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 (IATA: JRO) has regular flights to Amsterdam with KLM, and to Addis Ababa, Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar and Nairobi. Kilimanjaro Airport is approximately 60 km (45 min) from the city centre. A taxi ride costs US$50 but many airlines run a shuttle service for free or US$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 US$50, or US$100 for some nationalities.
Arusha can be reached by express coach from Nairobi (Kenya, 6 hr), Dar es Salaam (12 hr), and Kampala (Uganda, 17 hr) 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 (US$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 Tsh 5,000 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 2-4 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 Tsh 15,000-50,000. 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 Tsh 5,000-7,000 (US$3-5). It is part of a modern complex on Njiro Rd, which also houses modern and upmarket restaurants including popular Indian restaurant "Khan's", steak outlet "McMoody's" and multi-cuisine restaurant "Spice Retreat". However, Njiro Rd 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 centre shouldn't cost more than Tsh 4,000 (US$3).
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.
- Ziara Safaris, Seiki, ☎ +255 24 2232119 ([email protected]), . Specialists in custom safaris in Tanzania, Kenya and Zanzibar
- Oreteti Cultural Discovery, Mianzini, ☎ +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.
- It Started in Africa (It Started in Africa), PO BOX 2548, Arusha, ☎ +255 714 904 558 ([email protected]), . 8AM-8PM. This travel agency offers probably the best prices while not cutting on quality. Part of their profits go out to help giving an education to local children who have no access to it.
- Safari Care, (TFA shopping complex westwing next to Shoprite), ☎ +255 27 254 8168, +255 787 999 551 ([email protected]), . 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, ☎ +255 27 2502713 ([email protected], fax: +255 27 2508547), . Safari company, owned and operated by an experienced anthropologist.
- Paradies Safaris Ltd. (Paradies Safaris Ltd.), POB 2632, Jacaranda Street, Elite Cinema Building, 2nd floor (follow A104 / Socoine Rd Crossing), ☎ +255 713 510334 ([email protected]), . 8AM-8PM. 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. (-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.
Beware of paying over the market price, you will still 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 centre 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 jewellery 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.
- The Maasai market, is a one stop shopping area for handicrafts made by local Tanzanians. you get to buy various handicrafts made of ebony, redwood ets and various types of paintings made by local artisans. There is a large scope for bargaining here.
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 US$15 for main courses at the high-end hotels.
A typical lunch of chicken and potatoes
- Africafe Coffee House, Old Boma Rd (near to the Clock tower). 8AM-8PM. 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 Tsh 2,500.
- Bay Leaf, 102 Vijana Rd. Elegant european style restaurant with absolutely delicious, though rather pricey dishes. You can sit inside or in the garden. From Tsh 20.000.
- Big Bite, Swahili Rd, ☎ +255 754311474. Indian restaurant been in Arusha for more then 20 years. Excellent food. They also do takeway & free delivery. Owners are very friendly and helpful. Tsh 10,000 (US$3.75)/=.
- Cafe Bamboo Restaurant. Higher end cafe/restaurant, but inexpensive for foreign travellers. Snacks such as samosas, chips and kebabs. Also serves western, Indian and traditional African dishes. Popular amongst tourists.
- Chinese Dragon. A good place for Chinese food in Arusha, moderately priced. Say hi to Louie for a special deal! 10,000-15,000.
- 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 centre which serves as a car repair shop by day and bbq venue by night, newer location at cinema in Njiro. Tsh 4,500-9,000 (US$3-7)/person.
- L'Oasis Lodge, Close to idara ya maji, Sekei Arusha (access via Moshi/Nairobi Rd.), ☎ +255 757 557 802 ([email protected]), . 7am - late. Nachos, cold drinks in the garden or by the pool. No reservations needed for groups below 10.
- The Lively Lady Bar & Grill, (opposite the Railway station, down the road with Arusha Backpacker's on the corner), ☎ +255 713 650777 ([email protected]), . 5PM-12 midnight, 6 days a week, (closed on Sundays). A small and funky rock-bar in the middle of town. Good European/Indian style kitchen, large collection of drinks and good rock-music to spicen up your evening.
- McMoody's. 7AM-10PM, 7 days a week. Has a little bit of everything in a fast-food-y setting right in the centre of town. They also have a branch in the complex in Njiro Rd near the cinema. Breakfast including eggs, bread and coffee/tea is Tsh 1,400 (US$1).
- Onsea House Restaurant, ☎ +255 787 112 498. Renowned as best French/Belgian restaurant in East Africa. Recommended for a romantic candle light dinner or special celebration. Reservations recommended.
- Shanga River House, Dodoma Rd (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 Rd (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 Tsh 6,000.
- Spice Retreat Restaurant, 1st Floor, Njiro Complex, ☎ +255 754 274977. 12noon-12midnight. Indian, Asian, Mexican and international cuisine. Views of Mt. Meru and Mt. Kilimanjaro on clear days. Also a nightclub. Tsh 5,000-15,000.
The ring—Arusha's city centre
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 Rd 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 centre 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 Velocity, 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 centre 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 travellers to stay there). If you are travelling as a couple, a good idea is for one person to sit in a lobby or restaurant with the bags, while the other looks at the 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 US$5-10 for you for their commission.
For budget travellers, many recommend the Maasai Camp (about 45 minutes walk from the city centre) or the Snake Park (which is in a village called Meserani, about 16 km out on the Dodoma Rd). 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 drinks including beer is available from the sisters.
- Meru House Inn, (in the centre of town). Budget option with double rooms going for Tsh 7,000 (US$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 has been plagued by thefts recently, several guests have experienced thefts from their room, possibly 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 from the centre. US$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 10 min drive from the town centre. Bookings not essential but much appreciated.
- The African Tulip, 44/1 Serengeti Rd. A small, well-liked luxury hotel for a reasonable price. US$230.
- The Arusha Hotel, Main Rd. 4 star hotel with modern, well-decorated rooms and lovely staff. US$160.
- The Impala Hotel, Old Moshi Rd. 3 star hotel with mixed reviews. Some rooms are lovely and spacious, while others disappoint. Ask to see your room before committing. US$145.
- Mount Meru Hotel, Moshi Nariobi Rd. Set in a wildlife sanctuary, so you can sip your coffee ten feet from ostriches and monkeys. US$90.
- Arusha Naaz Hotel, Sokoine. A good option for travellers on a budget who still want a private room with a/c, TV and internet WIFI in a safe, central location. Very pleasant staff and good restaurant. It's a good basic place to stay. US$50.
- Caanan Hotel, Nairobi Rd, Mianzini (next to the white petrol station), ☎ +255 732 975 127, . checkin: 12 noon; checkout: 11AM. 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 Rd (near bus station). The cost of the rooms are quite reasonable here. Along with rooms, you have a restaurant and a bar on the top floor of the hotel. Also, you have a internet cafe on the top floor for quick browsing. The other facilities available are 24 hr hot water facility in the bathrooms, a TV room, a reading room and also a massage room for those trekkers who are back from Mt Kilimanjaro or Mt Meru. They charge around Tsh 40,000 for 1 hour of massage.. US$20/dbl.
- The Bay Leaf Boutique Hotel, 102 Vijana Rd (corridor area of Arusha Pass the Impala Roundabout on your way north on 'Phillips' Rd; 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 boutique hotel. 6 rooms, all individually decoratated. Very chic & with attention to detail. Walking distance to banks, local attractions and the clock tower. Lunch: 11:30AM-3:30PM (average: Tsh 10,000-12,000). Dinner 6:30PM-10:30PM (Average Tsh 20,000-40,000) US$200-350.
- Tumaini Cottage, Arusha (turn left before you reach Happy Sausage from Nairobi Rd, then follow the road all the way to the end), ☎ +255 754 588 698, . Wireless internet.
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 too 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 Rd is a particularly notorious mugging spot, and although often patrolled by police it should be avoided if on foot.
- Mica Computer Services, Azimo St. (opposite Arusha Declaration Museum), ☎ +255 272 506737, . 8AM-6PM. 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)
- Teli Tech Computers, Azimio St/ Sokoine Rd (opposite Rusda Supermarket), ☎ +255 786 951 951, . 8:30AM-5:30PM. Well stocked computer store offering repair services, web hosting, cartridge refilling and more. Fast internet cafe and secretarial services. Common meeting point for volunteers.
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