Telecommunications, internet, post and media in Tanzania
Telephones and smartphones in Tanzania
East Africa is completely obsessed by mobile/smartphones and virtually everybody who can afford one now has one. As a result, the phone services offered at the old Telcom offices are seldom required these days. Indeed, when we last visited to try to make a phone call, the staff looked at me as if I was a bit odd, (That said, they were able to help me make a call – using the office phone!)
Making phone calls for foreigners just isn’t something they do much anymore.
For this reason, if you only want to make one or two calls while you’re in Tanzania you may as well use your hotel’s service. It probably won’t be cheap, of course, but it should be straightforward. Alternatively, you could try the internet cafes that offers a phone service too.
A third option is to pick up a local SIM card for just a couple of dollars from shops, supermarkets and sellers on the street. You can then invest in pay-as-you-go vouchers (these are available pretty much everywhere). If your existing phone is unlocked you can put the SIM card straight in there. But if not, you can pick a phone up cheaply in Tanzania.
You’ll find, using a local SIM card, that calls are very reasonably priced, even to mobiles back at home.
Bringing your smartphone from home to Tanzania
You can also, of course, bring your own mobile phone and SIM card from home and use that. That said, this can be expensive. Furthermore, you often need to tell your network that you are going to East Africa before you leave home. If you don’t, you’ll probably find that you won’t be able to use the phone when you get there.
If you have a Smartphone, remember to check the tariff for downloading data and receiving emails etc. If it’s extortionate (which it often is) then remember to switch off ‘data roaming’ (ie your phone’s internet connection). Otherwise, you may find on returning home that your phone cost more than your climb!
Finally, if you are having trouble ringing home from Tanzania, try to tack an extra ‘0’ on to the front of the international dialling code. For example, if you wish to ring the UK but the phone continues fails to connect, dial 00044 (or 000144) rather than just 0044 (or 00144).
Internet access & internet cafés in Tanzania
In contrast to the phones, Tanzania’s internet cafés are havens of efficiency and value. Most internet cafés in Tanzania are open from about 9am until late (typically 9pm). Some of the equipment is a little dated, as you’d probably expect.
Nevertheless, if you’ve already tried to make a phone call or post a letter here, you’ll come to regard the Internet cafés with something approaching affection. They’re your best chance of keeping in regular touch with home while you’re in East Africa.
Wi-fi is now common throughout East Africa. Indeed, most hotels (including even the budget ones) now boast some sort of wi-fi connection, as do most restaurants and cafés.
In the city guides in the guidebook we have picked out some of the better internet cafés.
Tanzania’s Postal Service
The postal system in Tanzania is reasonably reliable and reliably sluggish. Things do occasionally get ‘lost in the post’ but most gets through … eventually. Allow about two weeks for letters to reach their destinations from Dar, a day or two longer from regional post offices.
There is a poste restante system operating in Tanzania too – though I’m probably showing my age just mentioning it. After all, does anybody still use this system anymore? Anyway, letters sent to post offices in Tanzania for collecting are generally held indefinitely, usually in a shoebox in a dusty corner somewhere.
For Tanzanian television, you’ll find that BBC World and CNN are both popular and often fill air-time on the national channels during the day. (ITV, for example, switches to BBC World at 8am every morning.) Channel O is Africa’s MTV equivalent and a favourite with waitresses who often have it blaring out in the restaurant while you’re trying to eat. Satellite TV has also taken off in Tanzania and the choice of stations is unsurprisingly overwhelming.
Radio Tanzania is the most popular station, with some broadcasts in English.