Travelling from Dar es Salaam to Mtwara
We travelled by bus from Dar es Salaam, although for the fancier traveller there is the option to travel by plane. We bought our bus tickets in Dar the day before we were due to travel however, if you have time to buy the tickets any earlier, this is a very good idea as it is less likely that seats will be sold out, and you will be able to choose seats near the front of the bus. The road to Mtwara is unfinished for about 80km, this section is an extremely rough few hours and is a far worse experience for those at the back of the bus, the total bus journey is around 12 hours. The bus tickets are bought from the Dar bus station, you will probably need a taxi to get there as it is on a main road, tickets are 18000 TSH each (£8.50) to Mtwara. At the bus station there is a rather scary and daunting choice of bus companies, to save being hassled it is best to know which company you want to go to- I suggest Sumry or a company which has 4 seat rows as opposed 5. All buses leave Dar at 6am- buses are not allowed to travel between midnight and 6am due to the lack of street lighting. You should arrive at the bus station no later than 5.30am to board your bus and be ready to go at 6am. The bus station is a crazy experience at this time in the morning, and as it will be dark it is easy to get lost, fall into a pothole, or get pick-pocketed so be careful- ideally your taxi will know whereabouts your bus will be and will take you in that direction.
We used Sumry for the journey down to Mtwara, we felt the driver was very safe (by Tanzanian driving standards) and you are given a soda, a bottle of water and there are air fans above the seats –whilst this is not proper air conditioning, any type of breeze is appreciated on this long sweaty journey. The bus stops around 4 times for passengers to relieve themselves on the side of the road and purchase questionable chicken and chips from the villages. Tip- if you are going to relieve yourself in the bush, do not dilly-dally, get off the bus as soon as it stops otherwise you will find yourself walking through everyone else’s, umm, ejected fluid in order to find a spot. You will also be able to buy fruit and cashews from roadside sellers who will come up to the bus windows with their goods. It should also be noted that Tanzanians do not have a problem with taking live animals such as chickens on these long bus journeys. Mtwara is the end of the line for this bus, the bus will terminate at the bus stand where you can get a bajaj or taxi (more expensive) to your accommodation.
For our journey back to Dar at the end of our project, we made the mistake of leaving it until the day before departure to brave the bus stand and buy our tickets. After going into numerous operator shops at the bus stand, we found most of the near-front seats were sold out, we were therefore unable to get on a Sumry bus and had to instead opt for a 5 seat row Scanlink bus. We paid 18,000 TSH again for this journey. It was when we boarded the Scanlink bus the next morning that we realised how good Sumry was.
The Scanlink bus was more cramped than Sumry however, by this time we felt more accustomed to Tanzanian roads and travelling. There were no beverages available on the Scanlink bus and the lack of fresh air was quite terrible during the midday heat, the journey was also a little longer than the journey to the south however, this may have been due to the check-points and traffic on the way into Dar.
Ferry to Zanzibar (Stone Town)
There are many ferries which go from Dar es Salaam to Stone Town in Zanzibar and the ticket buying experience can be very scary if you do not go to the right place. It is best to get ferry tickets as far in advance as possible (a couple of days is safest) however, you may also be lucky on the day. You will need to go to the ferry port –a taxi or bajaj will know where to go. When you arrive you will see is a mess of people shouting at you to buy their tickets, they will crowd around your taxi and try to open the doors and follow you through the port-quite a Jordan and Peter moment- but ignore them. Make sure you walk to the ferry gate which is guarded by an official and go past this to the large glass-fronted Azam Ferry building next to it to buy your tickets. The other men trying to sell you tickets are either selling fakes or overcharging, even though it may look like they have legitimate shops. You will notice that the street sellers do not go into the official ticket building. Ferries leave for Zanzibar at 9am, 11am, 12pm and 4pm and maybe also 1pm. If you want to buy your ticket on the day you will need to be there an hour before the departure as the ferries will begin to board half an hour before the departure. It is a good idea to be on time for boarding to ensure you get a good seat on the ferry, as someone with awful sea legs I know how much this can help sea sickness- it is best to be inside, downstairs and at the back. Sea sickness is quite common as the ferries to not seem to have stabilisers; sitting outside at the nose of the boat is the worst spot for sea sickness. I found out after my horrific journey that ginger is supposed to prevent sea sickness.
Unfortunately, you will not be able to blag the cheaper resident price for ferry tickets (we tried), which is around 18,000 TSH one way, instead the tourist rate is around 96,000 TSH return, you can also pay in US Dollars. The ferry to Zanzibar takes between 90 minutes and just over 2 hours depending on the wind. Once at Zanzibar you will need to complete the immigration form and present your passport-sometimes you will be given an immigration form on the ferry. It is important to know that before you leave Zanzibar to return to Dar, you will need to get your return ticket stamped so they are aware you will definitely be boarding the ferry and your seat does not get resold. To do this, go back towards the ferry port and keep going, all the way to the end to the small Azam building –a local will be able to show you where to go, just be sure to say you already have a ticket as it is likely they will try to sell you one.
~If you have any questions or would like further information on anything mentioned, please do not hesitate to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, I will be happy to help as I understand how daunting Tanzania can seem -The aim of my blog is to hopefully help a few people : ) ~