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Everything Vancouver travellers need to know about visiting Tanzania

Home to the iconic Serengeti National Park and the postcard-perfect shores of Zanzibar, this destination should be on your bucket list.
Herd of wild zebras and wildebeest in the Serengeti National Park against a beautiful orange sunset in Tanzania.

Want to get a front-row seat to the most spellbinding land migrations on planet Earth?

Tanzania is home to a migration of titanic proportions, often referred to as the "Great Migration," which sees upwards of 1.5 million wildebeest make their way across the iconic Serengeti National Park

Animals that live and pass through the East African country include a variety of birds, gazelle, zebras, lions, water buffalo, rhinoceros, cheetahs, hyenas, impalas, leopards, and countless others. 

But it isn't only the wildlife that makes it a bucket-list destination. 

From the stunning heights of Mount Kilimanjaro to the postcard-perfect beaches of Zanzibar, the culture of the Maasai warriors to the "ancient ways of the Hadza bushmen," Tanzania offers a life-changing travel experience. 

Find out everything you need to know about planning your trip to Tanzania from Vancouver.

What airlines should I fly with to Tanzania?

From Vancouver International Airport (YVR), travellers can fly to one or more places before arriving at Julius Nyerere International Airport (DAR) in Dar es Salaam, which is the country's largest city. 

Airlines that fly to or partially to Tanzania via one of their airline partners include:

  • Air Canada
  • Air France
  • Air India
  • Alaska Airlines
  • American Airlines
  • Austrian
  • British Airways
  • Brussels
  • Airlines
  • Delta
  • EgyptAir
  • Emirates
  • Ethiopian
  • flydubai
  • Kenya Airways
  • KLM
  • Lufthansa
  • Qatar Airways
  • RwandAir
  • Saudia
  • Turkish Airlines
  • United Airlines
  • WestJet

When should I book my ticket to Tanzania?

Prices for trips that take place between June and August start anywhere from $2,000 to $2,600, while flights departing in the spring and starting in September may cost anywhere from $1,450 to $1,600. 

It is always a good idea to book your ticket well in advance (particularly if you want to embark on a safari) because it is a long trip from YVR. 

When is the best time of year to visit Tanzania? 

Travellers should plan to visit Tanzania during the dry season, which is ideal for wildlife viewing and visiting other popular places of interest. The dry season occurs between May and October.

Is it safe to visit Tanzania? 

Canadians should "exercise a high degree of caution" when visiting Tanzania due to "crime levels and the threat of terrorism," according to the travel advisory.

The Canadian government says "terrorist attacks could occur at any time," particularly in Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar, Arusha and border areas. Targets could include:

  • government buildings, including schools
  • places of worship
  • airports and other transportation hubs and networks
  • public areas such as tourist attractions, restaurants, bars, coffee shops, shopping centres, markets, hotels, and other sites frequented by foreigners

Travellers should stay at hotels that have robust security measures and stay aware of their surroundings at all times.

Pickpocketing and purse-snatching take place in popular tourist locations in areas like Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar, and Arusha. Credit card and ATM fraud occurs and you should be cautious when using your credit or debit card at ATMs. 

Power outages are also common in Tanzania and may hamper your ability to travel or access basic services. When there is a power outage, local authorities may impose rationing measures for electricity. You should also keep rations of food, water, fuel, and an emergency kit available. 

Travelling on public buses is dangerous in Tanzania. Drivers are often reckless and they are overcrowded; violent assaults are not uncommon. However, the intercity buses are considered more safe and "meet higher maintenance standards." Do not travel on overnight buses.

Corruption in Tanzania 

An official may try to get you to pay them bribe money when you pass through the airport. "In a common scheme, an official will ask the visitor to produce a certificate of proof of inoculation against yellow fever, even in cases where you don't need one," says the advisory.

You should speak to a senior official if someone tries to bribe you. If a police officer requests money for an alleged offence, insist on seeing identification. 

Report incidents of bribes to the High Commission in Dar es Salaam. Ask them for advice if you believe you have been the target of a scam with a corrupt official. 

Regional risks in Tanzania 

Travellers should avoid all travel within 10 km of the border with Mozambique, in the Mtwara Region, "due to the presence of armed groups, the threat of terrorism and the risk of kidnapping."

You should also avoid non-essential travel to the area within 20 km of the border with Burundi and 20 km from the shoreline of Lake Tanganyika along the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (Kinshasa), "due to the presence of armed groups and traffickers, and the threat of kidnappings." 

The City of Kigoma and the national parks of Gombe, Katavi and Mahale are excluded from the advisory.

Important considerations for travellers planning to climb Mount Kilimanjaro 

Mount Kilimanjaro is a bucket-list attraction that sees thousands of thrill-seekers attempt to ascend to the top of its soaring, snow-capped peaks annually. It is the tallest mountain in East Africa and the world's largest free-standing mountain, which means it isn't part of a mountain range. At 19,340 feet tall, it makes a particularly stunning sight on the forested horizon.

But climbing the dormant volcano isn't exactly a walk in the park. 

Multiple people die each year attempting to climb Kilimanjaro, while countless others are injured or must turn away when it becomes apparent that they aren't prepared. Emergency assistance is limited in the area and you should never attempt to climb it alone. 

Scaling the East African summit takes immense preparation and you need to be in peak physical condition to do it.

If you are considering climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, carefully consider the inherent risks involved. If you intend to climb, the Canadian government advises the following:

  • never do so alone and always hire an experienced guide from a reputable company
  • buy travel insurance that includes helicopter rescue and medical evacuation
  • ensure that your physical condition is good enough to meet the challenges of your activity
  • ensure that you are properly equipped and well informed about weather and other conditions that may pose a hazard
  • inform a family member or friend of your itinerary, including when you expect to be back to camp
  • know the symptoms of acute altitude sickness, which can be fatal
  • obtain detailed information on trekking routes or ski slopes before setting out and do not venture off marked trails

Do I need to get any special travel vaccines ahead of visiting Tanzania?

Visit a travel medical clinic before you book a ticket. The health-care professionals will inform you about what vaccinations you require and what you can expect on your trip. There are risks of contracting several viruses spread by mosquitoes, including dengue and chikungunya.

There is a risk of Onchocerciasis (river blindness), which is an eye and skin disease "caused by a parasite spread through the bite of an infected female blackfly." It can lead to blindness if left untreated. 

Rift Valley fever is a viral disease that can cause severe flu-like symptoms and may be fatal. It is spread to humans through "contact with infected animal blood or tissues, from the bite of an infected mosquito, or eating or drinking unpasteurized dairy."

African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness) is caused by a "parasite spread through the bite of a tsetse fly." If untreated, the disease is eventually fatal but the risk is low. Travellers should "avoid wearing bright or dark-coloured clothing as these colours attract tsetse flies."

There is also a risk of malaria in Tanzania. While there is no vaccine against this mosquito-borne illness, antimalarial medication may be recommended depending on your itinerary and the time of year you are travelling.

Travellers can also get Hepatitis A, a disease of the liver, from ingesting contaminated food or drinks.

Cholera is a risk in parts of this country but most travellers are at very low risk.

There is low potential for yellow fever exposure in this country but the vaccine may be recommended depending on your itinerary.

Tanzania is located in the African Meningitis Belt, which has the highest rates of meningococcal disease in the world. Meningococcal disease is a serious and sometimes fatal infection. 

What kind of activities can I enjoy in Tanzania?

If you aren't into mountaineering or safari excursions, there is still no shortage of activities to enjoy in Tanzania, although you probably want to see some animals while you are there, even if you don't embark on a big safari (the country has a unique species of lion that climbs trees). 

There are so many incredible national parks to explore, as well as popular sites like the Ngorongoro Crater. Often described as the "eighth wonder of the world," it is the world’s "largest intact volcanic caldera" and home to one of the largest densities of animals on the continent. At over 2,220 metres high, the crater rim even "experiences its own climate," according to the Tanzania Tourism Board.

Travellers can also explore the world’s second-deepest lake, Lake Tanganyika, which is also the world's second-largest freshwater lake. 

Zanzibar is an island in the Indian Ocean located 35 km off the coast of East Africa. In 1964, Zanzibar, Pemba Island, and some smaller islands, "joined with Tanganyika on the mainland to form the United Republic of Tanzania." 

The island is a popular choice for a holiday destination due to its hypnotically clear blue waters, tropical climate, white-sand beaches, vibrant wildlife, and exciting entertainment options. 

While English and Swahili are the main languages, over 100 ethnic groups in the country speak their respective dialects and languages. There are several tours that you can go on to learn more about the country and its various cultures.

Do I need a visa to visit Tanzania?

Your passport must be valid for six months after the date you plan to leave Tanzania and you must have proof of an onward ticket.

You must also acquire a tourist visa on arrival. This document is valid for three months and you should "ensure that immigration officials validate your visa by stamping your passport or writing any required information in it," since some visas are valid for less than three months.

You can also apply for a multiple-entry visa before your trip if you plan to travel frequently.

How much money will I spend on accommodation?

Accommodation prices vary, with some hotels starting at jaw-dropping prices, such as the Arusha Safari House for $8 a night and the Ten Degrees South for $9 in the town of Mikindani.

While these low-cost options may seem attractive, travellers should exercise extreme caution when booking a hotel based solely on price. Ensure an accommodation has robust security measures before booking it.   

There is no shortage of mid-range options and posh stays in Tanzania, with prices ranging from under $100 to $500 for a night's stay. There are also some high-end places with soaring price tags. For example, the Zawadi Hotel Zanzibar is an exclusive property with only 12 villas that offers dazzling views of the Indian Ocean from their well-appointed terraces. The suites sell for an eye-watering $1,303. 

Find more information about exciting destinations in B.C. and across the globe, as well as travel deals and tips, by signing up for V.I.A.'s weekly travel newsletter The Wanderer. Since travel deals can sell out, find out the day they are posted by signing up for our daily Travel Deals newsletter.

Want to learn more about a specific destination or simply have a travel concern or idea that you would like V.I.A. to write about? Email us at elana@vancouverisawesome. Send us stories about recent holidays that you've been on, or if you have any tips you think our readers should know about.