Few destinations in Africa can rival Tanzania’s diversity of wildlife, cultures and landscapes. From the classic savannah destinations of the Serengeti, Tarangire and Ngorongoro Crater to the beaches and coral reefs of Zanzibar and the tropical coast, a Tanzania safari holiday delivers one massive experience after another. And that’s before you discover the off-the-beaten-track experiences such as chimpanzee trekking in the magisterial rainforests of Mahale and Gombe or game viewing in the super-remote Selous Game Reserve.
Even fewer destinations however can offer an experience to match the Serengeti Migration. Forming the centrepiece of most Tanzania safaris, the migration is regarded as Nature at her most extravagant and involves hundreds of thousands of wildebeest, zebra and antelope running the gauntlet of predators as they migrate around the Masai Mara/Serengeti ecosystem.
Tanzania offers a wide range of safaris for both first-timers and seasoned campaigners. The ease with which a child-friendly safari can be combined with a beach holiday makes Tanzania a shoo-in for families while the country’s most exclusive and luxurious safari lodges and beach retreats make for an unforgettable Tanzania honeymoon. And for a full East Africa safari experience, our experts have selected a range of Kenya & Tanzania safari combinations.
Comprising the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater and Tarangire National Parks, Tanzania’s famous northern safari region is where to go for classic game viewing and the wildebeest migration. But the country’s long tropical coastline is home to fabulous beaches as well as can’t-miss Zanzibar and other tropical islands – and that’s before you discover wild savannah and rainforest destinations, located in barely visited central and southern Tanzania.
A huge country with much regional variation in geography and climate plus two distinct rainy seasons, the question of when to go to Tanzania depends on what it is that you want to experience.
The best time to go to Tanzania for the Serengeti Migration is between November and August but you’ll need to be in the right place at the right time to catch all the action: find out more about the best time to see the wildebeest migration.
General game viewing in the Serengeti and Tanzania’s other parks is at its peak during the June to October dry season. Mount Kilimanjaro is best climbed either between July and October or January to March, while the best time to visit Tanzania’s coast, its islands and Zanzibar is between August and October – avoid the coast during the long rains of March to May.
Tanzania Travel Advice
There’s nothing like up-to-date, relevant travel information direct from the experts – get Go2Africa’s essential Tanzania travel advice before you go.
Money & Spending
Tanzania’s unit of currency is the Tanzanian Shilling but our advice is to use US Dollars only – and in cash: credit cards and traveller’s cheques (although accepted in most establishments) incur hefty transaction fees.
ATMs are found throughout the major towns in Tanzania but in case they are out of service you should always have a supply of back-up cash.
Note that due to the number of fake notes in circulation, no US Dollar bills printed before 2003 will be accepted in Tanzania.
Tipping lodge staff and drivers/guides is customary for good service on a Tanzania safari, but check first to see whether a service charge has been added to your bill. Tipping is always in addition to the price quoted by your operator and the amount varies depending on the size of your group, the level of luxury of the safari and whether you thought an exceptionally good job was done.
When travelling in the major Tanzania cities, a 10% tip is customary in restaurants and bars when a service charge is not included.
For in-depth tipping guidelines, enquire with one of our Africa Safari Experts – they’d be happy to share their knowledge with you.
Average summer temperatures: 18°C to 29°C
Average winter temperatures: 15°C to 26°C
Rainy season: mid-March to May (“long rains”) and November to December (“short rains”).
Refer to “best time to visit Tanzania” for climate charts, details on the best wildlife-viewing times and when to witness the Serengeti migration.
What to Pack
When packing for your Tanzania safari, light casual clothing in practical, neutral colours and a warm jacket for evening game drives are a safe bet throughout the year. For more on what to pack for a safari, refer to our Africa Safari Guide travel advice section.
When visiting Zanzibar it is important for women to dress modestly out of respect for Muslim cultural beliefs. T-shirts that cover the shoulders, long skirts and capri pants are generally better options than tank tops and shorts.
Religious belief is strong in Tanzania with Christianity and Islam dominating. Most Muslims live on the coast and in Zanzibar; visitors should be aware of the conservative nature of these destinations and dress and behave accordingly.
Tanzanians are renowned for being friendly and harmonious people; however it is courteous to ask permission before photographing people.
Flights & Getting Around
Did you know you can book your flights through Go2Africa? For more information and frequently asked questions, please see our Flights section.
Dar-es-Salaam International Airport: Tanzania’s main airport is the gateway to the Indian Ocean coast and Zanzibar as well as Selous Game Reserve.
Kilimanjaro International Airport: Tanzania’s second international airport serves the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, Tarangire and Lake Manyara. However, you need to transfer to nearby Arusha Airport for charter flights to these destinations and, as international flights often arrive at Kilimanjaro Airport late in the day, a night in Arusha is usually necessary.
Arusha Airport: located 30km from Kilimanjaro Airport, this is the gateway to northern Tanzania’s fly-in safari airstrips.
Given the size of Tanzania and the condition of its roads, charter flights are considered the best way to get around the country.
Road transfers and game drives in Tanzania are conducted in open-sided 4X4 vehicles though visitors to Gombe and Mahale will enjoy a boat transfer across Lake Tanganyika.
Visa & Passport Requirements
Almost all visitors to Tanzania require a visa, which costs between US$20 and US$50 for a single-entry visa valid for three months. You should try to obtain a visa for Tanzania before departing your home country (especially if you require multiple entry); however, visas can also be purchased at Dar es Salaam and Kilimanjaro airports as long as you are able to pay cash in US dollars.
Visitors to Tanzania must possess a passport that is valid for six months after the initial date of travel.
History & Economy
In many ways Tanzanian history is the history of humankind. Fossils found at Olduvai Gorge, one of the world’s premier archaeological sites, suggest that Tanzania has been settled by hominids for over two million years. Iron Age migrations from West Africa were followed by European and Arabian merchants, missionaries and slavers, and by the mid-1800s Zanzibar had become the centre of the East African slave trade. Colonised first by the Germans and then the British, independence came peacefully to mainland Tanganyika in 1961; the addition of Zanzibar in 1964 created the modern state of Tanzania.
Rich in mineral wealth and natural gas, Tanzania’s economy is nevertheless dominated by agriculture which employs 75% of the workforce and produces half the country’s GDP. Tanzania’s main exports include gold, coffee, tea and cotton but it is tourism, increasing in importance year after year, which is the country’s biggest foreign exchange earner.
People & Culture
Tanzania’s 46 million inhabitants are overwhelmingly young and non-urban: half the population is under 15 and more than 80% live in rural areas. Some 120 ethnic groups make up the African population and there are significant numbers of Asians, Arabs and Europeans but Tanzania has long promoted a harmonious national culture, one that is based on a subtle but strong social code of courtesy and respect.
English and Swahili are the official languages.
Landscape & Wildlife
Lying between the two arms of the Rift Valley, Tanzania’s huge central plateau is bounded to the west by Africa’s great lakes, to the north by mountains (including Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak) and to the east by the Indian Ocean coast. Most of the country is covered in grassland, open woodland and savannah but significant pockets of rainforest exist in remote mountain ranges.
Home to 20% of Africa’s large mammals, Tanzania is the continent’s premier game viewing destination. More than 25% of the country is given over to conservation and several Tanzania animal reserves rank among the biggest in the world. Most visitors head for northern Tanzania where the most famous and accessible animal reserves are but huge, virtually unvisited savannah and rainforest reserves lie in south and central Tanzania, delivering genuine off-the-beaten-track safaris.
Tanzania wildlife highlights include the wildebeest migration which moves through the Serengeti from November to July; abundant predators; East Africa’s easiest Big 5 game viewing at the Ngorongoro Crater; chimpanzee trekking in Gombe Stream and the Mahale Mountains; plus – with a bird list of 1 100 – some of the world’s best bird watching.