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Tanzania

Money & Shopping

Money & Shopping

Currency

The currency of Tanzania is known as the Tanzanian Shilling (TSH, /=). There are 5 notes and 6 coins:

  • Notes - 10000 (Red); 5000 (Violet); 2000 (Brown); 1000 (Blue), and 500 (Green) denominations.
  • Coins - 200, 100, 50, 20, 10, and 5 denominations.

Notes and coins vary in size and color. In descending size order, 10000 is the largest note, and 500 is the smallest.

In April 2011, one US dollar was worth about 1504 Tsh. [www] Note that Tanzanian currency exchangers usually have a different exchange rate for different US$ denominations, larger and newer bills having a better exchange rate than older and smaller bills. The difference in exchange rate between $1/$5 bills and $50/$100 bills may exceed ten percent. Older US $100 notes are no longer accepted in Tanzania, and any note older than 2003 will most likely be refused everywhere. Also, it's best to avoid attempting to exchange notes with pen marks or any writing on them. Finally, be advised that if you withdraw a large amount of money, in the range of $400 US, you'll have to carry over 40 notes around!

The 10000 and 5000 notes can be difficult to break when shopping in small shops, a.k.a. dukas. In Tanzania, it's usually the customer's responsibility to provide exact change. But if they do agree to provide change, you could be left with several 1000 and 500 notes of very poor quality. However, you won't have such problems in the large hotels and restaurants catering to foreigners.

In general, stores, restaurants, and hotels in Tanzania expect payment in Tsh. Exceptions include payment for travel visas, entry fees to national parks (which must be paid in US dollars by non-residents), and payments for safaris and Kilimanjaro treks, which are generally priced in US dollars (though payment will be also accepted in other currencies). On Zanzibar, prices are generally in US dollars (including the ferry fare from Dar es Salaam to Zanzibar), and non-residents are required to pay for hotels with foreign currency (although the hotel will change Tsh for you).

Most hotels will exchange US dollars, Euros and British Pounds for Tanzanian Shillings. Other currencies, such as Canadian or Australian dollars, may be accepted but at rates far below the going rate. ATMs are mostly located in the city center and on the Msasani Peninsula. For those wishing to withdraw money from bank accounts back home, in general, Equity Bank, Eco Bank, I&M Bank, KCB, Stanbic ATMs work with Master card, PLUS, Cirrus, Union Pay, American Express, JCB, Diners club compatible cards. Additionally, if you have a PIN code for your credit card, almost all Tanzanian banks with ATMs will allow cash advances on credit cards like Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Union Pay, JCB, Diners Club cards' If the ATM reports your home balance in TSh, you may be pleasantly surprised to find that you're a "shillionaire".

Traveler's Checks have become virtually impossible to cash in all banks in Tanzania. Since ATMs are much more prevalent, using credit cards to withdrawals from your personal accounts is much easier now days.

Credit Cards can be used in Big supermarkets, Malls, large hotels, resorts, and with certain travel agents.

Shopping

There are many markets in tourist cities that sell standard "African" goods. Beaded jewelry, carved soapstone, and Masai blankets make interesting gifts. Be aware that most "ebony" wood is fake (shoe polish) - the exception being in the far south-east of the country, where the Makonde tribe of Tanzania and Northern Mozambique create masks and other carvings from ebony and mpingo wood. Be prepared to bargain for everything. Masks are not typical of most East African groups, and the ones you find in the markets are either imported from West Africa or are strange things made just for tourists, with the exception of the Makonde masks.

Tinga Tinga paintings, named after the painter who originated that style, are for sale everywhere. Their distinctive style and colors make for attractive souvenirs. A standard size painting can be had for TS 5,000 - 10,000. There is a Tinga Tinga school in Dar es Salaam, where you can purchase paintings from the artists themselves.

Air freight

If you happen to buy too many goodies during your travels, it is possible to send them home air freight. Many airlines will allow you to check additional parcels when you fly, for a fee, which probably makes the most sense if you're going straight home. But if you're continuing on, air freight might be the way to go. Note that many listed rates do not include 20% VAT, or a "fuel surcharge", 13.5% as of December 2008.

  • DHL. Offers quite pricey service (e.g. about $300 for a 10kg package to the US) but is conveniently located in Dar city center, as well as in a bunch of other cities (see web site). Will deliver direct to the recipient in most countries.
  • KLM (go to the old terminal at DAR airport). Offers slightly more reasonable rates than DHL (e.g. about $100 for a 10kg package to the US) but requires a trip to the airport and about 1 hour of paperwork & waiting. You must pay cash, in US dollars, plus some fees in shillings. Customs will want to go through the package, so bring something to (re)seal it. You can first go to the KLM freight office (look for the sign), then to the cargo building further down the same road, or call ahead and be met at cargo. If you just arrive at cargo you will be swarmed by freight forwarders - to find the KLM staff, look for the KLM logo (e.g. on a lanyard) or call ahead to Sameer (+255.714.474.617) who is quite helpful. Note that, despite what you might be told, someone will need to go to the destination airport to pick up the package - it will not be delivered to an address by KLM. Storage charges will accrue if it's left for very long.
  • EMS. EMS is a branch of the Tanzanian postal service, and is the cheapest way to send packages. It's available at most larger town post offices. But shipping time can be quite long, and delivery is not always reliable. Also there are size/weight restrictions. Packages will be transferred to the local postal service at destination, which usually provides direct delivery.
  • FEDEX. FEDEX currently have offices in Arusha, Dar es Salaam and Mwanza, and like DHL, they are also pricey.

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Tanzania - Travel guide

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