Passport and Visa for Tanzania
You must have a current passport (that does not expire within 6 months of your trip) AND a valid Visa to enter the country of Tanzania!
If you have traveled internationally, you likely already know that you need to have an up-to-date passport that does not expire within 6 months of your trip. However, you may not know that American citizens (as well as most other countries) must also apply for and be granted a Visa.
You must apply for a visa with the Tanzanian government. A visa is essentially a document that grants you permission to be within Tanzania for a specified amount of time for a specified purpose (tourism vs business vs other). You may apply for the visa at the airport, but we strongly recommend you apply for your Visa online. Be sure to go directly to the Tanzanian Website to apply for your visa. Do not go to any other website that claims to help you process a visa, as those are usually scams.
Note that you will need your passport number when you apply. Be sure you use the actual passport you are taking with you to Tanzania because the passport number on the Visa must match the number on your passport. The online application indicates that it takes 10 days to process, so we recommend only doing the online application if you have least 14 days left before you depart for Tanzania. If you don’t have that much time, you can apply for the Visa at the airport. If you are close to the 14 days, fortunately you can go back to the website and check the status anytime.
IMPORTANT: When completing the online form, Americans must select the Visa type “Multiple Entry Visa” (not an “ordinary visa”). This is important, since you must have this type of visa to enter the country. The typical fee for US citizens is $100.
Once the application is approved and you pay your fees, you will receive an email and it will direct you to download a PDF document that is your visa. Be sure to print this out! Don’t rely on a digital copy when you get to customs.
Why not just get a Visa at the airport? The primary reason is to avoid the long lines. When you first arrive at the airport in Arusha, there will be two lines for foreigners. One is for those without a valid visa and one for those with a visa. As you can imagine, it takes much longer for a person to apply for and be granted a visa than it does to simply check your existing visa document along with your passport. Thus the second line moves much faster than the first.
Note that while the Tanzanian government points out that they may reject your Visa when you arrive, it is very rare that a visitor is rejected provided they have all of their necessary document including a valid passport, visa, a return flight ticket and the address of where you will be staying in Tanzania.
Be sure you have a valid passport in hand! You will not be allowed entry into Tanzania without a passport that is valid. And, in Tanzania, it is required that your passport does not expire within 6 months. If your passport’s expiration is even close to six months from the day you arrive, you must apply for and receive a new passport before you head out of the USA.
If you do not have a passport, you will need to apply for and receive a passport. Your first passport application is slightly more rigorous and usually requires an in-person interview. Regular applications take 10-12 weeks from the time you apply, but you can expedite the service by paying an additional fee, which reduces the time to about 4-6 weeks. Note that it is very difficult to modify a standard application to an expedited one after you have submitted it. So if you are pressed for time, we highly recommend getting the expedited passport at the time you apply. Also, keep in mind that it make take several weeks to get the in-person appointment scheduled, so you must factor this in as well.
If you have an existing passport, most people can renew their passport online without the need for an in-person interview. However, you should note that you will have to send in your existing passport (even if it is still valid) so you will be without a passport throughout the renewal processing.
Adult passports are good for ten years from the day they are issued.
In addition to your valid visa and valid passport that does not expire within 6 months, there are a few other documents you should have handy when you walk up to the customs agent upon your arrival in Tanzania. We recommend you have all of these documents together in an envelope or somewhere that is easily accessible within your carry-on luggage.
Documents to have ready:
- Valid visa – Or you can get one at the airport. Be sure to enter the line that is marked for visa application (it will be the long and slow one!)
- Valid passport – Must not expire within 6 months of the day of arrival
- Return flight ticket – You must have proof that you already have a return flight booked. Be sure you have this printed on a piece of paper (not just on your phone or tablet)
- Hotel information – The customs agent may request the name, address and phone number of the hotel where you are staying and what dates you are staying there.
- Kilimanjaro guide information – Because you will not be staying at the hotel the entire time, it is good to bring your receipt for your guiding company and the itinerary for your climb. Fortunately, many climbers arrive in the Kilimanjaro International Airport (code: JRO), so the customs agents are quite familiar with guided climbs.
- Yellow Fever proof of immunity – You only need this if you spent time in one of the countries in Africa that has Yellow Fever prior to landing in Tanzania. Note that if you had a layover (but did not leave the airport), you will not need this document.
You will likely be arriving after a long series of flights (and likely feel quite groggy!) so be sure to pack all of these items somewhere you can easily find them.