Tanzania Travel Information

Tanzania is a developing East African nation noted for its history of stability and astounding natural beauty. A robust tourism industry provides all levels of tourist amenities, although higher-end facilities are concentrated mainly in the cities and selected game parks. The United Republic of Tanzania was formed in 1964 with the union of the mainland country of Tanganyika and the Zanzibar archipelago, which includes the islands of Unguja and Pemba. Unguja is the much larger and populous of the two islands and is commonly referred to as Zanzibar. The main city of Zanzibar is known as Stone Town. Although part of the union government, Zanzibar has its own president, court system, and legislature, and exercises considerable autonomy. The U.S. Embassy is in Tanzania’s largest city, Dar es Salaam, the location of most government offices, all embassies, and the commercial center of the country.


Crime is a serious problem in Tanzania, and visitors should be alert and cautious. Street crime in Dar es Salaam is common and includes mugging, bag snatching, vehicle theft, “smash and grab” attacks on vehicles, armed robbery, burglary, and home invasions. Thieves and pickpockets steal from inattentive pedestrians and passengers on public transportation. Prowlers enter occupied and unoccupied houses, looking for open windows and doors to gain access to dwellings (and hotel rooms) to steal electronics, jewelry, and money. If you use a hotel safe, ensure it is bolted and secured to the furniture.

Firearm-related crimesare becoming more common, although criminals often use machetes and sticks. A series of robberies involving increasing levels of violence has occurred along the coast and on Zanzibar. In 2008 – 2009, we received reports of robbers holding tour buses and dive boats at gunpoint. In the spring of 2008, there were a string of armed robberies in hotels along the east coast of Ungunja (the main island) in Zanzibar.

Sexual assaults involving tourists are also a concern. Travelers should hire only legitimate tour guides, preferably arranged by a known travel agency or hotel. Be wary of “spontaneous” offers of sightseeing from new contacts and avoid being alone with “friendly” strangers who propose special, customized sightseeing trips. Practice common sense and remain vigilant regarding your surroundings. If a situation does not seem right, follow your instincts and leave the scene immediately. Travel with others when possible. If you are the victim of sexual assault, see your doctor immediately.

Muggings, Robberies, and Assaults: Pedestrians on deserted or crowded beaches, footpaths, and roads are often targeted by criminals. This is especially true on Zanzibar, in Dar es Salaam, and Arusha. Though group travel does not guarantee your safety, you should avoid traveling alone. Avoid carrying a bag, wearing flashy jewelry, or using or displaying electronics while walking in public. If you must carry a bag, hold it by the handle loosely so you can let go quickly and not be injured if someone grabs it. Do not put the strap across your chest as you can be badly injured if someone snatches the bag. Limit the amount of cash you carry to what is needed for that specific activity. Secure valuables, such as passports, jewelry, and airline tickets, in a hotel safe or other secure location. Carefully guard your camera and phone. Credit cards should only be used in reputable tourist hotels. Whereas long-term residents used to note a seasonal spike in crime (December – January), reports of robbery and violent assault now occur year-round.

ATM/Bank Fraud: Tanzania is primarily a cash economy. Some major hotels accept credit cards, but this is uncommon even in larger urban areas. Using a credit or debit card can make you vulnerable to fraud. There have been numerous recent reports of U.S. citizens becoming victims of fraud through use of debit or credit cards. Exercise caution when using ATM, debit, and credit cards in Tanzania and leave the area if you believe you are being watched. Avoid using standalone ATMs; use only ATMs that are attached to a bank. Monitor your account balance regularly and immediately report unusual activity. Debit cards should be avoided if possible, as your account can be emptied overnight and you have no recourse to dispute the transaction as is possible with credit cards. There have been reports of ATMs retaining cards and accounts being emptied in addition to the apparent use of skimming devices on ATMs targeting U.S. dollar denominated bank accounts. You should bring sufficient cash or traveler’s checks for your trip if you will be spending time outside of the large cities. Reputable financial institutions will require the bearer of a traveler’s check to present the original receipt for the checks and proof of identity before completing a transaction.

Home Invasions: U.S. citizens residing in Arusha and Dar es Salaam report a steady increase in crimes targeting the homes of expatriates. These armed home invasions usually involve some violence and some victims have been seriously injured. U.S. citizens should ensure that homes have a safe haven, a secure area with reinforced barriers where inhabitants can retreat and remain safe if intruders enter the home. Residents in Arusha and Dar es Salaam strongly recommend retaining a professional security company with 24-hour guards and roving patrols. If you have access to a house alarm, use it. Routinely check your doors and windows to ensure they are locked and the grills are intact.

Hotel Safety: Consider a hotel’s safety protocols when booking your stay. Is entry restricted to guests and staff? Are there gates? Can you lock the windows and doors? Some bandits invaded the guest house of a convent in Arusha this year, breaking down the doors with machetes and rocks and robbing the guests of their cash, electronics, and personal possessions.

Carjackings have occurred in both rural and urban areas. Visitors are advised to drive with doors locked and windows rolled up. Travelers are urged not to stop in unpopulated areas and to travel in convoys if possible. Be wary of drivers of stopped cars flagging motorist down for assistance, as this might be a ploy to rob travelers.

Business Scams: There have been several recent cases of U.S. businesspersons who have fallen victim to scams involving the sale of gold, diamonds, gemstones, minerals, and other resources. Potential buyers are urged to be very cautious of seemingly lucrative business opportunities offered by agents based in or with ties to Tanzania and neighboring countries. Many U.S. citizens have reportedly lost sizable amounts of money on such deals, valued up to a few million U.S. dollars.

Visa and Safari Scams: We have received reports of persons offering to arrange for a visitor to receive a volunteer visa for a fee, then absconding with the money without providing the document. The same is true for persons advertising safari excursions, collecting half the fee up front, then not picking up the travelers to go on safari. Complete a thorough review of anyone offering to provide you a service and check references carefully.

Dar es Salaam: Be very careful in the Coco Beach area of Touré Drive on Msasani Peninsula, the scenic beachfront road leading from the Sea Cliff Hotel into town. We receive regular reports of muggings, pick-pockets, and thefts from cars. This road is a concern any time of day or night, whether you are on foot or in a vehicle. U.S. government personnel are cautioned against walking or running along Touré Drive and Haile Selassie Road on the Msasani Peninsula due to the prevalence of assaults. Avoid areas where there aren’t houses or buildings on both sides of the road as assailants like to hide in areas covered by brush.

Zanzibar: Beware of pickpockets, assaults, and bag snatching in Zanzibar. Wear modest dress and keep a low profile, especially on Friday afternoons, the traditional time to attend mosque.

Arusha: In Arusha, the high number of foreign tourists attracts pickpockets and bag snatchers.

You are strongly discouraged from walking around at dusk or at night, and to avoid the section of Arusha on the far side of the Themi River at all times when on foot. Many muggings have occurred near the clock tower in the center of town.

Mtwara: This area is the center of Tanzania’s nascent oil and gas industry. There have been numerous demonstrations and gathering by local residents concerning economic issues. Avoid crowds as even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn violent.

In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available. Whether transactions involving such products are legal or illegal under local law, bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines.

Criminal Penalties

While you are traveling in Tanzania, you are subject to its laws even if you are a U.S. citizen. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different than our own. If you break local laws in Tanzania, your U.S. passport won’t help you avoid arrest or prosecution. It’s very important to know what’s legal and what’s not wherever you go.

Persons violating Tanzania’s laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Keep a photocopy of your U.S. passport on you at all times. If you are detained, immediately contact the U.S. Embassy. Photography of military installations is forbidden. Individuals have been detained and/or had their cameras and film confiscated for taking pictures of hospitals, schools, bridges, industrial sites, and airports. Installations that are prohibited from being photographed are not always marked.

Driving under the influence is against the law. A maximum blood-alcohol content of 0.08 percent is permitted. Law enforcement is becoming more sensitive to this issue due to the high rate of motor vehicle accidents. Possession of marijuana carries a penalty of a five-year sentence with additional fines. Penalties for possessing, using, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Tanzania are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Using a cell phone while driving is not against the law, but ill-advised.

There are also some things that might be legal in the country you visit, but still illegal in the United States, and you can be prosecuted under U.S. law if you buy pirated goods. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime prosecutable in the United States.

Arrest notifications in host country: While some countries will automatically notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate if a U.S. citizen is detained or arrested in a foreign country, that might not always be the case. To ensure that the United States is aware of your circumstances, request that the police and prison officials notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate as soon as you are arrested or detained overseas.

Medical Facilities and Health Information

Medical facilities are limited and medicines are sometimes unavailable, even in Dar es Salaam. There are hospitals and clinics on Zanzibar capable of treating minor ailments. Serious ailments require returning to Dar es Salaam or travel to Nairobi or South Africa for treatment. If you are climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, the Tanzanian capacity for emergency medical response is extremely limited and you may need to descend the mountain on your own to get help. For any significant medical problem in Dar es Salaam, travelers should travel to Nairobi or South Africa where more advanced medical care is available. U.S. citizens are advised to travel with a sufficient supply of prescription medication to last for the duration of the trip. Pharmacies (known as “duka la dawa”) may carry recognizable brands, but the supply and quality are inconsistent.

Tap water in Tanzania is unsafe to drink. Travelers are strongly urged to use bottled water for drinking and food preparation. Be careful when consuming raw foods as they may not have been properly refrigerated and handled, and they may harbor unsafe bacteria.

Cholera is prevalent in many areas of Tanzania, and several strains of malaria are endemic. Anti-malarial medication is strongly advised. Use insect repellents and mosquito nets to help to reduce the risk of malaria. Travelers who become ill with a fever or flu-like illness while traveling in a malaria-risk area up to one year after returning home should seek prompt medical attention as soon as possible. Tell your doctor about your travel history and describe the medication you have been taking. For additional information on malaria, protection from insect bites, and anti-malarial drugs, please visit the CDC travel health web site.

Schistosomiasis (or, bilharzia) is a disease endemic in Africa and caused by parasitic worms hosted by fresh-water snails. Avoid swimming, bathing, or wading in fresh-water lakes and streams.

Tuberculosis is an increasingly serious health concern in Tanzania.

The HIV infection rate in the general population is 5.1 percent. The infection rate is considerably higher among sex workers and their clients, intravenous drug users, and men who have sex with men. Data indicates that injection drug use, specifically heroin, is on the rise in urban areas of Tanzania and Zanzibar. Studies carried out in Dar es Salaam indicate that HIV prevalence is 42% among people who inject drugs (2007) and 31.4% among sex workers (2010), while unpublished data for men who have sex with men in Dar es Salaam indicates a prevalence over 30% (2012). Travelers should be aware of the related health and legal risks associated with the commercial sex industry.

East African Trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness) is carried by the tse-tse fly, which is endemic to the northern safari circuit of Tanzania. The disease itself is very rare but present. Travelers are advised to use normal precautions to avoid insect bites. Avoid wearing dark colors which attract the insect. Prompt diagnosis and treatment are essential if there is an infection. If symptoms appear, even months later, health care practitioners should be told of the visit to East Africa and the possibility of exposure.

Safety and Security

Past terrorist incidents highlight the continued threat posed by terrorism in East Africa and underscore the capacity of terrorist groups to carry out such attacks against Westerners. Although the lethal 1998 terrorist bombing of the U.S. Embassies in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi may seem remote, U.S. citizens should be aware of the ongoing risk of indiscriminate attacks on civilian targets. Avoid political rallies and public gatherings throughout Tanzania. Peaceful demonstrations can turn violent with little or no warning, not only when riot police clash with demonstrators, but also when crowds gather.

This past year, the media has reported on several incidents which posed safety and security risks, including:

a daytime rape of a U.S. citizen in northwestern Zanzibar;

incidents of looting and burning of churches in Dar es Salaam and Stone Town;

two shootings that targeted Catholic priests in Stone Town, one of which resulted in a death;

an attack with an explosive device at a Catholic church opening in Arusha, resulting in seven deaths and several injuries;

an incident during which incendiary devices were thrown at a Lutheran church in Dar es Salaam;

a bomb threat at a Lutheran church in Dar es Salaam;

an acid attack on two female tourists in Stone Town;

a separate acid attack against a Muslim imam also in Zanzibar;

a report of corrosives thrown at a Tanzanian businessman from a motorcycle in Dar es Salaam;

demonstrations in Dar, Arusha, Stone Town, and Mtwara, some of which led to clashes between demonstrators and police, occasionally resulting in loss of property, injuries, and deaths;

an explosive device tossed into a crowd gathered for an opposition political rally in Arusha resulting in three deaths and several injuries;

an acid attack on a Catholic priest in Stone Town, Zanzibar.

This list of serious security incidents over the past twelve months underscores the importance for visitors and residents to be mindful of their safety, especially in public areas.

The population in Zanzibar is 98 percent Muslim and generally holds traditional values. The U.S. Embassy has learned of women being harassed for dressing immodestly in public. U.S. citizens are advised to dress modestly (upper arms and legs covered, no exposed midriffs) outside of their hotel or resort and when arriving and departing the island, and to keep a low profile in public. The incidence of criminal and violent activity continues to rise. Travelers should exercise caution at all times. During the holy month of Ramadan when Muslims fast during daylight hours, avoid eating, drinking, smoking, or chewing gum in public except in hotels or restaurants. Traveling alone, even during the day, may pose risks.

U.S. Embassy officials are required to request police escorts on segments of the Rusomo-Kahama road border near the Rwandan border because of armed bandit attacks.

Inter-city transportation between major destinations, such as Arusha and Dar es Salaam, is serviced by various carriers that offer differing levels of safety and comfort. U.S. citizens who travel by bus are urged to select carriers with modern equipment and avoid riding in vehicles that are in obvious disrepair. U. S. citizens report being robbed on long-distance buses in Tanzania after accepting apparently drug-laced food and drink offered to them by other passengers. Secure your belongings and passport if you disembark for a short break en route to your destination. Road travel in Tanzania is extremely dangerous, especially at night.

Travelers are strongly encouraged to use taxis or hire a driver from a reputable source for transportation. Do not ride in a cab hailed for you by someone you do not know well. Ask the hotel or restaurant to recommend a driver. U.S. citizens have been victims of robberies when using taxis in Dar es Salaam. A common scenario involves the driver picking up another passenger who then threatens and robs the victim, forcing the person to make a series of ATM withdrawals until reaching the daily maximum limit. Do not ride in taxis that already carry a passenger. If a taxi stops to allow another person to enter, exit immediately. We have received reports of assaults originating at the Tazara train station, Ubungo bus station, Dar es Salaam airport, downtown ferry terminal area, and the Slipway on the Msasani Peninsula in Dar es Salaam. If you are in a dangerous situation, your best strategy is to immediately hand over all your valuables, comply with the demands, and not make eye contact with the aggressors. Victims who remain docile during such an ordeal have survived with minor injuries. Please follow this link for more information on taxis.

Travelers should also avoid using dala-dala microbuses and bajaji three-wheeled taxis which are poorly maintained and unsafe. When traveling in a car, lock your doors and hide your valuables from sight.

Ferries traveling between the mainland and Zanzibar have been known to capsize, resulting in drowning deaths and injuries. Marine rescue and emergency response capabilities are limited. If you travel by ferry to Zanzibar, opt for the high-speed ferry. Purchase your tickets only inside the ferry terminal, not from vendors outside. As you approach the terminal, you will be approached by aggressive salesmen. Do not hand them your bags nor accept any assistance from them. When you purchase a ticket, it should include your name, date of travel, and class of travel. Travel during daylight with good visibility, fair weather, and calm water. Avoid overcrowded vessels or those which lack sufficient life vests, easy access to exits, and a functioning communications system. Some vessels are not maintained regularly and may lack basic safety and navigational aids. Beware of pickpockets aboard the ferry, and be wary even of uniformed personnel who seek to assist you.

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Tanzania is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Road and traffic conditions in Tanzania differ markedly from those found in the United States and present hazards that require drivers to exercise continual alertness and caution. Traffic in Tanzania moves on the left. Drivers and pedestrians alike must maintain vigilance, looking both ways before turning or crossing a road.

Drivers are advised against nighttime travel. Roadways are often not marked and many lack both streetlights and shoulders. Pedestrians, cyclists, and animals are often encountered on unlit roads after dark, as are slow-moving trucks and cars traveling without lights. Carjacking and other related crimes are more common during the nighttime hours. Traveling in rural areas after dark is strongly discouraged. Remain cautious and alert when stopping for red lights at night, but be very careful proceeding through intersections as other cars may also be reluctant to stop. Always keep your doors and windows locked and valuables stored out of sight.

Although a number of inter-city highways are periodically repaved and maintained, maintenance schedules are erratic and even good roads may deteriorate precipitously in periods of inclement weather. During the rainy season (late March to mid-June), many roads in Tanzania, both urban and rural, are passable only with four-wheel-drive vehicles.

In urban areas, it is common to find main arterial roads paved and maintained, while secondary streets are severely rutted and passable only with high-clearance vehicles. Traffic lights are often out of order, and care should be exercised at any traffic intersection, whether controlled or not, as many drivers disregard signals. Excessive speed, unpredictable driving habits, and the lack of basic safety equipment on many vehicles pose serious traffic hazards.

Tanzanian law requires all motor vehicle operators to be in possession of a valid driver’s license. Persons staying in Tanzania for six months or less may use a valid U.S. driver’s license after validation by local traffic authorities, or an international driver’s license. Persons intending to remain in Tanzania for more than six months are required to obtain a Tanzanian driver’s license. All vehicles are required to carry third-party liability insurance and to post the decal in the front window.