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Dar es Salaam

Meaning 'Haven of Peace' in Arabic, Dar es Salaam began as a small fishing village and has become a melting pot of cultures, encompassing African, Arabic and South Asian flavours. But this city is anything but peaceful. A bustling metropolis of east Africa and largest city of the exotic land of Tanzania, Dar es Salaam is a major port, which straddles some of the world's most important sea routes.

With German, Asian, Swahili and British architecture to appreciate, visitors will find no shortage of attractions to busy themselves with while on holiday in Dar es Salaam. The city also has a few interesting museums, including the National Museum and the Makumbusho Village Museum.

On a nice day you can head to the Botanical Gardens, while the colourful and vibrant Kariakoo Market and clock tower is also very popular with tourists and holidaymakers. Those in search of sandy beaches to sun worship will do well to head to Oyster Bayor take the ferry to Bongoyo Island, while Kigamboni on the south coast has picturesque beaches that will enchant and captivate.


Information & Facts

Climate

Dar es Salaam is situated on the equator and therefore experiences a tropical climate with hot humid weather from December through March, the hottest month being January when visitors should arm themselves with sunblock. Dry and cool temperatures prevail from June to September and the city experiences its highest rainfall between April and May. The best time to visit Dar es Salaam is from June to September, when the temperatures are milder and the humidity is low.

Getting Around

Getting around in Dar es Salaam can be confusing for visitors. Walking is a pleasant way to see the city, but pedestrians should be mindful of aggressive drivers as the city has no sidewalks.

Minibus taxis (called daladala) and buses operate on a flat-fare basis, but travellers should be aware that these do not operate on regular schedules and are often dangerously overcrowded and are popular with pickpockets.

Taxis can be hailed from outside most hotels in Dar es Salaam at a fixed fare, but in most other places it is customary to negotiate the fare in advance. Travellers wishing to hire a car should make sure they have a valid international driver's license, which must be endorsed by the police on arrival in the country. Travellers opting to drive themselves outside of the city should look into hiring a 4x4 or SUV and be aware that cattle and other pedestrians tend to ignore the rules of the road.

Language

Swahili and English are the official languages. Several indigenous languages are also spoken.

Money

The official unit of currency is the Tanzanian shilling (TZS), divided into 100 cents. The tourism industry prices everything in US Dollars and they are the preferred unit of currency. Major currencies can be exchanged in the larger towns. Foreign exchange bureaux in the main towns usually offer a better rate on travellers cheques than do the banks. ATMs are available in major cities only. Major lodges, some hotels and travel agents in urban areas accept credit cards, but these should not be relied on and can incur a 10% surcharge.

Shopping

Shopping in Dar es Salaam is a bargain hunter's dream. Haggling is the norm here and tourists can find themselves walking away with some fantastic gifts and souvenirs to take home for a great price. A must is the Kariakoo Market, which is a bustling and chaotic tangle of stalls and people. Popular tourist buys in these markets are kangas (or khangas), which are colourful, sarong-like pieces of cloth with Swahili sayings printed on them. Another popular buy are tinga-tingas (local Tanzanian paintings).

The Mwenge Carvers' Market is a great place to find handmade crafts and carvings, and every other touristy souvenir. The Ilala Market has a bemusing array of second-hand items along with a good selection of locally-made jewellery. Local markets are fun and fascinating, but also tend to be crowded and claustrophobic, and rife with pickpockets. It is best not to carry large amounts of cash or valuables.

One of the most popular buys in this exotic land is the highly sought after, valuable and extremely beautiful blue Tanzanite. Jewellery with this precious gemstone fetches a hefty price. Watch out for fakes and buy only from reputable dealers. The rule of thumb is the darker the stone, the more expensive it is.

Sightseeing

With a vast and turbulent history, Dar es Salaam offers a multitude of attractions for holidaymakers and other travellers to enjoy while visiting this historic city. From the Dar es Salaam Marine Reserve to the Pugu Hills Forest Reserve and Bongoyo Island, the outdoors has a lot to offer in this picturesque city. Take a trip to the Zoological Gardens and marvel at the plants and animals, or spend a quiet afternoon at the Dar es Salaam Botanical Gardens. For those with a bit more time, there are many museums that offer a glimpse into this mysterious city's past and colonial eras, such as the National Museum and the Village Museum.

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