Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania Report of what it's like to live there - 02/04/13
Personal Experiences from Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania
1. Your reason for living this city (e.g. corporate, government, military, student, educator, retiree, etc.):
2. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
3. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?
Washington, D.C. - 22 hours - Transit through Amsterdam or Zurich.
4. How long have you lived here?
(The contributor was affiliated with the U.S. Government and lived in Dar es Salaam from 2010 to 2012, a second expat experience.)
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Most expats live in the Msasani area or "Peninsula", which is an enclave of diplomats and business professionals who live in a nice area north of downtown. This is an area with all the NGOs, many diplomats, and nice grocery stores, hotels, and other amenities. The problem was that housing was getting saturated, due to everyone wanting to live in the same area, so plots that might be nice for one house often had two houses on them. This is not the typcial African living---with large gardens and colonial homes. Homes were generally smaller, with small yards. Apartments were also becoming more common. I would say that the biggest problem with Dar was the housing crunch, with its limited opportunities.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Vegetables and fruits were very cheap, but imported goods could be very expensive. We were able to find what we wanted and needed, but sometimes we had to go to a few places to find what we wanted. There was also an EXCELLENT South African butcher shop that had great meat and other produce. Otherwise, you can find what you need. One interesting point is that the TZ government subsidized alcohol, so we found alcohol to be generally much cheeper than in the U.S., particularly hard liquor. We could also get great South African wine. There was a woman who imported good wine from SA and would deliver to your house.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Canned goods like black beans, salsa, and other stuff for Mexican food. Also lots of tortilla chips, tortillas, etc. Everything else you can get.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Subway, Mary Browns (chicken, burgers, etc.), as well as a number of fast food Indian and Lebanese restaurants.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Dar does have a malaria problem, and particularly during the hot season in the evening you should cover up with long sleeves and liberally use DEET mosquito spray. Many people take malaria pills, but we did not. Instead, we chose to remain inside during bad mosquito times and use spray and long sleeves.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Very reasonable. We had a FT housekeeper/nanny that we paid about US$185/month. This was on the higher end as embassy employees, but people generally had a gardener, maid, and sometimes nanny as well.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
There are a few in town that are nice. The Coliseum Hotel was famous for it's nice gym and attached spa, but it was crowded as one of the few options in town.
4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
We used ATM's without much problem, but watched the account frequently and did have one incidence of fraud. I never used major credit cards except when traveling at major hotels or resorts.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
Yes, a number of different churches - mostly planted by U.S. and British missionaries. Some good options including the Ocean and others.
6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?
Direct TV from South Africa was available at about US $80 per month. Many people purchased this option and felt the channels and coverage was good. Lots of sports channels and some of the U.S. prime-time networks.
7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Knowing Swahili and basic greetings is certainly helpful, but not necessary and you can get by with English.
8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Dar would be difficult for people with disabilities. There are no sidewalks and the roads are generally in poor condition. Elevators in major buildings are often broken as well.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Local taxis are color coded and generally fine, but make sure you pick a marked taxi and negotiate the price BEFORE you get into the car. Drivers will always charge you more than double if they can. My rule was always negotiate for everything and don't let yourself get pushed around. Drivers were good if you pushed back and negotiated.
2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
You really need a 4WD vehicle if possible. Roads are in bad condition, often with large pot-holes and other problems. During rainy season, drains clogged and roads washed out, so something with good ground clearance is important. Also, part of the fun of Tanzania is getting out into the bush for safari and other adventures, so a 4wd vehicle is almost a must if you want to get out and see the country.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes, but Internet was one of the biggest frustrations and expensive. The cell companies sell the USB "dongle" modems that can be expensive and a bit slow at times. We purchased home DSL Internet through TTCL, which is the main DSL provider. We were heavy downloaders and wanted extra speed, so ended up paying about US$200 per month.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
South Africa Vodacom was there as well as the Indian company Airtel. I recommend Airtel prepaid for phone and data plans with BlackBerry and iPhone. Both worked fine and airtime/data plans were cheap and easy to set up.
1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?
2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?
We always left our dog with friends - I don't know there were any places where I would feel comfortable leaving my pet.
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
Many spouses worked with NGO's doing development work and others were able to find jobs at the embassy. The embassy was growing and there were many opportunities for spouses who wanted to work either full or part time.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Tanzanians generally dressed up in long pants and button down shirts all the time with shoes shined. Dress was conservative most of the time and at work business casual was most common.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
As in most African countries, petty crimes are becoming more common, especially crimes of opportunity. Use common sense, keep windows up, and don't leave items lying out in your car. There was also a rash of drive-by purse snatchings before we left Dar, where some women were injured when a car would drive by and someone would try to pull a woman's purse off her shoulders. Home invasions were uncommon, but they did happen. Violent crimes were not common, but when walking downtown, or by yourself, it is important to remain alert to your surroundings.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Health care was not good on the local market. We had a great embassy medical staff, but for other problems there was really only one hospital in town. They were good about seeing embassy staff and actually had a CT scan and x-ray services, but for any major medical issue, we were medevac'd out of the country.
3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?
In downtown Dar, the air quality was probably moderate, due to the many old cars, polluting buses, etc. You also have to be careful about the beaches you choose to swim at, because some of the beaches have raw sewage dumped near them. Dar Yacht Club (DYC) is a safe beach, as are the beaches just north and south of the city center.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Hot and hotter! The most pleasant time of year is May - August which is the cooler season. Daytime highs are usually in the 80's, but it is less humid---and you get a cooler breeze---at night. The HOT season begins in November and continues through Feb/March. Temperatures get up into the 90's with higher humidity, and it's difficult to be outside for extended periods. It can get very hot and uncomfortable. Dar also has two rainy seasons, but it only rains for shorts periods during the day. Be careful of flooding roads, though, and terrible traffic.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
There is one international school, which most parents felt happy with. Our kids were younger and attended pre-schools and play groups. For families with younger kids, there are wonderful, organized, play-groups for kids. They are arranged by ages, and moms get together frequently, rotating homes and allowing kids to play. There are also lots of birthday and house parties on the weekends for families, which is nice and helps to make the weekends less boring.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
We heard from other families this was a problem. Generally schools in Africa have a harder time making accommodations like this.
3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?
Great daycare and pre-school options for younger kids. Kids Corner, Bush Babies, etc. Kids are well taken care of and environments are generally safe and clean. Our kids attended Kids Corner and we loved the two young girls who ran the school.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Relatively large between the embassies, NGO's and others.
2. Morale among expats:
Generally good, particularly if you like water sports.
3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
I would say good for all. Families with kids have regular play groups through school and preschool, and there are often house parties, beach events, and other activities. The Dar Yacht club is also great, with Pizza Nights and fish fry nights for families to enjoy on weekends. For singles, the nightlife was active, as there were a number of young diplomats' clubs and younger NGO workers who got together at various clubs and took outings.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
I think generally fine.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Dar Yacht Club, trips to Arusha and Safari Country, weekend getaways to Zanzibar to stay at the many island resorts. Most resorts also provide resident or embassy discounts if you are living in Tanzania as part of a diplomatic mission.
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Zanzibar, Serengeti Safaris, Mafia Island, South Beach, Arusha/Moshi, hiking, diving, snorkeling, fishing, all water sports.
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
wood carvings, masks, Tinga-Tinga paintings, and travel.
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Ocean living with nice beaches, water sports, and Dar Yacht Club. There are excellent travel opportunities within the country and to Zanzibar and offshore islands, as well as Safari country and mountains in the north. Serengeti is one of the best places to do a Safari in the world, and Tanzania has a well-developed tourist industry, particularly in the north.
11. Can you save money?
Yes, but groceries and socializing/eating out can get expensive.
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Yes, generally a good post. Definitely some frustration, but a good experience. The key is getting out of the city and finding activities on weekends.
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
3. But don't forget your:
sunscreen, snorkeling gear, and hiking gear if you want to climb Kilimanjaro!
4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
Name Your LinkThe Zanzibar Chest