The people of Tanzania are always welcoming and treat visitors well, however for a first time visitor it is helpful to have advice from others to make their stay in Tanzania even better!
Most Tanzanians speak a good amount of English, but often they are out of practice, so please be patient. Some Kiswahili words you will hear a lot are: Karibu – which means “welcome” as in “welcome to our home” and also “You are Welcome”.
Jambo – This is a common greeting, usually given to tourists, who are generally expected to respond with “Jambo” in turn. The actual Swahili pronunciation is slightly different, Hujambo, this is an equivalent of “How are you”. The usual response is Sijambo, which actually translates to “I’m fine”.
A less casual greeting is Habari. While this translates to “Whats the news?” it is more a regular greeting and not so casual as the phrase in English. In mainland Tanzania you would respond with Nzuri, while on the coast, particularly in Zanzibar you will most often hear Salama, both mean that everything is ok. Salama may be used as a greeting on its own.
To give a respectful greeting, to someone in authority or older than you, you should say Shkamoo (pronounced Shkamor). If someone says this to you the response is Marahaba.
If you are in your teens or early twenties, other young adults may greet you by saying Mambo, to which the usual reply is Poa. This is very casual (the equivalent of ” ‘sup?”) and should never be said to someone older than yourself.
To thank someone the word is Assante “Thank you” and sometimes Assante Sana “Thank you very much”. If this sounds strangely familiar it is the beginning of the nonsensical song Rafiki sings in the Lion King before realising that Simba is alive – Simba simply means Lion!
Another word that may be useful to know is Pole Pole (pronounce the “e”: Poleh Poleh) which means “slow down” – useful if someone is talking a bit fast or trying to hard to push a bargain. A single Pole, on it’s own means “Sympathies” or “Commiserations” and is used for most circumstances from missing a bus to a major personal tragedy, though in that case it would most likely be Pole Sana.
Other good words are Dala Dala and Boda Boda, These are the taxi-buses and taxi-motorcycles that are a cheap way to get around in Tanzania. Mzungu is another word you will hear a fair amount. That’s you. Generally the word just means “visitor”, though it can be taken to mean a non-African person.
Tanzania is a mix of Christian (generally protestant) and Muslim populations. People are generally friendly as pride in hospitality is a feature of life in this country. As with all people showing respect, especially as a visitor is greatly appreciated. Tanzanians do like to laugh and are generally expressive of their emotions, however public displays of affection can embarrass, particularly the older generations.
Safety and Security:
Tanzania is among the most successful African nations, however the proportion of Tanzanians living in poverty are higher than in most European and certainly American populations. This means that, as with any developing country, you must be careful with your valuables and cash. Carry only the cash you need in your pocket, preferably use a belt wallet that tucks into your trousers to prevent pickpocketing. when in town make sure you don’t carry valuable items in your pockets or in a rucksack on your back. Ladies should ensure their handbags are kept zipped and preferably carried under your arm to minimise risks. Make use of your hotel’s storage safe facility and never leave your hotel room unlocked.
Arusha is a very safe town, but we would still recommend having a local guide with you at night to show you the good places to go, and to steer you away from areas that might be slightly more risky than others. Women, in particular, are not recommended to walk through town alone at night, or in very small groups.
There a number of recommended vaccinations you will require for Tanzania:
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
- Yellow Fever
- Volunteers or those who may come into contact with animals should probably inoculate themselves against Rabies.
There is no Vaccination for Malaria but you can take preventive medications. Most Anti-Malarial pills can make you feel very odd at first but it is still worth considering them. Safariland Cottages provides Mosquito nets but we also recommend a topical strength repellant as well.
Stomach bugs – For many tourists a major factor in visiting a country is the risk of Delhi Belly. Its likely that if you eat local food, such as samosas from a street seller, you will have a run in with this issue. To avoid upset stomachs and a range of the above diseases you can follow some simple suggestions:
- use bottled water: Most water supplies in Tanzania are contaminated in some way so using bottled water for drinking, brushing teeth etc, is a very good idea.
- Avoid salads while in Tanzania
- Ensure any meat you eat is cooked through
- Eat where the locals eat: If many people are avoiding a shop, its doubtful that all its food is not how it should be. Expats will mostly be very helpful if you ask for advice on where to eat.
In Summer please bring a hat, long-sleeve shirts, trousers and suncream, Tanzania gets pretty warm and there is often little shade in the savannah.
Finally, Holiday romances are wonderful, but anywhere in Africa HIV/AIDS is a much higher risk than back home. The obvious solution is to abstain but if that is not going to be an option then always use protection and avoid oral sex.
Tanzania is possibly the least risky country to visit than any other in East Africa, but as with all of Africa, a few precautions and practices can really make the difference between a bad experience, and the best holiday of your life. Be safe and we hope to see you at Safariland Cottages soon!