As I can feel the wind from the ocean, I’m thinking about all the memories made in Dar es Salaam and how good it feels to be back. This time as a bit of a digital nomad.
Dar es Salaam means “Abode of Peace” in Arabic and is the largest city in Tanzania with approximetely 5 million inhabitants. I lived here permanently between year 2015-2018 when I worked for the Swedish International Development Cooperation. There are a bunch of information about working as a digital nomad from Bali or other common destinations, but less information about working from here. So I thought I would write a small digital nomad guide to Dar es Salaam and Tanzania life.
Why head to Dar es Salaam?: Dar es Salaam is a vibrant large city located just at the Indo-Pasific Ocean, 2,5 hours away from Zanzibar. Here you can find the ocean next door, sea food caught by local fishermen, a mix of cultural influences from alover Tanzania, a variety of restaurants, and interesting cultural events. You can also get a better understanding about both the opportunities and challenges that are facing the urban residents in a country with a majority of its population below 30 years.
Weather: The most pleasant weather period (from my perspective) is between June-October since the level of humidity and heat is less. The smaller rain period usually starts at the end of October and goes on until the end of November. The larger rain period usually goes on in March-May usually. It is important to note that it doesn’t rain every day during the rain periods. However, when it rains, the roads are becoming easily flooded and it is difficult to move around in the city. In December to April, the heat and humidity level is quite strong.
Visa costs: A local one-entry tourist visa costs 50 USD and a business visa 250 USD. It is possible to apply online for it. Make sure you have all required vaccinations and remember to bring your vaccination card (they might check yellow-fever vaccination proof on arrival).
Accommodation and rent costs: There are many modern apartment buildings in Dar es Salaam and in recent years the cost of rent has been going down. There are a number of Airbnb rentals available for an average cost of 500-600 USD/month. For longer term, is also possible to get a better deal by contacting a “dalili” (a kind of broker). She or he can show you available options for rent. Make sure you know that the dalili is serious in order to avoid being scammed. They usually takes 1 month's rent as a commission (might be negotiable).
Most of the expat community live in and around Msasani and Msaki area. It is also the place where most Western Cafe’s and restaurants are located.
What to pack and wear: Since the weather in general in Dar is hot and humid, it is recommended to wear airy and light outfits. The dress code of the city is between causal and proper depending where you are. In general people are used with many different types of outfit so you don’t need to think too much about what you are wearing.
Languages: The national language of Tanzania is Swahili and one common word to know is “Mambo” (how are you?). Then you reply “Poa”, which means “it’s fine”. Many individuals speak English and most times you find someone who can help you to translate when needed. For Swahili lessons, Dar Shining Language School is great!
Finding people to hang out with: In order to find people to hang out with, I recommend to join the Facebook group Team Tanzania, as well be updated on the ongoing Facebook events.
Working cafes: There are a number of good working cafes in Dar es Salaam, some being Cape Town Fish Market and Olive.
Sport: Gyms are limited and the biggest one “Colosseum Hotel and Fitness Club” is not a cheap one, charging over 100 USD per month. However, there are a number of affordable private classes to be found. Everything from kick-boxing, zumba to tennis and swimming lessons. My personal favorite are small and personal yoga classes at a rooftop below the stars (6 dollars/class). If you are interested, please send me a message and I forward the WhatsApp of the teacher.
Mobile and Internet connections: Internet in Dar es Salaam is relatively good. I’m managing to have both conference and individual calls by hotspotting from my phone. It is easy to buy a local sim card (I find Vodacom to be good). A weekly bundle of 10 GB internet costs 8,69 USD).
To do in Dar: Check out the cultural events of Nafasi Art Space, Goethe Institute, Alliance Francaise, Slow Leopard. They usually involve a lot of music and dance by local artists. There are a number of international restaurants around for foodies, everything from Korean to Lebanese. Do you like great second-hand and vintage shopping? Check out the clothes markets of Mwenge and Makambusho. You can find real treasures there!
To do when in Tanzania: My top four things would be Zanzibar, climbing Kilimanjaro, take the Tazara train to Zambia, and go on a safari!
Lunch cost: A normal lunch costs around 7-8 USD in a western cafe here. A local lunch (rice,vegetables, beans) you can get for about 1,5 USD.
Useful apps: Uber is great for transport and Jumia Food for delivery services from restaurants.
Food shopping: Popular supermarkets are Shoppers Plaza, Shrijees Supermarket, Food Lovers. They have local and imported (quite expensive) food.
Weekend trips: One of the best things with Dar es Salaam is its close proximity to amazing beaches. Two favorite spots are the islands of Mbudja (go to White Sands Hotel and Beach Resort in order to take the boat) and Bongoyo (travel from the mall Slipway). The cost of a return trip is about 20-25 USD.
A must is also to head to Zanzibar! It is easy to take the Kilimanjaro ferry from the city centre. You can book tickets online in advance (just make sure that you pick them up 3 hours before the departure). Make sure that you book your ticket for traveling back some days in advance (since the ferries tend to easily be booked). It can be a bit of a hassle entering the ferry terminal and some people might try to convince you to buy tickets from them. Make sure you buy them inside the Azam ferry terminal. When it comes to Zanzibar, I can truly recommend to visit both the UNESCO heritage site Stonetown and the beaches on the island.
Withdrawing money: There are a lot of ATMs available in Dar. They are charging different fees for withdrawal of international cards. It might be good to look this up in order to save some money.
Hospital: Always go to the hospital in case you would have fever since malaria and dengue are present here. Two good hospitals are ICT Clinic and Sali International Hospital.
Safety: Dar es Salaam is a relatively safe city (traffic is probably the most dangerous thing). However, bag snatches from MC drivers and cars can happen. Don’t walk outside when dark and be cautious about walking with your mobile in your hand. One good way is to use a “bum-bag” for money and mobile. Avoid having a backpack or bag crossing your shoulders since there have been a few incidents when individuals got dragged after bag-snatching cars.
Transportation: For longer distances, there are older public buses (daladala) which connects various areas of the city. The daladalas can be a bit of a hassle but quite an interesting experience. There is also a new bus system called The Dar Rapid Transit (DART), blue buses, which are driving on their own line. They are convenient to take and connects various parts of the city. For shorter journeys, it is popular to use either bajaji (tuktuk), taxis or MC-taxis. The MC-taxis are risky to take since there are a lot of accidents with them. Uber is operating in Dar es Salaam and is an efficient way to find transport.
Best things: My best things in Dar es Salaam are local music and dance evenings at Nafasi and heading out to the islands!
Worst things: Poverty and inequality gaps between you and the local population.