Most visitors spend no more than 2 days in Dar Es Salaam (DAR) and they see it mostly as a short stop on the way to Zanzibar island, the national parks or mount Kilimanjaro. However, the city can offer a nice introduction in the African atmosphere.

1. Transportation

There are many companies flying to Dar es Salaam from anywhere in Europe or Asia. Emirates, Etihad, Qatar or Ethiopian Airlines offer good deals from about 450 euros in April to as much as 650 in August if the ticket is bought close to the departure date. We had a round trip Bucharest-Dar es Salaam / Kigali – Bucharest in peak season – August, for about 550 euros, a good deal that we’ve found it on Travelator.ro

From the small airport of DAR to Libya street where we stayed, we took a 20 dollars taxi that we shared with a local we have met on the plane. In general, the taxi price it depends on your negotiating skills. In the city there is also the bus option, which sometimes can be fun.

Sometimes, getting off the bus can be easier through the window. Photo by Yu Niimoto

2. Accommodation

After we have checked the nearby Jambo Inn and Safari Inn, in the dusty and bustly area of Libya street, we choose to stay at Econo Lodge. This shabby hotel is good for spending a night. The breakfast is poor, but the rooms are clean and spacious. Downstairs in the lobby is the only place to get some wifi. The location is very convenient, with a few restaurants just nearby and the bus station or the ferry within a walking distance. So this is a cheap as chips place for DAR, with a rate of 25-30 dollars for a room (I recommend paying in shillings and not in dollars, for a better rate). However, if you want to have a nice stay, than go somewhere else. But consider the fact you’ll need to spend at least 70$ for a double room. Holiday Inn, or Rainbow Hotel are some examples.

3. Food and drinks

Mamboz it’s a casual, sprawling food joint, located near Dar Express Ticket Office, on Libya street. It doesn’t pretend to be anything but a delicious BBQ outdoor food restaurant, where the fresh food in tasty marinades is grilled in front of you. This place starts buzzing the minute the sun goes down and is busy for hours. We didn’t t got fooled by the dodgy plastic chairs and tables on the bustling street and we felt this is the place to have dinner. We had a tasty Mishikaki (kebab), some delicious Chicken Sekela and Garlic Naan, along with fresh mixt juice of tangerine, mango and passion fruit.

Some sea food with vegetables. Photo by Ovidiu Balaj

305 Karafuu  is a cozy restaurant located in Kinondoni area, a typical Swahili suburb. It feels like you have to hunt for it first, as the approach road is dark and dotted with local pubs and restaurants that makes it hard to spot. But it’s well worth to go there for its warmly atmosphere, service, decoration and, above all, delicious menu. Gaspar, the patron, welcomed us with a warm hand shake and he made a genuine effort to ensure we are enjoying our prawn chili and steaks.

The Slow Leopard bar is where we went for a drink.  Owned by Mr. Henry, this sport bar has a friendly and cozy atmosphere. It was a good place where we grabbed some beers and even socialized with a few locals and expats. Some of them were there just for burgers that they were saying are the best in town (taking into account the African standards for burgers, of course).

4. Activities

On our way to the Kivukoni fish market, I asked a man where the fish market was and he answered with a smile: “Just follow the smell, my friend!”.  And yes – this place packed with locals buying and selling all sorts of fish is not fit for those with a sensitive stomach. But here is the true coastal Tanzanian soul. It’s a melange of noise, sights and smells – like a moving picture with colorful fishing boats.

We wanted to have a glimpse of how the rural life can look like in Tanzania before heading there, so we checked the The Village museum. It has a series of huts from different tribes and it is a good place to see tribal dances, Masaai, or colorfully dressed women. The drummers who perform here, will make you feel like you’ve crashed a Tanzanian wedding party. 

Mbudya Island located in a marine national park, 15 minutes away ride from the mainland, is the perfect place if you want to get away from the hassle of DAR. The clear water with corals, sea anemones, colorful fish and docile sea cucumbers make a good snorkeling spot. After heavy negotiating the trip, the boatman who took us to the island suggested the fresh lobster at one of the local restaurants. Since we forgot to bring our own food we decided to take his advice, and the lobster was delicious.

We did even some shopping in DAR after we heard of the famous tinga tinga paintings.

A local painter at work. Photo by Ovidiu Balaj

They have a surreal style, making use of highly saturated colors to depict classic African themes in a sarcastic tone. It is named after the founding artist, Tanzanian painter  Edward Said Tingatinga. The style became popular in east Africa after the artist’s death, and the Tinga Tinga Cooperative helps support the local economy through selling the paintings (in case you feel like chipping in).

Showing 4 comments
  • Dan
    Reply

    great base to explore the area, towards Zanzibar, Kilimanjaro, Mumbasa and so on. The architecture of the city didn’t impress me, but the people did!

    • Ovidiu Balaj
      Reply

      Dan, I felt the same as you! And I consider that charm of a place is made by its people. How did you traveled between DAR and Mombasa?

  • Rhoda
    Reply

    what do you mean by this comment: “(taking into account the African standards for burgers, of course)”…?

    • Ovidiu Balaj
      Reply

      Rhoda, I simply mean that the African standard for a burger is lower than a western one. And is normal to be that way, as the European standard for, let’s say a Thai tom yam soup is lower than an Asian one.

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