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Introduction to Tanzania

Step out into the vast open plains of Tanzania and you suddenly feel very, very small. And so you should. You've just joined one of the largest, wildest animal populations in the world. Wildebeest, monkey, antelope, lion, cheetah, crocodile, gazelle, flamingo - they're all out there.

An economically poor country troubled by rowdy neighbours and opportunistic colonial powers, Tanzania offers some of the best wildlife spotting opportunities on the continent. Its famous parks make the many drab towns here well worth the stopover.

Full country name: United Republic of Tanzania

Area: 945090

Population: 33000000

Capital city: Dodoma

People: 99% native African (over 100 tribes), 1% Asian, European and Arabic

Languages: Swahili, English, indigenous.

Religion: 40% Christian, 35% Muslim, 20% indigenous beliefs

Government: Republic (multi-party state)

President: Benjamin William Mkapa

GDP: US$7 billion

GDP per capita: US$290

Inflation: 4.2%

Major Industries: Tobacco, sugar, sisal, diamond and gold mining, oil refining, cement, tourism

Major Trading Partners: India, Germany, Japan, Malaysia, Rwanda, the Netherlands, South Africa, Kenya, UK, Saudi Arabia, China

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Traveler Facts

Visas: All visitors from Europe, North America and Australasia require a visa. You will need proof of yellow fever vaccination if travelling to Zanzibar.

Health risks: yellow fever (Yellow fever is transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito. There is an effective vaccine against yellow fever, so if you have been immunised, you can basically rule this disease out. Symptoms of yellow fever range from a mild fever which resolves over a few days to more serious forms with fever, headache, muscle pains, abdominal pain and vomiting. This can progress to bleeding, shock and liver and kidney failure. The liver failure causes jaundice, or yellowing of your skin and the whites of your eyes – hence the name. There's no specific treatment but you should seek medical help urgently if you think you have yellow fever), malaria (If you are travelling in endemic areas it is extremely important to avoid mosquito bites and to take tablets to prevent this disease. Symptoms range from fever, chills and sweating, headache, diarrhoea and abdominal pains to a vague feeling of ill-health. Seek medical help immediately if malaria is suspected. Without treatment malaria can rapidly become more serious and can be fatal. If medical care is not available, malaria tablets can be used for treatment. You should seek medical advice, before you travel, on the right medication and dosage for you. If you do contract malaria, be sure to be re-tested for malaria once you return home as you can harbour malaria parasites in your body even if you are symptom free. Travellers are advised to prevent mosquito bites at all times. The main messages are: wear light-coloured clothing; wear long trousers and long-sleeved shirts; use mosquito repellents containing the compound DEET on exposed areas (prolonged overuse of DEET may be harmful, especially to children, but its use is considered preferable to being bitten by disease-transmitting mosquitoes); avoid perfumes and aftershave; use a mosquito net impregnated with mosquito repellent (permethrin) – it may be worth taking your own, and impregnating clothes with permethrin effectively deters mosquitoes and other insects), schistosomiasis (bilharzia) (Also known as bilharzia, this disease is carried in freshwater by tiny worms that enter through the skin and attach themselves to the intestines or bladder. The first symptom may be tingling and sometimes a light rash around the area where the worm entered. Weeks later, a high fever may develop. A general unwell feeling may be the first symptom, or there may be no symptoms. Once the disease is established, abdominal pain and blood in the urine are other signs. The infection often causes no symptoms until the disease is well established (several months to years after exposure), and damage to internal organs is irreversible. Avoid swimming or bathing in freshwater where bilharzia is present. Even deep water can be infected. If you do get wet, dry off quickly and dry your clothes as well. A blood test is the most reliable test, but it will not show positive until a number of weeks after exposure), cholera (This diarrhoeal disease can cause rapid dehydration and death. Cholera is caused by a bacteria, Vibrio cholerae. It’s transmitted from person to person by direct contact (often via healthy carriers of the disease) or via contaminated food and water. It can be spread by seafood, including crustaceans and shellfish, which get infected via sewage. Cholera exists where standards of environmental and personal hygiene are low. Every so often there are massive epidemics, usually due to contaminated water in conditions where there is a breakdown of the normal infrastructure. The time between becoming infected and symptoms appearing is usually short, between one and five days. The diarrhoea starts suddenly, and pours out of you. It’s characteristically described as ‘ricewater’ diarrhoea because it is watery and flecked with white mucus. Vomiting and muscle cramps are usual, but fever is rare. In its most serious form, it causes a massive outpouring of fluid (up to 20L a day). This is the worst case scenario – only about one in 10 sufferers get this severe form. It’s a self-limiting illness, meaning that if you don’t succumb to dehydration, it will end in about a week without any treatment. You should seek medical help urgently; in the meantime, start re-hydration therapy with oral re-hydration salts. You may need antibiotic treatment with tetracycline, but fluid replacement is the single most important treatment strategy in cholera. Prevention is by taking basic food and water precautions, avoiding seafood and having scrupulous personal hygiene. The currently available vaccine is not thought worthwhile as it provides only limited protection for a short time), hepatitis (Several different viruses cause hepatitis; they differ in the way that they are transmitted. The symptoms in all forms of the illness include fever, chills, headache, fatigue, feelings of weakness and aches and pains, followed by loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, light-coloured faeces, jaundiced (yellow) skin and yellowing of the whites of the eyes. Hepatitis A is transmitted by contaminated food and drinking water. Seek medical advice, but there is not much you can do apart from resting, drinking lots of fluids, eating lightly and avoiding fatty foods. Hepatitis E is transmitted in the same way as hepatitis A; it can be particularly serious in pregnant women. Hepatitis B is spread through contact with infected blood, blood products or body fluids, for example through sexual contact, unsterilised needles (and shaving equipment) and blood transfusions, or contact with blood via small breaks in the skin. The symptoms of hepatitis B may be more severe than type A and the disease can lead to long-term problems such as chronic liver damage, liver cancer or a long-term carrier state. Hepatitis C and D are spread in the same way as hepatitis B and can also lead to long-term complications. There are vaccines against hepatitis A and B, but there are currently no vaccines against the other types. Following the basic rules about food and water (hepatitis A and E) and avoiding risk situations (hepatitis B, C and D) are important preventative measures), meningococcal meningitis (Not every headache is likely to be meningitis. There is an effective vaccine available which is often recommended for travel to epidemic areas. Generally, you're at pretty low risk of getting meningococcal meningitis, unless an epidemic is ongoing, but the disease is important because it can be very serious and rapidly fatal. You get infected by breathing in droplets coughed or sneezed into the air by sufferers or, more likely, by healthy carriers of the bacteria. You're more at risk in crowded, poorly ventilated places, including public transport and eating places. The symptoms of meningitis are fever, severe headache, neck stiffness that prevents you from bending your head forward, nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light, which makes you prefer the darkness. With meningococcal meningitis, you may get a widespread, blotchy purple rash before any other symptoms appear. Meningococcal meningitis is an extremely serious disease that can cause death within a few hours of you first feeling unwell. Seek medical help without delay if you have any of the symptoms listed earlier, especially if you are in a risk area. If you've been in close contact with a sufferer it's best to seek medical advice), typhoid (Also known as enteric fever, Typhoid is transmitted via food and water, and symptomless carriers, especially when they're working as food handlers, are an important source of infection. Typhoid is caused by a type of salmonella bacteria, Salmonella typhi. Paratyphoid is a similar but milder disease. The symptoms are variable, but you almost always get a fever and headache to start with, which initially feels very similar to flu, with aches and pains, loss of appetite and general malaise. Typhoid may be confused with malaria. The fever gradually rises during a week. Characteristically your pulse is relatively slow for someone with a fever. Other symptoms you may have are constipation or diarrhoea and stomach pains. You may feel worse in the second week, with a constant fever and sometimes a red skin rash. Other symptoms you may have are severe headache, sore throat and jaundice. Serious complications occur in about one in 10 cases, including, most commonly, damage to the gut wall with subsequent leakage of the gut contents into the abdominal cavity. Seek medical help for any fever (38?C and higher) that does not improve after 48 hours. Typhoid is a serious disease and is not something you should consider self-treating. Re-hydration therapy is important if diarrhoea has been a feature of the illness, but antibiotics are the mainstay of treatment), HIV/AIDS (HIV/AIDS is a serious risk, though is not as prevalent as in Uganda. HIV (Human Immuno-deficiency Virus) develops into AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome), which is a fatal disease. Any exposure to blood, blood products or body fluids may put the individual at risk. The disease is often transmitted through sexual contact or dirty needles - body piercing, acupuncture, tattooing and vaccinations can be potentially as dangerous as intravenous drug use. HIV and AIDS can also be spread via infected blood transfusions, but blood supplies in most reputable hospitals are now screened, so the risk from transfusions is low. If you do need an injection, ask to see the syringe unwrapped in front of you, or take a needle and syringe pack with you. Fear of HIV infection should not preclude treatment for any serious medical conditions. Most countries have organisations and services for HIV-positive folk and people with AIDS. For a list of organizations divided by country, plus descriptions of their services, see www.aidsmap.com)

Time Zone: GMT/UTC + 3

Dialling Code: 255

Electricity: 230V ,50Hz

Weights & measures: Metric

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The biggest annual event in Tanzania begins at the Serengeti National Park near the Kenyan border, when huge herds of wildebeest head for greener pastures in Kenya. Starting in April each year, more than 2 million of these animals migrate across the Serengeti's southern plains accompanied by zebras, antelopes, gazelles, lions and tourists. Tanzanian Independence Day (December 9) somehow pales in significance.

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Best time to Visit

The standard tourist season is in January and February, when the hot, dry weather at this time of year is generally considered to be the most pleasant. But to catch the Serengeti at its best you want to avoid the dry season when virtually all the animals go on holiday to Kenya. Be prepared if you're heading into the big wet, as many roads - particularly on the south coast - can become too squishy to drive on. One of the best times to go is late-June to October, when the rains have finished and the air is coolest.

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Currency / Costs / Approx. Spending

Currency: Tanzanian Shilling


Budget: US$0.50-3

Mid-range: US$3-10

High: US$10-20

Deluxe: US$20+


Budget: US$10-15

Mid-range: US$15-20

High: US$20-30

Deluxe: US$30+

Hotels range from fleapits and brothels to grandiose establishments. The choice is yours and there's usually plenty to choose from. On the rougher side, camping sites with facilities are scarce except in national parks. For a comfortable enough budget trip, you can get by on US$25 a day. Around USD100 a day is quite normal for a safari, but 'luxury' safaris can exceed USD200. With a little sniffing about, good value restaurants and hotels make it possible to really live it up for no more than USD30-35 a day.

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Dar es Salaam

Dar es Salaam is Tanzania's premier city. The 'Haven of Peace' started life as a fishing village in the mid-19th century when the Sultan of Zanzibar got the urge to turn a creek (now a harbour) into a safe port and trading centre. Now it's a teeming metropolis of 1.5 million people.

Like most African cities, there are substantial contrasts between the various parts of the city. But while the busy central streets around the Kariakoo Market and clock tower are a world away from the tree-lined boulevards of the government quarters to the north, there's no evidence of slums.

Mt Kilimanjaro National Park

An almost perfectly shaped volcano rising sheer from Tanzania's far northeast plains, the fabled Mt Kilimanjaro is one of Africa's most magnificent sights. Snowcapped and not yet extinct, at 5895m (19,335ft) it's the highest peak on the continent.

From cultivated farmlands on the lower levels, the mountain rises through lush rainforest to alpine meadow and finally across a barren lunar landscape to the twin summits. The rainforest is home to animals including elephant, buffalo, rhino, leopard and monkey.

Ngorongoro Conservation Area

The views from the 600m (1968ft) Ngorongoro Crater rim are spectacular, but the real treasure lies on its 20km (12.4mi)-wide floor. The area has been compared to Noah's Ark and the Garden of Eden - but has the added advantage of actually existing.

, Numbers have dwindled, but Noah would have no trouble finding lion, elephant, rhino, buffalo and many of the plains herbivores such as wildebeest, Thomson's gazelle, zebra and reedbuck, as well as countless flamingo wading in the shallows of Lake Magadi, the soda lake on the floor of the crater.

Serengeti National Park

Sprawling across 14,763 sq km (5757 sq mi), Serengeti is Tanzania's most famous game park. Here you can get a glimpse of what much of East Africa may have been like in the days before the 'great White hunters'. The mindless slaughter of the plains animals reached its nadir in the late-19th century.

More recently, trophy hunters and poachers in search of ivory have added to the sickening toll. There are literally millions of hoofed animals on the vast Serengeti plains. They're constantly on the move in search of grassland and are watched and preyed upon by a varied parade of predators.


Low in political coups and high in bliss-charged activities, the Zanzibar Archipelago is a mere hop, skip and a jump from the Tanzanian mainland. Its heady lure has tempted travellers, traders, slave-traders and colonists for centuries, and the archipelago continues to reflect this tumultuous past.

Zanzibar Island (known locally as Unguja) gets most of the headlines, but the archipelago also consists of lush Pemba to the north and numerous smaller islands and islets poised in luxuriously turquoise seas. There are countless unexplored pockets and loads of opportunities for flat-out hedonism.

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Disclaimer: We've tried to make the information on this web site as accurate as possible, but it is provided 'as is' and we accept no responsibility for any loss, injury or inconvenience sustained by anyone resulting from this information. You should verify critical information like (visas, health and safety, customs, and transportation) with the relevant authorities before you travel.

Sources: CIA FactBook, World FactBooks and numerous Travel and Destinations Guides.

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