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Tanzania: Money

The currency of Tanzania is known as the Tanzanian Shilling (TSH, /=). There are 5 notes and 6 coins:

  • Notes – 10000 (Red); 5000 (Violet); 2000 (Brown); 1000 (Blue), and 500 (Green) denominations
  • Coins – 200, 100, 50, 20, 10, and 5 denominations

Notes and coins vary in size and colour. In descending size order, 10000 is the largest note, and 500 is the smallest.

In December 2008, one US dollar was worth about 1315 Tsh. Note that Tanzanian currency exchangers usually have a different exchange rate for different US$ denominations, larger and newer bills having a better exchange rate than older and smaller bills. The difference in the exchange rate between $1/$5 bills and $50/$100 bills may exceed ten percent. Older US $100 notes are no longer accepted in Tanzania, and any note older than 2003 will most likely be refused everywhere. Also, it’s best to avoid attempting to exchange notes with pen marks or any writing on them. Finally, be advised that if you withdraw a large amount of money, in the range of $400 US, you’ll have to carry over 40 notes around!

The 10000 and 5000 notes can be difficult to break when shopping in small shops, a.k.a. Dukas. In Tanzania, it’s usually the customer’s responsibility to provide exact change. But if they do agree to provide change, you could be left with several 1000 and 500 notes of very poor quality. However, you won’t have such problems in large hotels and restaurants catering to foreigners.

In general, stores, restaurants, and hotels in Tanzania expect payment in Tsh. Exceptions include payment for travel visas, entry fees to national parks (which must be paid in US dollars by non-residents), and payments for safaris and Kilimanjaro treks, which are generally priced in US dollars (though payment will be also accepted in other currencies). On Zanzibar, prices are generally in US dollars (including the ferry fare from Dar es Salaam to Zanzibar), and non-residents are required to pay for hotels with foreign currency (although the hotel will change Tsh for you).

Most hotels will exchange US dollars, Euros and British Pounds for Tanzanian Shillings. Other currencies, such as Canadian or Australian dollars, may be accepted but at rates far below the going rate. ATMs are mostly located in the city centre and on the Msasani Peninsula. For those wishing to withdraw money from bank accounts back home, in general, Barclay’sStandard CharterCRDB and NBC ATMs work with PLUS and Cirrus compatible cards. Additionally, if you have a PIN code for your credit card, almost all Tanzanian banks with ATMs will allow cash advances on credit cards like VisaMastercard, and American Express. If the ATM reports your home balance in TSh, you may be pleasantly surprised to find that you’re a “shillionaire”.

Traveller’s Checks have become virtually impossible to cash in almost all banks in Tanzania. For some odd reason, banks will only accept those TCs they have issued. Only hotels will accept checks from their guests, but at a far lesser rate than hard currency — usually at the same rate they give for US$1/$5 notes. Since ATMs are much more prevalent, using credit cards and withdrawals from your personal accounts is much easier and less time-consuming.

Credit Cards can only be used in large hotels, resorts, and with certain travel agents. In short, Tanzania is still a cash society.

FYI: In North America, many banks and financial institutions permit PINs as long as 6 digits for ATM/credit cards. However, in the rest of the world ATMs are programmed to only accept 4 digit PINs. If you have a 5 or 6 digit PIN, you should change it to a 4 digit PIN before you travel.

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