Tanzania: everything you need to know before you leave

General information:

  • Official name: United Republic of Tanzania
  • Area: 947,303 km2
  • Population: approximately 55 million (2018); 45% under 15 years of age
  • Life expectancy: 66 years
  • Illiteracy rate: 13
  • Main religions: Christian (around 61% of the total population), Muslim (around 35%)
  • Languages: English and Kiswahili (official). There are also around 158 tribal languages/African dialects.
  • Administrative capital: Dodoma
  • Economic capital: Dar-Es-Salaam
  • Currency: Tanzanian shilling (Tsh) The Tanzanian shilling: €1 = TSH2025 (October 2015).
    You can change your money at the airport, in banks and in most of the country’s lodges. The US dollar is widely used and may be sufficient to pay for all your local purchases (notes dated after 2004).

tanzania’s history in a few dates:

  • 8th century: the coast and current archipelago of Zanzibar were Arab and part of the nation of Oman.
  • 15th century: Vasco da Gama explores Zanzibar, which subsequently attracted the Portuguese for commercial reasons.
  • 16th century: the Portuguese occupy the island. It was soon taken over by the Arabs of Oman.
  • 1840: Zanzibar becomes the capital of Oman, allowing the slave and ivory trade to flourish.
  • 1861: The Sultan died. The Sultanate of Oman and the Sultanate of Zanzibar separated. Meanwhile, Europeans, particularly the Germanic ones, explored the land.
  • 1884: The Germans began to colonise what is now Tanzania (formerly known as Tanganyika). The colony was formalised in 1897.
  • 1890: Great Britain abolishes the slave trade in Zanzibar.
  • 1916: During the First World War, Tanganyika was conquered by the British.
  • 1946: Tanganyika was placed under the trusteeship of the United Nations.
  • 1961: Tanganyika gained independence
  • 1962: Tanganyika became a republic
  • 1963: independence of Zanzibar. The people oust their sultan one month after independence. The Sultanate of Zanzibar becomes the People’s Republic of Zanzibar, a one-party state.
  • 26 April 1964: Tanganyika and Zanzibar united to become the United Republic of Tanzania.

Agriculture, fishing, livestock and other production:

  • Tanzanian agriculture in figures:

Agriculture is practised on only 16.4% of the country’s arable land. The economy is heavily dependent on the agricultural sector, which employs over 67% of Tanzania’s working population. Agriculture also accounts for 85% of the country’s exports, producing 28% of its GDP.

  • Agricultural exports :
    • Cashew nuts, produced on the coast
    • cloves from Zanzibar and Pemba. Production accounts for almost all world production.
    • Coffee from the Arusha region
    • Cotton
    • Sisal produced in the Tanga and Dar-Es-Salaam regions
    • Tobacco
    • Tea

They also produce rice, sesame, maize, cassava, plantain, sweet potatoes and millet, but these crops are used to feed the country.

  • Livestock: very important, especially among the tribes (Masai, among others). Cattle represent the wealth of their owners. In Tanzania, cattle, goats, sheep and a large number of poultry are bred.
  • Fishing is also very important in Tanzania. Contrary to what you might think, most fishing is not done in the Indian Ocean, but in the lakes, particularly Lake Victoria.
  • Mining sector: this accounts for 50% of export earnings, or 5% of GDP. It is Africa’s 4th largest gold producer. Diamonds and tanzanite are also mined.
  • Oil and gas fields are also being exploited.


  • Tourism is a major factor in the country’s economic development (12.7% of GDP).
  • The country’s spectacular scenery, archaeological and historical sites, wildlife and 800km of coastline make it an increasingly attractive destination.
  • Tanzania is the largest country in East Africa.
    • It consists mainly of high plateaux at altitudes of around 1,500m. Just over 60% of the country is grass steppe and savannah. The difference between the two is that in the savannah there are also trees.
    • It is also a very mountainous country. The highest mountain in Africa is Kilimanjaro, which you can climb: (trekking link). It is 5,892m high. You can also admire and climb the 4,565m Mount Meru.
    • ⅓ of the country’s total surface area is forested. There are mountain rainforests that can grow up to 3000m and gallery forests: tropical trees.
  • UNESCO World Heritage Sites:
    • ngorongoro
    • the ruins of Kilwa Kisiwani and Songo Mnara
    • serengeti, Selous and Kilimanjaro national parks
    • Stown Town (Zanzibar)
    • the rock art sites of Kondoa

Parks and nature reserves

Do you dream of climbing Kilimanjaro or discovering the beauty of Lake Natron? What’s more, do you dream of coming face to face with wild animals on a safari in Tanzania? With Off Road, you can enjoy an adventure trip off the beaten track in complete safety, and savour the joys of wildlife to the full!

You’re probably wondering “What safari to go on in Tanzania?”. Here is our selection:

By following our Tanzania tours, you can explore the country from north to south, where you’ll discover:

In the north :

  • The Serengeti National Park, renowned for its large concentration of animals This is the oldest, but also the largest park in Tanzania. That’s why the Masai call it “Siringet”, which translates as “plains without borders”. Better than the Big Five, in this park you can find the Big Nine (elephant, rhinoceros, hippopotamus, lion, leopard, cheetah, giraffe, zebra and buffalo).
  • The Ngorongoro Crater, the cradle of humanity, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is home to numerous pink flamingos and is surrounded by wild animals, rhinos and elephants.
  • Lake Natron , in the heart of Maasai territory. Thanks to Off Road, you can immerse yourself in everyday life and come into contact with these tribes.
  • Of course, Kilimanjaro, commonly known as the roof of Africa, invites the most athletic to climb its 5,895 metres! It’s a real challenge and a real adventure
  • Tarangire National Park, which can be translated from the Maasai: the river (Tara) of the warthogs (Ngire). It is home to numerous lions, buffalo, zebras and giraffes. Part of Tarangire is covered in dense baobab forest, while another, more marshy part is home to herds of elephants.
  • Manyara Park, famous for its monkeys (especially baboons and blue monkeys), lake and pink flamingos. It is located between Arusha and Ngorongoro, in the Rift Valley. The special feature of this park is the tree-climbing lions!
  • Little-known Lake Eyasi, bordered by an 800-metre cliff! This region is often appreciated for the many ethnic groups that live here. In fact, this is where the oldest people in Tanzania live!
  • The Ndutu region is also an extraordinary site. This is where you can find the herds of the great migration from December to March, during the birthing season!

In the south :

This part of the country is less touristy, and the animals are also more shy, which is why we recommend it more for a second safari. In general, travellers arrive in Dar Es Salaam and we invite them to join us on a safari to :

  • The Selous Reserve, through which the Rufiji River flows. This region is home to an abundance of aquatic wildlife, but you may also be lucky enough to cross paths with one of the country’s last black rhinos!
  • To continue this journey, we invite you to visit Mikumi National Park, where you may encounter numerous species of birds and many savannah animals!
  • Finally, if you choose to go to Ruaha National Park, you’ll find that there are very few tourists. This park, also known as the Elephant Park, gives you the chance to be alone (or almost alone) in the face of unexplored expanses!


Do you dream of going on safari in Tanzania with a Zanzibar extension? Off Road will take care of everything! To round off your Tanzanian trip, we offer excursions to the islands commonly known as the “Zanzibar Islands”. In reality, we refer to the “Zanzibar archipelago”. The archipelago is made up of three main islands: Pemba, Mafia and Unguja, plus smaller islands such as Changuu, where you can spot giant tortoises. Here are a few ideas of what Off Road has to offer in the archipelago:

  • Stone Town, not to be missed! Listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, the old town takes you right to the heart of Zanzibar’s history. Unexpectedly, you can also find Freddy Mercury’s house here!
  • Did you know? Zanzibar is nicknamed the spice island! That’s why Zanzibar is offering you a colourful opportunity to discover its very special trees and plants.
  • We suggest you take a safari to Fumba, to sail on the turquoise sea of the Indian Ocean. You’ll be dazzled by the fish and coral! All you need is a mask and a snorkel to make a real discovery.
  • The moment you’ve all been dreaming of: swimming with dolphins in the middle of the ocean!
  • Want to see turtles? It’s possible! Head to Prison Island to visit the hundred-year-old giant Galapagos tortoises (weighing between 50 and 250kg)!
  • Back on land with an excursion to the Jozani forest, where you can meet red colobus monkeys! The Jozani forest is also home to rare plants such as red mahogany and takamara. You’ll also be amazed by the dozens of species of multicoloured butterflies!
  • Of course, you can also simply bask in the sun on the archipelago’s beautiful beaches!

Climate and seasons


  • The climate is hot and humid on the coast, temperate inland.
  • Temperatures range from 24°C to 27°C from June to September and from 30°C to 35°C from December to May. They can be cool at night.


  • The dry season runs from May to October.
  • The rainy season runs from mid-March to early May. During the rainy season, nights are cool, especially around Ngorongoro, where temperatures can fall below 10°C.
  • There is a short rainy season from November to December. Rainy days are occasional.

Culture and customs:

Tanzania is one of the most diverse countries in Africa, with around 158 ethnic groups united by a common language: Swahili, and by a sense of belonging to the same country.

Overall, Tanzanian culture is the result of Arab, African, Indian and European influences due to the country’s colonisation.

The development of culture and tourism has had an impact on the way of life of semi-nomadic tribes such as the Maasai.

  • Generally speaking in the country

Traditionally, the elders are honoured and respected. Children are brought up under the strong influence of their parents and relatives (neighbours, friends). Mothers carry their babies close to them in a rectangular cloth called Kanga. They wear them at all times, even when working in the fields.

Generally speaking, Tanzanians must keep their emotions under control in public. In some places, women are not allowed to speak out loud.

  • Maasai: culture and traditions

The Maasai tribe is one of the few to have retained most of its traditions. They coexist with wildlife and live mainly off their livestock. Today, some Maasai work and sometimes go to school. It is the men and boys who look after the livestock and guard the village. The women work to earn money, often making jewellery for tourists. They contribute actively to village life. They take care of the meals, the young children, the milking of the cattle, fetching water and wood, etc.

They live in small, often temporary, houses built from intertwined branches covered in mud and cow dung. It is the women who build the houses. When the Maasai have to migrate, they either burn down the houses or leave them to return later.

The Maasai eat mainly milk, blood, maize in the form of ugali and meat (reserved for certain ceremonies or special occasions).

They are easily recognisable by their red clothing (Kanga: rectangular cloth that can be used as a shawl, headdress, skirt or dress). Their ears are pierced and their lobes relaxed by the weight of their pearl jewellery.

Their culture is under threat from countries (Kenya and Tanzania) that are forcing them to settle, which also increases their poverty.

  • Zanzibar: culture and traditions

98% of the population is Muslim. Out of respect for their culture, it is advisable to wear clothing that covers the body.

Zanzibar’s culture revolves around music and dance. There are Arab, Indian and African influences. In terms of cuisine, the majority of dishes are fish and shellfish cooked with all kinds of local spices. The people are warm and welcoming.

Gastronomy :

  • Cuisine

Tanzanians generally don’t consider a meal to be a meal if it doesn’t include a basic carbohydrate such as rice, cassava, plantain or sorghum. In the north-east they prefer plantain, in the centre and south-east ugali, and rice in the south and on the coast.

For each event or ceremony, they will prepare large spicy dishes.

For breakfast, depending on their standard of living and traditions, they eat sweet rolls called maandazi, buttermilk or chicken broth and drink coffee or tea with spices, sugar and milk.

Tanzanian cuisine is very much inspired by Indian cuisine. You can find sambusas and mishikakis (kebabs), byriani rice (Indian), pilau rice (spicy)..

Ugali (crushed maize or manioc boiled in water), accompanied by a stew of meat, onions and chopped vegetables, is common.

On the coast and in Zanzibar, you can enjoy Swahili cuisine, generally prepared with fish, coconut milk and spices.

As you will have gathered, Tanzanians eat a lot of dishes in sauce and like to add lots of spices to their dishes.

  • Drinks

A word of advice: don’t drink tap water and avoid ice cubes. When you order a drink, you can say “bila barafu”, which means no ice.

The local tea is very strong. It is always served with boiled milk that has already been sweetened. If you wish, you can ask for a “chai kavu”. The local coffee, Arabica and Robusta, is made in the same way, but you can easily find espressos.

There are some very good local beers, such as Safari (strong), Kilimanjaro and Castle Lager (lighter). In the bars, they sometimes have homemade banana beers. Don’t hesitate to try them!

Arts and literature:

Tanzanian art often takes the form of pottery, carpets and other objects for everyday use. Art represents an employment opportunity for many Tanzanians. They produce many paintings, such as the Tinga tinga paintings, which have become world-famous.

As far as literature is concerned, there are many Kiswahili books. There are books of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, prose, etc

Local legislation: what you need to know before you go

  • Plastic bags banned.
  • Homosexuality is punishable by law.
  • Possession of narcotics punishable by prison.
  • Drones: not recommended, as unauthorised use may result in arrest.
  • “Hunting trophies are strictly regulated: avoid bringing back as souvenirs anything that might encourage poaching (ostrich eggs, zebra skins, tortoise shells, etc.).
  • It is forbidden to film or photograph sensitive installations (airports, presidential or ministerial buildings, military installations).