Is Tanzania Safe for Women Travelling Solo?

If there is one thing I get asked the most when I talk to people about my travels, it’s whether Tanzania is considered safe for women travelling solo.

Many people find it surprising that I lived and volunteered in Tanzania for five months. And I get it…before I went, I was also nervous about the unknown and all the potential dangers that the media does a great job of shoving down our throats on almost a daily basis.

If you’re a solo female traveller that is contemplating a trip to this captivating country, then read on! I hope I can convince you that Tanzania is a wonderful country for the solo female explorer!

Is Tanzania Safe for Women Travelling Solo-

Africa – a misunderstood continent

In my opinion, Africa is a largely misunderstood place. The news tends to only report on the negatives – poverty, war, famine, violent crimes, disease – and rarely does it show how truly diverse and beautiful this continent really is. Sadly it seems as though this has led to many generalised misconceptions about Africa as a whole.

Unfortunately the entire continent tends to get tarred with the same brush thanks to the volume of bad news that is associated with “Africa” – so it’s not surprising that many women disregard it as a place to visit on their own.

But are all countries in Africa unsafe?

Of course, like anywhere in the world, there are dangerous places that are best to avoid. But Africa is a huge continent – the second largest in the world to be precise! Stretching more than 30m sq km, it is the home to 54 countries. That is bigger than the USA, China, India and most of Europe combined. And I think anyone would agree that these places are very different in themselves!

Is is Safe for Women to Travel Solo in Tanzania?

So why travel to Tanzania?

Tanzania had always fascinated me from afar. I grew up with grandparents that had spent a big part of their life living and working there, and their stories were far from anything I had ever read in the news.  

When I told people I was heading to Tanzania on my own, I had very mixed responses. Some seemed supportive of my decision, while others not so much…

“Wow, you’re braver than I am…I would never go there on my own…”

“Why do you want to go there? Isn’t it really dangerous?”

And perhaps the most ignorant comment of all…

“Tanzania? That’s in Africa right? You’re going to get AIDS!” (and no…I am not making that one up…I wish that I was…)

But my desire to visit just even a tiny segment of this huge continent was far greater than anything anyone could say to convince me otherwise, and as soon as I arrived in Moshi, I knew I had made the right decision.

Tanzania became a home away from home and was one of the most rewarding countries I visited as a solo backpacker. It’s a place full of vibrant landscapes, diverse cultures and welcoming communities. It’s hard to describe in words exactly how this wildly contrasting country gets under your skin, but it does. And if you need more convincing, then read my article outlining five very good reasons to visit! 

Is is Safe for Women to Travel Solo in Tanzania?

Is it safe for solo women travellers in Tanzania

Without going into some overbearing feminist debate telling you that you shouldn’t let your gender determine whether you travel solo or not, I want to give you an honest view of my experience. I want to give you the facts and some advice that will hopefully put any concerns you have about visiting this country to one side.

And what is my opinion? I had absolutely no problems whatsoever. I found Tanzania a fairly unproblematic country to travel as a solo female backpacker and I met many others that would tell you the same.

Of course there are things that you need to be more wary of. But like anywhere in the world, with a little common sense, an open mind and some forward-thinking, your solo trip to Tanzania can be a perfectly enjoyable and safe experience.

So to help you prepare for your upcoming travels, I’ve put together this brief guide for safe travel in Tanzania, and some of these tips can apply not just to solo female travellers, but males, groups and couples too!

Basic safety tips for solo travellers in Tanzania

Respect the culture and dress conservatively 

Women travellers should dress modestly, as Tanzania has a wide range of cultural differences. The islands and coast are mostly Muslim, so dressing conservatively will help you blend in. Wearing skirts or trousers that reach below the knee, and tops that cover your shoulders and upper arms, will help avoid any unwanted attention. In touristy beach areas, it’s acceptable to wear swimwear, but going topless is definitely considered taboo. Parts of Zanzibar are particularly conservative, so it’s important to heed this advice to avoid offending the locals.

Is it Safe for Women to Travel Solo in Tanzania?

Be street-wise

Generally, I found the streets of Tanzania very safe to walk around on my own during the day. As you travel around the touristy areas, it’s quite common for street hawkers to approach you, especially during low season when business is quite slow. Remember, that these are poor people trying to make a living. If you aren’t interested, then politely say “hapana asante” (no thank you) and usually they will leave you alone. However most of the time, I found the locals just like to have a friendly chat with you, so learning a few basic lines of Swahili can go a long way.

At night time however it is advisable that you don’t walk the streets or take local transport, and that goes for everyone, even in groups. If you are planning to go to any local bars or restaurants in the evening, always go with others and take a taxi. Your accommodation should be able to put you in touch with a reliable and trustworthy driver. But be wary of flagging down in the street or getting in a taxi on your own.

Is is Safe for Women to Travel Solo in Tanzania?

Don’t be flashy

While walking around in the day, be careful with any valuables you may have on you and try to keep them out of sight in busy areas. I personally never experienced any problems with pick-pocketing, but remember Tanzania is a developing country and getting out your iPhone 6 could bring some unwanted attention. It’s also advisable not to carry too much cash with you, and avoid wearing any expensive jewellery.

Is it Safe for Women to Travel Solo in Tanzania?

Bring an unlocked mobile phone 

If you’re planing to be in Tanzania for a while, it is definitely worth taking an unlocked mobile phone and purchasing a local sim and internet package. It’s an affordable way of keeping in touch with family and friends back home and proved really useful for those occasions I needed to get hold of fellow travellers or local friends.  Many places also have Wi-Fi, but it’s worth installing apps like WhatsApp and Skype before you go, as sometimes the connection might not be strong enough to download them. Also, those times that you want to use your phone for taking photos of the locals, be respectful and ask them if it is OK.

Is is Safe for Women to Travel Solo in Tanzania?

Listen to the locals

The locals of Tanzania are some of the most hospitable and friendly people I’ve ever met. Generally when they discovered I was a solo female traveller, I would find that complete strangers were much more helpful and wanted to look out for my well-being. Quite often, if I was unsure of whether to visit a place, whether it was just a local bar or nearby town, I always felt as though I could rely on local friends for advice. So don’t be afraid to ask!

Is it Safe for Women to Travel Solo in Tanzania?

Be aware of the attitude towards women travellers 

Generally I found the attitudes to women to be mostly forward-thinking in the main towns and cities. However in most East African cultures, local women do not tend to travel alone so seeing a solo female traveller might provoke some curiosity.

More often than not this is quite harmless, but it’s worth being aware that some males may have a very different idea on certain “boundaries” and what Westerners deem as appropriate behaviour. You may have to put up with the occasional marriage proposal from time to time, but just take it in on the chin.

Some men may see their advances as flattering, rather than annoying, but usually just respectfully asking them to leave you alone will work. And if it does get too uncomfortable, an assertive “toka!” (piss off) will do the trick! I have to stress, this very rarely happened to me, and even when it did I never felt threatened. Most of the time, I found them to be incredibly courteous and respectful of women.

Is is Safe for Women to Travel Solo in Tanzania?

Above all else – enjoy yourself! 

Tanzania is a truly captivating country and anyone who knows me well or checks into my blog on a regular basis will know that it stole a part of my heart. I have visited twice and I am already planning my third trip back.

So if you’ve been thinking of travelling to Tanzania solo, please don’t write-off this wonderful country because of misconceptions in mainstream media. It was honestly one of the best decisions of my life and could be yours too! Besides, when travelling anywhere in the world on your own, you never really feel alone. There are always opportunities to meet many other backpackers in a similar position to you.

And if you’re still worried, you could always join a responsible volunteering programme like I did or arrange to go on organised tour with a local guide.

Would you travel to Tanzania as a solo woman? Or have you already visited and have some extra tips to share? I would love to know below! 

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Planning a trip to Moshi, Tanzania?

I’ve partnered with some of the best local tour operators and independent guides offering Mt Kilimanjaro climbs, safaris and other cultural day trips. If you’re interested in finding out more, please feel free to contact me via the form below or by emailing me directly at nikki@whereisnikki.co.uk.

 

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28 Comments

  • Reply
    Rob Taylor
    June 30, 2016 at 3:46 am

    I love that you say to abandon the feminist debate in this. Any traveler is as safe as they travel, and choosing to travel via volunteering is a great option. I love your view of Africa, and yes, it seems misunderstood.

    • Reply
      whereisnoodles
      July 4, 2016 at 7:25 pm

      Thanks for reading Rob! I hope I have managed to give a fairly balanced view 🙂

  • Reply
    Grey World Nomads
    June 30, 2016 at 10:20 am

    Well written, you tick all the important recommendations which women traveling alone should read before traveling.

    • Reply
      whereisnoodles
      July 4, 2016 at 7:25 pm

      Thank you! Glad you agree with the points I have covered 🙂

  • Reply
    Kathy Frisch
    July 3, 2016 at 2:12 pm

    I’ve been traveling and living in Tanzania as a single woman for four years. I have never had a problem being seriously hassled. You ticked off all the main points accurately. Tanzania is a perfectly safe place to live or visit (my time has been primarily in Arusha and Moshi). Even to go on safari alone is perfectly safe as long as you travel with a known, reputable company.
    Great article! Thanks for sharing.

    • Reply
      whereisnoodles
      July 3, 2016 at 5:43 pm

      Thanks for reading Kathy, glad you agreed with the points I covered. I’m hoping to return later this year if I can 🙂

  • Reply
    Christine K
    July 5, 2016 at 11:30 pm

    I think your post was pretty accurate; I had no problems traveling there.

  • Reply
    Amy
    July 6, 2016 at 10:07 am

    Thanks for writing this, Nikki! I think there’s just not a lot of information out there, so it’s important that people who have been to less-visited places share their experiences and knowledge. There are definitely a few places in Africa that have piqued my attention recently, and the wanderlust is only growing with articles like these!

  • Reply
    Ruben Arribas
    July 6, 2016 at 1:17 pm

    Listening to the locals, I agree for me that´s the most important part of traveling!

    After reading this post, I feel like going to Tanzania 🙂

  • Reply
    AdventurerDeb
    July 7, 2016 at 1:46 am

    Great article. I lived and worked in South Africa and found a lot of what you said is applicable there as well, just change the language, eh! Glad to know Tanzania is great for fellow, smart solo travellers! Cheers

  • Reply
    Natalie
    July 8, 2016 at 3:07 pm

    What a great post. I’m going to share. I agree that Africa is completely lumped together when people think of it and that is SO unfair!!

  • Reply
    Jessica
    July 8, 2016 at 3:12 pm

    Great post! I spent a summer in Mozambique and I agree with you, I didn’t have the solo experience there, I was on a team, but I never felt uncomfortable. The people were kind and respectful, I did get the marriage proposal from time to time lol, but like you said, the men thought they were being flattering and never made me feel scared or threatened! I’m glad you had such a good experience (:

  • Reply
    virginie - Travel with my kids
    July 8, 2016 at 3:16 pm

    What a great experience! Interesting thoughts and tips, thanks 🙂

  • Reply
    Ana
    July 8, 2016 at 3:47 pm

    I’ve never been to any countries in Africa but would love to explore someday! I totally agree with the stereotype thinking of the people against female travelers and I feel sick about it!There are many parts of this world where female travelers are facing challenges apart from Africa!

  • Reply
    Katie
    July 8, 2016 at 4:17 pm

    Great post. The media does all it can to instill fear. I need to add Tanzania to my list sounds like the perfect place to visit!

  • Reply
    Stephen 'Beaver' Harris
    July 8, 2016 at 4:48 pm

    Ah Tanzania! It is so wonderful. I went through there in December/January. I was a male solo traveller and when I would arrive at guesthouses, the owners would often tell me there solo male travellers are infrequent and that most solo travellers are female. Good for you for getting into it.

  • Reply
    Marita Stenersen
    July 8, 2016 at 8:40 pm

    Great article! I’ve never been to Africa, but Tanzania is on my top list – even more so now after reading your post 🙂

  • Reply
    Jen
    July 8, 2016 at 9:26 pm

    Thank you for sharing this post. I wish everyone saw the opportunity in travel. That it squashes what the media say. That it teaches us about different cultures. That it clears misunderstandings. That “dangerous” places aren’t really all that scary.

    It just takes some smarts, like you explained, and an open mind to see how travel can impact our lives.

  • Reply
    Jenny
    July 8, 2016 at 11:58 pm

    Thank you for showing a different side of Africa! I haven’t been, but you’re right, if you listen to the media you’ll be convinced that a trip to Africa is a death wish. Most of these tips apply to solo female travel pretty much anywhere too, which just shows that Africa isn’t actually more dangerous to women than anywhere else.

    Aaaaand now I want to go to Tanzania. Thanks!

  • Reply
    Emily Kydd
    July 9, 2016 at 3:35 am

    Great advice, as a solo female traveller, I often get the raised eyebrows about being alone. Makes me pretty annoyed and can be hard to not go on the feminist rant! Sounds like the focus is to keep your common sense in tow and travel to Tanzania!

  • Reply
    Cristal
    July 10, 2016 at 12:10 am

    Love the advice, especially as I’m heading the Africa soon. Will definitely check out your recommendations for volunteering. It’s my favourite way to see a country!

  • Reply
    Tamshuk
    July 10, 2016 at 2:04 am

    Very well written post Nikki.
    It is so important to look further and deeper than the usual “bad and dangerous” image portrayed by the media about these developing/underdeveloped countries. Safety and Danger are two things that cannot be guaranteed in any part of the world so you might as well enjoy yourself 🙂

  • Reply
    Kelsi
    July 15, 2016 at 2:12 am

    Thanks for posting this! Tanzania is on the list of places people told me not to go as a solo girl back in the day (Tangiers and Sofia, Bulgaria among others). I think it tends to come down to being a smart and safe traveler, though some countries are definitely more dangerous than others. Thanks for the tips!

  • Reply
    Nomadi
    August 30, 2016 at 2:09 pm

    Wow, I will have to show this piece to my wife – I have been trying to get her to travel to Tansania or Kenya for years but she is afraid of it being – you guessed it – too dangerous! I am going to assume that even as a lady couple we wouldn’t have any trouble as long as we are discreet – probably still not the place to be out and proud..? I appreciate you wouldn’t have insider knowledge about this but the attitudes towards LGBT community also affect our travel decisions.

  • Reply
    Steff
    November 15, 2016 at 10:18 am

    Love your article! Thank you so much for sharing your experiences. Me and two friends have just been to tanzania and going back in February to explore more around Moshi 🙂 Very helpful and interesting.

  • Reply
    thamiris
    November 25, 2016 at 5:19 pm

    Hi Nikki,
    I am planning to spend 2 months in Tanzania with my husband and I just loved your post.
    Could you recommend a nice area/ neighbourhood to stay???

    • Reply
      whereisnoodles
      November 26, 2016 at 4:15 pm

      Personally I love Moshi town as it’s a great base for things like safari and Mt Kili plus many other activities!

  • Reply
    Jade
    March 8, 2017 at 4:30 am

    I’m not a solo traveller but I was interested in how these are just general travel tips that apply to everyone, including couples like us. Obviously there can be more dangers in any place for women due to some cultural differences and what is acceptable etc but like you say, awareness is key! Great read x

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