Safety & Security in Tanzania
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. Unfortunately, terrorism has become part of life in another country and it is difficult if not impossible to safeguard against it. Fortunately, incidents are very rare in Tanzania 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 like Dar and Arusha. You can walk alone around the city with a normal precaution. An overnight stay at a reputable hotel or an organized visit to one of the many attractions in or around the city is fine.
- Avoid isolated areas, especially isolated stretches of the beach.
- In cities and tourist areas take a taxi at night. Only take taxis from established taxi ranks or hotels. Never enter a taxi that already has someone else in it other than the driver.
- When using public transport, don’t accept drinks or food from someone you don’t know. Be skeptical of anyone who comes up to you on the street asking whether you remember them from the airport, your hotel or wherever. Take requests for donations from ‘refugees’, ‘students’, or others with a grain of salt. Contributions to humanitarian causes are best done through an established agency or project.
- Be wary of anyone who approaches you on the street, at the bus station, or in your hotel offering safari deals or claiming to know you. Never pay any money for a safari or trek in advance until you’ve thoroughly checked out the company, and never pay any money at all outside the company’s office.
- In western Tanzania, especially along the Burundi border, there are sporadic outbursts of banditry and political unrest. At the time of writing, things are currently quiet, but it’s worth getting an update locally.
- In tourist areas, especially Arusha, Moshi, and Zanzibar, tourists can be quite pushy, especially around bus stations and budget tourist hotels. Do everything you can to minimize the impression that you’re a newly arrived tourist: walk with purpose. Duck into a shop if you need to get your bearings or look at a map.
- Arriving for the first time at major bus stations, have your luggage as consolidated as possible, with your valuables well hidden under your clothes. Try to spot the taxi area before disembarking and make a beeline for it. It’s well worth a few extra dollars for the fare. While looking for a room, leave your bag with a friend or a reliable hotel rather than walking around town with it. Buy your bus tickets a day or two in advance (without your luggage).
- Carry your passport, money, and other documents in a pouch against your skin, hidden under loose-fitting clothing. Or, store valuables in a hotel safe, if there’s a reliable one, ideally inside a pouch with a lockable zip to prevent tampering.
- Keep the side windows up in vehicles when stopped in traffic and keep your bags out of sight (eg on the floor behind your legs).
- When bargaining or discussing prices, don’t do so with your money or wallet in your hand.
Tanzania, like most parts of Africa, is home to several tropical diseases to people living in more temperate and sanitary climates. However, with adequate preparation, and a sensible attitude to malaria prevention, the chances of serious mishap are small. To put this in perspective, your greatest concern after malaria should not be the combined exotica of venomous snakes, stampeding wildlife, gun-happy soldiers or the Ebola virus, but something altogether more mundane, a road accident.
Private clinics, hospitals, and pharmacies can be found in most large towns, and doctors generally speak good English. Consultation fees and laboratory tests are inexpensive when compared with most Western countries, so if you do fall sick, don’t allow financial considerations to dissuade you from seeking medical help. Commonly required medicines such as broad-spectrum antibiotics, painkillers, asthma inhalers and various antimalarial treatments are widely available. If you are on any short-term medication prior to departure, or you have specific needs relating to a less common medical condition (for instance if you are allergic to bee stings or nuts), then bring necessary treatment with you.
Solo Travel in Tanzania
While solo travelers may be a minor curiosity in rural areas, especially solo women travelers, there are no particular issues with traveling solo in Tanzania, whether you’re male or female. The times when it’s advantageous to join a group are for safaris and treks (when going in a group can be a significant cost-saver) and when going out at night. If you go out alone at night, take taxis and use extra caution, especially in urban and tourist areas. Whatever the time of day, avoid isolating situations, including lonely stretches of beach.
Women travelers in Tanzania have little to fear on a gender-specific level. Over the years, I’ve met several women traveling alone in Tanzania, and none had any serious problems in their interactions with locals, aside from the hostility that can be generated by dressing skimpily. Otherwise, an element of flirtation is about the sum of it, perhaps the odd direct proposition, but nothing that cannot be defused by a firm ‘No’. And nothing for that matter that you wouldn’t expect in any Western country, or – probably with a far greater degree of persistence – from many male travelers.
It would be prudent to pay some attention to how you dress in Tanzania, particularly in the more conservative parts of the Swahili coast. In areas where people are used to tourists, they are unlikely to be deeply offended by women travellers wearing shorts or other outfits that might be seen to be provocative. Nevertheless, it still pays to allow for local sensibilities, and under certain circumstances revealing clothes may be perceived to make a statement that’s not intended from your side.