On the road
Important information for self-drive in Tanzania. Covered in this section:
- How are the road conditions in Tanzania?
- How does it work with navigation?
- What happens in case of a breakdown or accident?
- How to deal with traffic police in Tanzania
How are the road conditions in Tanzania?
By East African standards, the road conditions in the northeast of Tanzania are very good. All of the primary roads connecting Arusha to Ngorongoro in the west, Moshi/Kilimanjaro in the east and Lushoto/Dar es Salaam in the far east are smooth asphalt. You can expect a lot of speed bumps and the occasional pothole. Usually, the last stretch of your daily trip requires some driving on gravel roads to get to your lodge or park entrance gate. Inside the parks it's off-road driving on dirt roads.The conditions of these gravel and dirt roads tend to be variable from one season to the next and most difficult during the rainy season. Driving in the national parks of the northern safari circuit is not technical, except for the Serengeti and the road to Lake Natron.
Self drive safari in the Serengeti
The main road running from the Ngorongoro Crater Road to Naabi Hill gate, from Naabi Hill gate to Seronera (the centre of the action) and from Seronera radiating to the East and West, is notorious among all tour guides in Tanzania for its condition. It's a challenging road due to its rocky surface with washboard ribbons. We do allow self-drive safaris into the Serengeti but a Land Cruiser is required. Drive at LIMITED SPEED (25 km/h), otherwise you will lose control instantly, with a single vehicle rollover as a result - this is NOT covered by the insurance.
Driving times to the Serengeti are as follows:
- Loduare Gate (Ngorongoro entrance) to Ngorongoro Crater Road: 1.5 hours
- Ngorongoro Crater Road to Naabi Hill Gate (Serengeti): 2.5 hours
- Naabi Hill Gate to Seronera: 1 hour
Self-drive in the national parks of Southern Tanzania
The longest gravel sections are the gateways to the safari parks in the South: from Kibiti to Selous (90 km), Morogoro to the Selous Matembwe Gate (90 km) and from Iringa to Ruaha (110 km). The driving time between Dodoma and Babati is approximately 2.5 hours. Off-road driving in Selous Game Reserve can get technical during the rainy season, so a Landcruiser is required.
How do in navigate in Tanzania?
We strongly recommend installing Maps.me on your smartphone before you travel to Tanzania. It's a free app. Download the Tanzania maps and enjoy driving with GPS offline. Almost every lodge and campsite is plotted on Maps.me.
There's something to be said for going totally offline with a good old fashioned map on your lap. The roadmap that comes with your rental car is not very detailed, but main roads are highlighted properly.
The biggest mistake travelers make is rushing and trying to cover too ground much in one trip. Have a look at our suggested routes page for a realistic assessment of what you can expect to cover during your road trip in Tanzania. You might get stuck after heavy rains, and a flat tire can be part of the adventure. If you are trying to estimate your Tanzania travel itinerary with Google Maps, increase the suggested travel time by 30%. Always carry cash, water and a charged mobile phone with you!
Although Tanzania's asphalt roads are in good condition, you generally won't reach more than 60 km / hour, due to the many speed bumps, the need to reduce speed when you’re passing through villages, and because you probably want to take a lot of pictures. Even the scenery from the highway is stunning! On gravel roads, you reach an average of 25km/ hour.
What happens in case of a breakdown or accident?
In case of a breakdown, we will help you on your way as fast as we can. You can call us 24/7 for roadside assistance. We have a network of mechanic workshops in Tanzania to assist you in case of any issues, and we will either direct you to the nearest workshop or send a mechanic to assist you on the spot. In case a car cannot be fixed on the spot, a replacement car from Arusha will be provided so you can continue your journey. Please bear in mind that arranging one of the above takes some time, and might require some effort and patience from your side. Luckily, breakdowns are rare.
In case of an accident, contact us immediately and we coach you through the process; take pictures of the damaged vehicle(s) and process a clear police report.
Please refer to our policies, published on this website, for more information.
How to deal with traffic police in Tanzania
There are a lot of traffic police in Tanzania. You'll recognise them from a distance by their bright white uniform (see picture below). We always wonder how they keep their uniforms so white on the dusty roads, but that's not the answer to your question... So, advice which comes in handy when dealing with any kind of government official in Tanzania is remain patient and friendly, greet them in Swahili and make a joke, and you will have a new friend. Traffic police will frequently pull you over to check if your car is insured, if the tires look okay, and to check if you are carrying the required fire extinguisher, reflector triangles and first aid kit. Of course, that is taken care of if you rent a car from Roadtrip Tanzania. They will also want to see your driving license. A valid driving license from your country of residence is accepted in Tanzania. If you didn’t break the law (speeding, dangerous overtaking, etc.), there is nothing they can accuse you of. In our experience, traffic police are friendly, curious and often just want to make chit chat. If you committed an offence, you have to pay the fine, which is usually around 30,000 Tanzanian Shillings (around €12). Officially, this should be done at the nearest police station, which could be miles away and can be a very time consuming procedure. Often the police will have a ticket and receipt book with them on the side of the road. If they don't have a ticket or receipt book, sometimes they will offer a faster payment option and hint that you buy them a "soda" or "tea" (this is not something you should propose though).