In this guide, we list exact prices in the local currency only where it is actually quoted; the vast majority of safari destinations and upmarket resorts and hotels quote their prices in dollars (and, in some instances, euros or sterling). Visitors generally pay a higher rate for accommodations and game park entrance fees than East African residents; in such instances, you can always expect to be charged in one of the three major Western currencies. You will always have the option of paying in local currency, but the exchange rate will work against you. Rates fluctuate, so before departing, consult a currency exchange website such as www.oanda.com/convert/classic or www.xe.com to check up-to-the-minute rates.
The official currency in Tanzania is the Tanzanian shilling. The written abbreviation is either Tsh or /=. Notes are 200, 500, 1,000, 5,000, and 10,000, while coins are 50, 10, and 20, but these are virtually worthless and rarely used. Tanzanian shillings can be used to pay for most things, though U.S. dollars only are accepted by airlines, for national park entry fees, and for ferry tickets to Zanzibar and the other islands. The exchange rate has been pretty steady against the U.S. dollar in recent years.
Generally, you will have paid all lodging and transport costs in advance in order to secure your reservation at safari lodges, camps, and resorts; you'll also usually need to pay for any tours or operator costs in advance. That will take much of the burden off you when it comes to thinking about money. However, you will need to carry some Tanzanian shillings with you for tipping, shopping, restaurant and bar visits, and incidental expenses that might occur.
Plan your safari so you are left with as little local currency as possible before your departure home, since Tanzania does not allow you to export currency.
Currency and traveler's checks can be exchanged at the major banks, exchange bureaus, and some hotels. Airports in Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar have 24-hour exchange services. The easiest currencies to exchange are U.S. dollars, British pounds, and euros. Try to carry bills that are relatively new, as banks in Kenya have been known not to accept older U.S. bills. Do not change money on the black market; it is illegal and you risk going to a jail or being swindled. The easiest and best way to get cash away from home is from an ATM (automated teller machine). Most banks in Tanzania have ATMs. They take four-digit PINs. However, remember that in remote regions, they are few and far between. Note: Overseas withdrawals may charge an additional fee by your home bank. Credit cards are a safe alternative to cash and are widely accepted in hotels, upscale souvenir stores, and restaurants, and can be used to pay for safaris. However, some small camps do not have credit card facilities and you will be asked to settle your outstanding account in cash, so it's always wise to make inquiries first. If you are carrying plastic, make sure one of your cards is a Visa or MasterCard, as these are most commonly accepted. Diners Club is unheard of, and American Express is accepted at only a few establishments. Upmarket restaurants in Arusha or Moshi have been known to refuse credit card payments under $50 (or even $80). Note that there will also be a 5% to 7.5% surcharge on the bill (and for any other credit card purchases, for that matter).
Everyone in Tanzania accepts dollars as payment rather than local currency (parks will, in fact, only accept U.S. dollars in cash or traveler's checks), so it's worth bringing a certain amount of dollars in cash and/or traveler's checks. Note that if you bring euros or sterling, you will have to convert them to shillings and then to dollars (a big hassle), and most street vendors and even some hotels take a very relaxed attitude to actual conversation rates and will simply knock off three zeros (Tsh 1,000 = $1).
What Things Cost
Tanzania is relatively affordable, which does not mean to imply that it is cheap. Safaris are big business, and maintaining a business (of any kind) in the wilderness is implicitly costly and those expenses will obviously filter down to you, the paying customer. Additionally, park entry fees add to the cost. Although everyone is going to have a similar game-viewing experience, a safari holiday could set you back anywhere between $150 and $2,000 per person per day, depending on the level of comfort you want. At the top end of the spectrum, you can expect luxury accommodations and service in sublime locations, while at the lower end, you'll be looking at a camping safari in basic camp sites, with a cook to prepare simple meals.
Away from the parks and reserves, upmarket hotels and coastal resorts cost about $250 to $300 per night, although a number of exclusive luxury spots on the coast aimed at honeymooners cost more. Budget travelers utilizing midrange hotels and using public transport can get by on $60 to $100 a day.
The cost of eating varies from a $3 portion of chicken and chips or fries from a local canteen to a $60 meal for two with wine in a good restaurant. Often on safaris and in the coastal resorts, meals are inclusive of the rates. A bottle of beer is about $2. Wine is expensive (as it's imported), but is readily available. Bottles of water and sodas are less than $1.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.