In what form should you carry your money in Tanzania?
The question therefore is: in what form should you carry your money in Tanzania. In other words, should you bring travellers’ cheques, cash, or rely solely on your credit card and use that to get your Tanzanian money out of cashpoints in the country?
Travellers’ cheques in Tanzania
Travellers’ cheques are no longer acceptable in Tanzania so don’t bring these.
Bringing cash to Tanzania
Foreign currency can be imported and exported without limit to and from Tanzania. Dollars and, to a lesser extent, sterling and euros are the best currencies to bring. Cash is very useful for those occasions when the Tanzanian shilling is not accepted, such as when paying for upmarket hotel rooms and air tickets, both of which, officially at least, must be paid for in hard currency. The disadvantage with cash is that it is the riskiest way to carry money.
Credit cards in Tanzania
The other option is credit/debit cards, which are the easiest, lightest and most invisible to carry around. There are now plenty of banks in Tanzania with ATMs that take foreign cards; as a result, the task of getting Tanzanian shillings is now very simple. Credit cards are also accepted in major tourist hotels, restaurants, gift shops and airline offices and their usefulness is growing every day. Do note, however, that there is a 5% standard charge for using a debit/credit card in Tanzania. For this reason, we recommend getting cash out when you can. Visa is probably the more useful card in that you can withdraw money from more ATMs than with MasterCard.
You do, of course, run the risk that the cash machines will reject them or, worse, swallow them, leaving you stuck in Africa with no means of support. So for this reason we recommend bringing a couple of cards (assuming you have a couple of bank accounts), just in case you lose one.
Banks and money-changers in Tanzania
Tanzanian banks typically keep the hours of 8.30am-4pm Monday to Friday, and 8.30am-1pm on Saturday.
You get a significantly better rate for large denomination bills (US$50 and $100 bills) than small ones. Keep your exchange receipts so that when you leave the country you can change your spare shillings back into hard currency. They rarely check, but you never know.
There are ATMs (‘cashpoints’) in all cities and towns in Tanzania and Kenya and these are the best way to get hold of local currency. Note that they mostly charge, sometimes quite a lot. But there are a couple that are free (and which we mention in the book).
Tanzanian money: a summary
We advocate bringing credit/debit cards (preferably one Visa and one MasterCard, to increase your chances of being able to withdraw cash from an ATM). In addition, bring a few hundred dollars in cash as back-up in case something happens to your card. How many dollars you bring, of course, depends on how much you’ve paid for in advance. It also depends on how long you are staying in the region and what you hope to do while you are there.
Because travellers’ cheques are no longer used, you shouldn’t actually need to set foot in a Tanzanian bank these days.
One more thing: when it comes to bringing dollars, make sure they are new notes because notes printed before 2013 are seldom accepted.
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