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Moving to Tanzania

Although not typically a popular expat destination, Tanzania has become a growing tourist destination thanks to its vast natural reserves and wildlife, beautiful beaches and the highest mountain in Africa, Mount Kilimanjaro. Most of the country's population live along the northern border and eastern coastal regions, with many congregating in the main cities of Dar es Salaam and Dodoma, leaving the country’s interior quite sparsely populated.

Tanzania’s population is diverse, made up of around 125 ethnic groups, which has resulted in a rich cultural landscape. Expats who are adventurous and open minded will find that a wealth of new experiences await them in Tanzania. 

Living in Tanzania as an expat

The country is rich in natural resources and most expats in Tanzania are likely to find themselves employed in the mining industry. Many also move to the country as part of humanitarian projects based in the region. Other sectors where expats may find work include tourism, agriculture and telecommunications. Construction is also a growing sector that in recent years has presented opportunities for those with the right skills.

Despite its wealth of natural resources Tanzania has faced a number of severe social issues, including poverty and inequality. The extreme poverty in which many Tanzanians live is often the most significant source of culture shock for expats arriving from more affluent countries.

Cost of living in Tanzania

The cost of living in Tanzania is extremely low when compared to Western countries such as the US, and even more developed African countries such as South Africa are expensive in comparison. That said, eating western food, frequenting fine dining restaurants, and luxury travel within the country can be costly. Taking local transport and shopping at local grocery stores are two ways in which expats can decrease their cost of living in Tanzania. 

Expat families and children

Expats from Western countries are likely to struggle when adapting to many of the issues faced by this developing country. Tanzania’s infrastructure tends to be severely underdeveloped by Western standards.

The country's healthcare facilities are sorely lacking in staff and equipment and the local education system will likely not meet the standards that many expats are used to. Expats will find that private healthcare and schooling are often their only viable options when relocating to Tanzania. 

Climate in Tanzania

The weather in Tanzania ranges from hot and humid in summer to cool and mild in winter. While temperatures can reach up to 95ºF (35ºC) during the hotter months in the tropical coastal regions of the country, the temperatures in the highlands average around to 68ºF (20ºC) and drop to around 50ºF (10ºC) in winter. 

Despite the challenges of living in this East African country, expats moving to Tanzania will likely be greeted with warmth by the local population and can look forward to a richly rewarding cultural experience.


Fast Facts

Official name: United Republic of Tanzania

Population: Around 61 million

Capital city: Dodoma

Other major cities: Dar es Salaam, Arusha, Mwanza

Neighbouring countries: Tanzania is bordered by Uganda and Kenya to the north, Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo to the west, and Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique to the south. The country's eastern border runs along the Indian Ocean coast. 

Geography: Tanzania is an East African country with a coastline along the Indian Ocean. The country’s landscape varies from mountainous and forested regions in the north to the vast flat plains of Central Tanzania. It is home to Africa’s tallest mountain, Mount Kilimanjaro, as well as the continent’s lowest point at Lake Tanganyika. Tanzania also incorporates several off-shore islands, including the Zanzibar archipelago.

Political system: Presidential republic

Major religions: Christianity and Islam are the dominant religions, with a small minority of the population practising animism.

Main languages: Swahili and English are the official languages. Arabic is also spoken in some areas.

Money: The official currency is the Tanzanian Shilling (TZS). Although credit cards are accepted in major establishments, Tanzania remains a largely cash-based society.

Time: GMT+3

Electricity: 230 volts, 50Hz. Type D and G plugs are used. Type D plugs have three round pins in a triangular pattern and type G plugs have two flat parallel pins and a grounding pin. 

Internet domain: .tz

International dialling code: +255

Emergency contacts: The emergency number for Tanzania is 112, but ambulance services are scarce, particularly in rural areas. Air evacuation to a neighbouring country may be necessary for serious emergencies.

Transport and driving: Cars drive on the left-hand side of the road. Due to the poor condition of the roads and erratic drivers, expats should drive with caution. A four-wheel drive vehicle will likely be needed if travelling outside of the major centres. Basic public transport is available in most towns in the form of buses, taxis and dala-dala (minibus taxis).

Embassy contacts for Tanzania


Tanzania embassies

  • Embassy of Tanzania, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 884 1080

  • High Commission of Tanzania, London, United Kingdom (also responsible for Ireland): +44 20 7569 1470

  • High Commission of Tanzania, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 232 1509

  • Embassy of Tanzania, Tokyo, Japan (also responsible for Australia and New Zealand): +81 3 3425 4531

  • High Commission of Tanzania, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 12 342 4371


Foreign embassies in Tanzania

  • United States Embassy, Dar es Salaam: +255 22 229 4000

  • British High Commission, Dar es Salaam: +255 22 229 0000

  • Canadian High Commission, Dar es Salaam: +255 22 216 3300

  • Australian High Commission, Nairobi, Kenya (also responsible for Tanzania): +252 20 4277 100

  • South African High Commission, Dar es Salaam: +255 22 221 8500

  • Irish Embassy, Dar es Salaam: +255 22 260 2355

  • New Zealand High Commission, Pretoria, South Africa (also responsible for Tanzania): +27 12 435 9000

Public Holidays in Tanzania

 

2021

2022

New Year’s Day

1 January

1 January

Zanzibar Revolution Day

12 January

12 January

Good Friday

2 April

15 April

Easter Monday

5 April

18 April

Karume Day

7 April

7 April

Union Day

26 April

26 April

Labour Day

1 May

1 May

Eid al-Fitr

12-14 May

2-4 May

Saba Saba Day

7 July 

7 July

Nane Nane Day

8 August

8 August

Eid al-Adha

19-23 July

9-13 July

Mwalimu Nyerere Day

14 October

14 October

Birth of Prophet Muhammed

18 October

8 October

Independence Day

9 December

9 December

Christmas Day

25 December

25 December

Boxing Day

26 December

26 December

Working in Tanzania

Although one of the poorest countries in the world, Tanzania is emerging as one of the fastest growing economies in Africa and there are opportunities for those looking to live and work there. 

Expats moving to Tanzania are likely to do so as part of a corporate relocation within their existing company or go there to take up a position within the NGO sector. Expat salaries are unlikely to reach the levels of other African hardship destinations, such as Nigeria or Angola, but expats working in Tanzania are likely to enjoy a rewarding cultural experience in a friendly and welcoming environment. 


Job market in Tanzania

Agriculture is the backbone of Tanzania’s economy, employing around 80 percent of the population. Tourism is another major economic sector, while mining is also an important contributor to the Tanzanian economy. Manufacturing and services, although small, are also key sources of employment in the country.

While Dar es Salaam, as the home of the country’s largest seaport, is the most important centre of economic activity in Tanzania, other major areas that attract foreigners include Arusha and the capital, Dodoma. 


Finding a job in Tanzania

Expats may be able to find job opportunities in Tanzania online, and should also consider consulting with local recruitment agencies. Those looking for work are likely to find opportunities in the tourism or mining sectors, while a significant proportion of foreigners also work in the NGO sector. Teaching English is another option for those seeking employment in this East African country. 

Although it’s not essential to speak Swahili, learning at least a few key phrases of the local language will go a long way when looking for work or earning the respect of Tanzanian colleagues.


Work culture in Tanzania

The working environment in Tanzania is generally a friendly one, although expats may take a while to adjust to the cultural changes.

Business structures are hierarchical and status is revered. Business decisions are therefore made from the top down and subordinates hesitate to question their manager’s authority. This may take some getting used to for those moving from a more egalitarian society. Decision-making can also be a drawn-out process as Tanzanians are not direct in their communication style, preferring not to give an outright yes or no to a question. Expats therefore need to learn to exercise patience when working in Tanzania.

Although Swahili is the official language, English is the dominant language of business in Tanzania, especially in the main cities. Arabic is also commonly spoken in the predominantly Islamic archipelago of Zanzibar.

Networking and building meaningful relationships is also crucial to successful business in Tanzania, and it’s important to always be respectful and courteous to business associates in order to avoid causing anyone to 'lose face'. 

Doing Business in Tanzania

As one of the fastest growing economies in Africa, there are many opportunities for doing business in Tanzania. Expats will likely find themselves working or doing business within one of the three most important sectors of agriculture, mining or tourism and based in one of the major centres of Dar es Salaam, Arusha or the capital, Dodoma.

Nevertheless, expats will find that doing business is not always easy in the country, as evidenced by its dismal ranking of 141 out of 190 countries in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Survey for 2020. Factors for which the country ranked particularly low were trading across borders (182nd) and starting a business (162nd).


Fast facts

Business hours

The work week is Monday to Friday and office hours are usually between 8am and 5pm, with lunch between 12pm and 2pm.

Business language

Swahili is the official language, but English is widely spoken in business circles. Arabic is also common in some predominantly Islamic areas, such as Zanzibar.

Business dress

Business attire should be smart – suits for men and long skirts for women. The tropical heat dictates that lightweight fabrics are best.

Greeting

It is important to greet the most senior person in the room first. A handshake is the most appropriate when greeting a man, but it’s best to wait for a woman to first extend her hand before shaking as some Muslim women will not shake hands with men. Sometimes a nod is sufficient when greeting a woman.

Gifts

It’s customary to give a gift if invited to someone’s home – a small token from one’s home country is best. Flowers should be avoided as these are usually only given as condolence.

Gender

Generally speaking, business culture in Tanzania is traditional and male-dominated. Although women’s rights are protected and the proportion of women in high-ranking positions is increasing, it’s still uncommon for them to occupy these executive positions.


Business culture in Tanzania

The business culture in Tanzania is generally friendly and easy going, but there are some cultural nuances that may take time to get used to.

Business structures

Tanzanian business structures are hierarchical, with the most senior person being the primary decision maker. Employees are used to taking orders and accepting the decisions of those in senior positions, so decisions are not often questioned and ideas are not regularly shared between management and subordinates.

Relationships

Networking is essential to business success in Tanzania. Establishing a relationship and getting to know associates on a personal level is important to doing business successfully in Tanzania. It’s not common to get straight down to business when first meeting with colleagues – it’s customary to begin a business meeting with small talk, with topics such as family and sport being good starting points.

Communication

Tanzanians are not always direct in their communications and decision making can be a slow process. Expats will need to exercise patience when doing business in Tanzania. Being direct can often be misinterpreted as being rude, so it’s unusual to receive an outright yes or no to any request, which is often a frustrating delay to making decisions.

The Tanzanian understanding of personal space may be different from what expats are used to, and it’s quite normal to stand extremely close to someone when talking to them. Hand gestures and direct eye contact are also common, and expats should not be surprised if their associate puts a hand on their arm while talking to them.

Tanzanians don’t often show anger in public and the concept of saving face is important in Tanzanian society. It’s best to always speak calmly and to never show irritation or impatience in order to avoid offending associates. Never criticise a Tanzanian associate in public. If there is a disagreement it should always be discussed in private. 


Dos and don’ts of business in Tanzania

  • Do always be punctual for meetings, even if it means having to wait for Tanzanian associates.

  • Do try to learn Swahili, even if it’s just a few key phrases. Although English is the main language of business, efforts to learn the local language will be highly respected.

  • Don't say or do anything that will cause an associate to lose face in public. Any disagreements should be discussed privately.

Healthcare in Tanzania

Although the country has seen much improvement in its healthcare system in recent years, as one of the poorest countries in the world, it follows that the standard of healthcare in Tanzania remains low. The country faces chronic shortages of medical staff, and facilities are underfunded and lacking adequate medical technology.

Medical facilities are extremely limited outside of major urban areas and any serious medical emergency will likely require air evacuation to a nearby country such as Kenya or South Africa.

That said, English is widely spoken in Tanzania and doctors will generally be able to speak the language. Most doctors in the country will expect an upfront payment in cash. 


Public healthcare in Tanzania

Both private and public facilities are available in the major cities, with the best hospitals found in Dar es Salaam and Arusha. Public healthcare in Tanzania generally falls well below the standards expected by most expats. As such, most expats in Tanzania choose to use private healthcare, while the local population opts mainly for public care. 


Private healthcare in Tanzania

Private healthcare is usually the preferred option for expats living in Tanzania. While these hospitals are in a much better condition than the public hospitals, they are still below the standards of Western countries.

The doctors in private hospitals generally speak English and can treat most ailments. In cases of emergency or for serious procedures, however, expats tend to look to healthcare options outside of the country. Expats should ensure that they have comprehensive international healthcare coverage to cover the exorbitant costs of private healthcare in Tanzania. 


Health insurance in Tanzania

Expats generally use private medical facilities in Tanzania and will require private health insurance. Although private health insurance coverage is not widespread among the local population, it is essential for expats to have comprehensive coverage. Expats should ensure that they choose a plan that covers them for different kinds of treatments in Tanzania and abroad, as well as covering emergency air evacuation. 


Medicines and pharmacies in Tanzania

Pharmacies are readily available in the main urban centres but medicines may be in short supply. Expats should consider bringing all prescription and chronic medication with them. These should be carried in their original labelled containers and accompanied by a prescription or doctor’s note. 


Health concerns in Tanzania

Malaria is endemic throughout most of Tanzania and expats should discuss possible prophylaxis options with their doctor before travelling. Preventative measures include wearing long, light-coloured clothing, regular application of insect repellent and sleeping under a mosquito net.

Water-borne diseases such as cholera and typhoid are some of the most common travel-related ailments in Tanzania and the tap water is generally not safe to drink. It is advisable that expats stick to drinking bottled water wherever possible. 


Pre-travel vaccinations for Tanzania

Expats should ensure that all routine vaccinations are up to date. Before leaving for Tanzania should ensure that they are covered for the following:

  • Diphtheria

  • Tetanus

  • Measles, mumps and rubella

  • Rabies

  • Typhoid

  • Polio

  • Hepatitis A

  • Hepatitis B

The above list is merely a guide and expats should consult a medical practitioner about the health risks in Tanzania before they depart. 


Emergency services in Tanzania

In the case of an emergency, expats can dial 112 or 114, but emergency services are extremely limited and some medical emergencies may require air evacuation.

Transport and Driving in Tanzania

Getting around in Tanzania is relatively cheap and easy. Although buses travel between most major towns and cities, air travel is a safer option due to the poor conditions of the roads and the vast distances.

Most expats living in Tanzania will need their own vehicle, especially if planning to travel outside of the main city centres. A four-wheel drive vehicle is recommended, and many city-dwelling expats opt to have a driver for daily commutes. 


Public transport in Tanzania

Most Tanzanian towns have basic public transport in the form of buses, taxis and dala-dala (minibus taxis). Dar es Salaam is the central transport hub for the country with intercity buses and trains travelling to local and regional destinations on a daily basis.

Buses

Buses are the most popular and cheapest means of getting around in Tanzania and operate between all major towns.

Long-distance buses also run between Tanzania’s major cities and the main centres of neighbouring countries, including Nairobi and Mombasa in Kenya, and Lilongwe in Malawi.

Dala-dala

Minibus taxis, known locally as dala-dala, are popular and cheap means of public transport in Tanzanian towns. These taxis generally operate set routes and will stop when hailed along the road. They are normally overcrowded and have a reputation for speeding and aggressive driving, so expats should use them with caution.

Taxis

Taxis are available in all major towns and cities, but they generally aren't metered so it’s best to negotiate the fare before setting off on a journey. Compared to the buses and data-dala, taxi's can be rather expensive in Tanzania. They are identifiable by their white number plates, are normally independently operated and can be hailed on the street – although a safer option is to find one at a designated taxi stand. 


Driving in Tanzania

Tanzanian roads are generally in poor condition, especially in rural areas where roads are not tarred and a four-wheel-drive vehicle is necessary. Traffic can be chaotic in the cities, especially in Dar es Salaam, and Tanzanian drivers are notorious for disobeying the rules of the road.

Expats living in Tanzania will likely need their own vehicle. Many living in the main centres hire a driver for their daily commutes in order to avoid having to navigate the poorly maintained roads and traffic congestion.

Cars drive on the left-hand side of the road in Tanzania. 


Domestic flights in Tanzania

Due to its large size, limited public transport, and poor condition of the roads, flying is the most convenient option for travelling long distances in Tanzania. A number of airlines including the national carrier, Air Tanzania, offer services between the major cities, and there are many charter companies that fly to smaller destinations as well as the country’s numerous game parks. If booking in advance, expats will find air travel to be rather inexpensive in Tanzania.