Public transport in Tanzania
Tanzania’s public transport system is, as a rule, unreliable, uncomfortable, slow, and not recommended for those with either long legs or haemorrhoids. It is also dangerous. A little-known but highly pertinent fact about Tanzania’s transport system is that 8% of deaths in Tanzanian hospitals are road-accident victims. According to one source, Tanzania suffers an average of 13,684 road accidents annually, resulting in the loss of 1619 lives; and these are just the ones the authorities know about.
That said, Tanzanian transport is also cheap, convenient and, it must be said, cheerful: conversation usually flows pretty easily on a train, bus or dalla-dalla (providing you can make yourself heard above the noise of the stereo).
And while the average road is little more than a necklace of potholes strung together with tyre tracks, the main roads between towns are splendid, well-maintained tarmac strips – with speed ramps to deter the bus drivers from going too fast.
The most luxurious form of ground transport is provided by express bus companies; a few of them, such as Dar Express, deserve their reputation for safety and comfort; you may want to ask your hotel or a local which bus company is currently the most reliable. These express buses run to a fixed timetable and will leave without you if you’re late. Buy your tickets in advance. The cheaper alternative is the ordinary buses, which leave when full. These are cheap but you definitely pay for what you get. As with all forms of local transport, ask your fellow passengers what the correct fare is before handing any money over to the ‘conductor’; rip-offs are the rule rather than the exception on many journeys.
Tanzanian minibuses: the dalla-dallas
In addition to the buses there are Tanzania’s indigenous dalla-dallas: minibuses plying routes around and between neighbouring towns. They’re usually a tight squeeze as the drivers pile in the customers to maximize their takings. If you’re being pushed into one that looks full-to-bursting, simply refuse to enter; there’ll be another along in a minute. In Kenya these minibuses are known as matatus
Tanzania does still run a skeleton train service; services to Arusha and Moshi have long since stopped, though the stations and tracks are still there in both towns and are interesting places to look around if you’re very bored.