Some of the oldest human settlements have been found in Tanzania around the Olduvai Gorge in northern Tanzania – an area often referred to as “the cradle of mankind”. Bantu people moved in to the region during the 1st millennium AD with Swahili, a Bantu language, being the main language of today. Trade of gold and ivory with Arabia and Persia during the first century made the whole of the East coast, Zanzibar in particular, into major trading destinations.
In 1498, the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama reached the coast and by 1525, Portugal had the entire region under their control. In the early 18th century, the Arabs dominated once more and Zanzibar became the most important centre for slave trading with the Arabs. The slave trade was officially abolished in 1873 but an illegal slave trade continued to flourish for many years afterwards.
The Germans then ruled from the 1880’s until 1919 when the area became a British Mandate until 1961 and was known as Tanganyika.
Tanganyika declared independence in December 1961, followed by Zanzibar in 1963. The two then merged to form Tanzania on 26th April 1964.
Geography and weather
Tanzania is a very varied country which boasts the highest mountain in Africa – Mount Kilimanjaro, (at a height of 5895m at Uhuru Peak on the Kibo summit) found in the mountainous north east region of the country. It also has shores on Lake Victoria (the largest lake in Africa) and Lake Tanganyika (the deepest lake in Africa), which also forms the border with Congo. North and central Tanzania is a large plateau of plains – the Serengeti in the north being the most well-known of these, while the eastern shores are very hot and humid, with the island of Zanzibar just off the coast.
Tanzania has a tropical climate with the hottest period being between November and February when temperatures stick between 25-31 degrees and the coolest period being May to August with temperatures ranging from 15-20 degrees celcius.
The long rains are roughly from March to May and the short rainy season is from October to December. The annual migration usually occurs between June and September.
Currently EU, US, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand citizens all need a visa to enter Tanzania. It is your own responsibility to check all visa requirements before travelling and obtain them in advance as required. For many nationalities visas can be obtained on the borders however you should contact the embassy for further information. Please bear in mind that as of December 2007 the Tanzanian visa starts from the date of issue not the date on entry which makes it trickier to organize
The monetary unit in Tanzania is the Tanzanian shilling. For up-to-date exchange rates with your own currency visit www.oanda.com or www.xe.com.
In general, Visa is the only credit card that will work everywhere in Africa. Master Card, AMEX and Cirrus will work in some countries but not in others.
We recommend that you bring cash in US dollars only. When changing money, it is a good idea if at all possible, to get small denomination notes and coins in the local currency as often there is a lack of change when you are making purchases and no-one in Africa ever seems to have change.
If you are joining the tour in Dar Es Salaam, on arrival at Tanzania International Airport we suggest that you withdraw some Tanzanian shillings at the ATM or change some money at the bank if you only have US dollars or travellers cheques. Change enough money to see you through the first few days of your trip – particularly if it is a weekend.
Please note that it is not possible to withdraw US dollars from ATMs in Africa, only local currency.
Haggling is expected in Tanzania and hunting for bargains can be a real highlight.Your best buys are soap stone and hard wooden carvings as well as batiks (wall hangings), sarongs, hats, and of course tee shirts.
Zanzibar has many bazaars throughout the maze of narrow streets in Stone Town and here you can bargain for chess sets, statues, masks, batiks, paintings etc although many are brought over from the mainland. True Zanzibar souvenirs are the intricate jewel boxes, incense and burners and of course spices which are often sold in attractive packs.
Tipping in Tanzania and on Zanzibar especially, is fast becoming expected in restaurants. However in most cases, it is just a matter of rounding the bill up and you should never pay more than a dollar or two for the tip if the service was good.
Taxis are recommended for all journeys within a city. In Tanzania, taxi meters are not normally in evidence, so you will find yourself engaging in a bit of haggling with the driver to agree upon the fare. This can be fun, but it is a good idea to find out in advance, from your tour leader or the hotel receptionist, approximately how much the fare should be. You will almost certainly have to accept that you will pay more than the locals do.
Overall, crime is not a great problem in Tanzania, but parts of Dar Es Salaam do have a reputation for muggings and pick pockets. This does not mean that you should be afraid to leave your hotel, but it does mean that in certain areas of the city and around the city beaches, you need to exercise caution or avoid them altogether and try to avoid travelling alone after dark. Don’t walk around lonely back streets, especially on your own, don’t wear expensive looking jewelry or watch and don’t carry a wallet in your back pocket. Don’t carry your camera openly; always have it in a small day pack which is firmly attached to your body, preferably in the front in crowded places. Always wear a money belt or leave your valuables locked up where possible.
Caution should be taken when taking photos in and around the city. Locals should always be asked prior to taking a photo and it is not uncommon for them to ask for a small donation. Never take photos of police, military personal or buildings. The same goes for any government buildings, banks, post offices or the railway station.
Local food and drink
Most meals are included when camping and lunch is usually included on travelling days in the truck. When staying in hotels or hostels, all meals are at your own expense.
Tanzanian dishes are very similar to those you will find in Kenya and uganda. Mainly beef and chicken stews and Nyama Choma away from the coast, with seafood on the coast. One delicious difference is that they do tend to serve really good coconut rice with a curry.
On Zanzibar, the night seafood market in Stone Town is not to be missed. Freshly caught and cooked seafood of all varieties, washed down with freshly squeezed sugar cane juice. “Zanzibar Pizza” is a local speciality. Finely chopped tomato and onion (chilli optional), mixed with beef mince and egg, wrapped up a wafer thin dough parcel and fried – not like a pizza you would know at home, but well worth trying.
In Dar Es Salaam, you can find western style take-aways but if you feel like a splurge, then throw on some clean clothes and head for one of the larger hotels who all do a buffet style lunch. Also the ice cream parlour near the Zanzibar ferry port is an icon that has been there longer than anyone can remember and a “must do” if you like ice-cream.
If you are a strict vegetarian you may experience a distinct lack of variety in the food available, especially in small towns. You might find that you are eating a lot of omelettes and other egg dishes. Our tour leaders will do their best to provide interesting vegetarian alternatives when arranging group meals in the campsite, but your patience and understanding is requested.
All drinks such as water, soft or alcoholic drinks are at your own expense at all times.
(All glass bottles taken away from shops in Tanzania will have a deposit added on which varies.)
You should be wary of drinking the local tap water. Bottled water, carbonated soft drinks and fruit juices are widely available and are generally safe to drink. Please note however that fruit juices are sometimes made with un-boiled tap water and could upset your stomach.
There are various brands of beers found only in Tanzania including Kilimanjaro, Castle, Safari, Serengeti and Njovu.
Most of the campsites / hostels that we use have bars or serve alcoholic drinks. If there is not a bar in the campsite / hostel then there is sure to be one within walking distance. Beware imported spirit prices as they are very expensive so always ask for the local equivalent spirit if you want to remain within your budget!
GMT/UTC +3. For other time differences please visit www.timeanddate.com
240 volts. Sockets are three-pin British style