Travel guide: Tanzania

We started travelling after we finished our volunteering project in Moshi. We wanted to visit some other country apart from Tanzania and we decided for Malawi. This was our itinerary:

Moshi – Kondoa (Kolo rock paintings) – Dodoma – Iringa (Ruaha national park) – Mbeya – Malawi – Mbeya – Dar es Salaam – Zanzibar. 
Travelling in Tanzania
First thing-remember when I said that Tanzanians people are good, super friendly, nice, kind and lovely? Well, that changes once you put your backpack on. When they see that you are a lost tourist, they will try to make use of it and get as much money as they can from you. Be prepared for being charged double (triple…10 times) the usual prices, being asked for money just for showing you the right direction and even being scammed. If you’re able to speak swahili, that helps a bit, but anyway, you have to NEGOTIATE, NEGOTIATE, NEGOTIATE. Everywhere. Everytime.
Try to ask the locals about the prices and then negotiate for that amount, or at least an amount close to that.
We were travelling by buses only. It’s not for everybody, especially if you are older and don’t wanna do any harm to your body, I do not quite recommend it. It can be long, it can be bumpy and it can be cosy. Very cosy. The transportation system in general is good though, there are direct buses between all the bigger cities that usually run every day and every hour or so and they are cheap. Some of them are quite modern and nice, some of them are…not. When getting to a smaller city like Kondoa, you better book (= buy tickets at the station, there is NO company with a website) your bus 1-2 days in advance, otherwise you can buy them the day of your journey before the departure. As I said they might try to charge you more if you’re white, so here are the prices of the trips we did, as of August 2016:
I indicated the duration as well, although you should always calculate +/- 2 hours or so, since you never know in Tanzania.
Moshi – Kondoa: 
– 17 000 TSH (it’s via Arusha; there’s no direct bus, you have to transfer in Arusha)
– 2 hours to Arusha + 6 hours to Kondoa
Kondoa – Dodoma:
– 10 000 TSH
– 3,5 hours
Dodoma – Iringa:
– 12 000 TSH
– 5,5 hours
Iringa – Mbeya:
– 12 000 TSH
– 9 hours
(The exchange rate is 2160 TSH for 1 USD) 
Kondoa + Kolo rock paintings
Kondoa is a town in the central Tanzania and to be honest there is nothing to see. People (those who know about it) go there to see the rock paintings from the Stone age near the village of Kolo, which is some 20 km far.  It was on our way down to Malawi, so we decided to go there. I am not really into history, so I had no expectations. It’s always better if you don’t expect much; the paintings and the hike were actually really nice. Although I’m not sure what was more interesting-if the journey there or the paintings. Our bus from Arusha to Kondoa was one of the really shitty ones. 5 seats in a row & very hard and very uncomfy seats. The road is also one of the shitty ones. That means there’s basically no road; its just a dusty wide path. A bumpy path, a veeeery bumpy path. I think I can handle lot of things, but the last 2 hours I was about to jump out of the damn bus. Anyway, the paintings were nice and interesting but I’d say not a must. If you go the same route as we did and want to stop somewhere, do it. If not, you are not missing much.
Iringa + Ruaha national park
Ruaha national park, on the other hand, is definitely a must in Tanzania. It’s the biggest national park in all Eastern Africa and it was one of the best things I’ve seen during my travels. Due to it’s location in the southern-central Tanzania, far from everything else, it’s not so touristy (and thus cheaper-yes!), and that was probably the main reason we chose it.
The starting point for the safari tours is Iringa. It’s one of the big Tanzanian cities and it’s actually pretty nice. Situated in the hills, it’s all upside down with beautiful views. The main street is also kinda nice, comparing to other cities like Moshi. It’s paved with sidewalk on both sides, which is quite uncommon here. We were staying in a beautiful guest house with a craftshop selling things made by deaf and blind people. I highly recommend it, it was also cheap; 45 000 TSH for double room. Now the main thing:
There are several companies offering the safari tours in Ruaha. It’s different than in Serengeti or Ngorngoro; you pay for the car and the guide to the agency, and then pay the entrance fees, food and accomodation yourself; so it’s not a package with everything included! The standart safari is 2 days 1 night; where you only spend 24 hours at the park (arriving typically around noon the first day and leave at the same time the next day). We wanted more though, since it was for the first (and maybe for the last) time we went to safari so we decided to make pay the entrance twice and spend more time. Our itinerary was:
Day 1: Leave Iringa at 7 am – arrive at the park around 10 am – game drive till 2 pm – lunch-game drive till sunset – dinner at 8 pm.
Day 2: Sunrise game drive from 6:30 am – breakfast at 10 am – game drive till lunchtime – lunch at around 2-3 pm – drive back – arrival in Iringa around 7 pm.
It turned out to be a great idea, the time spent in the park was just right; we saw everything we wanted and didn’t have to rush anywhere and at the same time didn’t start getting bored.
Now to the price: you are in Tanzania and you are white, so you have to negotiate. The usual price that most agencies give you for the car for the two days like we did is 450 $. We got it down to 400 $. We were six, so it was not too bad.
The total costs were (per person):
  • Car:                                              67 $
  • Entrance fee (2x):                   70 $ / 35$ for 24 hours
  • Accomodation (hostel):         10 $
  • Food (buffet dinner/lunch): 4,6 $ / 10 000 TSH
We went with Bateleur tours company which I totally recommend; first they offer the option of sleeping in the hostel (it’s the cheapest) in the ranger’s village, and our guide, David, was just great.
…And why go there? 
The park is Africa at its best; beautiful savannah with so many different types of environment-flat and dry with occasional baobab trees, green by the river, hilly and rocky just few kilometers away. Stunning. We saw elephants, giraffes, zebras and most importantly lions (mating!), hyenas and leopard.
The guys we went with have been to Ngorongoro and Tarangire and said this was way better. So…screw the crowds in Serengeti and go to Ruaha!
The hostel is called Neema guest house.
The company is called Bateleur tours. Contact David for more info: +255 682 338 660.
We went to Mbeya to go to Malawi from there. Warning! When buying the bus tickets in Iringa, we were told that the journey is 4 hours and its all normal road. Well, you can’t believe everything Tanzanians tell you. Sometimes (very often) they just tell you…whatever. The journey took 9 (!) hours and at least 3 hours were on a bumpy road. The bus was just awful. So small. No space. No food since we thought in we’d arrived soon. Bad smell. A prisoner in handcuffs right in front of us. Scared of arriving to Mbeya at dark. Arrived to Mbeya at dark. We’ve been through hell. Can’t say anything about the city cause we’ve only been around the bus station. Let’s move on.
The journey to Malawi
Okay so this was for the first time I got really angry at the Tanzanian people and hated them for a short time. Mbeya is not that far from the border (2 hours) but the journey took us 5 hours and we had to change the (mini)bus at least 4 times. Of course they overcharged the price, I don’t even wanna say how much we paid for it and eventually they scammed us by not dropping us off at the border village but taking us to another town instead. We had to take another minibus from there to the border village (where we had already been-but we didn’t know it!) and pay for it of course. I was so pissed. So when buying the bus tickets in Mbeya, ask for a direct bus to SONGWE (that’s the village on the border). When getting off the minibus in Songwe, a crowd of people surrounded us, offering us ride to the border, exchanging shillings for malawian kwachas and selling random stuff. Do NOT take a ride to the border, even with a really heavy bagage it was only 10 minutes walking and do NOT exchange the money with anyone on the street as they’d definitely scam you.
On the border everything went relatively fine, and then we headed to our destination in Malawi…but you have to see my other post for that. 🙂
See our vlogs from the safari here:
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