Information for backpacking in Tanzania. Whether you need information about the Tanzania entry visa, backpacker jobs in Tanzania, hostels, or things to do, it's all here.

Backpacking Tanzania

Looking for important travel information while backpacking in Tanzania? Here you will find information on working in Tanzania, entry visas, Tanzania hostels, and much more.

Table of Contents

Facts About Tanzania

Tanzania is best known for its abundance of nature reserves, which are home to some of Africa’s indigenous wildlife. Visitors to Tanzania are most likely interested in seeing ‘The Big 5’ wildlife of Africa, which include lions, elephants, rhinos, water buffalos, and leopards. Some of the greatest highlights of nature take place in Tanzania, like the great wildebeest migration in the Serengeti, or the long journey of the saltwater flamingos as they migrate based on the rainy season.

On top of the Safari options available in Tanzania, the country also includes the island of Zanzibar, a reef island located offshore from mainly Tanzania in the Indian Ocean. Zanzibar offers paradise-like beachscapes, with fine white sand, turquoise water, and waving palm trees.

If that is not enough to convince you to visit this country, the local people are some of the friendliest in the world, warmly embracing tourists and visitors to their home country.

  • Currency: Tanzanian Shilling (TZS) = 23 cents
  • Time Zone: GMT + 3
  • Language: English and Kiswahili
  • Telephone Services: Country Code +255
  • Emergency Numbers: All services 112

Climate in Tanzania

When deciding the best time to visit Tanzania, the weather certainly plays a role. The coastal areas are typically tropical, and the lowlands are mainly hot and dry. The highlands have a much more attractive climate with four distinct seasons. Tanzania has two rainy seasons. The so-called short rains season takes place between October and December. The long rains season is from March to June. When planning your trip to Tanzania, be sure to check the weather ahead of time, as this may affect your experience, especially on safari.

Things to do in Tanzania

Safari in Tanzania

Unlike most countries, Tanzania’s main attraction isn’t its cities, but its great outdoors. No one coming to this country should pass up the opportunity to go on safari in one of Tanzania’s game parks. The most popular is the Serengeti National Park, which is famous for its lions. It is common to see large prides, and patient visitors should even be able to spot the lionesses hunting.

The park also boasts such exotic animals as elephants, zebras, and even hippos. Recently companies have started offering aerial tours of the area in light aircraft and hot air balloons, but you can still find plenty of companies offering more traditional safaris here. G Adventures is one of the industry leaders for organising Safaris. They work with local companies to arrange Safaris ranging from budget to midrange, to luxury.

The other main safari area is the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, which is famous for its population of endangered Black Rhinos. The Conservation Area is located in the basin of an ancient crater, and it’s a vast open space, perfect for spotting dozens of animal species in a delicate coexistence.

Other popular locations to see the wildlife are the Tarangire National Park, Lake Manyara National Park, and  Arusha National Park. Within many of the reserves, you will also find traditional Maasai villages that are open to tourists. Visits from tourists are still one of the primary sources of income for these traditional nomadic tribes.

Hiking Mount Kilimanjaro

As the tallest peak on the African continent, hiking Mount Kilimanjaro is at the top of many peoples’ bucket lists. Known as the ‘everyman Everest,’ the summit is an impressive 5,895 meters (19340 feet) high. The journey to the peak of Kilimanjaro typically takes about 5-9 days, depending on your route and pace. During the climb, you will pass through different ecosystems, from lush rain forests, ending in snowy conditions.

It is a requirement that anyone who summits Kilimanjaro goes with a local guide. We love the guides and group tours offered by G Adventures for their group treks to the top. Visit their Kilimanjaro Trekking tour page for different tours, and some that even combine a Kilimanjaro trek with a Safari trip. There are various options from private guides to group treks, depending on your preference.

Summitting the peak will still require some training, and only people in top physical condition should attempt the climb. Every day, many people need to take advantage of the airlift services because they fall victim to altitude sickness or basic exhaustion.

Zanzibar

While it is possible to enjoy white sand beaches on mainland Tanzania, most visitors opt too take the ferry or fly over to the island of Zanzibar. Located in the middle of the Indian Ocean, the fine white sand is the result of the many reefs located just off the coast. The most popular hotspots in Zanzibar are Paje and Nungwi.

Paje

Paje offers the paradisical long stretches of white sand beaches, although it is not a great swimming beach since the shallow shoreline stretches for a few kilometres. However, this leads to an impressive phenomenon at low tide when it becomes possible to walk out to the reef break.

Nungwi

Located in the North, is a better location for swimming, although it has become overrun with touristy resort hotels, with lots of locals touts on the beach. However, Nungwi is a great jumping-off point for snorkelling and dolphin tours, so it may be worth spending a few days up north. Mnemba Island is one of the most famous locations for snorkelling.

Stone Town

Historic Stone Town is worth visiting for a day or two. Spend a day wandering through the winding alleyways, visiting the local markets, and stopping in some of the many important museums. The East African Slave Museum provides a glimpse into the history of the Slave Trade out of Zanzibar, including extensive documentation, pictures, and even a visit to former jail where slaves were held before they went to market.

Unique Activities in Tanzania

An excellent way to get an idea of things to do while backpacking Tanzania is to scan the activities offered by Get Your Guide or Viator. They work directly with local tour operators, so you won’t have to scour the internet or roam around town trying to find the best deal.

How to Travel Around Tanzania

Air Tanzania runs the primary domestic air service in the country, but you will also find numerous small private companies operating domestic service. In general, the flights are pretty cheap so they can be an excellent way to cover vast distances quickly.

If you’re flying to Tanzania or plan to take short flights within the country, we recommend using a few different flight comparison search engines. Kiwi is a new favourite among travellers. On average, we have found the cheapest flights to Tanzania with them compared to the other websites out there.

Of course, it is always worth checking Skyscanner to guarantee you’re getting the best deal. Both websites offer great flexible search options, allowing you to search the whole country of Tanzania to find the cheapest airport to fly into, and also see prices for a full month if you’re flexible on travel dates. 

Bus travel in Tanzania

Intercity buses generally come in two flavours, coaches or minibuses. The minibuses have a poor reputation for safety and aren’t much cheaper, so where possible you should try to take the coach. All bus companies are privately run, and on popular routes, you will find several competing companies, this has the added bonus of making this an extremely economical, if not a very comfortable way of travelling.

Most safaris and tours will arrange their own transport which is included in the price of the package, these typically leave from Moshi and Arusha, but other towns may offer a restricted set of tours. Always check in advance what your package includes and what it does not especially as many of the smaller, less reputable companies will try to rip you off if they can get away with it.

Flights within Tanzania

There are many small airline companies in operation in Tanzania, and flying is often the best way to get around Tanzania due to the vast distances and lack of advanced roads. It’s very common for visitors to fly into Kilimanjaro Airport, which gives you complete access to either hike Kilimanjaro, or depart for a Safari in the most famous Nature Reserves in Tanzania. Afterwards, many people choose to take a short but direct flight to Zanzibar to finish their time in Tanzania relaxing on the beach and exploring the intriguing nature in the offshore reefs.

Prices for flights in Tanzania will always be cheaper if you book them well in advance. Unfortunately, cancellations and changes are frequent occurrences with many of the airlines, so be sure to check in with the airline a couple of days before your scheduled flight.

If you’re flying to Tanzania or plan to take short flights within the country, we recommend using a few different flight comparison search engines. Kiwi is a new favourite among travellers. On average, we have found the cheapest flights to Tanzania with them compared to the other websites out there.

Of course, it is always worth checking Skyscanner to guarantee you’re getting the best deal. Both websites offer great flexible search options, allowing you to search the whole country of Tanzania to find the cheapest airport to fly into, and also see prices for a full month if you’re flexible on travel dates.

Backpacking Tours in Tanzania

Though part of the fun of backpacking Tanzania is exploring on your own, there are situations, especially when venturing off the tourist trail, when it does make sense to go with a guide or a small group. For these times, a popular option among backpackers is G Adventures. They hand-select local guides to ensure authenticity and quality. Going with a group tour with G Adventures is an especially good option for those travelling Tanzania alone who would like to meet up with like-minded travellers. Their most popular trips in Tanzania are their 8-day Tanzania to Zanzibar: White Sands & the Wilderness tour, or their 7-day Mt Kilimanjaro Trek: Marangu Route tour. 

Health and Safety in Tanzania

The standard of healthcare in Tanzania is good, but health insurance is essential. Elsewhere in the country medical facilities are limited. If you intend to be on safari for any length of time you should consider paying for the East African Flying Doctors tourist membership which will allow you to call for free air evacuation should you fall ill while on safari.

Immunisation against yellow fever, cholera, polio and typhoid is recommended when visiting Tanzania, especially when planning to travel outside of urban areas. Malaria is present throughout Tanzania, and the local strains have been reported as highly resistant to chloroquine, so mefloquine is the recommended treatment to use. You should consult your local GP about all of these factors before travelling to Tanzania.

Tap water in Tanzania is generally safe, but in some areas, it is recommended that you boil or otherwise sterilise any water before use. Food, including dairy products and drink, are also considered safe to drink. Reasonable precautions should be used when purchasing food from street vendors.

Common sense is prevalent here, concealing valuables, not carrying large sums of cash and generally remaining vigilant can ensure that you are at minimal risk.

Entry visa requirements for Tanzania

EU and US nationals require a passport valid for at least 3 months from the date of arrival as well as a return ticket. In addition, EU and US nationals require a visa for the duration of their stay. You can apply for a visa online before your trip to avoid unnecessary work at the airport.

Tanzania Hostels and Budget Accommodation

In Moshi, Arusha, and Zanzibar, you will find hotels that meet international standards. Most hotels are located in former colonial buildings and offer a broad range of amenities. You should be sure to book far in advance during peak tourist season as hotels can fill up.

We have had good experiences finding hostels in Tanzania on HostelWorld. They have the most extensive inventory of hostels worldwide, and with over 10 million reviews and ratings from other travellers, you know exactly what to expect.

Another good way to find accommodation in Tanzania is by checking hotels.com and  booking.com. With both sites, you’ll find not only hotels, but also homestays, hostels, and other unique accommodation. We have discovered some great finds and have appreciated the ability to book ahead. You can use their advanced filtering to narrow your results by budget, location score, overall review score, and amenities. Many of the places on booking.com also offer free cancellation, which takes the pressure off the planning phase of your trip.

Useful links for Backpacking in Tanzania

  • Kiwi and Skyscanner – Flight comparison search engines to find the cheapest flights to Tanzania and within the country
  • GetYourGuide and Viatora collection of local tours and things to do in Tanzania. Also offers Skip the Line tickets for crowded attractions
  • Tiqets – Website selling entrance tickets and skip the line tickets for tourist spots in Tanzania
  • G Adventures – guided backpacking tours in Tanzania, great for solo travellers or for those interested in a more adventurous trip which would require a guide
  • HostelWorld – #1 hostel search website to find accommodation while backpacking Tanzania. Thousands of hostels and millions of reviews from fellow travellers
  • Booking.com – commonly used accommodation booking site in Tanzania. Hostels, hotels, and other unique accommodation with advanced filtering and millions of reviews
  • Travel Insurance – read our comprehensive overview of Travel Insurance and some recommended providers for your backpacking trip to Tanzania

There you have it, the ultimate Tanzania backpacking guide. We hope you have found all the information you need for backpacking around Tanzania.

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