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
- Health precautions
- Healthcare and insurance
- Keeping safe in Tanzania
- House hunting in Tanzania
- International schools
A brief country overview of Tanzania
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.
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!
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- International School of Tanganyika, Dar es Salaam
- Aga Khan Nursery & Primary School, Dar es Salaam
- Aga Khan Secondary School, Dar es Salaam
- Haven of Peace Academy, Dar es Salaam
- Hope International School, Moshi
- International School Moshi, Moshi and Arusha
- St. Constantine’s International School, Arusha
- Mwanza International School, Mwanza
- Isamilo International School, Mwanza
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.
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.
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:
- What Living as an Expat in Tanzania is Really Like
- Useful Swahili Phrases For Travel In Tanzania
- When Is The Best Time To Visit Tanzania?
- 5 Expat Blogs for Families to Follow