Don’t be Ignorant Traveler in East Africa!

We thought to put together some do’s and dont’s  in East Africa so you save yourself potential embarrassment.

  • First of all, you will have to get used to the fact that many people on general, dont have sense of personal space. Women like touching and admiring hair, specially if you have natural long hair, while men like to gently or less gently grab your hand  during conversation. Dont take it personal or sign of harassment, its just their culture.
  • Greetings are important to people, try to learn some basic Swahili greetings.
  • On the beaches is not allowed to bathe topless and although there is no dress code is best to keep it simple and modest. (wearing long pants or long skirts)
  • Homosexuality is not welcome, so dont publicly show any same sex affections.
  • No expression of affection between straight  couples
  • During ramadan, the holy month, do not eat, smoke or drink alcohol nor water in public.
  • In hotels with muslim management alcohol is prohibited but not in resorts.
  • Bargaining on markets and local shops is expected but have reasonable limits, unless you want to insult the vendors. Its best to ask a local before shopping about the prices, so you can negotiate later.
  • Some men show friendship by holding hands.
  • Maasai people find it taboo to talk about unborn babies, so dont ask pregnant Maasai women about the unborn child.
  • You will be called Mzungu  – it is swahili meaning for foreigner. Staring to foreigners is totally acceptable, so is calling them Mzungu.
  • Swahili Time is a little bit different than the time we know. In Swahili time, day has 12 hours and night 12 hours, which can confuse travellers. Day starts with sunrise and night starts with sunset. When arranging transport or any appointments in Tanzania, make sure you confirm the time in order to avoid confusion and delays.
  • Driving in East Africa is on the left side.

tanzania driving on the left

  • There is no such thing as full bus. There is always a place for more. Try taking dalla dalla /matatus/ and you will see!
  • People on general are very religious and christians attend every Sunday a mass. You will be oftentimes asked about your religious views.
  • It is prohibited to illegally remove wildlife products from Tanzania, remove corals, shells or to export products made from rhino, elephant or sea turtle derivatives.

  • It is not permitted to photograph the president or any other military objects without prior permission.

  • Show respect when photographing people, ask for permission first. Some will be happy to pose, some will reject you and others will let you take photos for small tip.
  • Yes, stories about corrupted cops are true! Corrupted cops are reality in Africa. If you are self driving and you are white, expect to be stopped even for no reason. We are not saying all cops are dirty but probably there will come time when you will have to pay small sum of money just to let you go.
  • Mob justice exists. If you are mugged on the street, or pickpockets steal something from you, dont make panic like its the end of the world as locals might start beating them till death or severe injuries.