Once I heard my friend was off to study Swahili and live in Tanzania for 6 months, I had this sudden urge to make this country on top of my bucket list of places to visit. From stunning parks of wildlife to sunny beaches and vibrant cultures, Tanzania has a lot to offer. If you’re planning an adventure to this stunning country, here are some tips and things to know before your trip:
1. Dress conservatively (especially for Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar)
Tanzania is in general a conservative country, with Zanzibar and coast being predominantly Muslim. Dressing modestly will help you blend in and be respectful for the variety of different cultures. Wear dresses, skirts , and pants that fall below the knees and have your shoulders covered in places like Zanzibar (however, tank tops are acceptable in Dar Es Salaam).
2. You will spend a majority of your safari sitting
For some reason, I was surprised with the amount of sitting required on safari (you can read more about my safari experience in Tanzania here). However, it is not safe to leave the vehicle while out on safari, unless otherwise noted by your guide. But safari tours do everything they can to get you up close with the residents as safely as possible without meddling with nature.
3. Tanzanians are very hospitable
Tanzanians highly value politeness, respect, and modesty and it shows. Tanzanians are very social and those in the same community look out for each other. It is considered polite to take the time to greet people before asking for advice or directions. Always shake hands with your right hand, greeting the oldest person first. I found Tanzanians to be very friendly and kind.
4. You will typically be charged 2-3 times as much if you’re a Western traveler
I, at least found this to be particularly true among the tourist areas, with souvenirs being high in price. While haggling is accepted in Tanzania, my safari group and I struggled to negotiate with merchants in some of these markets between the parks and Arusha, as many merchants have a set price for these items and will not negotiate any lower. For some visitors, this may not be a concern, but it is something to be aware of.
5. Learning a few Swahili words will go a long way
Between my guide book for Tanzania and my Mango language app, I tried squeezing in Swahili lessons for beginners before my trip. While many Tanzanians speak some English, I found they greatly appreciated the effort in speaking some Swahili words and phrases. Just don’t fall under the the tourist trap of saying “jambo” for hello. The correct way to say hello is “hujambo” or “mambo” for “what’s up?”. However, Tanzanians are too polite to correct tourists!
These tips and facts barely scratch the surface of Tanzania’s customs and etiquette, but will go a long way while being respectful of the different cultures. I highly recommend visiting this beautiful country and spend time connecting with both nature and the locals.