Dar es Salaam is the biggest city in Tanzania and if you’re visiting this country, I’d highly recommend you pass through at least once.
It’s home to the country’s biggest airport, and is just a short ferry ride from the popular island of Zanzibar.
It’s also the closest thing Tanzania has to a “metropolis”, so while most of Tanzania is characteristic of small towns and cities, Dar is where you’ll find something resembling big city life.
It’s not the prettiest city, with bad traffic, and is widely scattered and not easily walkable, but once you get settled and see under the surface, it’s hard not to grow fond, if not completely enamoured of the place.
Tanzania is one of my favourite countries on the planet, and Dar is the perfect place to experience the best of it.
In This Guide:
- Map Of Dar Es Salaam
- Where To Stay In Dar
- Oyster Bay/Masaki
- City Centre
- Mbezi Beach
- How To Get To Your Accommodation
- How To Get Around Dar
- How To Get Internet In Dar
- Food In Dar
- Safety In Dar
Map of Dar Es Salaam
Dar es Salaam is a sprawling city with very distinct areas.
It’s important you choose a suitable area to stay in – there are very safe and peaceful areas, and some not so much.
Overall, Dar is a safe city, but it requires you to keep your wits about you and know where you are.
I trained for a marathon while living in Dar, meaning I was out running the streets at all hours of the day and it wasn’t an issue at all, but only because I had chosen the right areas to stay and was well-oriented.
My guide below will ensure you can enjoy the city the same way!
Where To Stay In Dar Es Salaam
This is a well-developed and safe area in Dar Es Salaam and the place I stayed on my first visit.
The streets are well-maintained and quiet, and it’s reminiscent of a wealthy, expat neighbourhood of sorts.
While the area feels more suburban and is quite spread out, it still has a good selection of restaurants, cafes, supermarkets which are all very tourist-friendly.
It’s also where the Coco Beach is.
It’s a public city beach so will often be very busy with locals, however, I’ve walked the beach many times and people have always been friendly and I’ve always felt safe (at least during the daytime).
If you venture further north, you get to Masaki which is a nearby cape, very upper-end and home to the Slipway Mall and Seacliff Hotel, among a myriad of other nice restaurants and hotels.
Overall, this is the perfect “entry-level” area to stay in Dar, so if this is your first visit, I’d recommend staying here.
Pastries in Oyster Bay
Where to stay in Oyster Bay/Masaki
If you’re on a budget:
Stay at Triniti.
This is literally the first place I ever stayed in Dar es Salaam and I’m not surprised it’s still around and kicking!
It’s a spacious boutique guesthouse in the centre of Oyster Bay, walking distance to a decent supermarket and restaraunts and Coco Bay.
It also has a restaurant and bar on-site, with daily buffet and al a carte breakfast available.
The rooms are comfortable and have everything you’d expect from a decent guesthouse, including air-con.
The one thing you should be aware of is, each weekend the bar becomes open to the public, so you have almost have an open air nightclub in the restaurant, which is (obviously) noisy.
For some younger travellers that might sound like a dream, but if that’s not quite what you’re looking for, another great recommendation I have would be Hotel Totara, which is slightly more expensive but still great. It’s about 1km away.
If you’re splurging:
Stay at Element.
It’s a luxury hotel in the heart of Masaki and you won’t find better!
It’s a short walk from the Dar Es Salaam Yacht Club and still reasonably close to Coco Beach in Oyster Bay if you plan on spending time there.
The restaurant is superb and offers a wide range of African and international cuisines.
Obviously, it comes with all the standard facilities of a five-star hotel – gym, outdoor pool, room-service, restaurant and bar, and the rooms are exquisite.
I spent about 3 months living in Dar city centre and I loved it!
However, I need to preface that with the fact that I’m quite an experienced Africa traveller, and also I speak conversational Swahili.
Sometimes, I would go out walking at night to find food or meet a friend, and the receptionists would always double-check with me if I knew where I was going and plead with me to take a taxi.
So – if you do plan to stay in the city centre, understand it can be iffy at night and that it’s probably not the best choice for first-time visitors.
However, if you are more familiar to Tanzania and are comfortable staying in very local settings, I find the city centre quite enjoyable.
Where To Stay In Dar City Centre
If you’re on a budget:
Stay at the Sophia Hotel.
It’s a no-frills hotel right in the centre of town.
You won’t find any lavish reception desk or swimming pool here, but it does all the basics extremely well at a very affordable price.
It’s also located next to some top eating spots (two blocks over from Chef’s Pride, one of my favourites!) and the area is very walkable during the day.
If you’re splurging:
Stay at Johari Rotana.
It’s a new(ish) hotel situated right near the water and one of the best hotels in Dar.
The infinity pool overlooks the city and is the perfect way to spend an afternoon relaxing in this bustling city.
The restaurant is superb and boasts one of the best buffet breakfasts in town.
It’s also right across the street from the Zanzibar ferry, so perfectly located if you’re coming to/from the island.
The rooms are new and beautifully furnished – it will be hard for you to find better!
Upanga is an area by the city which is not a tourist-area by any means, but is reasonably safe and you do find foreigners staying here. It’s also home to a decent-sized Indian population and you’ll find many Indian restaurants around here.
I was staying here while training for a marathon and would go out for runs in the early morning and late evening, and everything felt very safe and put-together. It’s not uncommon to see kids walking around at night and things just feel peaceful overall.
By that stage everyone seemed to know me (since I was out running every day) so perhaps that skewed my experience somewhat but my assessment of the place was that it would be suitable for a tourist like a backpacker who’s a little more adventurous and doesn’t need every type of western amenity nearby.
I enjoyed staying here, and it would probably be my first choice on my next trip too.
A cafe in Upanga
Where to stay in Upanga:
There are not that many places available in Upanga as it’s not really a tourist spot, but the Crowne Plaza is a great choice.
It’s right by the main road, but also a short walk from a more local area with fruit stands and local restaurants etc.
I used to run past it every day!
Mikocheni is a well-known and fast-developing area of Dar.
It’s a lengthy drive from the city (maybe an hour in rush-hour) but if you’re staying out here, there shouldn’t be too many reasons for you to head into the city anyway.
Mikocheni has everything including restaurants, bars, clubs, hotels, malls, coffee shops and much more. The country’s biggest mall (Mlimani City Mall) is a short drive away.
It’s still largely a local population, and out in the cafes you’ll find many young locals like students and young professionals, rather than expats.
I spent a lot of time in Mikocheni on my last visit and it’s amazing how much it has changed since my first visit.
Where To Stay In Mikocheni:
If you’re on a budget:
Stay at Cefa Hostel.
For around $25 to $30 per night you can get yourself a comfortable room with wifi, air conditioning and free wifi right in the heart of Mikocheni.
It’s about a 10-minute walk from Msasani Beach, and a few nice restaurants are available within walking distance.
There is no restaurant, but the staff is more than happy to help you arrange meals.
As a budget option, you cannot ask for better.
If you’re splurging:
Stay at Amariah Boutique.
This is an impossibly charming hotel that offers a sanctuary in the heart of Mikocheni.
The gardens and lawn are immaculately kept and are the perfect place to relax after a long day of exploring the city.
There is a restaurant, gym, and the rooms are classically designed and ultra-modern and comfortable.
It is hands down the best hotel in Mikocheni!
Mbezi Beach is about an hour north of Dar es Salaam city centre, but not too far from Oyster Bay and Mikocheni.
It’s a much calmer area with less traffic, and mostly hotels and restaurants.
It can be a nice place to stay if you’re not so intent on exploring and just want a place where you can relax and enjoy the softer side of Dar.
It’s also the perfect launching spot for a day trip to Bongoyo Island.
Perfect spot for a couple just wanting to relax after hiking Kili or going on safari.
Heading to the islands
Where to stay in Mbezi Beach
If you’re on a budget:
Stay at Jogoo Rooms.
It’s basic accommodation with free wifi and a small garden and about 3km from Mbezi Beach.
The rooms are very comfortable and will set you back around $20 per night.
If you want something closer to the beach, it’s a little more expensive but you could try Seashore Resort. Rooms will cost you around $70 during low season.
If you’re splurging:
Stay at Mediterraneo Boutique.
It’s a full-fledged resort right on the sand – gym, outdoor pool, garden, restaurant and bar.
It’s one of the nicer resorts along Mbezi Beach and great value for money comparatively.
I’ve spent a few afternoons here having lunch and the vibe is great.
How To Get To Your Accommodation
There are two main ways people get to Dar.
If you’re flying from overseas or domestically, you will be landing at Nyerere Airport.
The easiest way to your accommodation is to use Uber.
It should only cost you between 20k to 30k shillings to get to the city centre and beyond, which is about $10 at the time of writing.
There will also be many taxis around, and you can negotiate a similar rate with them.
For safety purposes, I would recommend using the official airport taxis at the taxi stand.
They may end up slightly more expensive, but generally are much safer.
If you’re coming from other cities in Tanzania, it’s also possible you’re arriving by bus.
The buses generally stop quite far outside the city.
There will always be tuktuks available at the bus depots, however, for safety reasons, if you’re unfamiliar with Dar it’s always safer to order a tuktuk from Uber.
Long-distance bus into Dar
How To Get Around In Dar Es Salaam
Again, Uber is the preferred method for most people.
You can also use the app “Bolt” which is popular in Tanzania and is basically an Uber copycat.
You can order tuktuks on Uber and they are generally much cheaper than cars.
How To Get Internet In Dar Es Salaam
There are various phone networks in Tanzania, with Tigo, Airtel, Halo and Vodacom being the main ones.
I personally use Vodacom whenever I go to Tanzania, just out of habit, but Tigo is generally cheaper and lots of people prefer it.
Getting a sim card can be slightly time-consuming, as you’ll need to go into a Vodacom store with your passport and people move very slowly in Tanzania.
Give yourself a few hours, especially if the store is busy.
However, once you get your sim card, topping up can be done at any agent which you’ll find all over the place at supermarkets and so on.
You can purchase internet bundles very easily and affordably in the app.
Safety in Dar
Dar is safer than most African metropolises but don’t let your guard down too easily.
During the day you should be fine walking in most public spaces and around the city. However, avoid drawing too much attention to yourself and wearing too much jewellery. The goal is to look more like a foreign worker than a tourist on holiday.
Remember, crowded and busy places like malls are much better than quiet empty streets, even in nice areas. Even in the Masaki area there are reports of robberies of people walking around on their lonesome.
At night time, never walk around alone at night and do not take motorbike taxis. Always Uber.
More Dar Tips:
Dress appropriately: Dar is very hot, however, avoid wearing short skirts/shorts and revealing clothes outside of your hotel/resort. It’s a very conservative culture, not to mention it has a devout religious population (both Christian and Muslim).
Eat local! Food is very affordable in Tanzania and you can seriously get by on $1 a meal pretty easily. Local foods like pilau, chapati, mtori, beans and rice, chips mayai, ugali, makande are sold all over town and very cheap. Ask a local where they ate lunch that day! Also, there are fruit and veg stands all over the streets where you can buy fresh produce for a few dollars.
Traffic is heavy. Roads are not great in all parts of Dar, and traffic gets heavy. Give yourself plenty of time to get to the airport, especially during peak hours.
Learn the language. English is widely spoken, but it helps to learn some Swahili before your trip. You might want to check out my Learn a Language in 7 Days guide.
Get travel insurance! Travelling in Africa is unpredictable, insurance is an absolute must. If you’ve never purchased travel insurance before, this blog post should tell you everything you need to know.
Questions? Leave them below!