Driving in Tanzania
Important information for self-drive travelers driving in Tanzania. Covered in this section:
- What are the conditions of the roads in Tanzania?
- Is it allowed to explore the Serengeti and Ngorongoro on a self-drive safari?
- How does it work with navigation?
- What happens in case of a breakdown or accident?
- How to deal with traffic police in Tanzania?
What are the conditions of the roads 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 are 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.
How are the roads 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.
Can I explore the Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Crater on a self-drive safari?
Yes, you certainly can! How are the roads?
The main road running from the Ngorongoro Crater Road to Naabi Hill gate (entrance to the Serengeti) and from Naabi Hill gate to Seronera (the centre of the park) 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
How do I 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 the main roads are highlighted properly.
The biggest mistake travelers make when driving in Tanzania 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 50 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?
Take note that when driving a second vehicle in challenging conditions, unexpected issues can arise. We are experienced in troubleshooting along the way, but it requires cooperation and patience from your side as well. Please always contact Roadtrip Tanzania first. Our phone number is available 24h/day and we will try to solve the problem to the best of our ability.
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 within 24 hours, a replacement car from Arusha will be provided so you can continue your journey. Ask yourself if you easily stress out or become agitated if you have to change your travel plans a bit, because you need to wait several hours before help has arrived when you are in a remote area. Then going on a self-drive trip is not for you.
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 that 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 while driving in Tanzania (speeding, dangerous overtaking, etc.), there is nothing they can accuse you of. In case you’ve committed an offense, you will receive a fine which needs to be paid via a bank deposit. If you receive a fine, please keep the ticket and call the Roadtrip Tanzania office. We will make the payment, which will save you a lot of time, and then you can refund us in cash upon car handover.