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Tanzania travel guide: prepare to travel to Tanzania

by Catherine Carey | July 31, 2023
Zanzibar Tanzania general information of tanzania

Tanzania is a country with vast biodiversity, incredible fauna, and amazing people. Some of the top places you should see in Tanzania are: Mount Kilimanjaro, the Tarangire National Park, the Serengeti national park or lake Natron to enjoy some of the most amazing Tanzania Safaris. A Tanzania Safari is a must do when you're on a trip to Tanzania. 

Other things to do in Tanzania are the wonderful Beaches of Zanzibar Tanzania, Mafia Island, and visiting a Masai Village. Ready to travel to Tanzania? Continue reading to find out some useful information about the Tanzania Flag, the Tanzania history, what to do in a Tanzania trip, culture and traditions and much more.

Tanzania Flag

Tanzania Flag

The current Tanzania flag was adopted in 1964, replacing the individual flags of Tanganyika and Zanzibar when they united. The colours of the flag have different meanings: 

  • Green symbolizes the vegetation and agricultural resources of Tanzania.
  • Black represents the Swahili people.
  • Blue represents the Indian Ocean and Tanzania’s many rivers and lakes. 
  • The thin yellow stripes represent Tanzania’s mineral wealth.

Geography of Tanzania

Tanzania is a country with 945.087 km², which makes it the 13th largest country in Africa. It is also largely populated with more than 63.59 million people living in Tanzania. 

Where is Tanzania? Tanzania is the largest country in East Africa and includes the islands of Zanzibar, Pemba, and Mafia. Zanzibar Tanzania is located on the coast of Tanzania.

It has multiple neighbours: Uganda and Kenya to the North and Zambia, Mozambique and Malawi to the south. To the west, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Burundi border the country. 

Tanzania Africa is bordered by the Indian Ocean and eight countries: Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia, Malawi, and Mozambique.

This East African country is mostly semidesert and is very mountainous with multiple large and deep lakes. Tanzania map is very diverse and it also has 885 miles of coastline. One of the best known landmarks of Tanzania is Mount Kilimanjaro, once an active volcano and now the highest point in Africa. Mount Kilimanjaro is bordered by three of the largest lakes of Africa: Lake Victoria, Lake Tanganyika, and Lake Nyasa, also strong points for the Tanzania tourism industry.

Due to its geographical position, Tanzania’s time zone is Eastern Africa Time, UTC+3. For example, it is 2 hours ahead of the United Kingdom. 

Map of Tanzania travel

History and Heritage in Tanzania 

The oldest human fossils were found in Olduvai Gorge (Oldupai) in northern Tanzania, an area referred to as “The Cradle of Mankind”. It is believed to be the birthplace of humanity. About 10,000 years ago, Tanzania was populated by hunter-gatherer communities.

During the colonial period, Omani Sultan Said bin Sultan claimed the coastal strip of Tanzania. Also during this time, Zanzibar was the center of the East African slave trade.

In the 1800s, missionaries went inland and Germany conquered parts of modern-day Tanzania, not including Zanzibar. These parts were incorporated into German East Africa (GEA) that were passed onto the British in 1919. The British indirectly ruled Tanzania and renamed it Tanganyika. Although Tanganyika gained sovereignty in 1961, it wasn’t until 1962 that the country became a democratic republic.

Zanzibar overthrew its Arab dynasty in the Zanzibar Revolution and became independent and merged with mainland Tanganyika on April 26, 1964.

Culture and Traditions in Tanzania

About 90% of Tanzania people live in rural areas and live off what they can grow on the land. There are about 120 African tribal groups in Tanzania. Arranged marriage is still usual for many Tanzanian families.

Today the majority of Tanzanians are of Bantu descent and the Sukuma constitute the largest group.

Tanzania's religion is diverse. Roughly one-third of the population is Muslim, the majority of whom are Sunni. An additional one-third of Tanzanians are Christians. The rest holds traditional beliefs or indigenous religious practices.

For Tanzania travel, you should try to join in local festivities to get a more authentic experience. Some of the most popular festivals and events are:

  • Children's Day. On the 1st June there is this festivity to highlight the respect for the rights of children and the family unit.
  • The great Serengeti Migration. Thousands of animals like antelopes, zebras, gazelles and gnus migrate in herds towards pastures from April.
  • Unification Day. This day remembers the unification of Tanganyika and the Zanzibar Archipelago. It takes place on September 6th. 
  • The Kilimanjaro Marathon. The Kiliman Adventure Challenge organises in February a triathlon in the foothills of the mythical Kilimanjaro. The competition includes a trek in Kilimanjaro, a cycle race and a marathon. 
  • Zanzibar International Film Festival. This festival is the largest film and arts festival in East Africa. The theme for the 2023 Tanzania festival is ‘New Dawn’.

The official two languages of Tanzania are English and Swahili. Swahili (called Kiswahili by Tanzanians) is the lingua franca of Tanzania, and virtually all Tanzanians speak it. Since independence, the government and other national institutions have pushed the use of Swahili, in detriment of English. 

In Tanzania, there are well over 100 languages, 58 of which are in vigorous use. Most Tanzanians speak the traditional language of their ethnic group and the main ones are Gujarati, Hindi, Punjabi, and Urdu.

Although it is not expressly a cultural fact, you must know that the Tanzania's plug type is D and G. If you travel to Tanzania from a country that uses different plug types, you should pack a power adapter. 

Tanzanian Gastronomy  

Meals in Tanzania tend to have corn, rice, cassava, sorghum, plantains, fish, beef, goat, chicken, beans, leafy greens, manioc leaves, pumpkin, and sweet potatoes.

Some of the dishes you must try if you travel to Tanzania are Pilau, Bagia, Biryani, Kebab and Kashata, Ugali, Chapati, Kuku choma and Nyama Choma. When it comes to drinks, chai (tea) and Kahawa (coffee) are some of the most important drinks. If you want to taste some real Tanzanian alcohol, you can try some of the beers such as banana and honey beer.

food in Tanzania

Tanzania weather

Tanzania is a fantastic year-round destination, although the weather in Tanzania can widely vary depending on the region. We can divide Tanzania into four regions.

On the coast you can expect hot and humid weather with temperatures that range from 80°F–95°F and heavy rainfall. The central plateau, which covers much of the country, is hot and dry. 

In the mountains and lake region of the northern border, where Mount Kilimanjaro, the climate is considerably colder and drier. 

In the highlands of the northeast and southwest, you can find different climates from tropical to temperate. If you travel to Tanzania, going to the beach is a great idea. The islands of Zanzibar are tropical and humid.

In general terms, Tanzania has two rainy and two dry seasons. During the long rains (called masika) from March through May, heavy downpours can occur daily, while in November and December there are short rains (vuli). Temperatures and humidity are high from November to April, and surface winds are moderate. The dry season, with cooler temperatures, lasts from May to October. 

Tanzania currency

The official currency of Tanzania is the Tanzanian Shilling which is valued at 2,296 to $1 USD. In tourist areas you may be able to use US dollars, however, bills before 2006 will not be accepted. 

You may be able to withdraw money at ATMs in big cities, but make sure you have enough cash just in case the ATM is out of order. Credit cards are also accepted, but in some remote areas you might have to pay in cash, so make sure you always carry some when you travel to Tanzania.

Tanzania money

Main tourist attractions in Tanzania

Tanzania travel is a unique, beautiful experience. It is a magnificent land that has so much to offer to every traveller. Here is a list of some of the must-do activities in Tanzania: 

Visit Dodoma, the capital of Tanzania 

The Tanzania capital, Dodoma offers multiple activities to do. Some of the things you must see in the city are the Tanzanian Parliament, known as Bunge; the Nyerere Square in the heart of Dodoma; the Jamhuri Stadium and the Gaddafi Mosque.

Explore the Serengeti National Park

Serengeti in Tanzania is the second-largest national park in Tanzania and is renowned for its annual wildebeest migration, where millions of wildebeest and other animals move across the plains. It offers incredible wildlife viewing opportunities and breathtaking savannah landscapes.

Don’t miss the annual migration of thousands of zebras and gazelles that takes place in May or June.

Climb Mount Kilimanjaro Tanzania

The highest peak in Africa, Mount Kilimanjaro is a popular adventure. The mountain offers various trekking routes, and reaching the summit provides stunning panoramic views. Though you can climb the mountain at any time of the year, the best recommended time is during the dry season, from June to October.

If you are not into climbing, you can also choose to view the mountain from afar. 

Mount Kilimanjaro is also a World Heritage Site that was formed more than a million years ago as a result of volcanic movement. You can also witness three volcanic cones named Kibo, Shira and Mawenzi.

Visit Ngorongoro Conservation Area

The famous Ngorongoro Conservation Area is located between Lake Manyara and Serengeti. Ngorongoro is one of the most famous wildlife viewing areas of Tanzania. It is also home to the popular volcanic crater.

This crater offers a permanent water supply that fills thousands of animals migrating through the area like lions, elephants, zebras and rhinos. Seeing these animals is another great activity to enjoy there.

Discover Zanzibar Tanzania

You must visit the Zanzibar Archipelago. It comprises the main island of Zanzibar and several smaller islands that offer pristine white-sand beaches, turquoise waters, and a rich history influenced by African, Arab, and European cultures. Stone Town, the capital, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its winding alleys and historic architecture.

One of the best beaches in Zanzibar is Paje Beach, which is widely popular for kitesurfing. In addition, the clear water of the beach is home to thousands of fishes and turtles, making it an ideal scuba diving destination.

Jambiani Beach is another beautiful beach you can visit, especially if you want to relax as the beach hardly sees any crowds. Some other beaches in Zanzibar that you can visit include Kiwengwa Beach, Matemwe Beach, Pingwe Beach, and Bwejuu Beach.

Do I need a visa for Tanzania?

If you travel to Tanzania as a tourist, you will need to apply for a Tanzania Visa. There are different types: the Ordinary Visa and the Multiple Entry Visa.

The best way to apply for any of these visas is online, as it is quicker and easier. Companies like Visagov can help you apply for your Tanzania Visa to avoid making any mistakes in your application. You will just need to fill in a simple online form and receive your visa directly in your email.

If you are not sure of what documents to take with you for your trip to Tanzania, you can check our guide on the Tanzania entry requirements. There, you will find all about passports, travel insurance, vaccines, safety and more!