Tips for driving in Tanzania

On the road

Important information for self-drive roadtrippers. Covered in this section: 

  • How are the road conditions?
  • How does it work with navigation?
  • What happens in case of a break-down or accident?
  • How to deal with traffic police?

How are the road conditions? 

North eastern 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 an 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 is 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 are most difficult during the rainy season. Driving in the 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 center of action) and from Seronera radiating to the East and West, is notorious among all tour guides in Tanzania for its condition. It is a challenging road due to the 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 lose control instantly with a single vehicle rollover as a result, which is NOT covered by the insurance. 

 Driving times to 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 parks of Southern Tanzania  

The longest gravel sections are the gateways to the safari parks in the South: from Kibiti to Selous (c. 90 km), from Morogoro to the Selous Matembwe Gate. (c. 90km) and from Iringa to Ruaha (c. 110 km). The main ''highway’’ intersecting the interior from Dodoma going North up to Bababti is about 75% complete as at November 2017. Full completion expected by mid 2018. Driving time between Dodoma and Babati is approximately 2.5 hours. Off road driving in Selous can get technical during the rainy season. Therefore a Landcruiser is required.  

How do in navigate my way? 

We strongly recommend that you install Maps.me on your smart phone before you travel to Tanzania. Its a free app. Download the Tanzania maps and enjoy driving on GPS, offline. Almost every lodge and campsite is plotted on Maps.me.

There's absolutely something to say for going offline with the good old’ map on your lap. The roadmap that comes with your rental car are 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 cover during your road trip. You might get stuck after heavy rains and a flat tire can be part of the adventure. If you are trying to estimate your travel itinerary with Google Maps, increase travel time by 1/3. And, always carry cash, water and a charged mobile phone with you!

Although asphalt roads are in good condition, you generally don’t make more than 60 km / hour, due to the many speed bumps, as you have 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 make an average of 25km/ hour only.

What happens in case of a break-down 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 workshops to assist you in case of anything. We will direct you to the nearest workshop or we will send help 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 keep in mind that arranging one of the above takes some time to organise and might require some effort and patience from your side. Good to know that 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? 

There is a lot of traffic police in Tanzania. You can recognise them from a far distance because of their bright white uniform ( see picture below). We always wonder how they keep their uniforms so white on the dusty roads, but that is not answering your question. Advice which comes in handy when dealing with any kind of government official in Tanzania is to remain patient and friendly, greet them in Swahili and make a joke, and you have a new friend. Traffic police will frequently pull you over to check if your car is insured, if the tyres look okay, and to see if you carry a fire extinguisher, reflector triangles and first aid kit. Of course that is being taken care of if you rent a car from Roadtrip Tanzania. They also want to see your driving license. A valid driving license from your country of residence is accepted in Tanzania. If you didn’t violate the law (speeding, dangerous overtaking), 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 Tsh 30,000. Officially this should be done at the nearest police station. That office can 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 you buy them a soda or tea (this is not something you propose though).