Booking Your Flight
So you’re coming to Tanzania. Chances are good you’re either on a KLM flight into Kilimanjaro Airport, or a BA flight into Nairobi. KLM into Kilimanjaro Airport is by far the most convenient, and if you can find flights for a good price (we highly recommend you check out orbitz, cheapoair, and travelocity before booking), then by all means, fly directly here! Other times it’s possible to save up to a thousand dollars a ticket by flying into Nairobi. In those cases, pay the extra Kenyan transit visa ($20 or so), and take a 6-hour shuttle ride on the Impala Shuttle direct from the airport to Arusha. Even if you have to spend $50 to spend the night at a Nairobi guest house, it can still be well worth the effort.
In case there should be a problem with your e-tickets as you travel you should know who they were purchased through, either the airline directly or the name and contact info of the travel agent or website you used.
Keep a copy of your e-ticket itinerary in your carry-on luggage, and keep our contact info handy as well (we’ll send that to you ahead of your trip).
Somewhere along the way, perhaps at the check in counter in Canada or the US, or perhaps upon arrival in Europe, the staff at the check-in booth may try to tell you that you may not have your second piece of baggage. They’ll cite new rules and won’t seem to know much. This is not true, be sure to insist on your two bags at 50 pounds each. If you want to have some back up info, print off the KLM website’s page to show, and things should work out. The link is: http://www.klm.com/travel/cn_en/prepare_for_travel/baggage/baggage_allowance/index.htm
There’s a similar page for BA that you can find if you need it.
Visa Application Information
If you’re flying into Kilimanjaro airport, blue visa application cards will be passed out early in your flight from Amsterdam to Kilimanjaro so you’ll have lots of time to complete them. If you’re flying into Nairobi, you’ll get the equivalent paperwork for Kenya on the airplane – you need a transit visa for Kenya which is US $10. Then you’ll fill out the Visa application for Tanzania on the bus or at the Namanga border.
Either way (bus or plane), if you are entering Tanzania without a permit already in hand, you must remember that you’ll need $50US CASH if you are a Canadian or $100US CASH if you are American to purchase a three month Visitors Visa. You must purchase this once you arrive, there is no other option. If you have a copy of your Volunteer or Resident’s Permit, you DO NOT need to buy an entry visa. Simply present your copy of the permit to the immigration folks and they’ll stamp you through as a “returning resident”, even if you’ve never been here before.
Whether you have a permit in hand or not, you must fill out the Entry cards. Most of the questions are easy enough, but you’ll need to know a few things:
Purpose of travel/visit is #5 Visiting friends and relatives if you’re entering the country on a Visitors Visa. If you have a valid Volunteer or Resident’s permit in hand then your purpose of travel/visit is #1 Returning Resident.
Physical address while in Tanzania:
i) PO Box 1966, Arusha
iii) Plot # 98/2 and 98/3
vii) Pamoja Ministries
Kilimanjaro International Airport
Once you’re in the airport…
Do not take any pictures at the airport. You may not take video or still pictures of any government building, and they very well may not only confiscate your camera but also detain you if you do. It’s a pity, because we’d all like to stop and take a picture of the Welcome to Kilimanjaro sign on the outside of the building, but it’s strictly prohibited.
You’ll get off the plane and walk a short distance from the plane to the terminal building. It will be chaos as you enter the building. Directly ahead of you on the left will be a number of customs booths with orderly lines. These are not clearly labelled. If you already have a residence permit or volunteer visa, head for these lines. You want to stand in the very short “Returning Resident’s” line. If you will be entering on a Visitors Visa, you must veer to the right, and join the mob that will be crowding a window set in to the right hand side wall. Experience says there will be no line, it is mostly just whoever is the pushiest. Have your US cash in your hand along with your passport. When it is your turn, simply hand your passport and your money to the person sitting behind the window. They will stamp your passport, and may or may not give you a separate receipt for the money. Don’t worry either way – the visa is your receipt.
Once you’re through passport control, you will enter the luggage arrival area. Try to gather and stack your luggage on the free carts provided without the assistance of the porters. They must be tipped (not much) and often seem to be in cahoots with the customs officials; they’ll take your things to the RED lane and begin opening them for the customs officials regardless of your instructions. If you are in a unique situation and require the help of a porter, have one or two American dollars in your pocket to tip the porter, and insist that once he has loaded your heavy luggage on the cart for you that you now capable of pushing the cart yourself.
As you finish gathering your luggage, take a minute to look up and toward the exits. You’ll see a partition blocking the view of the exit doors. On your right of the partition is the green “nothing to declare” aisle – plan to take that route. On the left is the red inspection stands – go there only if a customs officer asks you to do so. Chances are good that you’ll be able to walk straight out the door without stopping at the customs counters. It’s best just to make little eye contact and just head out the doors – they’ll stop you if they want to inspect your luggage.
If you are stopped, no problem, just answer their questions using the guidelines below if possible. If they ask for duty or begin to argue about the items you’ve brought for the ministry, simply ask that we be allowed to bring back the proper documentation – someone from the Pamoja team will be waiting and watching and praying just on the other side of the one-way windows. Probably just a “come on back” gesture (with the agreement of the customs official) will bring us back, but if not ask if you can leave your luggage long enough to come to the doors and get us. Do not agree to pay any duty without a Pamoja representative there. There are very rarely problems, but occasionally we do get called in to explain the contents of a piece of luggage.
Having your luggage readily identifiable will make gathering it much easier.
Know what’s inside the luggage you’re carrying.
Think ahead to know how you’ll explain what you’re carrying.
Always head for the GREEN (nothing to declare) customs door on the right, not the red (something to declare) tables on your left.
Continue walking unless a customs official orders you to the RED line.
If you are traveling with others, don’t wait for everyone and amass a mountain of luggage to take through together. It’s better to just straggle through as you get your pieces. Gather you things near the conveyor, not near the exits.
Walk on through without stopping unless confronted by a customs official.
If questioned about the contents of your luggage start with a long list of your personal items: clothes, toiletries, snacks, books, cameras, etc.
If questioned further, ask what it is that you are to declare. You have none of the items listed (nothing for resale, non-personal electronics, alcohol, street drugs, cigarettes, etc.)
Avoid the term gifts. They are dutiable.
Use the phrase “things I’m going to use here.”
Books, if you have them, are not dutiable.
Computers and peripherals, if you have them, are not dutiable.
The customs officers are not generally impressed by the fact that you are bringing things in for the ministry, but it is worth mentioning that you are coming to volunteer at Pamoja Ministries.
Do not pay any duty; firmly request that we come back to assist you. We’ll be watching and available just outside. Understand that duty is quite negotiable, but if you don’t get a receipt, you’ve paid a bribe. We have in the past left the item that is causing the problem at the airport and come back the next day to deal with customs. For some reason, duty is much less in the daylight. We can recommend to you if this is the best course of action.
Tell the truth, please don’t lie. Our God can and does take very good care of us.
Be pleasant with the customs officials. Smile!
Should you be missing a piece of luggage file a claim and we’ll pick it up at the KLM office in Arusha.
Take heart, you’re not that far from a real bed and a good night’s sleep!
Now for the final note. There is no need to worry. This may seem a little overwhelming, but it truly won’t be a problem for you. This information could be helpful to you as you travel though. You may want to print a copy to keep with you as you travel!