IS IT SAFE TO VISIT TANZANIA?

Overall, Tanzania is a safe country to visit. It’s the safari capital of Africa and government ensures safety of foreign tourists is a priority. That being said, Tanzania is a poor country and is burdened with the same socio-economic conditions of other impoverished countries in Africa. You’ll be safe in Tanzania as long as you travel in the care of a reputable tour operator and take the usual precautions to stay out of harm’s way and avoid falling ill.

Terrorism incidences are rare in Tanzania but terrorism is a concern throughout Africa. Always consult with your travel agent and follow trending news on the political situation in Tanzania; adjust travel arrangements accordingly if there is a heightened risk of terrorist activity or civil unrest.

Otherwise, general crime such as petty theft, bag snatching and street muggings can easily be avoided by staying away from crime hot spots in the city centres, not travelling at night, staying in upmarket accommodation in safe tourism destinations in Tanzania and keeping your valuables safe and out of sight.

Healthcare facilities in Tanzania are reasonable in the large cities but poor in the rural areas. It’s highly recommend that you take out travel insurance for a holiday to Tanzania with good medical insurance that includes cover for an emergency evacuation if needed. Make sure your general vaccinations are up-to-date and get the travel vaccinations required before arriving in Tanzania.

Lastly, speak to your doctor about taking anti-malaria tablets and pack enough mosquito repellent and sunscreen for the duration of your safari tour to Tanzania. Other health warnings for Tanzania are covered in detail in this article.

IS IT SAFE TO GO ON SAFARI TO TANZANIA?

A safari tour of Tanzania should be nothing more than a life-long memory of outstanding wildlife sightings, stunning scenery and the rich culture heritage of the people of Tanzania. As long as you follow the rules of staying safe on a safari, you should have a thoroughly enjoyable holiday in Tanzania.

Simple rules for a safari tour in Tanzania include:

POLITICAL-ECONOMIC SITUATION IN TANZANIA

Tanzania has experienced impressive political and economic transformation in recent years which is having a positive impact on its socio-economic development and welfare. It remains a poor country with considerable challenges but, on the whole, Tanzania has the potential to become a macro-economic success story.

For nearly two decades, Tanzania’s economy has been remarkably stable and the country has experienced a favourable growth rate year-on-year. A major challenge is its population growth rate which has grown at nearly 3 percent annually. The population of Tanzania was estimated to be 53 million in 2018 which places an extreme burden on its fiscal sustainability.

Extreme poverty has largely stagnated and there is a growing base of urban middle-class people in Tanzania. With this comes growing purchasing power with an increased demand for imported goods as well as increased demand for electricity, social services and infrastructure in urban areas. The government of Tanzania is working hard to meet these demands while striving to bridge the gap between a growing middle-class and a vast population living below the poverty line.

Nicknamed “The Bulldozer”, President John Magufuli came into power with promises to boost economic prosperity, fight corruption, tackle youth unemployment and establish free primary and secondary education.

Magufuli has been hailed by the international community for taking decisive steps to reign in public spending and stamp out corruption since he took office in 2015. This includes cancelling the independence day fete and redirecting the funds to widening parts of a highway notorious for gridlocks in Dar es Salaam, firing key government bigwigs in an anti-corruption clampdown and limiting all international travel for public servants unless absolutely necessary.

The main issue that concerns the international community is President Magufuli’s stance on freedom of expression in Tanzania. He’s limited live broadcasts of parliamentary sittings to ‘question & answer’ sessions and has imposed tough censorship on newspapers and radio stations to prevent the spread of fake news.

TERRORISM IN TANZANIA

In light of renewed terrorist activity in Africa as a whole, Tanzania cooperates with the United States and regional partners to drive counterterrorism initiatives. The country has experienced a series of suspected terrorist attacks in recent years but they have been limited to the coastal region of Pwani, and mainly targeted police and party officials.

The police took a heavy-handed approach to these attacks which appears to have deterred further attacks. From press statements, it’s unclear if recent violent crimes reported on in Tanzania have links to terrorism because these incidences are often referred to the acts of bandits.

TANZANIA BORDER WARNINGS

Safety warnings for border crossings include:

Burundi/Tanzania border

Flagged as a high-risk country, travel advisories recommend people avoid entering Burundi from Tanzania due to continual political unrest, bandits and terrorism.

Rwanda/Tanzania border

The border between Tanzania and Rwanda is flagged as a high-risk area due to reported rebel activity by bandits, armed conflict and kidnapping. It’s recommended that if you need to cross over at the Tanzania/Rwanda border, that you arrange a police escort or private security company. This applies to any trip that takes you on the Rusomo to Kahama road.

Democratic Republic of Congo/Tanzania border

Travel advisories recommend people avoid entering the DRC from Tanzania due to continual clashes between armed rebel forces and the DRC military.

NO-GO AREAS FOR TANZANIA

There are no serious trouble spots in Tanzania but travellers are cautioned to be careful as follows:

IS IT SAFE TO WORK IN TANZANIA?

The people of Tanzania are friendly and warmly welcome you to their country. On the whole, it’s safe to work and live in Tanzania but this relies on you finding a home in an upmarket suburb, working in a safe location and practicing due caution.

As an ex-pat living and working in Tanzania, you need to be aware of an increase in crime and common scams. Be careful that locals don’t take advantage of you by hassling you for money or asking for bribes. Corruption is rife in cities like Dar es Salaam and even the police are guilty of trying to solicit bribes. Be aware of common fraud and scams so you don’t fall victim to them.

Healthcare facilities in Tanzania are below standard compared to global medical centres so it’s advisable to have comprehensive medical insurance that provides cover for an emergency evacuation if needed. Make sure your general vaccinations are up-to-date before arriving to work in Tanzania and have the travel vaccinations recommended for living in Africa.

The HIV/AIDS rate is high in Tanzania so take extreme caution when it comes to sexual relationships, bearing in mind that Tanzania still has strict laws prohibiting same-sex relationships. Other diseases you are at risk of catching in Tanzania include Hepatitis A, typhoid fever, yellow fever, malaria, dengue fever and rabies. Your doctor will provide you with information on the required vaccinations for these diseases.

Drinking tap water in Tanzania is not recommended. Many expats get water filtration systems installed in their homes to minimise the risk of contracting waterborne diseases. Mosquito nets are recommended to prevent malaria. Avoid eating at restaurants that don’t have good sanitary conditions and avoid eating food from street vendors where the risk of contracting typhoid is heightened.

Dar es Salaam is the busiest city in Tanzania and crime has increased in recent years. Expats usually rent a house or apartment in a security complex that offers 24-hour security guards and they have an alarm system installed. Home robberies and carjackings are common so it’s important that you make security a priority for you and your family. Don’t walk around at night and avoid trouble crime spots in the city centre.

CIVIL UNREST IN TANZANIA

Civil unrest in the form of protests and demonstrations flare up on occasion in Tanzania, particular around the time of elections. Expats and tourists are rarely affected by this civil tension but it’s wise to stay up-to-date on current affairs and avoid places where protests and demonstrations are happening. There’s always the risk that they turn violent.

Reputable tour operators in Tanzania make your safety a priority and will change routes to safari destinations if there’s any likelihood there’ll be unrest or conflict in an area.

CRIME IN TANZANIA

Tanzania is considered safe to visit but common sense must prevail, particularly when you are passing through Dar es Salaam which is heavily populated. It’s rare that a tourist will fall prey to violent crime; the problem is usually petty crime in the form of bag snatching, pickpocketing, theft out of hotel rooms, street muggings and tourist scams such as card skimming.

The more exclusive hotels in Dar es Salaam are found in an area known locally as the Slipway. The area does attract opportunist thieves but there is a strong security presence and you should be safe if you follow the usual precautions to avoid falling victim of a crime.

Bag snatching is the biggest problem in Dar es Salaam; where thieves on a motorbike pull up next to a distracted tourist on foot and grab his/her travel bag. Be vigilante and keep your bag close to your body at all times when walking down busy roads.

Travelling in a private taxis on your own is not recommend because this is when a solo tourist is most vulnerable. Never take a taxi if the drivers “friends” are in the car; and where possible, catch a taxi with more than two people.

Never exchange money on the street. Firstly, it’s illegal and secondly, it’s dangerous. Always swop money or do any banking transactions inside a reputable bank.

Remember, Tanzania is a very poor country with high unemployment and high cost of living. Be vigilante when visiting local street markets; don’t flash your cash, don’t wear expensive jewelry and keep your backpack or handbag closed and close to your body.

Theft out of hotel rooms will happen if temptation is put in someone’s way. Make use of the digital safes in hotel rooms and if possible, avoid leaving behind in the room expensive equipment and money.

SAFE TRANSPORT OPTIONS IN TANZANIA

Taxi service

Taxis in Dar es Salaam have white number plates which makes them easy to identify. They don’t generally have meters so it’s important that you negotiate a rate with the driver before getting into the taxi. If you are unsure of what price is right, ask a local to assist you and then use that price as a base for negotiations.

Only use a private taxi service operating from an upmarket hotel or an official taxi rank in the city. Avoid at all costs hailing a taxi cruising down the road, and never get into a taxi that has ‘friends’ of the driver in it. Kidnapping is a real risk in Dar es Salaam, as well as the obvious risk of being robbed.

Dalla-Dalla

Dalla-dalla is a minibus service and you’ll find many of them picking up people along local routes and in the rural areas. They range from 16-seater combis to old pick-up trucks and 4WDs. Dalla-dallas are not recommended for foreign tourists, unless you’re backpacking around Tanzania and on an extremely tight budget. Be careful which dalla-dalla you jump into because they’re not well maintained and the drivers are often reckless, so you are putting your life somewhat at risk.

Bus service

The local buses are not recommended for foreign tourists, unless again you’re travelling around Tanzania on an extremely tight budget. Only catch a local bus during the day, never at night; and keep your luggage with you at all times. Buy a bus ticket from an official bus office, not from a tout; and buy it before you depart.

Car hire

There are a number of decent, reliable car rental companies based in Dar es Salaam. It’s quite common to hire a care in Tanzania with a driver who acts as a guide if you’re travelling to outlying safari destinations.

Train service

Catching a mainline train in Tanzania is not recommended for foreign tourists, unless again you’re travelling on an extremely tight budget. A train trip is a lovely way to see the Tanzania countryside but the train service is generally very slow and overcrowded.

There are two railway lines in Tanzania:

Tazara  (www.tazarasite.com)

Links Dar es Salaam with New Kapiri Mposhi in Zambia, travelling via Mbeya and Tunduma. Tazara also runs the Udzungwa shuttle which runs twice weekly between the Kilombero/Udzungwa area and Makambako.

In general, Tazara is more comfortable and efficient than the Central Line. Both lines are currently in the process of being upgraded and the service has already been vastly improved.

Tazara has 4 travel classes:

Men and women can only travel together in the sleeping sections by booking the entire compartment. At night, secure your window with a stick and don’t leave your luggage unattended, even for a moment.

Tanzania Railways Limited Central Line

Links Dar es Salaam with Kigoma and Mwanza, travelling via Tabora. The central line also links Tabora with Mpanda. The Central Line offers a comfortable weekly deluxe service that runs from Dar es Salaam into the Selous Game Reserve, and between Tabora and Kigoma.

Only travel on the Central Line in a group, never as a solo traveller. For long journeys, bring a basket of food and drinks to avoid having to buy what’s available on board the train.

Central Line has 3 travel classes:

1st class (four-bed compartments)

2nd class (six-bed compartments)

3rd class/economy (benches, usually overcrowded)

Scheduled flights

Scheduled flights to reach safari destinations in Tanzania are recommended for foreign tourists. It is a more expensive option but they are significantly more convenient and safer for travellers.

There are a few domestic airlines operating in Tanzania that provide a service between Dar es Salaam, the popular safari destinations in Tanzania and the coastal region if you’re catching a ferry across to Zanzibar.

The national airline is Air Tanzania (www.airtanzania.com). The airline was grounded in 2008 because of poor maintenance, but it has resumed flying between Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar, Kilimanjaro and Mwanza. The airline is not ideal because it’s planes are not 100% reliable, the timetables change frequently and there are often long delays caused by maintenance issues.

Private airlines operating in Tanzania are recommended for foreign tourists. These include:

Precision Air: www.precisionairtz.com

Coastal Aviation: www.coastal.cc

Air Excel: www.airexcelonline.com

Zan Air: www.zanair.com

Regional Air: www.regionaltanzania.com

If you are visiting the “less popular” national parks in Tanzania, your travel agent will book an air charter. Reputable companies offering an air charter service in Tanzania include:

Flightlink: www.flightlinkcharters.com

Zantas Air: www.zantasair.com

Kilimanjaro Air Safaris: www.kiliair.com

Tanzania tour operator

Self-driving in a hired care in Tanzania can be dangerous because of reckless driving and the poor condition of the country’s roads. It’s recommended that you travel in the care of a reputable tour operator in Tanzania because they make safety a priority and drive more defensively, knowing what they know about local drivers and the state of the roads. Most road accidents happen at night so reputable tour operators in Tanzania will rarely, if ever, travel long-distances at night.

LGBT RIGHTS IN TANZANIA

TANZANIA does not recognised any relationships between people of the same sex and same-sex marriage is banned under the Tanzanian Constitution. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons living or visiting Tanzania are warned that they could serve jail time if arrested and successfully prosecuted for same-sex public displays of affection and/or marriage.

Tanzania society is ultra-conservative and homosexuality is largely regarded as ‘grossly indecent’ and ‘repugnant’. The laws governing anti-homosexuality have been put in place to so-call safeguard the cultural values and morality of its citizens.

Various organisations are working to protect and improve LGBT rights in Tanzania but it’s highly advisable that you avoid any public altercation and possible prosecution by abiding by the country’s legal standpoint on same-sex relationships.

TOP SAFETY TIPS FOR TANZANIA

Be vigilante

Take care when walking around the large towns and cities of Tanzania. Pickpocketing, bag snatching and petty theft of phones and electronics is fairly common in crowded market areas. Avoid attracting unwanted attention to yourself in the large towns and cities in Tanzania. Don’t flash fancy camera equipment, cash or expensive jewelry; leave your valuables at home or in a safe in your hotel.

Don’t walk alone or travel solo at night

Avoid at all costs walking around after dark, particularly if you’re on your own. Most crimes committed in the city are non-violent but it’s not worth taking the risk. At the very least, a mugging where you lose your camera, phone and possibly important documents can derail your holiday plans.

Keep windows closed and doors locked

Car jackings and smash & grabs are common in certain areas in Dar es Salaam. Keep your door locked and window closed when travelling in Tanzania.

Don’t do drugs in Tanzania

The possession, use and trafficking of drugs in Tanzania is illegal and offenders will be fined heavily and face potential jail time. Do not offer to carry a package from an unknown of suspicious source in your luggage as you risk being used as a drug mule.

Be careful what you photograph in Tanzania

You are prohibited from taking photographs of military, government buildings and border crossing points. If you’re unsure if it’s safe to take a photograph of something, ask your tour guide for permission.

Don’t drink and drive in Tanzania

Drinking and driving is illegal and punishable by a heavy fine or possible jail time. The same applies to using your mobile phone while driving. Remember, if you get tipsy or very drunk on a night out on the town, you are vulnerable. Your senses are dulled and you make poor decisions. You risk being followed home, falling victim to a crime and being seriously hurt.

Do your research on common tourist scams

Whether you’re in Paris or Nairobi, you’ve got to watch out for the same old tourist scams. This includes card cloning, online fraud and overcharging. Do research on common ways tourists are ripped off in foreign countries and keep your wits about you so you don’t fall victim to whatever is popular in that country. Don’t trust people too quickly, rather rely on the advice and help of your tour guide.

Book your holiday in Tanzania with a reputable tour operator

For a memorable safari tour in Tanzania, always book a tour with a reputable tour operator. These tour operators make your safety a priority and will be quick to alert you to potential risks that could see you get badly hurt or put in a dangerous situation that could get you killed.

Only use trusted transport options

Only take taxis from established taxi ranks or hotels. Never enter a taxi that already has someone else in it other than the driver.

Be respectful of local cultures in Tanzania

Tanzania’s citizens are very conservative and as a whole, protected from modern ways and behaviour. It’s important to remember that you are a visitor and you need to respect their cultural values and beliefs. Avoid wearing skimpy clothes in public and be polite and friendly to the local people you encounter.

Be law abiding

You do not want to find yourself locked up in a Tanzania jail so it’s highly recommended that you abide by the country’s laws and stay out of trouble. Tanzania’s legal system is efficient and relatively uncorrupted, although it’s fairly common you’ll be asked to pay a bribe to get off a traffic fine. If arrested, you’re treated as ‘innocent until proven guilty’ in TANZANIA and you have a legal right to a lawyer.

Note: Beware of thieves posing as police officers. If you have a problem, ask your tour operator or the manager or receptionist at the place you’re staying at to summons the police.

Make photocopies of important documents

It’s recommended you take photocopies and have certified important documents such as your airline bookings, travel insurance, passport and visa. Keep the photocopies in a separate travel bag. It’s also a good idea to leave copies with someone at home.

Don’t accept drinks from strangers

Drink spiking is common throughout the world, and extremely dangerous. Take the same precautions as you would at any club or public eatery anywhere else. Don’t accept a drink or food from a stranger, and insist that a barman/waiter opens a capped beverage bottle in front of you.

Don’t engage with touts

A tout is any person who solicits business or money in a persistent and annoying manner. Don’t engage with touts at all; once they think they’ve got your attention, they won’t leave you alone. Be confident and push past them. Don’t worry about being rude; your safety is a priority.

Never show someone selling you how much money you have in your wallet. Negotiate a price and if you’re not happy with what they want, walk away.

HEALTH WARNINGS

MEDICAL FACILITIES IN TANZANIA

Public medical facilities in Tanzania are inadequate and suffer from a lack of resources and staff, in particular healthcare centres in the rural area are very basic and not recommended for foreign tourists in the event of an emergency. Gaps in the healthcare system are filled by private healthcare centres and Church groups which run medical outreach programmes.

The government healthcare centres offer a rudimentary serve with a clinical officer in charge. The main focus is on primary healthcare with a heavy focus on preventative care such as childhood vaccinations.

There are a small number of private clinics in Tanzania, located in the major towns and cities. Affluent Tanzanians and foreign workers make use of the private clinics in Dar es Salaam where the medical care is good and continually improving.

Important

If you take chronic medication or prescription drugs, you need to carry your own supplies which will last you through to the end of your holiday in Tanzania. Don’t rely on finding a pharmacy or medical doctor if you run out.

On the same note, pack a selection of medical products to treat minor ailments or injuries. This includes painkillers, cold & flu remedies, anti-inflammatories, anti-indigestion and the usual supply of antiseptic cream, plasters and bandages.

Travel insurance is highly recommended for Tanzania. It should theft, loss and medical emergencies and evacuations. Check the small print when taking out travel insurance and some policies will not cover dangerous activities such as paragliding, scuba diving, helicopter rides and even motorbiking, cycling and hiking.

Medical insurance for Tanzania is very important. You can take it out as part of your travel insurance cover or request extra cover from your existing medical aid company. In most African countries, doctors and medical facilities expect payment in cash if you’re a foreigner. Find out from your insurance company if they make payments directly to a medical provider or reimburse you when you return home.

One of the crucial things to cover is transport for an emergency evacuation. This might be an ambulance or helicopter. If you need urgent medical help when you are far from a city or town, sometimes the only option is to have you evacuated by air.

HEALTH WARNINGS FOR TANZANIA

Medical insurance for Tanzania is very important. You can take it out as part of your travel insurance cover or request extra cover from your existing medical aid company. In most African countries, doctors and medical facilities expect payment in cash if you’re a foreigner. Find out from your insurance company if they make payments directly to a medical provider or reimburse you when you return home.

One of the crucial things to cover is transport for an emergency evacuation. This might be an ambulance or helicopter. If you need urgent medical help when you are far from a city or town, sometimes the only option is to have you evacuated by air.

Malaria

Tanzania is a high risk malaria area, depending on the season and where you are travelling to. The risk of contracting malaria is lower at high altitude on mountain ranges over 2 000 metres above sea level, which includes the Ngorongoro Crater, Mount Kilimanjaro and parts of the Eastern Arc Mountains.

It’s highly recommended that all travellers take anti-malaria tablets for a safari tour of Tanzania. Malaria is a life-threatening disease. If left untreated or not diagnosed early, it can lead to death. Speak to your doctor or a travel clinic for advise on anti-malaria tablets.

To prevent being bitten by an infected mosquito; sleep under a mosquito net and use a mosquito spray or coil to repel mosquitos, cover your arms and legs before the sun sets wearing long pants and long-sleeve shirts and apply mosquito repellent on exposed areas of skin. Mosquitos are most active from sunset to sundown but it’s advisable to spray yourself during the day as a precaution.

The symptoms of malaria show between 10 to 14 days after being bitten. Depending on the severity, malaria symptoms range from flu-like aches and chills to abdominal pain, fever and unconsciousness. If you experience any of these symptoms once home from your holiday to TANZANIA, seek immediate medical attention and request a malaria blood test.

Bilharzia

Bilharzia is a disease spread by minute worms that are carried by a species of freshwater snail. The parasites penetrate human skin when someone is paddling or swimming and then migrate to the bladder or bowel. Symptoms range from a light fever and rash to blood in the stool or urine. If left untreated, the bilharzia infection can cause kidney failure and permanent bowl damage.

Avoid swimming, paddling or wading in remote freshwater lakes or dams that make be suspect or slow-moving rivers. If you are concerned you’ve been infected, visit a specialist infectious disease clinic and request a blood test.

Yellow fever

Travellers need to have a yellow fever vaccination before arriving in Tanzania and must carry their certificate with them. It needs to be presented to the immigration official on arrival in Tanzania.

Yellow fever is spread by infected mosquitoes. Symptoms are similar to malaria ranging from flu-like chills and fever to server hepatitis and jaundice. If left untreated or not diagnosed early, the disease is life-threatening.

HIV/AIDS

The risk of contracting HIV is extremely high but only a concern if you have unprotected sex or receive a blood transfusion in the region. Always use a condom when having sex with anyone on a holiday in Tanzania who’s not known to you and a trusted partner.

For an emergency blood transfusion, contact The BloodCare Foundation (www.bloodcare.org.uk) which can provide safe, screened blood transported to any part of the world within 24 hours.

Drinking tap water in Tanzania

Drinking tap water in Tanzania is not recommended, even in Dar es Salaam. Rather drink bottled water that’s bottled and sealed at a trusted source. Avoid drinking water from streams, rivers and lakes as a precaution against contracting bilharzia.

Toilets

The majority of places that tourists visit on a holiday to Tanzania have western-style flushing toilets. The popular tourist hotels and safari lodges in Tanzania have clean, quality toilet facilities. It’s only the more remote areas that you’ll find public ablutions that are fairly unsanitary. Avoid sitting on the seats and always wash your hands after a visit to a public toilet.

VACCINATIONS NEEDED FOR TANZANIA

Consult your doctor or travel clinic for advice on vaccinations for Tanzania. The following are recommended by the World Health Organisation (www.who.int) for Tanzania:

Ensure you are up-to-date with your routine vaccinations which includes:

Proof of a yellow-fever vaccination is mandatory for travel to Tanzania.

IS TANZANIA SAFE FOR WOMEN TRAVELLERS?

Tanzania is a safe country to visit and there’s not real risk for female travellers as long as they take the usual precautions to avoid becoming a victim of crime, rape or other serious offences. Avoid wearing revealing clothes like short shirts and halter tops, mainly out of respect for the Tanzanian culture. Local women generally dress conservatively, covering up their shoulders and legs.

IS IT TANZANIA SAFE FOR CHILDREN?

It’s safe to travel around Tanzania with children in the company of adults, as long as you follow the usual precautions to keep them out of harm’s way. Children are welcome at restaurants and safari lodges and it’s an opportunity of a lifetime for them to go on a safari in one of the Tanzania national parks.

However, there is an age restriction on safari tours in Tanzania, in particular travelling on open safari vehicles. Children between 6 to 12 years may join a safari tour in Tanzania at the discretion the professional game ranger in charge. Younger than that may only join a safari tour as part of a private safari group and at the discretion of the game ranger in charge.

Warning

Child kidnapping is a high threat around the world. Be extremely vigilante when travelling with children, even older teenage children. Don’t allow them to wander off unsupervised and under no condition, allow them to go to a public bathroom and such on their own.

TRAVEL WITH A REPUTABLE TOUR OPERATOR IN TANZANIA

MoAfrika Tours is a leading tour operator in South Africa that offers an outstanding selection of tours to Tanzania. We have a close association with the most reputable tour operators in TANZANIA who make safety a priority.