You are currently viewing City Safari – 6 survival strategies for the Streets of Tanzania
Main Street in Dar es Salaam before Rush Hour

City Safari – 6 survival strategies for the Streets of Tanzania

How safe is Tanzania, specifically Dar es Salaam? When we told our family and friends that we will live here for a while, they were a little concerned. Questions about infrastructure, streets and transportation were typical. Maybe you are asked similar questions. Where do you get reliable information to reassure your friends?

Our tip: The website of the German Foreign Office is a good reference for us. There you find well-researched tips, information, and warnings. The website provides you with an up-to-date overview of the country including the infrastructure. We came across a sentence which we want to use as a stepping-stone for our article.

UnboxingTanzania shows you how to get safely from A to B, even though the transport system may be a little different than at home. We’ll equip you with enough know-how to make the actual road-trip an exciting and fun part of your trip.

In addition, we present the options of the means of transport available here in various posts:

Favourite Quote (German Foreign Office):

“There is left-hand traffic. The condition of the roads is mostly quite good, less so in remote areas and there are severe potholes. Driving on highways is a challenge due to the unfamiliar and very different driving styles.”


The Swahili word for street is Barabara. We learned this in one of the first lessons. The word stuck in our minds. After arriving in Tanzania, we could finally link some images and experiences with the word. The Barabara in Tanzania and the whole transport system have a very special flair.

Streets - Picture from our Balcony
Our Street – Picture from our Balcony

Our tip: Because of the “left-hand traffic” and the “unusual and very different styles of driving”, we recommend that you always look both ways before crossing a street. Even if you are used to left-hand driving, still look both ways! It is safer.

The main roads in Dar es Salaam are tarred and mostly in good condition. As you can imagine, the temptation to drive fast is rather big. Only during rush hour that’s not. High traffic decelerates everybody. To slow traffic down during other times of the day, speed bumps prove to be effective. These bumps differ significantly in height. Some are moderate, but others are so steep and high that traffic almost comes to a standstill. Older vehicles with poor suspension often land on those.

The byroads are usually not paved. The surface of larger byroads is mostly a mixture of gravel and sand. In our area, most of the back roads are sandy. In the rainy season, of course, they suffer. A paradise for fans of motorcross, a mogul slope for any normal driver. But also the dirt roads are regularly repaired and patched.

From Tar to Gravel - Main Street to Byroads
From Tar to Gravel – Main Street to Byroads

In other parts of Dar es Salaam, the soil is more clayey. The effects of the rainy season are even more extreme on these roads. Instead of humps, deep channels evolve. Many roads then become impassable for vehicles with normal ground clearance.

Of course, Tanzania is no stranger to the notorious potholes. These little or not so little holes seem to love intersections, railroad crossings, and steep climbs or descents. When driving yourself, you will want to be aware. We advise you to do so also as a passenger, just to be prepared for the shaking.

This is just a brief overview of the streets in Dar es Salaam. Tanzania is trying to improve the infrastructure in the long term and is also investing in the road network. Many major projects have been initiated in recent years. For example, there are already express bus lines and more are currently being built. New highways and bridges have been built and/or are planned. The effects will certainly be seen in a few years.

Drainage channels / sewers

In Tanzania, there is a season of short rain showers (Vuli) and a season of heavy rains (Masika). This subtly suggests that it occasionally rains here. And when it rains in the Masika – then it rains.

Our tip: Find out about the different seasons and what effects they have on the weather in your travel destination within Tanzania.

In order to contain the effects of the heavy rain on the streets, large sewer channels are built on both sides of the streets. Hence, the undermining of the street and flooding should be prohibited by these channels. When you see the construction, you will appreciate it as they are tediously dug with a pickaxe, then boarded and concreted. Because of the water masses, the gullies are relatively wide and deep. In some drainage channels you can easily hide a small car. There is no demarcation between the roadway and the sewer channel. So, watch out.

Drainage or Channel?
Drainage or Channel?

Safety on the streets

In Dar es Salaam, the longer it takes you to travel, the safer you usually travel. With the Pikipiki (motorcycle) you can make good progress, but you have to be willing to take risks to enjoy the ride. In the Bajaji you feel safer, but you also make slower progress. Here, the condition of the Bajaji and the driving style will play a large part on whether you feel safe. It’s even more comfortable in the car. You feel better protected from the trucks and buses crossing lanes at will. And if seat belts are available, the car could actually be the safest mode of transportation. In the DalaDala you are probably best protected from serious accidents. This is due to size and hight of the Daladalas. The disadvantage is that you need the longest with the daladalas to reach your destination. But it’s great fun to meet or observe your fellow passengers.

Vehicles and license plates

In Tanzania, number plates are assigned to the vehicle. When you buy a vehicle, you also get the number plate. Thanks to this procedure you can see how long a vehicle has been on the Tanzanian roads. Vehicles which license plates start with an A have a particularly long history. However, you often do not need the number plate to guess this. The signs of wear and tear on the vehicle are usually just as clear an indicator as the A on the license plate. Currently (year 2022) license plates are issued with the letter E.

Our tip: Pay attention to the color of the license plate when you get into a taxi or Bajaji or get on a Bodaboda. Only if the vehicle has a white number plate it licenced for commercial passenger transport.

Traffic police

Traffic policemen are part of the urban landscape of Dar es Salaam. At large intersections, traffic is often not controlled by the traffic lights, but by one of these capable officers. The traffic policeman wear a white uniform. Especially at traffic junctions, it doesn’t work at all without them. And they not only regulate the traffic, also ensure the safety on the roads through traffic controls.

Street vendor

Like the traffic cop, the street vendors are part of the cityscape. In traffic jams or at intersections, street vendors display their products. The offered portfolio is unlimited. Small snacks, drinks and ice cream are particularly popular. But we were also offered pillows, belts, soccer balls, cutting boards, bras, charging devices, cosmetic products, and un-alike. If you are not interested in the goods, you can say thank you as a no – Asante. The street vendor understands the polite rejection and moves on in search of a prospective buyer.

Our tip: We strongly advise to think twice about buying food from street vendors. Proper storage and adequate cooling are difficult for such snacks or ice cream.

Bottom Line

We understand that family and friends are concerned about our safety on the roads in Tanzania. A lot of what you see here on the streets is unfamiliar at home. Existing traffic rules are interpreted a bit differently. With all the presumed chaos on the roads though, we noticed that the drivers are considerate of each other. We haven’t observed any foul play on the road, no middle finger and no swear words. It feels as if there it is a little less stressy on the streets of Dar es Salaam than in other metropolitan cities. Maybe that’s why we feel safe despite the unfamiliarities.

This Post Has 10 Comments

  1. נערות ליווי

    Itís nearly impossible to find well-informed people for this topic, but you seem like you know what youíre talking about! Thanks

  2. Johnie

    Undeniably believe that which you stated. Your favorite reason seemed to be on the net the simplest thing to be aware
    of. I say to you, I certainly get annoyed while people think about worries that they
    just do not know about. You managed to hit the nail upon the
    top and defined out the whole thing without having side effect
    , people could take a signal. Will likely be back to get more.

  3. my sources

    I like the helpful info you provide in your articles.
    I will bookmark your blog and check again here frequently.
    I am quite sure I’ll learn many new stuff right
    here! Best of luck for the next!

  4. Franziska

    This paragraph is genuinely a fastidious one it assists
    new the web people, who are wishing in favor of

  5. Fredrick

    Hey very interesting blog!

  6. Eulah

    bookmarked!!, I really like your website!

Comments are closed.