Difference between revisions of "Tanzania"
Revision as of 21:17, 6 June 2007
Tanzania  is the largest country in East Africa, bordering Kenya and Uganda to the north, Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west, and Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique to the south.
Cities and Towns
See also African National Parks
A large central plateau makes up most of the mainland (at between 900m and 1800m) and the mountain ranges of the Eastern Arc and the Southern and Northern Highlands cut across the country to form part of the Great Rift Valley.
A land of geographical extremes, Tanzania has the highest peak – Mount Kilimanjaro, the lowest point – the lake bed of Lake Tanganyika, and shares the largest lake – Lake Victoria - on the African continent.
Tanzania's weather varies from humid and hot in low lying areas such as Dar es Salaam, to hot during the day and cool at night in Arusha. There are no discernible seasons such as Winter and Summer, only the dry and wet seasons. Tanzania has two rainy seasons: the short rains from late-October to late-December, a.k.a. the Mango Rains, and the long rains from March to May.
Note: Many popular resorts and tourist attractions on Zanzibar and Mafia Island Marine Park close during the long rains, and many trails in the national parks are impassable during this period, so in most cases tours are restricted to the main roads in the parks. Travelers should plan their trip accordingly.
During the dry season temperatures can easily soar to above 35°C in Dar. You should seek shelter from the sun during the midday heat and use copious amounts of sunblock, SPF 30+.
Best times to visit are:
North Americans and Europeans can obtain tourist visas upon landing in Tanzania at a cost of US$50 paid in US dollars.
In Dar es Salaam, stand in the visa line, which is on the right hand side of the queue for passport control. It can get a bit hectic because several international flights arrive almost simultaneously, so ask others where the queue starts. Africans aren't big fans of waiting in line so don't hesitate to stand your ground.
Once you've received your visa, there's no need to stop at passport control; they issue the visa and stamp you in at the same time, so just walk through to the baggage claim area.
There are two major airports; one in Dar es Salaam, Julius Nyerere International Airport - (IATA:DAR) (formerly known as Mwalimu Julius K. Nyerere International Airport and Dar es Salaam International Airport), and one in Kilimanjaro, Kilimanjaro International Airport - (IATA:JRO) , which is halfway between Arusha and Moshi.
And Domestically by:
Warning: Domestic flights are often late but generally reliable.
A domestic train network links the country's major cities, including Kigoma, Mwanza, Dodoma, Tabora and Dar es Salaam. The domestic train service is usually reliable and ticket prices affordable. Ticket prices differ, however, according to 'class', typically first, second and third. First and second classes offer cabins with two and four beds, respectively. Third class is open seating. Hot meals and beverages are usually available from the dining car. It is not uncommon for the train kitchen to purchase fresh produce at many of the stopping points along the way. It is also possible to purchase fruit and snacks directly from local vendors who frequent the many train stations on each of Tanzania's many train routes.
Warning: It's not advised to drive in Tanzania, or throughout most of Africa, unless you are experienced with driving conditions in developing countries. Nonetheless, here is some useful information for those thinking of undertaking the challenge.
Choice of vehicle
Driving in the city
Note: Carjackings are uncommon but opening doors or jumping through open windows to steal valuables is not. Keep your windows closed and doors locked. When stopped at traffic lights or parked in unattended locations, thieves have been known to steal mirrors, paneling, spare tires and anything that is not either engraved with the license plate number of bolted to the vehicle's body. Choose your parking spots carefully and don't leave valuables in plain sight. You can either offer the parking attendant a small tip to watch your vehicle, 500 to 1000 Tsh, or find a secured parking lot, especially if your leaving the vehicle overnight.
Dangers and annoyances
Note: If you are involved in an accident with a pedestrian, drive to the nearest police station and advise them. DO NOT exit your vehicle and attempt to resolve the situation even if you are sure it was not your fault. Tanzanians are some of the nicest people you will meet in Africa, but they have been known to take matters into their own hands. This is largely due to their mistrust of the police and the belief that anyone with money, e.g. rich foreigners, can buy their way out of a problem.
FYI: In Tanzania, you can determine vehicle registration by the license plate colours: YELLOW plates which start with "T" and followed by three numbers are privately owned vehicles. Official Tanzanian government plates are also yellow but only have letters and usually start with "S" (the fewer the letters, the higher up in the food chain the owner is), GREEN plates are diplomatic, RED are international development agencies, BLUE are United Nations, WHITE are taxis and buses, and BLACK are military and police. This coding does not apply to Zanzibar and Pemba.
What to bring
Bus is a great way to get into Tanzania. Fly to somewhere like Nairobi then you can catch the bus down to Arusha (a great base for Mount Meru and Ngorongoro Crater). Scandanavian is the most reliable bus company.
The border town of Namanga is a hectic outpost that epitomizes much of Africa. The bus even waits here for you to cross the border. you can even get off on the Kenyan side walk across the border and get on again on the Tanzanian side.
Scandanavian also has service to Lusaka, Zambia.
It is also possible to travel to Malawi, Uganda, Rwanda from Dar by bus.
Bus is the most common way to travel around Tanzania. Most buses are simple and the roads are poor, although on the Dar-Moshi-Arusha route, 1st class air-con buses can be taken. Nearly all buses go in and out of Dar es Salaam. The main bus station in Dar (where all buses go), Ubungo, is 8km west of the city center. A number of the better "intercity buses" provide you with complimentary drinks and biscuits. Scandinavian Express is your best choice if you want to travel by bus. They operate their own terminal in downtown Dar.
In Dar, shared taxis called Dalla-Dallas can be taken cheaply to most places.
Private taxis are also a convenient choice, but be sure to negotiate the price before you leave. If you're at the airport, just ask a fellow Tanzanian traveler how much it costs from the airport to downtown. Tanzanians are always happy to help. Just do it before you leave the terminal. Once outside it can be a bit overwhelming. In Dar, a taxi from the airport to the city center should be 15,000 TSH.
If you can afford it, flying around Tanzania is faster and safer. See "By plane" in the "Get In" section above. Even the busiest roads are in poor condition and bus drivers are not known for their patience or great driving skills. Road accidents claim more lives in Tanzania than anything else.
For those wanting to look at the animals there are loads of National Parks. For around $100 US you can gain entry and benefit from a tour (and perhaps a nights accommodation). The better parks are found in the north of the country, while Ruaha National Park is the best in the south.
Scuba diving in and around Pemba and Zanzibar is also a good experience.
You can also visit numerous historical Slave Trade sites which make for an interesting, if a little depressing, excursion.
Beaches - Did you know that Tanzania has some of the best, most unspoiled beaches in the world? They are stunning with their white sand, palm trees and the cool Indian Ocean water.
Tanzania is a country with great national parks where you can see some of the finest African flora and fauna
Kiswahili or Swahili (official), Kiunguja (name for Swahili in Zanzibar), English (official, primary language of commerce, administration, and higher education), Arabic (widely spoken in Zanzibar), plus many local languages. Tanzanians speak Kiswahili and, to some extent, English. (As elsewhere, English is more commonly spoken in larger cities and tourist destinations, where it is common.)
Most Tanzanians learn their local tribal language first. Then in primary school, they learn Kiswahili. When they go to secondary school, they are taught English.
The currency of Tanzania is known as the Tanzanian Shilling (TSH, /=). There are 5 notes and 6 coins:
Notes and coins vary in size and colour. 10000 is the largest note and 500 the smallest. The other notes vary in size in descending order. Coins don't follow this standard.
As of February 2007, one US dollar is worth about 1300 Tsh.  Be advised that if you withdraw a large amount of money, anything of $400 US, you'll have to carry over 50 notes around.
Most hotels will change US dollars, Euros and British Pounds. Other currencies, such as Canadian or Australian dollars, may be accepted but at rates far below the going rate. ATMs are mostly located in the city center and on the Msasani Peninsula. In general, Barclay's, Standard Charter and NBC ATMs work with PLUS and Cirrus compatible cards.
10000 and 5000 notes can be difficult to break when shopping in small shops a.k.a. Dukas. In Tanzania, it's usually the responsibility of the customer to provide exact change. If they do agree to provide change, you could be left with several 1000 and 500 notes of very poor quality. You won't have these problems in large hotels and restaurants that cater to foreigners.
Cashing Traveler's Checks can be hit and miss in Tanzania. On some days banks will accept them and other days they won't. Some days they may charge a fee and other days they won't. It really depends on the teller. Hotels will always accept them but at a far lesser rate than hard currency.
Credit Cards can only be used in large hotels, resorts and with certain travel agents. Tanzania is basically still a cash society. However, if you have a PIN code for your credit card you can withdraw money from almost any ATM in Tanzania, even from the local financial institutions, such as Exim Bank, which don't accept foreign bank debit cards.
There are many markets in tourist cities that sell standard "African" goods. Beaded jewelry, carved soapstone and Masai blankets make interesting gifts. Be aware that most "ebony" wood is fake (shoe polish) - the exception being in the far south-east where the Makonde tribe of Tanzania and Northern Mozambique create masks and other carvings from ebony and mpingo wood. Be prepared to bargain hard for everything. Masks are not typical of most East African groups, and the ones you will find in the markets are either imported from West Africa, or are strange things made just for tourists (exception again being the Makonde masks).
Tinga Tinga paintings, named after the painter who originated that style, are for sale everywhere. Their distinctive style and colors make for attractive souvenirs. A standard size painting can be had for TS 5,000 - 10,000. There is a Tinga Tinga school in Dar es Salaam where you can purchase paintings from the artists themselves.
Sunrise and sunset are always the same time (about 7) at the equator.
Various schools and volunteer programs offer courses ranging from Beginners Swahili to Economic Development. Dar es Salaam also has a well established University which has exchange programs with several universities in the US and other countries.
There are a wide assortment of volunteer organisations sending volunteers and interns to Tanzania to do work in health care, orphanages, education, and development projects. Finding a paying job may be more daunting and take more time and local connections, but is certainly obtainable if sought hard enough.
Tanzania is a safe country by African standards. However, caution should be exercised when visiting crowded markets like Kariakoo, walking along beaches like Coco Beach in Dar es Salaam, and isolated areas.
There are very few sidewalks in Tanzania so walking can be dangerous. You should always pay careful attention to the traffic and be prepared to move as vehicles will not make much effort to avoid pedestrians. In Tanzania, cars have priority.
Tanzania, like many developing countries, suffers from rampant corruption, especially within the ranks of elected officials, bureaucrats, and authority figures such as police officers. Many people are very much averse to paying a bribe to anyone, especially in a country with so many needy but honest citizens.
Generally, tourists have limited interaction with such individuals. However, should the occasion arise where you are solicited for a bribe by an official willing to turn a blind eye to your infraction, fabricated or otherwise, here are some suggestions for what to do:
A word of caution: Police in Tanzania carry guns and batons and have been known to beat and even kill people. There are only rumours of incidents involving tourists, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen. Always demonstrate respect for their authority, never raise your voice, swear or insult them, especially with other people around. Whether you are right or not does not matter at this point. With some patience and polite banter you may get away with only a verbal warning.
The basic idea is to discourage the individual’s attempts at soliciting a bribe from you.
Illnesses and diseases
As in most African countries, the AIDS/HIV infection rate is high. Tanzania's HIV/AIDS infection rate was 9% at the end of 2003 UNAIDS . This figure is deceiving, however, since many subpopulations such as artisanal miners, itinerant fisherman, truck drivers and sex workers, have HIV infection rates significantly higher than the national average. Do not have unprotected sex in Tanzania or anywhere.
For most tourists to Tanzania, Malaria will be your greatest concern. Malaria is transmitted by mosquitoes and is endemic to Tanzania. You are at risk in almost every part of the country, although this risk is somewhat diminished when at altitudes above 2000m. Care should always be taken between sunset and sunrise, especially during the rainy season. Always sleep under a treated net, wear trousers and closed footwear, and use an effective repellent. It's amazing but many large hotels don’t automatically install mosquito nets in their rooms. However, a call to the reception requesting one is seldom ignored. Before you leave for Tanzania, you may also wish to consult a physician about taking some form of anti-malarial medication, before, during and after your trip. If in spite of your best efforts you do contract Malaria, it is usually easily treated with medication that is readily available throughout most of the country. If you plan on being in more isolated locations, you may wish to drop by one of the clinics and purchase a batch. Note that symptoms associated with Malaria can take up to two weeks to manifest themselves. The rule of thumb for ex-pats living in Tanzania, is that any fever that last more than a day is a cause for concern and requires an urgent trip to the clinic for a malaria test. Notify your doctor that you’ve been to a malaria infected country if you start to run a fever shortly after returning from Tanzania.
Other major illnesses to avoid include typhoid and cholera. In theory, typhoid can be avoided by carefully selecting food and drink, and avoiding consumption of anything unclean. Typhoid infection, according to the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) , is marked by 'persistent, high fevers...headache, malaise, anorexia, splenomegaly, and relative bradycardia.'
Cholera infection is marked by vomiting and sudden, uncontrollable bowel movements which can dehydrate and ultimately kill the sufferer within 48 hours. It is important to seek medical attention as quickly as possible. Cholera is more or less a seasonal phenomenon in Zanzibar, where outbreaks frequently occur during the rainy seasons. Vaccines and/or oral prevention are available for both typhoid and cholera.
Yellow Fever:  Is an acute viral disease transmitted through the bite of a particular mosquito. Although not as common as Malaria, it is nonetheless a serious disease and travelers to Africa should consult a physician about being vaccinated against it. Additionally, if you plan on traveling to other countries after your stay in Tanzania, be advised that some countries, such as South Africa, may require proof that you’ve been vaccinated against Yellow Fever before allowing you to enter the country. If you aren’t or can’t prove it, you will be offered two options: 1) receive the Yellow Fever vaccination at the airport, 2) immediately leave the country. WARNING: The Yellow Fever vaccine can have serious side affects for some people. Therefore, you may wish to get the vaccine in your home country under controlled conditions. Most physicians will not administer the Yellow Fever vaccine to children under the age of 1 year, a letter from a physician explaining this will ensure your infant child is not forced to receive it at the airport.
Gastrointestinal Distress: A.k.a. traveler’s diarrhea is the result of one, some or all the following reasons: unhygienic food preparation, changes in diet, fatigue, dehydration and excessive alcohol consumption. Prevention is your best defense. Only eat raw vegetables and fruits you can peel and which have been washed in clean water. Avoid street or restaurant food that appears to have been left in the open for extended periods of time. Only eat freshly fried or steamed food. You should only drink bottled water which is available throughout the country. You should even brush your teeth with it. If you must drink the tap or well water, boil it for a minimum of 10 minutes or use a high quality filter.
Rift Valley Fever:  In January 2007, there was an outbreak of RFV in the Kilimanjaro area. Consumption of unpasteurized milk and improperly cooked meat from infected cows led to a number of deaths in the area. Following the deaths, the sale of beef dropped sharply all over the country, despite the limited scope of the infection. In general, meat served in upscale restaurants is of superior quality, however, care should be taken when indulging in street foods or when in more remote areas.
Insects and Animals
Tanzania has its fair share of venomous and deadly insects and animals, such as Black and Green Mambas, scorpions, spiders, stinging ants, centipedes, lions, sharks, and so on. You should take care when walking through high grass, when visiting national parks or shoving your hand under rocks or into dark holes, unless you know what your doing, but in actuality the likelihood of encountering these and other similar dangers is remote.
The insect/animal most residents fear is the mosquito.
Dar es Salaam is served by a few clinics staffed by western trained physicians. However, procedures such as surgery may require evacuation to Nairobi or Johannesburg.
Tourists should wear modest or conservative attire in general, and especially in Zanzibar which is a conservative Muslim society. Western women especially should take care not to wear clothing that reveals too much skin. 'Kangas', affordable, brightly-colored wrap-around cloth, are available throughout the country and can serve as a discreet covering.
The Masai people with their colorful clothing are tempting targets for any tourist with a camera. However, they expect to be paid for it and you should always ask before you take pictures.
It is common practice among Swahili-speakers to use 'shikamoo' (prounounced 'she ka moe' and literally meaning, 'I hold your feet') when greeting elders or superiors. The usual response from an elder will be 'marahaba'. The 'shikamoo' equivalent in Zanzibar is 'chei chei'. The traveler will get along very well when using these verbal expressions of respect. In addition a title after the 'shikamoo' is also a useful indicator that you are not just a dumb tourist. 'shikamoo bwana' for the gents, and if you are addressing an elder female 'shikamoo mama'.
Tanzanians will also comment if you are doing any work while they are not with the phrase "pole na kazi" It literally mean I'm sorry you have to work. A simple "asante" or thanks will suffice in reply.
Many Tanzania sellers are persistent and ordinarily a simple shake of the head accompanied by an "asante sana" is enough. However, as a last resort a firm "Hapana", meaning "no", will do the trick. Tanzanians find the word "hapana" quite rude so please don't use it too casually only as a last resort. Whatever you do, do not tell someone you will come back and buy from them later when you have no intention to; better to be honest and say 'no' than have to avoid someone for days. They have a funny way of finding you when you have promised to visit their stall or shop!
The most polite way to refuse something is to say "sihitaji" - I don't need.
Keeping in touch while traveling in Tanzania is rarely a problem. You can even get decent mobile phone reception in some national parks.
The "Tanzania Telecommunications Company Ltd" (TTCL) is the state owned telecom and operates all pay phones and landlines in Tanzania. As with many developing countries, fixed line are not affordable for most people. However, in the past five years the mobile network has blossomed throughout Africa and this is equally true of Tanzania. With many used mobile phones for sale and the very low cost of getting a SIM card, 2000 Tsh, this has proven to be a very popular choice with most Tanzanian. For many their first large purchase when they get a job is a mobile phone. The major mobile service providers operate all over the country and even in some of the most remote areas, although interruptions in service are common.
Note: If you find a taxi driver or tour guide you like, ask for his/her mobile number. This is often best way of reaching them.
Using a mobile phone If you have an "unlocked" Quadband GSM mobile phone you can purchase a local SIM card for 2000 Tsh from a number of Tanzanian service providers. The most popular are Celtel , Vodacom , and Tigo . Zantel  is a new arrival on the mainland but its service is limited to Zanzibar, Dar es Salaam and Arusha.
Air Time You can recharge your "Prepaid" mobile phone account using "scratch-cards" which are available everywhere. Just look for shops or even small tables set up along the road with posters for the various mobile service providers. They come in the following denominations: 500, 1000, 5000, 10000, 20000, and 50000 Tsh. If you plan on making frequent calls outside of Africa you will need a minimum of 10000 Tsh.
Note: In October 2006, Vodacom changed the second digit, not counting the first "0" or the "+255" country code, in their phone numbers from "4" to "5", e.g.: 744 is now 754. Many magazines, books, travel guides and advertisements may not have made the necessary corrections. All Vodacom mobile numbers start with 744, 745 or 746 and should be changed to 754, 755 and 756.
Internet cafés are more and more common throughout Tanzania. They are easy to find in major centers like Dar es Salaam and Arusha.
Unlike South Africa and Northern Africa, East African countries do not have a high capacity undersea cable which provides reliable and affordable telecommunications services. Currently, all telecommunications are routed through satellite links which are few, costly and unreliable when the weather turns bad.
Some mobile providers have started offering wireless internet service. Zantel, Vodacom and Celtel are the main providers. At this time service is limited to Dar es Salaam, Arusha and Zanzibar.
To use this service, you must first purchase a CDMA PCMCI Card or mobile receiver which plugs into your computer's USB port. This will set you back about 200000 Tsh. If you have an unlocked CDMA phone with a modem cable, that will also work.
Airtime is obtained using scratch cards just like mobile phones. Connection rates are about 60 Tsh for 1 Mb or $0.05 per Mb. So 1Gb of download and upload will set you back $50. Not cheap.
Note: In 2006, there was a huge scandal involving the emergency service number, which saw the resignation of the then Chief of Police. During an armed robbery at a popular Indian restaurant, an employee dialed 112 to notify the police that a crime was in progress. He let the phone ring for over 30 minutes before hanging up. The following day the media reported that the emergency number had been disconnected for over a month and the police had not advised the public.
Luckily the emergency number has been reactivated, however, if you can, it's probably better to go to the nearest police station, instead of dialing 112.