Tanzania hotels run the gamut from very basic self-catering accommodations suitable for backpackers to some of the finest five-star properties in the world. The tourism infrastructure, quality and quantity of accommodations, and the variety of choices available in different budget categories are surprising considering this is one of the poorest nations in Africa.
However, Tanzania is like Zambia in that it is quite large in area with relatively few regions commonly visited by most of the tourists. There definitely are more tourist regions (and more tourists) than Zambia, and travelers often venture off the beaten path to more remote areas because the country's infrastructure and transportation system is much more sophisticated than that in Zambia, but not quite as developed as top destinations like Kenya.
The exotic spice island of Zanzibar is an extremely popular holiday destination for Europeans, who come here in the thousands to enjoy the miles of magnificent Indian Ocean beaches and some of the best scuba diving and snorkeling in the world. Many Americans also will come here for a few days to relax and decompress after a Tanzania safari.
In the historic main city of Stone Town, there are Zanzibar hotels to suit virtually every budget. On the high end of the scale is the Zanzibar Serena Hotel, a truly elegant property on the oceanfront set in two historic buildings dating to the nineteenth century. 236 Hurumzi is less opulent and more affordable, but located in an equally historic building that was once the palace for the richest of the Swahili Empire spice and slave traders. This boutique hotel boasts only a few rooms, each unique and furnished with lovely Swahili antiques.
There are a number of Stone Town Zanzibar hotels and hostel-type guesthouses suitable for those on more modest budgets, including the Island View Hotel located a little outside of town on the airport road. Additionally, there are a couple dozen beach resorts on the island. These are similar to the idyllic and romantic resorts found in the Seychelles. One of the finest is Breezes, with its own full-service spa, a number of superb dining options, on-site PADI diving and snorkeling operation, and many other amenities. A bit more middle of the road is Karafuu Hotel and Beach Resort, also boasting a spa, a few dining options, dive operation, and more. Many of the beach resorts offer all-inclusive packages that cover all meals, alcoholic beverages, and use of selected facilities.
Moshi hotels are more limited in both quantity and quality. The town is known for one thing—climbing Mount Kilimanjaro—and little else. Strolling through the town is an interesting afternoon excursion, and this is an area of coffee plantations, since the coffee trees thrive in the highland atmosphere on the mountain's lowest slopes. It is possible to book plantation tours. Otherwise, Moshi hotels cater almost exclusively to visitors who are climbing the highest peak in Africa. Climbers and trekkers generally stay only one night before and/or after their climb. There are no luxury properties. The available properties are modest and fairly basic, providing the comfort necessary for a short stay.
The two best hotels are the Shira Place (named for one of the mountain's peaks) Bed & Breakfast, housed in a large Mediterranean-style house with only seven rooms, and the Osy Grand Hotel (the city's largest), located in the center of town.
Arusha Hotels and Dar es Salaam Hotels and Safari Lodges
Dar es Salaam (Tanzania's former capital) is the country's largest city. Located on the mainland along the Indian Ocean, it is one of East Africa's major seaports (along with Mombasa in Kenya) and boasts the country's most important international airports. This is the main gateway for Zanzibar, and many visitors land here before flying on to Arusha to enjoy a Tanzania safari in the country's most famous national parks and reserves: the vast Serengeti National Park, Lake Manyara with its pink flamingoes, and the incomparably beautiful Ngorongoro Crater.
Arusha, known as the safari capital of Tanzania, is the fastest growing city in the country, and virtually all visitors going on safari will stay at least a couple nights here. There are dozens of Tanzania hotels here that range from the elegant colonial-style Serena Mountain Village outside of town to the modest Naaz Hotel in the city center.
For safari lodging, you have a choice of a very few modest wildlife lodges like Ndutu Lodge, located between Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti, or Kirirumu Safari Camp above Lake Manyara. Otherwise, your choices are limited to much more upscale properties like the Kempenski Bilila Lodge ($800-$2500 per person per night), the lovely Ngorongoro Crater Lodge, and the elegant Kirawira Camp in the western Serengeti (where each opulent tent comes equipped with a personal butler). The latter two lodges are more reasonably priced, but still pretty much beyond the limit for budget travelers.
For budget travelers, there are camping sites in each park, and most of the parks have areas with basic self-catering bandas. While you might be able to book the lodges at what looks like a fairly cheap price, you need to realize that transportation costs (flying or being driven by professional guides in expensive diesel four-wheel drive vehicles), relatively high park fees, and game drives with professional guides will add significantly to your costs. It is not recommended that you rent a vehicle and drive yourself unless you are fully experienced in wilderness driving in very remote areas on very rough roads and have at least a working knowledge of the tracks inside the parks.
Lodging in Remote Areas
Some other tourist areas are visited by smaller percentages of tourists so have a limited number of Tanzania hotels as well as bush camps and intimate wildlife lodges include the Selous Game Preserve in the far south of the country, the largest and wildest of the country's game reserves where there are big game hunting concessions; neighboring Ruaha National Park; Mahale Mountain National Park on the southeastern shores of Lake Tanganyika where there are chimpanzees; and little Gombe National Park, located a little farther north on Lake Tanganyika where famed Jane Goodall has been conducting chimpanzee research since the 1960s. Some itineraries that visit the national parks of Tanzania's northern safari circuit will travel west to Kigoma and Gombe before turning north to travel overland to Rwanda for mountain gorilla tracking in the Virunga Mountains.