Tips for Surviving Dar es Salaam

Here are some things to remember about Dar es Salaam:

  • Don’t trust crosswalks. Technically having the right of way isn’t the same thing as literally having it, and you won’t.
  • Don’t flash your new iphone around. It will get stolen. Mine did, and it was because I was carrying it around in my hand, in a bright pink case.
  • Once something is stolen, it’s gone. No sense bothering the police with it.
  • Use a mosquito net while you sleep.
  • Carry Immodium with you at all times.
  • ALWAYS carry toilet paper with you. Most toilets don’t have it.
  • Don’t bother with the malaria pills, they have awful side effects, they’re expensive, they aren’t even that effective, and if you DO contract malaria while on the pills, it makes treating it more complicated. If you’re ill, go straight to the doctor and they will check you, test you, and treat you in less than an hour.
  • The price will always be higher for you than for locals. You can try and pretend you’re not foreign, but if you’re white, they know. So no sense winging about how unfair it is that you’re paying in dollars while your local friends are paying in shillings. That being said, if you want to get a lower price on a bajaji, or taxi, let your local friends negotiate the price while you hide in the bushes.
  • Don’t lose your hair brush, Tanzanian women wear weaves, and they don’t have any to lend you. I had to settle for a cat brush from the shop, as they didn’t have one for people.
  • Avoid dirt roads when the rains come. When the rains come, the roads go.
  • If you’re travelling during Ramadan, don’t worry, nobody in Dar es Salaam will judge you for eating, drinking or smoking. Dar es Salaam is varied enough that nobody will notice, and most Christians get the same holidays for Ramadan, so really, everyone celebrates. Make sure to get yourself invited to a Futari dinner (the meal with which they break their fast at the end of the day) and enjoy Eid (the celebration at the end of the month of fasting); it’s a massive party, and everyone partakes, regardless of religion.
  • Don’t trust internet cafes. I spent some time talking with a guy from Nigeria who makes his money by collecting peoples passwords and usernames in internet cafes in Dar es Salaam and other cities and using them to scam the friends and family into giving him money. Not to mention online banking. So to be safe, it’s probably best you don’t sign into any of your accounts in an internet cafe.