Arusha

Arusha is a city of approximately 400,000 people in Northeast Tanzania, East Africa. It is regarded as the gateway to the popular Northern Safari Circuit.

Arusha Market
Bishop's Cathedral of Arusha.

Understand

Arusha, called "A Town" by the locals, is situated at the foot of Mount Meru, Africa's 5th highest mountain. The altitude gives the city a pleasant climate and lush green environment.

Arusha is not a particularly attractive city in itself and is regarded by many visitors as little more than a necessary stopover before their safari starts in earnest. However, the natural charm of the Tanzanians and the buzz of a fast-growing city mean that Arusha has plenty to offer for those who are prepared to see beyond their air-conditioned safari trucks and satellite-TV hotel rooms.

Arusha is home to the UNICTR, the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda . It is also the site of the signing of the Arusha Declaration.

Get in

By air

Arusha is served by two airports. Kilimanjaro International Airport (IATA: JRO) has regular flights to Amsterdam with KLM, and to Addis Ababa, Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar and Nairobi. Kilimanjaro Airport is approximately 60 km (45 min) from the city centre. A taxi ride costs US$50 but many airlines run a shuttle service for free or US$10. Arusha Municipal Airport (IATA: ARK) is on the outskirts of the city but only runs domestic flights, mostly to Zanzibar and Dar es Salaam, and charters. Air Viva offers flights between Arusha and Zanzibar, Dar es Salaam, Kilimanjaro and other domestic destinations.

Visas-on-arrival are available at Kilimanjaro International Airport for US$50, or US$100 for some nationalities. The visa must be paid in US$ and 1 dollar bills or even coins won't be accepted. Immediately outside the arrival hall is an ATM and a currency exchange office that you can use if you don't have the necessary cash with you.

By bus

The crowded interior of an Arusha minibus

Arusha is a major transport hub and has connections throughout the country. Some companies offer first-class tickets which are slightly more comfortable although it is worth noting that standards are generally comparable with most African bus services. Although, especially when doing long distance trips, it is usually wise to take one of the better companies (e.g. Dar Express or Killimanjaro Express or Modern Coast Bus) and buy the ticket at least a day in advance.

Direct express coaches go from/to

Get around

The main mode of public transport is "daladala", the ubiquitous minibuses which ply their trade on all the main routes in town. They are very cheap. The government regulates all pricing of transportation in Tanzania. Prices are listed on the sides of the daladala for each distance or stop covered. You are not obliged to pay above that price. As with most destinations in the world, they will try to fit as many people as possible to maximize their profits. Accidents involving "daladalas" are frequent and usually with serious consequences for the passengers. Pickpocketing is also common on "daladalas", but can be easily avoided by sitting with bags on your lap and not keeping valuables in your pockets. Nevertheless, people are very honest and will often stop someone trying to steal or rip you off.

Taxis are plentiful and cheap, although make sure to agree a price before leaving for your destination. The standard fare for a small trip in town is Tsh 4,000 to 16000 depending on distance. Remember that fuel is expensive in Tanzania so taxis try to cover costs every way they can.

Car hire is possible though most companies prefer to provide their own drivers. Self driving is possible, Tanzanian roads are good if paved and can be challenging when gravel. You should have some experience in offroad driving (e.g. from Namibia or Botswana) and a sense for adventure. Flat tyres are common but are usually no problem as you will have spare tyres and every filling station can fix a tyre.

See and Do

Elephants as seen from a safari truck

Safari

Definitely something to try, if you can afford it. There are multiple types of trips for multiple budgets; usually the pricier ones get you out farther into the Serengeti, to places that are a little less touched by man. But even the cheaper excursions to reserves and parks are worth doing. If there's one trip that will change your perspective on life, it's an African safari.

Not all tour guides are equally knowledgeable. It doesn't hurt to do a little research on your own about the places you'll be visiting. That way when you ask the guide, "What kind of bird is that," and he replies, "It's called an African bird," you'll know that it's time to get out the field book. Beware of paying over the market price, as you will still sleep in the same accommodation as the guy who paid the normal price, you'll eat the same food, and your vehicle is just as likely to break down.

To save a lot of money it is a good option to do the long transportation on your own. Try Karatu for Ngorongoro or Mto Wa Mbu for Manyara National Park.

Buy

The market bustle

Malls & Supermarkets

Banks ATMs

Eat

Arusha has a wide variety of restaurants and informal eating places, with a predominance of Indian cuisine, which as a rule of thumb is the best food, thanks to the large sub-continental community in the city. Liquid Blue in Njiro and Big Bite on the Swahili Rd are among the most popular Indian restaurants. For 'Nyama Choma', or Tanzanian roast meat, Nick Bar in Njiro is also popular. Meals range from US$ 0.40 for street fare to US$15 for main courses at the high-end hotels.

A typical lunch of chicken and potatoes

Supermarkets

Drink

The ring—Arusha's city centre

Arusha has many interesting bars and restaurants. There are uncountable local bars which are generally welcoming to adventurous foreigners. The less adventurous visitors stick to Via Via, in the grounds of the old German fort, which is an interesting cultural centre and part of an NGO which trains locals in the hospitality industry.

There are plenty of options for bars and restaurants for those who for some reason seem to wish to avoid locals altogether; these places are very easy to find.

For nightclubs, the Velocity, Colobus Club, Maasai Camp, Triple A, 777 and Polygon Triangle are popular with locals and foreigners alike. They start late and finish very, very late (or early). Pickpockets have been known to operate and all these bars are popular with the local sex workers so the usual discretion should be applied.

Sleep

Arusha has plentiful accommodation to cater to all ends of the scale. There are many hotels in the centre of the town, including the international-grade Impala Hotel and the Arusha Hotel (see below). You won't get any surprises in this sort of accommodation. At the highest end of the scale there are numerous luxurious lodges in and around the city, some of which offer stunning scenery and the best standard of accommodation.

Be sure to avoid touts (people hired by hotels/hostels to get travellers to stay there). If you are travelling as a couple, a good idea is for one person to sit in a lobby or restaurant with the bags, while the other looks at the rooms. You are likely to get a cheaper price without the bags, and not be targeted by sneaky touts (they signal reception or hang around behind you) which will raise the price US$5–10 for you for their commission.

For budget travellers, many recommend the Maasai Camp (about 45 minutes walk from the city centre) or the Snake Park (which is in a village called Meserani, about 16 km out on the Dodoma Rd). These are both lively locations with popular bars and good services at a very low price. For a quieter stay, Centre House, run by nuns is located a few minutes walk from the clock tower and offers basic rooms, both dormitory style and smaller rooms. Food and drinks including beer is available from the sisters.

Budget

Mid-Range

Splurge

Stay safe

It is not advisable to walk at night, alone or in groups - cabs are plentiful but fares should always be agreed upon at the start of a journey (cabs have no meters, making it all too easy to exaggerate fares at the end of a journey). Avoid taking motorcycle taxis, especially at night in front of clubs. Thieves easily use this opportunity to rob people.

In the city centre (on Sokoine road) and in certain areas (along old Moshi road) there are frequent attacks on tourists, especially when they are walking with their backpacks/bags. Make sure that you take a cab when you are arriving/leaving from Arusha (as gangs usually know when and where backpackers arrive) and avoid taking a bag when walking in town. Foreigners are virtually guaranteed to be approached by touts. This can be intimidating, especially when they latch onto and follow you, but they are usually harmless. In this case do not stop, slow down or make eye contact; simply say "hapana asante" (no thank you) if they ask or offer you anything. You will save yourself a lot of bother if you do not engage them. When walking in any part of the city beyond the central district, it is advisable to take a guide. The bridge on Old Moshi Rd is a particularly notorious mugging spot, and although often patrolled by police it should be avoided if on foot.

In 2013 and 2014 Arusha has been experiencing a number of bomb attacks. They have targeted religious sites/figures, restaurants and hotels frequented by visitors.

Cope

Go next

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Thursday, March 17, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.