When to Travel to Tanzania
The best time to visit Tanzania is during the main dry season, from May to October. The rains make access to some of Tanzania’s parks and reserves difficult, and trekking also becomes a little more cumbersome. Scroll down for more detailed information about when to go on safari in Tanzania, when to visit Zanzibar, when to trek Kilimanjaro, and more detailed climate information.
Best Time to go on Safari in Tanzania
If you want to see the great annual migration of millions of zebra and wildebeest unfold, head to Tanzania’s northern parks (the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Conservation Areas). The best time to witness the migration is February to March when the wildebeest and zebras have their young. Not only can you enjoy seeing baby animals, but the predators are at the highest number too. Because the herds also concentrate in the south of the Serengeti, it’s easy to plan your wildlife viewing and lodging in that area. The migration usually moves out of the Serengeti area by the end of June and doesn’t return until December.
June to November is Tanzania’s dry season and is the best time to visit all of the parks, especially Tanzania’s southern parks. They become more difficult to reach during the wet season, and during the dry season the animals tend to congregate around permanent water and it isn’t so hot and humid.
All of Tanzania’s parks suffer from the rains, which generally fall from March to May in the north, and from November to May in the south and west. Roads get washed out and given the sheer size of Tanzania’s parks, the animals tend to spread out; this makes wildlife viewing less satisfying (if you’re looking for sheer numbers of animals). December through March can get quite hot and humid, especially in western and southern Tanzania, which makes it a little uncomfortable to spend a lot of time in the bush.
If you want to track chimps in western Tanzania, the best time to go is the dry season (June to November) for better access to the parks. However, the wet season (December to April) makes it a little easier to find the chimps since they don’t have to roam too far to get water.
Best Time to Trek Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Meru
Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Meru are a stones throw away from one another, so the trekking seasons are basically the same. The best time to trek is January to March and September to October.
Best Time to Enjoy a Beach Holiday in Zanzibar
The coastal city of Dar es Salaam and the islands of Zanzibar stay warm and humid year-round with some humidity off-set by the Indian Ocean breeze. Rainfall can happen any month, but the heavy rains fall from mid-March to May and November to January. One of the best times to travel to Zanzibar is during one of the cultural festivals that take place on the island: Sauti za Busara takes place in February, and the Zanzibar International Film Festival takes place in June.
Tanzania’s Climate and Average Temperatures
Tanzania lies just south of the equator and, on the whole, enjoys a tropical climate, except in the high mountains (like Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Meru) where temperatures can get below freezing, especially at night. Along the coast, it stays quite hot and humid with heavy and reliable rainfall, especially during the rainy season. Tanzania has two rainy seasons, generally the heaviest rains (called Masika) usually fall from mid-March to May and a shorter period of rain (called mvuli) from November to mid-January. The dry season, with cooler temperatures, lasts from May to October.
Medical Requirements: Health & Immunizations
No immunizations are required by law to enter Tanzania if you are traveling directly from Europe or the United States. If you are traveling from a country where Yellow Fever is present, you will need to prove you have had the inoculation.
Several vaccinations are highly recommended when traveling to Tanzania. They include:
- Yellow Fever
- Hepatitis A
It is also recommended that you are up to date with your polio and tetanus vaccinations. Rabies is also prevalent and if you’re planning to spend a lot of time in Tanzania, it may be worth getting the rabies shots before you go. Contact a travel clinic at least three months before you plan to travel.
There’s a risk of catching malaria pretty much everywhere you travel in Tanzania. While it’s true that areas of high altitude like the Ngorongoro Conservation Area are relatively malaria-free, you will usually be passing through areas where malaria is prevalent in order to get there. Tanzania is home to the chloroquine-resistant strain of malaria, as well as several others. Make sure your doctor or travel clinic knows you are traveling to Tanzania (don’t just say Africa) so he or she can prescribe the right antimalarial medication. Tips on how to avoid malaria will also help.
Visas and Requirements
English is widely spoken but a few words of Swahili can be useful and will be appreciated by the people you meet. Kiswahili phrase books are readily available in book stores in many countries and in Tanzania.
Major foreign currencies Euros, Pounds, and Australian and US dollars may be exchanged at local banks and bureau de change in the main towns and tourist areas. US dollars are accepted at more banks, bureau de change, restaurants, and lodges. Exchange rates for US notes less than $50 receive lower rates and travelers cheques are exchanged at even lower rates, and recently, at fewer places. At many places, US bank notes printed before 2000 are not accepted. This is due to a suspicion that notes before this time are counterfeit. Credit cards are not widely accepted at safari companies, lodges, and restaurants and carry poor exchange rates or additional charges to cover processing fees. Some banks in Mwanza, Arusha, Dar es Salaam, and Moshi offer ATM facilities against international credit cards (VISA and Mastercard only), but ATMs are not available elsewhere and those that are available are occasionally unreliable. Don’t change money in the street.
All visitors traveling to Tanzania should have a valid international certificate of vaccination against Yellow Fever. Malaria is endemic, but is preventable; use insect repellent, cover up at sundown, sleep under a mosquito net, and take antimalaria prophylactics as advised by your doctor. Bring all prescription medicines, spare glasses, contact lenses and solution, sunscreen, and a small first aid kit. Drink only bottled or boiled water.
Generally dry and hot with cool nights/mornings June to October; short rains November to mid December; long rains March to May but the seasons may vary. The coastal strip is hot and humid all year-around.
National parks and conservation areas are home to the beautiful wildlife of Tanzania. Please feel comfortable in these areas, but respect the temperaments of the wildlife. Some of the wildlife is timid and some can be aggressive. Please read the National Park Rules and follow the rules. The rules were written by people who understand the wildlife and wish only to protect them and you. When in doubt, ask questions and be sure to follow the instructions of rangers and guides. Do not get out of your vehicle when in a wilderness area except in designated areas such as picnic areas, camp grounds, or lodges. Read and follow signs posted in the parks, campsites, and lodges. Follow the suggestions of park and lodge employees who have experience in the areas where you are visiting.
Pack lightweight, washable clothes plus a sweater for early morning game drives, a sunhat, sunglasses, and sunscreen. Long sleeves and trousers in light-colored fabrics help discourage insect bites. Shorts for women are acceptable (but not too short). Women should carry a wrap to cover legs in the village and towns as revealing clothes can cause offense. Staying at a lodge, bring your swimsuit along.
Baggage on safari is limited to one bag, plus one small piece of hand baggage per person (excluding a camera bag). In total, this should not weight more then 20 kilograms. Suitcases and other heavier items can be stored in town hotels while clients are on safari.
Bring an adequate supply of film and batteries for your camera with you. Purchasing film and batteries here can be costly and inconvenient. Protect your cameras from dust and keep equipment and film cool. It is courteous to ask permission before photographing local people. We discourage you from paying for pictures of local people.
Contributions and Begging
In cities, towns, and the rural areas you will witness areas of extreme poverty. There are many government, church, and nongovernmental programs addressing the needs of people of need. Please do not handout gifts to children on the streets this encourages them to leave school and beg in areas common for tourists to pass. Beware of official-looking papers to sponsor people for school fees or medical expenses. If you would like a list of area projects that are in need of donations please contact your agent.
It is recommended that you purchase travel insurance to cover baggage or valuables in the case of loss or theft. It is recommended to purchase emergency medical evacuation insurance in the case of an accident or medical emergency. There are many affordable and reputable companies available on the Internet that can provide coverage.
Not obligatory, but a tip of $20 per day for short safaris and $10 per day for long safaris shall be appreciated.
Power for charging batteries and other electronic equipment is available in most lodges. Tanzania’s power voltage is 240, but power failures, surges, and troughs are common. Bring a universal adaptor and a torch (flashlight) or headlamp.
Tanzania is a generally safe country, but don’t invite temptation. Keep your eyes on your belongings. Don’t walk in the towns or cities at night – take a taxi. Don’t carry cameras or large amounts of cash, and beware of pickpockets and hawkers. Use hotel safety deposit boxes to safeguard valuables and obtain a receipt. Leave valuable jewelry at home.