Through the trainwindow the nature of Tanzania looks breathtaking, so much different from all the African countries we’ve visited! The lush green mountains crossed by red soil roads, coloured rooftops and small rivers make it look like a poster. There is so much to see, clayhuts with people doing their laundry or working on the field, schools with children playing outside and as we hang out of the window everybody’s waving at us. They are so happy to see us, ahh there is that train again. The train of happiness!
We expected Tanzania to be so much more touristic but we were wrong. In the two weeks we were there we only met a handful of other tourists of which almost all we’ve met before in another country.
When going to the beautiful Tanzania with it’s friendly people you really must know some Swahili, so here’s a good start for you:
- Karibu (welcome) reply: Ahsante (thanks)
- Sana (much) example: Ahsante sana (thanks a lot) or karibu sana (very welcome)
- Jambo (hello) reply: Jambo
- Mambo (how are you) reply: Poa (cool)
- Habari (anything new?) reply: Nzuri (all is good)
- Kwaheri (goodbye)
Zambia to Dar es Salaam
After a train trip of 22 hours from Lusaka we finally arrive at the border of Tanzania. We don’t even have to get out of the train, the immigration officer comes to us. We have the $ 50,- per person and our passports ready for our visa, but when the two immigration ladies come in they check the billets closely and reject two ten Dollar notes. These are not good, she says. They are a bit older than the rest but other than that they look fine. I tell her this is all the money we have, but she shows no sympathy and gives us the ‘don’t mess with the immigration officer’ look
Yesterday we changed some Mozambican Meticais for Tanzanian Shilling with a fellow traveler going in opposite direction, so I show the immigration lady the Shillings and kindly ask her if we can pay the rest with this money.
Shit, now all we have left is worth € 2.00, but at least we are in Tanzania!
After a while a train lady passes by to take our order for lunch… can we pay with Dollars? Nope. Ok, we skip lunch. Only 23 hours to go.
We pass our time with reading, playing cards and watching people. At 18:00 the train arrives in Mbeya, where it’s fills up the watertanks. The water has been finished from this morning so we couldn’t wash anything.
When we wake up it’s 7:00 pm, we’ve had a reasonable night, the train shakes which feels like you’re in a cradle but there’s the noice and the stopping at stations along with a loud squeaking and honking. After we eat our last ‘weet bix’ breakfast we see the landscape has changed again, there are now high mountains as we pass the Udzungwa National Park.
Tanzania is amazing, looking like Indonesia with it’s huts in the lush green hills, banana trees, ricefields and palmtrees.
It has rained last night and today is hot, we have a fan in our cabin that helps a bit but it’s quite uncomfortable and sweaty. The humidity is not pleasant but the kids waving at the train like they see a spaceship makes everything okay.
Bruised and tired but filled with joy we arrive at Dar es Salaam trainstation exactly 48 hours after we left Kapiri Mposhi. Whoah, what a ride!
Dar Es Salaam
Dar Es Salaam to Moshi
We chose to book a flight after our long traintrip. The flight with Fastjet costs € 98.00 per person to Kilimanjaro, two days later this flight would be € 27.00 per person. We have only two weeks in Tanzania and we don’t want to stay in Dar es Salaam much longer.
The flight with Fastjet is on time and quite comfortable. We have one checked in bag, because we have some things that are not accepted as carry on. For one bag we pay € 9.00 extra. The lady at the check in asks us if we have any valuables in our bag, because ‘sometimes they open them’… uhhhh… we give her a nonchalant no, but the thought of your bag just being opened won’t leave our minds.
In the plane we meet a girl from Manchester who has lived her whole life in Tanzania until two years ago, so she could tell us a lot about the country. She says she’s experienced her bag being opened twice…
When we arrive in Kilimanjaro airport we take a shuttle bus to Mposhi for € 4.00 per person. There are guys with signs with prices on them at the entrance. Cheaper than a taxi and more comfortable than a regular minibus. It takes about 45 minutes to get to the busstation in Moshi.
Moshi & Kilimanjaro
We stay at ‘We Travel Hostel’ for two nights on the top floor of a building in the middle of town where we pay € 22.00 pppn. The hostel is nice and the personnel is very friendly. It has a rooftop terrace where you can see the street below.
Our room is a double room with private bathroom. The bed is very narrow but we sleep ok.
Close by are some nice restaurants and bars. We have lunch at a place called Pamoya cafe, a great place with reggae music and nice meals.
Great coffee at the Coffee Union cafe, which is a bit more expensive but has a great ambiance and some nice pastries.
We meet a couple from Canada in the hostel who we’ve met earlier in Tofo in Mozambique, that is so weird!
The three days we stay in Moshi the Kilimanjaro stays hidden in clouds so we are not going anywhere. On the rooftop terrace we enjoy a Fanta Pineapple (LOVE IT) and we decide to surf internet for some information about a safari to the Serengeti and the Ngorongoro crater.
Is send the guide a message but he’s doesn’t respond so the next day we take a dala dala, a minibus to Arusha, which is a bit closer to the parks and we’ll see from there.
A week later, after our safari and stay in Arusha we pass the Kilimanjaro just one more time and just when we decided it doesn’t exist, we can see a little snow covered tip of this enormous mountain. At least it’s something… we’ll drink Kilimanjaro beer to make up!
Moshi to Arusha
The driver confirmed us he was going to Arusha. The 1,5 hour trip is reasonably comfortable and for only € 1.00 per person we cannot complain. The bus is quite high so our bag fits perfectly inside the bus on the baggagerack.
After one and a half hour in a public bus we arrive at the Arusha busstation, where we immediately get overrun by taxi drivers and people who try to help. We walk away from the bus station and then take a taxi in a more quiet street.
Our guide picks us up from our hostel at 7 pm. Unfortunately the cook of the hostel is not there yet so we have to leave with an empty stomach.
We pick up the other couple and we get some food at a supermarket where we also buy some breakfast. Hopefully the rest of our tour is better organised.
The other couple is from Russia and we immediately get along. We drive for hours through beautiful green surroundings, Maasai villages and lake Manyara. The trees here are filled with storks, thousands of them! The leafs and the streets are white of droppings.
To get to the Serengeti we drive through the beautiful green Ngorongoro conservation area, a little sneak preview for the day after tomorrow… this looks promising!
On the flats feel like driving through a dessert on an endless road. Our Toyota Landcruiser is very cool and has everything we need. Together with the other couple we’re having the best time.
When we open the rooftop we can easily take pictures of anything we want, beautiful scenery and many close ups are saved in our memory and that of our cameras.
What a winner, we see three cheetahs eating their catch of the day. Unfortunately it’s just a little to far for my camera but we fill in the missing details with our minds.
Next are more lions, some male lions are relaxing in the grass and when we get really close we can shoot as many pictures we want because they totally ignore us. Our day is already unforgettable as we keep seeing lions. One walks along side our car up to a dead buffalo it probably caught the day before.
On our second night at the camp we make a campfire. There are now other guests as well so with about ten people we make ourselves comfortable by the warmth of the fire.
The night is nice and cool and when our alarm goes off it’s 5 am and ready to get going. A sunrise gamedrive through the savannah where animals are waking up and the sky turns orange just before it gets light.
Today we have a few other close encounters with the amazing wildlife of the Serengeti, a huge group of elephants cross our path and more lions hanging around. Lions are so cool.
At 11 we go back to the camp for a brunch and pack our gear. The rest of the day will be one big happy gamedrive towards the Ngorongoro!
The heat, the endless yellow flats and that well placed tree make amazing pictures.
The Ngorongoro Crater
After our amazing adventure in the Serengeti we move on to the Ngorongoro conservation area where we camp for one night.
This area is 8300 m2 big and has three craters, two small craters where there are no roads, these are very a suitable for hikingsafaris. And one big crater with a width of 19 km.
Our camp is 2300 meters up on the rim of the crater with a beautiful view over the lush green valley. While the cook prepares dinner we set up the tent and put on some warmer clothes. It feels like it is going to be a cold night.
After three days in the Serengeti we have gotten used to the heat, but here it’s a lot colder.
After a chilly night we wake up at 5 am for breakfast. We will see the sunrise in the crater so at 6 we’re on the move.
When we enter the biggest Ngorongoro crater we are surprised by the breathtaking nature. The crater is like heaven, soft silky green lined mountains with flat top acacias and enormous fields of yellow flowers. The valley, a colourful flat area of 260 m2 filled with animals.
In the middle there is a big salt lake and a lot of other smaller fresh waters surrounding it. The animals here have always got enough to drink.
Arusha to Lushoto
When we arrive at the busstation around ten there are no direct busses to Lushoto anymore. We’re thinking, it’s only one direct road up to that area, about 300 kilometres, how long can that take? 4 hours? Nope we were so wrong.
At the busstation lots of people immediately come to the rescue and advise us to take a bus to Mombo and from there to Lushoto. We find a seat in the basic coach and pay € 12.50 per person. The bus leaves the station almost an hour late so it’s almost 12 o’clock when we’re finally on our way. Just before our exit in Mombo we stop at a restaurant for dinner, because this bus moves on to Dar es Salaam.
At 18:00 we get to the town of Mombo where we immediately catch a smaller bus on the same road to Lushoto. We pay € 1.20 per person. It takes some time before the bus is full and then we go. The ride is amazing and we’ve instantly forget all about the long trip. While we drive over a narrow mountain road with a not inviting depth on one side and a landsliding mountain on the other we can’t help but feeling a bit uncomfortable. As long as nobody else in the bus seems to care, why would we?
In about 1,5 hours we arrive in Lushoto after seeing a spectacular sunset. Everything has turned pitch black. We get off the bus at the sign of our hotel Lawns just after the petrolstation. From here it’s only a few minutes walk to the hotel. When we arrive we are welcomed warmly and the receptionist brings us to our room for a fresh up.
Our room has two separate beds and a private bathroom. It’s clean and basic and costs only € 18.00 per night. We dicide to have dinner at the restaurant in the hotel for € 10.00 because we’ve had such a long day. The three course meal consists of a soup, a burger with fries and a chocolate pudding. This all fits in our stomach perfectly because we haven’t eaten anything but cookies and an apple.
The next day we walk through town. There is a viewpoint a few kilometres away but today is rainy, so we’ll do the hike tomorrow.
While walking through the streets people all say hello and welcome us to their town. The kids are so cute, they are waving and shouting Jambo at us.
The next day we leave early to walk to the viewpoint. The route is fantastic through little villages and beautiful scenery. We meet an old man who decides to walk with us to the viewpoint just in case we get lost. He helps us cross some muddy pools from the rain and nearly at the end he knows a shortcut passed another viewpoint. Unfortunately the clouds are thick so we can’t see anything but the ground we stand on. We give the sweet man some money and by the look on his face we can tell he is a happy man. We get a big hug and say goodbye.
The Irente viewpoint is also not very satisfying and when we have to pay at the restaurant to go further up, we decide to leave it at that. We’ve seen so much beauty the last two hours, let’s go back.
After an amazing morning we have lunch at Mama Mia in town. The vegetarian pizza is great but a bit hot, so we need some beer to cool down…
We book two tickets at Burdani coaches to Dar es Salaam at 6 am. Near the busstation there is a market with fresh food where we buy some fruit for the bustrip and some bread. Our hotel fixed us a breakfast package so we are all set.
After a stay of three nights we leave this little paradise and take the bus back to Dar es Salaam.
Lushoto to Dar Es Salaam
There is a bus from the busstation in Lushoto leaving at 6 or 8 am. With the long trip to here in the back of our heads we choose the early bus and buy a ticket one day in advance, we pay € 6.00 per person.
There aren’t too many seats left but we can sit on the fifth row. Our bag fits under the chair so we don’t have to worry about losing our luggage. The bus of Burdani leaves exactly on time and doesn’t wait for latecomers. Without any delay or long breaks we arrive in Dar es Salaam at 14:00 and get out just before the busstation to avoid the crowd and hectic.
From here we will fly to our new adventure, a tropical paradise: the Seychelles!
Tanzania, it has been a pleasure!
In Tanzania there are 140 tribes and all of them have their own language, but there is also one national language that almost everyone speaks, Swahili.
Tanzania is a mostly Islamic country, there are a lot of mosques so you’ll hear the chanting at sunrise and sunset and at other strange undefinable times. Listening to the sounds of the prayers is not the worst thing in life, you get used to the quickly and it’s got something special, something relaxing. Tanzanian people in general have free choice of who they want to marry and are relatively free to make their own decisions whether they ar Moslim or Christian.
Both men and women dress very diverse. Some women cover their hair and some cover everything. Others wear nearly nothing. We see men in long robes with or without a kufi on their head. Men in nice suits and others in their old torn down clothes.
Between Arusha and the Ngorongoro crater you’ll find the land of the Maasai. They live in traditional villages with colourful
Having a lot of cows is a sign of wealth. If you have a lot of cows in the Masai culture means you’re a rich man. You can buy any woman you want and always have milk and meat.
Masai can marry a lot of women as long as they can pay for them, in cows. A lot of cows, around 30 our guide says. Most villages have only one man who’s in charge and is married to most of the women in that village.
We visited Tanzania from may 18th until june 1st, this period is autumn. The weather was nice and warm but quite humid, there were lots of sunny days and we’ve also had rain for a few days. Not all day long though, just enough for it to be annoying.
Relaxed transportation in a coach is a whole different story. The Tanzanians like it loud, so there’s music buzzing out of every speaker in the bus. Bring earplugs. Also the speeding… doh… But other then that you’ll be fine.
Of course there are the trains too…
The traintracks of the Tazara have a deviating width of 106 cm instead of the regular 100 cm for other trains. This means only the Tazara train can use these tracks which is only two times a week. The tracks are being used as a road by the locals on the other days of the week.
The Tazara train from Zambia crosses Mbeya and after that plenty of other places. In the end it stops just outside Dar es Salaam, near the airport.
The train to the other side of the country leaves from the centre trainstation in the city.
In most cities there are tuktuks and motorcycle taxis which are usually not more than € 0.40 per 2 minutes or a kilometre depending on traffic. Or do like the locals do, just walk!
In total we’ve spend:
- Transportation: € 357.00 (incl ½ trainticket & flight)
- Accommodations: € 291.00 (11 nights)
- Food and drinks: € 233.00 (10½ day)
- Entrance fee: € 0.00
- Other: € 112.00 (Visa, internet and tips)
That brings us to a daily budget of: € 82.15 for two persons including everything except international flights and the safari.
In these 14 days we have stayed in hostels and hotels in double rooms with private and shared facilities.
We have eaten restaurant meals with beer and spirits.
For a 6 day expedition climbing Kilimanjaro we would have paid € 1300.00 per person. So that was a big NO. A one day trip to the Kili would have cost us € 170.00 per person because you are not allowed to enter the area without a guide. The expenses and the bad weather made us decide to skip that part.
Our safari in the Serengeti, Ngorongoro crater was ridiculously expensive (sit down) € 640.00 per person for 4 days with 4 people. At first we were about to faint… but there is no cheaper way, and we did want to do it. So of this € 1280.00 we’ve deduced the daily budget for three days and the rest was from our ‘fun things piggy bank’.
To make the decision a bit easier for you we’ll define the costs as far as possible. These prices are for 4 persons, a driver and a cook:
- € 285.00 Ngorongoro fee and one overnight stay
- € 755.00 Serengeti entrance fee and 2 overnight stays
- € 800.00 Car, maintenance/gasoline (based on rental)
- € 100.00 Use of campinggear (based on rental)
- € 400.00 Driver/Guide and cook wages (wild guess)
- € 150.00 Food and miscellaneous (must be about right)
So that makes it a total of € 2490.00. If all four persons would pay the same price as us there would be about € 70.00 left per person. So with two persons an arranged safari would be cheaper but with four you can skip the wages and save some money. We must say, eventhough it was quite expensive and we didn’t always got our money’s worth, driving without a guide would have made us miss a lot of animals. These drivers tip each other about everything so we’ve seen so many different animals on the first day. It’s is not as arranged and touristic as we feared it would be and our guide could tell us anything we wanted to know about the area and the animals. So, safe some money and go your way or choose the more expensive option, relax and enjoy. Hakuna Matata!
Let’s put these high expenses aside and talk about the rest of Tanzania. Everything is very cheap, we had trouble spending more than € 20.00 total a day on food and drinks… You can easily find a private doubleroom in a hostel for € 20.00 and public transport is very okay and cheap.
Some examples of products and prices in euro:
- 6 small sandwiches in supermarket: € 0.60
- Pizza in lunchroom: € 3.00
- Coffee latte in a lunchroom: € 1.25
- Bottle of wine in a restaurant: € 12.00
- Beer in a cafe: € 1.40
- Bottle of beer (340 ml) supermarket: € 0.80
- Coca Cola in restaurant: € 0.50
- Meat in restaurant (300 gr steak): € 6.00
- Chicken masala or curry in restaurant: € 3.50
- Liter gasoline: € 0.80
- Simcard with 10 Gb data: € 4.00