The city centre itself is compact, but taxis are a better bet to reach the train and bus stations, or after dark. Dalla-dallas also ply the roads, though they will be difficult to negotiate with luggage.
About 65km southwest of Mbeya down the Tunduma road is the Mbozi meteorite, one of the largest meteorites in the world. There is no charge to visit, but you will need your own transportation.
Mbeya is located at the foot of Loleza Peak and near Mbeya Peak. At 2656m and 2820m respectively, both can be fine day hikes, although an experienced guide should be hired. Guides can be found through many of the travel agencies or better hotels in town.
For those who are travelling through Africa by vehicle, there is a very good garage just out of town on the Zambia road at Mbalizi behind the hospital at Mbalizi vocational training centre, best mechanics in Tanzania according to locals from many towns other than Mbeya, near Utengule Coffee lodge.
Livingstone Safari ☎ (+255) 766 143 171: contact this tour operator. For more information on regarding activities or safaris in Tanzania.
Mbeya has some fine places to eat. New City Pub, with great barbeque chicken and nyama choma, is behind the CRDB Century Plaza Complex. Sombrero Hotel has a nice restaurant cross the street from the hotel. There are also some reasonable restaurants along south end of Lupa Way, New Appricourt restaurant being one, just opposite to Gazelle safaris.
There are several hotels and guesthouses across from the bus station, popular with those heading to Malawi the next day. Avoid the travel agencies attached, as many people have reported scams with transport; especially do not trust the bus driver to give you the real destination, but ask other passengers instead. If you want to stay for a few nights try Utengule Coffee lodge out of town down the Zambia road, turn off at the sign at Mbalizi. It is also a great place to spend the day with a swimming pool, tennis and squash courts, and good food and coffee!
There are several bus ticket scams running out of Mbeya. The well established scam artists attempt to sell tickets to various cities in Malawi. They have various price sheets and other documentation. They will even make phone calls to verify there is availability on the bus. One group even has an office in the Malawi transportation/bus centre. They will get the passengers onto dalla-dallas that will just let them off at the border where there is supposed another bus that is waiting. Of course, there isn't. Please note that as of April 2010 there are NO buses that go directly from Mbeya to Malawi. The buses only go to the border town of Kyela.
There is frequent local transport, both 30-seat "coaster" buses and dalla-dallas to Kyela. Double check that the driver can drop you off at the border ("boda-boda"). The border stop is only a 5-10 minute walk from the Songwe River bridge crossing into Malawi. Note that there are no services on the Malawi side of the border; have a few hundred kwacha on hand to secure transportation at least as far as Karonga. For Itungi and Lake Nyasa (Lake Malawi), you will need to ride all the way to Kyela and secure additional transport from there.
Local transport also runs to Tunduma on the Zambian border; onward transportation can be arranged on the Zambian side.
If Mbeya is your stop off on entering Tanzania on the way to Dar es Salaam or Arusha, try to head for Iringa next, with many buses leaving daily from the main bus station. The ride takes about 5-7 hours. The district capital, Iringa is a good base for exploring the highlands along the Tanzam road. Buses are also available to Songea to the southeast, Sumbawanga to the northwest, or Tabora to the north, for connections to Kigoma or Mwanza.
To Arusha: Direct buses depart from Mbeya to Arusha at 5:30 A.M. every day. Make sure to book at least one day in advance - the ride is a grueling 18 hours. Alternatively, you can split the journey into two by stopping off in Iringa, an interesting small town with tons of historry and traditional crafts. If you have the time, do a game drive around Ruaha National Park. Afterwards, you can take a bus to Arusha, there are many companies to choose from and all leave in the early morning hours (6am).