Useful information for backpacking in Tanzania.

We went to Tanzania in February - March 2015,
during a complete trip (8 months), 
through Southern and Eastern Africa.

If you are planning a budget trip in Tanzania, here you can find useful general information. We wrote other specific articles about cheap accommodation, public transport, etc.,  than you can see on the right sidebar menu.  



The Tanzania currency is the Shilling.
The average exchange rate in January-march 2015, was 1 €= 2.000 Shillings, ATM rate always a bit lower, around 1.950 Sh.

Around tourist areas, like Arusha, Moshi and Zanzibar, US$ are also usual for tourist activities and accommodation prices. So expect to pay your safari in US$.
For entrance fees of the National Parks, prices for foreigners are also in US$ and are supposed to be paid with credit card.

You will find banks and ATMs for international cards in the main towns, but not all the ATMs in Tanzania accept international cards. Usually OK in Barclays, Standart, or just try an ATM with a visa/master sign (usually easier with Visa).

Most of the ATMs give a maximum amount of 400.000 Sh (around 200 €).

Payment by card is not avalaible usually, except in some big hotels and expensive shops or big safari companies.

Money changers: many changers in Dar Es Salaam, Moshi, Arusha, Zanzibar and Mwanza.


Airtel vocha
Buying a SIM card is easy in Tanzania and cheap (1.000 Sh), with 3G (E) net access. 

Airtel, Tigo, Vodacom and Zantel are the main companies. 
You need to register (photocopy of passport needed) and maybe they will charge you some extra 1.000 Sh for doing that. 

Easy to find airtime everywhere, called “vocha” in swahili, a voucher  from 500 Sh minimum. Airtime has a limited expire time depending of the amount you put (24 hours or 1 week, for 500 or 2.000 Sh).

Not too many wifi spots, out of Dar, Arusha, Zanzibar; and not too many internet shops either.


It´s easy to find small local restaurants and stalls, specially around bus stations. In bigger towns, more options, also with Indian restaurants and Western food.
Food is really cheap in Tanzania but the offer is not very big.

The most popular and cheap food in Tanzania:
  • Heaps of  “chips”: 1.000 Sh for a dish (0.5 €). 
  • Chips mayai (“mayai” means egg in swahili), for 2.000 Sh (1 €). 
  • And beef (“nyama”) or chicken (“kuku”), usually BBQ. From 500 Sh for a stick.
  • "Wali" (rice) or "Ugali" (maize ) with beans, vegetables and some meat (“nyama”) or fish (“samaki”), from 2.000 – 3.000 Sh (around 1€).

Easy too find snacks, like samosas, boiled eggs, dough balls, chapattis, etc. Usually around 100- 500 Sh.

Most of the hotels don´t have a kitchen for the customers.
We always eat in small local restaurants or stalls in the street, except when doing couchsurfing. OK, not sick, but hygien conditions are not always great in Tanzania!

Plenty of small shops to buy the basic things everywhere but not too many supermarkets, even in bigger towns. Shopping malls have just started recently in Tanzania, with one or two in Dar and Arusha, maybe soon more. Prices tend to be quite expensive there.

Markets and fruit stalls are cheap places to buy fruit and vegetables. Butcheries have a quite limited offer, beef mainly, and no fridges.

Water is most of the times not safe to drink, always ask. 
Bottles are sold everywhere, for 1.000- 1.200 Sh (1.5 l) or bigger (4.000- 5.000 Sh for 10-15 l).
Sodas are really cheap (500-600 Sh for a 33cl).
Easy to find beer, local brands, like Safari, Kilimanjaro, Serengeti. Usually the price is around 2.500- 3.000 Sh for a 50 cl bottle at shops and local places, double or more in western restaurants.


Swahili is the main language in Tanzania, so most of the people don´t speak English and have a very limited understanding. 
Tanzania is the only country we visited (12 in total) where we noticed a real problem of communication with the local people. 
But, it´s true that at tourist places, English is more widely spoken, so easier with people who work at the lodges, drivers, etc. in Zanzibar, Arusha, Moshi, Dar. 


We didn´t feel unsafe in Tanzania. But it´s true that bus stations can be very crowded so always be carefull.
Dar Es Salaam and Arusha have bad reputation, but at least during day time and in central places, we found them fine.

Be carefull at the Tanzania bus station ... just in case
Usually around some bus stations, many boys will try to help you finding accommodation, so be carefull. We never follow them… usually they get a commission that you will pay. Specially usual in Zanzibar, Arusha.

Warning: take precautions if going on safari or doing couchsurfing.We had a bad experience in Iringa, staying with a California guy and a local one! It was our mistake as we let money in the backpack without locking it and they stole us “some” bills. And it seems to be quite usual in Tanzania around safaris. Please, never let money in the room or tent.

Warning with the tour companies in Tanzania: before booking and paying for a tour (safari, etc.), check the references about the tour company, because it is usual to cheat the tourists offering more services than what they finally offer. And many scams!!! At the tourist information office in Arusha, we saw a list of tour companies to be avoided.


Most of the rooms have mosquito nets, even at the cheap local lodges. Always ask around to check if any malaria cases. Some places like Zanzibar seem to be quite malaria free now.
Extreme precautions if going on safari or remote low areas.
In the supermarkets, you will find mosquito coils and insecticides but quite often not so easy to find local repellents, better try in the pharmacy (around 2.500 Sh for a cream).

Like in all Africa, malaria controls are quickly done at the health centers, easy to get the medicine. In towns, you find basic health centers. A test only costs 1.500 Sh in a public hospital! And medicines are usually free in Tanzania!

Water is not always safe to drink. So, it´s better to buy water in Tanzania.

Food hygiene conditions are quite limited in Tanzania, local restaurants and stalls are very basic. We eat at the local places, simple food. But some days not feeling 100%. Avoid salads and cut fruits if very sensitive. This precautions are only for Tanzania. In the other countries visited in Africa, we didn´t have any problem.

AIDS rate is not as high as in southern Africa.


  1. Gracias por los consejos y sugerencias. Realmente me gustaría visitar Tanzania y esta información me ayuda mucho.


Publicar un comentario