What you need to know for planning a Trip to Tanzania

I must say that I believe that few are the destinations that we cannot travel in a DIY way, Tanzania is no exception, in addition to the fact that I find it absolutely secure and peaceful.
The essential travel conditions for a Tanzania DIY are two: time and adaptability.


Thence even in this case there is not much difference from other enormous-sized countries, remember that you are not in Europe, size matters here and do not get out of hand with over-ambitious travel routes, add to this the infrastructures, roads in particular, absolutely below the standards that will extend travel times (I am starting to believe that the writers of the tourist guides travel in a private car because there isn’t a stretch that has mirrored the hours budgeted on paper).


No danger, no unbearable boredom, if not some insistent beach boy (mainly on the beaches of Zanzibar and Dar Es Salaam) or the so-called flycatcher of Arusha but the Tanzanians to a NO usually answer with a smile without being too pedantic, for the rest it is a feasible journey DIY but with the BUT in reserve.


What does backpacking in Tanzania mean? And what do I need to know when planning my trip?

Traveling as backpacker means to seek solutions for you to move around, that, off the beaten track, the Arusha, Kilimanjaro and Zanzibar area, so to speak, is not that obvious nor simple, to make do with the languages, the mastery of English and possibly of some basic Swahili is required, to find the hotels yourself, having a very clear idea that solutions are not always found on the internet (not in front of the real offers that are presented to us once we get off the bus ), to organize the taxis for your transfers, the tours and the excursions and procure food for yourself, even here not to take for granted nor easy, I can assure you that even a little off the usual routes becomes an enterprise too.


Nothing new then, if not that Tanzania is colored with particular travel notes and it is not exactly true that you do it yourself 100 % .
Take the safari, if you want to do in self drive a car, which effectively will not be cheaper, it is possible but perhaps not the best choice. For people who have never driven in Africa, on the left (the English way of driving) and do not know the parks, read the paragraph Self Drive Vs Driver in the post How to organize a safari .


Considering, therefore, that usually whoever travels in Tanzania devotes about two weeks (sometimes three) for the classic route Safari + Zanzibar, as it should be since it's really the best of the country, let’s say that a DIY is feasible but at 50% and in any case, still to find a safari on site, the Tanzanian safaris cost more than those in Kenya, will lose 1 or 2 days at least ( if you look for groups, even more and on this, be careful because if you are photo enthusiasts the ideal is to go with one car at the most and not a van) and the costs in any case will be high.


As has been written in the post Myths to be disproved of trips to Africa , do not expect things to be given free to you because you're in the poorest continent of the world the, indeed, perhaps the truth is on the contrary making it become one of the most expensive to travel, particularly if you do not want to get down to compromising or do not want to give up on the basic comforts .
But let’s analyze one by one all the factors that together will allow you to organize your trip in Tanzania .


[su_spoiler title="Tanzania VISA" style="fancy" icon="plus-circle"]
A trip to Tanzania require a visa, even if the Embassy reported it has to be done in advance in truth you can also do it on arrival.
Know, however, that to do so at the airport will lengthen the time a lot, in fact, very few do it before, waiting times dilating that after a long journey are not pleasant.
For more information on visas please click here, the visa policy depends on your nationality it is obviously not the same for all of us.


tanzania frontiera


[su_spoiler title="Public transport and roads" style="fancy" icon="plus-circle"]

I was amazed at the state of the roads in this country which I guess is one of the destinations of choice for those wanting to experience the essence of Africa, safari in the first place. In the south of the country 90% of the roads are dirt roads and bumpy, in the north they are better but the travel times are still very long.


In the first case, roads in the south, it is not rare if it takes 2 hours to travel 50km in a completely broken bus, it has happened to me lots of times to hang on to the pieces or to have “flying” seats, and to pass interminable hours bumping on my own seat because of the pot-holes or rocks that the driver, by now used to them, runs over without ever slowing down.


Dirt roads, dust that enters from every opening even the finest and often not even a stop to eat something, generally the bushes are used for toilets.
Another thing to keep in mind is that most often you have to wake up at 4 am because your presence is required at the station at 5 even if for some reason the bus will leave at 7.

Needless to ask around because nobody knows anything and there is nothing to do but to wait in some dark corner of the station waiting for the dawn to break.


Venditori alle stazioni di bus

Venditori alle stazioni di bus


The means of transport in Tanzania are mainly the following :


Urban transport and in the villages

  • Bajaji: known elsewhere as tuk-tuk, or the blue three-wheeler that serve as taxis within the cities, cheaper than taxis and ideal compared to the bike if you have luggage
  • Motociclecca: also called pikipiki, ideal for those with no luggage and want to spend even less than the bajaji. In truth I took the bike even with luggage, but it was not a very comfortable journey. Remember that whatever you may seem unfeasible, especially when it comes to putting the luggage one on top of the other and get them to stay balanced, for them it is normal routine.
  • Dala-Dala: the collective minibuses that distinguish themselves in urban and extra urban. They are small vans with about 12 places where you enter until it bursts. In the city it should not cost more is 500 TZS per way.
    *** I Dala-Dala extra urban are those that connect cities of average distances, the operation is equal to the urban dala-dala, it will leave when it is full, or rather when there are enough people even standing.
  • Regular urban Autobus: they cost a little less than the dala-dala, are large, typical Japanese buses, a city ticket costs about 200 TZS.In all these cases you pay cash on the bus to the attendant and it is recommended to have the coins. The Tanzanians have a special power to never have rest, and not because they want to keep the rest (some tries but generally they do by making you pay more directly and not with these vulgar methods) but because they are simply without.


For the long distances the buses are of different categories, up to Luxury, but honestly even when I chose this option in the hope to travel more comfortably the result was not changed, at least not by much. Definitely not the best bus on which I have traveled around the world, they reminded me a bit of those of Bolivia , but even older.


[su_note note_color="#efefee"]

Not wanting to do too much, even if your guide says six hours, these are likely to become 8 or 10 and you will arrive very tired. Calculate well times and distances. If you only have two weeks to spare limit yourself to Safari and Zanzibar or Mafia .[/su_note note]

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[su_spoiler title="Hotels e Guesthouse" style="fancy" icon="plus-circle"]

The standards of the hotels are significantly lower than those in other parts of the world, especially compared to prices paid. For some reason the cheapest are really below the threshold of tolerance for those who are on vacation for a few weeks.


Traveling in Africa is expensive because there are no middle courses, and there are no alternatives.
There are no hostels, and you pass from the hotels for the locals, where I myself stayed, to those of higher category that depict a world completely apart, and those two times I was there, while waiting for the safari, just to treat myself to a night, only one, that was comfortable and in Zanzibar (where, however, things are different and I will write a separate post about it), I had the feeling that the very perception of the place that I had from that hotel room, changed ... everything seemed less complicated and cramped.
It’s useless to trust the internet for booking. Or rather, probably something can be found but it is minimal compared to the actual offer.


The wifi is something that I never had in two months of traveling, I guess the more expensive hotels, do offer it,among other things, perhaps for a fee, but do not take it for granted. If you just do not want to be disconnected it is preferable to buy an internet modem, which also works quite well, or a 3 g sim card for brief connections and whatssapp may be the ideal choice.

If you just do not want to be disconnected it is preferable to buy an internet modem, which also works quite well, or a 3 g sim card for brief connections and whatssapp may be the ideal choice.
Do not take anything for granted.


[su_note note_color="#efefee"]


If you're someone who does not mind too much and ready to accept whatever is being offered the things to do are two:

  • Entrust yourself to the instructions on the guide (Northern Tanzania: Serengeti, Kilimanjaro, Zanzibar Bradt Guide is preferable) And on arrival at the bus station try to figure out how to get to this place
  • Ask one of the many people waiting outside the bus station for a hotel with features that you say to them ( for example that costs, or that it has hot water, or that it is close to the station etc etc ). If you opt for this, remember to leave that person a tip, who, also in this case, probably lives of this .


[su_spoiler title="Restaurants and food " style="fancy" icon="plus-circle"]
I complained for two months on this aspect, and considering that I am one who "eats even the stones" and I do not consider myself a gourmet eater, as long as I can eat I am happy, in Tanzania I suffered a lot especially in the south where there is no particular tourist movement and where even if I had not wanted, the only alternative are the local restaurants where you always and only eat the same things: chips maiai  ( tortilla chips and egg ), rice and beans, possibly meat in stew, chicken and mishikaki, meat skewers.


All rigorously fried. Near the coast and the lakes fish and octopus are also eaten, that, in the markets, are generally served on a tray from which everyone picks with a toothpick and pay per piece ( depending on the size the price varies from 200 to 300 TZS, but they are well separated so you pick whatever you like ) .


To eat something more western, then you should be able to find alternative solutions in the tourist centers or where expatriates live. Or you can ask at the hotel if by chance they can cook for you. In this case it is important that the request is made in the afternoon or you are likely to run the risk of having your meal next day given the biblical times.
Another mysterious talent of Tanzanians is their slowness and to prepare a dish might need 3 hours. Just enough time to take a nap and forget the order as well.



Chips Maiai

Chips Maiai

ristorante tanzania[/su_spoiler]

[su_spoiler title="Safari" style="fancy" icon="plus-circle"]
This is the only part of "do not do it yourself" in the sense that being on a journey through the national parks, a car, a guide and a cook, in case you are camping, are necessary, as well as the cost of entrances to the parks, that are not trifle, have to be paid.


Economizing on a safari does not exist at all, this is one of the most expensive places of Africa in which it can be done but it is also the country with the National Parks considered among the most beautiful.


Anticipated this, we come to the question look for the Safari.


In the guide on the organization of a safari I think I have explained completely how it works, here I will only point out some important things for those who want to arrive in Tanzania and look for the safari directly from there :


  • Considering that the safari is expensive, if you are alone or in two and you want to save some money, the ideal is to look for at least another two companions, so the more important costs i.e. the car, are shared and the price will significantly be less.
  • If you have not already booked before your arrival what you have to do is to arm yourself with patience and go around Arusha asking for quotes or eventual groups to join. Remember one thing though, the less you pay the more likely the people who will work for you will not be remunerated. This research may take a day, if you're lucky, but even 2 or 3 days, especially if you wait for groups, it’s hardly possible that on arrival after a day of traveling that you would want to go around the city looking for agencies that, among other things, are rather scattered about and not all on a same road.


For more information read the Guide on organizing a safari in Tanzania.
[su_spoiler title="Backpack or trolley" style="fancy" icon="plus-circle"]

There are destinations where the trolley is ideal, Europe or the US, for the most simple reason of the world : there are roads on which drag them without jamming the wheels or the toppling over of the suitcase. Others where there are no roads, and anything on wheels would aggravate the already complicated situation. This is the case of Tanzania, of Africa in general since we are not as good as them to put it on the head and walk with it in balance.


A backpack is better not as to be a "backpacker" or because fashion wants it so but because there will be more times you will have to load the luggage on yourself than those in which you will be able to drag it.
I must add. The dust will be so much that at least the backpack can be put in the washing machine and washed, I fear that the suitcase might live the worst time of its life.

zaino in bus-001[/su_spoiler]
[su_spoiler title="Hassles of road - Beach Boys e Flycatcher" style="fancy" icon="plus-circle"]
They are mainly in Zanzibar, I also learned that among them there are gigolos, the Masai, fascinating warriors in the fantasies of women in search of exotic company, are the most quoted, but over here they can be incredibly annoying.


You are reading or snoozing on the beach and you speak Italian? Well it's the end of your pleasant reading anyway because EVERYBODY must to explain to you the tours they have to offer, the necklaces they sell or the pareos they have in their bags.
You must make it a habit and learn to answer pointedly without being polemical, after all, the Tanzanian are kind and reserved, over there it simply works this way.




Just say no and thank them stressing that at the moment you do not need anything. You must not refuse a priori, if you are interested in doing a tour or if you want to have a look at a certain pareo, tell him so but if not, let him know that you already have everything and say goodbye. Otherwise they will sit next to you and you take you to exhaustion.[/su_icon_panel]


[su_spoiler title="Tips and extras" style="fancy" icon="plus-circle"]
They are optional BUT mandatory, an interesting contradiction.
Here it is the norm, and in the case of safaris, you can’t get off with € 30 just to give a sop, although you have already paid so much ( but there are exaggerated costs that you probably do not know about ).

We are talking about $ 20 and 35/40 $ a day, respectively for the cook and the driver, per day and per person ( so if they are in two, $ 40 and $ 50), I repeat they are expected and will be asked of you, so prepare these extra cash to give and do not complain, it is standard here as it is in American restaurants.


This practice is especially true for the economical safaris where the people working in them are not paid in order to lower the prices.
The cost of a trip in the National Parks are very high, the gain for those who work in them very little, as opposed to what you might believe, these people rely on this money because they have no other income and practically work for free.


In restaurants it is at your discretion, but since people live on $ 2 a day, the lucky ones, you can well understand that even just 50 cents would be a great help .
If someone helps you to find the hotel and the room is to your satisfaction, leave a tip to the person who has accompanied you .




In the case of safaris ask the agency if the employees are paid adequately, do not be afraid to ask again the driver and the cook, in the case you do camping. If they do not give replies to your question becoming evasive about it, the reason is that they do not receive any pay but cannot say so or risk the sack. So for however much according to you this is not just, and you feel that you have already paid a lot, consider leaving a tip or go home with yes, many pictures of lions but also with two people on your conscience that have worked for you for free . [/su_icon_panel]

[su_spoiler title="Children, money and candy" style="fancy" icon="plus-circle"]
There is nothing more beautiful in Africa than her children. Chubby little black men and little black women with short black hair and a white and shiny smile. There is nothing either more painful than to see them without shoes or with tattered clothes.


But giving them candy, which also won't help the good state of their teeth, or presents or worse still money is the worst thing you could do.
You will be asked, when in Swahili and when in English, at times also with a hand stretched out as if waiting for something. Hard to say no to little ones but remember that what you believe to be an act of kindness does nothing but increase a mechanism of dependency.

Be a different kind of hero, for example, ask a school, a hospital or an orphanage. Or pay the school for someone, they all thirst for school and few can afford it.


It’s important that this money be given to those in charge of managing the facilities and not to privates who earning, if lucky, $ 60 will probably use them for something else.

bambini tanzania[/su_spoiler]

[su_spoiler title="Flights to Tanzania" style="fancy" icon="plus-circle"]
Tanzania has three main airports : Dar Es Salaam , Kilimanjaro and Zanzibar.

For those interested in doing mainly safari in the northern circuit it is best to land at Kilimanjaro, the safaris in fact depart from Arusha, and not, as you might imagine instead, from Dar Es Salaam.


From this same airport after the safari you can fly to Zanzibar or to Mafia, the overland route would take at least two days rather tiring for Zanzibar while to reach Mafia things get complicated, read here to find out more.


If you arrive in Dar Es Salaam you can arrange a transfer to Arusha but the guide asks, by force of things, for at least a day’s journey to add on, as the flights usually arrive in the evening, a night on the town. A little uncomfortable for those who begin with the safari but perhaps more comfortable for those who will then start again from Zanzibar. But each case is to itself. Considering the conditions of the roads it is probably preferable, although more expensive, to fly to Kilimanjaro and from there fly on to the chosen islands.


The cost of flight tickets varies between 550 and 900 in high season. It's always better to buy well in advance to find the best rates. Usually there are no direct flights to Kilimanjaro and Dar and you will have to stop in Istanbul or Nairobi and Amsterdam.
To find good travel fares I advise you to look on:  [/su_spoiler]


[su_spoiler title="Travel Insurance" style="fancy" icon="plus-circle"]
We all hope that nothing happens, and that the holiday may proceed at best but one is still in a country where hygiene conditions are not at the top and the risk of malaria is high.
In addition to considering the routine vaccinations, for up to date information I advise the site viaggiaresicuri.it, it is very important to take out a travel insurance that will cover you for any and possible hospitalization or medical expenses.

Advice to request a quote from


Books and Guides about Tanzania and Africa

Aggiornato il: 21 Giugno 2019
Scritto da: Giulia Raciti

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Scritto da Giulia Raciti

Esperta di Africa e Latino America sono in viaggio dal 2011. Attualmente a bordo di un van. Ho fatto un giro del mondo in solitaria durato 3 anni. Scrivo delle destinazioni che visito. Mi occupo di realizzazione viaggi personalizzati e su misura in Africa e Sud America sul sito dedicato Kipepeo Experience.

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