Tanzania is geared towards providing visitors with the perfect vacation, offering a combination of both safari and beach. With a bit more time, though, you can really explore the islands and mainland, getting to know places untouched. Life in East Africa is slow so bear this in mind when you put together your Tanzania itinerary – you will hear the phrase ‘pole pole’, Swahili for slowly, a lot.
Our 2 month itinerary for Tanzania
5 nights: Mafia Island
When we arrived in Dar, we caught a flight to Mafia. It was my favourite part of the whole trip. I loved the island and its way of life. We swam with whale sharks (3 days in a row!), went snorkelling and enjoyed a private sandbank island to ourselves.
Staying at Ibizza Inn ($30 a night, 2 people sharing a double en-suit – Whatsapp +255658653160). A fantastic stay in this basic, friendly hotel with aircon, wifi and a private en-suite room.
7 nights: Zanzibar
We flew from Mafia to Zanzibar (changing in Dar). Compared to Mafia, I found Zanzibar busy and the local sellers annoying. We stayed for 3 nights in Stone Town (2 nights would have been enough). Visiting Prison Island, the slave market, wandered Stone Town and, the markets. We also fitted in a day trip to Kendwa and Nungwi beach, the most beautiful beaches on the island. We then stayed on the quieter east coast for 4 nights near Uora beach.
Staying at’The Blue House’ on Airbnb (click here for £25 off your first booking) – $20 a night, 2 people sharing a double en-suite. This is a home stay with a local. The place is clean, centrally located and has a nice charm. It is worth noting that it is also noisy as you are living right in the residential area and next to a mosque.
Also,Kaure Sands Beach Lodge ($50 a night, 2 people sharing a double). An extremely relaxing stay in a room right on the beach. They have a wonderful chill out area with loungers and hammocks and a nice sea view.
Check out: How to visit Zanzibar on a budget and Things to do on Zanzibar
6 nights: safari in Arusha
We signed up for a 4-day safari with Misele African Safaris. This included a stay the night before in Arusha. The safari we chose to do was 1 day in Tarangire, 2 days in Serengeti and 1 day in Ngorongoro crater. It was the perfect length and combination of 3 very different parks. If I had an extra day, I would have liked to of also added a trip to Lake Eyasi to see the bushman tribe. We decided not to do the add-on to see the Maasai village as we know that these are very touristy and staged.
Staying at Arusha Tourist Inn (included in the safari price). The hotel was central, basic and clean.
1 month: Volunteering in Wiri
We spent 1-month volunteering in a small village at a school. We have been fundraising regularly for a charity called ACE who are overseeing the build of the school and we also sponsor a boy to attend the school who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford it (find out more about sponsoring and the charity here). While there, we stayed with a local in their home and brought food from the market. It was an amazing experience.
3 nights: Loshoto
From Moshi, we caught a bus to Loshoto. It took us about 6 hours. Loshoto is a great place to base yourself to explore the beautiful Usambara region. The scenery here is hilly and lush. We did a day hike to see the Irenete view point and on the way back stopped in Irenete Farm for lunch which was great. If we had a few extra days I would have liked to of done a multi day hike. From the town you can easily organise this with the guides (rough price $20 per person per day) and they will take you village to village.
Staying at Tumanai Hostel ($15 a night, 2 people sharing a double en-suite, Tumaini@elct-ned.org). A great value hostel right in the centre of town. Clean and has a nice garden area to relax in and profits go to local projects run by the church. It’s worth bringing ear plugs as the local church preaching can get a bit noisy in the evenings.
2 nights: Pangani
From Loshoto, it took 7 hours for us to arrive in Pangani. From here we took a taxi to our lodge which was quite a way away (the taxis were expensive here and we paid $25 for a one way trip, sharing with 4 other people). The beaches here are secluded and extremely peaceful and void of sellers. Ideal if you are looking for some quiet. There isn’t much to do in the area although diving and snorkelling is available but at a high cost as you need to pay park fees.
Staying at Beach Crab Resort ($43 a night, 2 people sharing a double with a shared bathroom). The resort is nice, with good areas to relax and the rooms clean. The food here is extortionately priced with tiny portions and the management not very friendly, so I don’t think it is a great option for budget travellers.
2 nights: Dar es Salaam
From Pangani we had a long 12-hour bus ride to Dar es Salaam. The bus was comfortable though so the journey wasn’t too bad. We had 2 nights booked before our flight home. We went to a Sunday service and ate in the amazing Ethiopian restaurant Addis in Dar.
Staying at On The Way Home Hostel ($40 a night, 2 people sharing a double en-suite). A clean and comfortable hostel and a great place to meet other travellers.
Check out: 11 cool things to do in Tanzania
What were the highlights of Tanzania
A lot of people ask if a safari is worth the money. Absolutely! Without a doubt, it was the highlight of the trip. The small parks are great but I don’t think anything beats the vastness of Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater.
Second, to the safari was visiting Mafia Island and swimming with the whale sharks.
My meal at Addis in Dar in Dar es Salaam was a real treat.
My ideal 2 week itinerary for Tanzania
We had the luxury of 2 months travelling for our Tanzania itinerary. But my ideal 2 week itenerary would look like this:
- 1st Day: fly into Arusha
- 2nd – 5th Day: 4 day safari with Misele African Safari
- 6th Day: Bus to Loshoto, stay in Tumaini Hostel
- 7th – 8th Day: Explore Loshoto, via day hikes (visit Irenete Farm)
- 9th Day: Bus to Dar, stay overnight in On The Way Hostel and enjoy dinner at Addis in Dar
- 10th Day: Fly to Mafia Island, stay in Ibizza Inn
- 11th – 14th Day: relax in Mafia, swim with whale sharks (oct-feb), snorkel and visit Chole Bay
- 15th Day: fly home
If you were after a night scene, or like doing a lot of tourist activities, you can substitute Mafia for Zanzibar Island.
We spent 54 days in total in Tanzania. Although we were travelling on a tight budget and spent a large chunk of our time on a volunteer placement, it is worth noting that flights and safaris will considerable raise your costs. If you live like a local, transport, accommodation and food is cheap. Activities and tourist areas are expensive though and a large part of this is due to the government putting in place really high taxes for the national parks (you will need to pay the fees for hiking, safaris and marine activities in protected areas).
All the costs below are for one person.
Return flights from UK-Dar: $740
Flights Dar – Mafia: $75
Mafia – Zanzibar – $110
Zanzibar – Arusha – $70
All based on 2 people sharing a double room – the cost was halved.
5 nights Mafia Island – Ibizza Inn ($30 a night): $75
3 nights Zanzibar, Stone town – The Blue House ($20 a night): $30
4 nights Zanzibar, Uroa beach –Kaure Sands Beach Lodge ($50 a night): $100
1-month volunteer homestay ($160 total): $80
3 nights in Loshoto – Tumaini Hostel ($15 a night): $22.50
2 nights in Pangani – Beach Crab Resort ($43 a night): $43
2 nights in Dar es Salaam – On The Way Hostel ($40 a night): $40
Average daily food costs: $6
(mostly we choose to eat in local restaurants where a vegetarian meal would be between $0.75-$3. If breakfast wasn’t included in the hotel we would have fruit. During the volunteer placement, we shopped in the market and cooked ourselves. We splashed out on 3 amazing restaurants which I can really recommend: Spice House in Zanzibar, Irenete Farm in Loshoto and Addis in Dar in Dar es Salaam)
Drinks: $40 (in a local bar a beer costs $2 and a soft drink between $0.30 – $0.50)
Safari with tip (including a night before and after in Arusha): $1500
Whale Shark diving on Mafia: $60
Snorkelling and tour on Mafia: $40
Snorkelling on Zanzibar: $18
Visit to Prison Island: $11
Transport: $78 (mostly we would use the dala dala’s which are very cheap or, if this wasn’t available, we would use a tuk tuk. We would use a ‘luxurious’ bus for the longer travel days as they were much more comfortable and worth the extra dollars)
Overall total for a 54 day stay: $3456.50
Top Tips for Traveling to Tanzania
- Assume the worst when arriving in Tanzania and expect delays and, possibly lost luggage. We experienced both which resulted in us missing our connection flight to Mafia and having to book another one. We met lots of tourists who experienced the same and didn’t leave enough time for their connection flight/ferry to the islands. Keep your valuables and a change of clothes in your hand luggage.
- Most of the ATMs in Tanzania can be found in the main towns and cities. It’s worth having plenty of cash on you. The maximum you will be able to take out from an ATM is $200.
- In the tourist areas, people will try to overcharge you when visiting local restaurants and bars or booking tours from beach boys. If you are ever unsure, ask a friendly local what they pay and this will give you a guide.
- You might want to avoid meat. Fridges are not common and hygiene practices to be desired.
- You will need to buy bottled water as the tap water can make you ill. For the best deal, buy this in packets of 6 (should cost roughly 4,500TSH for 6×1.5 litre bottles).
- An excessive amount of people were walking around sunburnt on the islands. Put more sunscreen on then you need and wear a t-shirt for snorkelling (especially if you are taking Doxycycline malaria prevention which makes you more sensitive to the sun).
- Wear long sleeves in the evening and DEET (at least 50%) bug spray to help prevent malaria. We took a mosquito net which proved useful, although most places we stayed had one, they were often covered in holes making them ineffective.
- Don’t pay for any activities in advance, with the exception of safaris. Be very clear when you strike a deal what is included and what your expectations are – especially on Zanzibar where ripping off tourists is common practice.
- Dress modestly in towns and villages. On the beach and swimming, it is fine to wear your usual swim wear.