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Tanzania Country Report

Overview

INTRODUCTION

Despite an attractive destination for tourists, travel to the large (population 51 million) and poor East African country of Tanzania and the semi-autonomous island of Zanzibar poses a number of risks, notably criminal and health-related, of which all potential travelers to the country should be aware.

AREAS TO AVOID

There is a heightened security presence in the Pwani coastal region, 100 km (60 mi) south of Dar es Salaam, following an attack on several police officers in April 2017 and subsequent reports of attacks on local officials in the area. In March 2017, the Regional Commissioner of Pwani used a decree to force motorcycles in Rujifi area to stop carrying passengers after 18:00 (local time). Travelers to Rufiji and surrounding areas should be extra vigilant and keep abreast of any changes to the security situation in the region.  

Caution should also be exercised near the border with Burundi due to the general instability caused by the presence of thousands refugees fleeing the Burundian political crisis. There have also been a number of armed robberies in the Burundi border area/Kigoma region, including vehicle hijackings.

SECURITY

The most significant security threats are the latent risk of terrorism and violent crime. Political demonstrations happen regularly across Tanzania, including Zanzibar, some of which have escalated into deadly violence. Security forces may use force to disperse crowds, including tear gas.

There continues to be a threat from hijack for ransom and armed maritime robbery off the coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden. Over the past years there have been reports of attacks on local fishing dhows and commercial vessels of the coast of Tanzania. Those sailing on yachts may also be at risk and should ensure that they remain outside of the designated High Risk Area.

TERRORISM

The threat from Somali Salafi Jihadist group Al-Shabaab is perceived to be high in Tanzania; the group poses a threat across the East African region, and the group is believed to already have a presence inside the country, in addition to local support networks. There is also believed to be some support in the country for the Islamic State (IS). In 2016, the Tanzanian authorities made a number of successful arrests of individuals in connection to terrorism. Though the last major terrorist incident was the US embassy bombing in 1998 by Al-Qa'ida, there have since been a number of smaller attacks in the country, including several small blasts in Arusha, Mwanza, and Stone Town (Zanzibar) in 2013 and 2014.  However, the motives of these and other more recent incidents remain unclear, and they could have been conducted by criminal gangs rather than terrorists. Nonetheless, attacks could target places frequented by expatriates and foreigners. Travelers should remain vigilant at all times, especially in crowded locations and at large gatherings.

There is also a threat posed by domestic Islamist groups. In 2013, two British women were victim of an acid attack in Stone Town, the first targeting foreigners. The motive for the attack remains unknown. In 2015, authorities claimed that two men from the local Islamist non-governmental organization and separatist movement Uamsho (also known as the Association for Islamic Mobilization and Propagation, The Awakening, or, in Swahili, as Jumuiya ya Uamsho na Mihadhara ya Kiislam), which has reported links to Nigerian group Boko Haram, were behind the attack.

SOCIOPOLITICAL RISKS

Tanzania and semi-autonomous Zanzibar have previously experienced political violence and unrest, especially prior to elections. Political demonstrations and rallies happen with regularity across the country. Though normally peaceful, they can quickly escalate to violence. Rival political factions have previously become aggressive toward each other and police. Security forces commonly respond with force and tear gas to disperse political gatherings. Travelers should avoid any large gatherings or protests.

The country's last elections were held in October 2015, during which John Magalufi was elected president. Despite the opposition rejecting the results, Magalufi's inauguration took place on November 5, 2015. Magalufi's government has increasingly been accused of using repressive measures against opposition voices in the country. In June 2016, the police temporarily banned all opposition protests.

The formation of a government of national unity between Zanzibar's two leading political parties in 2010 has gone some way in reducing electoral tensions and political violence and unrest. The results of Zanzibar's own October 2015 presidential election were annulled due to electoral fraud; forcing elections to be held again in Zanzibar (Unguja and Pemba). Tensions remain high and there is a continued risk of political unrest exacerbated by various political factions' calls for Zanzibar's full autonomy.

SOCIOECONOMIC RISKS

Despite high growth rates fueled by the country's natural resource wealth and flourishing tourist industry, Tanzania remains one of the world's poorest economies in terms of per capita income. Poverty has exacerbated crime levels in the country, while fraud and economic crime is extremely prevalent. Where possible, conduct everyday financial interactions on a cash-only basis.

CRIME

There have been indications that violent and armed crime is rising across the country. For the past few years, opportunistic attacks targeting tourists and foreigners have been reported, especially in the Kilimanjaro region and island of Zanzibar, both frequented by tourists. Street crime is rampant in urban areas, including Dar es Salaam (especially Ubungo bus station, the peninsula area, and Coco beach). In Zanzibar, foreigners have been targeted in Stone Town, as well as at hotels and tourist beaches.  

Bag snatchings from passing vehicles are a significant concern, targeting both foreigners and Tanzanian nationals; an assailant will drive past and grab a bag, dragging it until the bag strap breaks. A foreign visitor was killed in such an incident. Walk as far away from the road as possible and do not tighten the straps of your bag. Assaults have been observed in front of ATMs (cash dispensers), rail stations, bus stations, and even at airports. Foreigners have previously been forced to withdraw cash from ATMs and arrange cash transfers after being kidnapped, robbed, and threatened with violence (i.e. express kidnappings).

Residential burglaries are also common, especially in Dar es Salaam. Ensure that there is adequate professional security in place at hotels or residential properties.

Violent crimes, including sexual assault and rape, are frequent, though foreigners are typically not targeted. However, expatriates are not excluded from this risk.

Always be vigilant, avoid carrying large amounts of cash or other valuables, and only carry a copy of your passport. If attacked, do not resist. Avoid walking alone, especially in isolated areas (including beaches) and at night. It is recommended to avoid taking unofficial taxis and to be vigilant when withdrawing money.

NATURAL RISKS

The Rift Valley, an active fault line, stretches through the center of the country (from the north to south) and minor tremors occur sporadically. The last significant earthquake (5.7-magnitude) occurred in September 2016 in Kagera region of northwest Tanzania.

Rainy seasons (March-May for the big rainy season and November-December for the small one) often result in deadly flooding, which also results in significant property and infrastructural damage. Emergency response efforts during natural disasters are restricted.

TRANSPORTATION

Visitors should be aware that roads in the country are in poor condition, and traffic laws are rarely followed or enforced. Renting a car is not advisable due to the high frequency of deadly accidents that occur. Most Western governments state that a very high level of vigilance is necessary along the Arusha-Nairobi route, while travel at night is especially advised against due to a high number of deadly accidents (4000 per year). Temporary fuel shortages are also fairly common. Emergency response services are for the most part non-existent, especially on rural interior roadways; be prepared to perform any necessary mechanical maintenance.

Public transportation should be avoided (buses, Bajaj three-wheeled taxis, and Boda Boda motorcycle taxis). Book a private car service or take taxis through a legitimate provider; do not take taxis hailed from the street.

In the past several years, there have been three disasters with ferries traveling between Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar and between the islands of Zanzibar, resulting in the death of hundreds of people. Travelers are advised to ensure that they are using a reputable ferry company, and not to board a ferry believed to be overloaded or unseaworthy.

Rail travel is uncomfortable, limited, and unreliable. There have also been a number of accidents on railways.

INFRASTRUCTURE

Due to energy shortages, power outages occur with some regularity, including in Dar es Salaam. Water access may also be limited.  

LEGAL

Homosexuality is illegal in Tanzania (including Zanzibar).

All drugs are illegal, and people found in possession will be fined. There are severe penalties for those accused of drug trafficking, including prison sentences.

Travelers to the country should carry identification (passport copy) at all times.

There are laws pertaining to the protection of wildlife and fauna; bringing wildlife products, including jewelry, may lead to delays and possible fines or detention when leaving the country. Foreigners have also previously been arrested for attempting to take products, including seashells and products made from animal horn, out of the country without an export permit.

Travelers to the country should be sensitive to local culture; loud or aggressive behavior, drunkenness, and obscenities may be considered offensive. Women in particular are advised to dress modestly, and should avoid wearing shorts and sleeveless tops away from tourist resorts, including in Stone Town.  

There is a large Muslim population in Tanzania. Most Western governments recommend that their citizens visiting predominantly Muslim areas, particularly along the coast and on Zanzibar (98 percent Muslim population) and Pemba, respect religious customs and traditions, especially during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan; eating and drinking alcohol in public places should be avoided during the fasting period. As a general note, the tourist season often overlaps with the month of Ramadan.

HEALTH

Tanzania has a weak health infrastructure; medical facilities and emergency services are limited outside of Dar es Salaam.

Food- and water-borne diseases are rampant in the country, including cholera and typhoid fever. To reduce this risk, wash hands regularly, drink only bottled or purified water, and avoid eating raw or undercooked foods.

Various mosquito-borne diseases are present, including yellow fever, malaria, dengue fever, and chikungunya. A yellow fever vaccine certificate is mandatory for entry into Tanzania for travelers coming from areas with a risk of transmission, including travelers having transited more than 12 hours in an airport in such a country. Other insect-borne diseases pose a risk, such as trypanosomiasis (also known as sleeping sickness, transmitted by the bite of the tsetse fly), particularly in the north. Protect yourself against insect bites.

Human cases of Rift Valley fever, a disease that primarily affects livestock, have also been reported in the country.

Risk of exposure to animal rabies exists in the country. The main line of defense against rabies is to avoid contact with both domestic and wild animals (bites, scratches, licks, etc.). If you are scratched or bitten, seek medical attention as soon as possible.

The risk of exposure to bilharziosis is present nationwide. Infection occurs when the larvae of a parasite released by freshwater snails penetrate the skin of a person exposed to contaminated water. It is recommended to avoid contact with bodies of freshwater (e.g. ponds, lakes) as parasitic larvae may be present.

Human cases of the cutaneous form of anthrax are regularly reported in Tanzania. The infection results from exposure to spores from infected animals, dead or alive, or products from infected animals. To avoid the risk of contamination, it is advised not to eat bush meat.

Tanzania is regularly affected by measles epidemics.

Finally, there is a significant risk of exposure to meningitis in Tanzania.

Climate

Tanzania has a tropical climate with cooler temperatures in the highlands. The long rainy season lasts from March until May with more abundant precipitation along the coast and on the country’s islands. During this period temperatures are high (30-35°C), as are humidity levels. The long dry season lasts from June until October during which period rain is rare throughout the country; days tend to be sunny and pleasant. A second shorter rainy season is observed in November and December and a short dry season in January and February.

Useful Numbers

Country Code: +255 Police: 17 Fire Dept., Ambulance: 18

Electricity

Voltage: 230 V ~ 50 Hz

Outlets:

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