Guest Post: Tanzania and Zanzibar hitchhiking essentials
Advantages of hitchhiking in Tanzania & Zanzibar
Tanzanians are friendly people especially if you look like a rasta (beard and long hair). I hitched a ride on a truck from Iringa to Mwanza – 941km during which I was with the crew for two days. They paid for all the food and even accommodation at a local guesthouse when we pulled up for the night.
Then when I reached Mwanza, I was walking on the streets and I said ‘hello’ to a local who ended up inviting me to stay with him and his family in a village 10km outside of the Lake Victorian city.
Reaching hitch-hiking spots is a bit of a walk and it is hot, however, many times I was extremely lucky where I just asked someone next to me if they were going in the same direction.
The police are friendly enough and there are many roadblocks. If you approach them and ask them to help you get a ride to your next destination, they are more than willing to do so (some might ask you to buy them food and drink but most are just happy to help). They’re also a great source to ask for a safe place to pitch a tent. I was stuck in Chalinze having arrived at sunset and with no rides heading to Arusha, I pitched my tent outside the police station. One officer even bought me dinner.
Throw in the advantage that English is an official language and visas are easy to obtain, and Tanzania & Zanzibar start to look like very appealing destinations.
Disadvantages of hitchhiking in Tanzania & Zanzibar
Depending on the time of year you go, the weather is divided into two seasons – wet and dry. The wet season starts from about March and lasts until around June when the high tourist season kicks in. The rains are monsoon and I got caught out a couple of times. Tanzania is also intensely hot and humid.
There are more taxis and daladalas (buses) than there are private cars, or so it seems. It can be a long wait on the road unless you convince a taxi to take you for free as has happened for me. A lot taxis and buses will also stop beside you, mostly already overloaded with people and cargo and take up valuable hitching time to talk with you as potential rides zip by. From the northern border crossing I struggled to get a ride. I had to hike about 4 km down the road before a local in a timber yard offered me a ride to Mbeya, 122 km away.
Distances vary, depending on where you want to go. It’s a vast country with a lot of national parks so hitching can be limited to certain areas. For example, I tried to hitch through the Serengeti but failed and ended up taking a bus.
The cities are pretty hard to get out of. Dar es Salaam is a nightmare of traffic that seems to go nowhere. It’s so spread out that you’d need to take a bus to Ubongo, the main bus station on the outskirts of the city and then get lucky from there.
Almost all drivers ask for money, so either you’ll have to negotiate or convince them to take you without money. If you do get a ride, you might be crammed into a car that is overloaded with baggage and people. It’s not uncommon to sit in the back of a pick-up so pack waterproof clothing and a splash guard for your bag (large plastic bin liners also do the trick).
Although people who work in the tourism industry speak better English than those that don’t, in rural areas the standard of English is not great. Ki-Swahili is more useful and is quite an easy language to pick up.
Police are corrupt. Most bribes are in the form of soft drinks or food but cash won’t be refused. They are though, rather paradoxically friendly and accommodating.
Pickpockets range from the young to the old. I caught an old beggar who tried to lift my camera out of my pocket. I pushed him away and angrily told him to ‘fuck off’ which did the trick. They usually work in pairs so if you’re walking down the street and suddenly find yourself flanked by two dodgy looking characters get ready to be picked. One will distract you while the other fishes in your pockets.
Types of roads
There are 91,049 km of roads in Tanzania, of which only 6,578 km is paved. Tanzania’s main roads are sealed and they even have shoulder lanes. In rural areas there’s always cattle, goats, chickens, dogs and children running across it. Drivers have to zig and zag to avoid them. Remember, animals are people’s livelihoods, if you hit one, pull over and do the right thing and pay the owner (just make sure it is in fact the owner and not some passer-by trying to make a buck).
① Trunk Road (T): The best conditioned roads in Tanzania comprising of a national route that links two or more regional headquarters. Important trunk roads include the T1 (TANZAM highway) which travels from Dar es Salaam to Zambia (and on to Lusaka). The T2 from Chalinze to Kenya, and the main road out from Dar es Salaam, the T7.
② Regional Road (R): secondary national road that connects Trunk Roads to one another or a regional head quarter to a smaller district head quarter. Regional roads have 3-digit numbers. They are almost never paved.
③ District Road: All other roads in Tanzania are classed as district roads, these include collector roads, feeder roads and village roads. These roads are unpaved.
There are two general speed limits in Tanzania
In non-residential areas the speed limits is 120kph (75mph).
In built up areas the speed limit is 60kph (35mph).
Road map of Tanzania & Zanzibar
Absolutely essential hitch-hikers phrasebook
– Hello – Hujambo
– Thank you (very much) – Asante (sana)
– Yes – Ndiyo
– No – Hapana
– Please – Tafadhali
– Excuse me. (getting attention) – Samahani
– How are you? – Habari (Yako)?
– Well, thanks. – Sijambo
– Goodbye – Kwa heri
– Hitch-hiking – kuomba lifti
– I don’t have money. – Sina fedha
– We don’t have money. – Hatuna fedha
– Money – fedha / pesa
– I’m going to … – Mimi nina kwenda …
– We are going to … – Sisi ni kwenda …
– Where are you going? – Unakwenda wapi?
– Can we you help me get to… ? – Bwana, unaweza kunisaidia kwenda… ?
– I am … – Mimi …
– My name is … – Jina langu ni …
– I am from … – Ninatoka nchi ya …
– What is your name? – Jina lako ni nani?
– Where are you from? – Unatoka wapi?
– Pleased to meet you. – Nimefurahi kukutana nawe
– I don’t understand. – Sielewi.
– Beautiful! – Maridadi!
– now – sasa
– today – leo
– yesterday – jana
– tomorrow – kesho
– later – baadaye
– before – kabla ya
– friend – rafiki
– Where is … ? – … iko wapi?
– Can you stop? – Je, unaweza kuacha?
– We need the road to … – Tunahitaji barabara ya …
– I want to get off here. – Nitashuka hapa
– Turn left – kugeuka kushoto
– Turn right – kugeuka kulia
– Straight ahead – mbele kabisa
– here – hapa
– Bus station – stesheni ya basi
– Train station – stesheni ya treni
– Help! – Msaada!
– Look out! – Kuangalia nje!
– street – mitaani
– road – njia
– roundabout – mzunguko
– crossroads – njia panda
– Do you have …? – Je, kuna … ?
– How much is … ? – Hii ni bei gani?
– food – chakula
– bread – mkate
– water – maji
– beer – bia
– chicken – kuku
– rice – wali
– potatoes – viazi
– pasta – tambi
– Can we camp here? – Tunaweza kambi hapa?
– tent – hema
– bag – mfuko
– map – ramani
Main Border Crossings
Tanzania neighbours 8 different countries: Uganda (to the north), Kenya (north-east), Mozambique (south), Malawi (south), Zambia (south-west), Democratic Republic of Congo (west), Burundi (north-west) and Rwanda (north-west).
Tanzania – Uganda
There are two border crossings between Tanzania & Uganda
- The main border crossing is located at the border town of Mutukula. It is located 211 km south-west of the Ugandan capital of Kampala, the capital of Uganda and connects to the B8 on the Tanzanian side.
Tanzania – Kenya
There are six border crossings between Tanzania & Kenya
- The busiest border crossings is at Namanga, a border town between Kenya and Tanzania, 180 km from Nairobi and 120km from Arusha. Crossing the Namanga border can be a little hectic due to the amount of people but the process is fairly easy.
Tanzania – Mozambique
There are no land border crossings between Tanzania & Mozambique so the crossing must be done by boat.
- It is possible to take a boat from Mtware (Tanzania) – Mocimboa de Praia (Mozambique). There are also options from Msimbati (Tanzania) and the possibility of arriving at Palma (Mozambique).
Tanzania – Malawi
There is one border crossings between Malawi & Tanzania
- The only border crossing is the Songwe River Bridge. The river forms part of Malawi’s border with Tanzania. Buses and minibuses provide transport to and from the border daily.
Tanzania – Zambia
There are two border crossings between Zambia & Tanzania
- The most important border crossing can be found at Tundumo(Tanzania) –Nakonde (Zambia) which lies at the end of the Zambian Great East Road.
Tanzania – Democratic Republic of Congo
There are no land border crossings between Tanzania & Democratic Republic of Congo so the crossing must be done by boat.
- In theory it is possible to take a boat from Kigoma (Tanzania) – Kalemie (DRC). However, due to the uncertain domestic situation in the DRC very few travellers attempt to make the journey.
Tanzania – Burundi
There are three border crossings between Tanzania & Burundi
- The main border crossing is located at Kobero Bridge lying between the towns of Ngara (Tanzania) and Muyinga (Burundi). The road from Ngara to the border is mostly paved and in good condition
Tanzania – Rwanda
There is one border crossings between Tanzania & Rwanda
- The only crossing between the two countries is located at Rusumu Falls on the B3 highway (Tanzania).
Tanzania border crossings map
written by: Simon (The Nomadic Diaries)
Tired of society’s rinse ‘n’ repeat lifestyle, Simon has decided to dedicate the rest of his life to hitch-hiking the globe without flying or using money. Instead, he barters for food and board and adventures. Life is one shot. Go live it.
Check out his blog at: thenomadicdiaries.wordpress.com