A Backpackers Guide to Tanzania

Tanzania, blessed with some of the most beautiful natural landscapes in the world. Not an expensive country yet if you want to ‘do everything’ here you’ll spend a fortune and be heading home before broke before you know it! Highlights include:

The Serengeti with it’s mesmerizing annual Wildebeest Migration (a sight to behold, I assure you, one of the coolest things I have ever seen) starting around January in the south Serengeti, moving north to Kenya and the Masai Mara around August/September. Safaris generally start at $300 for 3 or 4 days if you do you homework and stick to your guns.

wildebeest migration on a budget

lions cubs in tanzania

Lions in the Serengetti

Kilimanjaro and its soon to be extinct ‘snow-capped’ peak. Truly beautiful and if you listen to the experts the glacier at the top which give Kili its iconic snow cap is said to melting at exponential rates and by 2020 will be gone, so get a move on if you want to see it! Maybe this finite time scale explains their extortionate climbing fees and park entry :P (currently (2010) $850-$5000 depending on your bartering skills and willingness to rough it, read here for more details about how to climb it cheap).

Climbing Kilimanjaro on a budget

climbing kilimanjaro for cheap

Zanzibar. A world apart from mainland Tanzania, it’s a hidden Arabic alcove where, if you avoid the resorts and 5* hotels, you can truly get lost in an island forgotten by time. Bluer water than you can ever imagine, giant tortoises, food markets to make your mouth water and a full moon party to rival Thailand’s commercialized Ko Pha Ngan.

Stonetown Zanzibar

Sunset in Zanzibar

The Ngorogoro Crater. More animals than you can shake a stick at a price that excludes most backpacking budgets. If you can afford the $100+ a night to stay at the luxury camps then indulge yourself because this place is something else. To be brutally honest though, if I had to choose between a safari and climbing Kili, Kili gets it every time. Although, I’m a dude and we like to climb things, conquer things, beat things so maybe that’s not anything to go by!

Ngorongoro crater on a budget

Tanzania has everything and the month or so I spent here went in a heartbeat. I’ll go into the logistics about climbing Kili as soon as I get some better internet (the internet in Somalia isn’t as good as I expected :P) because I know I was fed up googling “how to climb Kilimanjaro cheaply”, “the cheapest way to climb Kilimanjaro”, “climbing Kilimanjaro on a budget” etc, I’ll give you the lowdown on genuine ways to do it on the cheap. One thing to remember for now – don’t book it on the internet, wait until you arrive to sort it out!

Tanzania Fast Facts

Budget: $20-$30 per day (excluding safaris and other excursion like Kilimanjaro)

Food: around $1 per meal for street food and $2-$5 for a semi-decent café/restaurant

Accommodation: $4-$10 per night per person

Transport: Buses are around the standard dollar an hour (i.e 10 hours = $10) however, they are ALWAYS 1-3 hours late, always! There are 2 types of buses – a 2×2 and a 3×2 basicallly how many seats across a row. Two seats and an aisle and two more seats OR 3 seats, an aisle and 2 more seats. The 3×2 is cheaper, if you get this TAKE AN AISLE SEAT! You’ll have more space, and if there’s more than one of you, don’t sit beside each other on a 3×2, there won’t be enough room – be warned!

People: really open in the majority of the country but around the tourist centres (Zanzibar, Moshi, Arusha they can be pretty pushy :S)

Religion: Zanzibar is pretty much 100% Islamic so try to be culturally sensitive in terms of behaviour and dress. Mainland is more of a mixture but cultural awareness is always important in any part of the world.

Currency: 1500 shillings is $1 USD. Foreign ATMs in most major towns and cities

Visa: $50 available on arrival by land or by plane. ($100 for Irish passports!! :S)

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48 thoughts on “A Backpackers Guide to Tanzania

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  14. rose

    Hi. Thanks for the great article. Im planning on going to Tanzania from mid february to mid march about a month. priority is a safari. would like to do full moon at zanzibar also. and since reading your article kili might be doable. my question is, can anyone climb it or do you have to be super fit. Also is it possible to see victoria falls? i want to spend as least as possible. appreciate anymore tips and suggestions.

    Reply
  15. Barry Naughton

    Great write up! thinking of Tanzania myself this year as well and this guide is exactly the sort of research it would usually take me ages to do :) When you said above 2000 euros, is that for the whole two weeks? That seems great. Not booking anthing does seem incredibly risky, but ill take your advise on that! Can i ask what airline you flew with? well be coming from Ireland

    Reply
  16. Fabiola

    Hi Johnny, i m wondering what s include in that $300-400 for 3 nights safari ?
    Should we pay like extra fee, such as the entrance fee or so?

    Thanks

    Reply
  17. Ben

    Hey Johnny,
    Im doing a research course in the middle of august where we backpack the Selous game reserve for two weeks. It looks like i’ll have around 6 days before my course and around 4-5 days after it before i head back too school. I really want to do kili, think i’d be able to squeeze it in on either end of my course? Also i was thinking of doing zanzibar, is it still fun to do solo? Would you have any other suggestions of things to do, i’ll likely be on my own but definitely am down to do many things.

    thanks

    Reply
  18. Joe

    Hi Johnny,
    Must say, I’ve read all the comments below and they have been very useful, so thank you for that.
    I just wanted your advice on a few things. Me and my friend and new to backpacking and chose tanzania through parental recommendation. We plan to spend 2-3 weeks volunteering at a local project in Iringa (central). We then have 3-4 weeks to play with before our return flight. I’m just a bit worried that we may have slightly overdone our welcome. We a re both students and don’t have massive budgets, for the 3-4 weeks probably around 1000 GBP (roughly 1500 USD). We want to do Zanzibar but as you previously said in a post you would get bored after a week. So that leaves roughly 2-3 weeks left? On our budget, what would you recommend we do to utilise our time there best? Is our budget only worth a lesser stay?
    Thanks for your time
    Joe

    Reply
  19. Natalia

    Hi!

    I need your wise advise..I’m going with another person to Tanzania from the end of March till middle of April (14 days and rainy season!). Our plan was doing a safari 4-5 days in the north, finish the trip in Zanzibar for 5-6 days and fill the gaps between both plans.So…we are getting crazy when quoting safaris since there’s a huge difference between some prices. I read your advise is not booking anything before and just try straight away from there. So, where do you think is gonna be better an easier to get a safari to do: Moshi, Arusha,Kili airport, Dar?

    Also, I was trying to do Lake Manyara, Tarangire, Serengeti and Ngorongoro, but after some questions I’m thinking of leaving Lake Manyara. I’ve heard it’s better to choose between Tarangire and Manyara, and dont want to miss Tarangire in this period). What do you think? Also, do you have any suggestion of another things we can do in out stay in Tanzania? Our budget is about 2000 euros per those 2 weeks..Do you think we can make it?

    Thanks for this awesome site! :)

    Reply
    1. Johnny Post author

      anywhere should be fine, but i found Dar was easiest, although Moshi is pretty good too :) 2000 Euro is EASY! no probs there at all, best bet is to get to Tanzania, leave around 500 or 600 euro for your 5 days in Zanzibar and see how awesome a safari u can get for the rest of the budget! Remember, barter hard!

      Reply
  20. Laura

    Hey Johnny,

    Thanks for the quick summary on Tanzania. 2 questions:

    1. I am planning on spending 3-4 weeks with my best friend (female) backpacking throughout Tanzania this summer. We are both blond/norwegian looking and have a couple of reservations about backpacking alone there. Do you expect this to be a problem? (we both have extensive travel experience but not alone in an African nation)

    2. What is the best way to find a reputable guide company for Kilamanjaro?

    Reply
  21. Raj

    Great site.

    I’m planning a trip to Tanzania with a mate for September. Want to pack in Kili, a safari and zanzibar. Is that too much? which safari would be best to do around that time?

    Reply
  22. Nicola

    Hi,

    I am planning a trip to Tanzania to do some volunteer work with some spare time at the end. If I have the funds I was planning on doing a safari and kiliminjaro hike. I like your idea of organizing it when I get there but my only concern is that I am a solo female traveler. Do you think this is a good idea or would I be safer paying a bit more in advanced to have it organised with a group.

    Thanks

    Reply
  23. Steffen

    Hi Johnny,
    first of all thanks for the great article.
    Me and my chica are just about to decide where to go backpacking in september, and Tanzania made it into the top-2.

    My backpacking experience so far is Thailand, Vietnam and Costa Rica, being alone on the road in those. What I’m trying to figure out now, is if Tanzania is really a good idea for my girl and me (this year).

    Now that I’m reading about it, I find that most articles on the web say that Tanzania is more or less safe, more or less expansive and incredibly beautiful. Makes a 2:1 for Nicaragua…well Tanzania has lions, so maybe 2:1.5 :)

    My girl doesn’t have much backpacking experience, the budget is slim and right now I’m a little worried about the possibilities to freely move without watching our backs all day. Of course, I’m talking apart from the high-touristic places.

    We will certainly not be able to spend our three weeks on booked trips like climbing mountains and safaris. A 4 day Safari for sure, a couple days on the beach. The rest will be spontaniously decided.
    Usually I’m walking around a lot in the countries I’m backpacking and go whereever the wind takes me without much planning in advance. Preferably checking the cabins next beach (if the stars are right [or not]) and taking turns when I least expect it. I enjoy that freedom a lot and it is indeed one of my core requirements for wonderful backpacking spent.

    Do you think that the – well, let’s call it – feeling in Tanzania permits this kind of backpacking or do we have to start being organised the moment we enter the country? Booking trips, guides and getting to know the streets to walk rather then getting to know the streets you shouldn’t.
    I don’t mind pushy sales-dudes too much (you got’em everywhere) and I don’t mean that one shouldn’t walk under the stars in the poor quarters (shouldn’t go into the ghetto at night even in Berlin).
    I do mind however if everybody is a push sales-dude (Sharm-El-Sheikh was terrible in that) or not to be able to walk under the stars at all, because the place is just too dangerous for that. I had my moments in Costa Rica as well, but there most of the “don’t-go-to-the-end-of-the-beach”-talk was just talking.

    What do you think, is Tanzania a good choice for us or is it better to wait a couple years until the budget permits to spend our vacation on the Killi and in the Serengeti?

    Reply
    1. Johnny Post author

      tough call bro! Tanzania is generally safe, but safaris and kili don’t come cheap. If you come now, in the future when u have more cash, will u come back and do safaris and kili? maybe not, so in that case, i’d be inclined to leave it until you can do it ‘properly’. There are plenty of other places to visit in the world that don’t need all that cash and are stil amazing. Have u considered ethiopia?

      Reply
  24. Andy

    Hey Johnny. I will be finishing my 2nd year teaching in South Korea early next spring and i’m stuck as where i should travel to before briefly returning home. I will have 3 weeks to do so and i’m thinking Delhi and/or Dhaka for a week before heading to Africa- i’m thinking Kenya or Tanzania. What are your thoughts? I will be traveling alone and definitely want to go on a safari before heading back to England. What is the price difference between the kenya and Serengeti safari compared to the quality. The prices quoted online are crazy…. Cheers, mate!

    Reply
    1. Johnny Post author

      hey andy, great plan! Dhaka to Delhi by land is awesome (and cheap!). For the safari, it’s pretty similar bro, but for around $400 you can get a quality 4 or 5 day safari, no other costs included. Have a cracking time mate, sounds amazing :)

      Reply
  25. SEG

    Hi Johnny,

    How does not booking anything before we leave saves us cash? what if we go there and not find anything to book or everything too expensive?

    We are a couple planning a trip of 10 days there… how much do you think our budget could be? we want to pay as low as possible

    Reply
    1. Johnny Post author

      because booking there is SOOOOO much cheaper, less than half normally. You’ll find endless cheap deals when you arrive. It’s a leap of faith i know, but one that will save you thousands :) 10 days – depends if you’re climbing kili, going to zanzibar, going on safari etc mate :S

      Reply
  26. sharon

    Hi Johnny,

    My partner and I will be in Tanzania/ Zanzibar for a total of 23 days.. I have to say the information about budget travelling in Tanzania is pretty slim and I’m starting to be worried..
    We were aiming at about 7-10 days chilling in Zanzibar, a 4 day Safari and maybe a climb of a smaller mountain (Kili will be too expensive).. We wanted to travel through local villages and see the culture – but again, I feel the information on the net is lacking.. I have to admit, I havent bought the lonely planet, as a friend is going to give me hers next week and I am really counting on that to fill in many gaps..
    In any case, I was wondering if you can give us some suggestions of places to visit, maybe suggest a route and names of places to stay that you recommend.

    Thanks for the help and the insight,

    :) Sharon

    Reply
    1. Johnny Post author

      hey sharon, your plan is cool, but i’d be bored with 10 days in Zanzibar! you could even venture down to lake malawi if you wanted a real adventure :) or go on a longer safari, ngorogoro crate is amazing! Dar is very non-descript, you won’t wanna spend any time there, that’s for sure

      Reply
      1. Joe

        Hi Johnny,
        Must say, I’ve read all the comments below and they have been very useful, so thank you for that.
        I just wanted your advice on a few things. Me and my friend and new to backpacking and chose tanzania through parental recommendation. We plan to spend 2-3 weeks volunteering at a local project in Iringa (central). We then have 3-4 weeks to play with before our return flight. I’m just a bit worried that we may have slightly overdone our welcome. We a re both students and don’t have massive budgets, for the 3-4 weeks probably around 1000 GBP (roughly 1500 USD). We want to do Zanzibar but as you previously said in a post you would get bored after a week. So that leaves roughly 2-3 weeks left? On our budget, what would you recommend we do to utilise our time there best? Is our budget only worth a lesser stay?
        Thanks for your time
        Joe

        Reply
  27. Abdulrahman

    Thanks so much for your helpful notes
    I just need your advise …with 2000 $ Us budget ..is it enough for a 10 days trip starting from Darussalam airport and heading to Arusha , Serengeti and ngrongro crater ?
    Food : anything like fruit or Indian food ( its more similar to the Arabian).
    Accommodation: anything ( a clean bed with running water bathroom is a dream =).
    Transportation : anything cheap ..i have no problem at all yet I prefer trains if available .
    Only wildlife and daily street photography are my aim .

    Reply
    1. Johnny Post author

      Hey mate,

      Have u anything booked yet? For sure that is more than enough. From the airport to Arusha, go to Ubungu bus station and get the 5am bus to Arusha (about 10 hours). From there book your safari, including Ngorogoro and Senergetti, a 5 or 6 day safari with both those places will be expensive – maybe around $1000 if you look around. It’s definitely possible tho mate. Just remember, don’t book anything before u leave!! That’s ur best bet at saving cash :)

      Reply
      1. abdulrahman

        No I did not book anything there till now … I will take your Appreciated advise .
        It’s expected to be at the end of this month inshalla.
        Thank you so much bro .. I was so confused to decide between Tanzania and Malaysia ..but you made lot of things clear to me and its Tanzania now =)

        Reply

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