Thankfully I had six months to prepare for my internship in Nzega, Tanzania with PeerCorps, because I was in contact with Mike Wilson starting in December 2012 with plans to begin the internship in June 2013. I made sure to read the “suggested packing list” on the PeerCorps website, which helped tremendously with packing. For females, I would say to definitely bring 3 long skirts, because that’s what everyone wears. Remember to bring “professional” clothing for your work in the hospital or other institution where you will be working. Also, bring lots of reading material, because you will likely have a lot of down time when you are not working. I’m also thankful I brought a flashlight and a headlamp, which I surprisingly use almost every day. The electricity does go out occasionally, so it’s a nice back-up and a necessity. Make sure all your vaccinations are up-to-date and make sure you don’t wait until the last minute to get your malaria prophylaxis.
I had some free time before coming to Tanzania so I started to learn some basic Swahili on Rosetta Stone, which ended up being super useful. The earlier you can start this, the better. If you don’t have time to complete some lessons, try picking up a phrasebook that has useful phrases (not just tourist phrases). I brought Lonely Planet’s Swahili Phrasebook, which wasn’t all that useful. Other interns brought books that had whole chapters on hospital vocabulary which was especially useful for us working in a hospital setting. Also be weary of certain guidebooks if you are planning on traveling before or after your internship. Information changes rapidly in Tanzania and many hotels/hostels close or go out of business. Make sure you do your research ahead of time, or just make sure you are aware that not everything will be completely accurate.
When buying bus tickets at a bus terminal, be weary of touts. They may try to sell you VIP bus tickets, which usually don’t exist. There’s usually one price for everyone, so it’s useful to know what the price is “supposed to be” before you purchase anything. They will likely try to sell you the “Mzungu” price which could be an extra 3 dollars. Also you should not have to pay extra to store your luggage in the compartment below, so be weary if they try to charge you an extra fee. If you have any other questions on traveling around Tanzania or packing tips, etc. you can reach me at: firstname.lastname@example.org