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Wildebeest and zebras, Serengeti
Wildebeest and zebras, Serengeti

Tanzania is officially known as the United Republic of Tanzania.  There are two ways to pronounce the name, as it is appropriate to stress different syllables:
-  Tan ZAH ni a
-  Tan za NI a
The pronunciation that is not appropriate is Tan ZAY ni a. The name came in to effect in 1964 and is a combination of two former countries - Tanganyika and Zanzibar. The population is around 38 million and it is mainly rural.  The capital is Dar es Salaam, which has a population of about 3 million. The main language used is Swahili, but English is commonly understood.  Due to the influence of missionaries, the most common religion on the mainland is Christianity.  The British influence in the country is clear.   Tanzanians drive on the left hand side of the road and they use the 3 pronged British electrical outlets.


It is amazing when visiting Tanzania to realize the accuracy of the portrayal of Disney's Lion King movie. "Simba" is Swahili for "lion" and the best place to find a lion pride on the Serengeti is on the rock tops known as kopjes. "Hakuna mutata" means don't worry and is a commonly used phrase. The most common expression in Swahili is "jambo". It is said with enthusiasm and the best translation in English to me is Dude. The appropriate response back is jambo too. Here are a few common translations that will help you show respect for the language:

  • Jambo - hello

  • Asante - thank you

  • Asante sana - thank you very much

  • Karibu - you are welcome

  • Hakuna matata - don't worry

  • Mzungu - foreigner, person who walks in circles (based on whites who go on safaris)


It takes some adjustment to get used to using the Tanzanian shilling (TZS) as there are over 1,500 shillings to the US dollar.  Every small transaction involves thousands of Tanzanian shillings and there is really no need for coins although they do exist.  The Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO) is a great place to change US$ to shillings.  When Take That Vacation exchanged several hundred US$ there in 2011, we received so much currency that we almost needed an extra brief case to store it all in.  It was too much to count at the counter, so we awkwardly grabbed the pile they'd offered and left without any assurance that the exchange was accurate.


A visa is required to travel to Tanzania for some countries.  See the Tanzanian Immigration Services Department web site for details or check your specific country at VisaHQ.   For a list of exempt countries, visit Project Visa.  Here are the options that were available for Canadians on our 2011 visit:

  • Obtain a visa at the airport on upon your arrival for $50 US cash.  It can be very chaotic and time consuming, as most passengers don't have visas and only two staff were available to process them.  We completed paperwork in advance and then handed cash and documents to an individual who eventually returned with our visa document.  I kept thinking I was going to lose my cash, but all went well.

  • Obtain a visa from the Tanzanian consulate by mailing them an application, your passport and a $75 US money order.

  • Obtain a visa by mailing an application and your passport to an agency like IVPSC.com   They will charge your credit card about double the government rate.


For Tanzania, we suggest consulting a travel clinic.  Hep A, Hep B, yellow fever, tetanus, typhoid and malaria are standard protection.  A yellow fever certificate is required when arriving from a yellow fever zone, while other medications and injections are at the discretion of the traveler.  Malaria is a risk only in areas with suitable wetland for female anopheles mosquitoes.  The Maasai Mara and other areas outside Arusha are good places to take malaria medication.  Higher areas such as Ngorongoro are not affected by malaria though.  Review our general medical recommendations too.


There are hundreds of safari companies to choose from in Tanzania.  Two international companies that tour regularly are G Adventures and Intrepid Travel.  Safari companies will supply vehicles, English speaking driver/guide, permits, water and accommodation arrangements.  The camps and lodges usually do not have internet, but will have radio communication with Nairobi and mobile reception.  Tented accommodation is not what North Americans might expect - large tents, often with queen beds, and separate washrooms with running water and showers.  Use the provided nets over the bed for protection from mosquitoes while sleeping.  Voltage throughout the country is 220-240 AC, so North Americans should bring an adapter to charge their batteries and electronic equipment.  A minimum 200 mm lens is suggested for wildlife photography.  Ask the driver to turn off the vehicle for photos and stabilize the camera on the frame of the vehicle.  Safari tours frequently add on a flight to Zanzibar for some time at the beach.  Be aware that the temperatures in Zanzibar can be stifling after the pleasant climate of the serengeti.

Best Time to Visit Tanzania:

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Tanzania Safari

by Tim Anderson
In February of 2011, we travelled to Tanzania on a safari managed by Chris and Catriona of ChrisCat Safaris from Vancouver Island and sub contracted with Arumeru Tours and Safaris. If you are interested in a fully escorted tour like this, follow the link to the Chris Cat web site.  The similar Tanzania Encompassed safari can be purchased directly from G Adventures.

I went to Africa to see the Serengeti, but the real experience was the people of Tanzania. Despite unimaginable poverty, they are friendly and happy. The song in the above video, Jambo Bwana (Hello Master) is the most popular one in the country and is continually sung to tourists. What an amazing contrast to the civil unrest in many other poor nations.

First Stop - Arusha.

Getting There

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines is a perfect choice for visiting Tanzania.  They fly a daily circuit in a Boeing 777 that starts in Amsterdam (AMS) in the late morning and flies direct for 9 hours to Kilimanjaro Airport (JRO) in Tanzania.  The flight then continues on to Dar es Salaam (DAR) and just after midnight, it flies 9 hours back to Amsterdam, where the loop starts over.  This flight structure makes it common for safaris to start in Kilimanjaro and end in Dar.  KLM was always on time, had exceptionally friendly staff, movies currently in theatres and great meals and snacks, including ice cream.  For dinner they served hot chicken, rice, spinach, bread, potato salad with lettuce & crab, chocolate raspberry cake and coffee.  For breakfast on the same flight we had a warm cheese and egg muffin, yogurt with granola, a blueberry muffin, fruit, coffee and orange juice. By the time we took our fourth flight with them, I was starting to understand the announcements in Dutch.

Another alternative is to arrive in Nairobi, Kenya and tour that country as well.

View Tanzania map

View Best of Tanzania