When traveling to a foreign country, there are a lot of unknowns that can cause anxiety. This was especially true when we planned our African safari trip. We didn’t know what to expect from clothing consideration to the money we’ll need. After doing some research and having had gone through the experience, we put together a short list of tips for traveling to Tanzania.
Money – We found that most places, especially places frequented by tourists, have prices both quoted in USD and TZ shillings. The dollar is widely accepted as currency, however, make sure you bring small bills because the vendors will most likely not have change to give back. Based on our travel experiences in Asia, we thought it was prudent to bring large bills for better exchange rates. That’s not the case here. In the bigger towns, there are also many bank ATMS and lots of places to exchange money if you prefer to use the shilling. Credit cards are still not accepted here, unless you’re staying at a big hotel.
Weather – The temperature in Tanzania can fluctuate depending on the month. We traveled to Tanzania at the beginning of July, which is during their winter/dry season. The average temperatures in Arusha (the city near the national parks) range from 9 °C/48 °F to 21 °C/70 °F. It can get very hot during the day and very cold at night. This is especially true in the Ngorongoro highlands. Check the weather a week before your trip to get a better idea of what to expect when you get there.
Clothing – The safari is very dusty, especially during the dry season. The jeeps driving on the dirt roads will kick up huge storms of dust that settle on every surface and in every crevice. It’s better leave your nice things at home and wear something that you would not mind getting dirty. In certain places like Tarangire and Serengeti there are a lot of tsetse flies. They are big and aggressive and can cause great discomfort if they bite you. One way to help avoid the fly is to wear light, neutral color clothing that covers your whole body. The tsetse fly is attracted to bright colors, very dark colors, and the color blue. It’s also a good idea to bring lots of layers that you can put on when the weather gets cold and take off as the temperature rises during the day.
Language – There are 120 different tribes in Tanzania, each with their own language. After its independence, the government decided to make Swahili the official language. The guides and people in tourist populated areas will speak foreign languages, English and Swahili. It’s always nice to learn a few words in the local language. Our guide was very helpful and taught us a few words in Swahili:
Karibu – welcome
Jambo – hello
Asante – thank you
Hakuna matata – no worries
Camera Gear – My camera is one of the first things I packed. I usually bring along my Canon 5D with a 24 – 105 mm lens. For most of my trips, I find that it’s adequate, but not this time. On safari, some of the bigger cats are usually more difficult to spot. And since you are only allowed to see them from the comfort and safety of the car, it’s helpful to have a zoom lens if you want close-up shots. Most people on safari have big professional lenses that cost thousands of dollars. I recommend bringing the biggest lens you have or rent one if you don’t have it.
Tipping – We were unclear on how much we should tip because the practice varies from country to country. While in Africa, we find ourselves pondering how much we should tip our guide who drove us around the safari. After some research, we decided to go with $10 USD per person per day, and the porters at the hotel get $1-$2 for helping us with the luggage.
Hopefully our tips will be useful for when you plan your own safari trip. If you have any questions, let us know in a comment below.