeti, if you should choose to include a visit in your African adventure, expect to take three to four days for your safari for the full experience and the best photos. Watch our Tanzania safari video below.
Ngorongoro Crater is a gem among the natural wonders of Tanzania’s northern regions. Ngorongoro Crater is the largest among a series of volcanic craters and is in fact the largest in the world. Because of its fertile, rich grazing grounds, it’s an ideal feeding ground for mammals large and small. Since it draws grazers of all shapes and sizes, it also attracts Africa’s big game predators and countless other species of wildlife not found anywhere but the heart of Africa – truly a great experience for wildlife safari goers!
As the Crater is a natural wonder and attracts safari tours all year long, it can get very busy, it’s not recommended to stay more than a couple of days. Generally speaking, due to the sheer size of the Serengeti alone, the latter is better for longer safari excursions. Crowds aside, the Crater is not a park you will want to pass up. It’s a wonder of the natural world the likes of which can’t be found anywhere but Tanzania.
Turquoise and cyan blue waters of the Indian Ocean sparkle like diamond powder under the African sun, enchanting snorkelers and divers to Zanzibar. The Zanzibar archipelago has some of the best undisturbed coral reefs in the world. On land, take a stroll within the islands heart, Stone Town, where you will meander through alleyways discovering an exotic mixture of Arabic, Indian, Moorish, Persian and European cultures that will delight all your senses.
Located at the foot of Mount Meru, A Town – as it’s known by Tanzanians – is a perfect first stop while touring Tanzania. Arusha is a gateway to any number of wilderness destinations and wildlife safaris among Tanzania’s wild jungles and vast, lively savannas. Before you explore the unknown and the untamed, take some time to appreciate a slice of African life.
The city can be seen in a day, but there’s still plenty to do and see. Be sure to stop by the city’s Clock Tower, an African mainstay that marks the midway point between Cairo and Cape Town; it is the city’s oldest landmark. Arusha is home to the Tanzania Tourist Board, which is a limitless source of information and potential excursion opportunities to some of the smaller, unsung villages.
In addition to safaris and hikes around Mount Meru and more, possible destinations include an opportunity to visit and learn about the Maasai and Meru tribes that live in the area – their rich history, culture and lore is all yours for the learning. Additionally, 30 minutes away from Arusha sits the village of Nkoaranga, which offers private tours of the coffee industry that blooms on Mount Meru. Follow the rich journey of the humble coffee bean and those who cultivate it for a very modest fee.
Located only an hour and a half outside of Arusha, Lake Manyara National Park covers 402 square miles of lush forest and miraculously lively shorelines. Lake Manyara a perfect and incredibly underrated destination for an African safari holiday. Lake Manyara is home to quintessential African wildlife, including elephants, giraffes, zebras, wildebeest, the lake’s famous tree-climbing lions, impala, leopards, dik dik, warthogs and more!
Considered one of the more casual safari holiday destinations, Lake Manyara is ideal for a day trip. While the lake does not have the same big game or wildlife density as Tanzania’s bigger parks, there are a number of species exclusive to that area. According to Tanzania National Parks, June to October is the best time to view large mammals while if you’re more of a bird watcher, you’re better off going from November to July.
Tucked away in the north part of the country sits Tarangire National Park, the sixth largest national park in Tanzania. The Tarangire gets its name from the river that runs through it. It is best known for its elephants, there are major predators that call Tarangire home, including the leopard and cheetah. Like Lake Manyara, Tarangire National Park is often overlooked for the Crater and the Serengeti, but it shouldn’t be missed for the opportunities to explore one of the lesser known, less-visited wildlife safari areas in Tanzania.
July through October are the peak months for visiting the Tarangire, during the dry season; this time of year, in terms of biodiversity and game concentration, is comparable to life in the Crater during its peak season. Up to 3,000 elephants wander the park during the peak months in addition to giraffes, gazelle, zebras and much more.Keep in mind that during the off season, there isn’t nearly as much game in the area as the grazing herds and consequently the predators and other fauna generally move elsewhere. That’s not to say game won’t be present when the season dies down, and the crowds will be down; either way, consult the experts first!
In the south along the Swahili Coast, there are two UNESCO World Heritage Sites waiting to be explored; both towns were constructed from coral and lime mortar. Kilwa Kisiwani was East Africa’s most important trading centre during the 14th century. Most of the city has not been excavated, yet remnants amongst the ruins include: the Great Mosque, an Omani fortress, burial grounds, a prison and a grand palace. On the adjacent island south, Songo Mnara includes the ruins of six mosques, four cemeteries and a couple dozen house blocks.
“When I tell my friends what I did last summer they don’t believe me, still neither do I. I tell them I climbed mount Kilimanjaro during a full moon night, that I had breakfast in the jungle surrounded by lions and partied in a remote African city at night. A dream come true!” Stefano
Maintaining your health whilst abroad means including a variety of vaccinations: typhoid, TDP, varicella (unless you had chicken pox) and hepatitis A and B, which are given in a series over a six month period. A yellow fever vaccination is not required, unless you visit an epidemic country first. If you are an adventurous eater, you might want to add cholera to the list. Malaria tablets are needed, order enough to provide taking them seven days after returning home. Your doctor may recommend a rabies shot, a series of two doses over a four week period, if you plan on caving or working with animals.
As well as vaccinations, bring enough insect repellent and sunscreen. It is not easy to find these products and when you do, they are pricey. Whilst on safari, you will need to protect yourself from tsetse flies. These flies can transmit African trypanosomiasis, also known as, sleeping sickness. It is best to wear light colour clothing; they are attracted to dark colours, especially shades of blue. Unfortunately, products containing DEET usually do not discourage them from biting, so try to find a natural insect repellent containing eucalyptus oil.
The official currency in Tanzania is the Tanzanian Shilling. You can take along US dollars with you and these will be accepted in most tourist areas, sometimes even preferred over the local currency. Make sure that these notes are issued after 2006, otherwise they will not be accepted. There are ATMs in most major cities but be wary that these can sometimes be unreliable. If you want to exchange any Tanzanian shillings back into dollars at the end of your trip, this will need to be done before you leave the country. Also remember to bring dollars along with you to tip when climbing Kilimanjaro or on safari. Tipping on Kilimanjaro is expected and so you should factor this into your budget before departing.
There are a number of ways to get around town: dala-dala (small local bus), tuk-tuk or a boda-boda (motorcycle taxi). The dala-dala is the least expensive way to travel around town, 500 shillings, yet be aware that you may be sharing the ride with non-caged live chickens under the backseat. It is also important to make sure you have the exact amount or give a small bill. Hiring a tuk-tuk or boda-boda will cost about 4,000 shillings, for the same distance as the dala-dala.
Travelling by bus throughout the country is not scary and it’s a fantastic way to see the countryside. From Dar es Salaam to Arusha it is an eleven-hour road trip, including a thirty-minute lunch stop. I took the National bus line and was pleased with the cleanliness, driver, comfort of seats and there is a toilet. Accompanying the driver is an attendant, who passes out bottled water, soda, a biscuit and a piece of candy. As the bus approaches your stop, the attendant will personally notify you that you have reached your destination. The cost is a mere 36,000 shillings.
Overall, Tanzania is considered a safe, hassle-free country. That said, of course the usual precautions need to be taken. Avoid isolated areas, which includes isolated stretches of beach. If you plan on strolling the beach, away from security, leave your valuables and money in your hotel room, this includes your mobile phone. To capture the stunning view, bring a cheap camera. That way, if something happens to it, you are not devastated by the loss.
Also watch out for the ‘flycatchers’. These are men that act like they are your new best friend, ready to save the day. The flycatcher job is to bring you to excursion companies to make themselves look good. Their goal is to be hired permanently by the company and to receive a tip from you. The tip is their only income. These men usually act as a group. If you say no, they will follow you. When they see another opportunity, a partner will approach you. Whilst having a guide will keep you safer and they can negotiate prices on your behalf, not every flycatcher is honest.
Other considerations should be public display of affection and suitable clothing. If you are coming with your significant other, please be aware that public display of affection is not acceptable outside of the hotel; homosexuality is illegal and is punishable by a harsh prison sentence. Women should avoid wearing above the knee shorts and shirts that display the collarbone and shoulders in public, unless you are on Zanzibar or at a private beach. The exception to this rule is on safari and trekking Mt Kilimanjaro where it is acceptable. Respecting the local culture makes you a thoughtful traveller.
There are over 120 languages spoken throughout Tanzania. After the country gained independence in 1961, the government decided that in order to strengthen national unity, an official language must be chosen. They chose the kiswahili language, more commonly known as Swahili. Speaking Swahili can be picked up pretty easily. Each letter in the word is pronounce, with the “e” sounding like “ah” and “i” sounds like “e”. Here are some helpful Swahili phrases. Get practicing!
How much? – Bei gani?
Take me to – Nipeleke
Goodbye – kwaheri
Do you know? – Unafahamu?
Thank you very much – Asante sana
Let’s go! – Twenda!
Have a nice day – Siku njema
Welcome/your welcome – Karibu
Expensive – Ghali sana
Lower your cost – Punguza kidogo
Please – Tafadhali
Purchasing your visa upon arrival is standard, the cost is $50 USD for anyone whom is non-American; again, it is illegal to purchase Tanzanian shillings outside the country, so the government entry accepts U.S dollars. After departing your aircraft, the first step will be filling out your entry form. An immigration officer will look over your passport and entry card, then ask about your accommodations and departure date, before sending you to the cashier’s window.
Once the cashier receives your passport and payment, you will be asked to wait in a designated area. After processing, they will call your name, return your passport, visa stamp in place, and will provide you with a receipt. Your new tourist visa is good for one year, yet you can only stay in the country for ninety days at a time.
For more information about your Tanzanian visa visit the Tanzanian Ministry of Home Affairs website.
You will not find an official store to purchase your mobile service, instead, there are makeshift stands. The individual you purchase from will want to see your identification; they will take a photo of your identification on their mobile phone, then send it into the company. You then wait to receive an approval text. I felt uneasy giving my passport to a stranger on the street and was happy I hired a local to help me with my errands. Not only did I appreciate him translating, but he gave them his identification card.
Airtel and Vodacom are two popular mobile phone companies that have reliable service throughout the country. I purchased a SIM card from Airtel, plus 12 GB on the 4G network for thirty-days, total cost including SIM card 40,000 shillings.
Tanzania has many fantastic photo opportunities, but taking photographs of military installations and personnel, hospitals, schools, bridges, industrial sites and airports is strictly prohibited. Before you click, make sure there is nothing in the photograph that can get you into trouble with the authorities.
There is an electronics travel ban inbound to the United Kingdom from: Egypt, Morocco, Qatar, Turkey, Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. If your flight takes you to one of these countries before returning home, be prepared to pack your tablet, if it is larger than a mobile phone, and laptop in your check-in luggage.
There are lots of tour operators organising trips to Tanzania. It can be hard to choose who to go with! We can assure you that when Following Alice to Tanzania, you are travelling with friends. Whether you are interested in climbing Kilimanjaro, going on safari in one of the many beautiful national parks, or snorkelling in Zanzibar, we’ve got you covered.
“I followed Alice to Kilimanjaro and it was an absolutely amazing experience. On the mountain we were guided by Chris and his outstanding crew. They made it possible that all of us were able to summit due to their great support carrying our bags, preparing the camp, motivating us and pushing us forward. I’m happy I did the trip with Follow Alice and would do it again right away!”