What to know before traveling to Tanzania

Compared to many African countries, Tanzania has always enjoyed the peace and political stability. Each government has served its term without military interference or civil upheaval. The presidents who have served have always sowed the seeds of peace and unity. Additionally, the citizens of Tanzania are hospitable. Unlike in other neighboring countries where the locals bother the (read white) foreigners with much irrelevant questions, the Tanzanians mind their own business and let the tourists mind theirs, unless otherwise.

For these reasons, Tanzania is generally safe to visit. Of course, this doesn’t mean you can trek alone in her remote areas at night, or remain at the beach late in the evening when everyone else has left. Like anywhere else on Earth, you have to take the usual precaution. So check out with the government travel advisories as you plan the visit.

Tipping

Also, note that the fact that the Tanzanians never bother the foreigners doesn’t mean they are not interested in the foreigners or in the tipping that may come out of such interactions. To the contrary, tipping is actually a culture in Tanzania. That is how many of the lazy citizens of Tanzania earn a living. Only they claim to offer you a service for which the tipping is the reward. They can offer to be your tour guide, porter, translator, interpreter, etc.

The good thing is, they are generally honest about what they want from you, and they keep to the terms of the deal. No scamming. So have with you enough Tanzania Shilling, which is the official currency. There are coins in 50, 100 and 1000 denominations. The standard tipping for porters and tour guides is about $15 per day.

Peaceful, Poor People

Although politically and socially stable, Tanzania is hardly prosperous economically. Partly due to the government’s Ujamaa (one family or social) policy that promoted love and sharing, many citizens of Tanzania became a lazy lot for decades, taking advantage of ujamaa to get things free of charge from the hardworking citizens. Not until the Ujamaa policy was disbanded did the economy begin to take off, albeit at a snail pace.

The Tanzanians, though friendly and humble, are generally poor, in terms of per capita income. Tanzania ranks low economically that it is not considered a developing country; it is not even a third world country. It’s not only a case study of what harm the peace-loving, but ideologically-bankrupt presidents can do to a nation, but also what too much generosity and kindness can do to a country or you as an individual.

Languages

The dominant language and culture in Tanzania are Swahili. So you may want to learn some Swahili like karibu (welcome), habari yako? (how do you do?), Jambo (Hi!). Apart from the Swahili, there are also Asians in the urban areas and other African tribes mostly in the rural. For instance, there is the high-jumping Maasai tribe in the north of the Great Rift Valley.

Currency Exchange

You may use US Dollar in Tanzania, but not everywhere. For the establishments that accept the dollars, they insist it must be clean, straight and not made in 2005 down. Common counterfeits brought this wariness. There are currency exchange offices all over the cities and restaurants.

A beautiful country

But Tanzania is a beautiful country. It has gorgeous beaches, lush forests, and exciting cultures. You should not come out of Tanzania before visiting these two sites:

The Kilimanjaro

Although Tanzania is low on economic issues, Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest roof in Africa and the world’s tallest free-standing mountain, is in Tanzania! This mountain is, surprisingly, easy to ascend and is a popular destination for tourists. Mountaineers and trekkers from all over the globe visit Tanzania for the Kilimanjaro experience. Do you want the Mount Kilimanjaro Climber? Easy; just go and climb Mount Kilimanjaro. Remember to carry enough warm clothes and to climb slowly to give your body time to adjust, for the higher you go, the lesser the oxygen and the thinner the air.

Twende pole pole,” your tour guide will tell you now and then. That is, come slowly. The walk will take you about seven days so carry plenty of food. Actually, it is not a walk in the parkā€¦

Serengeti National Park

Serengeti National Park is vast and offers unbelievable scenery. Apart from the Big Five, there are other animals like baboons, zebras, wildebeests, antelopes, hippos, giraffes, warthogs and many more. There are lots of birds too, beginning with vultures. There are excellent picnic sites on high rocks, from which you could view the complete park once you have pitched your tent.

Conclusion

U.S. citizens traveling to Tanzania should process their visas before the trip. However, the same can be obtained at the ports of entry upon arrival.

Note that Malaria is rampant in Tanzania, save for the high altitude mountains like Kilimanjaro. Rural areas and safari parks are notorious malaria zones. You should get into malaria medication days before and after you visit Tanzania. There is also HIV/AIDS so you need to take extra caution if you must have certain funs.