Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania Report of what it's like to live there - 07/31/15
Personal Experiences from Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
No. We've also lived in Central America and South Asia.
2. 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?
DC. 9 hour flight to Amsterdam; 9 hour flight to Dar es Salaam, sometimes with a 1 hour on-plane stop at Kiliminjaro. KLM/Delta code share.
3. How long have you lived here?
> 2 years
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Most people are provided with stand-alone houses. More and more compounds are coming into the housing pool as housing costs go up. Almost everyone (99%) live on the peninsula which is "expat land." Houses usually have 1 bathroom per bedroom; a decent-sized kitchen; some yard-space; sometimes a staff quarters. Some are large; others smaller. In general, housing is good, though some residences have odd characteristics, and of course, there are many issues with electricity, water, etc. It's Africa.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Most things are available (except for that exact brand you want, of course), but it will cost you. Butter US$5/pound; milk US$7/gallon (UHT); ground beef US$9/pound; chicken a bit less, and fish is cheaper than U.S. Vegetables are relatively inexpensive, and there is a new grocery store that has a GOOD selection and supply of fresh fruits & vegetables. Regulated items (bread, rice, sugar) are cheap. Imported items (processed & packaged foods, cheeses, etc.) are DC prices times 2. That said, we order anything lighter and non-perishable from Amazon and anything heavier through consumables. A smart person would mail themselves a box of stuff before coming to post so that when they get here, they have a few comfort foods and place a consumable order within the first 6 months (especially for families). We even order our TP and laundry detergent tabs through Amazon. (We load up our suitcases on R&R with frozen turkeys & hams & deli meat & cheese because they're not readily available)
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Gas grill (it has made dinner so much nicer; need to rig up the gas but it's fine). Kayak if you're going to want to kayak and are able to do it (can't put it in HHE). Our nice cooking appliances, like KitchenAid, food processor, etc. and several step-down transformers (the heavy-duty, expensive kind). An extra UPS (one died and we needed additional, and this is one thing that DPO is difficult about shipping because of the battery). Bicycles (we brought ours and have been happy that we did). Things like trampoline for kids, scooters, etc. that can't be ordered via DPO. Memory foam (always necessary).
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Fast food: Bongo Flava, a new Tanzanian restaurant that is decent; 2 KFC's; 2 Subways (though not as good as American); several local pizza places. There are many restaurants on the peninsula and beyond. Most are OK; none are fabulous. All are about DC prices or maybe a little less. I have not gotten sick anywhere, though people do have issues every now and then. There's a lot of Indian food due to the large Indian population; seafood is particularly good and less expensive. Best restaurants, I think, are: CapeTown FishMarket (South African chain; good food; beautiful sunset), 305 (tucked away in a local neighborhood), Alexander's (in a B&B), Shooter's (South African; up high; nice view), Nawabi Khana (Indian), restaurant on dock at Slipway has great tuna, Epidor has decent middle eastern, Zuane's has decent Italian/pizza. Restaurants seem to come and go so there's always something new to try. Tanzanians love their chips (french fries); onion ring safe also often good.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Mosquitoes that carry malaria & dengue fever. Dar is a high risk malaria post. Ants and large cockroaches in houses, of course. Ticks in the yard and also on the furniture that is sold on the side of the street (don't buy it).
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
DPO. Great service. Orders from Amazon arrive in about 2 weeks. Some retailers will not ship to DPO so you'll need to use pouch (think dry dog food) which takes a bit longer, 3-4 weeks.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Widely available. Cost for a full-time housekeeper is about US$150-200/month; plus annual one-month bonus; plus severance pay at end. Full-time gardener earns US$100/month. Nannies and cooks earn about same or a little more than housekeepers. Guards are paid by Embassy, but some families provide one meal per shift, though RSO discouraged this when the contract changed.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Yes. The Embassy has a nice pool and OK tennis court (US$120 for a family to join for the year) and also a gym (no membership). Private gyms are also available; I'd guess about US$100/month, though I'm not sure.
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 do not use them and have not had a problem. This is a cash economy, and the cash goes quickly.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
Not sure. There is one Christian-type church which many ex-pats attend- it is held down by the beach or at IST.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Not much. We spend most of our time in expat land where everyone speaks English. Swahili is very useful when dealing with gardeners, who don't usually speak much English, and when going into the city. It also makes Tanzanians very happy when you learn some Kiswahili.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Living the expat life that we lead, a person with physical disabilities would have more challenges than a person without physical disabilities, but they could manage. Most of our lives are spent at home (which would be the biggest challenge since most residences are multi-level with stairs), at work (there is an elevator at the Chancery & maybe AID), and at a few restaurants & stores or Yacht Club (most of these places could accommodate if necessary). Roads would be a challenge, though even some of the roads on the peninsula would be safe.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Safe- no. Affordable- yes. We do use bhajaj's (auto rickshaws) all the time, though RSO recommends you not use them. On the peninsula, they're relatively safe, but you certainly have to be aware.
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?
Japanese models are more easily serviced. Four wheel drive is very useful; high-clearance also (pot holes can be 6-12 inches and speed bumps are not uniform so they also can be high). Though you can get by with a regular car. I would advise against bringing U.S.-side drive because if you ever want to go on the highways (to Mikumi or elsewhere), passing is very difficult and very dangerous (there are often bus accidents that kill 20+ people, and it's always when passing). Best bet is to buy from an outgoing Mission member or other diplomat (not necessarily just any expat, but a diplomat)
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes, but it is costly. There are a variety of services; ask people when you arrive to find out which is currently preferred.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Cell phone service is relatively cheap. You can get a flip-phone type for US$20. For nicer phones, order them on the internet unlocked or there's a guy at Slipway who can unlock them for you. Embassy provides officers with a Blackberry or iPhone (AID) upon arrival. Spouses and kids should probably wait until they're here to make a decision about what phone they need.
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?
No quarantine. Quality pet care is available, and many people have pets. Most people use Dr. Joe of Pet Care House (FB page). Vet Sinare is also OK; a bit local, but knows his stuff. There is boarding available (ask on FB group Team Tanzania), though I haven't used it myself. If importing pets, work with shipping and customs well ahead of time to make sure the correct paperwork is completed. There is a new (February 2015) animal shelter- TAWESO (see their FB page)- run by mostly volunteers and funded mostly by donations. They shelter dogs & cats.
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?
No. Tanzania currently has no bi-lateral work agreement. Spouses who work either work at the Embassy, teach or sub at IST, arrive with international jobs lined up, or volunteer.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
Not sure. Though you'd think there would be a lot, I've also heard it's difficult to find volunteer opportunities. I know some people who volunteer, but they really work to make it happen.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
At work, business though a bit casual (need to have a jacket/heels on-hand, though not necessary every day). In public, really anything is fine, though local Tanzanians don't often show their legs (men nor women).
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Yes. Dar is a big crime threat post. RSO requires all visitors staying over 2 weeks to attend the weekly security briefing. All residences have 24-7 guards, high walls, razor wire, barred windows, and alarms. Even with this, crime happens. Every few months an attempted home break-in occurs (though they're usually not successful). RSO issues a quarterly security report detailing security incidences related to the Embassy. There is a FB group called something like "I've been a victim of crime in Dar" so that all expats can know about possible threats. You have to be constantly aware of your surroundings and take precautions. Crime, however, is not usually violent (meaning that anyone is seriously injured or killed), though I have known several people who have been jumped and beaten up a bit. Walking and running on the peninsula is fine; and going out at night is OK if you're careful.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Yes. Malaria and dengue are issues. Water is not safe to drink. There is only one hospital (Aga Khan) available that is anywhere near acceptable, and even then not for many procedures we would consider routine in the U.S. The IST Health Clinic, located next to IST Upper School, very good, but operates on a subscription basis. Whatever medical needs you can cover at home, do so. Decent dental cleaning & procedures are available but just as expensive as in the U.S. Braces are available but also near U.S. prices & perhaps not as good quality. Diagnostic & preventive testing is better done elsewhere.
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?
Moderate. Only when doing a long walk on the local roads (not peninsula) is there much dust.
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. And some rain. October-April are hotter, with December/January being hottest. May-September are only hot. High humidity most days. There are "rainy" seasons, but it seems they may be changing due to global warming, and to me they really were not THAT rainy. The bad effect of the rains is that they create lakes in some streets due to no drainage and huge potholes in the roads which really affects driving on a daily basis within Dar. (The roads are not laid with a proper foundation so when it rains heavily, the soil beneath becomes water-logged and the heavy vehicles going over top cracks the road, and as more and more cars pass over, the cracks become pot holes; eventually, within the year the potholes seem to get repaired, but it tales several months)
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
My children all attended IST Upper School. Most children attend International School of Tanganyika; two campuses- one for lower (KG-5) and one for upper (6-12). A few attend Dar International Academy, especially for the lower school since the commute is much shorter. The Embassy bus service picks up little ones quite early to get to IST Lower School- 6:30 or so; DIA is on the peninsula so the commute is smuch shorter. Upper School kids get picked up at 7:00am or after. IST upper school is a perfectly acceptable school. Of course, some people have more complaints than others academically. Socially, it is quite small, and I don't think most kids who go to the Upper School, especially grades 9-12, would say they loved it. Some hated it; some tolerated it; some liked it. Haven't really met any who "loved" it. See my school review in the school review section for more detailed info.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
For a child with special physical needs, I think the school would accommodate them well (there was a senior last year who used a wheelchair). IST does not make many accommodations for learning differences, at least not in the Upper School that I can see. They are an IB-driven school. Once kids are in grades 9-12, it's all about the IB Diploma. Even trying to convince them to allow a student to only complete the IB Certificate (as opposed to the full Diploma), takes a bit of convincing. Though I haven't had to deal with special-needs, I don't think they are trained or equipped to provide services to a child with special developmental needs.
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?
Yes. I know people who send their little ones to both preschools and have full-time nannies. Most seem satisfied, though I haven't asked extensively.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
IST offers sports, but they're limited. Check out the IST website for more info; soccer, basketball, volleyball, swimming, once-a-week running, they started tennis this year & also a small track program. There is a private swim club, Taliss, that kids can join after trying out; they need certain times. Taliss offers swim practice 6 days a week, 3 at Upper School, 3 at Lower School, and quarterly meets. Others have found some gymnastics, ballet, dance, etc., but you really have to search for them. There is a FB group "Expat Parents in Dar" that is a good source of info.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
TONS of expats in Dar, specifically on the peninsula. Morale within expat community is high. Morale within the Embassy is not as high.
2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
CLO-sponsored events, Dar es Salaam Yacht Club events & sports (sailing, kayaking, snorkeling, etc.), dinners & parties with friends at restaurants or homes, movie theater 10 minutes away, seasonal "balls"
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
It's OK for everyone. I think it's better for families with young children because there are beaches and pools and playgroups and yards. It's more difficult for the older kids because there's really just not much to do here besides water sports and school. For singles, it's also pretty boring, I think, though of course there are many trips to be taken if you have disposable income (CapeTown, safaris, Zanzibar, climb Kiliminjaro, neighboring countries). For couples, I would think same as for singles. The Embassy community is not overly close-knit since there are so many other trips to go on and the Embassy work location are a bit spread out (CDC & Peace Corps are downtown) and traffic is bad so sometimes makes getting together difficult.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
I don't think so. Homosexuality is not widely understood or accepted in Tanzania.
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Not really that I have experienced.
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Going on safari up north (Lake Manara, Tarangire, Ngorongoro Crater, Serengeti). Going to Zanizbar (2 hour ferry ride). Just seeing how average Tanzanians live.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
AfriRoots bicycle tour when your first arrive (a 4-hour bike tour of the city; they also offer bhajaj- auto rickshaw/tuk yuk tours); Village Museum (bring a flashlight); drive from Pangani to Dar or vice-versa, through the game park (you see how real Tanzanians live); Sauti za Busara music festival in Zanzibar in February; Tarangire and the Crater; Mbudya Island; bike ride to South Beach (for age 15+ only) and then stay at Kipepeo; the Badminton Institute; buying fabric; Indian Bingo night; the new animal shelter Taweso; serving food on Saturdays with the Korean NGO
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Have a nice piece of furniture made- a kitchen island, a bar, a coffee table; can be made out of dhow wood. Have clothing/table clothes/shower curtains made of fabrics purchased from downtown. Zanzibar chests. Metal items made by Wonder Works.
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
LOTS of opportunities for: going to the beach, snorkeling, scuba diving, sailing, safaris
10. Can you save money?
Yes, if you're careful.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
I wish I had known how difficult Dar is for teenagers. On paper, the school looks great and, for those who have lived in difficult places, Dar looks fine. But it's a very difficult place for teenagers. The school is relatively small; many of the kids have been in Dar for several years so there is a bit of exclusivity (not as much as in Latin America); if your kid does a sport other than those offered, no dice; there's not much for them to do socially- some drink and smoke pot, I've heard, but if your kid is not one of those then â€¦ they're pretty bored. Academically, the school is OK but not stellar, and the teachers are very nice but not hugely inspiring. Not a great way to end their high school career.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?