Welcome to Tanzania!

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,…

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