Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania Report of what it's like to live there - 05/09/20
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?
This is my third overseas experience.
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?
Home base is Washington DC. We usually go via Amsterdam on KLM or via Zurich on Swiss. Usually takes about 24 hours from wheels up to wheels down. The layovers are only 3-5 hours, some folks take a few days in Amsterdam to break up the trip and enjoy the city..
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Diplomat with State Department.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Almost all the houses are on "The Peninsula" This comprises Oyster Bay & Masaki areas and is home to 85% of expats in dar. there are also some folks in Mbezi beach.
Oyster bay - this is the old Expat center and has about half of the American diplomats in 2-3 large compounds and a few stand-alones. I live here and find it quieter with leafy tree line streets. if you squint, you'll think you're in an American suburb. Has a decent supermarket (Simply Fresh) and a handful of restaurants
Masaki - 30 years ago this was all farm land - it's been rapidly developed and poorly zoned. many folks will deal with noise pollution from nightlife . This is closer to Slipways, Sea Cliff, Dar Yacht Club, and dozens of restaurants & nightlife options.
Currently, everyone is in a house, half are in compounds and half are stand-alone. Most of the houses are decent sized. As land has become more valuable on the Peninsula, landlords have become greedy and squeezed 6 houses on a plot that should only have 3-4, this results in very small yards and your neighbors being very close. Seems like everyone wants/expects a stand-alone with a pool and a large yard for their 4 dogs - these folks usually seem disappointed.
The Peninsula is actually quite small - I can drive from one side to the other in 10 minutes. Commute times to the Embassy are 5 to 15 minutes. Many of the other missions are a bit more downtown and their commutes are 20-30 minutes. That'll be further reduced once the silly bridge is finished.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
You can find most things locally plus we have Amazon thru DPO. The challenges is having to go to 3-4 stores to do all your shopping. Sometimes things will just appear - the day we found sour cream at Shoppers was magically, I think folks from the US Embassy bought up the entire stock within hours, may be months before we see it again. South African brands are common. Imported American staples - think ricotta cheese or A-1 steak sauce - are quite expensive.
The main supermarkets are Village, Shoppers, and Simply Fresh (formerly Food Lovers). There's also a South African Butcher shop where I buy all my meats. SA imported steaks are tsh 50,000 per kilo ($10 per pound).
Simply Fresh has the best Fruit & Veg - prices for local in-season items like mangos or pineapples or avocados are quite cheap. things like strawberries are outrageously expensive. Many folks hire a chef named Mama Lu (she's $20 for a 4 hour shift and she's incredible) she can get you produce and other staples for local prices.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
I was surprised how available & cheap wine & spirits are here - the only things you cant find is bourbon. South African wine is decent and widely available. Craft beer doesn't exist here. Many folks miss cheese, it's so expensive here.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
There's a food delivery service called Piki that just launched. However, it seems either the delivery drivers either refuse to turn on their data or they can't use GPS.
Two O Six - it's a nice Mediterranean & Wine spot - it's the fanciest place on the peninsula. This is where you'd take your spouse on V-day
Zuane - great Italian & pizza spot. Has a huge play are for kids. it's quite the spot on Friday nights.
Seoul garden - great Japanese place in Oyster Bay, maybe only sushi option on the Peninsula
Chengdu - Chinese restaurant that has hot pot, great for a big group.
Salt - English themed place right off of Coco beach. I recommend their Sunday Brunch
Epi'dor - Cool outdoor restaurant and an amazing bakery. They make great pastries.
Sea Cliff Hotel - Karambezi Cafe - amazing views on the tip of Masaki. Food is nothing to write home about though.
Slipways - There's several food options all are right on the water.
Veranda - wine & tapas bar
Slow Leopard - cool laid back bar popular with expats. They have live music on Thursdays and it's packed with expats.
Hamu - swanky cocktail bar with decent food. it's one of the only places to eat late.
Rhapsody - new rooftop place that overlooks Coco beach. Views are the best in Dar
Shooters Grill - rooftop grill themed place,
Grill House - great steakhouse, check it out on Burger night Mondays.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Ha - yes, Mosquitos are always around and become a problem during the rainy season (April thru May). Malaria & Dengue Fever are no joke. Finding giant red centipedes or tiny geckos in your house is not unheard of. There's also termites and there's snakes.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
Thru DPO - from the time I order on Amazon, It's usually in my hot little hands in 7-10 days. Don't think they even have a local post office, the other option is DHL.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Widely available & cheap. Housekeepers are US$2 an hour or less. I have a part time housekeeper and a part time gardener and I pay less than US$200 per month. Be warned - around Christmas, it seems they will ask you for a huge loan and pay it off thru reduced pay. My gardener requested a five year repayment timeframe.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
There's an okay gym at the Embassy and nice one at Coliseum & Sea Cliff, but it's expensive - I think $100 a month.
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?
Any nice restaurant or expat focused store will accept, but, they'll also add 4%. Cash is preferred. The largest bank note is 10,000 shillings which is about $4 - it's normal to cash checks for millions of shillings. Everyone seems to use the cashier at the embassy and lives off cash. There's an ATM at SeaCliff.
5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
I only know the Swahili greetings and I get by fine. The embassy offers one-on-one weekly Swahili classes at no charge. They also offered this Swahili immersion program for a week in the Fall.I wish I spoke more Swahili - I feel like half the time the waiters are smiling and nodding and not understanding anything I'm saying.
6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
The Embassy allows us to take Ubers - like Piki - they dont know how to use GPS and they are always lost. The cars are usually gross in my opinion and don't have seat belts and the drivers don't seem to speak English.
There's Bajajs (tuk tuk) these will take you anywhere on the peninsula for $2, though using public transportation is not recommended. The best option is Freddie - he's a private driver with a nice van that you can schedule ahead of time. He charges 5000 shillings to go anywhere on the peninsula, but, I usually give him 10,000. He's come in clutch a number of times.
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?
SUV with decent clearance - pot holes are everywhere and they are no joke. I'd buy something from an outgoing diplomat or buy used from Japan Auto Imports. They drive on the British side of the road there.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Everyone uses Zuku and they're pretty good - costs 100,000 tsh a month.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
I use Google Fi and kept my American number and an Embassy-issued IPhone 8. There's this whole thing now with getting biometrics scanned and having a Tanzanian ID card in order to get a local sim card. I don't think they thought about non-residents like diplomats when they rolled out the program - so - it's complicated. Touch base with IRM prior to arrival.
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?
Yes, there are several good vets on the Peninsula and no issue with quarantine. There's Every Living Thing which is a rescue shelter that offers boarding services. Be in touch with GSO Shipping prior to arrival so they can confirm you're good to go.
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Usually Business casual at work for most folks - short sleeve polos or even Hawaiian shirts (on Fridays) aren't uncommon. Political Officers going downtown are in full suits.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Yes, this Post is Critical for Crime & High for Terrorism. Your house or compound will have 9 foot walls with barbed wire & a 24-hour guard on-site. Muggings & Car Break-ins are common after dark. You'll get in the habit of lock your car doors the moment you get in each day. Most restaurants & shops have security watching your car though, tip them $1 when you leave. You're strongly advised to never walk anywhere after dark. Just use Freddie or Uber and be smart.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Malaria & Dengue Fever are for real - do your research & take your Malarone. Aga Khan hospital is decent enough, our MedEvac point in Pretoria
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?
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Hot & extremely hot with some rain in between. June thru October is the nicest time of year. evening will get into the low 70s with a nice breeze. Mid-March thru end-of-May it's pouring rain and mosquitos are everywhere.
November thru Feb it is just too hot.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
Most go to IST. The IST lower school is off the peninsula, if your kids are in the lower grades, I'd request to live in Oyster Bay.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
I'd day it's mid-sized but it's shrinking. I understand the current government has not been renewing work permits for expats. Besides the American Embassy group, there's a decent NGO/UN community and a sizable group of British, South African, and Italians that have residency.
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?
Most of the socializing happens via the Dar Yacht Club. My biggest regret was not buying a boat as soon as I arrived. Dar's biggest gift is the ocean & boat culture, take advantage water sports & the beach as often as you can.
There's also folks that love hitting up the Sea Cliff Casino
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
The majority of folks are families, single people and couples without kids stick together. It can take awhile to get into the groove of things. The NGO community has more single folks.
Families enjoy the compound living, the cheap nannies, the good school, and the Yacht Club. After the initial excitement of being in Tanzania wears off, you'll be going to same 5-10 restaurants & bars with the same group of people. some people don't mind that - some hate it. Life's a beach.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
It seems to be vehemently anti-gay here. You won't face any issues within the expat community though.
5. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Tanzania is a special place: between the boating in Dar, the beach trips to Zanzibar, diving with Whale Sharks in Mafia island, and all the safari options - I'm not sure there's a better post in the world for travel options.
6. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Many folks get into Kitenga clothing, buying lots of cloth and having dozens of dresses made. There are furniture makers that can make very cool coffee tables & book cases. Zanzibar Chests!
7. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
It's an easy living, laid back Post. The Tanzania people are warm & friendly.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
How unbelievably hot it can get in the summer. Do not bring any winter clothes unless you're planning a ski trip to Europe for R&R.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Yes! Dar is Africa-lite, you can live a very comfortable expat life here.
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Your watch - nothing happens on-time.
4. But don't forget your:
Sense of Adventure.