Crime is a serious problem in Tanzania, and visitors should be alert and cautious. Street crime in Dar es Salaam is common and includes mugging, bag snatching, vehicle theft, "smash and grab" attacks on vehicles, armed robbery, burglary, and home invasions. Thieves and pickpockets steal from inattentive pedestrians and passengers on public transportation. Prowlers enter occupied and unoccupied houses, looking for open windows and doors to gain access to dwellings (and hotel rooms) to steal electronics, jewelry, and money. If you use a hotel safe, ensure it is bolted and secured to the furniture.
Firearm-related crimesare becoming more common, although criminals often use machetes and sticks. A series of robberies involving increasing levels of violence has occurred along the coast and on Zanzibar. In 2008 - 2009, we received reports of robbers holding tour buses and dive boats at gunpoint. In the spring of 2008, there were a string of armed robberies in hotels along the east coast of Ungunja (the main island) in Zanzibar.
Sexual assaults involving tourists are also a concern. Travelers should hire only legitimate tour guides, preferably arranged by a known travel agency or hotel. Be wary of “spontaneous” offers of sightseeing from new contacts and avoid being alone with “friendly” strangers who propose special, customized sightseeing trips. Practice common sense and remain vigilant regarding your surroundings. If a situation does not seem right, follow your instincts and leave the scene immediately. Travel with others when possible. If you are the victim of sexual assault, see your doctor immediately.
Muggings, Robberies, and Assaults: Pedestrians on deserted or crowded beaches, footpaths, and roads are often targeted by criminals. This is especially true on Zanzibar, in Dar es Salaam, and Arusha. Though group travel does not guarantee your safety, you should avoid traveling alone. Avoid carrying a bag, wearing flashy jewelry, or using or displaying electronics while walking in public. If you must carry a bag, hold it by the handle loosely so you can let go quickly and not be injured if someone grabs it. Do not put the strap across your chest as you can be badly injured if someone snatches the bag. Limit the amount of cash you carry to what is needed for that specific activity. Secure valuables, such as passports, jewelry, and airline tickets, in a hotel safe or other secure location. Carefully guard your camera and phone. Credit cards should only be used in reputable tourist hotels. Whereas long-term residents used to note a seasonal spike in crime (December - January), reports of robbery and violent assault now occur year-round.
ATM/Bank Fraud: Tanzania is primarily a cash economy. Some major hotels accept credit cards, but this is uncommon even in larger urban areas. Using a credit or debit card can make you vulnerable to fraud. There have been numerous recent reports of U.S. citizens becoming victims of fraud through use of debit or credit cards. Exercise caution when using ATM, debit, and credit cards in Tanzania and leave the area if you believe you are being watched. Avoid using standalone ATMs; use only ATMs that are attached to a bank. Monitor your account balance regularly and immediately report unusual activity. Debit cards should be avoided if possible, as your account can be emptied overnight and you have no recourse to dispute the transaction as is possible with credit cards. There have been reports of ATMs retaining cards and accounts being emptied in addition to the apparent use of skimming devices on ATMs targeting U.S. dollar denominated bank accounts. You should bring sufficient cash or traveler’s checks for your trip if you will be spending time outside of the large cities. Reputable financial institutions will require the bearer of a traveler’s check to present the original receipt for the checks and proof of identity before completing a transaction.
Home Invasions: U.S. citizens residing in Arusha and Dar es Salaam report a steady increase in crimes targeting the homes of expatriates. These armed home invasions usually involve some violence and some victims have been seriously injured. U.S. citizens should ensure that homes have a safe haven, a secure area with reinforced barriers where inhabitants can retreat and remain safe if intruders enter the home. Residents in Arusha and Dar es Salaam strongly recommend retaining a professional security company with 24-hour guards and roving patrols. If you have access to a house alarm, use it. Routinely check your doors and windows to ensure they are locked and the grills are intact.
Hotel Safety: Consider a hotel’s safety protocols when booking your stay. Is entry restricted to guests and staff? Are there gates? Can you lock the windows and doors? Some bandits invaded the guest house of a convent in Arusha this year, breaking down the doors with machetes and rocks and robbing the guests of their cash, electronics, and personal possessions.
Carjackings have occurred in both rural and urban areas. Visitors are advised to drive with doors locked and windows rolled up. Travelers are urged not to stop in unpopulated areas and to travel in convoys if possible. Be wary of drivers of stopped cars flagging motorist down for assistance, as this might be a ploy to rob travelers.
Business Scams: There have been several recent cases of U.S. businesspersons who have fallen victim to scams involving the sale of gold, diamonds, gemstones, minerals, and other resources. Potential buyers are urged to be very cautious of seemingly lucrative business opportunities offered by agents based in or with ties to Tanzania and neighboring countries. Many U.S. citizens have reportedly lost sizable amounts of money on such deals, valued up to a few million U.S. dollars.
Visa and Safari Scams: We have received reports of persons offering to arrange for a visitor to receive a volunteer visa for a fee, then absconding with the money without providing the document. The same is true for persons advertising safari excursions, collecting half the fee up front, then not picking up the travelers to go on safari. Complete a thorough review of anyone offering to provide you a service and check references carefully.
Dar es Salaam: Be very careful in the Coco Beach area of Touré Drive on Msasani Peninsula, the scenic beachfront road leading from the Sea Cliff Hotel into town. We receive regular reports of muggings, pick-pockets, and thefts from cars. This road is a concern any time of day or night, whether you are on foot or in a vehicle. U.S. government personnel are cautioned against walking or running along Touré Drive and Haile Selassie Road on the Msasani Peninsula due to the prevalence of assaults. Avoid areas where there aren't houses or buildings on both sides of the road as assailants like to hide in areas covered by brush.
Zanzibar: Beware of pickpockets, assaults, and bag snatching in Zanzibar. Wear modest dress and keep a low profile, especially on Friday afternoons, the traditional time to attend mosque.
Arusha: In Arusha, the high number of foreign tourists attracts pickpockets and bag snatchers.
You are strongly discouraged from walking around at dusk or at night, and to avoid the section of Arusha on the far side of the Themi River at all times when on foot. Many muggings have occurred near the clock tower in the center of town.
Mtwara: This area is the center of Tanzania’s nascent oil and gas industry. There have been numerous demonstrations and gathering by local residents concerning economic issues. Avoid crowds as even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn violent.
In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available. Whether transactions involving such products are legal or illegal under local law, bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines.
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