Tanzania is blessed with natural beauty and extraordinary wildlife. It is the largest country in East Africa, nearly a million square kilometers (386,109 square miles).
Agriculture dominates the economy with the vast majority of its crop exports consisting of coffee, tea, cotton, cashews, sisal, cloves and pyrethrum. While somewhat unreliable cash flows frustrate farmers, government intervention is having a significant and positive impact on the country’s economy.
In 1986, to help improve the country’s economy, the Tanzanian government established new policies including reducing its budget deficit, easing trade policies and reducing food crop restrictions. In addition, as a result of significant U.S. funding and numerous international groups in the mining, agricultural, gas and oil, insurance and tourism industries increasing their staff and presence in the country, Tanzania enjoyed a 16% increase in Foreign Direct Investment in 2007.
Tanzania has been growing at approximately 4% a year and is now a fully integrated democratic society that is developing into one of Africa’s most vibrant economies. Dodoma is the capital city and is home to the country’s parliament and government offices. It is situated 440 kilometers (273 miles) due west of Dar es Salaam, the commercial capital. Dar es Salaam is a city that is over five centuries old. It is a mix of African, Arabian, Asian and European cultures. Tanzanians are extremely friendly and will stop to assist foreigners in any way they can.
For someone first arriving in Dar es Salaam by air, they will see a large area with high palm trees and mud dwellings as far as the eye can see. Once on the ground, the buildings are haphazardly constructed and not very clean. By contrast the international hotels are of good quality and well situated to take advantage of the seascapes.
The city is divided into 4 distinct areas: The “town center” is a mixture of office buildings, hotels, restaurants, bars, night clubs, parks and sports facilities. The “peninsular” is where most of the diplomats and expatriates live. It boasts spectacular views of the sea, hosts local restaurants, shops, hotels and has a sailing club. Then, there are the coastal homes and resorts which span 20 to 30 kilometers (12 to 19 miles) north and south of Dar es Salaam. The remainder of the city, unfortunately, is characterized by low-cost housing, with a large population of three to four million people living close to the poverty line.
Dar es Salaam has changed dramatically from socialism to a more capitalist-aligned government over the last 15 years. The influx of diplomats, big business and foreign aid donations have resulted in a gradual improvement in the living standards of the local population. The infrastructure and public facilities are also improving each year–frequent power failures of the past are becoming much less frequent. Water and sewage problems remain high on the government’s list of priorities.
Swahili is the official language of Tanzania, but for business communications, English is almost always used. A person can function quite easily in the city without knowing Swahili, but learning it does make it easier to assimilate, shop and barter in the local communities.
Being polite and greeting Tanzanians is the most important thing you can remember and preferably if it is done in Swahili. Visitors should try not to raise their voices, even if patience is tested. Dar es Salaam is a Muslim environment and one should be very understanding of the Muslim customs.
Dar es Salaam is extremely hot most of the year around and unless you have an office or house equipped with fans or a good air-conditioning system, you will feel drained by the high temperatures which are generally 30 degrees C (86 degrees F), and in summer, closer to 40 degrees C (104 degrees F) with humidity very close to 100%. Torrential showers come and go without much notice. One can escape from the heat on weekends by going to one of the many beaches.
Foreigners seeking to enter Tanzania should have a valid passport. The passport is to be presented to an Immigration Officer at any entry point, border station, airport or harbor. It must be presented with a Visa, a Residence Permit or a Pass, which is for those in transit en route to another destination.
There are five types of visas: The “Ordinary Visa” is issued at any Tanzanian mission abroad. However, if you arrive at the check point without a visa, you can obtain one at the entry point at a cost of US $50. The “Business Visa,” which is called a CTA, is issued to potential investors or business people trying to establish professional contacts. It is valid for two months. It costs US $100, in addition to the entry visa cost. If the business person leaves the country, they need to get the entry visa and CTA visa again when entering. The “Multiple-Entry Visas” are issued to foreigners who, due to business commitments, are required to make multiple entries. The validity can be from one month to one year. The “Referred Visa” requires special clearance from the Director of Immigration or Principal Immigration officer in Zanzibar. This is usually for people from Lebanon, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Somalia, refugees, stateless people and any other country as specified by the authorities. Applications are made to any Tanzanian missions abroad and cannot be obtained at entry points. Finally, the “Transit Visa” is issued for those who wish to cross Tanzania and the validity is two weeks. It is for those people holding onward tickets.
Visas can be obtained at the airport and if arriving by land or sea, at the port of entry. Although the government has officially stopped asking for yellow fever certificates, it is still advisable to obtain and carry a valid yellow fever vaccination certificate. Weapons, pornographic material, fresh food and cars more than 10 years old should not be brought into Tanzania.
There are two types of work permits, each requiring different documents including resumes, cover letters, academic qualifications and personal photographs. A special type of Work Permit is given specifically to those who successfully apply and possess rare qualifications or skills. These are usually granted to those in highly technical occupations that are not readily available in the local labor market including doctors, pilots, lawyers and accountants.
With a residence permit, spouses and dependents are permitted to stay in Tanzania for the duration of the working relative’s stay. They generally do not work, but there are some exceptions based on specific criteria. A passport is the main document used to verify identity in Tanzania. Apart from getting a Tanzanian driver’s license, no other documentation is required.
The local currency is the Tanzanian Shilling (Shilingi). The notes are TSH 10,000 (red, elephant), TSH 5,000 (purple, rhino), TSH 1,000 (blue, late President Nyerere), TSH 500 (green, buffalo) and TSH 2,00 (brown, Zanzibar Fort). The coins are TSH 200, 100, 50 and 25. TSH 20, 10 and 5 are out of circulation and while they still may be used in banks, are no longer issued or used. Bureau of Exchanges are located throughout the city. The rates vary so it wise to shop around. Hotels will also exchange foreign currency, but at higher rates.
Cash is the most commonly-used payment for everyday purchases e.g., groceries, etc. It is essential for such things as cooking gas, fuel for the car, restaurants, drinks at bars, taxis and most other daily purchases. Recently, larger shops have started accepting Visa and MasterCard and some places will accept American Express, but it is still advisable to have cash available in case of problems with the unreliable machines.
Credit cards are accepted in hotels and some very select restaurants, which will charge a 5% fee. In most instances, you will need Tanzanian shillings. Foreign cash is accepted, but at shocking exchange rates. Some institutions insist on being paid in U.S. dollars, but you have the right to pay in Shillings. However, you will more than likely get a poor exchange rate.
As a foreigner you are able to open a private bank account with a minimum of 50,000 Tanzanian Shillings, 1,000 U.S.-dollars and sometimes with 1,000 Euros, but you will need a work/residence permit, two passport-size photographs, a letter of appointment from your employer and a cash deposit in order to do so. All banks use English and Swahili as the language of correspondence. Provided you have sufficient funds, you can transfer and remit any amount of currency out of the country. Conversely, you can transfer in as much as you want, but it will be converted into the currency of your accounts.
Banking hours on weekdays are normally 08:30 am to 15:30 pm and Saturdays, from 09:00 am to noon. There are over 30 banks with Barclay’s, Standard Chartered, Stanbic, Bank of Baroda, FBME, and Citibank being the more well known internationally. Most banks have ATMs and offer Visa, and MasterCard facilities. Cash is dispensed in Tanzanian Shillings. TSH 400,000 is usually the maximum allowed to be withdrawn at one time. Traveler’s cheques are generally only accepted and exchanged at banks, hotels and bureaus of exchange. Credit cards are slowly being introduced but, when dealing with locals, cash is the only acceptable tender.
When searching for a place to live in your city, the most important factor to consider is your budget. Accommodation costs are extremely high while the standards are comparatively low. The other factor to consider is the traveling distance to work and school as traffic congestion is problematic, especially in the morning.
Oysterbay and the Peninsula are the two most popular neighborhoods for expats. Rentals in the Oysterbay and Peninsular vary from US $2,500 to $15,000 per month. The most prominent and sought after areas are Masaki (near the Yacht Club), Msasani Peninsular and Oysterbay. All are located near the most popular school, shopping centers, hospitals, hotels and restaurants. These areas have been developing at an amazing rate in the last five to seven years and you now have a choice of all types of accommodation. Many of them have swimming pools, gyms, tennis courts and security systems. Because these areas are in high demand, the rents are much higher and payment terms are seldom less than a year.
Foreigners are not allowed to buy property. Only businesses are permitted to buy on a 99-year lease agreement. So as a general rule, accommodation is rented. Landlords of property on the Peninsular demand an advance payment for one year. In other areas, some owners ask for only six months in advance.
While looking for your home, you may consider furnished accommodation on a short-term lease. Ask for a list of accommodations available, but book early because it is scarce in Dar es Salaam. There are only two international residential management companies: Knight Frank and Pam Goulding. However there are three to four good local firms. There are over 40 hotels and furnished apartments in Dar es Salaam and the surrounding areas: Holiday Inn, Movenpick, Kempinski, Protea and Sun International are the more commonly known hotel chains.
Utilities are generally not included in the price of rent. Water is a factor to be considered when moving to an area. In certain areas, for example the Yacht Club and Masaki, a house for a family of four requires water to be trucked in four times a month at US $50 a delivery. If DAWASCO, the local company distributing water around Dar es Salaam is connected to your home it can cost about TSH 100,000 (US $85 per month).
Electricity is another high-cost factor. A house that consumes electricity for air-conditioners and appliances can be as much as TSH 500,000 (US $430 per month). TANESCO sells prepaid electricity through its LUKU offices from Monday to Saturday. Some garages offer a 24 hour service for sales of LUKU. Gas is a very useful alternative to electricity and is readily available and most DUKAs (local shops) sell it late at night. The voltage system is 220 but because of the fluctuating .voltage, most households buy many protection plugs to prevent their appliances from being destroyed by the sharp peaks and troughs in supply. Most appliances function in Tanzania.
Tanzania is considered safe, but there has been an increase in petty theft and some gang-related attacks on lone people. Burglary in the home is rare, but one should employ 24-hour security services.
Expats to Dar es Salaam usually enroll children in the main private schools. There are more than a dozen schools to choose from in Dar es Salaam including IST (International School of Tanganyika) in Oysterbay for upper class children and IST Elementary school in Upanga. IST is by far the most popular school of choice for expatriates and for that reason alone, it is difficult to get students placed immediately. Sometimes your luck is determined by those leaving a particular grade. The school is extremely expensive but has the best record in the city. There are also seven selected schools in the Peninsular, Ada Estate and Upanga areas which cater to preschool children. School buses are available, but heavy traffic means that children spend a long time on the bus from very early in the morning. Hence a lot of families drive their children to and from school.
All schools except IST start in January and finish in December. IST starts in September and finishes at the end of June. The schools as a rule, insist that their pupils wear uniforms. Sports are not a high priority, but IST does have some activities other than academic.
It is recommended that you get Yellow Fever and Cholera vaccinations as a precaution, and speak to your doctor about medicine to prevent malaria. You would not be refused medical care, but in Aga Khan and government hospitals, admittance is relatively cheap. Most expatriates go to IST Clinic–International School of Tanganyika Clinic, which is run by professional doctors who charge in U.S. dollars for all services. The local institutions will refer patients to Kenya, South Africa if the situation warrants it.
You can dial 112 for help due to a medical emergency, a fire or if you need to contact the police, however, these numbers are rarely answered. It is best to get the emergency numbers of the security company you belong to. There are three or four security firms that offer reliable ambulance and medical assistance services. Daktari” is the word for “doctor” in Swahili. “Duka la Dawa” is the shop for medicine. The water is not safe to drink from the tap. Bottled water is highly recommended.
Dar es Salaam traffic can be very congested especially in the morning and evening hours. It is a definite advantage to have your own vehicle. If a company vehicle is not available to ferry your family around, you may require a second vehicle. A great deal of expatriates use drivers to avoid the stresses of traffic and the perils of possible accidents. You may want to employ a driver to carry out both functions and, in general, these people are very reliable and prepared to work odd hours. Vehicles are generally a four-wheel drive type, because the roads are not in good condition. A new vehicle of that type sells for US $30,000 to $50,000 but good second hand vehicles are available for between US $8,000 and $15,000.
A Tanzanian driver’s license is required within six months upon arrival. The licensing authority requires both a current driver’s license for verification; three passport size photographs and an eye test by a reputable specialist (at a cost of TSH 30,000 or US $26). Insurance is not mandatory, but it is highly recommend that you take out full comprehensive insurance as very few local citizens have insurance and you need to protect your assets.
In Tanzania you drive on the left-hand side. Despite periodic complaints in the press about dangerous driving, dirty uniforms and unsociably loud music, Dar es Salaam’s public transport is surprisingly efficient and you can get almost anywhere within a twenty kilometer (12 mile) radius of the city for less than a thousand Shillings (less than a US $1). “Daladals” are shared minibuses which are all around the town and operate from 5am to 10pm. For short, frequently-used distances, the route is serviced by an inexpensive, three-wheeler motorbike, which accommodates two- to three passengers. Taxis can be found everywhere. Trips to the airport are between TSH 20,000 to 30,000 (US $17 to $26). In the city, the transport is safe but is generally very crowded and can be very hot and congested.
Long haul buses are available to take Expats out of the city. They are of good quality and are fairly inexpensive, but the drivers are known to speed. If the distance is within 40-50 kilometers (24-30 miles), then taxis would be a good option. Because of the huge distances from Dar es Salaam to other major tourist spots, many travelers use local airlines and charter companies to go to these places.
There are many grocery stores to buy food and toiletries including Shoppers Plaza, Shop rite (three outlets), Game, Village Supermarket and Shrijee’s (three outlets). For fresh produce, there are other “Dukas,” but one must be ready to barter for the best price, so most expatriates tend to shop at the main-stream shops and occasionally buy at the odd roadside Duka. Other than fresh food, all other commodities are imported and comes with an inflated cost. You can get most things, including appliances locally and quite a variety too.
There are also several brilliant furniture outlets. Tanzanians are very good furniture manufacturers and are renowned for Zanzibar beds, chests, bookshelves, side tables and coffee tables and much more. Zanzibar Doors are grand entrances for a great deal of houses.
The expat community is very friendly and there are many activities available for entertainment. Clubs and groups are available to meet and mix with other expatriates and locals alike including Bridge Clubs, British Council, Dar es Salaam Yacht Club, Diplomatic Spouses Group, Irish Society, Little Theatre, Mah-jong, the Wildlife Conservation Society of Tanzania and many others. There are not many radio stations and apart from television, the social life is restricted to going to the movies and dining out. There are several groups who welcome “Karibu,” newcomers. There are night clubs and many bars, but it is suggested that a newcomer only goes to these places once they get to know the city. There are a lot of single, professional expats who are on assignment for a contracted period.
The list of things for spouses to do is almost endless. It is common for spouses to visit the islands near Dar es Salaam, enjoy the sunshine and eat freshly cooked fish and chips. The sporting activities are limited, but golf, tennis and cricket are all very popular social events. There is a bowling alley at the Sea Cliff Hotel on the Peninsular and scuba diving and sailing are popular activities on the weekends.
Nannies are available and are generally have experience working with other expats families. They are very reliable and can double up as housekeepers. Domestic employment contracts are essential, the wages are very affordable.
While Kunduchi Hotel and Beach Resorts are the most popular kid-friendly attractions in the area, other childhood activities are quite limited and families are expected to entertain their children most of the time. Other than school-organized activities, it is suggested that families remain involved with selecting the possible venues for their teenagers before allowing them to explore on their own. Discuss any safety issues for children in this city. There are no real fears for children, but it is recommended that teenagers do not go into the city on their own.