A road trip can create great memories
Road trips have been part of Tanzania’s vacation and travel culture for decades. While one may think that tourists are the main group of people who travel by road to see the country, Tanzanians are also experienced road trippers.
In fact, many of us who grew up in Tanzania have fond memories of road trips we took in our youth with our parents to their village or bus trips we took in primary and secondary schools to places like Bagamoyo and Mikumi National Park. As children, all we needed to worry about was waking up early and maybe packing our travel bag (though our parents or dada* probably helped). However, as we are planning our very own road trips as adults with our families and friends for the upcoming holidays, we may be realising that there is so much more for us to do to prepare for a journey on the road than we had to think about when we were young.
Luckily, we have tips to help you figure out everything you need to do, to plan and have a road trip that you, your family, and friends will remember for years to come.
Planning the road trip
1. Be aware of the company you keep
There are two reasons to take a road trip. The first one is that it is a great way to see and learn more about Tanzania. However, the most important reason is that it’s also an opportunity for you to bond with your loved ones.
During a road trip, you will be stuck in a car for hours with the same people, and you guys will be your main source of entertainment – regardless of whether or not everyone brings their phones and power banks. So, having said that, it’s important to pick who you go on a road trip with wisely (provided it’s not a family trip where you can’t really leave your 5-year-old child at home because they are annoying).
Things to consider when picking friends to go on a road trip with include:
· Do they have similar taste in music? If not, can I tolerate and enjoy their music choice?
Music is an important source of entertainment during a road trip, and the last thing you want is traveling with a group of friends who only listen to Beyoncé when you would prefer old rock hits by Phil Collins. This may seem like a minor issue, but after hours in the car, it will definitely bother you.
· Are they concerned about hygiene?
Even if you have the AC on, you don’t want to be stuck in a car with someone who has a bad odour and little regard for general cleanliness.
· Do they bring negative energy?
A road trip is not something to undertake with friends that you can only stand in small doses. If you know that someone annoys you or that there is a chance for you to get into an argument with them, then don’t invite them. You’ll regret it within two hours.
Also, make sure you invite the funny friend, the calm conflict-resolver friend, and the party ‘turn-up’ friend.
2. Where will you go?
As mentioned before, many of us have experienced taking a road trip to our families’ hometowns and villages. However, there are a number of other places in Tanzania you can explore with both your families and friends, these include:
· Being one with the wild and environment through camping
3. What car are you using?
The car you use will depend on:
· How far are you driving?
· What are the roads like?
· What cars do you have access to?
· How many people are traveling with you?
· Does the car have up-to-date insurance coverage?
Preferably you should use a car that is suitable for the terrain you will be travelling one, so pick the car with the least potential to break down, as having car trouble while on the road is quite frustrating. Moreover, you need to make sure that the car has all the needed spare parts, including tires, and tools (jumper cable, car jack, lug wrench etc).
Also, it’s a good idea to bring a friend who is handy and knows how to change a tire and jump start a battery.
4. Who is driving?
In addition to what car you will be taking, you need to figure out who will be driving. It’s good practice to travel with more than one person who is an experienced driver so that you can alternate after every couple of hours.
Even if the car owner insists on driving the whole way, it’s important to have a backup driver in case the driver gets tired, sleepy, or any other unforeseen situation arises that requires someone else to step in.
Make sure the designated drivers bring:
· A valid driving license
· Another form of ID
5. Who is bringing what?
Just because you may be in charge of coordinating and planning the trip, doesn’t mean that you should shoulder all the responsibilities. Within the group of people you are travelling with, figure out who will be in charge of:
· Entertainment: Music playlists on phone and/or CDs, speakers, movies (for the hotel), car games
· Snacks for the road: Stick to dry foods and avoid curries and spicy food that may lead to diarrhoea or food poisoning
· Water: Drinking water, and water for washing hands, face, etc.
· First aid kit, including, hand sanitizer and painkillers
For food and drinks, you can either:
· Split the responsibility amongst several people, but you need to have a list of what people will bring and share it with everyone so that they are all accountable
· Get one person to buy all the food and drinks, and then split the costs across the entire group
· Everyone brings their own food and drinks
Other important things that you should remember to bring as a group include:
· A map and marker pens
· Cash: As we all know, most places don’t accept credit cards
· A torch with extra batteries
· A spare car key for the driver
6. Where will you stop along the way/what will you do?
Depending on where you are going, it’s worth it to research site attractions like museums, national parks, historical sites, popular bars, and other places along the way that you can stop at. However, this information may not be readily available online, so it’s best that you call the accommodation provider that you will be staying at to ask for recommendations.
However, another approach is to not do any research (beyond how to get to your destination), and just see what you find along the way. This will add an element of spontaneity and surprise in your journey that is difficult to have if you already have a fixed plan in mind.
Also, always be conscious of time as you don’t want to be on the road late at night when a lot of trucks are making their trips.
7. Splitting costs
Once again, if you are the person that’s making all the arrangements, you may end up paying for bookings in advance, filling up the gas tank, etc. So make sure you have a plan of how you will be splitting the costs with the people on the trip so that you don’t end up paying for most things and broke (unless you want to).
Costs to share include:
· Accommodation: Most lodges and hotels offer reduced prices for bigger groups. So try and pay as a group and split the fee
· Fuel: Split the costs equally since everyone will be in the car
· Food: If you are carrying food and snacks that you will all share. Make one person do all the shopping and split the costs evenly. The same goes for alcohol
The additional stuff you bring should depend on who already has it, this includes, speakers, games, first aid kit, etc.
Also, it’s best that you get people to contribute money in advance rather than after the road trip, as it can get awkward to ask friends to pay you back. This is especially true for Tanzanians, as culturally we don’t like to talk about money openly.
Things you must do on the road trip
1. Take pictures (modestly)
While taking pictures to memorialise your adventure is a great idea, if overdone, it can also reduce the quality of your experience. So, make a conscious effort not to Instagram and Snapchat every moment on the road, instead, focus on actually experiencing things with your friends.
2. Talk to people you meet
The best way to learn about a place is through its people right? So make sure you engage with the locals you meet at the gas stations and roadside restaurants. However, be cautious with what you tell people as the wrong person may be listening and see it as an opportunity to take advantage of your group.
3. Play car games
Beyond listening to music, you absolutely must play car and drinking (not the driver) games like:
· Never have I ever: People take turns saying something they’ve never done, each time a person in the group has done something that was mentioned, they have to drink.
· 21 questions: Someone in the car thinks of something in their head, and then everyone else takes a turn figuring out what they are thinking. But they have to do it by asking questions. There are only 21 questions allowed to be asked in total.
There are plenty of fun car games for adults out there. So do your research and pick a couple that you know your group will enjoy.
It’s the journey that counts
While travelling by plane, bus or train can get you to your destination quickly. Taking a road trip with your family and/or friends is an experience that will surely create memories to last you a lifetime. So, planning your road trip may frustrate you, and surely your family and/or friends will annoy you along the way. However, always remember that you are going on this journey in order to spend quality time with those you care about, and of course, enjoy the beautiful Tanzanian landscape and all it has to offer along the way.
*Dada: Swahili word for housekeeper