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An Easy Guide to Tanzania & 5 Critical Tips for Solo Travellers in Tanzania
Solo traveling in Tanzania is one of the most empowering things an individual can do.
The sense of adventure one gets from packing a bag, grabbing a flight, and setting off to a new part of the world unseen by you is truly unbeatable.
AND, nowhere feels more unseen, untouched, and unknown than that Tanzania in East Africa.
Tanzania is a country known for its:
- Endless plains of the Serengeti National Park
- snow-capped peak of Mount Kilimanjaro, and
- Glistening blue waters that splash against the white sand beaches of its Spice Islands.
This is a nation that encapsulates every sense of the wild heart of Africa – a vast stretch of land with some of the most remote and unclaimed natural landscapes in the world.
Although many travellers are aware of Tanzania’s impressive landscapes, they don’t take the leap.
Often due to the simple fact that Tanzania is a relatively unknown tourist destination.
Unlike Europe, Asia, and America that have well-worn routes, there is a special kind of experience for solo travellers willing to take the leap and travel to the heartlands of Africa.
With the right attitude and knowledge you’re guaranteed to have the trip of a lifetime exploring the unknown.
To help you prepare here are our 5 best tips when traveling solo in Tanzania.
1. Learn the layout and how to get around
When planning your solo trip to Tanzania it is important to understand, this place is huge!!!
More than just huge, it is enormous!
At nearly 950 000 square kilometres, solo travellers in Tanzania must understand that this is not as easy a country to travel across. Especially if comparing it to places like Europe.
Getting around Tanzania can be challenging not only due to its size, but also because of the limited transport infrastructure.
Here are some of our top tips for traveling around Tanzania!
In Tanzania, most international flights fly into and out of the former capital of Dar es Salaam.
This often works out perfectly because, depending on where you’re wanting to go, it’s pretty much possible to reach many of Tanzania’s natural beauty spots through domestic flights
To take in the breath-taking awe of the highest mountain in Africa (Mt. Kilimanjaro), organise a domestic flight into Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO).
Alternatively, you can fly to Arusha Airport (ARK) which is considered the best access point for the Serengeti National Park.
One popular travel option for solo travellers heading to the Serengeti is to book a drive there then fly back style journey through a tour operator!
Not only is this a great way to make new friends, but it also usually allows you an overnight stay in the Ngorongoro Conservation area.
This gives you the time to visit the Volcanic Ngorongoro Crater, which has a rich and diverse amount of local game life.
Domestic flights also fly from both Dar es Salaam and Arusha to the tropical Island airport of Zanzibar.
Invest in a Guide
Using a well-respected guide is one way to ensure you won’t have any trouble getting around.
Many tour operators have local guides with specialist knowledge on the many national parks in Tanzania.
Therefore, it’s one of your best options to help you get around this large country.
Just ensure to research the companies beforehand to ensure that they have a good reputation and that it takes the best route.
2. Think of the Seasons and Pack Accordingly
Solo travellers in Tanzania must keep in mind that due to its equatorial location, the nation has pretty much just two seasons – the wet season, and the dry season.
Your trip will be a lot more comfortable if you keep this in mind when packing.
1) The seasonal shifts in Tanzania are fairly predictable.
They start with a relatively short dry season (from January to February) and sees very limited rainfall in northern Tanzania.
Although there is little rain, humidity and average temperatures are at an all time high. Sometimes the temperature can peak to around 30 degree Celsius.
The long rains are experienced from March to May.
These months experience the highest level of rainfall. Most days will have some degree of rainfall, however it doesn’t usually go all day.
Temperatures are cooler with highs of around 25 degrees; however, again humidity can be high!
This is why it is important to pack light breathable clothes that help you stay cool when traveling solo in Tanzania during these times.
Also, don’t forget your hat and sunglasses , as you’ll definitely need them.
2) The Dry Season Occurs From June to October.
During this time the country experiences very little rainfall as well as lower average temperatures – with afternoon highs of 20 to 24 degrees Celsius!
This is the most popular time for tourists.
During these months, most days are clear and sunny, however it does tend to cool down at night.
In some cases, temperatures can fall as low as 5 degrees.
Therefore, we recommend that you pack light clothing and a warm jacket, especially if you plan to camp overnight in the Serengeti National Park, or go on any early morning game drives.
This is also the best time of year to see the great wildebeest migration in the Serengeti.
3) Avoid the Wetter Seasons
The period between November through December sees short rains and it is much less predictable than other seasons.
Average temperature highs reach around 28 degrees.
Humidity is also very high during this time of year so pack clothing with that in mind!
4) The Great Migration
The great seasonal wildebeest migrations move with the rains across the country.
If you’re interested in seeing the great migration, you must plan ahead for the locations you wish to stay in.
If you’re going to be going to Tanzania when the great migration is happening elsewhere, don’t stress!
Tanzania is filled with game viewing opportunities all year round!
3. Don’t Just Pack for the Weather, Pack for the Country
On the most-part, packing for solo travel in Tanzania, is similar to going to any other travel destinations.
Especially when it comes to the basic things like having:
- A good backpack
- the right variation of clothes, and
- your travel documents
But there are a few other essentials that you’re going to need to pack for your trip to Tanzania.
These items are either difficult to find in Tanzania or will make your travels a lot more pleasant/ safer.
Other Essentials for Solo Travellers in Tanzania:
1) Anti-Malaria tablets
Malaria is common in some parts of the mainland, so you want to ensure that you’re protected.
2) Cash is king in Tanzania.
While some major hotel and tourism hotspots will accept card, you should always carry a portion of Tanzanian shilling or US dollars.
These forms of currency are widely accepted in the country.
3) Protective sprays!
Suncare lotions will protect your skin during the hotter months, while insect spray will be a blessing at night, when mosquitoes come out to feast.
4) A First-aid Kit
In your first aid kit you may like to pack some painkillers, anti-diarrhoea pills, aspirin/panadol, aloe vera gel, bandaids, hand sanitiser, and even anti-bacterial spray.
These are common life savers for solo travellers in Tanzania.
If you’re planning on camping out or staying in a nature safari lodge, then you’ll probably be surprised by the noise of the savannah at night!
The chatter of insects and rummage of animals can be heard for many miles, which can sometimes be a bit scary.
You may even feel paranoid about animals walking around your campsite, making it hard to sleep.
If staying in a hostel, you’ll also want to pack earplugs so that you don’t get woken up during the night or in the morning by moving travellers.
If you prefer to sleep in silence, then earplugs are a must!
If you’re going to need to equip yourself with some travel gear before your trip to Tanzania, ensure to check out my recommended travel gear for solo travellers.
4. Be Aware of the Varying Customs and Culture
Tanzania is a diverse nation with a mix of culture and heritage from all over the world.
From its heavily Arab influenced coastal regions to the deeply rooted Swahili traditions of the plains.
There is such a mix of customs. Because of that it is important for solo travellers to be aware of the varying cultural rules and customs throughout the country.
Here’s some top tips for solo travellers in Tanzania, when it comes to customs and culture.
Tanzanians are a nation of friendly and helpful people.
In most cases, you’ll find people that are more than happy to help out a solo traveller in need.
While English is very widely spoken across the country, it can be handy to carry a book of Swahili phrases (the country’s national language.)
The Swahili hello of “Mambo” or “Jambo” and a friendly smile will get you far in Tanzania!
2) Religion & Customs
Much of the coastal regions in Tanzania are predominantly Muslim.
If you plan to go to the beautiful beaches of Zanzibar, you should be mindful that the island is a HUGE melting pot of various cultures, and holds mostly muslim customs.
It is ok for women to wear bathing suits at the beach or whilst in your resort, but not so much in public.
Generally, it is expected that you cover up when entering public areas.
In Stone Town for example, it is particularly important to dress modestly to respect the cultural beliefs of the local Muslim community.
Women and men should wear clothes that reach below the knees (eg. pants, skirts, dresses) and to the end of your elbow (shirts, etc)
Showing your midriff is NOT appropriate in public areas and is often frowned upon. you’ll also feel uncomfortable as you’re likely to be stared at.
Given it is hot, I suggest getting those loose gypsy/genie pants or wearing long maxi dresses / skirts. You can then cover your elbows by wearing a light shawl or scarf over your shoulders.
5. Prioritise Safety and Use Common Sense
Tanzania is overall, an incredibly safe country with most solo travellers having a trouble-free trip!
However, in the larger cities and towns theft and pickpocketing can occur.
That’s why it’s always a good idea to focus on being safe rather than sorry!
Heading out into the cities on your own is generally safe so long as you follow a few simple safety precautions and remain aware of your surroundings.
Here are some additional safety tips for solo travellers in Tanzania:
- Always make sure to take just the cash you’ll need with you. Leave your important valuables back in your accommodation to avoid any major loss
- Don’t show off your jewellery or watches when exploring the town. Doing so only makes you an even greater target for petty crime.
- Avoid walking around after dark. Doing so will also make you a more likely target for crime. If you do have to travel somewhere at night arrange a registered taxi or shuttle journey with your accommodation beforehand.
When on safari, there are also safety measures you have to keep in mind.
- For one, make sure to always follow the instructions of your guide and observe park rules.
- The rules are there to ensure that you’re always safe while traveling through the plains of Tanzania.
- Stay in the car during game drives except at designated areas where you are allowed to get out. Always make sure to keep your arms inside the vehicle. Afterall, no one wants to have their arm chewed off!!
- Keep your voice down near animals. This will improve your viewing experience but also ensures that you don’t disturb them.
- Stay close to your guide on a walking safari and always walk-in single file.
- Never run or jog in a wildlife area as it entices predators to attack.
- When walking in the plains, keep an eye on your footing.
Snakes and other animals will most likely be at your ground level. Try not to worry too much though as these animals are usually scared of you and are long gone before you get there.