Tanzania is a beautiful country, home to some amazing experiences, and bucket-list items. As travellers, we all want to share the experiences we've had with our loved ones back home - and there's no better way to do that than with some gifts & souvenirs.
We'll be going over the following locations where you can purchase souvenirs/gifts:
- African Galleria
- Maasai Market
- Jamaliyah Gallery Framers
- Local Spot by Arusha Clock Tower
We'll be giving our opinion on each one of these locations based on the following factors:
When on route through Karatu and on your way to the Ngorongoro Crater (or vice versa) is the African Galleria.
African Galleria is a very safe spot and one of the tourist hotspots when on route for your safari. The front entrance is guarded by security and there are plenty of professional workers inside the compound.
Unlike some of the other souvenir shops, there aren't many workers bugging you to buy the souvenirs they are selling. On top of this, the compound does have a clean bathroom area and a restaurant area if you're hungry. If you don't want to purchase any souvenirs, this location also serves as a good spot to take a break from the long safari drives.
Prices range at the African Galleria, but tend to the more expensive side. Depending on the item, you can expect to spend on average about $20 USD for a very small souvenir, but also have the option to purchase souvenirs that are $10,000 USD or higher. As with all other souvenir shops, you have the option to barter.
African Galleria has mid-range to high quality items. Unlike other souvenir shops, you can be sure that the workers are accurate in the description of the products (I.e. you won't have to question if a carving is made of ebony wood or not - though we do recommend to ask your guide to double check). Overall, we were most impressed by the large ebony wood carvings that are present within the shop but it's hard to justify the purchase of one as they're large items to carry back to your home countries.
Overall, you can definitely get cheaper souvenirs at other locations but if you're travelling with family or young kids or if you want more comfort when buying a souvenir, this is the spot that's for you.
If you'd like to see a video of African Galleria, check out this video we found online (this video was recorded some time ago, so there may have been upgrades to the location from the last time we visited).
This provides a great incentive for your guide to get a little extra, and so we highly recommend asking your guide to stop by the location whenever possible - the little payment they get goes a long way.
During your safari, you'll have the chance to purchase souvenirs at many of the hotels/lodges that you stay at.
The hotels/lodges are probably the safest location where you can buy souvenirs at (you're staying at the hotel overnight - it doesn't really get safer than that 😉).
The hotel staff is typically not pushy when buying souvenirs, so feel free to browse and leave as you please. It's also in the comfort of your own home (the place you'll be staying at overnight) so you have the option to do other things if you choose not to check out the souvenirs.
Since the hotels/lodges provide a high level of safety and comfort, prices for the souvenirs tend to be on the higher side relative to the other locations we describe in this blog post. Also, bartering is much more difficult to do at these locations since most of the souvenirs are items and priced in their systems.
Hotels and lodges aren't known for souvenirs so the quality tends to the mid-range side. Don't expect to get high quality souvenirs, or very artistic/unique pieces.
Overall, if you're looking for safety and comfort and don't want to go off the beaten path to look for souvenirs or if you're tight on time during your safari, this is the spot for you.
Located in Arusha, the Maasai Market is one of the most famous spots for souvenir shopping and is usually visited by tourists at the start or end of your safari. The Maasai Market is structured with different "alleyways" which each have their own street name. Stalls are lined up next to each other, and as you walk through, you'll be greeted by many people saying "you're welcome my friend" - welcoming you into their shops.
Most of the shop owners work with each other, so if you do want something specific, just ask one of the shop owners and they'll point you to someone who is selling what you want.
The Maasai Market is in a gated compound, but they don't regulate who walks in/out of the shops. When walking around the alleyways I felt a little less safe and more concerned on making sure I had everything on me (phone, wallet, money etc.) as it felt like everyone at their shops were just trying to get you to buy something from them. However, the people at each one of the stalls are super nice and are willing to help you get what you need.
Comfort goes hand-in-hand with safety for me. I felt relatively safe when in the Maasai Market but also felt a bit uncomfortable given the amount of people who are just trying to sell to you, and will continually ask you to view the items in their shop.
One of the benefits of going to the Maasai Market is that bartering is largely accepted, so you can barter your way down on price (sometimes getting items half off the original quote price). Items in the Maasai Market tend to be much cheaper than the items in the African Galleria and at the Hotels/Lodges you visit and are being sold by locals, so you know that more of your money is going to the locals at the end of the day. However, items can range from being very cheap to very expensive - I was able to purchase a cross necklace for 10,000 TSH ~ $4.10 USD, but also got offered a painting for 6,000,000 TSH ~ $2400 USD!
The Maasai Market has mid-range to high quality items, however it's important to double check that the quality of the items you receive are accurate according to what the seller is telling you (I.e. double check that the wood is actually ebony wood).
We found this video online showcasing the Maasai Market in Arusha - it's a lower quality video but check it out for more context.
Everware is less of a souvenir shop, and more of a shop for tourist clothing in Arusha. This spot is a must if you're looking to purchase a Dashiki (check out the shirt on the guy in the image below for reference)!
I spent about an hour at this shop and felt very safe when in it. It's mostly tourist at this location, and the shop owners and staff are super nice and accommodating for all your needs. If you have any concern just ask one of the owners or staff members and they'll sort out any concern.
The shop itself is a bit small and there isn't much room to move around when inside but overall I wasn't concerned about others in the shop, and I was served almost immediately and got all the clothing I wanted.
Extremely affordable prices. Given that you're buying local dress wear (Dashiki's) or custom graphic tees with some cool African sayings, this shop is very reasonably priced. Expect to pay about 20,000 - 50,000 TSH for a t-shirt depending on the style that you want.
The t-shirts and dashiki's themselves aren't the highest quality fabric, but given the pricing it makes sense.
Jamaliyah Gallery Framers
We've saved one of the best spots for last! Jamaliyah Gallery Framers is one of our favourite souvenir spots in Arusha. It's located close to the Clock Tower in Arusha (right across from the gas station - ask your guide for some help to point it out). Although it may not have a large variety of souvenirs to choose from, it does have a great selection of quality artwork.
The owner of the shop has been selling souvenirs and artwork for a very long time and has some of the most unique paintings you'll find in Tanzania (including the very famous Heidi paintings).
The store itself is in a very safe location (right in the core of town) and is very safe when inside. There weren't too many people in the store so we got to have one-on-one time with the store owner and felt safe the entire time.
Similar to the safety of the shop, we felt very comfortable when shopping for souvenirs and artwork in the shop. We also got custom care from the store owner as he was able to show us some of the best souvenirs he had and some of the best paintings he had as well. He took his time when going through each one of the paintings and gave us a discount on some of the prices he had.
Compared to the other souvenir shops, this spot is extremely affordable. There are some higher priced items but you know you're not getting cheated at this location. What you pay for is accurate to the items that you're getting. Also, huge bonus but the store owner gave me some old books on Tarangire National Park and Arusha National Park for free! As with any other souvenir shop, you can barter but don't expect to get a crazy discount.
Jamaliyah Gallery Framers has some of the best quality artwork and souvenirs I've seen across the many souvenir shops we visited. You're guaranteed to get high quality items that are true to what the shop owner describes them to be. Best thing is - they're all reasonably and fairly priced.
Overall, highly recommend this local spot. It marks high on all the criteria we evaluate for and is one of our favourites in Northern Tanzania.
Throughout your trip, you'll likely run into locals who are trying to sell you souvenirs, artwork, or other items on the street - or on the beach in Zanzibar. When it comes down to safety and comfort, this is probably the lowest rated. However, these locals are ones who can't typically afford to get a spot at some of the more famous spots (such as the Maasai Market). So if you do find something from a local that you think is nice, it can be a great way to directly support a local.
Relative to the other locations we've mentioned above, this is probably the least safe way to make a purchase (I.e. they may approach you on the street if you're stopped in traffic or if you're walking around, and pulling out cash during these moments is not recommended). If you do make a purchase, know that most of the other locals will try to sell to you after as well.
Some of the locals selling items will approach you during odd times and may make you feel uncomfortable. If this does happen it's important to politely say no.
These are probably the cheapest items that you'll find anywhere as you'll be able to barter down to a very low price (since the locals don't have overheads of managing a shop). However, don't expect to get something significantly cheaper than when in the Maasai Market.
Relative to the other locations mentioned, these are most likely the lowest quality items and range from low-mid range quality.
Overall, we don't recommend buying from locals on the street if you're concerned for safety and comfort - however it can be a great way to directly support locals.