Safety and Security
Tanzania is, overall, a safe country to visit. This is even more so if your visit is primarily an organized safari. Almost a million tourists visit Tanzania every year, and most visits are trouble-free. There have been several terrorist attacks in the past, but the last one – where a hotel was bombed – was in 2002. Fortunately, incidents are very rare, and the chance of being a random victim is almost negligible. As with many third-world countries, theft and muggings are relatively common, but most incidents are in cities such as Dar es Salaam and Arusha. Walking alone around the city is not recommended. An overnight stay at a reputable hotel or an organized visit to one of the many attractions in or around the city is fine.
High risk throughout the country except in high altitude mountains over 2000m including the Ngorongoro Crater rim, Mt. Kilimanjaro and parts of the Eastern Arc Mountains. Most safari parks are high-risk zones. The highest risk of transition is in the rainy season from November to May. See websites below for more detailed advice.
Wildlife Viewing Safety Precautions
- Always follow your guide’s instructions and guidelines.
- Stay in the car during game drives except at designated areas where you are allowed to get out of the car.
- Never walk off far to pee behind a bush – ask for advice from your guide about where to go.
- Don’t stand up in the car, hang out of the window or sit on the roof.
- Don’t drive too close to animals if you are on a self-drive safari. Back off if the animals seem disturbed.
- Don’t drive between elephants, especially females and their young. Never get too close to elephants, particularly lone males.
- Don’t talk or laugh too loud.
- Stay close to your guide and group on a walking safari and always walk in single file.
- Watch where you put your feet while walking in the bush.
- Never run or jog in a wildlife area as it entices predators to attack. For the same reason, never run away from a predator when confronted. Instead ask your guide for help and instructions or slowly walk backwards while facing the predator.
- Never walk between a hippo and water. It may panic and charge because its safety route to the water is blocked.
- While on a canoe safari, stay in the shallows, to avoid hippos. Keep enough distance from animals on river banks.
- While camping, or in a tented camp, never leave food in your tent; it will attract wildlife.
- Cover your arms and legs in the evening and use insect repellent to protect against mosquitoes. The repellent should contain at least 30% DEET.
- Wear a hat, use sunscreen and drink plenty of water.
- Don’t wear bright and colorful clothes or too much perfume. This is especially true for walking safaris and, to a lesser extent, for other wildlife viewing activities. In tsetse-fly areas it is recommended not to wear dark-colored clothing – such as black or dark blue – since it attracts these stinging flies. Bring warm clothes for morning game drives in open vehicles during the cold months of June, July and August.
General Travel Safety Precautions
- Buy good travel and health insurance and check that all activities on your trip are covered.
- Check the entry requirements for the country you are visiting, including: number of empty pages and months left before your passport expires, visa requirements, if holding a return ticket is required, etc.
- Get all the required vaccinations, antimalarial medication and insect repellent before you depart. Insect repellant should contain at least 20-30% DEET.
- Lock all bags before handing them over at check-in at the airport. Keep all valuables in your hand luggage or money belt, including your passport and bank cards.
- Make photocopies of important documents like tickets, insurance papers, passport and visa and keep them separate. It is also recommended to scan these documents and email a copy to yourself and somebody at home, along with your flight other travel details. If you don’t have a scanner, you can leave photocopies with somebody at home.
- Put your valuables in the safety deposit box of the hotel and make sure to take at least one bag that you can lock.
- Check with your tour operator what to pack for your trip. It is important to be protected against the sun and have suitable clothing for wildlife watching (see the Wildlife watching safety precautions page for more info).
- When small charter flights are part of your trip, check the luggage weight limits.
- Don’t drive at night as the road conditions are a lot different from Western countries. Potholes and road edges are harder to spot, livestock may wander onto roads and other vehicles may drive haphazardly and even without lights.
- When driving in areas known for car hijackings (like in and around Johannesburg) you should lock all doors and keep your windows closed. Don’t stop at hijacking hotspots, like empty parking lots or the emergency lane of highways. The risk is significantly higher after dark.
- Don’t offend or irritate police officers. Always show respect. In some African countries police officers might try their luck by asking for a bribe. If so, don’t get aggressive, it’s your choice as to whether you agree to a bribe or not but remember, corruption is being encouraged with each successful bribe. A light attitude and a joke might well get you off the hook.
- Don’t take photos of government or military buildings and constructions.
Cities & Urban Areas: Safety Precautions
The advice below will help further decrease the already small risks.
- Don’t wear valuables like jewelry, expensive watches or money belts visibly. Only carry the valuables you need for that day and leave everything else in the safety deposit box at your hotel, including your passport and bank cards.
- Keep a small stash of cash at hand separately so you don’t have to reveal where you keep the rest of your money when paying for small things on the street.
- It’s always safer to walk in a large, unfamiliar city with at least two or more people.
- Don’t walk around at night; take a taxi.
- When taking a taxi without a meter, always get information about the trip price up front, before you get in.
- Try not to look too much like a typical tourist by wearing special safari clothing, openly carrying a guidebook, placing your camera around your neck, etc.
- Reading a guidebook or looking at a map on a street often attracts unwanted attention.
- Don’t be afraid to be firm with people who sell things on the street. An effective approach is to look disinterested, say ‘no’ once or twice and ignore them after that.
- Without being paranoid, be skeptical of people approaching you with a sad story that plays on your emotions. These stories usually aren’t true and, in most cases, end in asking for money.
- It is always good to be aware of your personal space – get used to knowing what people are around and behind you (again, without being too paranoid about it).
- Be very careful when drawing money from an ATM. Go elsewhere if you suspect people hanging around. Don’t let anybody help you or talk with you at the ATM. Always cover the number keys with one hand while entering your personal code with the other. In cities it is always good to go to an ATM with a friend so they can keep an eye on things while your back is turned.
- When having a meal or a drink it’s good to get in the habit of tying your bag to your chair or secure it by putting the bag handle under a chair leg while sitting on the chair.
- On public transport keep your bag within sight at all times.
- When traveling with all your luggage and belongings, always carry your passport and bank cards on you using a money belt and make sure you wear it underneath your clothes, not visible to outsiders. This way, in case your bags get lost or stolen, you’ll still have what’s most important. Travelling this way is also recommended for domestic and international flights, since luggage can get lost.
- Always lock your car doors and close windows when driving in busy towns. Never leave a car unattended with valuables or luggage visible. If somebody walks up to your car unexpectedly and wants to talk to you, stay in the car and open your window just enough to be able to communicate, but not far enough for them to put their hand in.
- Ask the hotel if it is safe to walk around the local area – when new in a place it’s always good to seek local advice on safety issues.