Backpaking Tanzania. Mbeya, Iringa, Morogoro and Dar, by public transport.

We went to Tanzania in February - March 2015,
during a complete trip (8 months), 
through Southern and Eastern Africa.

If you are planning a budget trip in Tanzania, here you can find useful information to save money.
We travelled by public transport, did sometimes couchsurfing, sleeping in local accommodation and eating in local restaurants, no activities.
We share information for low-cost travellers. See the right sidebar menu, to read more about our Africa trip.

FROM MBEYA TO DAR ES SALAAM (SOUTHERN HIGHLANDS)

This long route is the Tazam Road (Tanzania- Zambia, also access to Malawi; around 1.000 km). 
If direct bus Mbeya-Dar expect at least 14 hours. Also direct buses Dar-Lusaka or Dar-Lilongwe (more than one day trip).
We preferred to travel little by little (had time), stopping on the way in the main towns. 
If not visiting parks (and there are never cheap in Tanzania), nothing to really make you stay longer around this part of Tanzania.

   MBEYA   

The biggest town in southern Tanzania, just a stop on the road, if going to Malawi, Zambia or west Tanzania.
Quite cool, it´s 1.700 m high.
Green mountains and valleys around, rich soil (lots of fruits and vegetables, tea, etc.on the way to Malawi).
Mountains (above 2.500 m high), but maybe not easy to climb and get there by your own, specially if no private transport.Just views!

New Mbeya Nane Nane bus station
Public Transport in Mbeya:

From Songwe border (Malawi)
    Minibus: 5.500 Sh, 2h30. 
    Arrives at Nane Nane bus station (10 km from Mbeya) near crossroad to Malawi border road.
    New and organised bus station (no lodges).

-  Dalla-dalla NaneNane station/Mbeya center: 400 Sh, 20 - 30 min. Also taxis, more expensive.

Many buses to the main towns in Tanzania. From central bus station and Nane Nane.
Buses to Dar start from 6:00.

Mbeya central bus station: it looks like if you are in the middle of nowhere, not in the biggest town of southern Tanzania. Not many paved roads around, and not too organised. Just a hole down the hills. Mbeya center is not far.

Note: Mbeya is very spread out, there are many markets, “centers”, people… The real center of town is just a few streets with houses, and you will find everything needed around (banks, shops, lodges).

Train Mbeya:
The Tazara (Tanzania- Zambia train) passes Mbeya. The train station is 4 km from the center (dalla-dallas).
It seems that in February 2015, the connection with Zambia is not working, but OKthe line Mbeya-Dar (it takes a full travel day, shorter by bus).
Complete information in www.tazarasite.com
Check further (Dar information) for more details.

Ten Commandments Motel
Cheap accommodation in Mbeya:

Just around the central bus station, there are many local guesthouses. Check, very different quality and prices. Most of them are just behind the small restaurants. Don´t follow the guys around, you will pay an extra commission.
Ten Commandments Motel: where we stayed.

Price: 10.000 Sh, shared WC (hot water). 
Also big room with WC, for 20.000 Sh.
Clean, quite silent place. Just behind the bus station.

Food in Mbeya:
Many small restaurants around the bus station. Most of them correct and cheap.
A few minutes walking, in the small city center, you find shops and small supermarkets.
Water is safe to drink in Mbeya.

Services in Mbeya:
Banks accepting international cards in the center, just a few minutes walking from the bus station.
Not too many internet shops.

   IRINGA   

We didn´t find the town or location so nice as some guide-books say, just surrounded by rocky hills, the center is up on a hill. Our memories of Iringa are also worse because we were stolen by couchsurfers hosts!
In January 2015, works in the main street of Iringa so dust everywhere.
Just a stop on the long road Mbeya- Dar (330 km Mbeya, 340 km Morogoro, 540 km Dar).
Not too hot, still quite high.
You find everything needed in Iringa: lodges, shops, banks, etc. 


Water is safe to drink in Iringa.

Public Transport in Iringa:

- From Mbeya to Iringa: bus (small), 12.000 Sh, 7h30, too long.
   Big buses stop less, should take 5 h.

-  From Iringa to Morogoro: big bus, 15.000, 4h30. Not possible for us to get a discount.

The main Iringa station is in the city center (up the hill). Also a small one on the main road, at the crossing for Iringa, Ipogoro bus station (3 km from the center, down the hill). Big buses Mbeya-Dar will probably only stop there and then you need a dalla-dalla to go up to Iringa.

 Ruaha National Park: famous for its elephants.

Access road from Iringa, 120 km west. Near the gate, at Tungamalenga village, campsites.
Entrance fee: 30 $/pp+ 4$ car. Camps 30 $/pp.
You can always try to get/hire a car from Iringa, but maybe not too cheap, cause not too many tourists around.We didn´t go.

   MOROGORO   

It looks like a real town, with streets and roundabouts, compared with other southern Tanzania towns.
Just a stop on the Mbeya - Dar road, 200 km from Dar.
You find everything needed in Morogoro, banks, shops, supermarkets.

NOTE: Mikumi National Park.
The Tazam road between Iringa-Morogoro passes through Mikumi NP (just north of Mikumi town, 150 km south of Morogoro, you find local lodges there). No fees on the main road. 
The closest game park to Dar Es Salaam, but never too crowded (not like northern circuit parks).
 Entrance fee 30 $/pp.
From the bus, we saw elephants, zebras, wildbeests and impalas! For free!
Morogoro bus station, crowded!

Public Transport in Morogoro:

- Iringa-Morogoro: bus,15.000 sh, 4h30.
- Morogoro- Dar Es Salam: bus, 5.000 sh, 4 h. 
(negociate the price, usually 6.000- 7.000 Sh). Many buses, all day long.

Bus station on the main road (3 km to center). Dala-dala, 400 Sh, 10 minutes.





Cheap accommodation Morogoro: 

On the main road, big hotels (not many just near the bus station). 

You have to go to town´s center, but there aren´t too many options, not easy to find a room around the central dala-dala stations, as lodges are in other streets (walking distance).

We asked local people and told us to try on Boma road (10 minutes walk from dala-dala station, passing the mosque, the street with mango trees).


Toto Inn: where we stayed, in Boma Road. 
Price: 10.000 Sh, for a big double room with WC. Basic, but correct and quiet.

   AROUND MOROGORO  

Udzungwa National Park:
Mountains, the big “wall” you see behind Morogoro.
Transport from Morogoro to Mangula (gate). Local lodges.
Entrance fee: 30 $/pp. Camps 30$/pp. Walking trails.
We didn´t go.

Selous Game Reserve:
Huge park, even if 95% are private reserves, with expensive lodges and concessions!
The Tazara train Dar-Mbeya-Zambia crosses the park.
Access from the costal road south of Dar (Kibiti) or from Morogoro (Kisaki), no asphalt.
Entrance fee: 70 $/pp!!!! And extra for the car fee.
Camps inside expensive too. A few ones outside.
We didn´t go. Hard to find a cheap plan there!



   DAR ES SALAAM   

The biggest city in Tanzania with a big port (remember, Dodoma is Tanzania´s capital, weird!).
Dar looks like a real city, at least its center and some big avenues.
Not many things to stop you there, like in most of Africa cities. Many embassies,  a big international airport and ferries to Zanzibar. Even the "waterfront" (where you take ferry to Zanzibar) is just a port area, not a nice waterfront walk.
The seaside is quite dirty and polluted. Don´t expect nice beaches around Dar (Slipway area north, Kigamboni south) or neighbour islands (many big ships around too). 

Note: we found Dar OK during the day, walking in the main streets was safe. But, the city has bad reputation, even between local people, so avoid going out at night...

Public Transport  in Dar Es Salaam:

Ubungo bus station: 6 km west of the city center, on Morogoro Road (the avenue has been reorganised for the new rapid bus transport).
We found it quite organised, not so many “cowboys” around as access to the bus station is controled now.

  • Dala-dalas: outside on the Morogoro Rd, going to Kariakoo (west center) and Posta (east center). 400 Sh. If no traffic, 20 min.
  • Many bajaji or tuktuks (from 1.000 Sh, negotiate), mototaxis and taxis.
  • New rapid transport system: supposed to start end of 2015, with special bus lanes and stations, like in Cape Town or Bogotá. 

Traffic in Dar: traffic jams are terrible on main avenues and roads, 7:00-9:00 and 16:00-19:00. Patient!

- Ferries Dar to Zanzibar: 
Fast and slow boats. The terminals and offices are in the city center, in the waterfront, in front of St. Joseph cathedral.
Complete information in our Zanzibar transport post.

- Ferry to Kigamboni (south area of Dar Es Salaam):
As there´s no bridge over the bay, there´s a 5 minutes ferry crossing the bay mouth, from the city center (near the fish market) to Kigambani, from sunrise til midnight. 
Beach resorts, 5 km south of the crossing. Dala-dalas.

- Trains in Dar Es Salaam:
Central Station: in the city center, not far from the Zanzibar ferry terminals. Local trains (not convenient for travellers). It seems that other national are not always in operation, don´t count too much in them.
Tazara Station: for Mbeya&Zambia. 6 km west of the center, on the way to the airport (dala-dala).
Tazara Train: international train Tanzania - Zambia, Dar Es Salaam-Mbeya-Kapiri Moshi (around 2 days trip).
Good news: now complete information, with schedules, prices, in the website: www.tazarasite.com
Express and ordinary trains (cheaper but more stops). From 1st to 3rd class. Sleeper is the best for that long trip. Prices in Tanzania shillings or Zambia Kwachas (now much cheaper to travel from Zambia cause currency is down). Around 30-50 $ trip.
Departure Express from Dar Es Salaam tuesday 15:50, arrival at Kapiri Moshi thursday 14:00.
Same in the other direction.
Ordinary trains leave Dar and Kapiri on fridays.
You can do booking via phone and they keep your booking till a few hours before departure (when you are supposed to arrive in advance before departure and pay) or you can go to the train station and buy the tickets in advance. 
(Central railway station Dar Es Salaam, tel: 2110600).
 Note: if sleeping class, usually 4 beds in 1st class and 6 beds in 2nd class. If 2 travellers man-woman travel together it´s not possible to share with other people and you will have to book and pay all the compartiment.

- Airport in Dar Es Salaam:
Nyere International airport, 10 km west of the center. Important international airport, well connected with Europe, Middle East and Asia. Usually good prices.
 Dala-dalas.

With Shin, our CS host in Dar. Arigato!
Cheap accommodation Dar Es Salaam:
A few options in the city center, but we didn´t see many small lodges walking around.
YWCA (near Posta): 25.000 Sh / double room.
Also accommodation around Ubongo Station.

Couchsurfing in Dar Es Salaam:
The community is quite important, with a few foreigners. Just a few ones live in the center.
We stayed with Shin (Japan), near the center, great! Arigato!

Food&drinks in Dar Es Salaam:
There are small local restaurants in the city center, many Indian ones. Small stalls near the ferry port and spread out in the neighbourhoods. 
Many expensive restaurants for expats, specially in Oyster Bay- Peninsula.
Not many supermarkets in the center, just shops. They´re building shopping malls in Dar center, soon ready!
Kariakoo is the market area, west of the center, but we didn´t go.

Services in Dar Es Salaam:
As the main Tanzania city, you find everything you need.
Many ATMs. Internet. 
New shopping malls coming soon in the center (right now only one in Slipway-Oyster Bay).
Money changers are around Posta and on the main streets of the center.
All the main world embassies are in Dar (even if Dodoma is the capital city of Tanzania).

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