Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s capital in everything but the name, is the country’s major port, and transportation hub. It serves as the gateway for the thousands of adventurers heading off to safaris, national parks, Mt. Kilimanjaro or tropical island paradise of Zanzibar.
The large and lively metropolis is an eclectic mix of Swahili, German, Asian and British architecture, painting a colorful portrait of its colonial past and more recent history. The city emerged as an important port due to its strategic position in the heart of the East African coast. The city’s grid system of streets was introduced by the German East African Company in the late 1880s. It was the nation’s capital until 1974 when it was replaced by centrally located Dodoma.
Dar, as this busy port city is nicknamed, is a comfortable place to spend a few days, exploring the colonial architecture, pleasant restaurants, colorful markets and vibrant music scene. You can catch traditional taarab orchestras, jazz bands, salsa, afro funk, rap, hip hop and bongo flava performances all over the city. To sample Tanzania’s best musical talent, visit during the B-Connected Festival in May and film lovers should experience November’s annual Euro African Film Festival.
Dar es Salaam has a humid tropical climate with little fluctuation in temperatures year round. June to early October is the driest and coolest period. The rainy season is from March to May, with the peak of the monsoon in April and lighter rains fall from November to February. The hottest months are from November to May but it is January when the temperatures soar. The best time to visit is during the cooler and less humid months, between June and September.
January average temperature 27 deg Celsius 71 mm rainfall February average temperature 28 deg Celsius, 63 mm rainfall March average temperature 27 deg Celsius, 127 mm rainfall April average temperature 26 deg Celsius, 269 mm rainfall May average temperature 25 deg Celsius, 183 mm rainfall June average temperature 24 deg Celsius, 33 mm rainfall July average temperature 23 deg Celsius, 28 mm rainfall August average temperature 23 deg Celsius, 25 mm rainfall September average temperature 24 deg Celsius, 28 mm rainfall October average temperature 25 deg Celsius, 48 mm rainfall November average temperature 26 deg Celsius, 84 mm rainfall December average temperature 27 deg Celsius, 94 mm rainfall
Julius Nyerere International Airport is Tanzania’s main airport, located 10 km from Dar es Salaam. The airport has two terminals and handles the majority of domestic and overseas flights.
Taxi: a ride to the city center costs around 20.000 TSh (the equivalent of 13 USD). Note that prices are higher at night. Hotel shuttle: Most large hotels offers shuttle services at request, and pick up or drop off their guests at the airport. Daladala (shared minivans) go to and from the airport, you can also use the minivan that goes in the direction of Uwanja wa Ndege.
Minivans operate specific routes and the name of the destination is marked in front of the vehicle. The ride is very cheap and you can stop them anywhere along the route. However, they are usually very crowded and have no AC. Watch your belongings in these usually crowded vehicles.
Taxis abound in the city and can be hailed from outside most hotels and elsewhere. It is always advisable to negotiate the fare in advance.
Most of the central city can be easily explored on foot. It is probably the best way of getting around town. However, be careful on busy roads as there are few pavements.
Hiring a car in the city faces lots of problems. Potholes, chaotic traffic, aggressive drivers and deep pools during the rainy season, uncovered manholes, and almost no streetlights at night present the argument against hiring a car in the city.
In Tanzania traffic drives on the left. Visiting drivers will need a valid international driving license. For trips outside the city, consider hiring a 4 wheel drive or SUV.
The coast is lined with the hotels that are a popular weekend getaway, and the beaches are located to the north and south of the city. The north coast is not recommended for swimming, however the best beaches there are Kunduchi and Mbezi where visitors can snorkel on the reefs or take a dhow to the nearby island of Bongoyo. The unspoilt south coast is more tropical, with miles of white sandy beaches. These include Mikadi, Barcuda, Kipepeo, South Beach and Kim Beach.
Ras Kutani Beach, and the attached resort, is located 34 km south of the city on the Indian Ocean. The secluded, tranquil beach is famous for the thick mangroves and the variety of monkeys and birds. The white sands, the fresh water lagoon and cool winds provide a perfect getaway and a great place for fishing and snorkeling.
Coco Beach at Oyster Bay in the city area is a good swimming beach, mostly visited by the locals. It is patrolled by police during the day.
Pugu Hills Forest Reserve is located 25 km from Dar es Salaam. It is one of the oldest forests in the country and noted for its diverse wildlife, including hippos, lions, cheetahs, Colobus monkeys, and mongoose. It was declared a nature reserve in 1954, but has since shrunk in size considerably. The park is one of the major bird conservation forests in Africa and is home to over 80 bird species. It also features a spectacular bat cave. Stop in the nearby town Kisarawe, at the Natural Resources office to obtain a permit to use the hiking and cycling trails.
Bongoyo Island is a small, uninhabited island, located just off the coast and suitable for a day trip. There are several ferries, most leaving from the Slipway Mall complex on the western side of the Msasani Peninsula, and the ride takes just 30 minutes. The island offers some great hikes, and splendid beaches, as well as some wonderful snorkeling. There is also a small restaurant serving a variety of foods and drinks (grilled prawns, fish and chips, egg and chips, beer etc.).
Zanzibar is the best known island, but it forms, together with Pemba and Mafia Island, and numerous smaller island and islets, a coral reef barrier that is spread along the Tanzanian coast. As one of the major trading centers in East Africa, Zanzibar has been at the crossroads of cultures from Africa, Arabia and India for centuries. Slow-paced and exotic, it has long been a legendary tourist destination and East Zanzibar is famous for some of the world’s best beaches.
Zanzibar resorts are gaining acclaim as top class. In addition, the beautiful natural surroundings, crystal azure waters, beautiful white sandy beaches and lush vegetation all combine to make this a tropical paradise where visitors can enjoy scuba diving, snorkeling, island hopping, swimming with dolphins, as well as learning about Swahili culture and cuisine. This tropical paradise lies conveniently close to Dar es Salaam. Ferries leave the port regularly between 7:30 am and 3:45 pm but note that these times do tend to change. The journey to Stone Town, the port and capital of Zanzibar takes about an hour and a half. It is also accessible via plane either locally or from overseas.
There is no best time to visit as such but it is good to know that June to August is the dry season and the wet seasons are November to March and December to February, and be prepared accordingly.
Tanzania is one of Africa’s best safari destinations and Dar es Salaam is a great starting point for the northern and southern safari circuits. There are numerous national parks that abound with an incredible amount of wildlife.
The game reserves in the south and west of the country include Selous Game Reserve, Ruaha National Park and the Mahale Mountains National Park and are among the best bush safari destinations in Africa. Tanzania's most iconic safaris at the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater are also easily accessible from Dar es Salaam.
Ngorongoro Conservation Area
The fascinating Ngorongoro Conservation Area is a place of stunning natural beauty and biodiversity and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It covers an area of around 8300 sq km, with Ngorongoro Crater at its center, extending through the Crater Highlands. It is located in Tanzania’s famed northern safari circuit, between the Serengeti and Lake Manyara.
The rich and fertile volcanic landscape is dotted with lakes and craters and is world famous for scenic splendor and natural grandeur and the main crater is said to contain the largest amount of wildlife in Africa. It is also the largest unbroken caldera in the world, measuring 260 square km and 610 meters in depth. The crater is a microcosm of Tanzania's safari scenery and famous for big game viewing.
The wet season (November-June) is the best time for bird-watching, canoeing and seeing waterfalls at their best. The dry season (July-October) is the best time to see the animals.
Serengeti National Park
The expansive grassy plains of the Serengeti are a soul-stirring experience. The largest (14,763 sq km) and most famous of Tanzania’s parks is packed with wildlife, especially between May and October, when wildebeest, zebra, mpala, warthogs, topi, gazelles and hyena can be seen in abundance. The best time to visit is during the annual wildebeest migration, when 2 million animals migrate from North to South in search of grass and water. They are followed by predators so this is the best time to view lions and other big cats.
Mount Kilimanjaro, located in the northeast of Tanzania, is Africa’s highest mountain. It is also the world’s tallest free-standing mountain, reaching 5,895 meters above sea level in stunning contrast to the surrounding scrubland. Kilimanjaro is actually an inactive volcano with three cones, Kibo, Mawenzi and Shira, and is one of the world’s most accessible of the very high mountains.
It is noted for its vast biodiversity, and is home to varied wildlife. The lush forests are inhabited by elephants, leopards, buffalo and small antelopes and primates. Higher still is the moorland zone, covered entirely in heather and dotted with giant lobelias. Above 4,000m, the landscape becomes a surreal alpine desert populated with just a few sturdy mosses and lichens. The highest belt is covered in ice and snow.
There are numerous routes to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro; six usual routes and several more demanding mountaineering routes. The Machame route is the most picturesque but also the steepest, and takes 6 to 7 days. The easiest route is Rongai, but the easier routes tend to be very crowded. Those who attempt trekking up the mountain are advised to properly prepare themselves both in terms of organization as well as physical fitness.
This is the country’s largest museum housing collections and exhibitions covering the diverse fields of archaeology, biology, ethnography, history and fine arts.
The Hall of Man is a collection of archeological finds, among which is a cast of a 3,6 million years old footprint of a hominid and replicas of rock paintings. Among the notable items are fossil discoveries of zinjanthropus (nutcracker man) from Olduvai Gorge, relics from the Shirazi civilization of Kilwa, and other remnants from the Zanzibar slave trade. The museum also features exhibits from the German and British colonial periods. In 2003 a related project was launched, and the House of Culture was devised as an attempt to revitalize the museum, adding an art gallery and a performance venue, as well as a visitor center, a children’s library, and a restaurant offering traditional local food.
Address: Kariakoo area Open: daily
The extensive market, one of the largest in East Africa, encompasses numerous city blocks and features an unending range of goods. Clothing, jewelry, stones and drums sit aside household and agricultural necessities. The busy market is also popular with pickpockets, so keep your valuables somewhere safe. Bring just the cash you intend on spending and ask either a reliable taxi driver or a Tanzanian friend to take you there.
Makumbusho Village Museum
Address: New Bagamayo Road at Makaburi Street Phone: (022) 270 0437 Open: daily, 9:30 am – 7:00 pm
The open-air museum, located 10 km from the city, features 18 authentic houses built according to the typical dwellings of various tribes from all over Tanzania. Visitors can also see local craftsmen at work at their weavings, carvings and paintings. Traditional dance and music performances are held Thursday and Sunday afternoons.
The Botanical gardens are located opposite the Karimjee Hall, next to the Tanzania National Museum. Even though the place has seen better times, it is still a pleasant stop on the city tour. Dating from the German colonial era, the tranquil garden offers a welcome respite from busy downtown Dar. Visitors can see several species of palms and ferns, as well as numerous indigenous plants such as purple bougainvillea, blue jacaranda, scarlet flame trees and red hibiscus. Here you can also see the coco-de-mer palm tree, native to the Seychelles. The garden is also populated by peacocks who roam the grounds freely.
Dar has a good selection of restaurants and eateries. The city center has several places open mainly during the day and mostly aimed at office workers. But many of the city’s hotels have restaurants and bars. The best place to go for dinner and drinks is on the Msasani Peninsula.
Local cuisine is delicately spiced and uses coconut milk and fragrant rice. Grilled fish and prawn curries and lobster dishes are popular in Zanzibar and the coast, as the Indian Ocean is a rich source of seafood. There is also an abundance of delicious tropical fruits, such as coconuts, pawpaws, mangoes, pineapples and bananas.
Local Tanzanian food can be tasted on every street. You can find grilled meat (mishikaki), grilled corn on the cob, and chips and eggs. A notch higher up the scale are small hotels and restaurants serving Tanzanian stews, deep fried fish and chicken, and vegetables, buffet style.
Tanzanian coffee is grown on the lower slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro. Tea (chai) is served very sweet in small glasses.
International hotels serve a big variety of international food and as Tanzania is home to a large immigrant population from the Indian sub-continent, one can easily find restaurants serving Indian dishes such as biryani, spicy curries and chapatti bread. City Garden Restaurant, located at corner of Garden Avenue and Ohio Street has garden tables, fast service and low prices. It offers a selection of African, Indian and Western meals and tropical juices.
Durban Hotel has good Tanzanian, Chinese, and Indian dishes at reasonable prices. Their specialty is fresh fish daily. Or, for a more upmarket and exotic experience, head to The Oriental at the Kilimanjaro Kempinski in Ursino Street.
Five countries join forces for the B-Connected Festival. It showcases local rap, hip hop, traditional, fusion, reggae and Bongo Flava artists at the Mnazi Mmoja Grounds. It is held every year on the last week in May. Tens of thousands of people from Amsterdam, Johannesburg, Dar es Salaam, Addis Ababa and Budapest are connected during the festival via artist exchanges, internet chats and live streaming.
East African Art Biennale Exhibition
Date: November of December (every other year, next one in 2011) Location: Alliance Française Exhibition Hall, Ali Hassan Mwinyi Road
Contemporary works by artists from around 20 countries, including Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya, as well as Europe, are on display at this biennial exhibition of achievement and talent from the fields of art, painting, sculpture and photography.
Euro African Film Festival
Every year the city plays host to the film festival, held at various venues, including the British Council and the Alliance Française. The festival takes place during the second and third week in November. Check the local tourist office for more information.
Sauti za Busara Festival
The name of the festival can be translated from Swahili, meaning "Sounds of Wisdom". It is located on the tropical island paradise of Zanzibar. The first four days are held in the Old Fort in Stone Town before the festival moves to other locations on the island. The program includes Swahili music, theatre and dance, African rap and hip hop artists.
The Zanzibar International Film Festival is the biggest film festival in East Africa focusing mainly on African film while reaching for international appeal and audiences. The festival’s main venue is in the enchanting port of Stone Town on Zanzibar Island.
FoodAgro East Africa, International Trade Exhibition
Date: September 24-26 Location: Dar es Salaam
Held annually, this is the largest trade event in Tanzania. As the hub of the East African market, the festival features exhibitors from all over east and Central Africa.
The exact dates of Islamic holidays depend on the moon: the most important is Eid al-Kebir, commemorating the moment when Abraham almost sacrificed his son; Maulidi, celebrating the birth of the prophet Mohammed; Ramadan, the thirty day fast; and Eid al-Fitr, East Africa's most important Islamic celebration, marking the end of Ramadan.
Dar has many lively bars, nightclubs and dance halls. Live music clubs are scattered around the city’s suburbs. Most of them have dance floor, a stage for live music and are often semi open-air.
Amana Club (OTTU Social Club)
Address: Uhuru Street
Popular venue with a long standing tradition, it is run by the Organization of Tanzanian Trade Unions. The best night to visit is Sunday, when the OTTU Jazz Band plays until midnight. Taarab music can be heard on Wednesday nights.
City Ambassador (Gogo Hotel)
Address: Morocco Rd, Kinondoni
The venue hosts less known bands.
DDC Kariakoo (DDC Social Hall)
Address: Muhonda Street, Kariakoo
The city’s oldest bar is a large venue and the famous DDC Mlimani Park Orchestra plays here on Sundays. Other nights feature Zanzibar Stars Modern Taarab, and traditional music.
Lango La Jiji (Club La Petite)
The hub of taarab, the club also hosts East African Melody on Mondays, and live taarab music on Sundays.
Address: Mwinyijuma Road
This is one of the city’s best live music venues. Its program includes FM Academia, Extra Bongo, African Stars, and Vijana Jazz.
The club has a varied program, different every day in the week. It features lively jazz bands, African Revolution, taarab, and several other types of bands.
This upmarket, seaside shopping mall features live music shows of various styles and is free to attend.
Vijana Social Club (New Vijana Club or Vijana Hostel)
Address: Mwinyijuma Road, Kinondoni
Located next to Mango Garden, the venue is home to Vijana Jazz on Sundays and features African Stars on Saturdays.
Little is known about the remote history of Tanzania. The earliest existing records date from the first century BC when tribes migrating from West Africa passed through the area. The area around Mbwa Maji had already been settled 1,000 year prior to that by the Barawa people. A coastal fishing village called Mzizma, meaning ‘healthy town’, emerged in the 19th century. In 1865 Sultan Majid bin Said of Zanzibar started building a city nearby, naming it Harbor of Peace, after the Arabic phrase bandar as-salām, meaning harbor of peace. After his death, the city fell into decline, but it re-emerged when the German East Africa Company built its station here and served as their administrative and commercial center.
MODERN (20TH CENTURY)
The city saw a proliferation and an industrial boom due to the construction of the Central Railway Line in the early 20th century. During the WW I German East Africa was captured by the British and renamed as Tanganyika. The British had previously also captured the island of Zanzibar which had until then been in the hands of Arab tradesmen. Dar remained the commercial and administrative center of the territory. After WW II the city was faced with a period of rapid expansion. In addition, the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU) was formed, and led to independence in December 1961. Dar was the capital until 1973 when Dodoma, located in the country’s interior, was appointed the national capital.
Today German influence can still be seen. The city remains a major economic and business center, as well as the country’s transportation hub. It is served by an International airport and lies adjacent to several prominent railroad lines and highways that connect it to the Middle East as well as Europe.
Tipping in Tanzania is not expected but it will be much appreciated. Leave a tip of 10% for waiters at the better restaurants. But since food is often included in the price of the lodging it is difficult to calculate a 10% tip on the bill, so the amount is discretionary according to how pleased you were with the service. Usually $10-15 per day is given to the servers, porters should get up to $2 per bag, and guides $10 per day.
The main taboo here is that the left hand is seen as unclean so it is never used for eating, or touching another person. Never hand something to another person or give a handshake with your left hand.
Religion in Tanzania is a mixture Christian, Muslim, and indigenous beliefs but on the island of Zanzibar most people are Muslim. As Zanzibar is a predominantly Muslim society, modest dress is required, especially for women in public places, when away from the beaches. Topless sunbathing is a criminal offence and smoking in public is illegal as well.
Swahili and English are the offi¬cial languages. There are also many local African languages, reflecting the tribal diversity of the country.
Try to learn a few useful phrases in Swahili: Jambo! - Hi! Habari yako? - What is your news? Nzuri, na wewe? - Good, and you? Asante (sana) - Thank you (very much) Karibu (sana) - You are (very) welcome
English is also widely spoken as it is the principal language of commerce.
Most visits to Tanzania are trouble-free and crime levels are quite low, but muggings and robberies do occur, as do forced withdrawals from ATMs. Practice the usual travel precautions and do not show off your valuables or money in public. Avoid attention by concealing cameras or large amounts of cash. Do not wear expensive looking watches and jewelry. Women should not walk around alone, especially on isolated beaches or streets, and especially after dark. Avoid using unlicensed taxis as some have the intention of robbing the unsuspecting tourist.
Areas of interest to pickpockets are the Dar es Salaam peninsula and Coco Beach, the Ubungo bus station and other places popular with backpackers. Travelers are advised to visit their physician 4 to 8 weeks prior to travel for any necessary vaccinations. Carry anti-malarial medicines such as Lariam (mefloquine), Malarone (atovaquone/proguanil), or doxycycline, when visiting all areas at altitudes lower than 1800 m.
When on safari: in the national parks, use only the official sites for camping. Prepare carefully for the trip and take all the necessary equipment. Seek local advice. Some parks are very remote so rescue and emergency help can be difficult. Follow park regulations and respect the wardens’ advice. Always use reputable agencies.
While at sea, beware that there is significant pirate activity in the Indian Ocean, even in the waters off Tanzanian coast.
Emergency Phone Numbers
Police, emergency, fire: 112 Dar es Salaam Police: +255 22 2117362