Tanzania Is Open To Americans, And Life Is Normal There. Should You Go?

Tanzania is open to U.S. tourists. Should you go?

Tanzania’s President shrugged off the virus, saying his son got it but recovered after taking lemon and ginger. He argued that their economy was more important than stopping the virus. So he stopped virus reporting. They stopped reporting virus cases and deaths May 8, and declared the country virus-free.

It hasn’t been clear to me what the situation on the ground is like, but my award booking partner Steve Belkin just spent two weeks there and files this report,

Irrespective of anyone’s position about [Tanzania’s] President’s competency or even sanity, there is a new reality in Tanzania the last three months based on his assumption of ‘no Covid-19’ being government policy – no requirements for social distancing, mask-wearing or test taking. In effect, the new normal here is actually the old normal. Imagine life before mid-March 2020, that is Tanzania.

..I can simply report what I have seen and heard firsthand, though for from scientific. Most notable, is the utter lack of any anecdotal serious cases requiring hospitalization or ending in death. Every person I have had contact with, I have asked about if they had friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, etc. with serious cases. I went to bustling marketplaces, local ferries, even two political party rallies, so I was able to query hundreds of people.

I detoured to local hospitals in Pemba, Mafia and Zanzibar and they were all empty. The staff and the few patients in the waiting area all had the same laconic, not a panicked atmosphere.

There is no media blackout or propaganda assault here. People are exposed to all of the international news channels that are churning out daily case spikes and body counts. So, there is no blissful ignorance.

But there does seem to be an intriguing sense of bliss. I’m not sure if people share the president’s sense of blithe confidence that the virus has been eradicated here. Or if they have seen the belly of the beast from Feb-April when the country mimicked the rest of the world with lockdowns, mandatory prevention and infection protocols and decided that coping was a preferred option to quarantining.

Is Tanzania safe? I have no idea how many asymptomatic people are running around and mass spreading the virus. But there is clearly a consensus, rightly or wrongly, that the virus is not a looming and imminent threat to public health. And they are conducting themselves accordingly. [I’ve] been here 13 days, so it will be interesting to see how I test upon my arrival into the Maldives. At the moment, I feel fine.

While I plunged into crowded situations for my ‘research’, I spent the vast majority of my stay in secluded dive locales, with no other divers and a smattering of local populace nearby. Traveling ’empty’ in Tanzania was incredibly simple….and satisfying.

Claims about the virus being a non-issue notwithstanding, it’s far from obvious that a poor country, with a young population that spends most of its time outdoors, ought to follow the lock down policies of wealthier countries. Parts of Africa have seen significant asymptomatic or mild cases spread without significant negative health impacts experienced in Europe and the United States.

Healthy younger people might consider travel there. Older people and those with health problems probably shouldn’t both for reasons of potential exposure and because of the health infrastructure in place if one does fall ill.

You can currently fly from the U.S. to Dar es Salaam via Doha on Qatar, via Istanbul on Turkish, Amsterdam on KLM, Dubai on Emirates and flyDubai.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I don’t doubt that the worst fallout from Covid bypassed Tanzania. Tanzania is a very young country, with a median age of 17.7 years and a life expectancy of only 62. Covid kills old people, and Tanzania simply has relatively fewer of them than other places. Conversely, the vast majority of young people infected with Covid — who make up the vast majority of Tanzania’s population — won’t even know that they have it, and develop no or few symptoms that facilitate spread of the virus.

    In the USA, 99.8% of all Covid deaths occurred in people over 55. There are simply relatively far fewer Tanzanians who are susceptible to dying from Covid than there are in North America, Europe, and S. America, where the age of the population is in general far higher. Most of sub-Saharan Africa had a very similar experience with Covid, and likely for the same reasons.

  2. Just to reply to Maks comment, we Tanzanian communities in USA have parents/grandparents/relatives who are in their 70s/80s/90s and even in their 100s who are in TZ, they are doing fine and going on with their normal life. After planes were allowed to fly in/out many people have gone and are still going to visit and so far no one came back with corona.

  3. >>You can currently fly from the U.S. to Dar es Salaam via Doha on Qatar, via Istanbul on Turkish, Amsterdam on KLM, Dubai on Emirates and flyDubai.

    and i think on ethiopian via ADD.

  4. I am currently resided in Tanzania. I do not know why the rest of the world is trying hard to prove that we are all covid infected. One thing I can assure everyone out there is, Tanzania is and always will remain a safe ground. We have zero covid signs amongst citizens who daily interacts. Knowing the spread of covid, the whole country would have already contacted it by now. Saying that we are infected but we don’t show signs is ok. But then again using common sense, the whole population showing no symptoms of covid-19 yet arguing about the real situation is not making any sense. Provided that our population has old people, sick people and like one of the comments stated, obesity!

  5. We would travel Tanzania, if we could get the PTO approved for a 4-5 weeks block at the same time. But RIFs and a hiring freeze kaboshed extended PTO.

    We just spent six days in Alaska. A COVID test was a small price to pay for entry.

    Alaska has a pop of 731K has administered 422k tests,
    45 deaths, 6,729 have tested positive, per John Hopkins.

    We stayed in Anchorage at a Hilton and a Marriott; one was super strict with a million signs everywhere, social distance elevators dots and brown bag cold breakfast – the other location had eggs, pancakes, oatmeal, potatoes, sausage and bacon. Also had signs and plexi, but was warmer and more “normal” feeling.

    Many sit down restaurants in Anchorage had you fill out contact tracing info (not all), but you wore a mask only till seated. Tables were social distance.

    Local Kroger chain store (Fred M) everyone was masked, same with airport.

    Public spaces, sidewalks, parks, outside of stores etc. few people were masked same with smaller cites within 100 miles of Anchorage.

    Some stores were hard core like early COVID with hard core enforcement others didn’t say anything to the unmasked.

    Alaska has the lowest deaths per 100k people and almost the highest testing per 100k.

    AK pop. 731k
    Tests 422k (not necessarily individuals tested). If individuals it would be 57% of population.

    Unsure of other AK demographics mean age, life expectancy or morbidity info of COVID deaths.

    Flying with a mask 3.5-10 hours to AK for most Americans is easier (tolerabke) than 13-20 hours for Tanzania.

    COVID has approximately a 2.9-3% morbidity rate with the lions share aged 65+ and with one or more comorbidities ( yes outliers exist in those under 50 but almost all with one or more comorbidities (HBP, obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, etc the other killers).

    Despite having HBP, and packing extra COVID pounds ATM, but <50. I would have no issue traveling to Tanzania and other locations. YOLO, and we decided we want to travel while we can hike and walk and are still young.

  6. I mean, it’s like that in a lot of the rest of the world too.

    The majority of people in the world who don’t have their television on, or watch big name media… moved on a while ago. They have lives to live.

    Traveling through the Balkans, Turkey, all that – no one cares.
    Signs for masks are in many places – and are almost completely ignored.

    People’s lives have been ruined by the governments response – there are no tourists and no money.

    So, yeah, it’s hardly surprising a country that is growing and their people are trying to get out of poverty – simply doesn’t have time to waste hand wringing about a virus.

    I’m heading to Mozambique/SA/Eswanti this Fall, as well as a bunch of countries in West Africa.
    Having been to Senegal earlier this year, all I hear is the misery the government response has created – no one seems to care about the virus itself. Which, makes sense.
    That’s how humans have reacted to viruses like this for-ever.

    Now though, we have social media…

  7. Whether one belives or not ,Science can not explain what has happened in Tanzania. Tanzania age group is not so different as compared to other Neighbouring African or far countries. Old people are many because i live here. Tanzania president mentioned Gods name and that has to be told too.

  8. Iam from Tanzania here we live normal life no masks,no social distancing. Our hospitals are not in a panic mode all schools and university are open and there so life here is normal and I didn’t witness or hear any of my relatives or neighbor who is serious sick.
    In my opinion karibuni sana Tanzania.

  9. @George

    I watched a clip from Al-Jaz this morning on how vandals and looters stole $150m USD of the power lines for the Metrorail Gauteng – which was for many the only affordable means of communication work – minibus taxis are expensive and unaffordable.

    Even the corrugated roofing on stations disappeared.

    It’s estimated 1m living wage jobs based in tourism are gone. Which is so sad, we Love South Africa and the wonderful people.

  10. I’m a 58 year old Black man from America, not overly out of shape and I have a somewhat controlled high blood pressure. I’ve been in Tanzania since July19th and haven’t experienced any kind of illnesses and I’m highly sociable with the people. I go to the crowded market and shop in town everyday and I don’t wear a mask. Reason why I don’t is because, I don’t see anyone else wearing one. I did wear one for a day but, I felt very out of place so I decided to stop wearing a mask. I’ve to the hospital several times for several different occasions and no ones wearing a mask and I didn’t notice people, the small group of patients seeming to be suffering from any of the Covic-19 symptoms.

    It’s very safe for any aged person to visit the very BEAUTIFUL and friendly country of Tanzania. I to return to the U.S. in October. I’m going to dread coming back to the hysteria of Covic-19 and wearing a mask. But, WELCOME TO TANZANIA. KARIBU

  11. am a tanzania i work in a place were there is a lot of different people interacting every single day….. i have never taken ginger and lemon ever and i have never had any symptoms ever since it was announced to today…. covid 19 is not real… but if it is the our God is awesome than WHO or any over seas labs

  12. I’m a Tanzanian….I believe the say that fear can be the most killing factor than the virus itself, I’m just proud of how my government has reacted to it. Our economy would’ve worsened if the govt shut down everything something which would leave us empty and hunger victims and the story would be different now….asking for aids from developed countries or neighboring countries.
    I work with an international organization which mean a lot to my carrier development
    But since the outbreak and when they decided to stop the program I also supposed to be jobless until now. What I can say lockdowns effect might be simply higher than the virus itself
    It’s going to create dependency, and many other problems

    In my whole clan there’s one person who suffered corona and that was because she’s works as a nurse and was taking care of the few people faced with that Pandemic…. I thank God she’s fine proceeding with her job. I haven’t seen or heard any neighbor of mine having contacted the virus even dying cause of the virus.

    One last thing, Tanzania is full of information awareness and many educated people not as how we’re being viewed in developed countries
    It’s very different when someone gets here
    It’s assuredly some people’s lives here are better than those from developed world
    My point is we’re fully aware and we have cautious but we don’t have to develop the fear within ya cause that would make anyone incapable of doing anything than getting the virus itself
    Prayers can help through faith

  13. No YoniPDX. COVID does not have a 2.9-3% morbidity rate.

    Best estimates, which have come down dramatically since March, put it in the 0.1-0.5% range with, as you say, comorbidities or advanced age being the best predictors of bad outcomes.

  14. @George I just came from Istanbul and it was decidedly not as you describe. Maskes required everywhere, including outdoors, and there were police stopping people on the street and ordering them to wear a mask. The airport even had “hygiene police” on scooters riding around enforcing the mask mandate. Can’t comment on the rest of the country.

    Here is Croatia it is mostly service employees wearing masks, but not customers. Haven’t been on public transit though I hear masks are required. Of course, with Croatia being on the UK 14 day quarantine list most of the Brits that were spreading the virus around here all summer are gone now.

  15. I amTanzanian living inTanzania. We have moved on with our lives because there is NO evidence on the ground that the Virus is making people sick and die. Hospitals are empty and nobody in my extended family, friends, acquaintances got sick/hospitalized.

    In fact, neighbouring Kenya is under lockdown still (we opened in June), but there is no much difference on the situation in hospitals and deaths!

    And to correct the writer, our lockdown was NOT from Feb-April, it was from Mid March -June.

  16. I’m a Tanzanian, and I can tell that COVID-19 is non existent here.

    We are living our best life, the tourists who visited here have tested negative COVID-19 when leaving the country.

    Which why even the so called asymptomatic cases may be very rare in here. And I could urge anyone who wants to vist Tanzania to worry less about COVID-19 because from my living experience here it feels like COVID-19 isn’t existent, never existed and never will(that’s how it feels to be in Tz). Life is normal and exuberant.

    You are all welcome, Zanzibar beeches, Mount Kilimanjaro, Serengeti, Ngorongoro etc. are waiting for you.

    Come on, let’s live and enjoy life while we still can, no one knows what the future will bring, this is our chance to experience mother nature instead of staying locked, this is the true freedom of living, come see it and enjoy it too.

  17. Karibuni (you are Warmly welcome) Tanzania, the land of The Kilimanjaro, Serengeti and Zanzibar…as an agibusiness entrepreneur..I was on a business trip accross Tanzania when the first case was announced here and had crisscrossed 4 cities 10 urbanites and 20 plus villages after that to borders with Uganda , Zambia and Malawi which was culminated in July. My business dealing required me to travel to the source of commodities, and the only encounter with Covid19 was the absence of traders from Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya and South Sudan who makes the most of my clients, Its true we had a life to live , we took precautions but we did not stay inside. In Arusha at the moment and am witnessing safari trucks with tourists its another sign of releaf on the options which we took as a country.

  18. George that means there is hope for some countries of the world. Recently I read that some states in the USA are considering making mandatory mask-wearing and social distancing regulations permanent, even after the virus is gone. This is also being discussed in the Asian country where I live half the year too, although here people are beginning to realize the futility of it all. There, however, the finger-wagging Karens rule the day. If they say permanent, it’s permanent.

  19. @ Gary Lef!
    I can be an eye witness regarding the COVID-19 situation in Tanzania. Here is my observations.
    I travelled from İstanbul Turkey, where i used to put on face mask everywhere to Dar Es Salaam on 01.08.2020. after presenting Negative COVID-19 test results and landed in Dar Es Salaam next day. And I returned to Istanbul on 20. 09. 2020.
    When I arrived at Dar Es Salaam Airport, i saw either tourists or residents returning back home wearing face masks, as among of the arrivals I had to put on face mask.
    Next day I traveled to my domicile Zanzibar Island, where i spent almost more than 20 days. In the first place i was skeptical on the COVID-19 situation out there, so I had to take on mask everywhere.
    However, the residents were wondering at me putting on face mask, while don’t, because I was almost the only one putting face mask, some of them they were getting worried that “I contracted the virus and that’s why i was wearing face mask”. They thought.
    In the mean meantime I got used to the situation, so I had to conduct a minor research.
    While most of survey on COVID-19 situation in Tanzania conducted by visiting hospitals, graveyards etc.
    But, for me I employed a different approach, and that was mixing myself in the crowded public areas such market places, public transports, participating in political campaign rallies Without putting on face mask.

    Moreover, I traveled to other four regions including the Metropolitan city of Dar Es Salaam, Sumbawanga, Mbeya, and Songea.

    In all these places i did not put a single face mask as were the cases for the residents, I had to use public transport and every kind of transportation commonly used out there. In those places I spent almost 15 days excluding Zanzibar, and I did not see people developing any symptoms.

    After couple of weeks, I returned back to Zanzibar, and tested NEGATIVE for COVID-19 back to Istanbul Turkey.
    However more researches are needed to be done, to prove the COVID-19 situation in Tanzania.
    Is it a COVID-19 free country?

  20. Yes lets load up planes with americans where we are about to cross 200k deaths and have them go to another country that will not be able to handle the pandemic and infect people there. Covid cases in the past week have increased by at least 10% in 31 states. Europe is at a tipping point with their second wave. We are heading into the fall/winter so its only going to get worse. Seriously you are babbling about non-essential tourism? The answer is NO people should not be travelling there most especially if they are coming from the US which is the world leader of COVID cases. The nonsense about healthy young people being ok to go? First off who the heck do you think is spreading the virus around? Its majority young people. On top of that why young people die at lower rates that doesn’t mean they don’t have life long health consequences. We just don’t know yet but the evidence is growing that there are long term effects from this virus.

  21. Let we be much precisely and narrative here.I have seen these commentary over and over splash via news/media. Huge swathe still believing, Tanzania still bedridden with pandemic and its govt had done less great to its people,enfolding available statistics. Some go extra mile to believe,government continues to harbor great feats to returf perpetuated claims or puckered this reality in very glooming shroud. Stitch no clothes,nothing to hide bro,this hasn’t been an issue. Whatever the claims may have been. There’s something certain obvious and more appealing for people especially from outside the country to know rather than purely guessing and ruckle reality to shower their ego complacency.lt is also coarsened to see, people living outside this country,think they have power to grab pen and unwraps whatever comes in their minds without ferret out Big mines of data from atleast acceptable sources. There’s is no such thing as free lunch, shrewd journalists equipped with big search, money investment and perseverance determination…otherwise it is person opinion rather than news. Sorry just my grain of salt. The information chirruped through new where merely pampered by media than reality. I never seen anybody dying with virus recently,not from my clans but even my neighbours can also testify this. And as you know, corona knows no passions. If government tried to befriend cracks ,corona would certainly not be pleased to baby’s shower much excuses to all these people i know. My family,friends of my friends, including their neighbours.More explicit, if viruses had not been found in these very families, are we still trying to cooks information to satisfy our egos?.That’s is completely ridiculous and waste of time..There are vast majority of things, overwhelming in our table desk.When enshrine our lubrcity, collectively would provide urgent help for our problems—and not this virus for a moment. If the truth need to be told ,we’re probably lucky insight of God based on our 3days prayers . I know,it is fluid concept which is different to different people. Especially those who infringe God away from His original swathe.
    There are hundreds of idiosyncratic reasons people articulates which would mersemalize masses when trying to anchor our country with pandemic spreading. Unfortunately, it is enough to say, this decoyed plus perpetrated idea may not be sprouted following our decision to throw away “country lockdown during pandemic spread” as huge segment of Kenya’s journalist might have said. But I believe very fervently, it is something else..probably, grows very rampantly and thickly between these two poor neighbouring countries. Probably very difficult for us to pellucidly nictate our eyes ..”time will tell”.

  22. As a political moderate who voted for Obama, Romney and Clinton, I can’t wait for Biden to win so the Covid Bros will stop cheerleading the virus. It’s f***ing insufferable.

  23. Why didi did you go to Tanzania while you know people don’t care about the virus. You should stay in your country.
    Non sense

  24. I have been in Tanzania a month now. Will be her another month. No masks except at the airports. Nobody here is concerned. I am safer here than back home in the USA.
    The ate welcoming everyone!

  25. @rich seriously. Some group brigaded this post to convince us Tanzania doesn’t have covid-19. They doth protest too much, methinks.

  26. Since our president Mr John Magufuli announced about the country being covid free, the media has been constantly making it a topic for discussion. If covid had really hit us the way it hit other parts of the world, no one would have talked about Tanzania no one would want to know how we got the deadly virus. But now you guys are even accusing us. We are tired of the world spreading false information. I will gladly accept the accusations thrown towards me since I am the first Tanzanian to comment here on Gerry’s blog. And yes it is my first time reading his articles.

  27. I’m a Tanzanian never been across Garry’s article!! I just browse whatever news seen to be important.

    We’re covid free and It might be our privilege too just like other privileges.
    At least the rest of the world has a place to run to and stay safe
    We warmly welcome you
    Karibu sana you’ll enjoy tourism activities in here, they’re plenty
    Ngorongoro National park, Ruaha, Serengeti, Selou National park, Mount Kilimanjaro, Zanzibar Island, Gombe home of Monkeys plus kind people.
    You’ll also get a chance to learn some Swahili. Karibu

    NB: Do not cook information about anything until you’ve done factual investigation

  28. Minor correction from @Ruuh’s post: You are not the first Tanzanian to comment on this post. Please be informed.

  29. I am a Tanzanian, simply put Tanzania is covid free!

    Come and see it for yourself, people are enjoying and rejoyce all life has to offer. Emencipate yourself from quaranteen captivity.
    As a country of World’s heritage site the Serengeti… a country that has the Wolrd’s largest lions population… Not only the tallest in Africa but the World’s free outstanding Mt. Kilimanjaro.
    Zanzibar is thirsty come people we are waiting.!!
    OkaySafaris here, Arusha Tanzania

  30. Ironically the only place in sub-Saharan Africa with a major Covid problem is South Africa, which had by far the most extreme lockdown.

    The situation in Tanzania isn’t much of a surprise when one considers that 93%+ of deaths have been in those over 65, with the vast majority of those over 75, and Tanzania is a very young country demographically with relatively few people in that cohort.

    It’s also not much of a surprise considering that even in the worst hit countries, there are few excess deaths — far less than the flu season of ’93 — and if not for the generalized panic, lockdowns, closures, and endless propaganda about Covid, we might not have even realized a pandemic was going on. Without the interventions it would have produced an extremely bad flu season, without the many excess deaths of young people from suicide, drug abuse, etc.

    I’ve noticed that Kenya Airways has resumed the JFK-NBO nonstops, and have been thinking that East Africa might be a good place to go right now.

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