Dar es Salaam
Dar es Salaam (Haven of Peace in Arabic) was founded in 1862 by Sultan Seyyid Majid of Zanzibar on the site of the village of Mzizima. Mzizima's history dates back to the time when the Barawa people started to settle and cultivate the area around Mbwa Maji, Magogoni, Mjimwema, Gezaulole and Kibonde Maji Mbagara.
Present day Dar es Salaam's origins have been influenced by myriad of Sultans, the Germans and the British. The city started as a fishing village in the mid 19th century, is now Tanzania's largest city, and has become one of East Africa’s most important ports and trading centers.
With its great atmosphere, mix of African, Muslim, and South Asian influences, picturesque harbour, beaches, chaotic markets, and historical buildings, it is well worth extending your stay beyond the time between flights.
Dar es Salaam's weather is humid and hot during the dry season from September to March, and humid and cooler following the long rainy season from June to August. Dar has two rainy seasons, the short rains from late-October to early-December and the long rains from March to June.
During the dry season temperatures can easily soar to above 35°C in Dar. You should seek shelter from the sun during the midday heat and use copious amounts of sunblock, SPF 30+.
Best times to visit are:
North Americans and Europeans can obtain tourist visas upon landing in Dar es Salaam at a cost of US$50 (US$100 for US passport holders) paid in US dollars. However, some may prefer to get a visa before arriving. A visa can be obtain from the Tanzanian High Commission/Embassy. Fees are US$50 and you will need a passport sized photograph. Normally ready same day.
At the airport, stand in the visa line, which is on the right hand side of the queue for passport control. It can get a bit hectic because several international flights arrive almost simultaneously, so ask others where the queue starts. Once you've received your visa, there's no need to stop at passport control; they issue the visa and stamp you in at the same time, so just walk through to the baggage claim area.
Tanzania's main airport is located in Dar es Salaam, Julius Nyerere International Airport - (IATA:DAR) (formerly known as Mwalimu Julius K. Nyerere International Airport and Dar es Salaam International Airport).
Dar es Salaam is served Internationally from:
And Domestically by:
Warning: Domestic flights are often late but generally reliable.
Buying Tickets: When purchasing tickets for domestic flights with a credit card, travel agents will add-on a fee ranging anywhere from 3-6% of the ticket price. To avoid the fee, pay for your tickets in cash. There are no additional fees when purchasing tickets for international destinations.
There are two trains running out of Dar Es Salaam from different stations. Tanzania Railroad is a train that travels through the center of Tanzania to Dodoma and further West, even up to Mwanza; however, the train tends to be unreliable, not terribly pleasant, and full of thieves. Tourists should try to travel in groups, and/or buy out a first class cabin. Keep the doors and windows locked, especially when sleeping. The train travels at walking pace much of the time, so it is possible to buy fresh fruit, eggs, and other items out of the windows all along the way.
Tazara runs a much nicer, though not much more on-time train to the south, which goes through part of the Selous Game Reserve, through Mbeya, and down to Kapiri Mposhi in Zambia (about 2 to 3 hours from Lusaka). Tazara has a large train station just out on the edge of town. Visas for Zambia are available on the train. This is a nice but slow way to travel, as it takes about 2 days.
Bus travel is generally reliable if you pick the right company. It can be somewhat scary as Tanzanian's seem to value arriving quickly more than arriving safely ('Mungu akipenda, tutafika' - If god wants it, we shall arrive).
Scandinavia Express is your best bet for a reliable schedule, a comfortable ride (many of the buses have air conditioning), and timely stops. Scandinavia run their own bus station in Dar Es Salaam, and tickets should be purchased ahead of time.
If you're traveling to Arusha, Royal Coach is perhaps an even better option. The buses are very nice, have a/c, a bathroom, and travel at 80kph for safety.
The Royal Coach ticket office is located down town near the Jambo Inn and Econolodge: buses leave from here early in the morning as well.
All other buses leave from Dar Es Salaam's central bus station in Ubungo, just west of the city (about 5000 to 7000 Tzs taxi ride from downtown). Here you can find buses to the majority of other cities. Although there are many touts outside of Ubungo's ticket area, they are mostly harmless. If you are put off by them, ask the taxi to take you inside the station for a small extra fee. The ticket offices are located just outside the station, though you can buy the tickets from the bus if you have entered already. This might be a better idea regardless, as you cannot tell the state of the bus from outside, nor how full the bus is (buses will only leave when completely full).
Warning: Some of the cheaper lines run buses which are remarkably dilapidated, uncomfortable, will take a very long time to fill up, and will likely have to stop more often on the way, assuming they make it at all. Bus travel by night is not allowed, so most buses except for those to nearby cities will leave early in the morning.
See the By car in the Get In in the Tanzania article.
Walking around central Dar is a nice way to see the city and probably the best way to get around. In general people will leave you alone except for the occasional greeting. There aren't many sidewalks in Dar so exercise caution when walking along busy roads.
Cycling around Dar is possible but can be difficult and scary. You should be comfortable with cycling in high-congestion areas where cyclist are often low in the food chain. Tanzanians have little patience when driving and in their mind any vehicle smaller than theirs is responsible for getting out the way. Wear a helmet and hone your defensive cycling skills.
Some local tour groups offer guide bicycling tours around the city. This is a good way to get further a field and interact with the locals.
NOTE: I'm compelled to share my observations of some cyclists I've come across while living in Tanzania. While driving around the city in my car, I often come upon individuals cycling on some of the most dangerous roads in Dar. Toure Drive, Ocean Road, Haille Selase, just to name a few. In a majority of the cases the cyclists are well equipped with protective gear and mirrors and in most cases only cycling along these roads when absolutely necessary. But every once in a while I drive by someone who thinks they are taking a leisurely stroll in Hyde Park or Central Park without a care in the world, not wearing a helmet and in some cases meandering in the road. I feel little compassion for these people who appear to have some kind of death wish or possibly suicidal tendencies. It takes about 2 seconds to realize that vehicles on these roads drive in excess of the speed limit and in many cases in excess of the drivers skills. For tourist renting bicycles, ask before you jump on the bike and take off. Trust me you don't want to end up at the local hospital in need of emergency surgery because it seemed like a nice thing to do.
Car hires can be organized through most hotels. Tanzanians drive on the left. Like many developing countries, driving in Dar can be stressful, difficult and dangerous. In addition to potholes, drivers must contend with aggressive taxis and dalla-dallas (see below), poor driving skills by western standards, large potholes, uncovered manholes, few if any streetlights at night, and thieves who remove any exterior part of your vehicle while you’re stopped at traffic lights. During the rainy season you must also navigate through water covered roads that may hide deep potholes and around Tanzanians who dart out into traffic in an effort to get out of the rain, often with little children in tow. In conclusion, driving in Dar should be left to those with driving experience in developing countries.
Choice of vehicle
Driving in the city
Note: Carjackings are uncommon but opening doors or jumping through open windows to steal valuables is not. Keep your windows closed and doors locked. As of February 2008, reports have arisen of thieves aiming for golden and silver earrings at traffic lights, simply ripping them out. When stopped at traffic lights or parked in unattended locations, thieves have been known to steal mirrors, paneling, spare tires and anything that is not either engraved with the license plate number of bolted to the vehicle's body. Choose your parking spots carefully and don't leave valuables in plain sight. You can either offer the parking attendant a small tip to watch your vehicle, 500 to 1000 Tzs, or find a secured parking lot, especially if your leaving the vehicle overnight. Hotels often provide such parking areas.
NOTE: A senior government official has suggested that the Government purchase helicopters to ferry officials and dignitaries to and from the airport and around town in a bid to reduce traffic congestion. Needless to say that this request was not well received by representatives from the various donor countries and international aid agencies.
Taxi fares are not fixed. Dar's taxi drivers consider almost all trips within the (poorly defined) city center to be worth a minimum of 2000 Tzs. This can actually be a good deal (one side of the city to the other in peak hour) or a bad deal (when it is a couple of blocks).
A price must be negotiated before your begin traveling, or the price will be considerably higher once you reach your destination. It is not customary to tip your driver. While there are many friendly and honest drivers, some will try their luck and quote an outrageous price to anyone who looks wealthy. Even if you can't see another taxi around, don't agree to it. Another taxi is sure to be just around the corner. It is quite practical to begin walking in the direction you want to go. You'll either find one on the side of the road or one will drive past. Cars owned by drivers are often maintained at a high level; taking a smooth air-conditioned trip around Dar is entirely possible if you know the right driver!
If you plan on hiring a taxi for a long journey, inspect the quality of the tires, which are often extremely worn.
Don't hesitate to tell the driver to slow down. "Pole Pole" in Swahili.
To/from the airport to/from the city center - the average price is 15000 Tzs. This can sometimes be negotiated down, especially if you pay in USD.
To/from city center to/from Msasani Peninsula - should run about 7,000 Tzs.
For a small premium, you can reserve a taxi for the whole day. This can convenient if your visiting a number of places and doing some shopping. You should be able to get it for 30000 Tzs.
The most common form of public transportation in Dar are mini-vans which go by the name "daladala". These vans ply a specific route with the start and ending point clearly marked on the front of the vehicle.
You can jump on and off anywhere along the route by simply yelling out, "Shusha!" (pronounced SHOO-sha).
Their popularity is due to the low cost, 200 Tzs per ride, and sheer numbers. However, tourists should be aware that drivers will pile in as many people as possible, there is no a/c, some drive like maniacs, and the overall condition of the vehicles is poor, with many frequently breaking down along the way. That being said, travelers should not hesitate to use them for getting around. Watch out for pickpockets as you get into and leave crowded vehicles.
It helps if you know a little Kiswahili and are at least a little familiar with the city when using daladalas. If you’re trying to get to the city center, hop onto any daladala marked 'posta'. They all go to the central post office. Since they tend to be very crowded, you should guard your belongings. This is especially true when you are at large bus stations such as Mwenge.
The best part is that locals will often strike up friendly conversations and are always willing to help you with your Kiswahili. Travel by daladala can be quite enjoyable so long as you are on the correct route.
Bahari Beach hotel, is about 20km to the north of Dar es Salaam along New Bagamoyo Road. The hotel charges a small fee for non-guests.
For a great day trip, head out to Bongoyo Island. Bongoyo is a small, uninhabited island just off the coast. The boat to Bongoyo leaves from Slipway, the upscale set of shops and markets on the Msasani Peninsula, just north of Dar es Salaam. A taxi from the city center should run you 7,000 Tsh. The first boat leaves at 9:30AM, with others at 11:30, 13:30 and 15:30, with a minimum of four people. The ferry cost 11,000Tsh and another US$5 for the marine park fee. The return ferries are at 12:30, 14:30 and the last one at 17:00. There is a small restaurant on the island which serves a variety of foods and drinks (chips, fish and chips, egg and chips, beer etc.). Another option is to buy food at the Shoprite at Slipway. You can relax without having to worry about anyone stealing your things. Take a hike around the island, or just relax under a banda on the beach. Bandas are free but a chair cost 1,500Tsh for the day. On the weekend, be sure to get on the first ferry if you want a banda, it gets very busy on Saturday and Sunday. When you come back, you can get ice cream or meal at several of the Slipway restaurants and watch the sun set. You can also check out the Tinga Tinga paintings at the market.
There are quite a number of night clubs in Dar es Salaam. Probably the most popular is Bilicanas, which is lively and sometimes not quite as full of prostitutes as the other clubs. It is popular with locals and ex-pats alike. Music is varied, depending on the night, from local to Congolese to dance to hip-hop. (The only time I've ever heard hip-hop played right before Aqua's "Barbie Girl"; the place goes nuts when they play the cheesy songs). California Dreamers is another club, but it is too full of prostitutes to recommend. There are numerous other smaller clubs that can be fun, but harder to get to.
If you like to have a chillout evening, the Mediterraneo Lounge has a large collection of chill-out music. At the Mediterraneo Hotel & Restaurant Lounge you can enjoy the fantastic view of the Indian Ocean while sipping your favourite drink, and listening to the best lounge & chill-out music in Dar Es Salaam.
For kangas (or khangas), colorful, sarong-like pieces of cloth with Swahili sayings along the bottom, try Kariakoo market or the cloth market on the streets around it. The market has moved a bit recently, but check around south end of Jamhuri St., where there are many textile shops. Here you can also buy kitenge, twice the length of kangas and usually cut in half to form a complete outfit, for around Tzs 4000 each. Try asking in here if you want something like a dress made to measure. Kariakoo is also a good place for fresh food. Watch out for pickpockets.
In November 2006, the brand new "Mlimani City" shopping complex opened. As of early 2007, a "Shoprite" supermarket and a "Game" department store, both South African chains, are open for business seven days a week. Although it is a fair distance from the city center, it can be reached by taking a Dalla Dalla or taxi to the Mwenge bus terminal, and walking approximately ten minutes further past the craft market (see below).
Carvings and other touristy souvenirs can be found all over Dar. Remember that haggling is expected.
There is a fantastic craft market in Mwenge, the Mwenge Carvers' Market. Here you can watch many of the artists make the crafts that are sold throughout the country (although some crafts sold in Tanzania are imported from Kenya). Prices range from expensive to extremely cheap. There are many stalls selling similar things, and if you are savvy, you might be able to pit the vendors against each other. The perk of the Mwenge market is the sheer volume of crafts to choose from. If you like the style of something at a specific store (they tend to carry items made by one or two artists), and you have some time, you can meet the artist and have them custom make something for you. The market closes at dusk. Shopping around this time gets you the best deals.
There is a smaller market at Slipway, which is the best place to get Tinga Tinga paintings and large batiks.
If you run out of things to read, there are some surprisingly well stocked English language bookshops called A Novel Idea. One is located at the slipway and the other next to Steers on Ohio street.
If your looking for an authentic shopping experience, a visit to Kariakoo market, especially on Saturday morning, could be just the thing. WARNING: This is not for everyone. The market is VERY crowded and for some the smells and noises can be overwhelming. If your keen but hesitating, it might be best to find a Tanzanian friend or person familiar with the market to help you navigate around. DO NOT bring any valuables and only bring a small amount of money that you wish to spend, as pickpockets work the area and in the commotion your watch, cell phone, mp3, sunglasses and wallet can be expertly removed, or your nice leather handbag slashed with a razor. I’ve been to the market a fair bit and have witnessed many brazen theft attempts and successful thefts. Even seasoned Kariakoo shoppers occasionally fall prey to these sophisticated teams of thieves.
Haggling: Haggling is expected when purchasing almost anything in Dar. However, on several occasions I've observed unnecessary arrogant and aggressive behaviour from travelers trying to buy carvings and paintings in the various tourist markets. Although it is true that most merchants quote much higher prices to tourists than locals, sometimes three times the price, negotiations should still be undertaken with respect and good humour. Don't expect to pay the same as a local and don't be insulted when you aren't. The reality is that you probably have more money in your pocket than many Tanzanians see in a year. This also applies to backpackers. Remember the extra dollar or two you paid for that carving will most likely be used to buy food for the family. None of these merchants are rich. If you think it’s too expensive leave and look elsewhere, don’t call them thieves.
You can get all kinds of delicious meals in Dar. With a large native South Asian population, the Indian food is amazing. Although scattered all over the city, some of the best places are found in and around Zanaki Street.
Traditional Tanzanian food can be had on almost any street. From grilled meats to BBQ corn on the cob, and chips and eggs. If you're looking for something a little more sanitary, there are a number of small hotels and restaurants that serve a buffet style meal at lunch time which offers a variety of Tanzanian stews, deep fried fish and chicken, and vegetables. City Garden on Garden Avenue between Ohio Street and Pemba Road in the city center and the New Africa Hotel on the corner of Sokoine Drive and Maktaba Street are good choices. For something even more upscale, try the Sunday Brunch at the Kilimanjaro Hotel Kempinski. The restaurant on the ground floor offers a wide variety of Western dishes but also includes several local favourites taken up a notch. It's not cheap, about 25,000 Tzs per person, but if your interested in trying Tanzanian cuisine without risking gastrointestinal complications, it's your best bet.
The Retreat, between Kisutu and Jamhuri Streets, is open from Tuesday to Sunday and serves excellent vegetarian food and is a popular place with locals and ex-pats. Try a Thali. K Tea Shop just off of Libya Street, has great kebabs other Indian snacks. Istana serves an excellent buffet; cuisines change per day of the week. If you like Indian and Chinese food and especially if you're vegetarian, Alcove on Samora avenue is the place for you.
The New Africa Hotel has a popular Thai restaurant on the roof. The Golden Tulip on Toure Drive has a good Chinese restaurant. The newly renovated Kilimanjaro Kempenski Hotel has a very good oriental restaurant on the top floor, which serves a variety of Japanese, Thai and Malaysian dishes. Osaka off of Toure, serves Korean and Japanese, including very good sushi, look for the sign on the left when heading towards Sea Cliff.
For Italian-style pizza and pasta dishes, try Saverio's. Trattoria Jan on Kimwere has excellent food, but is a little hard to get to if you don't have a car. If you like to have a relaxing dinner while viewing the Indian Ocean, the Mediterraneo Hotel & Restaurant is the perfect place, you can find here a wide choice of Italian/Mediterranean dishes, homemade pasta and delicious seafood dishes.
A little-known and out of way restaurant called Addis in Dar (on Ursino Street) is superb. This Ethiopian restaurant offers excellent food costing about Tzs 7,000 per dish. They serve chicken, beef, lamb and vegetarian dishes (mostly stews, but some come without sauce) on a bed of injera, a moist and springy Ethiopian flatbread. The decor is fantastic and the atmosphere is excellent as well. Try the Ethiopian honey wine before your meal and the beautifully-presented coffee after.
For upscale meals, visit the Movenpick (formerly the Royal Palm Hotel), The Holiday Inn, Kilimanjaro Kempenski Hotel in the city center. Try the Slipway and Sea Cliff village if your on the Msasani Peninsula. The Oysterbay Grill, which serves a great steak, recently suffered a serious fire, but is slated to re-open in April 2007.
Near the budget hotels in the Indian quarter is a restaurant called Chef's Pride. It caters mostly to tourists, but is very reasonably priced. Milap is a vegetarian Indian Restaurant with very cheap prices. There's also a Subway near the YMCA (or YWCA?) that is air-conditioned, and a nice treat if you're hankering for some food of a western nature. The YWCA, near the Cathedral, has a delicious and cheap canteen where you can order a traditional Tanzanian meal for under Tzs 2,000. Steers on Ohio street has several restaurants in one area. Burgers, pizzas and Chinese stirfry.
But the best place to eat, both in terms of price and atmosphere, is on the street. Places to try include the corner of Morogoro road and Jamhuri street, or the large open space in front of the Dar Express bus company ticket office. Chips mayai (chips in an omelet) should be about 700 or 800 shillings.
You should only drink bottled water. A 1.5-liter bottle will cost you only 450 shillings, but you can also drink tap water if you've purified it with iodine tablets or boiled it.
Kilimanjaro, Serengeti and Safari (a stronger beer, 5.5% alcohol) are local beers and popular with Tanzanian's and foreigners.
Import beer available in Dar include Tusker, Ndovu, Stella Artois, Castel Lager and Heineken.
The Florida Inn near the UN building by the ferry port, offers South African Castle (pronounced "Castel") on tap, as well as nice air conditioning and a pool table.
Konyagi is a popular local gin, and its variant Konyagi Ice is comparable to hard lemonade and other sweet drinks.
Krest, bottled locally by Coca Cola, offer Club Soda, Tonic Water and Bitter Lemon drinks. Stoney Tangawizi (ginger ale) is one of the more popular soda drinks. Sodas come in glass bottles and you'll usually be asked to return the bottle or pay extra to take it, but they don't usually like that.
The only bar in the Indian section of Dar, near the budget hotels, is the New Protein Bar, down the street from Chef's Pride. Good food and cheap.
The cost of accommodation can vary from 1500 Tzs a night for very basic rooms to hundreds of dollars for the Movenpick. The YMCA (near Posta daladala stand) is the main place to stay and meet fellow backpackers. It fills up quickly. Items left in locked rooms at the Jambo Inn near Mnazi Moja have a way of disappearing, which can turn a cheap bed into a very expensive night.
If you don't want to spend too much and get a clean room together with a good service the CEFA Hostel could be the solution you're looking for. Situated in Mikocheni B, on Old Bagamoyo Road, this hostel offers accommodation, including breakfast, starting from $25. The hostel is run by CEFA, an Italian NGO that throughout this activity finances its rural development projects in the inner part of the country. Very kind staff, wi-fi connection available free for guests, a wonderful terrace with view on the sea and the possibilty to eat excellent italian food for less than $4. The place usually packs up quite quickly so it's better to book with some advance.
There are plenty of expensive hotels in and around Dar but here are some modern hotels which are reasonably priced:
Harbour View is currently (October 2007) fitting out two more floors and should have a restaurant and fitness center soon. . Tel: +255 22 2124040.
Dar also has its fair share of hotels which cater largely to foreigners traveling here for work. You can find the Movenpick, Kilimanjaro Hotel Kempinski, and Holiday Inn, just to name a few, in the city center and the Coral Beach Hotel on the Msasani Peninsula. In September 2007, the Sea Cliff Hotel was almost completely gutted by fire. This was a popular upscale hotel on the Peninsula with a beautiful view on the Indian Ocean. The adjoining shopping mall was left unscathed and many of the hotel's restaurants are now open for business after a thorough cleaning. It's unclear how long it will be before the hotel reopens.
If you're wanting to escape the city, there are a few upscale hotels just outside of Dar. Just off the road to Bagamoyo, New Bagamoyo road, about a 45 minute drive from the city center, without traffic of course, there is the White Sands Hotel. Some people may like this option as there are several scuba diving schools situated in and around the hotel. Ernst Prinsloo runs Sea Breeze Marine Ltd from the water park adjacent to the White Sands Hotel. His staff are professional and friendly. Email him at [email protected] or call +255 754 783 241.