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10 Tips for Safari in Tanzania for Beginners

Safari Tips: Tanzania travel tips for first-time safaris

Planning your first Tanzania safari tours? We’ve got all the safari tips and tricks to help your travel to Tanzania be amazing.

When to travel, what to pack, photography etiquette and more are all included in our list of Tanzania safari tips.

If you’re looking for information about how to plan your Tanzania Safari Trip, keep reading, we have that covered, too.

1.  When is the best time for a safari?

Really, any time of year, the National Parks of Tanzania offer something exciting for safari goers. You may have a preference, though, based on your interests.

Dry Seasons

June – September

The months of June, July, August, and September are typically the busy tourist season in Tanzania due to the lovely, cooler weather and the likelihood of witnessing the river crossing with the Great Migration in northern Serengeti.

One drawback, however, is that you should book a safari at this time well in advance, last-minute bookings may have limitations on accommodations.

December – February

December, January and February make up another busy season for travel to Tanzania, while also coinciding with the hottest time of year. Travelers may enjoy visiting the cooler Ngorongoro Highlands over southern Tanzania during these months.

Travel tip: Travelers who want to see newborn baby wildebeests and zebras should visit Serengeti and Ngorongoro Conservation Area in February for the calving season.

Rainy Seasons

March – May

The rainy season in Tanzania has several appeals for travelers: it is an incredibly beautiful time of year as the vegetation becomes very lush. You’ll see animals, such as ele[hants, portraying different behaviors than they do during the dry season: splashing about in swollen rivers and playing happily in muddy patches.

While it likely will rain frequently during these months, it probably won’t rain the entire day. And when the sun does burst out, you may get to see regular rainbows arching over the scenic African landscape for some fabulous photographs.

Because it is considered the “low season” for travelers, sometimes you can benefit from slight discounts on accommodations and may feel like you have the entire lodge to yourself.

October- early December

The months of October through early December mark the short rainy season, which has become more and more unpredictable in recent years. If the rainy season is delayed, these months may be very dry and dusty.

In that case, your driver-guide will know exactly where to find animals: gathering at water sources like the Tarangire River in Tarangire National park, which does not completely dry up.

Travel Tip: In October, jacaranda trees all across East Africa bloom purple flowers which scatter everywhere and make Tanzania feel like a land straight out of a fairytale – photographers won’t want to miss this opportunity!

Once you’ve decided the perfect time to visit Tanzania; rainy season or dry season, and selected your travel dates, it’s time to book a tour operator for your safari.

2.  Choosing the right tour operator

Choosing the right tour operator can really make or break your entire safari experience in Tanzania.

While you may do a self-drive safari in other countries, self-drive safaris are not very practical or pleasant in Tanzania. Paying park entry fees, organizing accommodations and meals are all handled by tour operators and are not easily arranged by individuals who are not familiar with Tanzania.

Finally, if you have any car problems in a national park (where there are very real lions), you will really be in a pickle!

Enjoy your safari in Tanzania and allow a reputable tour operator to arrange all the details for you:

  • a safari vehicle
  • driver-guide who speaks your preferred language
  • all meals, including lunch boxes
  • accommodations, based on your budget (many of which have swimming pools, on-site wellness spas, and bar-lounges for an evening drink)
  • Transfers to and from the airport
  • Cultural excursions, such as a coffee tour or visiting a Maasai community
  • Additional activities, like a walking safari in a national park, hunting with the Hadzabe or climbing Mount Ol Donyoi Lengai

How to choose a good tour operator in Tanzania

The sheer number of tour operators offering safaris in Tanzania can be overwhelming – how can you ever choose?

Here are the top 5 things to look for in a good tour operator for a safari in Tanzania:
  1. Are they open and transparent about their business license, credentials, and other legal documents for operating tours in Tanzania? They may either provide such on their website, or on request.

Never book with a tour operator that cannot show their legal business credentials.

  1. Are they a recognized member of the Tanzania Association of Tour Operators (TANAPA)?
  1. Do they have a local office in Tanzania? Some tour companies or agencies use a third-party tour operator in Tanzania. In such cases, you likely won’t have much personal assistance from the tour company if you do face any issues during your safari. For this purpose, it is advised to book with companies that have a functioning office on the ground in Tanzania.
  1. Ethical practices. Look at the company’s ethics and how they treat their employees. It may or may not be available on the website. Check to see if they are members of the Porter’s Association, for operators that run Kilimanjaro climbs.

Do they give back to the community?

Are they involved in any conservation or community efforts?

This is one of the reasons why we highly recommend the tour operator, Altezza Travel: they are leading the way with ethical practices; supporting their guides and drivers to advance in the field with ongoing training, helping porters advance to become mountain guides, support a community school and a wildlife rehabilitation program, and are always the first on Mount Kilimanjaro to lead clean-up crews, fight wildfires and more.

For tour operators like Altezza Travel it is clear that Tanzania is not just where they run safaris; it is the heartbeat of their company and they are passionate about seeing Tanzania – and the Tanzanian people – flourish.

  1. Money matters: do not ever send a wire transfer or money order to an individual person in Tanzania! When booking your safari, it is common for guests to send a deposit in advance, or make payments before the safari starts.

Reputable tour operators will have a bank account listed in the company’s name – not an individual person. Many Tanzanian tour operators accept credit cards, bank transfers or other payment methods.

3. Visa preparations

Get a Tanzania Tourist visa in advance

Citizens of many countries do not need to apply for a tourist visa to Tanzania in advance, however, it is advised to get an e-visa before you depart, so that you can speed through Immigration upon arrival.

Apply for an e-visa to Tanzania only on the official website.

Tourists can apply for a single-entry visa that is valid for 90 days travel, throughout Tanzania and Zanzibar.

Visa Cost

Regular 3-month tourist visas for passport holders of many European nations and Canada cost $50 USD.

US passport holders must pay $100 and will receive a multiple-entry visa, instead.

A full list of countries that are eligible for a visa on arrival and those that must apply for a visa in advance can be found here.

4. Malaria prevention and other vaccines

Talk with your doctor or travel clinic about starting malaria prevention before traveling to Tanzania. While contracting malaria is unlikely, it’s always best to be safe.

Some types of malaria prevention should be started two weeks prior to arrival in Tanzania, so it’s a good idea to obtain your medications well in advance.

Yellow Fever Vaccination

If you have previously traveled to a location that has risk of yellow fever, you will be required to show your yellow fever vaccination certificate. This will be requested by immigration upon arrival, in most cases.

It’s a good idea to have proof of vaccination before departure.

Covid Vaccination

A covid vaccination or negative test is not required to enter Tanzania, but it may allow for easier travel, depending on your airline or when visiting neighboring countries, such as Kenya.

5. Travel insurance is important

You can never predict when a medical emergency will strike – but you can prepare for it, with travel insurance. Whenever you travel internationally, you should consider getting travel medical insurance.

If you’re planning on any adventure travel during your time in Tanzania (including mountain climbing, biking, surfing, or diving) it may be required that you have adequate travel insurance, too.

Travel insurance can cover not only medical emergencies but trip interruptions or lost luggage, too.

6. What to put in the bag?

And now, for the most frequently asked question: what to pack for a safari in Tanzania?

While the typical ‘safari suit’ of neutral colored pants and shirts seems cliche, it actually is a very practical outfit to bring on a safari.

  • Neutral-colored pants and light-weight shirts

Neutral-colored clothes won’t show dust and will help you blend into the environment, especially if you want to enjoy a tree-top walk in Manyara National Park or a walking safari in Arusha National Park.

While you are in Africa, nights in the highlands and early morning can be quite chilly. If you want to enjoy sitting around a fire in the evening, or an early morning hot air balloon ride, it’s a good idea to be prepared with a sweater.

Most lodges and hotels that you will stay at during your safari have lovely swimming pools. Bring your swimsuit or shorts and enjoy a late-afternoon dip with a fantastic view of the African savannah.

  • Comfortable shoes for hiking/walking and sandals for the lodges/hotels

Ladies: there’s no need to pack high-heeled shoes for your safari. You’ll be most comfortable in shoes that you can use for walking nature trails around the lodges or sandals for the pool.

– Modest Dress

While travelers are welcome to wear their regular clothes at hotels and lodges, if you intend to visit a traditional Maasai village or have a cultural excursion, it is a good idea to have a few modest items, so both you and the local community will feel comfortable.
For ladies, this can be a mid-length skirt or dress, preferably reaching to your knees or lower.

For men, this means a decent top or shirt, not a muscle shirt or vest with tears or holes, even if that is the fashion in your home country.

7. Always bring some cash

Increasingly, high-end hotels and lodges do accept credit cards, however if you plan to buy any gifts at local markets, you should have some cash on hand. Further, cash tips for servers and guides are always appreciated.

Euros, British Pounds, and US dollars are the most accepted currencies. Exchange cash at an official exchange bureau, bank or your hotel – not on the street. Arusha, Dar es Salaam or Moshi are usually the preferred places to exchange cash, before you depart on your Tanzanian safari.

8. Photography Etiquette in Tanzania

Remember to be polite when taking photos in Tanzania. Wildlife and nature photos don’t have any rules, but if you want to take photos of people, please ask first.

Some locals in Tanzania (including children) may ask for a small monetary gift in exchange for allowing you to take their photo. Likewise, if you want to photograph a traditional-style house or someone’s lovely garden, it is considered polite to get permission from the owner, first.

Do Not Photograph

Some places where you are not permitted to take photographs in Tanzania include banks, government offices or military bases.

There may be signs outside of some buildings stating that you are not permitted to take photos – pay attention and abide by these rules.

9. What is the weather in Tanzania like?

Tanzania is a tropical country, situated near the equator, so the weather is usually pleasant and warm.

Southern Tanzania, such as Dar es Salaam, can be hot and humid, while Zanzibar and Mafia have weather typical of tropical islands.

The northern parts of Tanzania, including Arusha, Ngorongoro and Moshi sit at a high elevation and experience cool mornings and nights. You may find having a light jacket and long pants helpful during cool evenings on your safari.

During the cold season (June, July and August) tourists may enjoy the warm fireplaces at their accommodations, and alternatively, may greatly appreciate the air conditioning at hotels in hot areas, or during the summer months (December through February).

10. A proper first-aid kit for Tanzania

There are health clinics and hospitals in every major town and city of Tanzania, where you can get bandages (band-aids) or basic first-aid items such as iodine or topical creams. However, the further you travel into the African bush, the further you will also be some such necessities.

All safari vehicles carrying passengers in Tanzania have an emergency first-aid kit, however the items included are things such as gauze and medical tape, not necessarily regular band-aids for minor scrapes.

When we mention a proper first-aid kit for Tanzania, we are referring to items that most tourists would like to have handy, beyond what is typically found in a safari vehicle first aid kit. This includes:

  • Aloe vera gel, in case of sunburn
  • Bandaids for minor cuts or scratches
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Tweezers
  • Oral rehydration salts
  • Tylenol or other over-the-counter pain relief tablets
  • Allergy medications
  • Any prescription medications you regularly take

While some of these items are readily available in Tanzania, you may find the quality is not that of what you’re used to, or the cost is quite expensive compared to the same product available in your home country.

Here are 10 tips for first-time travelers to Tanzania. Follow these travel tips and tricks to ensure you have the best experience on safari in Tanzania.

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