Discover the Best of Dar-Es-Salaam
Welcome to Dar-Es-Salaam Travel Guide! Give Dar-Es-Salaam sometimes and you will probably fall in love with it! A lively waterfront city that blends African, Indian and Arab influences to create a unique urban culture, Dar-Es-Salaam has sprawled chaotically in all directions in recent decades, but still has plenty of Charm!
With a City Center sprinkled with attractive colonial buildings, Streets lined with bougainvillea and plethora of palm-fringed beaches, Dar-Es-Salaam has laid back feel that makes it hard to believe that the population now is over four (4) Millions
Expats and Volunteers in Dar-Es-Salaam
Hotels in Dar-Es-Salaam
Dar-es-salaam City Map
Dar es Salaam meaning ‘abode of peace’ in Arabic is one of the 31 regions of the United Republic of Tanzania that is located on its eastern part and also the country’s Indian ocean coastline.
Alternatively known by its short name ‘Dar’, it is both a city and a region, earning itself the title ‘special zone’ as both share the same boundaries. Dar es Salaam is also the commercial hub of the country, it’s most populated city and former capital city.
Formerly known as Mzizima – meaning healthy city in one of the local languages, the now bustling city was a small fishing village in 1862 when Sultan Majid bin Said of Zanzibar first came to it, later on building a new town close to it (about four years later) that he named Dar es Salaam. It later on fell into decline after his death in 1870, before it was revived in 1887 when the German East Africa Company established a station there. In the years that followed, the town enjoyed a steady growth as an administrative centre of the G.E.A.C.O., a port and as a hub for the railway line that was constructed in 1907.
After world war 1, the now small town of Dar es Salaam fell into the hands of the British, who opted to leave it as a commercial capital, but set up separate areas in the city for Europeans (Oysterbay and Masaki), and the Africans (Ilala and Kariakoo). Its growth continued until after the independence from the British in 1961, when a policy change into Ujamaa (socialism) slowed its growth as people were encouraged to remain in the villages. Nevertheless, it continued to be the country’s capital and commercial hub, but its growth again picked up around 1985 when Ujamaa was abolished and Dar es Salaam became the country’s first city shortly after that.
Until 1996, it also was the country’s capital, before the government decided to move further inland to Dodoma, a city at the country’s centre that it regarded as safer from marine attacks and also within easy reach of most the people from all parts of the country; However, the move was not implemented until 2016 when the then elected president John Magufuli implemented it, with the process set to be complete by the year 2020.
The indigenous people of the region are the Zaramo, although the city’s is now heavily populated by almost every tribe of the country, most of whom move to the city in search of a better life.
Dar es salaam is said to be the 9th fastest growing city in the world and third in Africa (after Bamako and Lagos), something that has seen the cost of living sky rocket, as the demand for land increases. This makes it the most expensive city in Tanzania in terms of tourism, as the hotel prices are almost double what you may find in other cities such as Moshi, Arusha or Mwanza (Tanzania’s second largest).
The city’s infrastructure is also struggling to keep up with it’s growth rate, with roads being termed too small for the multitude of cars that ply them every day. In other words, Dar es salaam is also plagued with traffic jams, which also increases the cost of transport within the city and although the current government is working hard to alleviate this, it still is far worse than anything you would find in other cities of the country. Add that to vast distances that you would need to travel to get from the airport for example and you almost certainly would be spending about 2 hours on the road each time you try to cover about 20 kilometres.
Dar es Salaam also possesses a faster lifestyle than you would find in other regions of the country, with more thieves and con men and even a few beggars at every corner, most of whom are just really struggling to cope with the harsh lifestyle. It’s not that there aren’t any of these in the other regions, but the more the hunger, the better the tactics.
The main form of public transport used are the Dala dala, privately owned passenger buses with capacities of about 30 passengers that operate with a fare of about 500 Tanzanian shillings (roughly 0.2 US dollars), although the government has lately introduced a much larger Bus Rapid Transit (B.R.T.) transport system that serves a few parts of the city centre. Both of these should be used with caution if you are a foreigner unless you really now your way or you may end up lost or missing a few of your valuables.
A much safer option would be taxi’s which although slightly more expensive (most expensive in the country), would get you safely from A to B. There are no trams, or electric trains for transport within the city, but there are about two normal diesel-electric locomotives that serve a small section of the city, but none that would be of any significance to a tourist. These use the older and much thinner gauge railway lines and were only introduced to ease the city’s congestion during rush hour. A recent addition to the city’s transport scene is Uber.
While there may not be many “walkable” sidewalks throughout the city for a leisurely stroll, tourists find walking the ocean front promenades near the Hotel Slipway or the Oyster Bay area offer a lovely ocean view and refreshing breeze and wonderful dining options, too.
You may also find pedestrian-friendly areas in downtown, where you could wander a little with the busy business men and women as they go about their day. However, in other areas of Dar es Salaam, you may find that motorcycles or vendors have overtaken the sidewalks and that walking isn’t a pleasurable venture.
All along the strees of Dar, you’re sure to see street vendors selling shoes, clothing, sweets, and of course, refreshments: everything from iced sodas and water to freshly squeezed fruit juices or sugar cane juice. And, you will likely want a drink! Dar es Salaam is located just 6.5 degrees south of the equator and remains hot year-round. Drinks sold along the streets should all be reasonably priced, around 1000- 2000 Tanzanian Shillings. If you want to know more about local currency and how to exchange money, check out our guide.
There are many good restaurants and cafes all throughout Dar, so you won’t have to look hard to find something delicious to eat. Dar is known for fresh seafood, fish and local cuisines such as rice or cornmeal porridge, called ugal
While many guidebooks suggest that much of Dar es Salaam’s architecture originates from its colonial period, there aren’t many outstanding colonial buildings to speak of. However, there are a few noteworthy buildings that have withstood both time and the strong equatorial sun and are available for tourists to view. You may find some old stone buildings near the Bay and some Art Deco structures, as well.
If you are fond of Arabic architecture, with its elegant mosques and numerous arches and arabesques, take a trip to Zanzibar. The Arab and Indian architectural heritage is much better preserved there than in the city of Dar.
In Dar es Salaam, mosques are often lost against the background of poorly organized dense urban development. However, . there are several landmark mosques located in Dar es Salaam. If you’re a devout Muslim (or appreciate the architecture with a respect to the religion), you may be interested in visiting some of the noteworthy mosques in the city: the very beautiful Khoja Shia Ithna-Ashari Masjid, the Masjid Maamur, Masjid Hakimi, the famous Sunni Mosque, or the Masjid Qiblatain in the center.
For those who stay in Dar es Salaam, there are several options for beaches, right near the city. Dar is always warm (measuring from 23.3 to 28 °C, i.e., 73.94 to 82 °F for most of the year), so it’s a good idea to head to the beach to enjoy the sun and sand.
Perhaps the most famous and attractive beach is Coco Beach. It is quite a long stretch of shore with pleasant soft, white sand and gentle waves. You can wander barefoot on the sand, swim in the ocean and get a little sun (or, sit under an umbrella if you don’t want the sun). Enjoy a drink at one of the bars, or have a snack. However, the beach is public, so it’s always crowded and sometimes the crowds leave garbage behind.
North from there, there is a narrow strip of Kawe beach, and even farther are the Mbali Public Beach and Ndege Beach. If you move from the central Coco Beach along the ocean coast to the south, you can soon find a spot to relax in the small Palm Beach, Tanzanite Beach Resort (here you can see fishing dhows – we recommend taking pictures against their background), Bakhresa Beach.
Much farther southwards, there is a special beach for Muslims: Islamic Club. It is stunningly beautiful, totally uncrowded, with very warm water (many say that Dar beaches’ water is warmer than at Zanzibar resorts). If you are looking for a simple cozy spot on the Indian Ocean coast within Dar and are willing to abide by the Islam rules of beach etiquette, this might be the perfect place for you to relax on the beach.
All the beaches listed above are public and are accessible to everybody. One of Dar’s elite beaches is Yacht Club Beach, beside the Dar es Salaam Yacht Club. Those accustomed to relaxing in style can enjoy elite watersports here and meet a luxurious sunset on the clean beach. Club membership is required to enter this beach.
Within the city limits, at the southern end of the bay, you can relax at Kijichi Beach. You will be surrounded on all sides by the city of Dar es Salaam. This is probably the most suitable beach vacation option for the locals who do not have time to travel to the coast properly.
Dar es Salaam enjoys warm temperatures throughout the year, with significant rainfall only coming during the March to June period, during which the lowest temperatures recorded are about 23 degrees Celsius. Most of the city’s long time residents don’t own blankets or jackets as they are never needed, and there almost certainly is has never been an recorded incidents of harsh weather in the recent 3 or so decades. No hurricanes, or high speed winds and even the rainfall is never really that heavy.
In the few moths that it does rain, much of the city is normally plagued with floods, with most of the street becoming impassable without wading through or at least jumping over murky waters. The region also has a lot of insects such as mosquito’s and flies, which thrive due to the lack of the cold of the winter to kill them off, making things such as mosquito nets, insect repellent and good hygiene an important thing if you are going to visit the area. Most hotels provide nets, but you can get the rest at any supermarket or pharmacy in the area.
Much of the region’s tourism is centred on the urban – Swahili coastal lifestyle, but influences of the many cultures that live in the area make sure that you don’t really get to experience this alone. There are parts of the city that have other cultures as well such as Kariakoo (Arabic culture), and Upanga (Indian cultures). That being said there really is not much to do for tourism in the region at all, unless of course you are keen on beach side hotels for which there are plenty – at a higher price of course.
At an average temperature of about 25 degrees Celsius, the waters of the Indian ocean in the area are rather warmer than what you would find in countries further away from the equator and with far less creatures that may want to harm or eat you. This means that you most likely won’t have to dread that chill up your spine every time you get into the water, be it at a swimming pool or the ocean. With regards to the ocean, much of the coastline is protected by a barrier reef (dead), keeping much of the harsher waves and creatures away. All this makes Dar es Salaam a good spot for water sports and swimming.
Places such as Bagamoyo, Tanga or Mtwara would allow you to enjoy more of the beach and ocean at a lower cost and as an added bonus, these are less influenced by other cultures. In other words, Dar es Salaam is perfect for business and urban tourists, who are keen to enjoy fine dining or the region’s nightlife with a dash of Swahili culture – on the go, but that isn’t to say that there isn’t anything to do for the other kinds of tourists.
For instance, there are a few marine reserves such as Mbudya Island that you could get to from selected beaches of the city via a small passenger boat with a fare of about 5 USD. There also is the nation’s largest museum – right at the city centre, that holds a lot of the country’s colonial history (20th century) and the state house that is unfortunately closed to all outsiders.
So if you were thinking of coming to Dar es salaam as part of your holiday, then make sure that you bring a lot of Moola too – and get a local to show you around (or read more of our pages). Don’t be like one of the many that complain online about how bad or expensive their hotel, food, traffic jams or taxi service was. Just use Dar es Salaam as a hub while in transit to your final destination.
Dar es Salaam is located on the eastern border of mainland Tanzania and right on the Indian ocean coastline, with only the Zanzibar Archipelago(Tanzania islands) standing between it and international waters. It has Tanga and Mombasa (Kenya) to the north and Mtwara to its south, with the altitude of most parts of the region varying from sea level to about 200 metres above it. For more information on its location, please see the map below (click to start).
Dar es Salaam can be easily reached by air from any part of the world, as there are direct flights from almost every major hub in air travel, with most of the big names in the industry offering direct flights or at least connections from other parts of the world. It also can be reached by boat, although there aren’t a lot of passenger ships to the area from other countries, but plenty from other regions of Tanzania, such as Zanzibar, Pemba and Mtwara.
From inland Africa, you could get to Dar es Salaam via flight or road and although the lengthy road journeys may take their toll on you, it would provide a nice opportunity to see other parts of the country. A much better and more scenic route to the place would be via the railway network, coming either from Kigoma along the Rwanda border, or Tunduma along the Zambia border, with the latter being preferred by many.
There are an estimated 7 million residents in Dar es Salaam; the more precise number depends on whether you take suburbs into account, or not. Dar closes the top five of the African cities according to population. As for the population growth rate, Dar es Salaam is among the 15 fastest growing cities in the world.
English and Swahili are spoken widely in the city, but you might also hear some Arabic, as well.
Christianity and Islam are both well-represented in this city, with the two religious groups coinciding peacefully together. Throughout Tanzania, both Christian and Musilm traditions and holidays are celebrated and recognized by the government and you will likely see many residents dressing in traditional Muslim attire. However, the Islamic traditions are more pronounced in neighboring Zanzibar than they are here in Dar.
In general, people in Dar are friendly, and walking around the city is safe. Although, like in every city of the world, some careless tourists occasionally get into trouble here.
Remember the basic rules of a prudent tourist: do not unnecessarily show large sums of money or other expensive things. Only ride in designated taxis (they are well-marked and every driver has an official ID, which you can ask to see before entering the vehicle). Inquire with hotel staff if you need assistance; exchange money at official banks and or bureaus and don’t walk alone at night without your tour guide.
If you tour the city, you will find that there are impoverished areas of Dar es Salaam; places with houses badly needing repair or entire communities with poorly constructed fences, buildings made from scrap materials , chickens running loose, and other signs of poverty. One of the unique features of Dar is that you can walk through prestigious neighborhoods (such as the embassies around Kivukoni and the ritsy homes of Oyster Bay), with beautifully tended gardens, and the impoverished, struggling neighborhoods with tiny vegetable plots, within the same day. Both of these make up Dar es Salaam: both the poor communities and the wealthy ones.
The roads of the Dar es Salaam are filled with cars, vans, motorcycles and three-wheeled covered cabs, called ‘Bajajis’. In general, the situation with public transport in Tanzania is overcrowded and generally slow, with many people packed into small buses or minivans. The appeal is that it is very cheap and somewhat reliable, if you are familiar with the city. If you are visiting Dar for a few days, Dar’s public transportation likely isn’t a comfortable or convenient option during your visit. Dar es Salaam is the only city in Tanzania that can claim to have a developing network of urban passenger transport. In recent years, the metropolis has managed to launch a system of high-speed public transport. Stations are actively built on busy highways, and designated lines appear on the roads and have helped to lessen congestion in the city center.
If you have only a short distance to travel, you could opt for a fun adventure in a bajaj. These small 3-wheeled vehicles (much like tuk-tuks in Asian countries) can carry 3 adults and manage to move a bit faster than cars, as they can take more narrow manouvers than taxis or mini vans. They are considered a safe and convenient way to travel short distances within Dar city.
Another important means of transportation are ferries. Dar es Salaam is divided into two parts by a wide bay and ferries or water taxis are an easy means of travel between the two sides of the bay. Alternatively, a new bridge has been constructed across the bay – if you feel up for a long stroll over the water there is a pedestrian walkway.
Dar es Salaam operates the Dar es Salaam Marine Reserve System, or simply DMRS. This includes five uninhabited islands south of the city and four to the north. Only two of those nine islands, Mbudhya and Bongoyo, are of interest to tourists. These are the only ones with sandy beaches that can be reached by boat from Dar within half an hour or less.
Dar es Salaam operates the Dar es Salaam Marine Reserve System, or simply DMRS. This includes five uninhabited islands south of the city and four more north from there. Only two of those nine islands, Mbudhya and Bongoyo, are of interest to the tourists. They are the only ones with sandy beaches that can be reached by boat from Dar within half an hour or even faster.
Bongoyo Island is the most popular beach vacation spot outside Dar es Salaam. The boat leaves from the Bongoyo Island Ferry Terminal on the Msasani Peninsula. There are a couple of beaches on the island and a dense forest in which you can wander along the paths. Visitors can try to find the remains of a small German colonial-era building in the forest on the island, but it isn’t so easy!
Bongoyo is a great day trip from Dar, you can go snorkeling, swimming or simply relax on the beach. The simple forest trails are great for hikes and the island is beautiful.
Mbudya Island is another nature reserve with a beach, white sand, but very few tourists. You can stroll around the island, relaxing in the sun, or go snorkeling..
Both islands have local vendors for drinks and simple food, and sun loungers and umbrellas are available for rent. It’s best to spend one day on each of the islands if the goal is not to rush but to enjoy peace and serenity in the equatorial waters of the Indian Ocean. But you can also combine visits to both islands in one day if you want to look at the shores of both Bongoyo and Mboudia.
Unfortunately, frequent visits to these tiny islands by tourists deplete the resources of the conservation areas, and excessive fishing reduces the population of fish in the area. All of this affects the flora and fauna of the marine reserves negatively. But this impact of human activity is apparent in almost all of Tanzania’s conservation areas. We hope very much that the local ecosystems can be restored by joint effort and that our children will inherit a world of fauna and flora that is still full of diversity.