The only way to get under the skin of Africa is to travel overland. From luxury coaches to local ‘chicken busses’ the opportunities are endless. Tanzania is a big, diverse and beautiful country, with a comparatively functional transport and communications infrastructure that has just enough ramshackle appeal to let you know you are on the road in Africa.
As African frontier crossing go getting in and out of Tanzania is relatively straightforward. Border posts are grubby and a bit chaotic, but on the whole, so long as all your documentation is in order, passage is usually trouble free. Look out for money changers and other touts on either side.
Drive on the left hand side of the road
By Car: The main trunk road sin Tanzania are in good shape, and between Zambia and Dar es Salaam, Dar es Salaam and Nairobi and Mombassa, and Dar es Salaam and Arusha and Kilimanjaro, the roads are hard surfaced and suitable for two-wheel drive vehicles.
If you plan to hire a car in order to safari to any of the national parks, and particularly to the remote parks, then a 4-wheel dive vehicle is advisable. Even Serengeti and Ngorongoro offer limited access during the rainy season to 2-wheel drive vehicles.
Driving in Dar es Salaam can be pretty chaotic, and an aggressive approach is necessary if you are to make any headway. For a first timer it is worth avoiding Dar, although most of the other urban centers are smaller and much more restrained.
If you park anywhere in downtown Dar es Salaam parking touts will ‘mind your car’ for a modest tips. Often this is benign protection money. A common story circulates about a smart foreigner who pointed to the bull terrier sitting in the front seat of his car, commenting that his car did not need protection. ‘Can he put out fires?’ the little boy asked, upon which the driver conceded that discretion was the better part of valor and dipped his hand in his pocket.
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Road use standards are abysmal across the board. Make no assumptions and drive defensively at all times.
By bus: Local community bus travel is fast, frenetic, uncomfortable and wholly authentic. Standards of vehicle maintenance are exceeded in questionability only by the skills of the bus drivers. Sometimes scary, always memorable, this is for the young in body and resilient in spirit. There is no single road surface in Africa not accessible by these vehicles, and at least one bus journey is essential to get the feel of unadulterated Africa.
Several respectable scheduled coach services operate routes throughout the country and beyond. These are:
Tawfiq Bus Services Scandinavian Lines Royal Coach East African Shuttles
The best known rail line in East Africa is the Tazara system linking Dar es Salaam with Kapiri Mposhi in Zambia. It is an exercise in rough travel that operates twice a week (leaving Dar Tuesdays and Fridays). It is more comfortable than local bus lines, as is something of an adventure unto itself. Bring your own food and water, for the bar and dining cars frequently run out. It is always possible to by fruit and veg from vendors at all the stopping places.
Travel third or economy class at your own peril. First and second class berths are affordable and much more comfortable.
A domestic rail network links all the main centers which is an affordable option and is usually reliable.
Numerous ferry options operate between Zanzibar and the mainland. It is sometimes possible to catch a commercial dhow from Da es Salaam to Mombassa or Pemba Island, which is an exceptional way to travel. These are not scheduled departures and you need to test your luck, either from Dar or from Zanzibar itself.
Tanzania is well served by international and pan-African flight connections. The two main international airport in the country are Julius Nyerere International Airport situated adjacent to the commercial capital Dar es Salaam, and Kilimanjaro International Airport that serves tourist traffic to the main regions of Kilimanjaro, Serengeti and Ngorongoro. There is a third international airport on the island of Zanzibar, Zanzibar International Airport.
The main European connections are through KLM to Dar es Salaam via Kilimanjaro, a daily British Airways flight from London/Heathrow to Dar es Salaam and Swissair from Zurich to Dar es Salaam via Nairobi.
Three scheduled flights arrive in Dar es Salaam from the Middle east, and these are Emirates Air from Dubai, Qatar Airways from Doha and Air India from Mumbai.
The principal pan-African connections are South African Airways from Johannesburg, Ethiopian Airlines from Addis Ababa, Kenya Airways from Nairobi to Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar, with other connections from Egypt, Malawi, Zimbabwe and MoÃ§ambique
Tanzania also has a regular and reliable schedule of domestic flights serving all the main commercial and tourist destinations.