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What public transport services are available in Tanzania?

During a vacation in Tanzania you'll probably want to cover large distances and it's more a question of how long instead of how far, when it comes to choosing transport. It's not an exact science and usually depends upon the condition of the roads. Don't be surprised if bus or train journeys take longer than expected. Nonetheless, whether you're traveling around cities or moving from town to town, there are numerous transport options. Here's some advice to help you choose what's best.

Town transport services

If you want to tour around towns during your trip to Tanzania, you'll find that options are limited. You can either go by foot (easy for short distances), otherwise taxis are your best bet. You may be offered private, chauffeur driven cars; follow your gut instinct and only hire one if you trust the service provider. It's up to you, but it's best to only use official, registered services. Whatever you choose, make sure you negotiate the fare before you set off.

There are also 'matatus' - a fun way to meet people, cheaper but also much slower. They're old style combis, often driven by Formula 1 wannabes. They'll manage to cram you in, but it's a good idea to know the town a bit, to make sure you jump on the right one - the routes are fixed.

Going to Zanzibar by dhow

Traveling between towns

In Tanzania, how long it takes is more important than the distance to cover. All forms of transport are available in Tanzania. What you choose will depend on your budget and how much time you have on your hands.

Traveling by train is really for those of you who love this form of transport. They take forever and you'll be on board for at least two days if you're crossing from one side of the country to the other. Imagine riding on the back of snail that's just downed a sleeping pill...

Traveling by bus is the most common form of transport in Tanzania. It's cheap but it's also impossible to know how long the journey will take. It depends on a lot of things. The condition of the road, how heavy the traffic is, breakdowns, whether the driver can drive well or not... On the other hand, it's a great way to meet locals!

If you're pressed for time, flying is a useful alternative. It's an open market, so airlines compete and you can save money. Check out local companies, as sometimes tickets are a very cheap.

To get to Zanzibar and Pemba from Dar es Salaam, you can always go by boat. A ferry crossing takes about 2 hours.

David Debrincat
459 contributions
Updated 28 May 2015
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