Stay safe & healthy
As in many impoverished countries, caution should always be exercised, particularly in tourist areas, such as Arusha, Stone Town (Zanzibar), and Dar es Salaam. Violent crime against foreigners is not uncommon, particularly against those walking alone at night, which is not recommended. Pickpocketing and con artists are also common. Pickpockets work crowded markets, like Kariakoo, and bus stations. Don't be fooled by small children who are often forced into a life of crime by older kids or parents -- never carry anything of value in your pockets and don't let expensive camera equipment dangle from your neck. Don't leave bags unattended or even out of your sight when on the beach.
See specific area or city articles for details.
In general, avoid isolated areas, especially after dark. Travelling in large groups is safer. If there are many people or security guards around (e.g. city center areas) you should be relatively safe.
The safest way to travel is by taxi with a driver you know, especially when it's dark out (late night or early morning). Although it's uncommon, taxi drivers have been known to rob tourists. Get the number for a taxi you trust, from your hotel or a local.
Buses have infrequently been stopped by robbers on long-distance (often overnight) routes. If you have to travel a long distance by bus, it might be better to break it into multiple day-only trips, or to travel by plane or train.
In the event of an incident, the police may or may not make a strong effort to identify the culprits, but obtaining a police report is necessary if you plan on filing an insurance claim later, or if important documents are stolen. Make sure the police report indicates if your papers were stolen; otherwise you may have difficulty leaving the country. You should immediately contact your local embassy or consulate in the event that your passport is taken.
There are very few sidewalks in Tanzania, always pay careful attention to the traffic and be prepared to move out of the way, as vehicles do not make much effort to avoid pedestrians. In Tanzania, cars have priority.
The best way to avoid touts, sellers, dealers etc., when they inevitably come up to you and say "jambo" is to either say nothing, or to say "thank you" or "asante", and to keep moving. Some may be offended by 'no', and persistent touts will be encouraged by any kind of interaction at all.
Tanzania, like many developing countries, suffers from corruption. Police are poorly paid - many make less than $40/month. You may be solicited for a bribe by an official willing to turn a blind eye to your infraction, fabricated or otherwise. Some travellers are very much averse to paying bribes to anyone, especially in a country with so many needy but honest citizens.
Fraudsters are known to impersonate police, sometimes in the guise of an "immigration official" who identifies a problem with your documents. They will flash official-looking papers at you. But there are many plainclothes officers as well. And if you are confronted with someone in uniform, they will almost certainly be an actual officer.
On-the-spot-fine is one term used for a bribe. Those words are meant to initiate a conversation about money. You may be told that the real fine is TSh40,000 or more and that for TSh20,000 or 30,000, paid immediately, you can be on your way and avoid a trip to the Police Station to pay a higher fine.
If you are certain you are in the right, and do not want to pay a bribe, some strategies are:
- Involve other people. Fraudsters or corrupt officials are unlikely to pursue their schemes near an audience. You can ask bystanders for help on the pretext of not understanding the officer.
- Invoke higher powers. Insisting on going to the local police station is a good way to make an illegitimate issue go away. Suggesting a visit to your country's embassy (e.g. to have an official there help translate the conversation, due to one's poor knowledge of the local language and laws) is also effective. At this point, they usually have a look of horror on their face, since they don't want any real officials involved. Asking for bribes is illegal, and there is an office of corruption where they can be reported.
- Play dumb. Politely explain to the person that you don't understand the nature of the infraction, even if you do. Tanzanians are not direct, and prefer to imply what they want, instead of asking outright. Tell them you've only just arrived in the country, even if it's your 100th visit. If you know some Kiswahili, don't let on. It may only make things harder.
- Insist a receipt with an official stamp -- a request that is most likely to be met with confusion and concern. The idea is to show that you don’t know that this is actually a bribe and that you simply try to play by the rules. Hopefully, after 10 or 20 minutes of a circular, but always polite, conversation, they may send you on your merry way. A word of caution about this approach. Corrupt officials have become wise to this and in one case a person requesting a receipt was told the cashier's office was closed and would not open until the next morning. The options were to pay the fine or spend the night in prison. It appears this was not a bluff on the part of the officer. The fine was paid and no receipt was issued. Be aware that the game is constantly changing.
Also keep in mind that:
- Discussing money or negotiating the fine may encourage the perception that you understand the nature of the conversation (i.e. you are willing to pay a bribe).
- Directly accusing the officer of corruption is likely to be counter-productive; it is important that you allow the officer to save face.
- If you insist on going to the police station, you may be expected to give the officer a ride. If you are alone, and especially if the "officer" is plainclothes, this may not be a good idea. If you are approached by multiple people and are alone, under no circumstances get in their vehicle - insist on taking a taxi. And once you get to the station, just pay whatever fine is quoted and insist on a receipt. This may end up costing you more than the bribe, but at least this cop won't get any money out of you, and he/she may think twice before flagging down other foreigners. Also, demonstrate respect for their authority, never raise your voice, and never swear or insult them. Whether you are right or not does not matter at that point.
Finally: Incidents of excessive force involving tourists are rare, but that doesn’t mean it cannot happen. For instance, police have been known to be drunk on the job, which can seriously inhibit their ability to reason. As in any situation where someone is trying to get money out of you, by force or threat of force, it's better to be safe than sorry; it's only money.
Illnesses and diseases
As in most African countries, the AIDS/HIV infection rate is high. Tanzania's HIV/AIDSinfection rate was 9% at the end of 2003 UNAIDS [www] . This figure is deceiving, however, since several distinct segments of the population, such as artisanal miners, itinerant fisherman, truck drivers, and sex workers, have HIV infection rates significantly higher than the national average. Do not have unprotected sex in Tanzania or anywhere else, for that matter.
After food-borne illnesses, malaria should be your greatest concern. Malaria is transmitted by mosquitoes and is endemic to Tanzania. You may find yourself at risk in almost every part of the country, although this risk is diminished at altitudes above 2000 m. Care should always be taken between sunset and sunrise, especially during the rainy season. Always sleep under a treated net; wear trousers and closed footwear, and use an effective repellent. It's amazing, but many large hotels don’t automatically install mosquito nets in their rooms. However, a call to the reception requesting one is seldom ignored. In some cases, the nets have several large holes, but a bit of adhesive tape or tying a small knot to cover the hole should do the trick.
Prior to leaving for Tanzania, you may also wish to consult a physician about taking some anti-malarial medication -- before, during, and after your trip. If, in spite of your best efforts, you do contract malaria, it is usually easily treated with medication that is readily available throughout most of the country. If you plan on being in isolated locations, you may wish to drop by a clinic and purchase a batch. Note that symptoms associated with malaria can take up to two weeks before manifesting themselves. The rule of thumb for ex-pats living in Tanzania is this: Any fever lasting more than a day should be cause for concern and necessitate a trip to the clinic for a malaria test. Upon your return home, should you show signs of a possible malaria infection, notify your doctor that you’ve visited a malaria-infected country.
Other major illnesses to avoid are typhoid and cholera. In theory, typhoid can be avoided by carefully selecting food and drink and by avoiding consumption of anything unclean. Typhoid infection, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) , is marked by 'persistent, high fevers...headache, malaise, anorexia, splenomegaly, and relative bradycardia.'
Cholera infection is marked by vomiting and sudden, uncontrollable bowel movements, which can dehydrate and ultimately kill the sufferer within 48 hours. It is important to seek medical attention as quickly as possible. Cholera is more or less a seasonal phenomenon in Zanzibar, where outbreaks frequently occur during the rainy seasons. Vaccines and/or oral prevention are available for both typhoid and cholera.
Yellow fever is an acute viral disease transmitted through the bite of a particular mosquito. Although not as common as malaria, it is nonetheless a serious disease, and travelers to Africa should consult a physician about being vaccinated against it. If you plan on traveling to other countries after your stay in Tanzania, be advised that some countries, such as South Africa, may require proof that you’ve been vaccinated against Yellow Fever before allowing you to enter the country. If you aren’t or can’t prove it, you will be offered two options: 1) receive the Yellow Fever vaccination at the airport, and 2) immediately leave the country. The Yellow Fever vaccine (as any cavvine) can have side effects for some people, so you may wish to get the vaccine in your home country, under controlled conditions. Most physicians will not administer the Yellow Fever vaccine to children under the age of 1 year, and a letter from a physician explaining this will ensure that your infant child will not receive the vaccine at the airport. - People travelling to Tanzania from INDIA, There is acute shortage of the yellow fever vaccine in India so please get yourself vaccinated at the airport in Dar-ES-Salaam as soon as you land there.
Gastrointestinal Distress, a.k.a. traveler’s diarrhea, is the result of one, some, or all of the following factors: Unhygienic food preparation and storage, changes in diet, fatigue, dehydration, and excessive alcohol consumption. Prevention is your best defense. Eat only raw vegetables and fruits you can peel and which have been rinsed in clean water. Avoid street or restaurant food that appears to have been left in the open for an extended period of time. Eat only freshly fried or steamed food. You should drink only bottled water, which is available throughout the country. You should even brush your teeth with it. If you must drink tap or well water, boil it for a minimum of 10 minutes or use a high quality filter.
Rift Valley Fever: In January 2007, there was an outbreak of RFV in the Kilimanjaro area. Consumption of unpasteurized milk and improperly cooked meat from infected cows led to a number of deaths in the area. Following the deaths, beef sales dropped sharply all over the country, despite the limited scope of the infection. In general, meat served in upscale restaurants is of superior quality. However, care should be taken when indulging in street foods or when eating in remote areas.
Insects and Animals
Tanzania has its fair share of venomous and deadly insects and animals, such as Black and Green Mambas, scorpions, spiders, stinging ants, lions, sharks, and others. You should take care when walking through high grass; when visiting national parks, or when shoving your hand under rocks or into dark holes -- unless you know what you are doing. In actuality, the likelihood of encountering these and other similar dangers is remote.
The insect/animal most residents fear is the mosquito.
Hospitals and dispensaries in Tanzania do not meet western standards. If you require surgery or any complex medical procedure you will have to be evacuated to Kenya, South Africa or Europe. You should ensure your medical insurance covers such expenses. Outside of Dar es Salaam, and especially outside of the larger cities and towns, you will be hard pressed to get even basic medical help as many doctors are poorly trained and/or have limited equipment and medication. You should ensure you have your own medical kit to hold you over in case of an emergency. Misdiagnoses are frequent for even common ailments such as malaria, as high as 70% of the cases.
Dar es Salaam is served by a few clinics staffed by western trained physicians. However, some surgical procedures still require evacuation out of Tanzania.
- IST Medical Clinic: Just off Haile Selassie Road past the Chole Road intersection, behind the International School of Tanganyika, Msasani Pinensula, Tel: +255 22 260 1307, Emergency: +255 754 783 393.
- Premier Care Clinic Limited: 259 Ali Hassan Mwinyi Road, Namanga, Kinondoni, P.O. Box 220, Dar es Salaam, Tel: +255 22 266 8385, Mobile: +255 748 254 642.
- Aga Khan Hospital: Corner of Ocean Road & Sea View Road, Tel: +255 22 211 5151.
- Bugando Hospital, Mwanza, Tanzania Tel: +255 68 40610. The University College of Health Sciences at Bugando Medical Center is established as a Catholic college having four schools: Medical, Nursing, Pharmacotherapy and Dental.
- Mbeya Referral Hospital, PO Box 419, Mbeya, Tanzania Tel: +255 65 3576.
- Mnazi Mmoja Hospital, PO Box 338, Zanzibar, Tanzania Tel: +255 54 31071.
Other Government run hospitals used for electives:
- Hindu Mandal Hospital, PO Box 581, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania Tel: +255 51 110237/110428.
- Agha Khan Hospital, PO Box 2289, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania Tel: +255 51 114096.
- Nachingwea District General Hospital, Nachingwea, Lindi, South Tanzania
- Teule District Designated Hospital, Muheza, Tanga Region, Tanzania.
- Berega Mission Hospital, Berega, Morogoro, Tanzania.
- St Anne’s Hospital, PO Box 2, Liuli (via Songea), Tanzania (connected via USPG charity).
- St Francis Hospital, Kwo Mkono, Handeni District, Tanzania.
- A flying doctor service is based in Arusha, Tel: +255 2548578.
For any medical issues please don't hesitate to contact: Ministry of Health, PO Box 9083, Dar es Salaam Tel: +255 51 20261 Fax: 51 39951
In Moshi Municipality (Kilimanjaro Region) there is the renowned KCMC - Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre which is in the foothills of the snow capped, Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. It was opened in March 1971 by the Good Samaritan Foundation, who planned and raised large funds to build and equip it.