Tanzania is a trendy travel destination these days. More and more people are choosing Tanzania for their next vacation because of the one-of-a-kind experiences offered here: the opportunity to trek Africa’s highest mountain: Mount Kilimanjaro; Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Conservation Area (both – UNESCO World Heritage Sites) which boast the largest collection of wild animals in East Africa (and, may be, in the world!); and the shores of Zanzibar that lure visitors with their sandy beaches, turquoise waters and vibrant reefs.
However, planning your trip to Tanzania may sometimes be a challenge. With thousands of travel companies offering advice and itineraries, it is easy to get lost in the ocean of information. So, how to plan the best trip to Tanzania? Here are ten tips to help you plan your Tanzanian travels.
Book your tickets to Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO)
If it is your first visit to Tanzania, then we would certainly recommend starting with its northern part, which is home to the iconic Kilimanjaro, Serengeti and Ngorongoro. Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO) is the gateway to this part of Tanzania. Central tourist hubs – the city of Arusha and Moshi town – are just 1-hour drive from this international airport. This is also where most of the tour operators are based.
Although the airfare to Dar es Salaam, in Southern Tanzania is sometimes more attractive, it creates another obstacle: how to get to Northern Tanzania for your safari. Local airlines often cost $150-200 USD extra, not to mention an additional connection (and possibly overnight stay) at Julius Nyerere International Airport in Dar es Salaam. Arriving straight to Kilimanjaro is always a better plan.
Check the best time for your trip
Tanzania is on the equator and it does not have winter, spring, summer or fall as we do in the West. Instead, it has two rainy seasons
- from early October till late December
- from mid March till early June
Correspondingly, the dry seasons fall during the following periods:
- from early January till early March
- from mid June till late September
Dry seasons are in some ways better – days are sunnier, it is warmer and, of course the roads and trails are less muddy. It may be especially important for those planning to climb Mt Kilimanjaro, where a rainy trek will be an added challenge. On the other hand, rainy seasons are good for those who want to avoid large crowds, or photographers looking to capture photos of animals against vivid greenery. Also, tour operators and lodges normally offer seasonal discounts for rainy season bookings, so traveling during the rainy season can be more budget-friendly.
Book your trip in advance
Because the popularity of Tanzania is on the rise, many trips run by reputable tour operators are often fully booked many months before the adventure. Therefore, don’t delay contacting a travel company and booking your plans.
Book with registered, licensed tour operators
Avoid booking with freelance guides or small, unregistered “garage” companies. You may end up not getting exactly what you wanted, or, in the most extreme cases, lose your travel investment to the hands of scammers. Always ask for a tour operator’s license and check their website and TripAdvisor reviews – this is the best way to verify that a business is authentic.
Booking with a reputable company may be more expensive than with an unlicensed company, but it will certainly save you from unpleasant surprises during your adventure.
Check a tour operator’s cancellation terms
Covid-19 has wreaked havoc on international travel. Tanzania was one of the first countries to open its borders to international visitors. Tanzanian tour operators also adapted to the new normal, and most of them revised their cancellation terms, offering flexible cancellation and trip postponement terms. However, it is a good idea to double-check before you make a booking.
Don’t forget insurance!
It is always advisable to have travel insurance, and since COVID-19, more than ever! Travel insurance protects your international flights, and any lost luggage, too. Make sure to choose the right package for your unique trip, keeping in mind any adventure travel (like trekking or diving) you may plan to do in Tanzania.
NOTE: if you are planning to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, your insurance cover should include high-altitude trekking activities and helicopter evacuation
7 – Process your visa online
Although it is possible to get a Tanzania tourist visa on arrival, the queues in Kilimanjaro International Airport may sometimes be large, especially during the holiday time. Ordering your visa online through Tanzania Immigration Department website is a better and hassle-free way to get your tourist visa in advance. .
8 – Do not buy safaris or Kilimanjaro climbs from “flycatchers” on the streets of Moshi and Arusha
There are hundreds of “street travel agents” in the popular safari hubs of Moshi and Arusha, touting their adventure trips to the passing tourists.
Avoid making this kind of arrangement – most of such trips are poorly planned and organized. Local budget companies (most of them unlicensed and unregistered) run them in a cost-cutting mode, which actively contributes to the maltreatment of porters and other unfair and unjust practices that take advantage of disadvantaged workers.
There is also a risk to fall for scammers, who will take your money and then disappear altogether. Tracing them down will and getting the cash back will be nearly impossible. Make sure you book with registered businesses that have an official office location.
If you are planning to hike Mt Kilimanjaro, better bring the gear with you
Hiking Mount Kilimanjaro is a one-in-a-lifetime experience, and this is what attracts thousands of tourists to Tanzania every year. However, to reach its top you will need proper clothes, hiking boots and equipment. While it is possible to hire gear in Tanzania, there are very few places where you may rent high-quality equipment for the adventure. Therefore, it is advised to bring your own kit.
Include both Mt Kilimanjaro hike and a safari in your itinerary!
Some people arrive in Tanzania to climbKilimanjaro or to go on a safari. We strongly recommend you trying to squeeze both attractions to your itinerary – these places are just brilliant! Mt Kilimanjaro National Park, Serengeti and Ngorongoro are UNESCO World Heritage Sites with unique ecosystems and thrilling vistas. Unless you plan to visit Tanzania for the second time, these places are unquestionably must-see spots, so make sure to include both a safari and a Mount Kilimanjaro trek in your Tanzania travel plans.