Traveling to Tanzania: what you need to know

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Pendaeli Amos is a ToursByLocals guide working out of Arusha, Tanzania. He offers a range of wildlife tours that speak to many travelers’ dreams of Tanzania, including safaris through Tangarire and Arusha National Parks. But he also offers unique ways to get better acquainted with the local culture and community projects in his part of Africa – for instance visiting a local students’ cooperative.

Pandaeli joins us today to share some practical travel information for anyone considering a trip to Tanzania.

Language
The national language is Kiswahili but English is widely spoken and is the language of the tourist trade and other international businesses. While English is widely spoken, a few words of Swahili can be useful and will be appreciated greatly by locals.

Health
No vaccinations are currently required for entry into Tanzania when arrival is directly from North America or Europe. Visitors originating from or transiting through countries endemic with yellow fever (such as Kenya, Sudan, or Uganda), are required to produce valid yellow fever vaccination certificates at entry points. Visitors are advised to take anti-malaria tablets and make use of mosquito nets and insect sprays where provided. Malaria is endemic but is preventable: use insect repellent, cover up at sundown, sleep under a mosquito net and take anti-malaria prophylactics as advised by your doctor. Bring prescription medicines, spare glasses, contact lenses and solution as well as sunscreen, a first aid kit, cream for bites/stings and diarrhea remedy. HIV/Aids is widespread, especially in the main tourist areas.

Travel with Children
Tanzanians love children and are especially helpful to mothers. However, canned baby foods, powdered milk and disposable nappies may not be available outside major towns.

Climate
Generally dry and hot with cool nights/mornings June-October; short rains November to mid-December; long rains March-May but the seasons can vary. The coastal strip is hot and humid all year round. Temperatures on Mount Kilimanjaro and Meru drop to below freezing.

Clothes
Pack lightweight tropical clothes, washable clothes plus a sweater for early morning game drives, as well as a sun hat, sunglasses cotton slacks, shirts, skirts, sunscreen. Long sleeves and trousers in light-colored fabrics help discourage insect bites. You can buy clothes in Dar es Salaam and Arusha or any other region. Shorts for women are acceptable (but not too short!). Women should carry a wrap to cover legs in the villages and towns as revealing clothes can cause offence, especially in Zanzibar and Moslem areas. For climbing on Kilimanjaro or Meru, take thermal underwear, light layers, sweater, rain jacket, good socks and sturdy boots.

Money
The unit of currency is the Tanzania Shilling which is divided into 100 cents. Major foreign currencies - particularly US$ - and travelers cheques are accepted and are convertible at commercial banks and bureaux de changes in the main towns and tourist areas. Credit cards are accepted but may carry poor exchange rates. Some banks in Arusha, Dar es Salaam and Moshi offer ATM facilities against international credit cards. Please don’t change money in the street.

Security
Tanzania is a generally safe country, but don’t invite temptation. Keep an eye on your belongings. Don’t walk in the towns or cities at night - take a taxi. Don’t carry cameras or large amounts of cash; beware of pickpockets. Use hotel safety deposit boxes to safeguard valuables and obtain a receipt. Leave valuable jewellery at home.

Photography
If you use film (especially slide film), bring it, and batteries for your camera, with you. Protect your cameras from dust and keep equipment and film cool. It is courteous to ask permission before photographing local people. If you intend to take a lot of people pictures, be sure to bring an instant camera with you so that you can leave a picture with the people you photograph.

Gifts
Don’t indiscriminately hand out pens, money and sweets like a wealthy Western Santa Claus - it just encourages begging. As anywhere, gifts should be given as a true expression of friendship, appreciation or thanks.

Shopping
The tourist areas and hotels sell a wide range of souvenirs, jewelry and trinkets. Don’t be afraid to haggle at roadside curio stalls.

Tipping
Not obligatory, but a tip for exceptional service (max 10%) will be appreciated, $10 - $15 per day for driver or tour guide. An excessive tip can make it difficult for the next customer

Electricity
215 - 230 Volts, 50 Cycles AC same as the UK and in South Africa, but power failures, surges and troughs are common. Bring a universal adaptor and a torch (flashlight) or headlamp in case power goes out.

Air Travel
Several international airlines operate in and out of Tanzania through Dar es Salaam, Kilimanjaro and Zanzibar International Airports. Travel within the country is by the national airline Air Tanzania, and by Precision Air, Regional Air, Air Excel, Coastal Aviation, Zan Air, FastJet and Tropical Air.

If you’re visiting Tanzania in 2014, consider getting in touch with Pendaeli to start a conversation on how he can help you experience the best of his homeland.
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