Tanzania: exchanging cash and traveler's checks

Feb 15th, 2010, 01:09 PM
  #1  
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Tanzania: exchanging cash and traveler's checks

I'm editing some materials for a conference in Tanzania and the travel information includes a directive that says you can exchange cash and traveler's checks at banks, but that it will cost a lot more to exchange cash. Is that true?
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Feb 15th, 2010, 02:31 PM
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Sure is.

Travelers checks are difficult to change most everywhere these days. They're good for Emergency purposes only, should be in your home currency; mostly likely will never be needed.

USD can be exchange at Currency Exchange/Forex-type operations where in Tanzania (unlike in Kenya), the USD$100 notes tend to get a better rate then smaller denominations. Notes should always be the new faces/colors, in good condition, no tears, folds, stapled, taped, etc.

Using banks to exchange funds can be time consuming, though can't say whether the rate would be as good as if thru an office Currency Exchange.

Best rates are from ATM machines (as is at most destinations) and while there are machines to be found, they can sometimes be long lines or be out of funds... it'll vary day-to-day.

The airport on arrival is usually your best bet for ATM or Currency Exchange windows. And, it's a good idea to use all local currency before departing as it might be difficult to exchange back to USD.

USD are still widely accepted, as are credit cards, but for the latter, always ascertain whether the establishment assesses a fee for use of plastic. Many do and the % can be high (besides any Foreign Currency Fee one's credit card company might assess).

Hope that helps.
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Feb 15th, 2010, 03:50 PM
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Thanks, sandi, but why is it more expensive to exchange cash than to exchange traveler's checks? I haven't used traveler's checks in a dog's age, but back when I did, it cost me more than it did to exchange cash. Just wondering why this would be the case in Tanzania...and don't want to have incorrect information in the materials I'm editing.
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Feb 15th, 2010, 09:28 PM
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I think that it will be more expensive to exchange the travelers cheques, if you can find a place to do it. You usually have to go to a bank and stand in a couple of lines... I wouldn't recommend the TCs unless you just have them along for major emergencies, as Sandi says. Many places in Tanzania will take US dollars for purchases. In fact, some of the shops I've been in preferred them over TZ shillings.
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Feb 16th, 2010, 06:35 AM
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Might be how I explained, but USD will be exchanged at a fair rate, the higher the denomination getting a better rate, i.e., the $100* notes vs $20s, $50s. Whether this rate will be the same or lower than ATM I can't say, but ATMs seem to provide the best.

*whereas in Kenya they hesitate taking USD$100s as they feel these may be counterfeit.

TCs the worst rate.

Personally, I only use USD while in Tanzania. Most establishments price in USD; on Zanzibar though small establishments - shops, eateries - might post in TSh which is what they'd prefer. Likewise, at small roadside stands, it's best to use local currency. Lodge/camps will take USD and local currency.

As to the material you are editing and wanting to be correct, it's not unusual that by the time it's published, info can be out-of-date, not unlike with guidebooks. You can only do the best you can.
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Feb 16th, 2010, 11:47 AM
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Thanks, sandi. It seems you've confirmed that the exchange rate is better for cash than for TCs, which was what I thought. And both are obviously worse than ATMs.

The conference is in two weeks - I doubt the information will become too outdated by then. And interestingly enough, they say they got their information from Fodors and Lonely Planet - maybe old guidebooks, I don't know...
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Feb 16th, 2010, 01:38 PM
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You should be safe if within 2/weeks

There had been some errors in the 1st edition Fodor's Complete Safari Guide, which I'm sure will be corrected by next edition.
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Feb 16th, 2010, 03:41 PM
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Thanks,sandi. I doubt they were referencing Fodor's Safari Guide (unless that's the only one that covers Tanzania) - it's an HIV/AIDS conference. I suppose some folks will go early or stay on after for a safari, though.
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Feb 17th, 2010, 06:10 AM
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The Fodor's Complete Safari Guide, covers most of the "safari" countries - South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia, Botswana, Tanzania, Kenya, believe also Rwanda and Uganda - (have the book here somewhere on my desk, but too lazy to find it right now).
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Feb 19th, 2010, 12:51 PM
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Just spent 22 days in Tanzania. Never exchanged any money. USD spent without problem everywhere.
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Feb 20th, 2010, 07:48 AM
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If any of your conference-goers plan to rent a vehicle and strike out on their own, make certain that they are aware that it is cash-only for diesel and petrol and only Tanzanian shillings are accepted. Petrol stations would not accept USD and we had a great deal of difficulty exchanging USD for Tanzanian shillings everywhere but in Arusha. We began our self-drive in Tanzania by crossing the border from Kenya at Isebania. Once in Tanzania, it was a constant battle to exchange our USD into Tanzanian shillings so that we could purchase diesel. The petrol station at Ngorongoro, for example, would not accept our USD and would not exchange our USD into Tanzanian shillings. We were riding on fumes by the time we arrived in Arusha three days later. Thank goodness for long-range fuel tanks. Getting our hands on Tanzanian shillings was the biggest difficulty we encountered on our four-week self-drive. Robin
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Feb 20th, 2010, 08:06 AM
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I tried to cash travellers checks at two banks in Tanzanaia - they wouldn't do it. Both banks said I had to cash them at the lodges (Sopa or Serena), I didn't though because their rates were pricey. I just used the ATM and brought the TC home - the most useless items on a safari.
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