Arusha is a city of approximately 400,000 people in Northeast Tanzania, East Africa. It is regarded as the gateway to the popular Northern Safari Circuit.
Arusha, also known as "A" Town by the locals, is situated at the foot of Mount Meru, Africa's 5th highest mountain. The altitude gives the city a pleasant climate and lush green environment.
Arusha is not a particularly attractive city in itself and is regarded by many visitors as little more than a necessary stopover before their safari starts in earnest. However, the natural charm of the Tanzanians and the buzz of a fast-growing city mean that Arusha has plenty to offer for those who are prepared to see beyond their air-conditioned safari trucks and satellite-TV hotel rooms.
Arusha is home to the UNICTR, the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda . It is also the site of the signing of the Arusha Declaration.
Arusha is served by two airports. Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO) has regular flights to Amsterdam with KLM, and to Addis Ababa, Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar and Nairobi. Kilimanjaro Airport is approximately 60km (45 minutes) from the city center. A taxi ride costs $50 US but many airlines run a shuttle service for free or $10. Arusha Municipal Airport (ARK) is on the outskirts of the city but only runs domestic flights, mostly to Zanzibar and Dar es Salaam, and charters.
Visas-on-arrival are available at Kilimanjaro International Airport for $50, or $100 for U.S. nationals.
Arusha can be reached by express coach from Nairobi (Kenya, 6 hours), Dar es Salaam (12 hours), and Kampala (Uganda, 17 hours) with direct services also available from Mwanza, Tanga, and Lushoto. Some companies offer first-class tickets which are slightly more comfortable although it is worth noting that standards are generally comparable with most African bus services. Moshi can be reached in about one hour. There are various shuttle buses between Arusha and Moshi which are more comfortable than coaches.
The crowded interior of an Arusha minibus
The main mode of public transport is daladala, the ubiquitous minibuses which ply their trade on all the main routes in town. They are very cheap (Tsh 250 ($0.20) is the fixed price for any trip around town, but beware that they will often try to rip off obvious foreigners) but they will become very cramped and safety is a serious consideration. Accidents involving daladalas are frequent and usually with serious consequences for the passengers. Pickpocketing is also common on daladalas, but can be easily avoided by sitting with bags on your lap and not keeping valuables in your pockets.
Taxis are plentiful and cheap, although make sure to agree a price before leaving for your destination (expect to pay no more than Tsh5000 for a trip within town at any time of the day).
Car hire is possible though most companies prefer to provide their own drivers.
See and Do
Elephants as seen from a safari truck
- Climb Mount Meru (4,667 m). It can be done in 2 to 4 days, depending on your condition. You are not required to take guides and porters up Mount Meru, but you must be escorted by armed rangers. Temperatures can be freezing, so prepare for warm clothing and sleeping bags.
- Tanzania Tourist Board can arrange cultural excursions to nearby villages for 15000- 50000 TSH. These cultural tourism visits can be some of the most rewarding parts of a trip to East Africa, and the human (cultural) element involved complements an animal-centric safari to the game parks. Some cultural tourism programs (Ilkiding'a, Ng'iresi) are within an hour's hike of Arusha. Several others are within an hour's drive (Monduli Juu, Longido, Mulala, Tengeru, Ilkurot, Oldonyo Sambu). They are great opportunities to learn about the Maasai and Meru tribes who live nearby, pastoralism, agriculture, stories & legends, local economies. There are several good hikes around Mt. Meru, including some good waterfalls. Longido has camel safaris. And they are flexible in nature, meaning you can arrange an hour-long visit or a day-long one. Some sites have lodging or camping.
Keep in mind your guide will probably hassle you for donations to their school or orphanage. Some dishonest guides might pocket the money, so it is advisable to give money to a reputable charity. Trust your instinct.
- Century Cinema has movies for 5000-7000TSH ($3-5). It is part of a modern complex on Njiro road, which also houses modern and upmarket restaurants including popular Indian restaurant "Khan's" and steak outlet "McMoody's". However, Njiro Road is not safe to walk on at night, so get to the complex by another form of transport rather than by foot. A taxi to/from the town center shouldn't cost more than 4000TSH ($3).
is definitely something to try, if you can afford it. There are multiple types of trips for multiple budgets; usually the pricier ones get you out farther into the Serengeti, to places that are a little less touched by man. But even the cheaper excursions to reserves and parks are worth doing. If there's one trip that will change your perspective on life, it's an African safari.
- Oreteti Cultural Discovery, Mianzini, Arusha Tanzania, ☎ (255) 765 99118 ([email protected]), . A community-based tour company offering cultural tours, safaris and Mt. Kilimanjaro treks. Different options for different budgets. Portion of profits donated to community development and education projects. Staff that are definitely interested in providing a wonderful experience for their clients.
- Bramwel Safaris, P.O. Box 8025, Arusha, Tanzania (Masai Camp road Moshono Juu), ☎ +255732978727, +255713520162, +255713468388 ([email protected]), . Offers camping safari tours to Manyara, Tarangire, and Serengeti.
- Safari Care, PO Box 13836, Arusha, Tanzania (TFA Shopping Complex Westwing next to Shoprite), ☎ +255.27.254.8168, +255.787.999.551 ([email protected]), . Offers safaris, mountain climbing and beach holidays. Is operated by a Zoologist who can give you up to date information on the wildlife.
- Tanganyika Film & Safari, P.O. Box 49, Arusha, Tanzania, East Africa, ☎ (255) 27 2502713 ([email protected], fax: (255) 27 2508547), . A luxury safari company, owned and operated by an experienced Anthropologist. Definitely worth the money.
- Paradies Safaris Ltd. (Paradies Safaris Ltd.), POB 2632, Jacaranda Street, Elite Cinema Building, 2nd floor, Arusha, Tanzania (follow A104 / Socoine Road Crossing), ☎ 00.255.713.510334 ([email protected]), . 08.00 - 20.00 hrs. Offers safaris, mountain climbing and sansibar beach holidays. Is operated more than 25 yrs there by a biologist, who can give you up to date information on the nature. (-3.372913,36.688693,0.01071,0.01929)
Not all tour guides are equally knowledgeable. It doesn't hurt to do a little research on your own about the places you'll be visiting. That way when you ask the guide, "What kind of bird is that," and he replies, "It's called an African bird," you'll know that it's time to get out the field book.
Good idea: Paying the right price to make sure you get a knowledgeable guide (i.e. don't over-bargain to the point the company gives you their worst guide)
Bad idea: Paying triple the right price. You'll sleep in the same accommodation as the guy who paid the normal price, you'll eat the same food, and your vehicle is just as likely to break down.
- The Markets: The markets in the center of town are not to be missed. Bargaining is required, meaning prices will range from dirt-cheap to tourist-expensive, depending on the goods and also on how sharply you pay attention.
- You can find almost anything at these markets, from food to clothing to little trinkets to take home to friends and family. The batik and screened cloths in bright colors are highly recommended. They're usually sold just as bolts of cut cloth, but you can do pretty much anything with them when you get home. Also, the Kikoys that the women of Tanzania wear make wonderful and original wrap skirts.
- Maasai women make beautiful hand-beaded jewelry that they sell to tourists, frequently to pay for their children's schooling. If you come across this you should definitely purchase a few items, as they are extremely beautiful and make wonderful, unique gifts.
- Mica Computer Services, Azimo st. (Opposite Arusha Declaration Museum), ☎ 027-2506737, . 08:00-18:00. Friendly computer store in the heart of town selling computers, accessories and software. Toner and ink cardridges, empty CD's and DVD's. Will burn your pics for free of charge. (S3.36911,E36.69079)
Arusha has a wide variety of restaurants and informal eating places, with a predominance of Indian cuisine. Meals range from US$ 0.40 for street fare to $15 for main courses at the high-end hotels.
A typical lunch of chicken and potatoes
- Africafe Coffee House, Old Boma Road (near to the Clock tower). 8-20. Stylish cafe, good coffee specialties, delicious pastries like carrot cake and muffins, breakfast, burgers, salads. Despite the name, they serve real coffee and no Africafe instant coffee. Sometimes there is WiFi. from 2.500 TSH.
- Bay Leaf, 102 Vijana Road. Elegant European style restaurant with absolutely delicious, though rather pricey dishes. You can sit inside or in the garden. from 20.000 TSH.
- Big Bite. Indian restaurant. The food is great, genuinely Indian. TSh5,000 ($3.75)/=.
- Cafe Bamboo Restaurant. Higher end cafe/restaurant, but inexpensive for foreign travelers. Great snacks such as samosas, chips and kebabs. Also serves western, Indian and traditional African dishes. Popular amongst tourists.
- Dragon Pearl, (Old Moshi Road just past the Impala Hotel Roundabout). A good place for Chinese food in Arusha, moderately priced. Say hi to Louie for a special deal!
- Khan's Chicken on the Bonnet. Pakistani BBQ, includes chicken, beef, mutton, assorted salads, and nan. Arguably best BBQ in town (rivals with Nick's Pub in Njiro). Two locations, one in town center which serves as a car repair shop by day and bbq venue by night, newer location at cinema in Njiro. 4500-9000Tsh ($3-7)/person.
- L'Oasis Lodge, Close to idara ya maji, Sekei Arusha (Access road Moshi/Nairobi Rd.), ☎ +255 757 557 802 ([email protected]), . 7am - late. A favorite with guidebooks and expats. Go for a mountain of Kili nachos, or just grab a cold drink in the garden or by the pool. Finish with the renowned chocolate pot. No reservations needed for groups below 10.
- McMoody's. 7am-10pm, 7 days a week. Has a little bit of everything in a fast-food-y setting right in the center of town. They also have a branch in the complex in Njiro Road near the cinema. Prices are reasonable. Breakfast including eggs, bread and coffee/tea is 1400TSH ($1). Their steak is a must, as are their desserts.
- Onsea House Restaurant, ☎ +255 787 112 498. Renowned as best French/Belgian restaurant in Arusha. Recommended for a romantic candle light dinner or special celebration. Reservations recommended.
- Shanga River House, Dodoma Road (on the road to Arusha Airport), ☎ +255 784 841 555 ([email protected]), . 10-17. Lunch Restaurant and Cafe in a quiet and peaceful garden setting. For coffee and cake, you can sit on the sofas in the garden. Lunch is a set four course meal and by reservation only. They also run a shop with beautiful locally made things.
- Via Via Cultural Cafe, Old Boma Road (in the gardens of the Natural History Museum, next to the AICC building). 9.30-?. Nice and quiet setting, popular with ICTR employees. Concert and Party every Thursday night. You can also book cultural tours there. from 6.000 TSH.
The ring—Arusha's city center
Arusha has many interesting bars and restaurants. As a rule the best food is Indian, thanks to the large sub-continental community in the city. Liquid Blue in Njiro and Big Bite on the Swahili Road are among the most popular Indian restaurants. For 'Nyama Choma', or Tanzanian roast meat, Nick Bar in Njiro is also popular. There are uncountable local bars which are generally welcoming to adventurous foreigners. The less adventurous visitors stick to Via Via, in the grounds of the old German fort, which is an interesting cultural center and part of an NGO which trains locals in the hospitality industry.
There are plenty of options for bars and restaurants for those who for some reason seem to wish to avoid locals altogether; these places are very easy to find.
For nightclubs, the Colobus Club, Maasai Camp, Triple A, 777 and Polygon Triangle are popular with locals and foreigners alike. They start late and finish very, very late (or early). Pickpockets have been known to operate and all these bars are popular with the local sex workers so the usual discretion should be applied.
Arusha has plentiful accommodation to cater to all ends of the scale. There are many hotels in the center of the town, including the international-grade Impala Hotel and the Arusha Hotel (see below). You won't get any surprises in this sort of accommodation. At the highest end of the scale there are numerous luxurious lodges in and around the city, some of which offer stunning scenery and the best standard of accommodation.
Be sure to avoid touts (people hired by hotels/hostels to get travelers to stay there). If you are traveling as a couple, a good idea is for one person to sit in a lobby or restaurant with the bags, while the other scopes out rooms. You are likely to get a cheaper price without the bags, and not be targeted by sneaky touts (they signal reception or hang around behind you) which will raise the price $5-$10 for you for their commission.
For budget travelers, many recommend the Maasai Camp (about 45 minutes walk from the city center) or the Snake Park (which is in a village called Meserani, about 16km out on the Dodoma Road). These are both lively locations with popular bars and good services at a very low price. For a quieter stay, Centre House, run by nuns is located a few minutes walk from the clock tower and offers basic rooms, both dormitory style and smaller rooms. Food and drink (including beer!) is available from the sisters. Meru House Inn located in the center of town is another budget option with double rooms going for 7000 Tsh ($5) a night, clean rooms with shared toilet and showers - it also has a great, very reasonably priced Indian restaurant on the ground floor. However, Meru House Inn have been plagued by thefts recently, several guests have gotten things stolen from their room by staff.
Make sure to put your valuables/passport in a safe.
- Onsea House. A luxury B&B with only 5 rooms, Arusha's only boutique hotel, recommended as hip, relaxing hideaway just 7 km out of the center. $185.
- Kigongoni Lodge. run by an NGO. All the profits go to support a local school for mentally handicapped children so that you can stay in luxury while helping the nearby community.
- Annexe at L'Oasis Lodge, Close to idara ya maji, Sekei Arusha (Access rd Moshi/Nairobi Rd), ☎ +255 757 557 802 ([email protected]), . 12 twin bedded rooms in the gardens surrounding the main lodge in the village Sekai, including access to lodge facilities. About 10min drive from the town center. Bookings not essential but much appreciated.
- The African Tulip, 44/1 Serengeti Road. A small, well-liked luxury hotel for a reasonable price. $230.
- The Arusha Hotel, Clocktower Roundabout. A 4-star histopric hotel with modern, well-decorated rooms and lovely staff. The oldest hotel in Tanzania dating back to 1894 and set in 4 acres of mature and magnificent gardens. $160.
- The Impala Hotel, Old Moshi Road. A 3-star hotel with mixed reviews. Some rooms are lovely and spacious, while others disappoint. Ask to see your room before committing. $145.
- Mount Meru Hotel, Moshi Nariobi Road. Set in a wildlife sanctuary, so you can sip your coffee ten feet from ostriches and monkeys. $90.
- Arusha Naaz Hotel, Sokoine. A good option for travelers on a budget who still want a private room in a safe, central location. Don't expect luxury, but it's a good, basic place to stay. $50.
- Caanan Hotel (+255 732 975 127), Mianzini (Nairobi Road next to the white petrol station), . checkin: 12:00; checkout: 11:00. A midrange (3 star equivalent) 18 bed hotel. All rates include breakfast, dinner is available and you can give a half days notice, the hotel will arrange free transport for you from any where in the City Centre. Ideal if you just jumping off the Shuttle bus in Arusha. $19.
- Arusha Backpackers, Sokoine Road (Near bus station). Someone at Arusha Backpackers entered my room using a key, stole my camera, and relocked the door. Be very careful if you stay here. $20/dbl.
- The Bay Leaf Boutique Hotel, 102 Vijana Road ((Corridor area of Arusha) Pass the Impala Roundabout on your way north on 'Phillips' road; turn left just after the first speed bump; there is a sign on the road; second property on the left.), ☎ +255 27 254 3055, . A small Luxury Boutique Hotel. 6 rooms, all individually decotated. Very chic & with extreme attention to detail. Walking distance to banks, local attractions and the clock tower. Lunch: 11:30-15:30 (average: Tsh 10,000-12,000) Dinner 18:30-22:30 (Average Tsh 20,000-40,000) $200-$350.
- Tumaini Cottage, P.O Box 1814 Arusha (Make a left before you reach Happy Sausage from Nairobi road, then follow the road all the way to the end.), ☎ +255 754 588 698, . wireless internet. United States representative at 317-987-1066.
Arusha is a moderately safe city by African standards, though precautions should be observed. It is not advisable to walk at night, alone or in groups - cabs are plentiful but fares should always be agreed upon at the start of a journey (cabs have no meters, making it all to easy to exaggerate fares at the end of a journey). The city itself is reasonably safe during the day, although foreigners are virtually guaranteed to be approached by touts. This can be intimidating, especially when they latch onto and follow you, but they are usually harmless. In this case do not stop, slow down or make eye contact; simply say "hapana asante" (no thank you) if they ask or offer you anything. You will save yourself a lot of bother if you do not engage them. When walking in any part of the city beyond the central district, it is advisable to take a guide. The bridge on Old Moshi Road is a particularly notorious mugging spot, and although often patrolled by police it should be avoided if on foot.
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