Tanzania Holiday Planning Guide
Though the scale of Tanzania's main attractions may be overwhelming, the people make it a personable and easy-going place to visit. The bigger cities not only offer good connections to the main natural highlights, but also feature bustling markets where locals sell fresh produce, snacks, and crafts. Smaller villages retain their long-held customs, beliefs, and artistic traditions. With the continent's highest peak and some of the most animal-rich safaris available, Tanzania holidays tend to dart between the big and bold, and the personal and low-key.
Places to Visit in Tanzania
Regions of TanzaniaZanzibar Archipelago
: Known for its pristine natural environment and exotic powdery beaches, this chain of islands reveals a captivating mixture of Indian, Swahili, and bygone Persian cultures, cuisine, and architecture.Arusha Region
: Thanks to abundant wildlife, archaeological sites, and safari tours through remarkable World Heritage-listed national parks and natural reserves, Arusha Region has become a hub of Tanzania tourism.Kilimanjaro Region
: Home to a thriving coffee industry, challenging mountaineering sites, lush rainforests, and Africa's prestigious rooftop, Kilimanjaro Region remains one of the most popular places to visit in Tanzania and, indeed, Africa.Tanga Region
: Best suited for outdoor tourists and adventurers, Tanga Region boasts untamed landscapes thriving with life, exciting hiking routes through the robust wilderness, and animal and forest conservation sites.Morogoro Region
: Located at the base of the fertile Uluguru Mountains, this region bears a distinct German influence and shows a more rural, tamed, and agricultural side of Tanzania. Pwani Region
: Besides 13th-century ruins, well-preserved colonial architecture, and historic museums, Pwani Region boasts exceedingly diverse marine life popular among divers, snorkelers, and whale-watchers. Mwanza Region
: Located on the coast of Lake Victoria, this region is home to various indigenous tribes, including the most populous Sukuma, and draws visitors with excellent hippo-spotting, bird-watching, and fishing.
Cities in TanzaniaArusha
: While serving as an excellent starting point for safaris into surrounding national parks, Arusha also offers a vibrant nightlife, lively markets, and delicious local coffee. Arusha
: Charming sandy beaches, modern neighborhoods, a World Heritage-listed historic core, and architectural and cultural influences of Indians, Arabs, and Moors make Zanzibar City a gem of Tanzania tourism. Nungwi
: Enjoy the warm sandy coast shaded by palm trees and mangroves in a calm rural environment, which still maintains its boat-building and deep-sea fishing traditions. Dar es Salaam
: Hailed as the country's commercial center, this sprawling metropolis with beachfront penthouses, imposing skyscrapers, and blend of Indian and Arab cultural influences is a highlight of many Tanzania itineraries. Moshi
: Resting at the foothills of the iconic Mount Kilimanjaro, this tourism town serves as an excellent starting point for exploring nearby national parks, coffee plantations, traditional villages, hot springs, and waterfalls. Mwanza
: This center of the Sukuma tribe rests on the coast of Lake Victoria and offers pleasant day-tours to natural havens, such as Rubondo Island
and the western parts of Serengeti National Park
: Bordering the shallow lagoon of Unguja Island, the charming and calm village of Paje lies surrounded by natural spots and secluded turquoise beaches, attracting lovers of marine life, kitesurfing, and spicy food.
Popular Tanzania Tourist AttractionsMount Kilimanjaro
: Experience this majestic dormant volcano with glacial peaks rising 5,895 m (19,341 ft) into the clouds, which offers some of the most awe-inspiring panoramic views and challenging hiking expeditions.Ngorongoro Crater
: An oasis for both wildlife and the Maasai tribe, this World Heritage-listed natural wonder stretches 260 sq km (100 sq mi) and boasts zebras, wildebeest, and lions. Prison Island - Changuu Private Island
: Home to endangered Aldabra giant tortoises, this popular tourism island with lovely guesthouses and pristine beaches once served as a slave prison and a yellow fever quarantine zone. Forodhani Park
: Bubbling with social and culinary activity, this renovated park with scenic landscapes hosts bustling food markets, cafes overlooking the bay and islands, and various public events.Seronera
: A settlement located inside a wildlife-preservation national park, this is one of best places to visit in Tanzania for embarking on adventurous balloon safaris.Safari Blue Tour
: Take a one-day boat journey from Stone Town
to explore nearby exotic beaches, diverse marine life, and mangrove glades, and enjoy seafood barbecues and cold drinks along the way.Serengeti Hippo Pool
: Constantly supplied by the converging Orangi and Seronera rivers, this pool inside Serengeti National Park brings tourists closer to the hippos--and the occasional crocodile. Nungwi Beach
: Spreading along the bustling village's main strip, this powdery white beach boasts turquoise waters and an abundance of snorkeling, diving, and dining.Zanzibar Spice Tour
: One of the nation's most popular excursions, this tour lets you see first-hand how exotic spices, herbs, and fruits are cultivated, and then sample traditional Swahili dishes.Oldupai Gorge
: This deep ravine cutting into Great Rift Valley is considered one of world's most important paleontology sites, offering a glimpse into ancient human history and a chance to witness millions of years of evolution.
Planning a Tanzania Vacation with Kids
Places to Visit in Tanzania with Kids
Tanzania has a lot of destinations that children will find fascinating and entertaining. One of the nation's greatest assets is its wildlife diversity, as well as plenty of touring opportunities to meet the animals up close.
While the greatest heights in Serengeti National Park
are reserved for skilled hikers and mountaineers, the lower parts possess all the necessary facilities and staff, hosting programs and tours for children to immerse themselves in the exotic natural attractions of Tanzania. Your family can also embark on a safari to witness the stunning wildlife.
Other places to see lions, rhinos, zebras, elephants, and antelope up close include Ngorongoro Conservation Area
and Tarangire National Park
Your family can discover the country's vibrant and warm culture at Zanzibar Island
, as well as enjoying the powdery white beaches and snorkeling through the depths.
Things to Do in Tanzania with Kids
Tanzania's many zoos, nature parks, and wildlife refuges make for memorable excursions.
At Ngorongoro Crater
kids can meet tame cheetahs and other animals up close, pet them, and see how they behave, feed, and play. Fans of marine life can don snorkeling gear and observe the colorful underwater world with Scubafish Zanzibar Ltd
or Mafia Island Diving
Tanzania is also known for well-kept family-friendly zoos, so make sure to visit Meserani Snake Park
, Dar es Salaam Zoo
, and Zanzibar Land Animal Park (ZALA)
Tips for a Family Vacation in Tanzania
Many of Tanzania's hotels and resorts eagerly welcome families, and numerous well-established attractions cater to children's needs.
Small children can stay in hotels either for free or a significant discount, just remember to book all accommodations in advance to ensure that beds or rooms are interconnected.
Malaria is one of the most feared diseases for visitors: as you plan your trip, check all the necessary health procedures and consult your doctor about antimalarial tablets. Many doctors will also recommend getting a yellow-fever vaccine, although the epidemic is contained and precautions are no longer an imperative.
A tour of Tanzania will reveal a country that is peaceful and well-protected by the police and military. Police officers are always close by, especially in major tourist destinations. Safari organizers work with domestic and international peace-keeping organizations in order to ensure guest safety and provide immediate intervention should necessity demand it.
Dining and Shopping on Holiday in Tanzania
Cuisine of Tanzania
With over 120 ethnic groups, as well as strong European and Asian influences, Tanzania delights with its diverse and exotic cuisine. Muslims were the first to open trade routes in this region in 800 CE, bringing spices and citrus fruits from India. The Portuguese introduced Tanzania's staple ingredients--cassava and groundnuts--while the British and Germans established tea and coffee plantations.
Hearty and healthy dishes will fuel your tour of Tanzania: coconut bean or plantain soups, fried bananas, beef or chicken kebabs, and rice or curried fish in coconut milk. The national dish is ugali, a cornmeal dough served with either meat sauce, fish, veggies, or beans. The ever-popular pilau (or pilaf), often a ceremonial dish, features rice, spices, and vegetables. Meat lovers will want to sample nyama choma, a typical Tanzanian meal of grilled chicken, goat, sheep, or fish.
Shopping in Tanzania
Most Tanzania vacationers inevitably stumble upon the many curio shops, bazaars, and markets located on main or coastal roads, and near parks and reserves. Tanzania's bigger cities, such as Arusha
, Dar es Salaam
, and Stone Town
offer an abundance of shopping opportunities.
Look for creative handmade gifts such as African-themed home decor, paintings of Maasai tribes and Serengeti landscapes, and wooden carvings. Shanga & Shanga Foundation
, for example, sells unique souvenirs made by experienced craftspeople, painters, and sculptors. Gourmands should head to Darajani Bazaar
for an array of exotic spices, fruits, vegetables, and more.
Know Before You Go on a Trip to Tanzania
Interesting Facts About Tanzania
Over 120 languages are spoken in Tanzania, most of which belong to the Bantu group.
Some of the world's oldest human remains and tools were found in Oldupai Gorge
The world's most expensive African blackwood trees, or mpingo trees, are commonly seen in Tanzania.
The highlight of much Tanzania tourism, Mount Kilimanjaro
stands as Africa's tallest mountain.
Tanzania boasts the largest concentration of wildlife animals in the world per square kilometer.
Tanzania is also home to the world's largest crab, the coconut crab.
Things You Should NOT Do in Tanzania
Public displays of affection between members of the opposite sex, including kissing, hugging, and holding hands, are generally disapproved of in Tanzania. Meanwhile, friends of the same sex often hold hands in the street. Homosexuality, however, remains both a taboo and illegal.
Do not criticize people openly. Not only is it impolite, but it is also considered very offensive among the locals. If you have to complain about something, do so in a constructive and discreet manner.
You will probably notice during your Tanzania vacation that there are practically no dress codes. Showing bare legs and shoulders is tolerated in most parts of the country, especially in coastal cities. However, you must dress modestly when visiting Muslim institutions and grounds.
Although it is considered common sense not to eat without washing your hands, to Tanzanians hand washing is a traditional ritual. Never decline an offer to clean yourself up before dining, especially if you visit someone's home. Hosts will pour warm water on your hands while saying the welcome word "karibu" and place another bowl below to collect the dirty water. The ritual is repeated after a meal, too.
Do not be offended by names Tanzanians call foreigners. This is because they rarely have a chance to communicate and practice their English with tourists, so they will seize their moment if they can. Tanzanians call almost all people of Asian descent Chinese, while Europeans or white people are called "mzungu," meaning "a person who walks in circles/wanders without purpose."
Limit your traveling at night as much as possible.
Holidays & Festivals in Tanzania
The best places to experience Tanzania's holidays are usually Zanzibar City and Dar es Salaam, but that doesn't leave out the rest of the country from hosting interesting festivities and events.
If you want to immerse yourself in the Tanzanian local culture, music, dance, and cuisine, visit the Wanyambo Festival in early January or Mzalendo Halisi Music Festival in May, both held in Dar es Salaam.
Sport enthusiasts will love the Kiliman Adventure Challenge held in February. During this triathlon event, contestants test their mettle by hiking up Mount Kilimanjaro
, mountain biking around the great circumference, and taking part in a marathon.
Unification Day, April 26, commemorates the date that the Zanzibar Islands joined Tanganyika to create the Republic of Tanzania. Expect parades, flags, and traditional garb in main city streets.
While not exactly a holiday, the Serengeti Wildebeest migration certainly represents a major national event, especially between December and February, when nature lovers can observe these animals search for water and feed.
Useful Tanzania Travel Tips
Common Greetings in Tanzania
Greeting is very important in Tanzania, no matter if in passing or brief contact in the waiting room, elevator, stairs, and other passages. If you do not know Swahili, a simple "hi" or "how are you?" is quite acceptable. The general greeting in Swahili is "habari" (informal), "hujambo" (to a single person), or "hamjambo" (when addressing more than one person).
Handshakes are not common practice. People will more likely offer their wrist just to be touched, but if a handshake happens, make it light and brief. The elderly or highly respected people in tribes can be greeted with a bow or a slight nod, but avoid this gesture in the rest of the country.
Climate of Tanzania
Although Tanzania's climate has regional variations due to diverse topography, it is generally characterized as tropical. Coastal areas are quite humid with temperatures rarely falling below 20 C (68 F), whereas the temperature in the northwestern highlands ranges between 10 to 20 C (50 to 68 F).
Interestingly, Tanzania has two rainy seasons. Short bursts of rain are common from October to December, while the period between March and June experiences long showers. Touring Tanzania can be done all year round, but it is recommended that you travel between these two rainy seasons, especially if you wish to explore inland.
For a beachside vacation in Tanzania, plan to come between December and January. This period may be the hottest, but ocean breezes make the weather bearable. Note that hotels are usually fully booked during the Christmas and New Year period.
Transportation in Tanzania
Tanzania's road network is fairly developed, but try to limit your stay to around two regions. Also, you will find almost no rest areas or gas stations between towns and cities, so consider picking one base from which you will explore the rest of attractions on your Tanzania itinerary.
Public transportation has its pros and cons. Ubiquitous dalla-dallas, or public minibuses, feature fixed prices and make many stops, but they are frequently crowded and prone to speeding accidents. Boats and ferries are frequently used, but can be overcrowded. Trains may offer a lovely glimpse of Tanzania's scenic environment, but expect slow service and delays.
Taxis have white plates on the mainland or a passenger vehicle sign on Zanzibar Island. You can hire one in all major towns, but remember to agree on the fare before getting in, since there are no meters. Feel free to ask locals for advice to negotiate a fairer price, and also make sure to use taxis from established stands or hotels. If renting a car, choose a reliable company that offers replacement in case of breakdowns, and avoid driving at night.
Tipping in Tanzania
Although tipping in Tanzania is not mandatory, rewarding quality service is certainly appreciated.
However, choose wisely who deserves a bigger tip, especially in the tourism sector. Certain job positions, such as park ranger, which require high education and a high level of practical knowledge, are not paid well by the government, whereas safari camp assistants, who do not require the same set of skills, may receive a higher monthly revenue thanks to tips alone, thus creating an imbalance in the local economy.
Tipping guides on one of your Tanzania tours $1-2 per person per day is considered reasonable. Some lodges and park guesthouses include food in the overall price, making it difficult to add a 10-15% tip on the bill. Porters should be given $0.50 tip per bag.
Taxis, restaurants, and barbers outside of tours do not expect a tip. Still, if you consider that service was excellent, you may round up the bill to a convenient amount.