Updated in 2017: My 18 Favorite Things to do in Dar es Salaam
My 18 Favorite Things to do Dar es Salaam - Understand
Dar es Salaam was founded in 1862 by Sultan Majid, who also ruled Zanzibar. Located right by the Msasani Bay, it comes equipped with a port, an airport and a city center that makes it a semi-modern African metropolis.
Unlike the islands off the coast of Eastern Africa (incl. Zanzibar), the predominant religion is Christianity and not Islam.
Something spooky is going on in the city and once the sun sets, most public places are deserted. The city proper is rife with property crime (though violent crime is rarer) and the locals seem to be scared. Sadly, you will spend a lot more time in your hotel than you may have planned, as the security situation is just too unpredictable.
As with most East African destinations, the rainy season is April - October, with higher humidity and sometimes torrential rains. Since it is tropical weather here, showers can occur anytime and it usually gets hot and humid during the afternoons. While hot, it usually doesn't feel exceedingly hot like Bangkok, Taipei or the Gulf countries.
My 18 Favorite Things to do Dar es Salaam - Pollution
Dar es Salaam is rather clean, thanks to the fresh ocean breeze.
Avoid drinking tap water here and get the required immunizations.
My 18 Favorite Things to do Dar es Salaam - Get Around
Uber is in town, which makes it a bit easier to get around. However, the local drivers will:
- accept a ride but never pick you up and instead wait for your cancellation since the 'cancellation fee' is higher than a fare
- accept a ride but not pick you up when you indicate payment by credit card (drivers here strongly prefer cash)
- start a ride without even picking you up, without you even close to a car (often many blocks away)
If that sounds like scammer central - it is. It took me about 15-20 minutes to get a driver (depending on my location and payment form) but when I was picked up, they were cheerful and friendly.
Walking is a decent option in Masaki and downtown during the day. After night falls, play the Uber game and hope for the best.
My 18 Favorite Things to do Dar es Salaam - Safety
Dar es Salaam city center and Masaki are safe to walk around during the day if you keep your valuables safely stowed away and do not interact with the scammers who will approach you time after time. Don't go out at night, especially not by yourself. Even short walks can be treacherous. In general, muggings and taxi-related robberies are common.
Here is what you can do to stay safe:
- Keep everything in your hotel safe (except your concealed smartphone and cash for the day)
- Get a well-known driver or play theUber game
- Lock the doors in the cab and ask for tinted windows (and AC) - most cars are equipped with them
- Map out the drive and know where you are on your GPS at all times
- Stay close to the car and ask the driver to park in a way that you could make a quick escape e.g. no forward parking
- Never show valuables including cash, unless you are inside a private business e.g. a bank, store or hotel
- Watch your back and remember any people who follow you
- If in doubt with a driver or business, just get out right away
- Never leave stuff at the beach unless it is a guarded hotel beach (and even then it's a bad idea)
- If pressed, give up your belongings
My 18 Favorite Things to do Dar es Salaam - Connectivity
Tanzania is NOT included in the T-Mobile Simple Choice free roaming plan. However, it is easy to purchase a cheap SIM card here and the 4G connections are fast in all major urban areas. Plus hotels, cafes and restaurants usually have fast Internet exceeding 5 Mbit.
My 18 Favorite Things to do Dar es Salaam - Sights
The city actually has precious few must-see places.
Downtown Dar e Salaam
The downtown area is compact and allows for walking (around parked cars, that is). There is a multitude of mosques, pretty churches and the hustle and bustle of downtown businesses and it looks more like Beirut's Hamra Street than Africa.
It's a wonderful way to spend an afternoon and usually not dangerous at all (but heed my precautions).
Temple Street area
Do not miss the Temple Street area, which has Indian temples such as Shree Sanatan Dharma Sabha and Shree Braham Samaj, as well as Indian food abound.
Given the security situation, Coco Beach is more a drive-by exploration than an option to enjoy a lazy sunset.
My 18 Favorite Things to do Dar es Salaam - Eat & Drink
ALBASHA Lebanese Restaurant
ALBASHA has moved up to a new location (very close to the old one, though! Their new home is on Makunganya Street opposite the UBL Bank). The food is better, too, with more fresh items. I liked it!
Just a few blocks away is Sno-Cream, which specializes in high-quality sundaes and ice cream.
Chowpatty specializes in Indian vegetarian cuisine and cooks original South (and some North) Indian dishes. I really liked the thali appetizer sampler, which costs just $5.
There's a number of better Indian restaurants close to Chowpatty that are worth trying, too, as it's in the Temple Street area mentioned above.
Level 8 Barat the Hyatt Regency
The Hyatt Regency Dar es Salaam is so good that I had trouble finding any faults during my stay. I was stunned! Plus the entire 8th floor is dedicated to a rooftop bar with sweeping views over the harbor. There is live music and fantastic service, too.
High Spirit Lounge Bar
This two-story rooftop lounge sits on top of an office tower on Ohio Street. Its modern white chairs and open design make it a winner. It's a great place to see the sunset after an early dinner at nearby Chowpatty.
Al Dar Restaurant & Barat the Holiday Inn
Another rooftop bar in close vicinity is part of the Holiday Inn Dar es Salaam. If you stay there, it's a no-brainer to see the sunset from the rooftop. The vibe is a bit raucous and loud, but it's still a great place to be (and away from all the crime).
Epi d'or serves great pastries and decent hot food. It has a great setting and outdoor patio as well.
My 18 Favorite Things to do Dar es Salaam - Co-Working
Regus locations including the Kinondoni Road site
Regus has a staggering four locations across town and you can access them all for free with a Businessworld membership.
My 18 Favorite Things to do Dar es Salaam - Where to Stay
Hyatt Regency Dar es Salaam
The Hyatt Regency Dar es Salaam is a lovely hotel right on the edge of the water. I stayed there twice and it consistently impresses with great rooms, great service and great food.
Holiday Inn Dar es Salaam
The Holiday Inn is a good alternative, with good rooms but more basic amenities.
Tanzanite Executive Suites
I also stayed at the Tanzanite Executive Suites for a night, which is cheap at $70 and offers all modern amenities.
DoubleTree by Hilton Dar es Salaam
The location of the DoubleTree by Hilton isn't great but it has excellent views.
Another contender is the Ramada Encore downtown.
Do NOT stay at either of the two local Protea hotels unless you love mosquitoes. The Protea Courtyard Hotelreminded me of the Protea Kuramo Waters in Lagosa little too much.