How to Avoid Corruption and Bribery in Tanzania

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There is a chance you may be bribed in Tanzania, but it's important to know the signs before you fall victim to the scams. Here are our tips to avoid being stung.


Tanzanian money lying in the sand Photo © Getty Images/DavorLovincic

Tanzania has its share of corruption and bribery. Don‘t be surprised if you‘re asked for money to make a problem go away. Some travelers are averse to paying bribes, especially in a country with so many needy but honest citizens. Others are willing to part with some money in return for quickly getting on with other things. Decide where you stand on the matter before being confronted with it.

Tanzania is largely a safe destination, but learning how to handle commonplace bribery can be the difference between it being a funny anecdote from your travels versus things going pear-shaped.

Bribery in Tanzania

Police are poorly paid – many make less than $40/month – so you may be solicited for a bribe by an official willing to turn a blind eye to your infraction, fabricated or otherwise.

'On-the-spot-fine' is one term used for a bribe; those words are meant to initiate a conversation about money. If you don't want to participate in bribery offer to go to the police station to pay the fine – sometimes that can get you off the hook, especially if their supervisors are in the vicinity. Don't hand over any papers or important documents unless you really need to.

Fraudsters are known to impersonate police, sometimes in the guise of an "immigration official" who identifies a problem with your documents. They will flash official-looking papers at you. Ask them to explain the situation clearly and for their official ID.  If you are dealing with someone in uniform, they are almost certainly an actual officer, so don‘t question them too hard.

The worst of all situations is when a bone fide police officer oversteps the mark. Tanzanian police have an unfortunate reputation for being some of the most corrupt in East Africa. Some have been known to be drunk on the job and may become threatening. A night in a local jail is not worth a few bucks in bribes.

There have also been reports of police pulling over taxis carrying tourists in Dar es Salaam asking for bribes. Always remain calm, be polite and leave it to the taxi driver to handle the situation.

How to Avoid Bribes

Involve other people – fraudsters or corrupt officials are unlikely to carry out their schemes in front of an audience.

Ask a local for a translation of the situation – this could put the scammer off getting money out of you. Always ask to see official government ID.

Suggest you both go to your country's embassy to have an official translate the conversation for you – tt this point, the scammer will usually have a look of horror on their face. 

Tanzanians are very polite people, so they won‘t normally ask directly for things. So playing dumb is often a good way to get out of a bribe.

Tell them you've only just arrived in the country, even if it's your 100th visit. If you know some Kiswahili, keep that to yourself. While this won‘t work every time, it will make them question whether they want to go ahead with the scam and hopefully the hassle of trying to communicate with you may deter them.

Tip: Split your money up into smaller amounts, that way if you have no other choice but to pay a bribe, the scammer won't see all of your money.

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1 Comment

  • Michael said

    Do not pay bribes. It is very damaging and only encourages people to ask for them. It is also illegal. Don't do it.

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