Planning Tanzania

When we thought about going to Africa, we reached out to a few friends who had already been there to ask for their recommendations and advice. That’s the great thing about having a network of friends who also love to travel, they did not disappoint with their wealth of information. They recommended Across Tanzania Expeditions, a tour company with a great track record.  We reached out to Hezron, the owner of the company and he was very responsive in answering our questions as we planned our trip, helping us figure out the best vacation that maximize our time and budget. We decided on a 6 day safari that includes few nights accommodation in a luxury tent right in the middle of the Serengeti.  I was told this would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience where you can hear the wild animals wandering around your tent at night – if you’re into that kind of thing.

Finding a flight from NYC to Tanzania was challenging. Our status makes us primarily focused on the OneWorld alliance, but we quickly gave up on that idea. With OneWorld, any flights to Africa would have to connect through London (American or British Airways) or the Middle East (Qatar) and would need two separate award bookings to piece together the itinerary, so it didn’t make sense to book on any of our preferred airlines. This left us heading to trusty old OTAs to search for the best tickets for our itinerary.  There were a few flight deals, but the timing did not work out.

In the end, we chose an itinerary that fit our schedule, but obviously at a premium – at over $1,600 per person.  That’s the challenge of having inflexible travel dates. We will be flying Delta/KLM – part of the SkyTeam alliance, from JFK to Mt Kilimanjaro airport (JRO), connecting in Amsterdam – a total flying time of 17 hours. Since we don’t have any status with SkyTeam, this will probably be one of the more painful flights in recent memory.  The return flight goes from Zanzibar (ZNZ) to JFK, with connections in Nairobi, Kenya and Amsterdam. We also had to book a one-way domestic flight from JRO to ZNZ on PrecisionAir, a smaller regional African airline, which cost about $300 pp.

We will end our trip in Zanzibar, a small island off of the coast of Tanzania. Since we are traveling independently after the safari, we will need to figure out our own accommodations on the island. We found a deal on Amoma.com for a $60/night rate for the Hilton Doubletree, where we have Gold status.

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[photo credit: Michael Lux]

Another thing that we had to look into were visa requirements and vaccinations for Tanzania.  We were told that you can get a visa upon entry at customs, but it would take longer. So if there is time, it’s better to plan ahead and get visa beforehand. The cost for visa is $100 pp ($50 for non-US passports) at your local Tanzanian consulate. We’d also heard conflicting information about the need for a yellow fever vaccination. Our tour guide mentioned that it’s better to have the documentation in case customs officials give us a hard time. However, when we consulted with a travel doctor, we were told it was not needed if we were coming straight from North America or Europe, countries not at risk of yellow fever. In the end, we decided that we would forgo the vaccination and choose to challenge any officials that try to hassle us. Aside from yellow fever, it’s also recommended that you take the malaria pills, Hep A, and tetanus shots before going to Africa. They’re not cheap, but some vaccinations last for up to 10 years and so we should be set for future travels.

Now we just need to figure out what to pack for the safari. Check back for our On the Road posts from Africa in the next few days. Happy July 4th everyone!

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