Perhaps your all time dream is to experience Africa? Well, Tanzania has everything waiting for you! In this 19-day Tanzania trip on a budget guide you’ll find what you need to make the most out of it and make it a reality.
Me and my wife @sallapyy just came back from a 19-day Tanzania trip on a budget. The experience was amazing and since the country might be unknown for many people I am going to start writing a few articles about it. First I’ll write about practical tips and budget, so this is what you will see here today.
If you are interested in the day by day itinerary, you can read it here.
Tanzania or in fact East Africa isn’t the cheapest of places to visit but we really wanted to get a true “Nat Geo” experience. So we tried to make it as cheap as possible but as comfortable as it could be when it came to all aspects of the trip.
While living costs in East Africa aren’t expensive, what may hit the ball out of the park is the high cost of Safaris, transportation and tours, many things that you can do in Africa you can’t do it by yourself.
We are a “do it yourself” couple and for this trip we planned everything by ourselves except the 5-day safari. The reason we booked a Safari was that there are too complex activities like visiting Serengeti National Park and drive in its endless plains without getting lost for example, or the fees to enter and camp or the logistics with food and cooking. As our trip finished we are really happy we decided to do it this way.
Best time to go to Tanzania?
We left from Helsinki, Finland and travelled from June 3rd until June 21st. The best time to visit Tanzania (if you don’t want to get stuck in the mud) is during the dry season from June to September/October and also temperatures aren’t too high. High season starts in June but the highest season is July and August as many people want to see the peak of the Great Migration in the Serengeti. So prices will go up in everything if you travel in July or August.
Getting around in the cities
The best way in my opinion to travel short distances in the same city is by either local tuktuk (called Bajaj) or taxi, you can negotiate the price and depending on the distance it will cost somewhere between 2.5€ to 10€ per trip.
NOTE: Something you need to take into account is that addresses don’t work as in Europe or USA. Addresses are given based on local landmarks, a building, a known supermarket, I really didn’t have much trouble with this as in my home country Costa Rica is the same, so I knew how it works. However, as this was a new place I really didn’t know the way to places and many times google maps was wrong or roads didn’t exist.
What to do in this case? It is really easy, just ask your local host either your hotel or Airbnb or whomever you are staying with, for their taxi driver of choice. People in Tanzania have a taxi driver that they trust and always use. This person knows how to reach your accommodation place and also can be very handy whenever you need to go somewhere from/to your accommodation. So ask for their phone number and you can call them anytime you need a ride.
Tip: get a local prepaid sim card as soon as you arrive to Dar Es Salaam airport (it is very simple, costs about 15€ for a full month with 4G internet and add 5€ extra for calls/sms).
For long distances use local buses. We used local buses 3 times during our trip.
- 13-hour bus from Dar Es Salaam to Arusha: Cost about 20€ per person included refreshments and a comfortable seat. We picked Kilimanjaro Express as the bus leaves from Dar Es Salaam center in the Kisutu area (here is the Kilimanjaro Express office in Google Maps) at 6am and it is much easier than going to take it to the busy Ubungo bus station.
- 6-hour bus Lake Natron to Arusha: Cost about 12€ per person. A bit uncomfortable ride but it got easier as people started to get off and the road turned to asphalt after 3 hours. This was a true chicken bus (no chickens but goats though), however the experience was amazing and we saw things that only locals see, based on their eyes we could tell that not many foreigners pick this option. We saved 300€ by doing this, the other option was a private transfer by car which was way out of our budget.
- 2-hour small bus Arusha to Moshi: Cost about 1€ per person. In this one we did have a chicken onboard! J We took this one from Arusha bus station, our taxi driver of choice helped us to get there and to the right bus. Buses leave very often as soon as they are full.
Tip: don’t bring too much luggage if you plan to use local buses, we were fine with a small backpack, camera bag and big rucksack each. It will make your life so much easier to have a little as possible.
Picking a Safari
I will write a more detailed guide on how to book a safari in the next days. We used the website www.safaribookings.com to find the type of safari we were interested on and contact the providers.
We picked Orongai Africa Safari company (nothing in here is sponsored, so this is my honest opinion). Martha and her team were more than amazing. Orongai was not just budget wise good for us but they worked with us to arrange every single detail before we left camping in the bush. They are true professionals in what they do, I really recommend them.
These are the places we stayed in, I totally recommend all of them:
- Dar Es Salaam – Oasis of Peace in Oyster Bay: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/12625160
- Lake Natron – Maasai Giraffe Campsite http://www.maasaigiraffe.com/
- Moshi – More than a drop http://www.booking.com/Share-PvDCvx
These two following Airbnbs in Arusha are owned by the same person and are inside the same compound:
- Arusha – Small Open Plan Cottage https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/10536950
- Arusha – 1 BD house in friendly compound https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/5906815
During our safari we also stayed in Heaven Campsite. Simba Campsite and Nyani Campsite.
When it comes to drinking water in Tanzania, you should buy it bottled. Every house either boils tap water or have bottled water.
You can get bottled water from everywhere and as much as you want, there is no shortage. You can get water even from the most remote of places and campsites. You will never ran out of water.
1 litre of water costs about 0.30 – 0.50€ and if you go on an organized safari you will get everything from water, food to even toilet paper 😉
I must accept that I was quite worried about how to charge electrical devices, especially camera batteries! Fear nothing 🙂 there will be always a place to charge them even on campsites. Campsites have a main building which has solar panels so you can charge anything when you get back in the evening.
Depending on the amount of people you might run in a “charging rush hour” because there are not unlimited number of plugs to use. So what I did to be prepared was to buy a world adapter that allowed me to charge 3 things at once. Again this is not an ad 😀 I just want to help. I bought the SKROSS World Travel Adapter Pro Light with USB: http://amzn.eu/0DhSxa1 with it I could charge 2 usb devices like my phone and GoPro and then one plugged device like my camera battery.
Then I had 3 extra batteries for my Nikon camera out of which I only used 2. Also remember to get enough memory cards for pictures!
In Tanzania the standard voltage is 230 V and the frequency is 50 Hz. So you don’t need to convert anything if the standard voltage from your country is between 220-240V, for example countries in the UK, Europe, Australia, Africa and most of Asia. The plug is type G which is the same as in the UK.
Tanzania is a very safe and welcoming country. Tanzanians really know how to take care of tourists/guests as without them their economy would be in trouble. We walked in every city during all times of the day from before sunrise and after sunset. We never felt in danger and whenever we felt like not walking at night we just took a local tuktuk for short distance or taxi if it was a long distance.
People will come to you on the street to give you tips of what to see, say high or maybe they have some kind of art that they would like you to check out and hopefully buy but if you tell them that you are just “relaxing” and not planning to buy anything they will respect your decision and with a friendly smile tell you “Karibu Tanzania” (welcome to Tanzania).
Of course be always aware of your things specially in busy streets as there might be pick pockets around but what city in the world doesn’t have them?
Wildlife Management Fee
Just wanted to add a short note here that if you plan to go camping by yourself around Lake Natron area for example to go to climb Ol Doinyo Lengai volcano, you need to pay a wildlife management fee to the wildlife management authority in Arusha prior to going to Lake Natron. The camping permit fee is 35.4usd per person per day.
Breakdown of expenses
This is for 2 people, so you can divide everything by 2 and get expense per person. It might be a bit messy but it is just to give you an idea of the costs related to a 3-week trip like this. Also note that we were not on the luxury side neither is the super cheap side when it came to accommodation and food, so I really believe that it is possible to make it even cheaper.
- Accommodation total: 425€
- Private 5-day safari = 2100€
- Ol Doinyo Lengai volcano hike (climb permit/guide 130€ + drive to the Volcano 65€ = 195€
- Bongoyo Island visit with ferry = 25€
- Fees (Wildlife Management Fee to camp in Lake Natron 200€ + Gate Entry in Lake Natron 65€ = 265€
- Food: 400€
- Transport: Bus Dar-Arusha 26€ + Bus Lake Natron – Arusha 25€ + Bus Arusha – Moshi 3€ + Taxis 100€ + 3 Taxi transfer Dar airport to Airbnb to Airport 60€ + Bajaj (tuktuk) = 214€
- Flights: 1040€
Grand Total: 4664€ (2332€ per person)
Tip: I would strongly suggest to leave at least 500€ extra for anything unplanned expense that that could come. Souvenirs, etc could be part of this budget.
As you can see, Tanzania isn’t that expensive of a country as soon as you remove everything related to safari or guided tours. However, if there is something we regret was not spending a couple of days less in the city and use that time to stay in the wild. All in all, the experience was definitely worth it and can’t wait to go back to another African country soon.
For more on the day by day itinerary please check my other blog post: 19-day Tanzania trip on a budget itinerary
Got any questions, feedback or more details that you would like me to include in here? Please let me know by writing a comment below or writing in my instagram @_estebansoto_
Thanks a lot for reading 🙂