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Tanzania

Getting around

Boat

Dhow

Main routes connect Zanzibar and Pemba with Dar es Salaam, Tanga, Bagamoyo and Mombasa; Kilwa Kivinje, Lindi, Mikindani, Mtwara and Msimbati with other coastal towns; and Mafia and the mainland.

However, foreigners are officially prohibited on non-motorised dhows, and on any dhows between Zanzibar and Dar es Salaam; captains are subject to fines if they’re caught, and may be unwilling to take you. Coastal hotels that arrange charters (many with their own dhows) include The Tides, Peponi Holiday Resort, Kilwa Seaview Resort, Ten Degrees South Lodge, The Old Boma, Fundu Lagoon and any of the Chole Bay lodges on Mafia. Safari Blue and SwahiliSail (www.swahilisail.com) are other good contacts.

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Hitching

Hitching is generally slow going. It’s prohibited inside national parks, and is usually fruitless around them. That said, in remote areas, hitching a lift with truck drivers may be your only option. Expect to pay about the same or a bit less than the bus fare for the same route, with a place in the cab costing about twice that for a place on top of the load. To flag down a vehicle, hold out your hand at about waist level, palm to the ground, and wave it up and down.

Expat workers or well-off locals may also offer you a ride. Payment is usually not expected, but still offer some token of thanks, such as a petrol contribution for longer journeys.

As elsewhere in the world, hitching is never entirely safe, and we don’t recommend it. Travellers who hitch should understand that they are taking a potentially serious risk. If you do hitch, it’s safer doing so in pairs and letting someone know your plans.

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Bus & tram

Bus

Bus travel is an inevitable part of the Tanzania experience for many travellers. Prices are reasonable for the distances covered, and there’s often no other way to reach many destinations.

On major long-distance routes, there’s a choice of express and ordinary buses. Express buses make fewer stops, are less crowded and depart on schedule. Some have toilets and air-conditioning, and the nicest ones are called ‘luxury’ buses. On secondary routes, the only option is ordinary buses, which are often packed to overflowing, stop often and run to a less rigorous schedule (and often not to any recognisable schedule at all).

For popular routes, book in advance. You can sometimes get a place by arriving at the bus station an hour prior to departure. Scandinavian Express and Royal Coach bus lines fill up quickly on all routes: book at least one day in advance. Each bus line has its own booking office, at or near the bus station.

Express buses have a compartment below for luggage. Otherwise, stow your pack under your seat or at the front of the bus near the driver.

Prices are basically fixed, although overcharging happens. Most bus stations are chaotic, and at the ones in Arusha and other tourist areas you’ll be incessantly hounded by touts. Buy your tickets at the office and not from the touts, and don’t believe anyone who tries to tell you there’s a luggage fee, unless you are carrying an excessively large pack.

For short stretches along main routes, express buses will drop you on request, though you’ll often need to pay the full fare to the next major destination.

Major lines along the Dar–Arusha route include Dar Express, Royal Coach and Scandinavian Express. Scandinavian Express is also good for destinations between Dar and Mbeya, and to Njombe and Songea. Although Scandinavian is still generally regarded as the best company in the south, its fleet is ageing, and you’ll generally need to pay for its luxury buses for a reasonably comfortable ride.

Minibus & shared taxi

For shorter trips away from the main routes, the choice is often between 30-seater buses (‘Coastals’ or thelathini) and dalla-dallas. Both options come complete with chickens on the roof, bags of produce under the seats, no leg room and schedules only in the most general sense of the word. Dalla-dallas, especially, are invariably filled to overflowing. Shared taxis are rare, except in northern Tanzania near Arusha and several other locations. Like ordinary buses, dalla-dallas and shared taxis leave when full, and are the least safe transport option.

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Car & motorcycle

Unless you have your own vehicle and are familiar with driving in East Africa, it’s relatively unusual for travellers to tour mainland Tanzania by car. More common is to focus on a region and arrange local transport through a tour or safari operator. On Zanzibar, however, it’s easy and economical to hire a car or motorcycle for touring, and self-drive is permitted.

Hire

In Dar es Salaam, daily rates for 2WD start at about US$45, excluding fuel, plus US$20 to US$30 for insurance and tax. Prices for 4WD are US$70 to US$200 per day plus insurance (US$30 to US$40 per day), fuel and driver (US$15 to US$35 per day). There’s also a 20% value added tax.

Outside the city, most companies require 4WD. Also, most will not permit self-drive outside of Dar es Salaam, and none presently offer unlimited kilometres. Charges per-kilometre are around US$0.50 to US$1. Try to clarify what the company’s policy is in the event of a breakdown.

Elsewhere in Tanzania, you can hire 4WD vehicles in Arusha, Karatu, Mwanza, Mbeya, Zanzibar Town and other centres through travel agencies, tour operators and hotels. See the individual sections for hire agency listings. Except on Zanzibar, most come with driver. Rates average US$80 to US$150 per day plus fuel, less on Zanzibar.

Insurance

Unless you’re covered from other sources, such as your credit card, it’s advisable to take the full coverage offered by hire companies.

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Train

We wish we could say that train travel was a classic Tanzania experience, watching the landscapes roll by and getting a snapshot of local life, but the country’s rail lines are so under-maintained these days, and so often beset by delays and breakdowns, that it would be too much of a stretch – but if you get lucky, you’re likely to enjoy the ride. Once planned privatisation and upgrading programmes are implemented, the situation is bound to improve.

There are two lines: Tazara (022-286 5137, 022-286 0340/4, 0713-225292; www.tazara.co.tz; cnr Nyerere & Nelson Mandela Rds, Dar es Salaam), linking Dar es Salaam with Kapiri Mposhi in Zambia via Mbeya and Tunduma; and the Tanzanian Railway Corporation’s Central Line (022-211 7833; www.trctz.com; cnr Railway St & Sokoine Dr, Dar es Salaam), linking Dodoma with Kigoma and Mwanza via Tabora (service between Dodoma and Dar es Salaam is suspended). Central Line branches also link Tabora with Mpanda, and Dodoma with Singida.

Tazara is more comfortable and efficient, but on both lines, breakdowns and long delays – up to 12 hours or more – are common. If you want to try the train, consider shorter stretches – eg from Dar es Salaam into the Selous, or between Tabora and Kigoma.

Classes

There are three classes: 1st class (two- or four-bed compartments); 2nd-class sleeping (six-bed compartments); and economy class (benches, usually very crowded). Some trains also have a ‘2nd-class sitting section’, with one seat per person. Men and women can only travel together in the sleeping sections by booking the entire compartment. At night, secure your window with a stick, and don’t leave your luggage unattended even for a moment.

Schedules & costs

Both lines are undergoing management changes, so expect schedule and price changes.

Tazara

Tazara runs three trains weekly: two ‘express’ trains between Dar es Salaam and Kapiri Mposhi in Zambia via Mbeya; and an ‘ordinary’ train between Dar es Salaam and Mbeya.

Express train fares between Dar es Salaam and Mbeya are Tsh24, 500/18, 000/14, 800 for 1st/2nd/economy class. Ordinary trains depart from Dar es Salaam at 9am Monday, reaching Mbeya about 10am the next day (1st/2nd/economy class Tsh20, 700/14, 500/12, 000, 24 hours); departures from Mbeya are at 1.30pm Tuesday.

Central line

Central Line trains depart from Dodoma at 7pm Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday for both Kigoma and Mwanza (splitting at Tabora). Both journeys take about 24 hours, though it’s often much longer. Trains to Dar es Salaam depart at 7.30am (from Kigoma) and 8am (from Mwanza) on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, arriving at Tabora at about 6pm. Travelling between Mwanza and Kigoma, you’ll need to stay overnight in Tabora. Departures from Tabora are at 9pm Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday for Dodoma, and at 7.30am on Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday for Kigoma.

Trains between Tabora and Mpanda (about 14 hours) depart from Tabora at 9.30pm Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and Mpanda at 1pm Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

Trains depart from Dodoma for Singida (about seven hours) at 10am Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. Departures from Singida are at 8am Monday, Thursday and Saturday.

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Travel documents

Reservations

Tickets for 1st and 2nd class should be reserved at least several days in advance, although occasionally you’ll be able to get a seat on the day of travel. Economy-class tickets can be bought on the spot.

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Local transport

Dalla-dalla

Local routes are serviced by dalla-dallas and, in rural areas, pick-up trucks or old 4WDs. Prices are fixed and inexpensive – Tsh100 to Tsh200 for town runs. The vehicles make many stops and are extremely crowded. Accidents are frequent, particularly in minibuses. Many accidnets are caused when the drivers race each other to an upcoming station in order to collect new passengers. Destinations are either posted on a board in the front window, or called out by the driver’s assistant, who also collects fares. If you have a large backpack, think twice about getting on a dalla-dalla, especially at rush hour, when it will make the already crowded conditions even more uncomfortable for the other passengers.

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Water

Ferry

Ferries operate on Lake Victoria, Lake Tanganyika and Lake Nyasa, and between Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar and Pemba. There’s a US$5 port tax per trip. While all of the lake ferries are slow and crowded, travelling with them offers an authentic glimpse into local life. The Lake Tanganyika and Lake Nyasa routes are also very scenic, sliding slowly past mountains and lake-shore villages.

Lake Victoria

The MV Victoria departs from Mwanza at 10pm on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday (1st class/2nd-class sleeping/2nd-class sitting/3rd class Tsh20, 500/16, 500/13, 500/12, 500 plus port tax, nine hours). Departures from Bukoba are at 9.30pm Monday, Wednesday and Friday. First class has two-bed cabins and 2nd-class sleeping has six-bed cabins. Second-class sitting isn’t comfortable, so if you can’t get a spot in 1st class or 2nd-class sleeping, the best bet is to buy a 3rd-class ticket. With luck, you may then be able to find a comfortable spot in the 1st-class lounge. First- and 2nd-class cabins fill up quickly in both directions, so book as soon as you know your plans. Food is available on board. Sailing in both directions, the ferry stops also at Kemondo Bay (just south of Bukoba).

Weekly connections on the MV Butiama between Mwanza and Nkome, and between Mwanza and Nyamirembe via Maisome island, are currently suspended.

Lake Nyasa

In theory, the MV Songea departs from Itungi port about noon on Thursday and makes its way down the coast via Lupingu, Manda, Lundu, Mango and Liuli (but not via Matema) to Mbamba Bay (1st/economy class Tsh15, 000/8500, 18 to 24 hours). It continues to Nkhata Bay in Malawi, before turning around and doing the return trip.

The smaller MV Iringa services lake-side villages between Itungi and Manda (about halfway down the Tanzanian lake shore), departing from Itungi by about midday on Monday and stopping at Matema, Lupingu and several other ports before turning back again on Tuesday for the return trip. Schedules for both boats are highly unreliable and change frequently. For an update, ask in Kyela, or at one of the Matema hotels.

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Air

Airlines in Tanzania

The national airline, Air Tanzania (www.airtanzania.com) Arusha (027-250 3201/3); Dar es Salaam (022-211 8411, 022-284 42930); Zanzibar (024-223 0213) has flights connecting Dar es Salaam with Mwanza, Mtwara and Kilimanjaro. Following is a list of other airlines flying domestically, all of which also do charters:

Air Excel (027-254 8429, 027-250 1597; reservation@airexcelonline.com) Arusha, Serengeti, Lake Manyara, Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar.

Chimpanzee Safaris (022-213 0553; www.chimpanzeesafaris.com) Shared twice-weekly charter between Arusha, Katavi and Mahale Mountains National Parks

Coastal Aviation (022-284 3293, 022-211 7959; www.coastal.cc) A recommended contact for travellers, with flights to many parks and major towns, including Arusha, Dar es Salaam, Dodoma, Kilwa Masoko, Lake Manyara NP, Mafia, Mwanza, Pemba, Ruaha NP, Rubondo Island NP, Saadani GR, Selous GR, Serengeti NP, Tanga, Tarangire NP and Zanzibar.

Precision Air (022-216 8000; www.precisionairtz.com) Flights to most major towns, including Bukoba, Dar es Salaam, Kigoma, Kilimanjaro, Lindi, Mtwara, Musoma, Mwanza, Shinyanga, Tabora and Zanzibar.

Regional Air Services (027-250 4477/2541; www.regional.co.tz) Arusha, Dar es Salaam, Kilimanjaro, Lake Manyara NP, Ndutu, Serengeti NP (Seronera, Sasakwa, Grumeti and Klein’s Camp) and Zanzibar.

Safari Airlink (0773-723274; www.safariaviation.info) Affiliated with Foxes African Safaris, with flights linking the coast with the southern and western parks in a network, including Bagamoyo, Dar es Salaam, Iringa, Katavi NP, Kipili, Mahale Mountains NP, Mbeya, Mikumi, Mufindi, Pangani, Ruaha NP, Saadani, Selous GR and Zanzibar. Also flights linking Ruaha with Arusha and the northern parks.ZanAir (024-223 3670/8; www.zanair.com) Reliable connections between Arusha, Dar es Salaam, Lake Manyara NP, Mafia, Pangani, Pemba, Saadani NP, Selous GR, Serengeti NP, Tarangire NP and Zanzibar.

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Bicycle

Main sealed roads aren’t good for cycling, as there’s often no shoulder and traffic moves dangerously fast. Secondary roads are ideal, and a small but steady trickle of cyclists are exploring the country – either on longer point-to-point rides, generally part of longer transregional journeys, or from a fixed base (eg the western Usambaras around Lushoto, anywhere on Pemba etc). For point-to-point journeys, carry basic supplies, including water (at least 4L), food, a water filter, at least four spare inner tubes, a spare tyre and plenty of tube patches.

Throughout the country, cycling is best in the early morning and late afternoon, and in the drier winter season (June to August/September). Plan on taking a break from the midday heat, and don’t count on covering as much territory as you might in a northern European climate.

Mountain bikes should be brought from home, although it’s possible to rent them from several operators; see the following listings. Local rental bicycles (about Tsh500 per hour, check at hotels and markets) are usually heavy single speeds or beat-up mountain bikes.

Other considerations include rampaging motorists (a small rear-view mirror is worthwhile), sleeping (bring a tent) and punctures (thorn trees are a problem). Cycling isn’t permitted in national parks or wildlife reserves.

In theory, bicycles can be transported on minibuses and buses, though many drivers are unwilling. For express buses, make advance arrangements to stow your bike in the hold. Bicycles can be transported on the Zanzibar ferries and any of the lake ferries for no additional cost. The highly recommended International Bicycle Fund (www.ibike.org/bikeafrica) organises cycling tours in Tanzania and provides information. Another recommended contact is AfriRoots (www.afriroots.co.tz), which organises cycling trips in various areas of the country, including in the Usambara Mountains and in the southern highlands. Hoopoe Safaris and Summits Africa are both highly recommended for upmarket adventure cycling in the northern circuit. Green Footprint Adventures (www.greenfootprint.co.tz) organises upmarket rides around Lake Manyara. Also try Tanzanian Bike Safaris (www.tanzaniabiking.com).

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