Safety & Security

At all times, travelers should maintain a high level of security vigilance. They should avoid political rallies and related public gatherings. In the past, peaceful demonstrations have turned violent with little or no warning as riot police clashed with demonstrators.

Zanzibar – The population in Zanzibar is majority Muslim and holds traditional values. Some Zanzibar newspapers have warned that women deemed to dress immodestly may be subject to harassment. You should dress modestly, behave in a conservative manner, and exercise caution in public.

Inter-city transportation routes between major cities such as Arusha and Dar es Salaam are serviced by a variety of carriers with differing levels of safety and comfort. If you are traveling by bus select carriers who use modern equipment and avoid riding in vehicles in obvious disrepair. On long-haul bus routes foreigners have been victims of being drugged, whereby drug-laced food and drink are used to sedate unsuspecting passengers so their belongings can be easily stolen. Travelers are cautioned not to accept food or beverages from fellow passengers.

Travelers are strongly encouraged to use taxis or hired drivers from a reputable source for in-town transportation.  Foreigners have been victims of robberies when using unlicensed taxis in Dar Es Salaam. In these incidents, once victims have entered the car, they are held against their will for up to several hours and taken to several ATM machines throughout the city to liquidate their accounts. In these instances, foreigners have been forced to surrender their belongings under the threat of violence.

Travelers should avoid using the ubiquitous microbuses (dala-dalas), which are frequently overcrowded, poorly maintained, a common site of petty theft, and whose operation is generally unsafe.

Crime is a serious problem in Tanzania; visitors should be alert and cautious. Street crime in Dar es Salaam is common and includes mugging, vehicle theft, “smash and grab” attacks on vehicles, armed robbery, and burglary. Thieves and pickpockets on buses and trains steal from inattentive passengers.

Crime involving firearms is becoming more common. A series of robberies involving increasing levels of violence has occurred along the coast and on Zanzibar. Robbers have held up tour buses and dive boats at gunpoint.

Pedestrians on beaches and footpaths, both in isolated areas and in popular tourist venues, are often targeted for robbery or assault, especially on Zanzibar and in Dar es Salaam and its environs. Visitors should limit the amount of cash they carry and leave valuables, such as passports, jewelry, and airline tickets, in a hotel safe or other secure place. Cameras are highly coveted by thieves, and should be guarded. Because of the potential for fraud, credit cards should only be used in reputable tourist hotels.

Sexual assaults involving tourists are an increasing concern. Travelers should contract only with legitimate tour guides, preferably arranged by a known travel agency or hotel. Travelers are advised to be wary of “spontaneous” offers of sightseeing, and avoid being alone with “friendly” strangers who propose special, customized sightseeing trips.

A continuing concern is Tourè Drive on Msasani Peninsula in Dar es Salaam. Tourè Drive is the beach front road from the Sea Cliff Hotel into town which provides an inviting view of the ocean. There are regular reports of daytime muggings, pick-pocketing, and theft from cars, and the road continues to be an area of concern any time of day on foot or by car.

Occasionally, these crimes escalate into violence. While frightening, the number of these attacks is small and the majority of foreign tourists enjoy Tanzania in peace. Travelers are always urged to practice common sense security and remain vigilant of their surroundings. If a situation does not seem right, travelers should follow their instincts and leave the scene.

Travelers are strongly encouraged not to walk around at dusk or later, and to avoid the section of Arusha on the far side of the Themi River at all times on foot. Long-time residents say that crime in Arusha peaks around the December-January holiday season. Travelers should be even more vigilant during these months.

Foreigners residing in Arusha report a steady increase in crimes targeting the homes of expatriates living in the region. These armed home invasions usually involve some violence and have resulted in some victims being seriously injured. Foreigners residing in the area should ensure that their homes have a safe haven – a secure area with reinforced barriers to retreat to and remain safe if intruders enter the home. Residents in Arusha strongly recommend retaining a professional security company with 24-hour guards and roving patrols.

Carjacking has occurred in rural and urban areas. Visitors are advised to drive with doors locked and windows rolled up, not to stop between populated areas, and to travel in convoys if possible.

Don’t buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. If you purchase them you may be breaking local law.

Victims of crime
If you or someone you know becomes the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and your nearest embassy or consulate.

  • Your Embassy can: 
    Replace a stolen passport.
    Help you find appropriate medical care if you are the victim of violent crimes such as assault or rape.
  • Put you in contact with the appropriate police authorities, and can contact family members or friends.
  • Help you understand the local criminal justice process and direct you to local attorneys, although it is important to remember that local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting the crime

The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Tanzania is: 111

Criminal penalties

While you are traveling in Tanzania, you are subject to its laws even if you are a foreigner. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different than your own country’s. In some places you may be taken in for questioning if you don’t have your passport with you. In some places, it is illegal to take pictures of certain buildings. In some places driving under the influence could land you immediately in jail. If you break local laws in Tanzania, your foreign passport won’t help you avoid arrest or prosecution. It’s very important to know what’s legal and what’s not where you are going.

Persons violating Tanzania’s laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Penalties for possessing, using, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Tanzania are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. 
If you are arrested in Tanzania, authorities of Tanzania are required to notify your. embassy of your arrest. If you are concerned your embassy may be unaware of your situation, you should request the police or prison officials to notify your. embassy of your arrest.

Special circumstances:
Every year, thousands of U.S. citizens have a truly awe-inspiring experience in Tanzania enjoying its natural wonders. However, such activities do have inherent risks. A handful of tourists are mauled or killed by wild animals. Climbers are injured or killed in rockslides or succumb to altitude sickness or hypothermia. Safaris and mountain expeditions require sustained physical exertion and can aggravate existing chronic health problems. Foreigners have died while on safari in accidents or from natural causes related to the exertion of the trip or environmental factors. Most tour operators offer structured, safe excursions into parks, the mountains, and other wildlife areas.

Travelers must play a responsible role in maintaining their safety, and are reminded to maintain a safe distance from animals and to remain in vehicles or protected enclosures when venturing into game parks. Persons with chronic health problems should weigh the risks before joining an extended trip in the African wilderness. Climbers should familiarize themselves with the signs of altitude sickness and heed the advice of the professionals organizing the ascents.

You should carry a copy of your passport with you at all times so you’ll have readily available proof of identity and citizenship if questioned by local officials.  Credit cards may be used at some major hotels but are not widely accepted in Tanzania. In the larger urban areas, ATM’s are usually available at major banks. However, travelers should exercise caution when using ATM, debit, and credit cards in Tanzania. There have been numerous recent reports from foreigners of fraud, particularly against U.S. dollar denominated accounts. Travelers should arrive with sufficient cash or traveler’s checks for their trip if they will be spending time outside large cities. Those using traveler’s checks should be advised that reputable financial institutions require that the holder of traveler’s checks present the original receipt for the checks and proof of identity, such as a passport, before the institutions will complete a transaction.

Photography of military installations is forbidden. Individuals have been detained and/or had their cameras and film confiscated for taking pictures of hospitals, schools, bridges, industrial sites, and airports. Installations that are prohibited from being photographed are not always marked.

Same Gender Couple Issues
Tanzania is largely a traditional society. Public displays of affection between persons of the opposite gender garner serious disapproval, and such displays between persons of the same gender could risk violence. Public discussions of sexuality of any type are not well-received and there is no openly gay community. Same gender sexual relations are illegal in Tanzania although there are no reports that anyone has been arrested or prosecuted for such activities recently.

Although taxis are relatively inexpensive in Nairobi, Kampala, and other towns, buses and dalla-dallas, a kind of minibus, in Tanzania, are extremely cheap and an attractive alternative to those on a budget. 

However, be aware that every bus and minivan in East Africa can harbor pickpockets who can perform their job easily because the vehicles are so wildly crowded that you’re literally squeezed from every side. Make sure when you travel by bus or minivan that all your valuables are buried deep within tight-fitting clothing. Backpacks and hand luggage are especially risky propositions unless they are in your lap with your arms around them.  Bottom line…take a taxi.

Avoiding Rip-offs
A current scam exists where a foreigner is approached by a Tanzanian gentleman (usually dressed in western style clothing– baseball cap, jeans, t-shirt, sneakers) who appears to speak very good English. He sees the foreigner waiting for transportation and offers to have his friend who is a taxi cab driver take the traveler to their destination. Once in the vehicle, the foreigner is threatened by the Tanzanian gentleman and driver to hand over money from their bank accounts as well as personal belongings. These nefarious characters are prevalent at bus stations and crowded areas (particularly the Ubongo bus station) where people are waiting for transport.

Bogus Currency

Obviously, exchanging U.S. or European currencies for shillings on the street in Tanzania, comes with the usual problem: bogus currency. Counterfeit bills are everywhere. You’ll be especially hassled to exchange your money on the street in Nairobi. It’s recommended you exchange your cash at official Forex Bureaus or banks. Barclays, the huge English bank, has offices throughout the region.

Sponsorship Requests
No matter where you go in East Africa, you’ll be asked to sponsor something. Often, it’s school children requesting sponsorship for school supplies. The child will usually have a school notebook with a list of sponsors scrawled on the first page. Sometimes, the list is bogus, and any money you might give the child goes into his pocket for everything but school supplies. Sometimes the request is genuine—too genuine. Beyond high school, education is anything but free in East Africa (like most places). You’ll also be asked to sponsor immigrants to your home country, and just about anything else you can imagine. Choose your response wisely.

Double-Standard Prices
To many East Africans, mzungu (“white person”) means money, so you’ll often be charged more than the local people for products and services—sometimes triple. If you don’t mind such overbilling, fine. Otherwise, try to get a guide or a porter to purchase goods and services for you (most are pleased to do it). Likewise, some shops don’t have prices on items. When you walk through the door, the prices can go up. Try to shop where the prices are marked.

Illegitimate Tour Operators
Tour operators—even tour operators running mountain trips—must have a government license to operate within Kilimanjaro and Arusha (Mount Meru) National Parks. However, there are many companies out there who don’t have licenses and who will try to sell you a climb. Ask to see their license. Many legitimate companies hang photocopies of their licenses on the office wall so the originals don’t get too ratty. If you are concerned, ask to see the original document. Some unscrupulous firms will obtain a legitimate company’s license, photocopy the document, white-out the other company’s name, write in their own, then photocopy the document again so it looks the same as the legitimate firm’s license hanging on the wall. Although climbing Kilimanjaro with an unlicensed firm will likely be no problem as far as park officials are concerned, some of these illegitimate companies are notorious for bad service.

Paying Park Fees
Because you are required to hire an outfitter to climb Kilimanjaro the national park fees will be handled for you by the outfitter as part of the overall price of the climb. Be leery, though, of the price you are quoted for an ascent of Kilimanjaro: a recent development is tour operators offering very low prices for an ascent of Mount Kilimanjaro that then turn out to not include park fees.