Want to know how easy (or difficult) it is to travel in Tanzania? I’ve been here for 4,5 years, have pretty much tested every option and I can assure you it’s less confusing than it might seem at first. Here’s everything I know about the different transport options in Tanzania and how to best use them!
This article specifically addresses traveling in Tanzania. Want to know more about transport for traveling to Tanzania? Have a look at my ‘Know before you go’ travel info.
Travel in Tanzania: by plane
Traveling by plane is – obviously – the fastest option for covering long distances. And you’ll probably be covering long distances as Tanzania definitely is big! The busiest tourist areas in Tanzania are Kilimanjaro region with Arusha and Moshi, Dar Es Salaam and Zanzibar and flights between these places are frequent and usually very affordable. The airports in these areas are:
- Kilimanjaro International Airport between Moshi and Arusha
- Arusha Airport: no international flights but flights to eg. Zanzibar
- Julius Nyerere International Airport in Dar Es Salaam
- Abeid Amani Karume International Airport in Zanzibar
You can fly from Kilimanjaro Airport to Dar Es Salaam or Zanzibar in 1 or 1,5 hours so it really is a quick and easy way to travel in Tanzania. I recommend using websites such as Skyscanner to find flights, which I always do for my own travels.
Of course there’s a lot more than just these 4 airports and you can find a full list here. As you’ll see, there’s also several airstrips and a lot of these are located inside national parks. It’s usually pretty expensive to fly here but if you’re short on time and have the budget, you can save some time flying into the parks rather than driving there. The best way to book these flights are through a tour business as they’re difficult to book independently.
If you’re looking for cheap ways to travel in Tanzania and get around the entire country, busses are the way to go. Of course they’re much slower than planes but the good news is that they usually arrive around the announced time. It’s important not to underestimate driving times as the roads here are not made for driving fast or overtaking easily. Between Moshi and Dar Es Salaam, eg., there’s only about 550 km but it takes 10 hours.
Busses DO overtake whenever they can and some of them tend to really push the limits of how far they can go, so it might be best to avoid them if you don’t feel safe in those conditions. Partly for this reason I wouldn’t recommend taking busses at night, the other reason being personal safety during the ride and on arrival.
There’s different types of busses for long and short distances:
These are minibusses that connect the areas outside of the larger towns/cities to the centers. They’re pretty uncomfortable but super cheap so if you’re on a very low budget, they’re one of your best bets. Daladalas are not the easiest to figure out so here’s a bit more about how they work as well as my advice on how to use them.
- Every daladala has its fixed route that you can read on the outside. This is the hard part and I’ve honestly never figured it out but you can simply ask someone from your hotel to tell you which route to take and where exactly the bus passes. If you take the daladala from the bus stop in town, simply ask around, there’s always people trying to get clients to their busses that also know about the other routes so they’ll be able to help you.
- They stop at the main bus stops in the city centers and outside of that they have fixed stops but these are not indicated, so again ask your hotel for the exact location where you should wait. To get off, just tell the ‘konda’ (the person opening the door and collecting the money) approximatively where you want to go and he’ll make sure you get off.
- Daladalas usually have regular stops outside of the city centers but only very few inside of them. For moving around in the centers, other options are available, which I’ll tell you more about below.
- If you take a daladala from the bus stop, you’ll have to wait until it’s full before it leaves. Daladalas don’t have fixed schedules.
- Daladalas are dirt cheap. For a short ride of a few kilometers, count around 400 TZS or less than 0,20 USD. For a slightly longer trip, eg. Moshi to Marangu which is about 1,5 hours, you’ll pay 1500 TZS.
- Get ready to give up your private space. Completely. You’ll see.
- If you need to transport big luggage in a daladala, be prepared to have it shoved under some seats or put on top of the roof, in the dust.
Coasters are something between a daladala and a big bus and are named after the Toyota Coaster as most busses of this size are actually Toyota Coasters. These are often used for transport between cities and can cover pretty long distances. Just like daladalas, coasters will give you a whole new understanding of the word ‘full’ (think 5-6 people on a row with 4 seats) so I don’t recommend using them for anything over 2-ish hours if there’s big busses available (see below). Personally I’ve used them for trips of 10+ hours, 4 of which were over a bumpy dirt road and I easily survived, just don’t expect much (any) comfort. There’s space on the roof for luggage as well but no inside storage for big luggage. A trip between Moshi and Arusha (2 hours) eg. will cost you around 2500 TZS or just over 1 USD. Depending on where you travel from and to, they either leave when they’re full (usually between busy cities) or at a fixed time (this is most often the case for departures from small towns).
Coaches are ideal (ok that might be an overstatement but they’re good options) for traveling long distance. They either leave from the main bus stand or have their own office and these offices are usually located not far from the main bus stop but it’s wise to check. These busses have fixed departure times, routes and stops and it’s recommended to arrive about half an hour early and check availability / book a few days before. Be aware during Christmas time, some coaches are completely full, so you might want to book much longer in advance then. They have closed storage for luggage. If you’re looking to travel between busy cities, there’s usually more companies than you can count so it’s good to ask locals about their advice.
Busses come in different classes and often the same company has different classes. Options are standard, luxury and VIP (not all companies have all options). Unfortunately there’s no need to get twinkles in your eyes when they tell you it’s ‘luxury’. It’s not. I would say the luxury option here is just standard and leg space is very limited. But it’s normally clean, the AC works well and they make a few toilet / food stops. A ticket between Dar Es Salaam and Moshi or Arusha (10-12 hours) eg. costs 40.000 TZS or about 17 USD in luxury and 50.000 TZS or about 22 USD in VIP. VIP-seats have more leg space, are wider and have a thingy to put your legs. There is however only 1 company that offers VIP-seats for this trip and there’s only 6 of these seats on the bus, so book early. I wouldn’t recommend booking a standard bus as they usually don’t even have decent AC, but for some routes they’re your only option.
Travel in Tanzania: by train
I’m usually a fan of local aka uncomfortable train rides when I travel but I haven’t traveled by train in Tanzania yet. The main reason is that it takes 19 hours to travel from Moshi to Dar when the bus only takes 10 to 12 and on top of that the 1st class option (again, there’s no reason whatsoever to get twinkles in your eyes) is more expensive.
There’s 3 lines in total. Please check departure info at the local station as they’re usually not daily.
- Dar Es Salaam – Moshi. This line is being extended towards Arusha etc.
- Dar Es Salaam – Kigoma – Mwanza
- Dar Es Salaam – Zambia.
Alright, traveling Tanzania by car… Honestly, I wouldn’t recommend renting a car to travelers, unless maybe if you really have a lot of time. Here’s why.
For the record: I have my own car for daily use around town, have traveled to many places around the country with it and am pretty experienced at road tripping other places in the world. I love road tripping and independent travel and am definitely not a scared or stressed driver, but… I don’t know… I just don’t enjoy driving in Tanzania as much as I do in other places.
- The country is big and driving times are long so you’ll be exhausted all the time.
- Except for main roads, there’s hardly any tarmac roads but mostly rough roads which are also super exhausting to drive on. Some are in really bad condition and you have to drive really slow, avoid bumps and holes etc. In the rain season everything turns into mud and it can get super slippery so make sure you know how to drive in those conditions and that you know what to expect before driving somewhere.
- Nothing (and by that I actually mean nothing) is properly indicated and a lot of places worth visiting are far from any kind of main road so it’s difficult to get to places without help. Even if you do find it, once you get out of your car you might be faced with the same problem as things such as hiking paths, guesthouses in smaller villages, attractions etc. are also not properly indicated. Generally speaking, Tanzania simply isn’t really made for independent travel as they want to privilege local tour operators so in lots of places you’ll simply miss a lot if you don’t have a guide.
- Renting cars is not without risk concerning paperwork. If you rent with a bigger company you should usually be fine but if you rent from private people or companies, make sure you fully understand things like insurance and make sure you’re covered. In Tanzania, it’s not because the car’s insured that (additional) drivers or passengers are too. Make sure you know which papers, stickers and whatnot are needed because police checks aren’t just frequent, they’re everywhere.
- Talking about police checks… be ready to get pulled over all the time, and for them to find SOMETHING to make you pay all the time too. Generally they go easier on tourists but you have to be ready to deal with this without freaking out.
- There’s not towing services or anybody you can call for assistance in case of an accident or a breakdown so make sure you can handle it or know who to call in case of trouble.
- Safety whilst driving is much less of a thing in Tanzania than it is in certain other parts of the world. Imagine driving according to the speed limit on you side of the road right after dark when suddenly lights go on right in front of you because a bus is overtaking with no lights on… I can promise you there is NO fun in that.
If you do rent a car, make sure to get a 4×4 because you’ll absolutely need it. Check your travel insurance because accidents in 4×4’s are often not covered. And do not drive at night, because there’s almost no police checks at nights so people drive however they want and it’s just plain dangerous. Also if something were to happen to you, it’s just not safe to be out by yourself at night, especially with all your stuff.
I can of course understand if you choose the freedom of having your own car, but if you do a safari I’d definitely advise you to use a tour company. Not because I own one myself but simply because there is no way on earth you’ll have the same experience independently. Parks are huge and there’s also hardly any signs inside. Animals can be found in certain places and guides know where to look because they’re connected to other cars with a walkie talkie system but also because they know which animals live in which vegetation etc. And what if you have a flat tyre next to a pair of lions? I’ll be writing a separate article about the benefits and downsides of independent travel vs. organized tours in Tanzania where I’ll explain a lot more about this. I’ll link it once it’s finished.
Travel in Tanzania: by taxi, Uber and Bolt
More options to travel in Tanzania! Taxis aren’t really hard to find in Tanzania but they’re pretty expensive and you have to negotiate because they’ll almost always give you a higher price to begin with. In airports, ferry ports etc., look for taxi drivers with official badges and only get in the car with those drivers. In the rest of the country, I’d always recommend asking your accommodation or somebody else you trust for taxi drivers they recommend to be on the safe side.
In Dar Es Salaam there’s Bolt but this services is currently not available in other cities.
Taxis and Bolts are the only safe way of getting around at night.
There’s a few ferry services throughout the country, like one on Lake Tanganyika and one on Lake Victoria but I haven’t used these and can unfortunately not give you precise information.
A ferry service that I’ve personally used a few times is the AZAM foot passenger ferry between Dar Es Salaam and Zanzibar and this one is definitely the cheapest option to get to Zanzibar if you’re already in Dar Es Salaam. If you’re coming in by bus and are hoping for a connecting ferry, it’s important to check the arrival time and location of your bus and the departure times of the ferry. The last ferry leaves Dar Es Salaam (and also Zanzibar) at 4 PM. If you miss it, you have to book an extra night in a hotel and pay for extra transport in Dar Es Salaam and this might not be the most interesting option anymore.
Except for the ferry at 4 PM, there’s other services at 7 AM, 9.30 AM and 12.30 AM, in both directions. The trip takes less than 2 hours and costs 35 USD for non-residents in economy class. Other classes are available too and business class is only 5 USD more expensive than economy so it might be worth it but economy is just fine as well. You can find more information and book online here but you can also book at the AZAM booking offices which are located at the ferry terminals. Most hotels can also arrange it for you but you’ll probably pay more than the normal rate. Tickets usually sell out so it’s best to book as early as you can. If you book online, read carefully about payment as you can only book online but not pay online and you need to pay for your tickets at least a couple of hours before departure time or they can sell them to others.
Travel in Tanzania: by bajaji
A bajaji is a local tuk-tuk that offers space for 2 or 3 people and this means of transport is used a lot for shorter rides in and around town. You can either get a bajaji privately or join a shared bajaji. A private bajaji will drop you right where you want to but if you’re using shared bajajis you might have to change a few times or walk a bit.
Bajajis are cheaper than taxis, or at least they should be so don’t forget to negotiate. Prices start around 2000 TZS or less than 1 USD for short rides in a private bajaji and go up to a around 4000-5000 TZS for slightly longer journeys. Shared rides start at just 500 TZS.
They’re easy to find on the street and I’ve never heard of anyone getting in trouble for calling an unknown bajiji during the day. At night you should definitely avoid this as it’s not always safe, mostly not because the drivers are bad guys but because they’re a pretty easy target for ‘attacks’ such as thefts from the outside.
You can also use bajajis for longer distances and they will be more expensive in that case. Also keep in mind they’re not really comfortable, especially on bumpy rough roads.
By bodaboda / pikipiki
A bodaboda or pikipiki is a motorbike taxi that you’re supposed to use for just 1 passenger, although you’ll often see 2 passengers going ‘mishkaki’ as well. A mishkaki is a local meet skewer.
Bodabodas are cheaper than bajajis with prices starting at just 1000 TZS for a short ride in town but they’re not necessarily safe. Drivers usually don’t have an extra helmet and even that time the government decided to obligate them to do so, nobody really checked and most of them had helmets that didn’t even have straps to attach them and things like that. Some drivers also drive kind of crazy so it’s best to ask your hotel or somebody you know for a trusted driver. In general, be careful and keep in mind the restrictions of your travel insurance as it might not cover this risk.
Even more so than with bajajis, it’s definitely not safe to use bodabodas at night, so I advise you to stick to trusted taxis after dark.
Travel in Tanzania: by bike or on foot
I have to admit I’ve never used a bike in Tanzania in the 4,5 years since I live here, simply because I’m not tired of my life yet. There’s literally no facilities for bikes on the roads and people give way to cyclists and pedestrians way less than eg. in Europe or the US. I have friends who ride their bike to work every day over the quieter roads though so if you know where you need to go, it’s definitely doable but be careful.
If you’re not sure where to go independently, many tour businesses offer guided bike tours and these are great options for discovering the country, or a part of it, in a safe way and making the most out of it.
Walking is also possible but NEVER (ever, ever, ever!) after dark (also not in a group or with locals) and it’s best to ask your accommodation to tell you which areas are safe and in which it’s best to be careful. Eg. here in Moshi certain areas are known for robberies of pedestrians by people sitting on a motorbike, also during the day. This might sound a bit negative but not once in 4,5 years did I get stuck somewhere because I couldn’t walk as there’s basically always other options available.
Which one is your favorite? Let me know in the comments!