Moving to Tanzania: Everything You Need to Know

Moving to Tanzania - Everything You Need To Know

After moving to Tanzania over two years ago, there were a number of things that I wish I had known about beforehand. I’ve learned a thing or two about moving your life abroad and preparation is key! From planning where you are going to live, where you want to work, to how long you plan to stay. The number of things you need to think about can get overwhelming.

So if you have your heart set on moving to Tanzania, then read on! While I live in Moshi, which is the home to a smaller expat community, I have tried my best to give a well-rounded overview of expat life in Tanzania as a whole. In this article I cover the following points:

  • Country overview with key facts
  • Tanzania’s climate
  • Work and resident permits
  • Where to live in Tanzania
  • Searching for jobs in Tanzania
  • Transportation
  • Health precautions
  • Healthcare and insurance
  • Keeping safe in Tanzania
  • House hunting in Tanzania
  • International schools

A brief country overview of Tanzania

Key facts:

Population: 55.5 million

Land area: 945 thousand sq. km

Major languages spoken: Swahili, English, and Arabic (in some regions)

Local currency: Tanzanian Shilling (although USD is accepted by some tour companies, restaurants, and hotels)

Time difference: GMT+3 hours (+2 in summer)

Capital city: Dodoma

Tanzania is a country located in East Africa. It borders Kenya and Uganda on the north, Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo on the west, and Zambia, Malawi, and Mozambique on the south. On the east, it borders the Indian Ocean where you’ll find the beautiful archipelago of Zanzibar just lying off the coast. With all this only a short plane journey away, it makes it a perfect base to explore other areas of the African continent.

Tanzania is the largest and most populated country in the East African Community (which also includes Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, and Burundi). It is also the home to some of Africa’s largest national parks, including the world-famous Serengeti and the world’s highest freestanding mountain, Kilimanjaro.

For me, it has the perfect blend of all the things I love – adventure, friendly people, interesting culture, a relaxed pace of life, and some of the most amazing nature and wildlife spots. If this sounds like your ideal place, then moving to Tanzania might also be for you.

Mount Kilimanjaro's summit peak Kibo

Mount Kilimanjaro’s summit peak Kibo


Tanzania’s climate

When people think of Africa, they usually imagine tropical weather all year round.

Tanzania does actually have two main seasons – hot and cold, where temperatures can vary drastically. The hottest time of year tends to be between November and February while the coldest period occurs between May and August.

The typography of Tanzania also means there are regional variations in temperatures. The coastal areas are particularly hot and humid, while the highlands are much cooler.

In the highlands, temperatures can range between 10 and 20 °C during the cold and hot seasons respectively. The rest of the country has temperatures that typically range between 20 °C to 35 °C.

There are also two main rainy seasons; the short rains are generally from November to December, while the long rains last from March to June. It’s usually cooler during the long rainy season too, particularly in the morning and evening (as I am writing this, I am sat in a big woolly jumper!)

So if you are moving to Tanzania with the expectation of sun all day, every day…then think again!

Rain clouds over Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

Rain clouds over Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania


Work and residence permits

If you are going to live and work in Tanzania, you will need a work permit and residence permit. While it isn’t the most straightforward process, your employer should be able to help you organise this. A tip from my own experience? Get your work permit sorted before moving to Tanzania and be aware that it could take several months to receive a decision.

You should always check what the current situation is with regards to working in Tanzania, as the government is in the process of changing immigration laws. Bureaucracy can be challenging here at times and recent trends seem to indicate tougher restrictions on expats working in Tanzania. Permits have drastically increased in price and there have also been talks about introducing a cap on how many times a visa can be renewed. So this is something to bear in mind when thinking about how long you wish to live in Tanzania.

There are three different classes of residence and work permits which you can apply for:

  • A: for foreign investors
  • B: for employees with special skills who have accepted a job for which no local Tanzanian could be found
  • C: for volunteers, missionaries, researchers, students, those seeking medical treatment, etc.

For Class B and C permits, you will need to provide your CV, referrals from previous employers, academic qualifications, a signed employment contract, passport (valid for at least a year) and passport photos along with your application forms.

If you are interested in investing in Tanzania, please see the Immigration Services Department website for a list of documents you will need to submit with your application.

There is also a ton of other information there (including costs) to assist with your application before moving to Tanzania. Although it’s always worthwhile checking things over with your employer, consulate, or lawyer first as I am not 100% confident that the website always has the most up-to-date info.

Work and residence permits are required before moving to Tanzania

Work and residence permits are required before moving to Tanzania


Expat hotspots: where to live in Tanzania?

There are probably six main cities in Tanzania where you will find expat communities.

Most popular expat hubs:

  • Dar es Salaam – The largest and richest city in Tanzania, Dar es Salaam has been dubbed the “economic capital” and is the home to its largest expat community
  • Arusha – The second largest expat hub can be found in Arusha, Tanzania’s third largest city in the northern region. It is also within close reach of some of Tanzania’s major national parks

Other cities with sizeable expat communities include:

  • Mwanza – Tanzania’s second largest city and major trading centre
  • Dodoma – The country’s legislative capital
  • Moshi – A smaller city located in the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro
  • Zanzibar City – located on Unguja Island, the main island of the Zanzibar archipelago

Where you live is completely down to personal preference. For example, do you prefer the big city life or a more relaxed pace on the coast?

For me, towns like Dar and Arusha were far too busy, noisy and chaotic. While Moshi can get hectic, it’s easier to escape the hustle and bustle of city life and it also has a more laid-back vibe. I like the small community-feel here, whereas in Arusha or Dar I would probably feel very much like a little fish in a big pond.

The key is to research, research, research. If you can visit and see what the different regions are like before moving to Tanzania, then that will also help with your decision.

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania


Searching for jobs in Tanzania

Tanzania’s main sectors include tourism, agriculture, fishing, mining, manufacturing, energy, telecommunications and IT.

The majority of expats in Tanzania work in tourism, education, manufacturing, construction, hospitality, wholesale and retail trade sectors. In Arusha and Moshi there are also a number of opportunities in the NGO sector and coffee agriculture.

The cost of living in Tanzania is generally cheaper than in most Western countries if you eat locally and take local transport. However, if you want to buy imported Western foods and goods, eat out at fancy restaurants, travel around the country, and live according to Western standards, it can get expensive. So keep this in mind when you are negotiating your contract.

For me, I found that building connections with people in Tanzania was the best way to find out about work. However, the following websites are also a good place to start when looking for a job in Tanzania:

A safari jeep in the African sunset on the horizon

Some expats (like myself) have found jobs working in the tourism sector


Transportation in Tanzania

There are four main ways to get around the urban and rural areas in Tanzania, and they are:

Dala Dala – The most popular and cheapest way to get around, dala dalas are minibuses that offer transport from the surrounding suburbs and villages to and from town.

Boda Boda (or Piki Piki) – These are motorcycle taxis which you can pretty much find everywhere in the main towns. Boda bodas probably aren’t the safest way to get around, but if you do decide to use them on a regular basis, find a good driver and make sure they have a safety helmet.

Bajaj – These are basically Tanzania’s version of the tuk-tuk; a three-wheeled motor rickshaw. Some regularly operate in certain suburbs/towns offering a service where you can share the ride with other passengers travelling the same route. Making it a super cheap and more reliable way to get around.

Taxi – Although more expensive than the above, taxis are probably the safest way to get around. Although they can be a nightmare during rush hour, particularly in the major cities like Dar es Salaam where it usually gets gridlocked. So it’s best to time your journey right. I also hear that Uber is now available in Dar es Salaam.

If you are moving to Tanzania and plan on staying long-term, you may wish to look into buying your own car. There are many car dealers/brokers who can help out with this, although be aware that you (rather than the seller) might have to pay commission for their assistance. Prices also might be higher than what you are used to due to import taxes.

For the first six months, you can drive in Tanzania on your home country’s license or an international license. However, if you are living in Tanzania for longer, you will need to obtain a Tanzanian driver’s license.

Dala Dala and Boda Boda circling the Arusha Clock Tower, Tanzania.

Dala Dala and Boda Boda circling the Arusha Clock Tower, Tanzania. Photo credit: Roman Boed (click on photo to see full portfolio)


Health precautions

If you are planning to move to Tanzania, it’s best to go to your doctor to check that all your routine vaccinations are up to date and to discuss any other health precautions you may need to take. The risk of catching serious diseases like hepatitis A, typhoid fever, malaria, dengue fever, and rabies is quite high. The HIV/AIDS rate in the country is also high, affecting almost 5% of the population. Yellow fever is low risk in Tanzania, but you may want to consider getting vaccinated if you plan to visit yellow fever endemic countries that neighbour Tanzania (i.e. Kenya).

You may also want to consider anti-malarial medication. Personally, I do not take them as I live in a low-risk area and don’t want to pump my body with medication over an extended period of time. Instead, I take other precautions like regularly spraying my home and walls with insecticide, using mosquito repellent and long-sleeved clothes at night, and sleeping under a mosquito net. I do however use antimalarials if I am visiting high-risk zones near the coast or rural areas. Or you may just want to use them during the high malaria season from May to July. For more information on malaria, visit Malaria Spot. 

Malaria is high risk in most of Tanzania, so its best to speak to a doctor regarding health precautions

Malaria is high risk in most of Tanzania, so its best to speak to a doctor regarding health precautions


Healthcare and medical insurance

While the quality of most healthcare facilities is not quite up to the same standard as most Western countries, you will find some reputable hospitals/clinics in the major cities that are perfectly capable of dealing with most health issues. I found that talking to expats is the best way to find out which local GPs, private clinics and pediatricians to go to when certain medical care is needed. There are also plenty of pharmacies (duka la dawa) around to give advice and medication on minor complaints.

In more serious cases, you may be flown to Kenya or Johannesburg. Therefore it’s important that you have medical insurance that covers evacuation. There is public health insurance available in Tanzania, but you would have to discuss with your employer whether you will be covered or not. If not, then it’s advisable to sign up for a comprehensive private health insurance plan either with your company or on your own with an international insurance company. Make sure that you know exactly what your plan covers before moving to Tanzania.

A local pharmacy in Tanzania.

A local pharmacy in Tanzania. Photo credit: Right to health (click on photo to see portfolio)


Keeping safe in Tanzania

Tanzania is said to be one of the safest countries in Africa, and while I have been living in Moshi, I have always felt relatively safe and have never faced any issues.

However like everywhere in the world, there is crime and you should always use your common sense and take precautions. Recent statistics have shown that house and street crime is on the rise in Tanzania, particularly in Dar es Salaam.

Some safety tips to keep in mind:

  • Rent a house in a gated compound with security guards and/or dogs. Alarms and CCTV would be an added bonus
  • Keep valuables out of sight on public transport and city centres
  • Do not walk around at night. Use taxis if you need to
  • Carry your consulate and doctors information with you at all times
  • Dress modestly, particularly in Zanzibar, to avoid unwanted attention
  • When driving in cities, keep your doors locked, your windows up, and your valuables out of sight

House hunting in Tanzania

Most expats will rent a house or apartment when they move to Tanzania. When you arrive, I would recommend staying in a hotel or temporary housing and search for your ideal home when you are here.

While you may be able to find adverts online or in expat forums, it’s best that you get to see the property in person before signing a contract. You can hire a local broker to assist with this or talk to other expats living in the area. Talking to expats is also a good way to gauge property prices in that area too.

But before you move in anywhere you need to ask:

  • Does the property get good and sufficient water and electricity?
  • Is it furnished/unfurnished?
  • Can you get internet in your area?
  • Who will pay for repairs – you or your landlord?
  • Are utilities included in the rental price?
  • How secure is the compound? Is there a house alarm and a security guard on duty 24 hours a day?

Once you have found somewhere that meets your requirements, you can then negotiate a rental price and draw up a contract with your landlord. Most will ask you to either sign up to a six or three-month lease and pay the money up front.

A typical home in urban Tanzania

A typical home in urban Tanzania


International schools

If you are moving to Tanzania with your family, you may want to send your children to an international school. Below is a list of schools available in each region:

It’s worth noting that spaces in the schools can fill up quickly, so it’s good to get an application in before you move. Fees are also very high ranging from $5,000 USD to $10,000 USD per child per year. Some companies may be willing to cover these expenses if you are relocating for a job, so it’s worth asking when you are negotiating your package.

For pre-school children, most expat families will hire a dada (nanny) to help with childcare. This is fairly normal in Tanzania, and they can also help with other household chores like laundry, cleaning and cooking.

Hope | Inclusion Day from 42 Films on Vimeo.

Other things you might like to know before moving to Tanzania: 

  • Women and men both dress conservatively. For women, in particular, it is best to wear clothing that covers the shoulders and knees. Swimwear is fine at pools and beaches but going topless is definitely taboo
  • Power cuts can happen regularly and can sometimes last hours (in rare cases, days). This can get annoying when you are trying to stick to project deadlines
  • Most people here are scared of dogs. This is mainly because they are used more for security than as pets. If you do bring/buy a dog, make sure it remains in your property as attacks on dogs are not uncommon
  • Don’t drink tap water as it is full of bacteria and parasites. Many expats get water filtration systems installed in their homes to minimize the risk of contracting waterborne diseases
  • Internet connections can be very slow and temperamental at times. Therefore streaming movies or downloading large files can sometimes be a challenge.
  • Bring an unlocked phone so that you can buy and use a local sim card. People tend to use vouchers here and top up weekly/monthly rather than sign up to contracts
  • Obviously living in a different country, you will notice many different cultural norms. It’s good to familiarize yourself with Tanzania’s culture and customs before you arrive. I am going to explore this more in another post soon.
Rolling farmland and mountains in rural Dodoma

Rolling farmland and mountains in rural Dodoma

My thoughts on moving to Tanzania?

Tanzania is a diverse and beautiful country with some of the most friendly people I have ever met. Everyday life in Tanzania is fairly laid back and easy going when compared to England, and this is something that I really love about living here.

But, as with anywhere in the world, there are pros and cons. I would be lying if I said that I haven’t faced challenges here. Everything from throwing a tantrum over having the third power cut in one day, to crying at the local supermarket because they didn’t have any “GOOD” chocolate (granted, I was heavily pregnant and hormonal at the time).

When you live in Tanzania, you will get frustrated. You will get homesick. You will have your patience tested to the max. And you will feel completely out of your comfort zone at times.

But if you can come here with an open mind, some resilience, compassion and a willingness to learn from it all, then there is a lot to gain from living in Tanzania.

Other posts you might like:

Have you moved to Tanzania or to another country abroad? I’d love to hear your stories or tips and recommendations below!

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26 Comments

  • Reply
    Valerie
    May 16, 2019 at 2:23 am

    Hi Nikki! I found your blog couple of month ago when looking for Kilimanjaro climb local operators for a friend. thank you for sharing your adventures and day to day life. Love the info about Tanzanian climate, so many people are under impression that it is always sunny in Africa. Wish you all the best to you and your family

    • Reply
      Nikki Godwin
      May 16, 2019 at 11:18 am

      Hi Valerie, thanks so much for stopping by and your kind comments. If your friend is still looking for a tour operator, do let me know and I’ll be happy to help further 🙂

  • Reply
    Rachelle
    May 16, 2019 at 4:23 pm

    Wow. I knew that there were a lot of things to consider when moving to another country, but man! So many things to consider. That’s really interesting that most people in Tanzania use dogs for security and not pets. And you’re right – crime and petty theft can happen anywhere, so it’s always a good idea to take precautions, no matter if you’re living locally or just visiting. Glad you’re enjoying your new home, and I hope you can find the “good” chocolate now!

    • Reply
      Nikki Godwin
      May 28, 2019 at 12:37 pm

      Haha thank you, by good chocolate I mean dairy milk (which is super expensive here as it is imported) and one that has not melted and frozen several times. A cholate lover’s nightmare…especially when pregnant!

  • Reply
    Shreya Saha
    May 17, 2019 at 2:57 am

    I am living a similar life but in Thailand – the life of an expat teacher. I can relate to you well. But honestly, I have never thought of trying to teach in Tanzania. I was in Kenya last year, and loved the country. I believe Tanzania is similar. From your experiences, it seems I can easily consider Tanzania as an option. I will probably prefer Das Es Salaam over Arusha. Thanks for listing out the international schools.

    • Reply
      Nikki Godwin
      May 29, 2019 at 6:07 am

      Wow, working and living in Thailand must be a wonderful experience. Yes there are many teaching opportunities in TZ, particularly in Dar. I believe it’s also one of the better paid jobs for expats too.

  • Reply
    Marco Mtui
    May 17, 2019 at 6:27 am

    Hi Nikki,
    The Information looks wonderful, Am Marco, Tanzanian Live in Arusha.
    One thing to add- When looking for the house, make it during rain season to avoid getting house at the Flood way.
    Thank you and welcome to Arusha. Borderless Tours and Safaris Ltd.

    • Reply
      Nikki Godwin
      May 29, 2019 at 6:11 am

      Thanks Marco, some good advice to add. I have read about the flooding issues in Arusha! Although might not always be practical for people to house hunt during rainy season, I guess it’s good to try and talk to people already living in the area to get an idea.

  • Reply
    Sandy N Vyjay
    May 17, 2019 at 1:19 pm

    This is such an exhaustive and informative post about Tanzania. Really helpful not only for those moving there but for others as well. I for one was not aware that Dodoma was the political capital, always Dar Es Salaam seemed to be in the limelight. Have always identified Tanzania with Serengeti and Kilimanjaro, but there is so much more to it. Hope to be able to visit this lovely country someday.

    • Reply
      Nikki Godwin
      May 29, 2019 at 6:15 am

      Thanks Sandy, yes there is so much more to Tanzania than Serengeti and Kilimanjaro. I’m still yet to see most of it and hope I get the chance to explore more before I leave.

  • Reply
    Job
    May 18, 2019 at 12:04 am

    Hi Nikki,

    You forgot to mention Mbeya as an expat hub! It has a great climate and has plenty of expats too.

    Thanks,

    Job

    • Reply
      Nikki Godwin
      May 29, 2019 at 6:12 am

      Thanks for the tip-off! I will look more into that and add it to the list 🙂

  • Reply
    Kavita Favelle
    May 18, 2019 at 7:16 am

    I have only visited Tanzania as a tourist, focusing on safari, so it’s a different perspective to think about it as a potential place to move to. I like your point about choosing between big city life or a place where you have some city hustle but can also escape it, like Moshi. The healthcare advice is particularly interesting as definitely a factor of difference in local healthcare to what I have at home.

    • Reply
      Nikki Godwin
      May 29, 2019 at 6:36 am

      To be honest, I have mostly experienced a good standard of healthcare here. Of course it isn’t up to the same standard as I am used to in Western countries, but they don’t always have the same resources or infrastructure. There are definitely options for a high standard of healthcare, you just have to do your homework and be prepared to pay expat prices or maybe travel a little farther.

  • Reply
    Abhinav Singh
    May 18, 2019 at 12:05 pm

    I agree with you about the climate. I recently visited Uganda, the neighboring country of Tanzania and was surprised to find pleasant weather and lot of greenery. This blog is a wonderful resource for anyone looking to move to Tanzania. The transport options in Tanzania look cool! Being a backpacker, I like the idea of Boda Boda. Though Dala Dala seems safer.

    • Reply
      Nikki Godwin
      May 29, 2019 at 6:49 am

      Thanks for the kind comments. Yes I would definitely opt for a dala dala or bajaj over a boda boda these days. Too many close calls! Also it’s worth noting that they don’t necessarily go through a driver’s test, you could be hopping on a bike with anyone and they may not be that experienced. That’s why I would always advise finding someone you know is reputable and you can trust.

  • Reply
    Bhushavali N
    May 20, 2019 at 4:06 am

    I agree. Preparation is the key! I’ve moved countries twice and one of it was when pregnant! Its not easy!
    Atleast good to know you moved to a country where English is a local language. It gets really crazy when we don’t know the local language.
    Thanks for the tips about house hunting. Its always one of the freakiest things that I face. If you could provide any apps or websites where housings are listed it would helpful.
    Special thanks for the list of the areas with most expats, indeed that’s very very helpful.

    • Reply
      Nikki Godwin
      May 29, 2019 at 6:52 am

      Yeah house hunting is always a bit of a chore no matter where you are hey? My hat goes off to you for moving countries while pregnant! And yeah I can only imagine how stressful it must be when you don’t know the local language. Although they do speak English here, I wish I knew more Swahili. It does get isolating sometimes when I can’t get involved in conversation with friends or colleagues.

  • Reply
    Clarice
    May 20, 2019 at 2:38 pm

    This post is very helpful. We’re actually planning to move abroad. Not really Tanzania but the tips that you mentioned are still very much applicable to other countries. Appreciate all of these tips and information that you shared.

    • Reply
      Nikki Godwin
      May 29, 2019 at 6:53 am

      Thanks Clarice, I am glad you found it helpful. I guess you’re right – the same advice goes wherever you move to! Good luck with the move 🙂

  • Reply
    Manjulika Pramod
    May 20, 2019 at 3:52 pm

    Rural Dodoma looks fascinating. This was a very elaborate post and extremely helpful for those looking forward to moving to Tanzania. My husband was there at Dar es Salaam for 2 months and I did want to join him because I wanted to travel to Zanzibar and explore the national parks but I couldn’t. He had lot of good things to say about the countryside beauty. Malaria was a concern though.

    • Reply
      Nikki Godwin
      May 29, 2019 at 6:55 am

      It’s a shame you didn’t get to visit, but there is always time. What was his experience like living in Dar? I am always interested to hear from others as I didn’t feel it was somewhere I could live personally.

  • Reply
    Emily
    May 22, 2019 at 6:04 pm

    Thanks for this great article! I am moving to Tanzania in a few months so this is really helpful 🙂

    • Reply
      Nikki Godwin
      May 28, 2019 at 12:18 pm

      You’re welcome, where will you be moving to?

      • Reply
        EMILY
        May 30, 2019 at 6:20 pm

        Mwanza 🙂 if you have any recommendations I would love to hear them!

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