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Dealing with Tanzania

It may be worth while recounting some of my experiences in organising just a few days of my trip as a way of preparing you if you decide to do some organisation yourself.

For a start neither faxes or e-mails to two largest airlines in Tanzania received any response. I sent multiple faxes and e-mails to different addresses and even addressed to specific names I ascertained from the websites. On Air Tanzania's website the phone numbers had area codes which had been changed more than a year earlier. There is no point in having a website if the data is not correct and up to date.  In my case I decided that I would use the ferry and buses within Tanzania. I did this partly because I could not be bothered with the airlines any more and partly because I felt that I would get a better feel for the country. I also wondered how I would go with my bike on the smaller aircraft from a weight and handling point of view. On top of all this, internal airfares are relatively expensive. My advice is that if you need to book internal flights in Tanzania book through an African specialist who has representatives on the ground in Tanzania.

In order to build this website and write some articles on my trip, I needed to research the trip as much as possible before. I particularly wanted maps to research the route and to work on the graphics for the website. I e-mailed and faxed the Tanzanian Tourist Organisation in Dar Es Salaam, National Mapping in Dar Es Salaam and National Parks in Arusha. None of them responded even after a year.  Again it points to the impossibility of trying to plan and organise from outside Tanzania.

I pre-booking my accommodation, based on contacts in Lonely Planet's Tanzania guide. The response and service from the backpacker hotels I contacted was prompt once I managed to get through. My initial faxes took four and five tries to be transmitted over a number of days. The problem appeared to be simply congestion in the phone system. Once the original fax got through, I received a prompt e-mail reply and good communication after that.

Unbelievably the Tanzanian consulate in Australia demands payment in the form of a US dollar bank draft for a visa. Not only is this inconvenient but the total cost works out at AUD 70. To my thinking this is a very first world price. The amazing thing is that the Tanzanian Tourist Board went to the expense of running a series of seminars in Australia in early 2002. It is somewhat counter productive when you make visa's difficult and expensive, your airlines are impossible to contact and your government agencies do not reply to inquiries.

Don't let any of this put you off going to Tanzania, because you will miss a great experience. The message is simply allow plenty of time or use a specialist operator with contacts on the ground if you have anything other than the most basic to organise.

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