Karibu sana Tanzania! (Welcome to Tanzania!)
If you plan on travelling to Tanzania, get used to hearing this welcoming Swahili expression. I lived in Tanzania for a year, and never tired of it. But I also never tired of Tanzania—the culture, the language, the scenery, the people all captured my heart, which made leaving all that more emotional.
I went to Tanzania to work on a Global Affairs Canada project for a year, during which time I lived in Mwanza, a stunning port city on the shores of Lake Victoria towards the western region of the country. And a place that had some of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen.
During my year in Tanzania, I made the most of my access to places that most people dream about visiting one day. I’ll never forget the day I saw elephants in the wild for the first time, welcomed the new year on the turquoise beaches in Zanzibar, or trekked my way up Mount Kilimanjaro.
But you should know in advance, Tanzania isn’t necessarily a budget destination.
Your money can go a long way when it comes to food, transportation, and in some cases, accommodations. But if you’re travelling from North America or Europe, the flights to and from Tanzania will rack up your spending in an instant. And those once-in-a-lifetime experiences can quickly eat up your wallet. That being said, what’s a trip to Tanzania without going on a safari?
One thing’s for sure— a trip to Tanzania will stay with you forever. Tanzanians are incredibly friendly and hospitable and they love when foreigners come to explore their country. It also doesn’t hurt to learn a bit of Swahili. I’ve never been anywhere where the locals appreciate me speaking the local language more than in Tanzania.
Even though I lived in Tanzania for a year, I quickly learned that the time of year makes a huge difference for seasonal tourism. As such, it might be helpful for you to know about the different seasons so you can try to plan your trip accordingly.
Peak (Dry) season — June to October. This is also known as the dry season because there is generally the least amount of rain. Expect tourist prices to be slightly higher during this time because it’s when they get the most business.
Low (Wet) season — April to May (long rains) or November to December (short rains). These time frames might be the best time to plan your trip to Tanzania if you’re looking to save money on accommodations and excursions while in the country.
What’s Included in this Post
This budget breakdown covers how much I spent on accommodation, transportation, activities, and food while I travelled around the country.
I’ve not included my flights into and out of Tanzania as this is going to vary significantly based on where you’ll be arriving from.
The amounts in this guide are listed in U.S. dollars, simply because the vast majority of my readers are from the U.S. I also included some prices in Tanzanian Shillings (TZS), as this is the local currency that you will use the most. But most of the tour operators and accommodations will also take USD.
Okay — let’s get started!
The Cost of Accommodation in Tanzania
When it comes to accommodations in Tanzania, even the budget-friendly options emit a feeling of luxury sometimes. There were some places I stayed that had amazing value for a fraction of what I would pay for a hotel of similar caliber in Canada.
Most quality, mid-range accommodations will cost you around $20-$50 a night. High-end stays can fall anywhere between $100-$200 a night, depending on location and amenities.
When it comes to going on a multiple-day safari, you’re looking at anywhere from $350 – $1,500 a night for private lodges or around $225 a night for camping.
Here’s a list of my favourite accommodation options in Tanzania:
Dar es Salaam — Cefa Hostel ($34 a night): You’ll likely spend some time in Dar, the bustling urban metropolis and central landing city for incoming arrivals from abroad. Cefa Hostel is a comfortable launching pad to the rest of your time in Tanzania. The rooms are clean and comfortable, the wifi is strong (which is not always the case in Tanzania) and it’s just steps away from the ocean. The staff are also incredibly welcoming and offer to help you with onwards booking.
Zanzibar — Demani Lodge Zanzibar ($20 a night): Zanzibar is a must (I repeat a must!) during your time in Tanzania. This semi-autonomous island is probably what you envision when you have dreams of being in paradise. I was lucky enough to travel to Zanzibar a couple of times during my year in Tanzania, and my favourite place to stay was Demani Lodge in Page. The lodge itself is beautiful. There’s a ton of cozy places to sit, a pool to lounge by, and beautiful landscaping. Not to mention, you’re right across the street from the glorious Page beaches!
Mwanza — Malaika Beach Resort ($135 a night): Here’s the thing. I lived in Mwanza, so I never had to stay anywhere else besides the room I rented out. But word gets around fast and I quickly learned that Malaika is THE place to be on Sundays because of their infamous Sunday buffet brunch. I fondly remember many Sundays spent here, eating the delicious food then spending the afternoon by the infinity pool with stunning views of Lake Victoria. From what I hear, the rooms are also immaculate and worth the extra spend during your time in Mwanza.
Moshi — Kilimanjaro White House Hotel ($34 a night): If you’re trekking up Mount Kilimanjaro, then you’ll be spending some time in Moshi before and after. I’d recommend staying at Kilimanjaro White House Hostel. For starters, it’s nearly at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro, so you can get some close-up views of this mighty mountain. But beyond that, the service is amazing and the staff make you feel right at home. Even if you have an early morning check-out, they’ll arrange your breakfast for the road!
Arusha — Mrimba Palm Hotel ($38 a night): Arusha is likely going to be a stop during your Tanzania trip. With superstar attractions like Serengeti National Park, Arusha National Park, and Lake Manyara nearby, why wouldn’t it be!? Mrimba Palm Hotel is the perfect place to stay. It’s a quiet and friendly place and the rooms are large and clean. The food is reasonably priced and a tasty breakfast is included. But it’s the staff that will help you with anything from getting a SIM card or going to the closest ATM.
The Cost of Transportation in Tanzania
Transportation around Tanzania can be quite affordable, that is if you’re up for a little adventure. I had firsthand experience of all the below transportation methods and I took the most pleasure from taking dala dalas and boda bodas.
Dala dala (minibuses) — You’ll see dala dalas everywhere in Tanzania. These are minibuses that you share with anywhere from 8 to 16 people (there’s no such thing as a limit in Tanzania). If they can squeeze one more person or animal in, they will. The great thing about dala dalas is their affordability and accessibility. They come and go from stops quite frequently and it only costs 25 cents or 400 TZS for a one-way journey within a city.
Boda bodas (motorcycle taxis) — Taking a Boda Boda may seem daunting and intimidating at first. Of course, don’t take one if you’re not comfortable or don’t have insurance, but these are a fast and cheap way to get around. Not to mention, it’s very thrilling to be on the back of a motorbike just to get from point A to point B. But I would only recommend taking a boda boda when the driver has a second helmet for you to use.
You also might need some basic Swahili and negotiating skills if you’re a foreigner taking a boda boda, because there’s no official price scheme. That being said, talk to someone at your accommodations about what the general rate is for locals in the area and try to approach a boda boda driver with confidence. When I lived in Mwanza, I generally paid only 80 cents to $1.30 or 2000 – 3000 TZS to get around on a boda boda. And knowing some Swahili gave me the confidence to negotiate fair prices.
Taxi — Taxis are an easy and safe way to get around in Tanzania. Though it’s important to note that taxis aren’t very budget-friendly and you should strive to use taxis that are recommended to you by an official tour or accommodations. If I ever took a taxi while living in Tanzania, it was recommended to me by someone I trusted. Usually an average taxi drive in the city costs around $8.60 – $17.21 or 20,000 – 40,000 TZS.
Plane — City transportation is one thing, but when it comes to getting around the country, that’s a whole other story. While there are several long-haul bus rides available, these can get quite lengthy and unpredictable. If you only have a short time in Tanzania, I would recommend taking flights to travel from one part to another, especially considering they’re still relatively budget-friendly. Here are some of the routes and their respective average prices from Skyscanner:
- Dar es Salaam to Moshi — $71 or 165,046.00 TZS
- Dar es Salaam to Zanzibar — $35 or 81,360.70 TZS
- Dar es Salaam to Arusha — $66 or 153,423.04 TZS
- Moshi to Mwanza — $58 or 134,826.31 TZS
Ferry — If you plan on going to Zanzibar (how could you not?), then you have a choice between taking a flight or a ferry. I found the ferry between Zanzibar and Dar es Salaam to be pretty decent and comfortable. Four ferries leave in each direction per day and it takes around 2 hours. One way costs $35 or 104,339.25 TZS.
The Cost of Food in Tanzania
One of the best parts of living in Tanzania was how much access I had to fresh fruit and vegetables at low costs. Whenever I went to the local market, it was pretty obvious that whatever I saw was from the crop of that day or week. And when avocados cost around $0.17 or a juicy mango costs $0.13, I question my decision to leave once I’m confronted with hefty prices at the grocery stores in Canada.
I categorize food in Tanzania in one of two areas: local food and western food. You can expect local food, whether it’s sold on the street or at a small restaurant, to be very affordable.
Some typical Tanzanian dishes include: ugali (cornmeal paste), mshikaki (marinated beef), chips mayai (egg mixed with fries), nyama choma (grilled meat), pilau (rice mixed with spices) or rice and beans. All of these dishes, whether combined or alone will cost you around $1 – $3 (2300 – 7000 TZS). Therefore, eating only local food can cost you as low as $5 per day.
If you’re eating at a more western restaurant or hotel, then be prepared to pay a reasonable price. But I’m letting you know ahead of time, it will feel like a punch in the gut once you’re used to local food prices. For a typical western meal, you might pay about $15 – $20 (35,000 – 46,000 TZS) per person.
The Cost of Activities and Entrance Fees in Tanzania
Saving the best for last—the experiences are the best part of any trip to Tanzania. You have access to vast nature, incredible wildlife, some of the world’s best beaches, and Africa’s tallest mountain. It’s understandable then why Tanzania is home to activities on many bucket lists.
Seeing animals in Serengeti National Park, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro and waking up in Zanzibar on New Year’s Day, are among some of my favourite travel experiences of all time. Because climbing Mount Kilimanjaro might not be easy or accessible for everyone, I’d recommend a safari and Zanzibar excursion for everyone who visits Tanzania.
Luckily, you’re spoiled for things to do in this stunning and welcoming country. There are plenty of gorgeous national parks, small day-hikes and places to explore. Every day feels like an adventure.
Below is a breakdown of some of the costs you might expect for the top attractions in Tanzania. Keep in mind that this mostly consists of just entrance fees. I included how much I paid for an all-inclusive safari and my Mount Kilimanjaro hike at the bottom, but your final prices might change depending on the companies you hire and the length of stay.
Additionally, when you go on a guided safari or tour, tipping is customary. For a safari, I would add around $15 extra per day and for a guided trek, I would add around $25 extra per day.
- Serengeti National Park: $60 per person, per day
- Lake Manyara, Tarangire and Arusha National Park: $45 per person, per day
- Mount Kilimanjaro: $70 per person, per day
- Gombe National Park: $100 per person, per day
- 9-day Mount Kilimanjaro Hike (Lemosho Route): $2,599 per person
- 2-day camping safari in Serengeti National Park: $500 per person
If you’re like me, and love to make the most of your time, tours are a great way to experience a country. In particular, I recommend hopping over to Viator — a marketplace for tours that I’ve used over the world.
Tanzanian SIM card — as soon as you land in Tanzania, I recommend getting a SIM card with Vodacom. The wifi connection isn’t always great and data is super cheap. Even better, Vodacom has the widest coverage network in Tanzania and it’s super easy to top up anywhere at a Vodacom booth in the country.
I paid $2.16 (5,000 TZS) for the sim card and $4.31 (10,000 TZS) for 10 GB of data per week. Not a bad deal at all!
How Much Does it Cost to Travel in Tanzania?
It’s time to tally up all of my expenses to see my total travel costs! For activities and entrance fees, I just included the bare minimum for an average day, as this price will vary greatly depending on the activities you choose to do.
Accommodation: $30 per day
Transportation: $10 per day
Food: $5 per day
Activities/Entrance Fees: $45 per day
Average amount spent in Tanzania: $90 a day!
Author bio: Born and raised in Toronto, Lydia has found “home” throughout her travels around the world. She’s a passionate storyteller and writer and you can usually find her dreaming about new adventures or having a deep conversation with a friend.[Photo of the safari is via: Volodymyr Burdiak/Shutterstock]