The easiest way to access money while travelling in Tanzania is at ATMs using a Visa card.
- Tanzania’s currency is the Tanzanian shilling (Tsh). There are bills of Tsh500, Tsh1000, Tsh5000 and Tsh10,000, and coins of Tsh1, Tsh5, Tsh10 (although these three are rarely encountered), Tsh20, Tsh50, Tsh100 and Tsh200.
- In 2011, bill design was changed for all amounts. Both the old and new styles are still accepted, and in circulation.
- A Visa or MasterCard is essential for accessing money from ATMs and for paying entry fees at most national parks.
- Credit cards are not widely accepted for hotel payment, except at top-end establishments. Where they are accepted, it’s often only with commissions. As a result, you will need to rely heavily on cash and ATMs.
- US dollar bills dated prior to 2006 are not accepted anywhere. Post-2006 US dollars are generally accepted by larger establishments. For smaller, local places, you'll need to exchange them for Tanzania shillings.
ATMs are widespread in major towns, and all are open 24 hours. But they are occasionally out of service or out of cash, so you should have back-up funds. All internationally linked machines allow you to withdraw shillings with a Visa or MasterCard. Withdrawals are usually to a maximum of Tsh300,000 or Tsh400,000 per transaction (ATMs in small towns often have a limit of Tsh200,000 per transaction) and with a daily limit of Tsh1.2 million (less in small towns). Some machines also accept other cards linked to the Cirrus/Maestro/Plus networks.
The main operators:
Barclays Dar es Salaam, Arusha, Moshi, Zanzibar Island, Tanga
CRDB Major towns
Exim Dar es Salaam, Arusha, Moshi, Mwanza, Tanga, Morogoro
National Bank of Commerce Major towns
Stanbic Dar es Salaam, Arusha, Moshi, Mbeya
Standard Chartered Dar es Salaam, Arusha, Moshi, Mwanza
In large cities, queues at ATM machines on Friday afternoons are notoriously long; take care of your banking before then.
If your ATM withdrawal request is rejected (no matter what reason the machine gives), it could be for something as simple as requesting above the allowed transaction amount for that particular machine; it’s always worth trying again. Entering your PIN number erroneously three times results in a captured card.
There’s essentially no black market for foreign currency. You can assume that the frequent offers you’ll receive on the street to change at high rates are a set-up.
US dollars, followed by euros, are the most convenient foreign currencies and get the best rates, although other major currencies are readily accepted in major centres. Bring a mix of large and small denominations, but note that US$50 and US$100 bills get better rates of exchange than smaller denominations. Old-style (small head) US bills and US bills dated prior to 2006 are not accepted anywhere.
Bring a Visa card or MasterCard. These are essential for withdrawing money at ATMs; Visa is the most widely accepted. A Visa or MasterCard is also required for paying park fees at most national parks. Some upmarket hotels and tour operators accept credit cards for payment, often with a commission averaging from 5% to 10%. However, many don’t; always confirm in advance.
- Change cash at banks or foreign exchange (forex) bureaus in major towns and cities; rates and commissions vary, so shop around.
- Forex bureaus are usually quicker, less bureaucratic and open longer hours than banks, although most smaller towns don’t have them. They also tend to accept a wider range of currencies than banks.
- The most useful bank for foreign exchange is NBC, with branches throughout the country. Countrywide, banks and forex bureaus are closed from noon on Saturday until Monday morning.
- To reconvert Tanzanian shillings to hard currency, save at least some of your exchange receipts, although they are seldom checked. The easiest places to reconvert currency are at the airports in Dar es Salaam and Kilimanjaro, or try at forex shops or banks in major towns.
- For after-hours exchange and exchanging in small towns, as well as for reconverting back to dollars or euros, many Indian-owned businesses will change money, although often at unfavourable rates.
- In theory, it’s required that foreigners pay for accommodation, park fees, organised tours, upmarket hotels and the Zanzibar ferries in US dollars, although shillings are accepted almost everywhere at the going rate.
- Restaurants Tipping is generally not practised in small local establishments, especially in rural areas. In major towns and in places frequented by tourists, tips are expected. Some top-end places include a service charge in the bill. Usually, however, either rounding up the bill or adding about 10% to 15% is standard practice.
- Safaris and Treks On treks and safaris, it’s common practice to tip drivers, guides, porters and other staff.
- Taxis Tipping is not common practice, except for longer (full-day or multiday) rentals.
Travellers cheques can no longer be changed anywhere in Tanzania.
For current exchange rates, see www.xe.com.