Local Laws and Customs in Tanzania

Local Laws and Customs
Masaai Family

Be a savvy traveler by brushing up on local laws, customs and etiquette. Tanzania is a very welcoming country and without a doubt you can expect a warm welcome. However you should take note of the local customs to avoid tipping the boat as you discover this remarkable and awe inspiring part of Africa.

Respect Local Religion

There is a high number of Muslims living in Tanzania and you should be sensitive towards certain religious beliefs and customs. Women should dress modestly and avoid showing too much skin when outside of tourist resorts. Holy places should be treated with respect so please dress accordingly. Also be aware that public displays of affection should be kept to a minimum and the consumption of alcohol should also be kept low key.

Obey Local Laws

Always carry your passport with you and the number of your local consulate. Be aware that drug use in Tanzania is strictly illegal and those found in possession of narcotics will face a hefty fine.

Unfortunately Tanzania is still a little behind the times in its views towards homosexuality and it is still considered illegal.

Photography

Whilst you may be only too keen to pull out your camera and start snapping away you should always ask first if you want to photograph the local people. Due to cultural beliefs many Tanzanians, particularly the Massai, will take great offense if you photograph them without asking.

Tipping

Tipping is not compulsory in Tanzania but it is appreciated. You should tip for good service at restaurants, bars and lodges. You can also tip your safari guides at the end of your visit as many of the local guides rely on tips to contribute to their income.

Language

The local language of Tanzania is Kiswahili or Swahili, although English is widely used and understood. Foreigners will be admired and appreciated if they attempt to learn a few basic words of Swahili and it may help to communicate with villagers in places where English may not be taught as a second language. Try and learn words such as hello (jambo) and thank you (asante) to make interacting with the locals a pleasant and mutually beneficial experience.

Body Language

Personal space differs from place to place in Tanzania but a general rule is that you should stand at arms’ length when meeting someone for the first time. However this can be less if the two people communicating are of the same gender. Same genre conversations may also include light touching of the hands, the legs and the shoulders. However if members of the opposite sex are conversing there should be little to no touching. Handshakes are a vital aspect of local culture so be sure to shake hands with everyone you meet. Keep in mind that the right hand is the only acceptable hand to greet someone with as this is your eating hand whereas the left is reserved for bathroom duties. Avoid using your left hand when passing objects to a local. When talking to an elderly person it is considered a sign of respect to avoid eye contact and keep your eyes on the ground. It is also considered rude to display the bottom of your foot, so be sure to keep your feet on the ground and avoid putting them up on tables and chairs when resting.

Local Hospitality

If you are offered food and drink in someone’s home it is considered extremely rude not to accept. Be sure to take a small portion as a token gesture even if you aren’t hungry. Also avoid smelling your food as this is considered an insult to the chef.