Updated: May 17, 2020
I visited Tanzania with Alex and Robyn to meet up with our friend Dom who was living and working in the country. This was my first time in Africa, and I was a little apprehensive about how safe Tanzania would be.
Looking back now, I don't think there was any need to be afraid. Due to having travelled to so many places since Tanzania, my confidence has greatly increased.
Jabs - There are several jabs that are advised before visiting. Make sure you get them before you visit. One jab you should definitely get is the one for "Yellow Fever" I'm put this in bold and underlined it, as it's not recommended as being necessary, and many doctors in the UK won't want to give it, but there's a problem here. The customs officials in Tanzania will often insist you need this jab. If you haven't got the certificate then they will demand you have it there and then and they will charge you. I think it's more of a money making scheme, but they will inject you there and then and it may not be as safe or hygienic as it would back in your home country by a professional. So ensure you get this no matter what!
Antimalarials - Make sure you get some Antimalarials and begin taking them before you visit. There is a high risk of malaria in Tanzania.
Diarrhea - It's quite possible you may experience diarrhea while in Tanzania. Either due to the food, water or maybe the antimalarials. I suggest packing some imodium.
Deet - Deet, or mosquito repellent is a must. If you get some jungle sstrength spray and make sure you cover yourself a couple of times per day, you should be fine. I wasn't bitten once.
I also suggest spraying around the windows of your accommodation.
Language - a few key phrases:
Jambo - Hello.
Asante sana - Thank you.
Hakuna matata - Everything is cool, or no trouble. You'll know this from The Lion King. Yes it is a real phrase and used quite often.
Dom was living in Mwanza, a port city on the shore of the huge and beautiful Lake Victoria. There were very few if any other tourists here, so we stood out amongst the locals due to our skin colour. This lead to a small incident with some customs officers. They saw us walking along the street and four of them jumped out of a car demanding to know why we were in the country. When we told them we were here visiting Dom they wouldn't believe we were tourists. They demanded to see our passports, and we happily obliged, but they continued to insist that we were working in the city illegally, without a working Visa and threatened to arrest us.
What they really wanted was a bribe to leave us alone, I don't think they had any intention of arresting us. Thankfully Dom spoke some Swahili. He told them in Swahili he knew what they were trying to do and to leave us be, and eventually they gave up and let us go on our way. Incidents like this at the time are quite scary, but now I'm a lot more confident to deal with such problems. There was also a day where we had a young girl following us around. Although I was worried as to why, I think she was just curious as to why there were white people in her city and wanted to know more about us. We actually passed quite a few children whilst in Mwanza, who would often call out "Mzungu!" which means "White man!" in Swahili, simply because it was a rare thing for them to see.
One other occurrence was walking by a group of teenagers, or maybe they were even in their early 20's. I had my first real taste of racist abuse when they shouted out to us to go back to our own country, and why were we there?
It wasn't a nice feeling, and I did feel quite unsafe at this point. Thankfully it was something which only occurred the one time.
Horrific but true?
There are many stories I heard whilst in Tanzania, which as crazy as they may seem are very likely to be true. One is that many fishermen who fish on Lake Victoria cannot swim, but it's how they make their living. However it's a regular occurrence for them to drown, or even be eaten by crocodiles. Thankfully I didn't get into any trouble with crocodiles whilst close to the lake.
Another story I was told, which is certainly a lot more worrying was regarding witch doctors. This is also a warning to anyone thinking of travelling further south whilst in Tanzania. Albinos are often seen as having magical properties. As a result many albinos born in southern Tanzania are sacrificed upon birth to make magic potions and trinkets. Some are raised until puberty and then have body parts cut off for this purpose. If you're an albino living in Southern Tanzania, it's not a safe place to live. Even after puberty, many are still hunted and killed for their body parts.
I've done quite a bit of research into this since returning from Tanzania, and I have found quite a lot of evidence to suggest this is completely true. However, there is a little more to story which will be worrying to any white tourists. Many white tourists have gone missing whilst exploring Southern Tanzania. Being white, their body parts are worth quite a lot of money, as they are often falsely sold as albino body parts. Many would never know the difference. So if you're thinking of visiting Southern Tanzania, be very cautious! However, Northern Tanzania is fine! Don't let any of this put you off. Obviously be a little cautious and on your guard, but it's one of the safest African countries and the landscapes and wildlife is incredible!