How many shillings? Whether you use this phrase with a salesperson known or unknown to you, it basically always ends with a long bargaining process. After a while, you learn that there are some products which are impossible to bargain down the price for, since no one would sell at a loss, but these products are rare. Most prices can be debated. It’s all about who’s got more bongo (brains) to ‘win’ the bargaining process. It’s all about the money.
Tanzanian shillings are a really colourful bunch. Compared to euros, the coins are worth little though weighing more, but you can still bag a bargain with them: 50 Tsh (0.025€, a sugar and nut kachata snack), 100 Tsh (0.05€, coffee cup in the morning), 200 Tsh (0.10€, a few tomatoes). The notes are the ones to look out for though, found in all colours and sporting all kinds of animals on them: 500 Tsh (0.25€, a bottle of soda), 1000 Tsh (0.50€, tasty icecream cone), 2000 Tsh (1€, a comfortable 10-15 minute bajaj ride), 5000 Tsh (2.5€, big dinner in bar with grilled meat and accompaniments), 10000 Tsh (5€, big things!).
The largest amount you could get from an ATM was thus 10000 Tsh. It worked OK for withdrawing pocket money for the week, but imagine paying the rent. Three months in advance, paid in cash at once: 1 000 000 Tanzanian shillings, ka-ching (= a pretty thick pile of notes and many visits to ATMs)!
With so much business out on the street, money changes hands very often in Dar es Salaam, and the notes get worn out quickly. Don’t quite know if normal wear-and-tear was the only reason, or whether it’s because they very well might have been used as sweat-wipers, but the Bank of Tanzania decided to release new notes at the end of 2010.
The launch was not executed very well or widely enough though, so in the beginning, reports started flowing in that new notes are not accepted as legal tender in many shops or by many sellers. Particularly in rural areas, it was best to still try to carry only old notes. The main problem? The new banknotes are much smaller and so bright, they might as well be play-money from a Monopoly game. In practice, I’m not sure either how they started removing the old money, or whether they just decided to issue new notes to add to inflation pressures.
The worst part though? They removed the buffaloes from the 500 shilling note!