2 Day Itinerary in Dar es Salaam Tanzania - A Complete Guide
Dar es Salaam is certainly not the first destination that comes to mind when you think of a trip to Tanzania. For most visitors, the city only serves as a gateway to other more popular destinations, such as Zanzibar, Kilimanjaro, and Serengeti.
But that’s not to say that Dar es Salaam is entirely devoid of any charm. Walking around the city center and its chaotic markets is a great way to get yourself acquainted with the local culture. The fact that it is not touristy ensures a more authentic experience for discerning travelers.
Dar es Salaam, which means “City of Peace” in Arabic, is the largest city in Tanzania and East Africa, and the seventh largest in all of Africa. It is bordered on the east by the Indian Ocean.
The city was founded in 1862 by Sultan Seyyid Majid and started as a fishing village. Until 1974, it was the capital of Tanzania before the capital city began to move to Dodoma (the transfer was completed in 1996).
Despite no longer being the capital, Dar es Salaam remains as Tanzania’s economic center and plays an important role in the country’s arts, fashion, media, music, film, and television industries.
It is also the main arrival and departure point for most tourists visiting Tanzania.
There are many different tribes in Tanzania, each one of them with its own language. But the official language and lingua franca is Swahili, which is taught in primary school and spoken by over 90% of the population.
English is widely spoken in big cities like Dar es Salaam and is often used in foreign trade, diplomacy, and as a medium of instruction in secondary and tertiary education.
There are no reliable statistics, but according to a 2010 survey, Tanzania’s population is roughly 61% Christian, 35% Muslim, and 4% other religious groups including Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, Baha’is, and animists. However, at least half of the population still practices elements of African traditional religions in their daily lives.
The currency of Tanzania is called Tanzanian Shilling (TZS). The current exchange rate is: 1 USD = 2,319 TZS.
Best Time to Visit Dar es Salaam
Due to its proximity to the equator, Dar es Salaam has a tropical climate, characterized by hot and humid weather, and relatively stable temperatures throughout the year.
In a typical year, there are two rainy seasons in Dar es Salaam: “the long rains” from March to May and “the short rains” in November and December. The peak monsoon season is in April.
Between December and February, temperatures can soar up to the mid-30’s Celsius. That, and the high humidity level make it less than ideal to visit the city during these months.
The best time to visit Dar es Salaam is between June and September, right after the rainy season, when temperatures are milder and the humidity relatively low.
How to Get to Dar es Salaam
Most visitors to Dar es Salaam arrive via Julius K. Nyerere International Airport (IATA: DAR), which is Tanzania’s main airport. You can fly there from many major cities in Africa, as well as Asia (Doha, Muscat, and Dubai) and Europe (Istanbul and Amsterdam).
Getting from the Airport to the City Center
The airport is located about 10 kilometres away from the city center. Most large hotels offer pick-up and drop-off service upon request.
Alternatively, you can take an airport taxi. The drivers will approach you as soon as you leave the airport building. Fares to the city center are fixed at USD 30 per person for foreigners.
To get the best price, pay in Tanzanian Shillings instead of US Dollars. Make sure you have some of the local currency with you, preferably before you arrive in Tanzania, as the ATMs and money changers at the airport are sometimes unreliable.
A cheaper option is to walk to the main road and flag a taxi or daladala (local minibus).
Long-distance bus travel in East Africa is generally quite comfortable, as most buses are equipped with A/C, safety belts, luggage compartments, and bathrooms.
However, they tend to drive fast and quite recklessly, and there’s often a TV or radio playing local songs at top volume.
2-Day Itinerary in Dar es Salaam
I arrived in Dar es Salaam on an October morning after two 8-hour Oman Air flights and one stopover in Muscat. My Couchsurfing host, Uo had kindly offered to pick me up from the airport. Since it was my first time in mainland Africa, I was only too happy to accept his offer.
To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect. I knew very little about Tanzania and East Africa, apart from the few articles I read on travel blogs. The African continent is often portrayed as a chaotic and unsafe place to visit, and I have to admit that I felt some trepidation about it.
The airport was clean but quite sparse. There was nothing much to see, so I only sat at one corner and charged my phone while waiting for Uo, who was going to take a while since he had to travel by bus from his home.
Soon, he arrived and after introducing ourselves, we left the airport building to take a local bus from the main road. It’s always an exciting feeling when you step on a new continent for the first time!
On the way home, we stopped by at the Kariakoo Market — the biggest and busiest market in Dar es Salaam that spans several city blocks. The place once housed the barracks of the British Carrier Corps, which was how the name “Kariakoo” came about.
Morning is the best time to go as there aren’t too many shoppers yet, and you get to watch the vendors unload their wares. This market sells pretty much everything, but I didn’t really get to look around, as it had started to rain and we were too busy trying to avoid the puddles on the ground.
To sit out the rain, we stopped at a small cafe owned by Uo’s friend and had a light breakfast of some fritters.
My Accommodation: Uo’s Home
After breakfast, we took a bus to Uo’s home, where he lived with his siblings, cousins, and aunt. I noticed that the houses in Dar es Salaam were not too different from rural houses in my own country, except that the kitchens and bathrooms were outside.
It was the rainy season when I visited, so the roads leading to his house was covered with huge potholes — one was as big as a small pond. It made for an interesting ride though.
On my second day, the weather had improved somewhat. Uo borrowed his sister’s car to show me around.
The first attraction we went to see was the Kigamboni Bridge — a 680-meter-long bridge that links Dar es Salaam to the Kigamboni district. This bridge provided an alternative transport link between the two districts, whereas previously, everyone had to use a ferry.
The bridge has six lanes (three on each direction) and two pedestrian/cyclist lanes.
The real reason Uo’s sister let him borrow her car that day was so that he could take it to a workshop in Kigamboni to get something fixed. So while waiting for the car to be ready, we had a lunch of nyama choma (grilled meat) paired with ugali (cornmeal mush), and some vegetables.
Our next stop was Coco Beach (a.k.a. Oyster Bay), located on the Msasani Peninsula. Apparently, the place is very lively during the peak season, sometimes even hosting concerts and beach parties.
But everything was quiet during my visit. There was no one else on the beach other than some street food vendors, who were quite persistent in trying to sell me something.
Our next stop was a supermarket. Visiting supermarkets is one of my favorite things to do when I travel abroad. It’s so cool to see what the locals eat and the ingredients they use for cooking.
For example, I was quite intrigued by these strange-looking lemons (I think). And the peppers. I had never seen them in those shapes before.
I was also amused to see that my favorite childhood snack from Malaysia was sold there.
Next, we drove around the city center, where Uo showed me some of the government buildings, embassies, and big hotels. But the main attraction there was the Askari Monument — a cast-bronze statue depicting a soldier in WWI uniforms with his bayonet pointing toward the harbor. The statue was built in honor of those who fought in the British Carrier Corps.
Situated at the center of the roundabout between Samora Avenue and Maktaba Street, it allegedly marks the exact center of downtown Dar es Salaam.
Along the way, we also stopped for some fresh coconut juice and a sweet snack with sesame seeds on it.
For dinner, we went to a row of street stalls to share some fried chicken and chips, and a dish called Zanzibar mix, which is a unique street food that combines elements of Indian, Arab, and African flavors.
It consists of potatoes, chickpeas, and peanuts swimming in a thick coconut gravy, topped with a dollop of coconut cilantro chutney, a dash of hot pepper sauce, kachumbari (tomato, onion, and cucumber salad) and some bhajias (deep-fried potatoes) for an extra crunch. For protein, you can also add in a medium-boiled egg and mishkaki (grilled mutton or beef).
Other Things to See in Dar es Salaam
Due to bad weather and time constraints, I didn’t get to see everything there was to see in Dar es Salaam. But I’m also the type of traveler who favor authentic local experiences over tourist attractions, so it wasn’t a big deal for me.
Here are some other places you can visit in Dar es Salaam if you have more time:
St. Joseph’s Cathedral
Home to the Archbishop of Dar es Salaam, this Roman Catholic church has an amazing Gothic-style architecture, featuring a shingled spire, vaulted interior, stained-glass windows, and a carved relief above the main altar. Visit on a Sunday to hear the choir and the English mass at 8:30 a.m. and 11:00 a.m.
Azania Lutheran Church
Another prominent church in Dar es Salaam is the Azania Lutheran Church, located at the harbor front. It was originally built by German missionaries in Tanzania. You can go up to the top to see the bell tower.
Kivukoni Fish Market
To get a taste of daily life in Dar es Salaam, make your way to Kikuvoni Fish Market. Like Kariakoo, the Kikuvoni Fish Market is best visited early in the morning, when the fishing boats arrive and the fish are auctioned to the public. Bargain hard if you plan to buy some. You can also enjoy a seafood meal there.
For those who wish to escape the hectic city life, Dar es Salaam can be used as a base to get to nearby islands, such as Mbudya, Bongoyo. These islands are only a short boat ride away from Dar es Salaam’s harbors and offer a perfect respite for a day of rest and relaxation. Just ask the local boatmen near the White Sands Hotel, the Slipway, or Kunduchi.
National Museum & House of Culture
National museums are always a good place to learn more about a country’s history and culture. Tanzania’s National Museum and House of Culture showcases a vast collection of fossils and artifacts, as well as a number of cars that belonged to the country’s first president.
Visitors also get to learn about the history of the slave trade and colonialism in the country.
If you’d like to learn more about rural Tanzania’s customs and traditions, visit the Village Museum, which is located about six miles north of the city center. It is an interactive museum that allows visitors to enter and explore different types of traditional Tanzanian huts (there are more than a dozen!). Dance and music performances are also available for an extra price.
How to Get Around in Dar es Salaam
Admittedly, getting around in Dar es Salaam can be a bit daunting for a first-timer. I had it easy because someone was there to show me around by car. But I did experience the local transports as well.
If you’re traveling independently, you have several options:
- By car – Car rental can be organized online or through most hotels. However, driving in Tanzania can be a stressful, difficult, and dangerous affair, due to poor road conditions, traffic congestion, reckless driving, and thefts. Only choose this option if you have experience driving in developing countries.
- By taxi – Certainly not the cheapest option, especially for a foreign tourist. Currently, there are no formal taxi companies in Dar es Salaam. The taxi drivers run their own business but are regulated by the government. Taxi fares are not fixed. Make sure you negotiate and agree on the price before you get in the car.
- By bus – The public buses in Dar es Salaam are actually quite clean, cheap, and convenient. Look out for these designated bus stops. Tickets are to be purchased at the bus stops, before boarding.
- By motorcycle taxi – Similar to the normal taxis, motorbike taxis also operate independently. I personally wouldn’t recommend this option as they don’t usually provide helmets.
- By daladala (minibus) – Daladala is the cheapest and most common form of public transportation in the city. The names of the first and last stops are shown in the front window or yelled out by the conductor. Main terminals include New Posta (the main post office), Kariakoo, Kivukoni, and the Central Line train station.
Where to Stay in Dar es Salaam
If you wish to stay near the beach, Dar es Salaam has three distinct beach areas: Kunduchi in the north, Ras Kutani in the south, and Oyster Bay (Coco Beach) within the city limits.
However, if you’d like to have easier access to public transport and the attractions listed above, it’s recommended to stay near the city center. Here are a few suggestions:
Chelsea Hotel – Conveniently located only 10 km away from the airport and 1 km from the Zanzibar Ferry Terminal, this three-star hotel offers unobstructed views of the city from its rooftop terrace. (From USD 34 per night).
Harbour View Suites – This hotel — which is located in Samora Avenue — features large, comfortable rooms that come with fully-fitted kitchens. On the ground floor is a well-stocked supermarket, and a few restaurants and cafes. (From USD 110 per night).
Hyatt Regency Dar es Salaam, the Kilimanjaro – Part of the internationally acclaimed Hyatt hotel chain, this luxurious hotel is located in the heart of Dar es Salaam, next to the ocean side, therefore offering you stunning views of the Indian Ocean. (From USD 230 per night).
Final Thoughts on Dar es Salaam
Is Dar es Salaam worth visiting?
Yes, although Dar es Salaam is often overlooked by tourists (or precisely because of that), I think it’s worth a visit, especially if you prefer veering off the well-trodden paths.
Before you go embark on your safari in the savannah, Dar es Salaam gives you the perfect opportunity to get a better understanding of the people whose country you’re visiting.
How long should you spend in Dar es Salaam?
To see all of the attractions listed above without feeling rushed, allow at least three days in Dar es Salaam — or longer if you plan to spend more time on the surrounding islands. It’s also wise to make room for unexpected weather change when you’re planning your itinerary.
How safe is Dar es Salaam for solo female travelers?
To be fair, I didn’t really travel alone in Dar es Salaam, as I had my host with me almost all the time. But from my observation, it was not quite as bad as I had initially imagined.
All the basic safety rules apply here.
- Do not flaunt your valuables and be aware of your surroundings.
- Getting on public transports can be a bit of a challenge, especially in the rain, when you have to shove your way in and out of the bus.
- When buying tickets for long-distance bus journeys, make sure you buy from reputable companies.
- Tanzania is also a little more conservative than surrounding countries, so you might want to dress modestly.
For a first-timer, it might be a little overwhelming. But as for me, since I had traveled alone quite extensively in Asia, it wasn’t that much of a shock. In fact, there are other countries I’d been to that I felt were more challenging.
Have you been to Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania? Share your experience in the comment section below.
I have to admit, I know very little about Dar es Salaam and hasn’t been on my radar. I know Tanzania and if I ever get there, I hope to do the safaris or go up that famous mountain or check out the famous beaches but by the looks of it, a little trip into the capital is needed. Loving the looks of the food, that is right up my street and defo would check out the surrounding islands (I am more of an nature person than an urban person). You have opened my eyes a lot more on the city, so thank you for that. 🙂
You’re welcome, Danik. Just a little reminder though — Dar es Salaam is the former capital. The current capital is Dodoma. I had the same confusion too — in fact I kept thinking that Dar was still the capital until I got home and sat down to write this article. Haha. Anyway, it does deserve a visit if you go to Tanzania. 🙂
Thank you Ummi for the great post
You’re welcome, Eric! Thank you for reading. 🙂
This is the first I have heard of Dar es Salaam. On one hand it is always a bummer when it rains while visiting someplace new, on the other it gave you a great opportunity to meet local people. It would be fun to experience the fish market and Mbudya Island looks incredible!
True, Sherianne. I had visited during one of the rainy periods, but on the plus side, flight tickets were cheap, and there weren’t too many people. Rain or shine, it was still a valuable experience for me. 🙂 But I hope to visit again someday and see the places I didn’t manage to see.
Suka baca experience macam ni. First time dengar pasal Dar Es Salaam ni. Mana tahu rezeki ke sana boleh jadikan blog sis sebagai panduan. Siap ada super ring kat sana ye.
Terima kasih, Marina. Jangan lupa refer semula pada blog ni jika ada peluang untuk ke Dar es Salaam, ya. Tu la, terkejut dan teruja bila nampak ada Super Ring kat sana.
A few years ago, the only time I had heard of Dar Es Salaam was in a song by a band called Vampire Weekend, and at the time I didn’t even know it was a location! I have always wanted to visit Africa and have been looking into planning a trip. Might make this a stop on the way, thanks for the info!
You’re welcome, Chloe. I hope this guide will be useful if you do decide to visit. I must go and find the song — never heard of it before!
Wow…….you make Tanzania look interesting in this post. Reading your post makes me want to travel here too. Thank you for sharing your experience with me.
You’re welcome, Fadima. Happy to share and encourage people to visit a place they had never thought of visiting before. Tanzania is a beautiful country — I hope you will visit someday. 🙂
Seronok baca pengalaman travel ummi , terasa diri pun ikut travel sama…..lemon dia macam kulit limau purut kan tapi terkejut jugaklah tengok kat sana ada jual jajan super ring…
Haah, Saidila. Saya pun tak tau, tu lemon kacukan dengan limau purut ke apa. Haha. Tapi seronok bila nampak barangan buatan Malaysia kat sana.
Zanzibari mix macam mi jawa ataupun lontong haha looks nyummy btw! Cantik la Mbudya Island dia. Padat juga kawasan Dar es Salaam ni.
Haha, tak terlintas pulak yang Zanzibari mix ni lebih kurang mi jawa atau lontong, Farhana. Bila awak cakap, baru saya nampak persamaannya. Memang sedap, walaupun saya tak suka bawang. 😀
Wow. That’s a very detailed sharing about Dar es Salaam. Just like you’ve mentioned, it is my first time hearing about it. Africa is in my to visit list and I think I should visit here too – I want to visit Kariakoo market. Mesti banyak produk yang unik kan. And it is funny to see Super Ring ada kat situ
Thank you, Rawlins. Yes, visiting the local market can be very educational. You get a glimpse into the people’s lifestyle — what they eat, what they like to buy, how much things cost, and so much more. If you ever go to East Africa, be sure to visit Tanzania and Dar es Salaam. 🙂
Bila sebut Tanzania, teringat pulak ada sorang kawan dekat uni dulu berasal dari Tanzania. Macam ni rupanya Tanzania. Sesak jugak tempatnya. Tapi tmpat yang menarik jugak untuk dapatkan pengalaman macam ni. Makan dia pun unik.
Ya, agak sesak dan kurang terurus, Iza. Tapi bagi saya tempat2 macam ni la yang menarik untuk dilawati — lebih mencabar. Makanan kat sana pun tak mengecewakan. 🙂
I have never been to Tanzania but it is nice to know that English is widely spoken in big cities. I am sooo curious about the strange-looking lemons and peppers. and a trip to Mbudya Island would be nice. The water is so blue.
It certainly would, Clarice. I’d love to visit the islands if I ever find myself in Dar es Salaam again. And when I do, maybe I’ll buy those lemons and peppers to find out what they taste like 😄
I love that you included history and religion. I always start my articles with history. And, the details – really well written:)
Thank you for your comment, Nicola! I’m still new to blogging and have so much more to learn. Glad that I have role models like you to learn from. 🙂
Cantekkk airport dia.. nampak eskkuy.. mmg nampak very peaceful.. dulu i ingat tanzania.. dekat aussie..iskhh.. now i know hehe
Haha, tu Tasmania kot, Ayu 😀
This is really interesting I wish to go to Tanzania to experience their culture and lifestyle.
I hope you will, Kelly. 🙂 It’s always interesting to learn about a culture and lifestyle that we’re not familiar with.
Jauhnya perjalanan ko Ummi.. Sis biasa juga dengar Tanzania tu.. cuma tak terfikir akan baca pengalaman orang ke sini.. yang Super Ring tu memang terjual di sana ek? Ummi beli ke? Sama macam Malaysia ek? Menarik plak hahahaha
Haha, tak beli pulak, sis. Sebab excited sangat nak try makanan2 local yang lain. Saya kalau travel memang suka cuba makanan tempatan. Tambah2 lagi, itu kali pertama saya di kebenuaan Afrika, jadi banyak benda baru yang tak pernah cuba.
Very interesting trip tho.. I’m surprised to see Super Ring there 😛 lol.. Hopefully one day I do have a chance to visit places like this too.. places that I never put in my list before especially this region.
East Africa is a region that is steeped in culture and has some of the best nature and safari destinations, Kitkat. It would be a shame not to include it in your bucket list, in my opinion. 🙂
tanzania seems crowded like india. but thats the beauty of it right?to get to know the culture and their food.
Exactly, Nik. I sometimes love visiting such places, for the challenge of it. And learning about the culture and food of a new place is always a highlight. 😀
so lucky la ummi. manage to go to few places. tanzania was part of my wishlist too. tak sangka negara dia macam ni. so interesting! hopefully one day can visit there
I hope you will, Khai. Saya rasa negara Tanzania ni sangat menarik, terutama bagi pelancong Muslim sebab kat sana ada populasi Muslim yang agak besar.
Tertarik dengan Tanzanian Hut tu. Wah kagum la dengan kecekalan awak travel solo ke merata dunia. You’re such an easy-goin person I think. Btw, suka tgk latar kehidupan masyarakat di bahagian dunia yang lain. Thanks!
Terima kasih, Kak Bell. Saya pun sama — suka tengok latar kehidupan masyarakat di bahagian dunia yang jarang kita lihat, contohnya di Afrika. Kalau dalam televisyen atau filem, biasanya cuma kehidupan di Barat yang sering dipertontonkan.
there are just so many breathtaking attractions in tanzania and i honestly cant wait to visit them. thanks for the itinerary!
You’re welcome, Grace!
Having a local host and guide is such a fantastic way to experience a new city. The market and street food were the real highlights for me and a local guide truly does know the very best places to eat. I’d love a chance to visit Kuvokoni Fish Market or escape to the islands.
Yes, Jamie, going with a local guide is an invaluable experience. if I get a second chance to visit Dar es Salaam, I would love to visit the Kivukoni Fish Market too. The islands maybe not so much, as I’m not a beach person, but if I had to choose one island, I’d go to Zanzibar.
I had never heard of Dar es Salaam. Yes, most times people only hear about Kilimanjaro which is definitely on my list. But after reading your guide I think I will add Dar es Salaam to my list of places to visit in Tanzania.
Glad to have introduced you to Dar es Salaam, Raksha. I hope you’ll visit the city someday if you ever go to Tanzania. 🙂
Honestly, I never heard this name before. I thought it is Brunei Darulsalam..haha ^^ thanks for the itinerary
Haha you’re welcome, Precious Cla. You’ve got a point there — I can see the similarity of the names too. Same meaning, different spelling.
Africa has always had the charm for me after I visited South Africa many years back. I quite love the look of Dar-es-Salaam with its crowded streets and the shops. Great place to understand the culture. Kigamboni Bridge looks beautiful with not much of traffic. The Azania Lutheran Church, the beach, the fish market and the food options look just awesome. Food would be one of the prime reasons I would love to visit. Thanks for a complete guide.
You’re welcome, Subhashish. I hope it will be useful for you in the future. Like you, I’ve also been charmed by this part of the world after my brief time in East Africa. And food is always a good reason to visit! 😉
This is a great guide! I have yet to go to Tanzania nor heard of this area but it’s been on my bucketlist for so long to visit the country. There are so many beautiful spots and attractions that I think I would just appreciate plus it’s nice to know there won’t be much of a language barrier. Favoriting this itinerary for later!
Thank you, Marielle! I really hope you’ll get to visit this country someday. Although there are many other popular destinations in Tanzania, I think Dar es Salaam shouldn’t be overlooked. Do spend a few days there if you get the chance. 🙂
From what I have read about Tanzania and especially Dar es Salaam, I am really touched so much so that one of these days I will go out on an adventure and experience what I have read from your piece.
Thank you for your comment, Blessings Kayira! Glad that you enjoyed the article, and I hope you will visit this place soon 🙂
It’s rare to find and read about Dar Es Salaam on the internet. Very few think about visiting this small town of Tanzania given the less or no information to be consumed. But anyway, the city is worth a visit going by the photographs and all that you’ve shared. Like you, I too would love to visit it during monsoon. This will mean avoiding hot temperature and also travelling in budget.
Thank you, Pranitaa! I actually didn’t know much about Dar Es Salaam either. For a long time, and even after returning home from that trip, I still thought it was the capital of Tanzania. Haha! (I feel like an idiot about it now). But still glad that I went. Less touristy destinations are always the best for learning about the people’s culture and lifestyle. If you don’t mind the rain, the monsoon is a good time to go. I hope you’ll make it there soon. 🙂
Your experience you shared was very nice and i liked it
Thank you, Sreejitha. 🙂