How To Survive Moving and Living in Dar Es Salaam

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Moving to a new city can be incredibly challenging, especially if it’s a place as unpredictable as Dar es Salaam.

Even if you have lived here before, and are moving back from years abroad, while many things remain the same, the city is also constantly changing and may surprise you with things that didn’t exist in the past.

So, whether you are moving back to Dar es Salaam from living abroad, another region or are completely new to Tanzania, these are the things you need to know about the city to make the transition easier.

1.     The rent is too high

While ‘Dar’ isn’t New York City, it has some incredibly high rental prices – especially if you want to live in more cosmopolitan areas like Masaki, City Center, and Mbezi. Moreover, because there isn’t a well-enforced system of accountability (like social security or credit info) for renters, you will most likely be required to pay anywhere between 6 months to 1 year’s rent at one go.  So, if you plan to rent, be realistic about what you want and can afford.

Ready to start searching? We’ve got apartments and houses for rent here.

2.     Do your research before going to a hospital

Your insurance provider will determine what hospitals you can go to. For instance, Cigna is popular with NGOs but is accepted at a limited number of hospitals, whereas, AAR is popular with many local companies and is more widely accepted.

However, there are some hospitals that are better than others. Some are quick to diagnose you and charge you for a ton of medication. So before you pick a hospital or an insurance provider, ask the people you know where they get treated.

This isn’t meant to scare you, as many physicians are competent. But it’s always better to know that you are in good hands during an emergency.

3.     Get a fuel efficient car

Traffic is a day to day reality in Dar es Salaam, and while practicing fuel saving habits like maintaining your car, turning off your AC and driving at a reasonable speed may help lower costs. Having a fuel efficient car, to begin with, will help you save more money in the long run.

4.    What you wear and the context matters (for women)

Too often you see tourists in long flowy skirts and pants at the nightclub. This is probably because they read in some tour guidebook that you need to dress conservatively in Tanzania. This is true in most parts of Tanzania, but Dar es Salaam tends to be more liberal; however context matters.

For instance, if you are taking public transport or going to the public market, then wearing something conservative and loose is important (unfortunately street harassment is real). However, if you are driving your car to work or going out to a bar or club in a posh neighborhood, then you can wear your short dress or skirt etc.

So it’s a lot more open then you may expect, but just exercise caution.

5.     There are lots of places to go out

Like the rent, going out in Dar can get quite expensive – especially if you stick to the posh areas of Oyster Bay and Masaki. Most people tend to develop a routine and end up going to the same 3 spots, making it seem like Dar has no nightlife. But if you choose to be adventurous and explore, you’ll find plenty of amazing bar and restaurants all over the city.

To get you started, check out these 10 chill local bars.

6.     Having a housekeeper is normal

It is common for most middle class and professional class families and singletons to have housekeepers. Domestic work provides employment to many people while reducing the day-to-day responsibilities of working people.

Most people hire housekeepers informally, however, if you want a more formal process there are several reliable companies that offer cleaning and housekeeping services you can use.

7.     Learn Swahili

Unlike our neighboring countries Kenya and Uganda, most Tanzanians do not speak English and instead can mainly communicate in Swahili. So if you plan to interact with locals, which you will at some point, knowing Swahili will save you a lot of stress caused by miscommunication.

Find your first language lesson here.

8.     Bargaining is a way of life

Unless you are at a shop where there is a price printed on the items, it’s best to assume that most prices are negotiable. Many business owners in Tanzania set high prices for items, in anticipation that people will bargain. So don’t feel shy about it –  haggle as hard as you can.

9.     Public transport can be personalized

There are now 4 main types of transport:

  • Daladalas = public bus

  • Bajajis = 3 wheel motorcycle

  • Taxis = taxi

  • Boda bodas = motorcycles

Daladala’s are the most common and affordable mode of transportation, but they can get super crowded during rush hour and are not for the faint of heart as the drivers tend to be reckless and do not follow most traffic laws.

As a result, many people choose to take a bajaji or boda boda to work. Many people who regularly use these modes of transportation have arrangements with reliable drivers that they can trust. For instance, some rent a bajaji to take them to and from work and they pay them on a monthly basis, at a reduced fixed price.

Recently, a new mode of transportation was introduced – fast moving busses. These are a quick way to get around as they avoid traffic, but they don’t go everywhere in the city.

Moreover, as of 2016, Uber launched in Dar es Salaam, offering another transport alternative to those with smartphones

10.  Time

Most Tanzanians are always late. So exercise patience, or schedule things at least an hour before you actually want to start – so that people are actually on time.

Bonus tip:

11.  Most people don’t like dogs

Unlike in a lot of western countries, in Tanzania, most people don’t have a positive association with dogs. Most dogs are either aggressive security dogs or stray dogs – so many people are afraid of them.

As a result, most restaurants and shops don’t allow them (this is also for health code purposes). So keep this in mind if you have a pet.

You will fall in love

Despite the struggles of transitioning to life in Dar, the beautiful beaches, nice people and relaxed way of life will make you fall in love with the city and not regret your choice to move here.

Iman Lipumba
A digital storyteller, experienced in creating content that improves website visibility on search engines, enhances the user experience, and nurtures brand loyalty. With a background in the social sciences, an expert in researching complex ideas, and communicating them in engaging language to multiple audiences.