“Travel is never a matter of money but of courage.”
– Paulo Coelho
It’s that gorgeous, red-and-blue checked fabric that catches your eye more than anything else. Shuka, your guide says. You stare transfixed, as he explains the history of this traditional Maasai pattern.
Your small group had traveled for ten days through the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater, having an experience of a lifetime, and this is your last day before returning to Arusha for your flight home. You’re stopped at a Maasai market for some shopping. The merchant is radiant when you approach her, and she places your hand upon the soft fabric. You melt. This blanket is different; it’s brilliant.
Settling on a price, you reach for shillings and realize you barely have any left. In Arusha, everyone had gone to the ATM except you. You thought you had withdrawn enough shillings but now you’re out. Luckily your group pools some cash and your walk away with this brilliant shuka over your shoulder, smiling but wishing you had been a bit more money-savvy from the start.
When traveling, money matters can vary drastically by country. In some countries, credit cards are the way. In others, cash and traveler’s checks are king. To end all ambiguity, we compiled a complete guide to all things money when visiting Tanzania. What you find below will answer 99.9% of all issues cha-ching.
Before you Arrive
Shillings, the National Currency. The Tanzania Shilling (TSh) is convertible for US Dollars, Euros, and other currencies within Tanzania. There are several places you can exchange your money, but we advise only to use hotels, banks, and bureau de changes. US dollars are recommended over euros or pounds. Watch exchange rates in real-time here (xe.com).
Don’t Bring Old Cash. Most Tanzanian shops won’t accept U.S. bills dated 2006 or earlier. Why? Apparently, the older-issued bills were easy to forge. Good to know! Also, if you have bills that are extremely tattered, merchants will reject them. Think of U.S. currency like potato chips: they’re best when crispy, clean, and not outdated.
Forget Traveler’s Checks. These artifacts live somewhere in large piles full of pagers, landline telephones, and teletubbies. Don’t bring them; it’s as much a hassle for you as it is for Tanzanians.
Credit, Debit, Cash: The Golden Triangle. These three should function as your primary methods of carrying money. Keep it simple. VISA is most widely recognized, followed by Mastercard (5% surcharge per swipe). Most lodges and higher-end shop accept credit cards.
Entry Visa Costs. Make sure to the airport with extra cash for your visa fee. This is a very common mistake that makes for awkward moments in the visa line. For U.S. residents: $100. For all others: $50.
ATMs: Cash machines aren’t found outside major cities (Arusha, Moshi, Dar, Zanzibar, etc.), so be sure and withdraw what you need before you go anywhere else (daily maximum of 400,000TSh, less than USD $200). Also, don’t forget to call your banks ahead of time and inform them of your trip dates (and prepare to make the bank teller extremely jealous.)
While in Tanzania:
Shillings are Best. The further your safari travels from major urban hubs, the less likely stores and artisans will be willing to accept U.S. currency. It’s a good rule of thumb that you’ll always receive a better exchange rate when you pay using shillings.
Keep your receipts. If you do use credit/debit cards in Tanzania, be sure and keep your receipts. If you return home and a charge looks mysterious, you’ll have a paper trail to prove the miscalculation.
Etiquette: In Tanzania bargaining is part of the deal (literally). Merchants expect to haggle, but within reason. Remember when negotiating a price that Tanzanians work hard, too, and they have families to feed and financial needs, just like you. Have fun but be reasonable. Here are tips we found useful: view more
Tipping: This can get a little complicated, but worry not. Easy Travel can help you navigate this. Click here for a complete overview on tipping in Tanzania.
Other Essential Items:
Hints for Carrying Money: Money belts can be clunky and awkward, but there are some sleek designs out there these days (source). If you decide to carry a wallet, keep it in your front pocket. And lastly, if you withdraw handsome amounts of shillings, distribute them a few different places: some in your money belt, some in the pocket of your daypack, and some emergency dollars hidden in your luggage. That way, if anything were to happen to one bag, you still other resources available.
For Travellers on a Budget…If you’re watching your pennies and wish to be money-conscious during your time in Tanzania, here is a list of the five best things you can do.
The Fine Print
Additional Costs: An Easy Travel safari package includes all accommodations (for Zanzibar, clients often book their own), wildlife viewing drives, 4WD safari vehicle, fuel, park fees, and services of drivers and guides. Additional costs you have to incur include: international flights, domestic flight (unless requested), any trip changes, camping fees, travel and medical insurance, personal equipment for Kilimanjaro, tipping, laundry, drinks, phone calls, souvenirs, and visa fees.
Arrival/Departure Accommodations: Here’s some fine print regarding your first and last nights in Arusha: clients can choose one of two options for accommodations: first, you can book a bed-and-breakfast hotel, where you’ll be responsible to pay for your own for lunch and dinner. The second option is to book “half-board” accommodations, which include breakfast and dinner. While on safari, all meals are included for the duration.
Between ATMs for cash and credit card purchasing options, this guide should cover you in Tanzania. A little planning ahead goes a long way, with backup credit cards, receipts, and copies of important documents recommended. Easy Travel is here to help and can advise on any number of money-related questions you might have. Contact us today and let’s get you started on a trip of a lifetime.
Getting You There?
Whether you are looking to join us for a beach combing style break away in Zanzibar, exploring the realms of the Serengeti on an African Safari or climb Mount Kilimanjaro with our experienced guides we are here to help. Still unsure when is best to join us? Contact us today and allow us to help answer all your questions.