Tanzania is one of East Africa’s most culturally diverse and fascinating countries. The country has something to offer everyone, from its sandy beaches and turquoise waters to its lush green mountains and sprawling plains.
And, of course, Tanzania is home to some of the world’s most iconic wildlife, including lions, elephants, and giraffes. While safety should be a concern when traveling to any new country, Tanzania is generally considered a safe destination.
Nonetheless, there are always risks associated with travel, but most visitors to Tanzania experience no problems whatsoever.
Of course, you’ll still want to exercise caution and common sense when traveling to any new place. Furthermore, certain areas are best avoided, so we advise traveling with a reputable tour operator who knows which areas are unsafe.
But, if you take the time to plan, research, and take sensible precautions, Tanzania is likely to be the safest African country you will ever visit.
If you’re considering adding Tanzania to your itinerary, check out our in-depth guide to help you plan the perfect trip. We cover everything from the top safety concerns, neighborhoods to avoid, and what to consider before departing.
Is Tanzania Safe to Visit?
The 2022 Global Peace Index ranks Tanzania as the 7th most peaceful country in Africa and the 86th most peaceful country in the world. While no destination is entirely risk-free, this ranking shows that Tanzania is a relatively safe place to visit.
That being said, there are still safety concerns that potential visitors should be aware of. One of the biggest dangers in Tanzania is the prevalence of diseases like malaria, cholera, and HIV/AIDS.
Petty crimes, such as pickpocketing, mugging, and drive-by bag snatchings, are common in Tanzania. At the same time, violent crimes like armed robbery and sexual assault are on the rise in some regions such as Zanzibar and Dar es Salaam.
Additionally, political instability and unrest are other potential concerns, particularly near the borders of Mozambique, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
On June 21, 2022, the U.S. issued a travel advisory for Tanzania, warning citizens to “exercise increased caution” when visiting the country. The advisory explicitly cites crime and terrorism as Tanzania’s two biggest safety concerns.
Crime in Tanzania
Street crime in Tanzania, such as pickpocketing and mugging, is widespread. Bag snatchings from cars or motorcycles are the most common occurrence, sometimes even turning deadly when victims resist or get dragged behind the vehicle.
So if you ever find yourself in this situation, it’s best to just let go of your belongings. Violent crimes like armed robbery are another concern in Tanzania, with areas such as Zanzibar and Dar es Salaam seeing exceptionally high crime rates.
And unfortunately, Tanzanian police are often ineffective in responding to these crimes, which have led to accusations that they’re among the most corrupt in East Africa.
In addition, sexual violence is also a prevalent concern in Tanzania, particularly in tourist areas like Zanzibar. In most cases, the victims are citizens of Tanzania; however, there have also been reports of attacks on travelers.
As a result, we advised travelers, especially women, to never accept food, drinks, or rides from strangers and to try to travel in groups when possible.
Avoiding Bad Neighborhoods in Tanzania
When traveling to Tanzania, one must be aware of the areas prone to crime. Some of the most dangerous regions in Tanzania include:
- Zanzibar – the presence of tourists on the island draws in pickpockets and muggers. Just keep your eyes open, and your personal belongings close.
- Dar es Salaam – the capital city has a high crime rate, meaning vigilance and common sense are necessary.
- Arusha – as with Zanzibar, this city is a popular tourist spot because of its proximity to Mt. Kilimanjaro and Serengeti National Park, so thieves and scammers are prevalent.
The border regions with Mozambique, Rwanda, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo due to violent conflict.
When you find yourself in any of these areas, take extra care to keep yourself safe. This includes avoiding isolated areas along the beaches, walking the streets at night, and not carrying large amounts of cash or valuables.
Avoiding Crime in Tanzania
While Tanzania is a relatively safe country to visit, there are still some risks that potential visitors should know about. Taking some basic precautions can help ensure you have a safe and enjoyable trip to Tanzania.
The best way to stay safe in Tanzania is to:
- Avoid isolated areas and walking alone at night
- Keep your personal belongings next to you at all times
- Don’t accept rides from strangers or unlicensed taxis
- Don’t flash large amounts of cash or valuables in public
- Avoid political demonstrations and protests
In addition to following these safety tips, it’s also a good idea to consider purchasing travel insurance before your trip. Travel insurance will cover you in an emergency, such as lost luggage, canceled flights, or medical evacuation.
Political Instability and Unrest in Tanzania
While Tanzania is generally peaceful, some regions are prone to political instability and unrest. The border regions of Mozambique, Rwanda, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo are volatile due to rebel groups and militias.
These groups have been known to cross into Tanzania and carry out attacks, so be aware of the situation if you travel to these areas. The island of Zanzibar is also a hotbed of political unrest thanks to the ongoing conflict between the Zanzibari government and opposition parties.
There have been several protests and riots in recent years, so it’s wise to familiarize yourself with the political situation before traveling to Zanzibar.
Health Concerns in Tanzania
Unfortunately, many diseases are prevalent in Tanzania, including malaria, cholera, and HIV/AIDS. Consult a medical professional before your trip and take the necessary precautions to protect yourself, such as getting recommended vaccinations and taking the proper medication.
Malaria, a mosquito-borne disease, poses a significant health risk in Tanzania, with 93% of the population living in transmission areas.
The most surefire way to protect yourself from contracting malaria is to take anti-malarial medication and take any steps to prevent mosquito bites. Cholera is another disease found in Tanzania, particularly in densely populated areas lacking effective sanitation practices.
Cholera can be spread through water and food contaminated with the bacterium called Vibrio cholerae, so always pay close attention to anything you eat and drink while in Tanzania.
Lastly, HIV/AIDS is also a major concern in Tanzania. According to USAID, an estimated 5% of the adult population is infected with HIV/AIDS. In addition, this virus disproportionately affects Tanzanian women and girls, with women making up 80% of new infections.
Things to Consider When Visiting Tanzania
So, have you decided you’re going to visit Tanzania? Congratulations! Get ready to undertake an incredible journey to one of the world’s most beautiful and varied countries. Here are some things you’ll want to keep in mind as you plan your trip.
Visas Are Required
If planning a trip to Tanzania, get your visa in order before you go. While many countries offer visa-free travel to Tanzania, this doesn’t mean that you won’t need a visa to enter the country. Instead, you’ll likely need to apply for a tourist visa in advance.
The process is relatively simple, but it can take a few weeks to get your visa approved. Once you have your visa, keep it safe! If you’re found without a valid visa, you may be detained, subject to fines, or even deported.
Before you visit Tanzania, make sure you’re up-to-date on your vaccinations. A few diseases common in the region, such as cholera and typhoid, can be prevented with vaccines and medication.
The CDC provides a list of required and recommended vaccinations for Tanzania, so check it before traveling. By getting vaccinated, you’ll protect yourself from getting sick while you’re in Tanzania and help prevent the spread of disease in the region.
Pay Attention to the Weather
Tanzania is in the tropics, which means it experiences wet and dry seasons. The wet season runs from March to May and again from November to January, while the dry season runs from June to October.
During the wet season, rainfall is heavy and persistent, making road conditions poor and increasing the risk of flooding.
The dry season is a better time to visit, as the weather is more stable and there is less chance of flooding. However, we recommend being aware of the forecast even during the dry season.
Pack The Right Clothing
Tanzania is a country full of contrasts. You’ll find everything from snow-capped mountains to white, sandy beaches, and the weather can vary dramatically from one region to the next. That’s why you need to pack suitable clothing when visiting Tanzania.
If you’re planning to hike up Mt. Kilimanjaro, you’ll need warm clothes and sturdy shoes. But if you’re headed to the coast, you’ll want to pack lighter items that will help keep you cool. And no matter where you go, bring a hat and sunglasses to protect yourself from the sun.
Tanzania is a conservative country, and travelers should be aware of this before visiting. Conservative views can affect travelers in different ways.
For example, women are expected to dress modestly, public displays of affection are frowned upon, and public drinking should be kept to a minimum. Additionally, the government criminalizes same-sex relationships, and LGBTQ+ travelers are not safe or welcome in Tanzania.
In recent years, Tanzanians have become downright hostile to LGBTQ+ people. So, sadly, if you’re LGBTQ+, it’s best to avoid traveling to Tanzania at this time.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some of the most common questions regarding Tanzania’s safety.
Is Tanzania Safe for U.S. and European Travelers?
Yes, for the most part. Tanzania is considered safe to visit, and violent crime against foreigners is rare. However, like in any country, some areas are best avoided. Travelers should exercise caution in urban areas, particularly in Dar es Salaam, and, as mentioned, should avoid non-essential travel to parts of the country that border unstable regions.
Is Tanzania a Rich or Poor Country?
Tanzania is often thought of as a poor country, but the truth is that it is a complex country with both rich and poor areas. Most of the population lives in rural areas and relies on subsistence agriculture for their livelihoods.
In contrast, the urban areas of Tanzania are home to a growing middle class and an emerging economy.
While poverty is still widespread in the rural towns of Tanzania, the country has made significant progress in recent years. Thanks to economic reforms and investments in producing goods and services, Tanzania’s GDP has been growing steadily.
What Language Do They Speak in Tanzania?
The official language of Tanzania is Swahili, which is also one of the most widely spoken languages in Africa. Swahili is a Bantu language that originated on the East African coast and is historically regarded as the language of Tanzania and Kenya.
In addition to Swahili, English is also an official language of Tanzania. English speakers are easy to find in urban areas but rare in rural ones.
Furthermore, only a tiny minority of Tanzanians are native English speakers. Instead, most English speakers in Tanzania learned the language through secondary schooling or contact with English-speaking tourists.
Can You Use U.S. Dollars in Tanzania?
Although the official currency in Tanzania is the Tanzanian shilling, U.S. dollars are also widely accepted. In fact, most businesses in Tanzania, particularly those catering to tourists, prefer U.S. currency because it’s more stable than their own.
That said, carrying some local currency with you isn’t a bad idea when traveling through Tanzania. This will be handy for small purchases, such as bus fare or snacks. In addition, you can exchange U.S. dollars for Tanzanian shillings at most banks and currency exchanges in Tanzania.
What Is Tanzania Known For?
Tanzania is known for its diverse wildlife, including the big five game animals (lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo, and rhino). One notable place to view these animals is in the Serengeti National Park, which is also one of Tanzania’s most popular tourist destinations.
In addition to its wildlife, Tanzania is also home to Mount Kilimanjaro, the tallest mountain in Africa. This legendary mountain stands at 19,341 ft and is a popular destination for hikers and climbers worldwide.
It’s estimated that around 35,000 people attempt to summit Kilimanjaro each year. Finally, Tanzania is also known for its unique culture and history.
The country was historically home to several powerful empires, such as the Swahili Sultanate and the German East Africa colony. These days, Tanzania is a melting pot of cultures, with more than 120 ethnic groups living within its borders.
So, Is Tanzania Safe to Visit?
Tanzania is a fascinating country with much to offer visitors. Despite some challenges, such as disease prevalence and petty crime, Tanzania is a welcoming place with much to see and do.
Travelers who respect local culture and customs will have a wonderful experience in this beautiful country. As for whether it’s safe to visit Tanzania or not, the answer is generally yes. However, as with any destination, exercise caution and be aware of your surroundings.
Avoiding non-essential travel to areas bordering Somalia or the Democratic Republic of Congo is advised. But in general, travelers should feel safe exploring the many sights and attractions Tanzania has to offer. Safe travels!