Tanzania lies just South of the equator so there is little seasonal variation in temperature, but it is slightly cooler in June/ July and warmer in January/ February. There is much more variation between the coastal and low lying regions and the high plains and mountain regions. The Northern game parks lie at an altitude of 5,000 to 7,000 feet and have a pleasant climate with warm days and cooler evenings year round.
There are two rainy seasons- the long rains during April and May and the short rains in November. The rest of the year is classified as dry season. In practice the rainfall pattern is neither regular nor predictable. In the rainy seasons the rain often falls in heavy but brief tropical downpours during the evening or night with pleasant sunny days in between. The effects of the rain can cause some animals to disperse and may produce a few local problems with flooding of roads and bridges. On the other hand, rain makes the atmosphere clean and dust free and the vegetation beautifully lush and green.
Whilst the rainy seasons are suitable for safaris, it is not the best time to climb Kilimanjaro, it is less than pleasant climbing and camping in the rain and visibility will also be poor. Similarly the long rainy season is not the best time to visit Zanzibar and several of the hotels are closed during this period.
CURRENCY AND EXCHANGE
The local unit of currency is the Tanzanian Shilling which these days is freely convertible within Tanzania for the US$ and other currencies. There are numerous banks and bureau de change in towns, and most lodges and hotels will exchange currency or travelers cheques at reasonable rates.
It is not possible to obtain Tanzanian Shillings outside the country, and it is illegal to export more than a small amount. Many items or services are priced and paid for in US$, so do not convert more funds into the local currency than you need for incidental expenses. Credit cards are accepted at an increasing number of establishments in Tanzania but by no means everywhere. It is not generally possible to obtain cash on a credit card in Tanzania, so it is recommended that visitors carry sufficient funds in the form of travelers cheques.
The power supply is at the UK/ European standard voltage of 220/240 , and power sockets are the UK square pin type. Remember if you want to use US appliances you will need a voltage converter as well as a plug converter. Mains power supply is subject to cuts and voltage fluctuation. On safari most lodges power supplies are from generators, and these are often turned off during parts of the day and night to reduce noise and fuel consumption.
Migo African Safari and Tours equips all its safari vehicles with two-way radios so that drivers can communicate with their base, each other and the lodges. Most lodges and hotels also have a telephone, but the service, particularly for overseas calls, is both erratic and expensive (a $50 minimum is not uncommon). More remote lodges and camps are likely to rely on radio for communications. Game parks are not within cell phone range, but satellite telephones work just about anywhere.
FOOD AND DRINK
It is generally recommended to drink only bottled mineral water which is readily available everywhere.
There are no restrictions on the sale or consumption of alcoholic drinks in Tanzania. A good selection of local beers and soft drinks are available everywhere, and you will find a range of imported wines, beers and spirits in many places, although these can be expensive.
The quality and value of food in Tanzania is highly variable, and in general, the more expensive the lodge, hotel or restaurant the better and “safer” the food will be. Eat sensibly, be wary of cold buffets and salads- particularly in the first few days of your visit.
The official language of Tanzania is Kiswahili. This is spoken and understood by the great majority of the population, many of whom also speak a tribal language. There is a wide usage and understanding of English, and virtually everyone the average tourist is likely to meet in the course of their safari will be fluent.
There are some long distance coaches which are suitable for use by visitors, such as the daily Nairobi to Arusha shuttle bus. Local bus and minibus services are likely to be uncomfortable, overcrowded and potentially dangerous.
There is a railway network, but at best the passenger services can be unreliable and uncomfortable.
Taxis are available everywhere in urban areas, but the condition of these can be very poor. The better hotels generally have a superior selection of taxis available, and it is suggested that you obtain one of these, particularly for longer journeys.
It is difficult to hire a car or other vehicle in Tanzania without a driver- it is also inadvisable since the poor state of many of the roads in both town and on safari plus erratic driving by other road users makes driving on most routes tiring and unsafe.
Most hotels and lodges have gift shops with a selection of local crafts and souvenirs. There are also a few roadside stalls and shops that you will pass en route. You will find some interesting woodcarvings, paintings and batiks. Precious stones and jewelry are also a specialty.
PREPARING FOR YOUR TRIP
The current cost of a visa is $50. These are available at the point of entry but must be paid for in U.S. dollar cash. Visas are also available from Tanzanian Embassies and consulates in many countries. If you are entering Tanzania through Nairobi you are also required to have a visa for Kenya which may be purchased on arrival or in advance from embassies. There is a concessional rate for passengers simply transiting through Kenya.
There is a departure tax on International flights of $20- this will generally have been included and already paid in the price of your ticket. There is a small local departure tax payable in cash at the airport/ airstrip for local flights.
If your final departure is from Zanzibar, you will have to pay in U.S.$ cash on departure.
Check with your doctor to get the current recommendations and advice. Anti malarial tablets are strongly recommended.
Although the Kilimanjaro climb is often described as available to any reasonably fit person, the combination of strenuous exercise, cold and high altitude can have adverse effects. If in doubt please consult your doctor in advance.
CLOTHING AND EQUIPMENT
Clothes for safari should be light, comfortable and not too brightly colored. There is little or no requirement for anything formal. A light jacket or sweater may be needed in the evenings at higher altitudes, comfortable walking shoes are an essential, as is a hat to keep off the sun, and sunglasses. Don’t forget a swimming costume for use at the lodge pools.
Most people bring binoculars and/ or cameras and video equipment with plenty of tape or film. Zoom or telephoto lenses are likely to be useful. Film is also available at most lodges/camps but can be expensive.
Most of the better hotels and lodges will spray rooms and provide mosquito nets, but do bring your own insect repellent sprays. A flashlight is always useful.
There will be no television or radio in most places, so you might want to bring a little short-wave radio or Walkman if you want to keep up with world events or listen to some music.
Remember that safari vehicles and light aircraft have tight limits on the size and weight of luggage carried. Depending on your itinerary, it may be possible to leave some luggage in your hotel in Arusha for the duration of your safari.
Migo African Safari and Tours require that all clients arrange personal travel insurance to cover their medical, property and other personal risks for the duration of their safari.
Temporary one month membership of AMREF’s Flying Doctors’ Society may be purchased with your safari arrangements. This cover provides the services of light aircraft and skilled doctors for emergency treatment and evacuation to Nairobi resulting from accident or medical emergency in Kenya and Northern Tanzania
This is supplementary to and not a replacement for a standard travel insurance policy.