Tanzania Travel & Transportation
There’s a wide range of travel options in Tanzania. If you want to be looked after throughout your trip, you can travel on a shared or exclusive road safari where you sign up to an off-the-shelf or tailor-made itinerary; alternatively you can take an air safari, via scheduled domestic airlines (often in small planes with great visibility), or charter a light plane for your own use. If you want more independence, you can easily rent a vehicle for self-drive or with a driver.
If you’re on a budget, you’ll find a wide range of public transport – though, to be clear, it is all privately operated – from air-conditioned buses run by large operators to smaller companies and “saccos” (cooperatives) with a single battered minibus. In towns of any size, crowds of Nissan minibuses, operating as shared taxis and referred to as Daladala, hustle for business constantly. Tanzania’s railway “network” appears to be in terminal decline, but the Arusha – Moshi, Dar-es-salaam kigoma and Dar-es-salaam to Zanzibar line still runs a couple of services a week.
Tanzania Travel Options
Flying in Tanzania
Domestic flights in Tanzania are thoroughly enjoyable, especially to the national parks, with animals clearly visible below as you approach each airstrip.The main operators are Regional Air, Coastal Air, Precision Air, Air Tanzania, Auric Air, and other. The destinations served include the main towns and cities (Arusha, Dar-es-laam, Mwanza, Kilimanjaro, Dodoma), coastal (Zanzibar) and airfields serving safari clients in the main parks and reserves of Serengeti, Ngorongoro, Lake Manyara, Tarangire, Ruaha, Mahale, Gombe and Nyerere National Park.
Most services are daily and in some cases there are several flights a day, though frequencies on certain routes are reduced in low season. Same-day connections can be a problem,too, as flights are routinely cancelled if there are not enough passengers to make them worthwhile, and you will be “bumped” onto the next one. Be aware, too, that flights to the parks and reserves run on circuits, meaning that not all passengers are necessarily going to alight at the same airstrip: the plane might touch down at a few on the route, so flight times and the order of arrival may vary. Nevertheless, flying around Tanzania (especially to the parks) saves on long bumpy road trips and each airline endeavours to get you to your destination on time.
Baggage allowance on the smaller planes (those going to safari destinations) is limited to 15kg per person (in soft bags only – rigid suitcases are often not accepted), though this isn’t strictly adhered to unless the flight is full. In any event you will be able to make arrangements to store excess baggage while you are on safari.
Chartering a small plane for trips to safari parks and remote airstrips is worth considering if money is less important to you than time, and is an especially good option for groups or large families. Costs vary depending on the size of the aircraft needed to accommodate the number of passengers, the amount of fuel required and other incidentals such as airport landing fees. Remember also that the plane has to make a round trip, even if you don’t.
Tanzania Cities on Map
Car Rental and Flying
All the parks and reserves are open to private vehicles, and there’s a lot to be said for the freedom of choice that renting a car gives you. Unless there are more than two of you, though, it won’t save you money over one of the cheaper camping safaris.
Before renting, shop around for the best deals and try to negotiate as you might with any purchase, bearing in mind how long you’ll need and the season. July, August and Christmas are busy, so you might want to book ahead. Rates vary greatly: some are quoted in Tanzania shillings and some in dollars or euros; some include unlimited mileage while others don’t. The minimum age to rent a car is usually 23, sometimes 25.
You can often rent a vehicle with a driver or driver-guide supplied by the rental company, which can be more relaxing and a great introduction to the country. This adds around 100,000 Tshs/day to your bill for the driver’s salary and daily expenses (plus tip). Obviously fuel is still extra. Be clear precisely what the arrangements are before you set off: it’s best to have things in writing.
If stopped at a police checkpoint, you may be asked to produce evidence that the rental car has a PSV (passenger service vehicle) licence. You should have a windscreen sticker for this as well as the letters “PSV” written somewhere on the body; if in doubt, check this out with the rental company before you leave. All PSV vehicles are, in theory, fitted with speed governors, physically limiting your top speed to the speed limit of 80km/h. In practice, few companies leave them operational.
If you have a breakdown, before seeking assistance, it is customary to pile bundles of sticks or foliage 50m or so behind and in front of the car. These are the universally recognized “red warning triangles” of Africa, and their placing is always scrupulously observed, and you should put them out even if your vehicle is equipped with a real red triangle. Wedging a stone behind at least one wheel to stop the vehicle rolling away is also a good idea.
Choosing and Running a Vehicle
A normal saloon (sedan) car is sufficient if you are driving around Arusha , up and down the main coastal road or sticking to the major tarred highways between cities. However a high-clearance four-wheel drive (4WD) vehicle is recommended for anywhere else. Even when you’re not planning any off-road driving, and expect to stick to tarmac, entrance roads and access tracks are often not surfaced and can become impassable quagmires after rain. Most car rental companies will not rent out non-4WD vehicles for use in the parks, and park rangers will often turn away such cars at the gates, especially in wet weather. Maasai Mara and the mountain parks (Mount Elgon, Mount Kenya and the Aberdare range) are the most safety-minded.
Four-wheel drive Suzuki jeeps are the most widely available vehicles, but ensure you get a long-wheelbase model with rear seats, room for four people (or five at a pinch) and luggage space at the back. These are more stable than the stumpy short-wheelbase versions. Other good options, also commonly rented out, are the Nissan X-Trail and Mitsubishi Pajero. All three models are dependable, capable of great feats in negotiating rough terrain, and can nearly always be fixed by a local repair workshop. Beware, however, of their notorious tendency to tip over on bends or on the dangerously sloping gravel hard shoulders that line so many roads.
You shouldn’t assume that the vehicle is roadworthy before you set off. Have a good look at the engine and tyres, and don’t set off without checking the spare wheel (preferably two spare wheels) and making sure that you have a few essential tools. Always carry a tow rope and spare water and ideally spare fuel in a jerrican (it’s not uncommon for petrol stations to run out). You might also take a spare fan belt and brake fluid. You are responsible for any repair and maintenance work that needs doing while you’re renting the vehicle, but good car rental companies will reimburse you for spare parts and labour, and expect you to call them if you have a breakdown, in which case they will often send out a mechanic to help.
Buses, Daladala and taxis
Safety should be your first concern when travelling by public transport: Daladala, and to a lesser extent buses, have a bad safety record. The Don’t hesitate to ask to get out of the vehicle if you feel unsafe, and to demand a partial refund, which will usually be forthcoming.
Whatever you’re travelling on, it’s worth considering your general direction through the trip and which side of the vehicle will be shadier. This is especially important on dirt roads when the combination of dust, a slow, bumpy ride and fierce sun through closed windows can be unbearable.
Inter-city bus and Dalala fares are typically around Tsh 500 – 1000 /trip . Even the longest journey by matatu, the 345km, six-hour journey from Arusha to Tanga, should cost no more than Tsh: 15,000. Fares go up and down depending on the price of fuel, and rarely does anyone attempt to charge more than the approved rate. Baggage charges should not normally be levied unless you’re transporting a huge load. If you think you’re being overcharged, check with other passengers.
Buses in Tanzania
Buses cover almost the whole country. Some, on the main runs between Arusha – Tanga – Dar-es-salaam, and to a lesser extent the Northern and Southern, are fast, comfortable and keep to schedules; you generally need to reserve seats in advance.
The easiest procedure is to mention your destination to a few people at the bus park (known as “stand” in Tanzania) and then check out the torrent of offers, though the large companies have proper ticket offices at or near the bus stations where they list their routes and prices.
Once you’ve acquired a seat, the wait can be almost a pleasure if you’re in no hurry, as you watch the throng outside and field a continuous stream of vendors proffering wares through the window.
Luxury Buses in Tanzania
Daladala in Tanzania
Along most routes these days are Nissan or Toyota minibuses (in rural areas one or two old-style pick-up vans, fitted with wooden benches and a canvas roof, still ply their trade).
Daladala can be fast and are sometimes dangerous: try to sit at the back, to avoid too graphic a view of blind overtaking.
Matatus can be an enjoyable way of getting about, giving you close contact, literally, with local people, and some hilarious encounters. They are also often the most convenient and sometimes the only means of transport to smaller places off the main roads.
Daladala on Movement
Taxis and other vehicles
Transport in towns often comes down to private taxis. You’ll need to discuss the fare in advance. there’s also the option of using a Bajaj (three-wheeled vehicles imported from Asia, on which fares are around half the price of an ordinary taxi).
Alternatively, many areas have the motorcycle taxis that can carry one or two people without luggage (known as a piki-piki), or a bicycle with a padded passenger seat for one (known as a boda-boda).
Most drivers/cyclists will be straight with you (if surprised to be taking a fare from a foreigner), but if you’re in doubt about the correct fare, which is generally around Ksh40/km, asking passers-by will invariably get you a quick sense of the proper price to pay.
Taxis in Tanzania
Tanzania Railway Transport, Boats & Ferries
Tanzania Rail Transport
Railway transport is the second most important mode of transport after road and critical for long distance freight along the main transport corridors in Tanzania. Tanzania has a total of 3,676 kilometers of railway lines operated by two railway systems, Tanzania Railways Corporation (TRC) and Tanzania – Zambia Railways (TAZARA).
The mainline of TRC comprises the central corridor between the port of Dar es Salaam in the east, linking central and western areas of the country and terminating at Kigoma on Lake Tanganyika in the west.
The TAZARA line is 1,860 kilometers in length, of which 975 kilometers is in Tanzania and 885 kilometers in Zambia.
Boats and Ferries
Dar es Salaam is the main port, receiving commercial ships but not international passenger services. Ferry services to Zanzibar depart from here. Azam Marine being the best provider or scheduled fast ferries.
Cruising Ships: Zanzibar is a popular port of call for cruise ships.
Ferry Service Providers
At Lake Tanganyika, passenger ferries go as far south as Mpulunga (Zambia). Bujumbura (Burundi) was a former stop, but it’s unclear if it will be reinstated. There is an unreliable ferry service between Tanzania and Malawi on Lake Nyasa.
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