You may be itching to travel and are thinking about going to Tanzania to climb Kilimanjaro or go on safari. However, COVID and traveling during a pandemic, of course, worries you. You have your vaccinations and got a COVID test. The results were negative, but what else is required?
As someone who has traveled to Tanzania, twice during the pandemic. I am quite experienced with the ever-changing COVID procedures. COVID and Kilimanjaro, don’t really come into play once you leave the trailhead. In town and at JRO are a different story.
First of all, I got a COVID test Sunday—my flight was leaving on Tuesday evening from Phoenix to Los Angeles. I received my negative COVID results right before I went to the airport. Once I landed in LAX and tried to check in with Qatar Airlines for my flight to Doha International Airport. (DOH), I was told that I needed a COVID test to board the plane for my connecting flight to Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO), even though I was going to Doha first. They don’t do testing in DOH. Yes, I already had a negative COVID test, but, the test was taken on Sunday and I wouldn’t arrive at JRO until Thursday- Outside the 72-hour window.
So with my LAX negative Rapid Test results in hand (and $199 less in my wallet), I boarded the plane to DOH. My recommendation is to have at least six hours between flights to have enough time to get your Rapid Test.
16.5 hours later, I landed in DOH. Upon entering the airport, no one asked for my COVID test results or my vaccination card. Also, few people were wearing masks in the airport.
Eight hours later, I boarded the plane to JRO.
KILIMANJARO INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
Six hours later I landed at the small airport. We were all herded into a line to get our mandatory COVID test. After taking our temperature, the first thing they asked for was either the online results of your health questionnaire or the paper version. Of course, no one had either version since at no point were we told we needed or provided them. I filled mine out online and showed it to the attendant.
I was then ushered into another line to pay the $25 for another COVID test… Yes, the third one since Sunday. They made a copy of my passport.
Following the payment line, I was sent to yet another line for the test.
I was directed to a little 6’x6′ makeshift room. They took my passport and proof of payment. They made a copy of the passport and swabbed my nose and sent me out.
While I waited for the results I filled out the immigration card.
Five minutes later, I had my negative results and was sent to the line to obtain a visa. While I waited, I filled out the visa form and handed the paperwork and passport to the person behind the glass. I also tried to pay the $100 but was told to pay at the next window. I went to the next window and again tried to pay. Denied again. They looked at my passport then sent me to a third window to pay.
After my visa was paid, I was finally allowed to go into baggage claim. Keep in mind it isn’t a typical baggage claim. Everyone’s luggage is laying on the floor.
I showed the attendant my baggage claim slip, I was clear of the chaos. I took a taxi to my hotel in Arusha.
The entire trip, with layovers, took 41 hours from my door to the hotel room. JRO alone took over two hours.
Our advice to you is to be patient and be prepared to have long wait times. Tanzania doesn’t work at the speed of the U.S.
As a final note, I was told I needed a negative COVID test to return to the U.S. However, no one else in JRO was getting one. The departure side of the airport did not have a Rapid COVID center. A JRO attendant had to take me outside the airport through a gate, get me a clearance badge, take me through security, and over to the arrival side of the airport. Luckily, she took me to the front of the sea of people who just arrived and were waiting to take their COVID Rapid Test.
I got right in and got a negative result—fourth in just over a week.
She then took me back through all that to the departure side of the airport.
I boarded my plane back to DOH, Then LAX, and finally on to Phoenix. Can you guess how many people asked for my negative COVID test results on my return journey?
If you guessed zero, you were correct.
I just got back from Tanzania after climbing Kilimanjaro again. The airport procedures for leaving JRO are a bit different. First of all, the test is now only $15. There is now a testing facility at the airport, just outside the gate on the left. You can have the taxi or your driver pull in there. Depending on how many people are in line it doesn’t take long to get the nasal swab. The results will be available at the booth just outside security at JRO. Make sure to take a photo of your results because they will take them at the airline check-in counter.
Update: June 10, 2022
UPDATE: Masks are no longer required to fly to Tanzania. Additionally, a negative COVID test is no longer required to return to the US.