If you’re a seasoned backpacker, you’ll know that the best things in life are free – that apricot gold sunset, that deep conversation with the stranger you shared a cab with, or a dawn swim from a golden beach.
But, you’ll also know that money is useful and can buy you freedom and opportunity. If you don’t have a lot of cash, don’t worry. Tanzania has so much to offer backpackers on a budget. Here are a few hints and tips about cutting costs without cutting your safari, beach and trekking opportunities.
You can make massive savings on travel if you’re prepared to take it more slowly – and meet more people into the bargain. The big save is a bus instead of a plane. Yes, it can be done! Travelling to, from and within Tanzania has never been easier – and cheaper – and there are a range of services that you can choose from. For instance, the Kilimanjaro Express offers low-cost fares, online booking and a comfortable ride – and you get to see the country close up which will enrich your experiences. Travel from city to city for as low as $25 with some operators. You can choose an itinerary that can take in Arusha, Dar es Salaam, Nairobi, Moshi, Morogoro, Mwanza, Tanga, Iringa and many more.
If you’re in the city, join the locals and choose the ‘dala dala’ for short trips. Dala dalas are an experience in themselves! You’ll be packed in with everyone else, and you can stop any time along the route so just make sure you tell the fare collector where you want to get off. We don’t recommend you travel by dala dala late at night – keep safe!
For every luxury hotel you can find a dozen cheaper alternatives that are comfortable and safe. If you’re in the mood to be sociable then there are many guesthouses and bed & breakfasts with friendly owners, delicious meals and services like wifi – some even have outdoor pools! Some guesthouses such as Rafiki Backpackers & Guesthouse offer communal kitchens free of charge, and others offer space for camping. Hostels are usually a very cheap option and you usually meet and share stories with backpackers like you. It’s a great opportunity to swop tips and team up for some adventures.
For those of you who like to set up home and who enjoy a little privacy, self-catering is another option, with a wide range of beach and town apartments to choose from. Some are in the hustle and bustle of city life, others only yards from the beach and others a short stroll away from the beauty of rural Tanzania.
Whatever kind of Tanzanian holiday you’d like, you’ll find clean and safe accommodation that will suit your budget.
The trick to keeping costs down when eating is to eat local or prepare your own meals. Local specialities are usually tasty, healthy and cheap – just make sure that it’s cooked or, if it’s fruit, you can peel it. If you’re in self-catering accommodation and are happy to cook your own meals, you’ll delight in foraging for your supper from the colourful and chaotic markets that offer a range of succulent fruit, all kinds of vegetables as well as rice and pulses.
Kilimanjaro is not the only activity in Tanzania- it’s famous, yes, but you’ll find there are plenty of wonderful things to experience that don’t involve a six day slog up a mountain. For the natural wonders of Tanzania, there’s nothing better than a budget safari to the smaller national parks of Arusha, Tarangire or Lake Manyara – lesser known beauties than the more expensive Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Crater, but all the more delightful because they are less well known.
Arusha National Park contains Kilimanjaro’s baby brother Mount Meru, and although the park is small, it has three distinct landscapes all buzzing with its own flora and fauna. You’ll see giraffe, Cape buffalo, warthogs, zebra, and the forest birdlife is unsurpassed. Lake Manyara shimmers with millions of flamingo during the rainy season and if you’re lucky you’ll spot its famous tree-climbing lions.
If you’re passionate about trekking, then take a three-day hike from Lushoto to Mambo in the Usambara Mountains; it’s a delightful trek that takes in the beautiful, wooded scenery as you walk through winding paths, through picturesque villages via Mtae, a clifftop village with spectacular views.
Take a couple of days at Moshi, a busy, bustling and colorful town on the slopes of Kilimanjaro; you’ll get a stunning view of the mountain but there’s also a great opportunity to visit one of the many coffee plantations and you get to grind your own coffee! You’ll have a relaxed opportunity to see the farmers in action. If the rural life suits you then have an inexpensive stay in West Kilimanjaro; nestling between Kilimanjaro and Mount Meru you’ll find Simba Farm, a tranquil haven and working farm with breathtaking views. You’ll be able to explore on river hikes, bathe in the streams and try your hand at horse riding. Stay at the lodge or within the clean, inviting campsite. You’ll also have an opportunity to visit a Maasai village. It’s a mini-holiday in itself.
If it’s a beach you’re after, you don’t need to travel all the way to Zanzibar. You’ve plenty of places to stay on the Tanzanian mainland that won’t break the bank. We’re trying to keep quiet about Pangani, an out-of-the-way beach town on Tanzania’s northern Swahili coast, because it’s a real gem. You’ll find beach resorts up and down the coast around Pangani which are easy on the wallet, and for this you get empty tropical beaches, warm azure seas and golden-white sands.
You can spend days lazing away on the beach and snorkelling through coral reefs alive with fish all the colours of the rainbow. The area is a perfect getaway that’s also known for its seafood, so you won’t starve. You’ve a wide choice of accommodation – you might like to stay in a thatched roof tent directly on the beach, and there are many clean and welcoming hotels and guesthouses with their own restaurant and pool to choose from.
Kilimanjaro is only one part of Tanzania, and just because you’re on a budget doesn’t mean you should miss all the other delights that Tanzania has to offer. The team at Viva Africa Tours are always happy to recommend cheaper options for treks and accommodation, and arrange trips to the national parks and the beach, so give us a call!