As everyone is now aware, I had a wonderful time in Tanzania. It is a wonderful country to visit and I would strongly encourage anyone considering it as a destination to bump it to the top of their list. The people of Tanzania are incredibly welcoming and friendly. They realize that tourism business is an important part of their economy so everyone in the service industries really do provide excellent service. Right from the staff at the airport, to legitimate taxi drivers, guides and anyone else associated with providing services in shops, restaurants or other businesses.I
However, here are a few travel tips to keep in mind if you are travelling there:
1) If you live in a country that has a Tanzania Embassy or High Commission, get your visit prior to arrival so you can proceed directly through customs. While it was quite easy for me to get my visa thanks to some kind support it can be a wait of an hour or more while your application is being processed while you wait.
2) Arrange a driver to pick you up if at all possible. Most accommodations have shuttle services available and it is definitely worth availing yourself of them. The traffic in Dar is insane and when it is your first visit it really is easier to not have to worry about getting to where you want to go.
3) Don’t bother with bringing large sums of US dollars to exchange at the Exchange Bureaus. Let me save you time and effort. Tanzania loves tourists so all of their ATMs accept Visa and Interact Plus cards. It is so much easier to just pop into an ATM to get your money than finding some place to exchange it. And the amount of Shillings that a dollar gets you makes you feel like a millionaire.
4) If you are going to stay in the South Beach area so you can enjoy the beach don’t plan on travelling back and forth to often to the city centre. While the ferry ride was charming the first couple of times; the amount of time you spend waiting in the line up is a pain in the a** and time away from both the beach and exploring Dar. If you are intent on doing both, book separate accommodations so you can maximize your time in each place.
5) Be very careful in Dar. For the first time in my life of travelling I wore a money belt. Dar es Salaam is a great city but it is full of people looking to cheat you or steal from you. Never trust anyone unless you have hired a driver or guide for the day, which is something that I would highly recommend. In my case, I had a driver who took me to all of the sites that I wanted to see including shopping. It allowed me to relax and enjoy myself. Yes, you can absolutely get around by yourself on public transportation but if you are travelling alone I would not recommend it in Dar. Trust me it is better to be safe than sorry.
6) Eat! Eat! Eat! The food is specular in Tanzania. Seafood is plentiful along with lots of fresh fruit and coconut. My only regret is that I didn’t eat enough. Due to the heat and a busy social life I actually only managed one meal a day. My breakfasts usually consisted of fresh fruit in my room which I had purchased at the markets. Then I often would not eat until late afternoon or evening. That meant that I didn’t consume all of the incredible food options that I could have…….that is why I need to go back so I can gorge on the many more culinary delights that the country offers.
7) If you have any kind of shopping addiction avoid Tanzania at all costs. I am certainly not a shopper (although some people would now disagree as Africa seems to bring out the shopper in me). However, I had moments of sheer panic thinking about packing my suitcase for my return home. Not only did I develop a Kanga addiction ( I got two for myself along with ones for my mom and Noelle) but I also fell in love with the hand beaded sandals (two pairs); wooden salad spoons; and spices. When shopping the most common phrase was when you asked how much, they responded with a price followed by the statement “but this is Africa” meaning lets bargain. Magic to my ears, but not great for stuffing a small suitcase.