Tanzania wants you!
Wanted: Tourists seeking the exotic, colourful and possibly the extraordinary
If you are seeking the above and you are ready for a trip to somewhere other than an island or city, than consider taking the High Commissioner up on his invitation and start planning a trip to Tanzania. You will not be disappointed. The most perplexing task of the trip planning process may very well be deciding on what camera to take.
The United Republic of Tanzania is a multicultural mosaic rich in the history of mankind and traditions. Tanzania is acknowledged as one of the oldest known inhabited areas on Earth; fossil remains of humans have been found dating back some two million years. And that’s a chronicle of evolution and development that’s hard to imagine …
Although Dodoma is the capital of the country, Dar es Salaam, which is an Arabic phrase meaning Abode of Peace, is the largest city in Tanzania. It is also the country’s richest city and a regionally important economic centre. After World War II, this former fishing village experienced a period of rapid growth. Though Dar es Salaam lost its official status as the capital city to Dodoma in 1996, it remains the centre of government bureaucracy and serves as the capital for the Dar es Salaam region.
Today’s Dar es Salaam is becoming more diverse, with a growing expatriate community of Indian, German, British and Middle Eastern residents. With four large universities, rare architectural offerings and the best restaurants in East Africa, “Dar” is a cornerstone of culture.
How to Get Here
The Julius Nyerere International Airport (DAR) connects the city with other African countries, the Middle East and India, as well as Europe. JNIA is located approximately 30 minutes from the city centre. Taxi services are available at the airport. Passengers are advised to confirm the rate with the driver. Many hotels may transport on request.
Information about getting to and from the airport can also be obtained at the Information Desk on the public concourse at Terminal Two opposite the arrival gates. There are car rental companies located at the airport.
Currency Tanzanian Shilling
Most hotels, tour operators and other tourism centres post prices in U.S dollars and prefer to deal in U.S. funds. While ATMs are plentiful in cities like Dar es Salaam, you should check with your bank that your card will operate as expected in Tanzania.
Larger hotels in Dar es Salaam will accept credit cards, but using a credit card may incur a surcharge. Carrying Tanzanian Shillings in small denominations is appreciated by those in the service industry.
What will the seasonal weather be like?
Being situated so close to the equator and the warm Indian Ocean, the country experiences tropical weather conditions, typified by hot and humid weather throughout much of the year.
Annual rainfall is approximately 1,100 mm and in a normal year there are two distinct rainy seasons, ‘the long rains’ fall during April and May, and ‘the short rains’ during October and November.
Getting Around Dar
Taxis are distinguished by white number plates. Price rates are not fixed, cars have no meters and you must negotiate the best deal before setting off. Taxi ranks can be found throughout the city, usually in front of larger hotels, bars, clubs, restaurants or landmark buildings.
For shorter journeys, both within the city and the surrounding region, the choice is between 30-seater ‘Coaster’ buses or dalla-dallas, which are smaller minibuses. These both run when full and can be awkward to try and board with luggage. Dalla-dallas are probably the least safe transport option, as drivers race each other to pick-up points to collect new passengers.
If you want to rent a car, be sure to ask for a 4×4 sport utility vehicle with good road clearance. City maps are available from tourism centres or a car rental agency, but, investing in a handheld GPS system featuring turn-by-turn voice directions could be invaluable. GPS systems today also feature points of interest that are nearby your location, and many other features that will provide a level of confidence while navigating in a foreign country
Getting around Tanzania by plane is the quickest and most comfortable option. There are a few domestic airlines to choose from that link the most popular safari destinations and provide services to the coast. Some of the more upmarket safari lodges have their own airstrips and use small-seater planes operated by private air charter.
There are two railways that cross Tanzania. Both have two-berth first-class compartments, six-berth second-class compartments.
Zanzibar is only a short ride by plane or 90-minutes on a ferry.
Culture and Attractions
Heritage is this countries’ legacy. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) seeks to encourage the identification, protection and preservation of cultural and natural heritage around the world. Currently there are seven World Heritage Sites in Tanzania. So, when planning your visit, be sure to research these sites.
Dar es Salaam is the cultural and educational centre of Tanzania and as such,, there are several universities that you may want to visit during your visit. The most famous is the University of Dar es Salaam, which was originally part of the University of East Africa. Other institutes of higher learning include the Open University of Tanzania, the International Medical and Technological University and the Hubert Kairuki Memorial University.
A variety of museums, including the National Museum of Tanzania, the Village Museum and the Botanical Garden are all very close by.
Zanzibar is one of the most unique islands on the planet; protected by its isolation, but developed and nurtured by its proximity to major trade routes. There is patch of pristine rain-forest in the centre of Zanzibar Island. The Jozani Forest is home to the extremely rare Red Colobus monkey, the Ader’s duiker antelope and numerous bird species. Historic Stone Town is the old city of Zanzibar with bustling bazaars, mosques and stunning Arab houses with the signature brass-studded, carved, wooden doors. Stop in at the palace-come-museums of Beit el Ajain and Beit el Sahel. Besides palm trees and white sands, you can explore caves, enjoy the nightly food market, go on a spice tour, or visit one of the other nearby islands and islets of this stunning archipelago. You can fly to Zanzibar from Dar es Salaam or catch a hydrofoil (90-minutes) from Dar es Salaam.
Bagamoyo This sombre portal into the darker side is Tanzania is about 70 km from Dar es Salaam. Bagamoyo was a stopover for the slave caravans and later the capital of German East Africa. Noted explorers like Richard Francis Burton and John Augustus Grant tarried here in much the same way you will. David Livingstone visited here only in death, as his body awaited shipping to Zanzibar. Here you can also visit the 15th century Kaole Ruins of mosques and Islamic tombs and meditate on a pristine beach before returning to the city.
The Dar es Salaam Marine Reserve is also a popular day-trip from the city and a favourite spot for snorkeling.
Tanzania, like many East African nations, has a wealth of traditional handicrafts. You should take your time choosing what best represents your time in Dar es Salaam. Crafts particular to Tanzania include beadwork by the Masaai people, woodcarvings from the Makonde tribe and tiles or other items painted in the Tinga Tinga style.
Tanzania is also the world’s only source of Tanzanite. You will be captivated by this purple-blue gemstone found mostly near Arusha. Tanzanite can be purchased in Dar es Salaam as well, but you should look for licensed shops (many located on Samora Avenue).
Local markets are still more popular than ‘malls’. You will no doubt, find yourself in the Kivukoni district, or the Kairakoo area.
Sports / Outdoor Adventure
Fancy a dip in the Indian Ocean? Then be sure to visit the unspoiled beaches on the Msasani peninsula north of Dar es Salaam and in Kigamboni to the south. The most popular beaches are Oyster Bay, Msasani Peninsula, Mikocheni, Kawe and Kunduchi.
The waters surrounding the Bongoyo Island Marine Reserve are excellent diving sites and provide an opportunity to view the many varieties of marine life. For ideal scuba diving conditions try Pemba and Zanzibar. Mafia Island Marine Park, south of Zanzibar, presents a rare opportunity to swim with whale sharks.
The Wildlife Conservation Society of Tanzania has free twice-monthly bird walks departing from its office on the first and last Saturday of each month.
Visitors will find Dar es Salaam’s residents warm, friendly and, in general, quite humble.
Greetings are very important here, and while a handshake will suffice in most situations, there is always some polite conversation expected about one’s well-being, family or work. Elders are especially valued and respected in Tanzania, so offer your seat to older people on buses and trains. Avoid using your left hand for touching or greeting and do not prop your feet up on a table, as it is considered rude to show the bottoms of your feet.
Time is fluid in this part of the world, so don’t expect punctuality. Also, for Tanzanians, the day starts at 6:00 AM which is the zero hour. So when telling time, Tanzanians subtract 6 hours for western time. To avoid any confusion, a Tanzanian will tell time in English if they want to use the western standard and in Kiswahili if they use local standard.
Throughout Tanzania, conservative dress is the norm – women should cover their shoulders and men and women ought to avoid shorts always.
Tanzanians are also very particular about dressing neatly and camouflage clothing is actually illegal here. Boys who braid their hair in Tanzania are generally viewed as homosexual, and, as this is illegal, it may be prudent to dispense with braiding while visiting.
In Zanzibar, Islamic practices and beliefs are strong – alcohol is not sold in some parts of Zanzibar. Respect houses of worship and, when in doubt, ask about customary practices (head covering or removing your shoes).
The export of hunting “trophies” is strictly regulated. Avoid purchasing wildlife products such as ivory and skins as the market created by these purchases encourages poaching. Removal of coral, shells from turtles or any other kind of marine animal also causes a tremendous upset to the balance of marine life.
Lastly, be conscientious with your camera: always ask permission before photographing an individual person. Note that photography of military installations is forbidden.
Did You Know?
- Tanzania was formerly known as both German East Africa and Tanganyika
- Dar es Salaam was originally named Mzizima (Healthy Town)
- Tanzania is world famous for its music, from the traditional Zanzibar Taarab beat to the break out success of Bongo Flava – Dar es Salaam’s take on Hip Hop
- Tanzania is home to 120 distinct tribes, including the iconic Maasai
- Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro is the highest peak in Africa and still retains its pristine snow-caps and glaciers
Like this destination? You may also be interested in...