How to plan a road trip in Tanzania without renting a car?
Tanzania is quite a wide country. The biggest city is Dar es Salaam (east of the country, by the coast), but the capital is Dodoma (in the center of the country). We were there for three weeks and there were still many places we didn’t get to explore. Below are a few ideas to help you start planning, but the best way really is to just improvise on the way. All prices quoted are as of November 2016, at that time $1 was around Tsh 2,000.
Where to go from Dar es Salaam?
- Zanzibar – you can take a ferry for $35, that’s payable in both dollars or Tanzanian shillings (for us, judging by the exchange rate they were using, it was better to pay in dollars)
- Moshi/Arusha – Moshi is the place where people start their Kilimanjaro hike from, it’s just about 30km away from Arusha; even if you’re not planning to climb Kilimanjaro, it’s a good spot to see the mountain from below. Every morning between 8am and 10am, there are buses from Ubungo Morogoro Bus Station (on Morogoro road, about 8km away from the city). They take about 10/12 hours and cost about Tsh 30,000 (about $15 – as of November 2016). From Moshi to Arusha it takes about 1 hour and costs about Tsh 3,000. Arusha is the place where most people start their Serengeti National Park adventure. The prices for a 4 days trip (3 days in Serengeti, one day in Ngorongoro) are around $650 to $750. There’re a lot of companies out there, the best way is to just walk around Arusha, get as many offers as possible, negotiate as much as possible, then check the feedback that the companies you’re considering have online.
- Kigoma – the main town at the shore of lake Tanganyika. Great place to swim, do snorkeling, observe fishermen, rent a kayak…it’s also the starting point for getting into Gombe National Park (the place where Jane Goodall did her research on chimpanzees), although you should be advised that getting there is quite expensive. To get to Kigoma from Dar Es Salaam, probably the best way is the 2 days train. Central Line operates from Dar es Salaam twice a week and goes to Kigoma via Dodoma. A first class ticket is around Tsh 70,000.
- Kapiri Mposhi (Zambia) – about 200km away from Lusaka (Zambia’s capital city), it’s the furthest point you can get to by train in Zambia.
Where to go from Arusha?
- Mwanza – the main town by lake Victoria, one of the biggest lakes in Africa. The lake is actually shared by three countries: Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya. Mwanza is also known as the place where “Darwin’s nightmare” documentary was filmed. A trip from Arusha to Mwanza should take around 12 hours, but some buses they use on this route are not very good. We got on a Mgamba company bus that broke 3 times, so it finally took us around 22 hours to arrive. It seems that the most reliable company on this route is Jordan. A bus ticket costs around Tsh 35,000.
- Kondoa and Kolo – Kolo is a small village where you can find rock-art sites. It’s a UNESCO world heritage and it has a lot of sites. The bus from Arusha to Kolo takes 6/7 hours and costs about Tsh 12,000. Once in Kolo, though, the fact that you don’t have a car/motorbike/bike might be in a pain in the ass because the sites are a few good kilometers away from the village. And since the way is not marked, you’re at the mercy of the locals. You also need to pay an entrance fee to get to the sites (Tsh 27,000) that comes with a free guide. The office usually charges Tsh 20,000 for a motorbike ride just to the Kolo sites, if you also want to see Pahi, Thawi or other sites, you have to pay extra. But maybe you’re a better negotiator. You can also try negotiating with a local who owns a motorbike instead of asking the office.
- Monduli – it’s a small village known for the high population of Maasai. It’s along Monduli Mountains, so there’re cool views. The bus to Monduli takes about 1 hour and costs around Tsh 3,000. You can also reach it by bike (it’s only 25km away from Arusha on the main road). If you have a relatively good map and a GPS, try to take smaller roads from Arusha-Moshi Road to avoid at least a part of the Sakoine road – it has a lot of traffic, not particularly nice to bike on, but doable. Even when it gets dark and you have no lights (but I’m not recommending it).
- Katesh – small village next to Tanzania’s fourth highest mountain, Mt. Hanang. Three times a month (on the 9th, 10th and 28th of each month) there’s a huge, colourful market where people from all over the area come to sell goods. The bus ticket is around Tsh 11,000 (at least that’s what I’ve paid, but for this one, I’m still not sure if it was over-priced or not).
These are just a few ideas, of course that there are many more things to see and many more places to go to in Tanzania. One of the places I would have liked to spend more time is the area around Morogoro. We took a bus from Morogoro to Kisaki and the views were just amazing, the mountains looked great for hiking, the villages we’ve passed seemed small and cute, perfect for camping or just staying with one of the families.