Just a century ago, Dar es Salaam was a peaceful fishing village on the Indian Ocean with around 30,000 inhabitants. Now it is a bustling metropolis with over four million residents from dozens of countries and has become one of the continent’s major financial and trade centres.
Whether you’re staying in the city or passing through on your way to Zanzibar, Kilimanjaro or the Serengeti, a visit to busy Dar es Salaam will give you plenty to see, do and remember.
Dar es Salaam’s rise onto the world stage began in the 19th century, when the Sultan of Zanzibar decided to locate his summer palace in the coastal town, calling it Dar es Salaam, Arabic for “the abode of peace”. Today Dar es Salaam remains the largest city in Tanzania and the point of introduction for most visitors to the country. Though most travellers spend little time in the city on their way to Zanzibar or Kilimanjaro, the vibrant metropolis has plenty to show those who spend a day taking in its unique charm.
You’ll want to begin your explorations of Dar es Salaam in the historic centre, where the pace is a little slower than the rest of the city. The National Museum tells the country’s history, from the discoveries of the earliest humans onward. The colonial architecture of the German-built churches is also worth a visit. Then head down to the seaside Fish Market for delicious seafood amidst a boisterous backdrop.
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When is the best time to visit Dar es Salaam?
Tanzania’s equatorial climate means that the city offers warm, tropical temperatures year-round. The city has two monsoon periods each year, the long rains from March to May and the short rains in November and December. Hotels and excursions are typically in greatest demand during the high season from June to October, as well as between mid-December and mid-January, when European holidaymakers flock to the city.
How do I get around Dar es Salaam?
Your first trip into the city from the airport should be from the official taxi stand, as local public transportation can be difficult to navigate with luggage. When travelling through the city, certain routes are accessible with the Dar Rapid Transit buses, which run from the city centre to Ubungo. Meanwhile, most other trips within the city will either be by taxi or daladala minibuses, which traverse the entire city efficiently (though conditions can be quite crowded) at a very low price. When taking a taxi, make sure to take the licensed green-and-white variety; trips within the city shouldn’t run more than GBP 1-2.
What safety precautions are necessary in the city?
Tanzania is a very popular tourist destination, with well over a million visitors per year, making the country a very friendly place to visit. Nevertheless, some safety precautions are wise: check with a doctor if any vaccines or medications are necessary, especially during the rainy season, when malaria is more prevalent. Sleeping under a mosquito net is recommended. Using a money belt for large amounts of currency and important documents is also not a bad idea.
What currency is used in Tanzania?
The Tanzanian currency is the shilling (TZS). There are exchange kiosks in the airport, as well as several in the city centre. The use of cash is widespread; not many places accept credit cards for purchases.
Attractions in Dar es Salaam
A stay in Dar es Salaam will bring you into contact with an eclectic mix of the cosmopolitan and the natural, as you explore the city and meet its inhabitants.
- National Museum
- Wonder Workshop
- Bongoyo and Mbudya Islands
National Museum: Certainly a low-key experience, but this museum’s rich collection showcases Tanzania’s many cultures and history. A copy of the remains of zinjanthropus, an early human, has pride of place.
Wonder Workshop: A collective social enterprise featuring unique, sometimes breath-taking metal sculptures made by local artisans living with disabilities. The scrap metal sculpture park is an interesting visit.
Bongoyo and Mbudya Islands: take a motorized dhow or a glass-bottomed boat to these marine sanctuaries, which are teeming with wildlife such as butterfly fish and sea turtles.
Festivals in Dar es Salaam
Dar es Salaam also boasts a number of exciting festivals that can make a stay in the city worth your while. East Africa’s largest fashion show, Swahili Fashion Week, is held in December, while the barbeque flavours of Nyama Choma are on display once every three months. For a truly unique experiences, head to the September goat races, where you can support local charities by betting on fleet-footed billy goats.
Outdoor activities in Dar es Salaam
Of course, outdoor activities are a mainstay of any tropical getaway, and Dar has plenty to offer. One option is to take in the sun and surf and relax with a cocktail on the white sands of Kipepo or Coco beaches. For a more adventurous excursion, take a tour of the uninhabited islands of Bongoyo and Mbudya for snorkeling and a picnic in a glass-bottomed boat. Whether you’re looking for a natural getaway or an urban experience, Dar es Salaam is your gateway to a Tanzanian adventure! Book a flight from London to Dar es Salaam today!
Find more travel information about this city in our Dar es Salaam travel guide.
A unique mix of flavours in Dar es Salaam
As an East African hub, Dar es Salaam has become home to a diverse collection of people during the course of its history – the result is a culinary culture that mixes African traditions with strong Arab and Indian influences.
Strong flavours and spices
Right across from Dar es Salaam is Zanzibar, the island of spices, which has its own traditions that also influenced the coastal food. Ginger, cloves, chilli and hot tastes are typical for the area. The local kind of Barbecue is called Mishkaki and is more like the Indian Tandoori than the wetern grill. Beef, goat, chicken, or fish are usually marinated, skewered and then grilled over charcoal until nearly black. Pilau rice consist of rice, vegetable and meat cooked in a seasoned broth. Tanzania’s number one pillar of food is called ugali, made of corn meal or sorghum. Ndizi Kaanga are fried plantains or banana.
Dar’s lesser-known locales may seem somewhat inaccessible to uninitiated tourists, which is why it is worthwhile to look into a culinary tour of the city. A local tourism group, Afriroots, offers cultural tours through the city’s neighbourhoods and eateries, as well as a Dar by Night tour that showcases the city’s watering holes, barbecue joints and dance floors.
A paradise for African crafts
If you’re looking for the ideal one-of-a-kind gift to remember your trip to Tanzania by, Dar es Salaam’s craftspeople will be more than happy to help you out. The city offers a wide variety of crafts markets, from the upmarket Slipway mall, with a rotating cast of vendors, to the open-air Makonde market where you can see carvers at work creating new pieces as they sell their wares.
For even more information on eating, drinking and shopping in Tanzania’s largest city, see our guide about eat and drink in Dar es Salaam.
London - ZurichFlight duration: 01:40 hrs total, Frequency: 6 x daily
Transit Zurich (ZRH)Arrival: 21:00Transit time: 12h 55m
Zurich - Dar Es SalaamFlight duration: 10:10 hrs total, Frequency: Wed,Fri,Sat,Sun,Mon
Airbus A330-300Height: 16.80 mLength: 63.70 mSeats: 236
Crew:Pilots: 2Cabin crew: 11
Arrival Dar Es SalaamDistance to city centre: 12 km