Tanzania’s safari capital
Duration: at least one week
Stay: Banana Farm Eco Hostel or Eco-Homestay
Arusha, Tanzania, is a city in the middle of two worlds. On the one hand, you have the traditional. cultures and lifestyles of the locals. On the other hand, you have the modern influences of globalization and tourism. This creates an exciting mix of people and cultures that make Arusha is unique. Arusha itself is a dusty, charming mid-sized African city. Its population embodies a vibrant mix of over 100 nationalities—a melting pot of Swahili, Masai, Hazdabe, and numerous other ethnic and indigenous cultures. Living peacefully side-by-side, locals are super friendly and eager to show you their Tanzania. But, to us, it seemed like a city stuck between traditions and modern life.
- Activities 100% 100%
- Authentic City Life 75% 75%
- Culture 80% 80%
- Adventure 75% 75%
With its visible landmark, the clock tower is considered Arusha’s center. It might not strike you as
significant at first, but it is the mid-point in Africa between Cairo, Egypt, and Cape Town, South Africa! Arusha is by now means a breathtakingly beautiful city, but it is worth to be visited and felt. Our time in Arusha was significantly impacted by our wonderful host Massai, his family, and Papakinye. We quickly bonded and became friends. With them, we could discover Arusha through the eyes of locals.
Go on a safari
After we explored Arusha with Papakinye, we decided to go ahead and book a safari. It’s easy to book your safari in Arusha as many safari tour operators have an office there. The offices are located close to the clock tower. Walk around, check offers, and ask questions. You’ll surely find the perfect safari for you. We have already spent way more time in Arusha than planned and added a trip to Lake Natron, so we decided on a budget-friendly safari day trip. Tarangire National Park seemed to be the perfect safari for us. Both Arusha National Park and Tarangire National are perfect for a day trip. Tarangire has the highest population density of elephants. We booked our safari with the local provider, “African Travel Tour. ” Click here if you want to follow the tracks of the Big 5.
The market has been recommended, so we decided to check it out. Take “Fire road” about three blocks down from the roundabout at the clock tower. The Masaai market in Arusha is an excellent place to shop for colorful souvenirs. The stall owners eagerly greeted us and invited us to see their products. The prices are negotiable. We recommend buying several times from one vendor to get the best price. We loved the purses we got there.
Papakinye took us to the museum to learn more about rare gemstone. We headed to the Blue Plaza on India Street and took the elevator to the third floor. The tanzanite tour is entirely free. We visited a makeshift mine and learned about the history of the rare Tanzanite gem whose name reflects its
limited geographical origin. One can only find Tanzanites in one place in the world: a small area just four kilometers wide and
two kilometers long at Mount Kilimanjaro’s foot, making them a lot rarer than diamonds. The blue/ violet gemstone was only discovered in commercial quantities in the 1960s. However, it has quickly risen to become the second most popular blue gemstone after sapphire, thanks to Tiffany’s.
Despite the tourist attractions and nearby national parks, Arusha is a nightlife haven offering bars, live music, karaoke nights, and nightclubs. We loved hanging out at the local bars. On our first night, Massai and Papakinye showed us a club called “Sky Lounge.” (It’s supposedly the place to be on a Sunday) The atmosphere was relaxed and energizing, with a lot of wild dancing. We seemed tobe the only “muzungos,” which guaranteed us much attention as everyone wanted to dance with us. A little too drunk to drive boda-boda, we had to take a regular taxi home. We had a run-in with the local “neighborhood watch one night.” A group of young men equipped with sticks. Admittedly, this was a bit scary at first. However, after discussing with our friends Massai and Papakinye, the group let us pass. So, if you are indulging in Arusha’s nightlife, do it with your local friends!
Arusha Coffee Lodge
The lodge overlooks the Ngurdoto Crater, an extinct volcano that last erupted over 150,000 years ago. The coffee plantation and processing factory are open to visitors. The tour includes a short film about growing coffee and the tastings of Arusha Coffee. The lodge has a restaurant and bar serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The views from the restaurant are stunning.
The Ngurdoto Museum is housed in an old colonial building once a hospital. It is a small museum with exhibits on the history and culture of the Masaai people, the local tribe in Arusha. The museum is worth visiting for its beautiful gardens and views of Ngurdoto Crater.
Get ready to travel Tanzania
How to get there and away:
Quite unusual for us, we have booked our flight to Kilimanjaro Airport before our departure to Tanzania. It was much cheaper (1,5 hours; $80 round trip) to fly into Kilimanjaro and take the
airport shuttle to Arusha rather than flying into Arusha directly. It’s a pleasant ride from Kilimanjaro to Arusha as we even passed the famous mountain. Kilimanjaro International Airport
Arusha is the gateway to Tanzania’s world-famous national parks: Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, and Mount Kilimanjaro. The Kilimanjaro International Airport is the second busiest airport in Tanzania. It is located about 45 minutes from Arusha city center. In addition, there are direct flights to Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar, Nairobi, and other major cities in East Africa.
The bus station is a little outside of the city center. We only ever saw it after dawn. Bus rides can be rough, but they are worth it. Some of our bus trips felt almost like a safari.
Getting around Arusha
Dala Dala (minivan) Dala Dallas is the cheapest and fastest way to get around anywhere in Tanzania. However, it gets
super crowded at times and is an excellent place to meet people. So knock on the wall to “stop.” Boda-boda (motorcycle)
They are cruising around everywhere in Arusha. It’s the unsafest mode of transport, but we never had a bad experience. It costs around $2 to ride around Arusha
Best time to travel
The best time to travel is from September to October. Not only is the weather pleasant in Arusha (around 27 degrees Celsius), but it is also the best time to go on a safari. During this time, the animals gather around the last waterholes. The wildebeest migration in the Serengeti takes place from January to March. Check out our safari post for more detailed information. From April to May, there can be heavy rains in Arusha. As a result, the roads are partially blocked, and traveling in and around Arusha is much more difficult.
If you are spending more time in Arusha, you might feel the urge to refresh in fresh water. So we spent one afternoon at the Hotel Impala for 10 000 Schilling each. It felt awesome after some super dry and dusty days!
We always felt very safe. When we walked around, we felt like we could move carefree. However, one night, we had a little run-in with the “neighborhood security.” Tanzania is generally very safe, but it’s best to walk with a local friend during nighttime just to be on the safe side.
Biggest challenge for the responsible traveler
Trash: Often, you’ll find food vendors selling typical Nicaraguan dishes on the go. It’s not just delicious but cheap. To avoid plastic wrapping, choose to buy your food at the bus stations and have them put it in your collapsible container. Bring your Lifestraw Pro to avoid having to buy bottled water.
Packing List Tanzania
Tanzania is one of the most diverse and beautiful countries in the world. You can explore bustling cities, go on safari to see some of the most incredible wildlife on earth or relax on some of the best beaches in Africa.
Check out our packing list to prepare for all Tanzania has to offer. You’ll find anything from clothing to travel gadgets and eco-friendly toiletries.
Places to visit in Tanzania
With its diverse cultures, beautiful nature and rich history Tanzania is a country not to be forgotten.
The beaches in Zanzibar are stunning. White palm trees seam white sandy beaches with perfectly turquoise water. Even though Zanzibar has been a popular tourist destination for quite some time, you’ll still find authentic, quiet villages and empty beaches.
Tanzania’s Northern Circuit is a great place to start. This region offers several stunning national parks, including Tarangire, Lake Manyara, Ngorongoro Crater, and the famous Serengeti. Tour operators provide many possibilities, ranging from budget camping safaris to luxury lodging safaris.
Tanzania’s former capital, often referred to as “Dar,” is not only Tanzania’s second largest city but one of the fastest growing cities in the world. Located along the coast of the Indian Ocean, Dar es Salaam is brimming with activities for anyone.