Though Dar es Salaam is not the official capital of Tanzania, it is the largest city, located right on the Indian Ocean, making it the most metropolitan and tourist friendly. It is still a predominantly Muslim city, and the influx of foreigners has made locals more familiar with Western customs and dress. Here is an overview on how you should plan on dressing while staying in the city:
Dressing for the Heat
First and foremost, Dar es Salaam is HOT. The hottest months are December, January and February, so be prepared to sweat a lot and dress accordingly (read: no white clothes that become see-through when damp). The rest of the year is still hot, as the country is directly south of the equator, and temperatures average around 85 degrees F, so wearing clothes made of light material is ideal. March, April, and May as well as September and October are the rainy seasons, so if you are planning to visit during these times be sure to bring an umbrella and water friendly shoes.
While walking around local neighborhoods, like Upanga, the Kariakoo market, or at the ferry station downtown, it’s advisable to wear fairly conservative clothing that covers your knees and shoulders. Most locals wear skirts to their feet and shawls around their shoulders or heads. This is not entirely necessary, but it’s safer and more respectable to be covered when walking through the streets.
The Expat Area
The city has a thriving ex-patriot community that has all but infiltrated an area called Masaki, or the Peninsula. There are neighborhoods, schools, grocery stores, restaurants and bars that all cater to Western inhabitants, and here the dress code is much more lax. Granted, you would definitely stand out if you dressed like you were going to a Miami night club, but bare shoulders, shorter dresses and skirts, shorts, and heels are all acceptable. Many long term ex-pats had to bring nice clothes for work, so the scene at some of the popular bars and restaurants can be quite trendy.
My advice when traveling is always opt for the more comfortable, conservative option. Most places outside of Dar are much more strictly conservative and dressing in chic or revealing clothes would make you stand out. But if you plan on spending ample time enjoying the nightlife in Dar, feel free to bring some of your typical party attire.
Have you traveled to the city of Dar es Salaam and how did you dress?