General
information

Visas:

You will need a visa for Tanzania, which will also be valid for Zanzibar, and is easily bought upon arrival at the airport, for between 20 and 50 USD, according to the colour of your passport. This tourist visa is valid for 3 month, not renewable. Upon exiting the country, you will have to pay an airport tax of 25 USD (in cash and in dollars!).

Climate:

The climate along the coast is different from the inland. On the mainland, it can easily become cool in the evening; let's not forget that Arusha is at an altitude of 1600 metres for example, whereas Zanzibar is a typical tropical island.

The short rainy season (Mvuli) in November is followed by the north monsoon with the Kaskazi wind bringing hot temperatures, up to 35 degrees in February. Then comes the long rainy season (Masika) from end of March to beginning of June, when it can rain several days in a row. The temperature remains fine on Zanzibar, but on mainland, some roads might be closed because of the heavy rains and the climbing of Kilimanjaro is not advisable. It is the season of the wonderful sunsets and the empty beaches, low season prices and always a beautiful sea. After that comes the "cold" season with the south wind, the Kusi, with the lowest temperatures in July-August when water temperature drops to 23-24 degrees!

Health:

It is always best to enquire at your health centre, especially if you are travelling with children. The only compulsory vaccination for Tanzania is yellow fever (only in specialised vaccination centres, valid for 10 years), not necessary for Zanzibar if you have a direct flight from Europe, without stop-over on mainland, although the health authorities at the Zanzibar airport might want to see your certificate anyway. You have the choice between hoping to pass unnoticed, spending time or money trying to explain to them that there is no yellow fever in Europe, or take the vaccination before... Malaria prophylaxis is highly recommended, especially for short holidays, although the risk is minimal with normal precautions (always sleep under the mosquito net that you will find in every hotel, apply mosquito repellent at sunset), outside of rainy season. Otherwise, as for most other tropical countries, vaccinations against hepatitis A, typhoid fever and cholera are advised. Also check your status for polio, diphtheria and tetanus. For the rest, you have to be cautious, avoid raw, unpeeled vegetable or fruit, don't drink tap water and avoid ice cubes, except for big hotels, or the little beach bars, where you can see that the ice is made of mineral water. In general, hygiene is not so much of a problem in the tourist areas. For the travellers with a solid stomach, don't miss the sugar cane juice that you will find in the streets of Zanzibar. Although the ice is of doubtful origin, there is not a more refreshing drink in the world!

Language:

Although Swahili is spoken in many African countries, it is the national language of Tanzania only. It is a language that was used by the Arabs for business with the Africans, and has Bantu, Arabic, and Hindi roots, with German, English and Portuguese words. It is mother tongue to the Zanzibaris and the communication language of all other Tanzanian. Nevertheless, English is spoken by all people who have been to school or earn a living with tourism.

some swahili for you

 

Religion:

In mainland, you will find a lot of Christians, but on the coast, people are mostly Moslems. Islam in Tanzania is a bit different to Islam in Arabic country, as people still have their traditional believes and on the whole, are easy going for most things. You will just notice the muezzin calling for prayer when you are in town, and the Ramadan (fasting month) if you happen to travel during that month, as the local restaurants are closed during the day. For tourists, it is just important to respect their belief. So avoid showing your shoulders and knees in town or in a village if you are a woman and don't eat in the street during Ramadan, as they are hungry as well but can't eat or drink. The Christian Tanzanians behave the same.

Currency:

The currency is the Tanzanian shilling (TSh) which is not very stable, 1 USD corresponding to about 1.200 TSh and 1 Euro to 1400 TSh in 2006. It is forbidden to import or export the local currency. Most tourist places accept dollars, and even Euros, but the rate will always be lower than the one of the bureau de change in town. We advise you to change money in town upon arrival. Otherwise, most hotels or dive centres will accept traveller cheques (5% surtax) or even credit cards (10% surtax). You can now get money from the Barclays Bank cash points with your credit card, in every big Tanzanian town, even in Stonetown!

As an idea, a meal in a local restaurant costs between 500 and 2.000 TSh and in a tourist restaurant, from 5.000 to 30.000 TSh. To hire a motorbike for the day will cost between 20 and 30 USD and a car between 30 and 50 USD.

The question of tips comes quite often. As a general rule, tips are given in restaurants and bars or hotels if you are happy about the service, but not compulsory. For a safari or Kilimanjaro climbing, tip is expected for your guide, driver, cook or porter, as they mostly are paid for each trip they do and don't have fixed contracts or salaries. The habit is to give about 10 USD per day per person. You can give a bit more if you are very happy with the guide or the cook for example. The porters will be happy with 5 USD as well. You must know that the minimum salary set by the government in 2004 is 40.000 TSh, so about 40 USD. But it is not possible to live on that salary with a family.

Clothing:

On mainland, you need light clothes, not white if you are going on safari, as the roads are quite dusty, as well as a sweater and rain-coat. Don't forget sun-glasses, hat and sun screen, even if you can't see the sun!

For climbing Kilimanjaro, you need very warm clothes, as for mountain climbing in the Alps. Good trekking shoes as well as Gore-Tex clothes are advisable, as well as gloves, warm hat and scarf, and a good sleeping bag. It can get very cold and the huts are very simple. A well prepared trip will allow you to enjoy the climb totally; otherwise, you might regret it bitterly.

For Zanzibar and the coast, light clothes are sufficient, with maybe a little sweater in the cold season (July-August). The coast being Moslem, women should cover their shoulders and knees. Bikinis will just be worn on the beach and not to go and buy a snack in the village! It is just a matter of respect towards the country you visit!

For those who wish to sail or dive, something warm might be nice (coming out of the water in the wind or getting sprayed) and of course a lot of sun screen, sun-glasses and a hat! We are just a few degrees south of the equator and the sun has no pity for your sensitive skin. Factor 50 for the first days is advised, especially close to water.


Food:

Tanzanian food is quite simple, with a lot of Indian influence along the coast. A typical meal consists of ugali (a paste made of maize or cassava flour) or rice, with beef or fish, and tomato sauce, and a few vegetables.

In the restaurants, you will find European, Indian and Chinese food. Along the coast there is always a wide choice of deliciously fresh fish and sea-food. In the street, you might want to try mishkak, beef skewers marinated and grilled, that can be served with a potato soup, a nice snack!

If you have special dietary requirements, please let us know at the time of booking, so we can arrange that specific food for you in all the places you go.

Souvenirs:

Whatever you buy, remember it is a custom in Africa to bargain! It is fine if you pay a bit more than the locals, but not 10 times more... You will find African woodcraft, carved woodwork in Zanzibar, coloured materials, typical Tanzanian paintings, the tinga tinga, representing animals or scenes of everyday life, and also spices! The Tanzanite is a semi-precious stone of blue-violet colour, only found around Arusha. ATTENTION: everywhere you will see big shells for sale, don't buy them! First their exportation is forbidden, and in most first world countries, their importation is also forbidden and you might pay a heavy fine. Second, we like to promote ecotourism. The animals in these shells were killed for you, or if the shells were already empty, left in nature they would make a nice house to a hermit crab, or become the white sand of the beaches you like so much. Most of these shells are not seen anymore while diving...

Communication:

You will find Internet Cafés all over Tanzania and Zanzibar, for 500.- to 3000.- TSh for 1/2 hour, and you can also phone easily from towns. In Zanzibar, you will have to pay much more once you are on the coast, and connection won't be that good, but normally communication is available. Most European networks have contracts with Tanzania, so your mobile phone could well work there, but no guarantee. For charging your phone, power supply is 230 Volt and you might need an all-round adaptor. Please notice that power cuts can be frequent, you are on holiday and shouldn't be too distressed if your phone doesn't work for a couple of days...

Jet lag:

Tanzania is GMT-2, GMT-3 in summer-time, so no jet-lag even for a short holiday!

local time