Updated on January 13, 2021 by Asher Fergusson
What should I bring on my Tanzania trip?
Packing can be overwhelming and hard to get right, so I’ve provided a list of what to wear in Tanzania, other items to pack, what NOT to take, and FAQs about the country to help you plan your trip.
Remember that this country has a lot to offer as long as you’re open to it and willing to be flexible!
What to Pack for Tanzania – 17 Essentials
7) Virtual Private Network (VPN) – This is one of those things that many people don’t think about until it’s too late. I learned the hard way that using unfamiliar WiFi – even secured WiFi – can put your data and financial information at risk of being hacked and stolen.
A VPN like those provided by NordVPN allows you to connect securely to available networks while shielding you from hackers via an additional layer of encryption. It also “unlocks” access to blocked content and sites in countries that censor internet access, so it’s handy to have no matter where you’re going – even if it’s just to your local cafe!
Other Tanzania packing list items not to forget
Hiking pants: Women’s and Men’s
Sturdy sandals: Women’s and Men’s
Steripod toothbrush cover
Vitamins: Women’s and Men’s
Reusable cloth bag
Waterproof phone case
What to wear in Tanzania
Regardless, clothing for Tanzania needs to be modest, especially for women, so bring items that cover your knees and shoulders. Tanzanians dress nicely – they see underdressed tourists as sloppy and disrespectful, so don’t plan to wear your safari gear or sweats around town.
Like most of Africa, Tanzania’s culture requires women to dress modestly. Shorts and miniskirts are a no-go, and female visitors should opt instead for capris, pants, and skirts or dresses that come at least to the knee. Sleeveless tops are acceptable if they have a wider strap and aren’t too low-cut, but something with sleeves will be more appropriate in rural areas. Much of the country is hot and humid, so clothes made from lightweight fabrics will be most comfortable.
Bring a jacket or sweater for the evenings, just in case, and warmer pants for trekking in the mountains. For most visitors, a pair of flip-flops is essential, but shoes that are comfortable for walking will also come in handy. If you plan on hiking or trekking, some good hiking shoes or boots are also essential.
It’s less important for men to have modest clothes for Tanzania, and most standard men’s clothing fits the bill anyway. However, shorts are typically seen as being for schoolchildren, and local men more often wear pants. Plenty of tourists wear shorts, though, and they’re definitely acceptable at the beach.
Bring t-shirts, button-downs, and pants made from lightweight fabrics. If you’re traveling away from the coast, you’ll probably need at least a jacket or sweater for the evenings as well. For trekking or going up in the mountains, warmer clothes and items you can layer are critical. You’ll also want a pair of sandals, some shoes that are good for walking, and a pair of hiking shoes or boots if you plan to do any trekking.
Though the weather varies throughout the country, Tanzania’s climate is generally characterized by two rainy seasons and two dry seasons (one short and one long). Temperatures tend to be fairly stable year-round in much of the country, although most regions experience a slight dip during the summer months, due to Tanzania’s location in the southern hemisphere. Ultimately, though, when deciding what to wear in Tanzania, elevation is just as important as season.
SPRING – March, April, May:
Spring is when Tanzania’s “long rainy season” occurs, and these are the wettest months of the year. Humidity is also high, and temperatures regularly climb to 90°F (32°C) and above.
To stay comfortable in the high humidity, pack lightweight, breathable clothing, but bring a light jacket for the evenings (unless you’re only visiting the coast or the islands, where you won’t need it). Since there are heavy rains, make sure to bring a light rain jacket and a sturdy umbrella, as well as a pair of shoes that dry fast and are easy to clean. Plastic or rubber sandals with good traction are usually the best shoes for Tanzania during the rainy season. Temperatures average between 75°F and 85°F (24°C to 29°C).
SUMMER – June, July, August:
Since Tanzania is in the southern hemisphere, summer is actually slightly cooler than other seasons, and it’s also less humid. This is the “long dry season” in Tanzania, and there is very little rain in most of the country.
At low elevations, including in Dar es Salaam, even the coolest season is still hot. But temperatures frequently dip into the 40s Fahrenheit in the Arusha, and it gets even colder higher in the mountains. If you’re headed there, you’ll need warm clothes, especially at night. No matter what part of Tanzania you visit, you probably won’t need any rain gear this time of year. Temperatures average between 70°F and 80°F (21°C to 27°C).
FALL – September, October, November:
Early fall is still dry in Tanzania, but the “short rainy season” usually starts in November. Temperatures in most of the country climb slightly throughout the fall months.
During the fall, the most comfortable clothes at lower elevations will be tops, pants, and dresses made from lightweight fabrics. You’re likely to encounter some rain if you visit later in the season, so bring a rain jacket and an umbrella as well. Temperatures average between 80°F and 90°F (27°C to 32°C).
WINTER – December, January, February:
The “short rainy season” usually continues into December, but the rest of the winter months make up the “short dry season.” January and February are the hottest months of the year, with temperatures frequently climbing above 100°F (38°C) at lower elevations.
To deal with the heat, stick to lightweight fabrics, and don’t cover up more than modesty requires. At higher elevations, though, you’ll need some warm clothes even during these hottest months. It’s also a good idea to bring a rain jacket or umbrella anytime in the winter. Temperatures average between 85°F and 95°F (29°C to 35°C).
At beaches that are far from the tourist trail, local people will be more conservative and less accustomed to swimwear-clad foreigners; in that case, I’d recommend wearing a modest one-piece suit and covering up when you’re out of the water, unless the beach is totally deserted (and many are!). Men can wear either briefs or swim trunks at any beach, but do put on a shirt once you’re off the sand. The standard beach footwear for Tanzania is flip-flops, of course. But if you’re planning on doing anything more active in the water, a pair of water shoes or sturdier sandals is a good idea.
Trekking – Tanzania is renowned for its trekking; after all, Mt. Kilimanjaro is the tallest mountain in Africa and the highest free-standing mountain in the world. But if you don’t have the time or funds for the week-long climb, there are plenty of other trekking options, including day hikes that are suitable for all levels. In general, you should plan to have three layers: a sweat-wicking base layer (like a fitted merino wool t-shirt), an insulated mid-layer (like a fleece jacket), and a wind- and waterproof outer layer (like a rain jacket). Layering will make it easy to stay comfortable throughout the day, as the temperatures change or you work up a sweat hiking.
Layers are less important on the bottom, and in warmer conditions, a pair of hiking pants is sufficient. But for higher elevations and colder climates, including Mt. Kilimanjaro and Mt. Meru, bring a pair of leggings or long underwear to wear beneath your pants. For those treks, you’ll also need a hat and a pair of gloves to stay warm. While you can get away with wearing tennis shoes for easy day hikes, waterproof hiking boots are a necessity for Tanzania’s longer and more strenuous treks – just make sure you break them in before your trip. For multi-day hikes, you’ll probably also appreciate having another pair of comfortable shoes to change into at night.
Safaris – For many visitors, the chance to go on a safari is Tanzania’s main attraction. But since it’s such an unusual experience, most will question what to wear for such an occasion. Most of your time will be spent sitting in a vehicle, taking easy walks, or hanging out at a lodge – honestly, I’ve really never seen a need for the tactical-looking vests and cargo pants usually marketed as African safari clothes. That said, it’s a good idea to dress in neutral colors, which will help you blend into your surroundings and cause less disturbance to the wildlife. The best safari clothing for Tanzania will depend on the time of year, but bringing items that will easily layer is always the best way to stay comfortable.
For the most part, Tanzania’s safari destinations are hot during the day, so tops and pants made from lightweight fabrics will be the most comfortable. Since you’ll likely spend a lot of time in the sun, a hat and sunglasses are also a good idea. In addition to a lightweight safari outfit, I’d suggest bringing a fleece jacket, as well as a pair of heavier pants (or a base layer to wear under thinner pants), as it can get cold in the morning in the open-air vehicles. Lastly, closed-toed shoes will be best for keeping your toes warm during chilly game drives, and a pair of sturdy sandals will be convenient for walking around camp.
What NOT to take to Tanzania
FAQs about travel in Tanzania
1) Is traveling in Tanzania safe?
Though pickpocketing happens in certain areas, violent crime against foreigners is quite rare, so you can rest assured that there’s little risk. There are, however, occasional safety advisories, so be sure to check travel warnings before you go.
2) How can I avoid getting sick in Tanzania?
Poor hygiene standards can pose a risk to Western travelers in Tanzania, so it’s important to take a few precautions.
Although it’s fine for brushing your teeth, Westerners in Tanzania should avoid drinking the tap water. Bottled water is widely available, or you can treat your water by boiling, filtering, or chlorinating it. You should also be careful to avoid beverages made with water or ice. Lastly, make sure your food has been thoroughly cooked and is hot when it’s served to you, and skip raw fruits and vegetables unless they have a peel or skin you can remove.
3) What is the weather like?
Temperatures in the capital of Dar es Salaam typically range between the mid-60s and the upper-80s Fahrenheit but can get much higher elsewhere.
The interior of the country tends to be cooler and less humid. While most people think of Tanzania as a tropical country, it’s also one of the few in Africa that has glaciers and gets snow.
Due to its proximity to the equator, Tanzania does not experience the four seasons. Rather, the country has two rainy seasons and two dry seasons. The main wet season is from March to May, and a shorter one lasts from November to January.
4) What is the best way to get around in Tanzania?
When it comes to getting around Tanzania, travelers have a few options. The most common (and cheapest) way to get around is by bus. Buses connect most of the country, although they’re less frequent in remote areas. Bus options range from the rickety and overcrowded dalla-dallas to air-conditioned luxury buses that provide drinks and snacks. Or, if you can afford it, flying is much faster and more comfortable, and also safer than taking the bus. Over a dozen towns in Tanzania have commercial airports, including all the main tourist destinations. Tanzania also has a train system, although it’s incredibly slow and only runs a few times per week.
5) What kind of visa do I need?
If you plan to get your visa on arrival, make sure you bring new, undamaged U.S. dollars to pay for it.
Check current travel information to gather details about cost and logistics long before you travel.
6) Are there ATMs in Tanzania?
Yes. You’ll find ATMs in all major towns throughout Tanzania and shouldn’t have any problem accessing cash. If you do plan to spend an extended amount of time in very rural areas, though, you’ll probably want to withdraw enough money ahead of time to cover those days.
7) How reliable is the Internet in Tanzania?
Many cafes and hotels in Tanzania’s major towns have Wi-Fi connections, though they can be slow at times. Much of the country also has 4G cell service, which you can access from your phone with a local SIM card. Again, it may be slow, but it’s usually sufficient for emails, texting apps, and basic websites. Make sure you use a VPN to protect your sensitive data from hackers! Otherwose you may find yourself having to deal with identity theft while overseas – NOT fun (trust me).
8) What language do Tanzanians speak?
English is the second official language in Tanzania and is widely spoken, especially in major towns and by those working in the tourism and hospitality industries. Tourists who speak only English will be able to travel in Tanzania without too much difficulty.
9) How can I respect the local culture?
One of the most important things to keep in mind about Tanzanian culture is that it’s quite conservative; women should generally dress modestly, and public displays of affection should be avoided. Travelers should also be aware of settings where smoking or drinking in excess might be frowned upon, especially in rural areas.
Greetings are important in Tanzania, and it’s customary to greet each person in a group individually. Tanzanians also take hospitality seriously. It is considered rude to turn down things that are offered to you, especially food, so travelers should accept things that are given to them whenever possible. Lastly, the left hand is considered unclean in Tanzania, so do your best to use your right hand for eating and for handing things to people.
10) What are the top things to do in Tanzania?
The country has over a dozen national parks, but the Serengeti is by far the most famous and is especially known for the annual wildebeest migration.
Ngorongoro Conservation Area, site of a 100-square-mile volcanic crater, is one of the country’s other top places to see wildlife.
Active travelers will have plenty of options to choose from as well. Mt. Kilimanjaro is Africa’s highest mountain, although Mt. Meru is actually a more technical climb. There are also great trekking options near Ngorongoro Crater and in the Usambara Mountains.
Lastly, the island of Zanzibar is an incredibly popular tourist destination and is home to stunning beaches and fascinating history and culture. There’s plenty to do on the island, including snorkeling, diving, and kitesurfing, as well as great shopping, spas, and food.
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