Riding The Daladala In Dar es Salaam, Tanzania


My first few glimpses of the main form of public transportation in  Dar es Salaam of Tanzania, called daladalas, left me a little doubtful of my convenience, comfort, and most importantly, my safety.

They are typically crowded, but around rush hour, bodies seem to be protruding from the windows and doors, often resembling chickens being transported in their undersized cages. I was worried that squeezing past so many people would be the perfect way to get my stuff stolen without me noticing, or to get inappropriately grabbed without having a means of escape. After a frightful incident in India, this fear of being violated has been the most crippling. But, I didn’t want to miss out on a unique cultural experience, so I finally faced my fear and decided to give it a try.

The daladalas are ramshackle short buses that usually look on the verge of breaking down. They are painted an assortment of bright colors that vary according to their route, and the two end points of their route are painted clearly on the front, making them fairly easy to recognize. If you are unsure of which route you need to take, it’s imperative that you at least know the name of the closest bus stop to where you want to go. This can be achieved using google maps, my most life saving invention. From there you can most likely also figure out the name of the route, but if not, ask the conductor of any bus and he will direct you to the right daladala.

The bus stops can be a little intimidating at first as well. A multitude of daladalas come careening helter-skelter into the usually undesignated area. The conductors yell out their final destination, almost as if they are imploring you to forgo your initial travel plans and hop on their bus just for fun.

A ride to just about anywhere within the main city of Dar es Salaam is 400 shillings, roughly $0.30. Thirty cents! I was amazed, especially because taking the same trip in a taxi could be upwards of 10,000 shillings, around $6. After boarding, you (hopefully) find an open seat and the conductor will leisurely walk around the daladala clinking his coins in his hands reminding everyone to pay up.

The ride is definitely bumpy, sweaty, lengthy because of the incessant traffic, and dirty with all the dust flying in the windows. But in all my daladala rides, I have never felt threatened. Some people have given me curious glances, and sometimes volunteered a hello, but for the most part I am left alone. Feeling confident and secure in my route took some time, but I’m happy to say I’m no longer afraid of riding the daladalas.

Have you riden a daladala? How did you like it?


About Author

My name is Mandi and I have a gypsy soul. I quickly realized the normal, sedentary life just wasn't for me, so I've made it my life's ambition to never stop exploring. This decision has led me to study, volunteer, intern, work, backpack and travel all over the world, including Rome, London, Costa Rica, India, Southeast Asia, Montana, and San Diego. Now I'm living and always writing in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Keep track of where I go next via thislimitlessworld.com and @1LimitlessWorld.


  1. Based on the photo in ur article the daladala does not look like undersized chicken cages. It look spacious and empty. What to believe your story or your picture.

    • This angle isn’t the best of showing size and perception of depth, our Africa Editor took this herself while she was on it and it does look like the ceiling is not too far from that lady’s head 🙂

    • Yes, I was lucky enough to have a ride that wasn’t quite so crowded so I could get a good interior snapshot. But this was taken from the very back of the bus, indicating how short they are, and even a less crowded one required people to stand huddled around the door.

  2. Do not show your phone or other valuables on the daladala. People can follow you and rob you. Also at peak times you maybe a victim of pickpocketers who target people when caught in the very dangerous scrum to get onboard.

  3. When I’m in Dar, the daladala is my transport method of choice. I’ve been travelling to Tanzania since 2006 and after a number of taxi journeys when, on my own, I’ve felt quite helpless in situations where the driver decides to change the fare halfway or take a route I don’t recognise, I actually feel safer on the daladala. I’ve lost count of the number of times someone has offered to help me out or explain the system to me and, as my Swahili has improved, I’ve had some great conversations in response to comments about why the mzungu isn’t in their own car! Usual care for property applies and you sometimes have to wait for a few to go past before you judge one safe to board in rush hour, but that’s not so different to sections of the tube in London!

  4. Pingback: Shopping in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

  5. Matatus in Kenya are equally unsafe. We are exploring potential for sharing of experiences among operators, researchers and other stakeholders in paratransit operations within East Africa. Your hands-on experience would come in handy.
    Best regards
    P. Chitere
    Researcher in public transport.

  6. I am a Tanzanian and a tourism blogger(www.karibueafrica.com) from Dar es salaam.I justify MANDI SCHMITT story and agree with all she has shared.Am so happy to see her share all the fun in Dar es salaam including the dala dala thing.wow!

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