Driving in Tanzania: Tips & Information

Are you planning a self-drive holiday in Tanzania? This guide contains essential information and 12 must-read tips for travellers renting a car in Tanzania without a driver. 

Do you prefer a local guide to do the driving for you? We have gathered more information about knowledgeable driver-guides on this page, feel free to check it out!

How are the road conditions for driving in Tanzania?

Road conditions in the Northeast of Tanzania

By African standards, the road conditions in the Northeast of Tanzania are excellent. 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 covered in smooth asphalt. Do expect a lot of speed bumps and the occasional pothole.

Although the asphalt roads are in good condition, you generally don’t reach more than 60 km/hour, due to the many speed bumps, the need to reduce your speed when passing through villages, and because you will probably want to take many pictures! Even the scenery from the highway is stunning. Avoid the common traveller's mistake of trying to cover too much ground in one trip. Forget Google Maps, but closely study our driving times and distances table at this page instead.

Tanzania's secondary ‘C’ and ‘D’ roads are usually unsurfaced, with various potholes or eroded surfaces. Usually, you can expect the last stretch of your daily trip to require some driving on these all-weather dirt roads.   

Inside the parks, you'll drive off-road on dirt roads most of the time. The conditions of these roads tend to vary from one season to the next and are most challenging during the rainy season. Off-road driving in the northern safari circuit parks is usually not technical or difficult, except for the Serengeti and the road to Lake Natron:  

  • The main road running from Naabi Hill gate to Serengeti - Seronera, and from Seronera radiating to the East and West is notorious among tour guides in Tanzania for its rough driving conditions. It's a challenging road, with a rocky surface and washboard ribbons. We recommend driving at limited speed (<25 km/h).
  • The road from Serengeti to Lake Natron involves a new tarmac road from Klein's gate to Wasso town, followed by an all-weather gravel road to Sonja. The final 20 km to Engaresero town is rough and eroded, requiring caution.

Road conditions in Tanzania's Southern National Parks

Long gravel sections mark the gateways to Tanzania's Southern safari parks: Kibiti to Selous (90 km), Morogoro to Selous Matembwe Gate (90 km), and Iringa to Ruaha (110 km). The drive from Dodoma to Babati takes about 2.5 hours. Off-road driving in Nyerere National Park (formerly Selous) is challenging during the rainy season, requiring a Landcruiser.

Avoid shortcuts on secondary roads in Tanzania - it's never a good idea. If you're unsure about routes during your self-drive road trip don't just wander off, but contact the 24/7 Roadtrip Africa team in Arusha via WhatsApp for advice.

How are the road conditions for driving in Tanzania?

Do I need an international driving license in Tanzania?

No, you don't need an international driver's license in Tanzania. Your valid license from your home country is sufficient. Make sure to always carry your driver's license with you when driving. 

At what side of the road should I drive in Tanzania?

Left. Driving in Tanzania is done on the left side of the road. 

Is it safe to drive in Tanzania?

Driving in Tanzania is incredible and a self-drive roadtrip unforgettable. You should be safe driving in Tanzania as long as you follow these rules and tips:  

  • Drive defensively and take it easy. Avoid long driving days and jam-packed itineraries; they're not worth it and cause fatigue and accidents. 
  • Beware of washboard ribbon roads. Speeding on these roads makes cornering and reacting to unforeseen issues challenging and dangerous. Though the car may feel smoother at higher speeds due to suspension absorption, it becomes harder to steer. Slow driving minimizes shaking, ensuring a safer experience. Take it easy, and there's no need to worry.
  • Beware of unmarked speed bumps, which are plentiful in many parts of the country, especially at town entrances.
  • Beware of potholes. They damage the car if you hit them and can cause a flat tire.
  • Purchase a local SIM card with internet access. This way you can always connect to Google Maps and reach out to our team via WhatsApp if necessary. 
  • Always park in a secured area. Should you be spending the night at a local town hostel, make sure they have a secure car park available on their property.
  • Avoid driving at night. Potholes are difficult to see in the dark and approaching traffic uses blinding high beams.
  • Always carry some cash, water, and a charged mobile phone to handle any situation.

As long as you adhere to the above rules and tips, you should be safe driving in Tanzania. 

Are you not comfortable driving yourself and would you feel more at ease with a local driver by your side? Then book a car including a knowledgable drive-guide, and enjoy a more relaxing experience while discovering the beauty of Tanzania.

Is it safe to drive in Tanzania?

What are the speed limits in Tanzania?

  • 80 km/hour on highways. This might seem limited but a Landcruiser packed with luggage and camp gear is a heavy vehicle. The police, therefore, classify safari vehicles as trucks, because of the longer brake distance. 
  • 40 km/hour when driving through towns. Note that the main highways also pass through towns, so make sure to reduce your speed. 
  • 35 km/hour inside the National Parks. Depending on the various tracks.

Our cars are equipped with car trackers, and for your own safety, we receive instant notifications when our vehicles drive beyond the allowed speed limit. 

Can I cross the border from Tanzania to Kenya or Uganda?

We allow border crossings with our rental cars to Kenya and Uganda

If you want to cross the border and do a multiple-country road trip, you do need to let us know in advance as we have to arrange a COMESA card, which is an extension of the car insurance for your vehicle. This is an option you can select in our bookings form. Without our consent, you are not allowed to cross the border and you are not insured for any damage. 

Border crossings to Uganda - note that non-Ugandan registered cars incur a $150 fee to enter national parks (compared to UGX 30,000 for Ugandan vehicles).

Border crossings to Kenya - beware of limitations. Tanzania-plated cars are currently barred from Masai Mara, Mara Reserve, and Mara Triangle entry due to a trade dispute. Rules change overnight and are often not communicated or displayed. This leaves you entering a national park up to the discretion of park rangers. We therefore advise against taking your Tanzanian-registered vehicles into Kenyan parks, conservancies, and reserves. 

If you want to cross the Kenyan border anyway, then note that the Tanzania authorities require you to leave your logbook behind. Hence, you'll need to return via the same border or pay extra costs for your logbook retrieval.

Border crossings to Zambia - occasionally, we allow border crossings from Tanzania to Zambia. However, since we don't have a local office in Zambia, road assistance challenges may arise.

Crossing borders with our rental cars to other African countries, not specified above, is not allowed.

Is insurance included with my car rental in Tanzania?

Our rental cars in Tanzania are comprehensively insured against damage due to accident or fire, and third-party liability due to a car accident. Personal injury and possessions are not covered and fall under your medical and travel insurance. 

Your insurance includes a maximum deductible of €250. Tires, underbody coverage, and windows are not covered by the insurance. The hirer is liable for any damage to the rental car and/or third-party property in the case of:

  • driving over speed limits;
  • single vehicle incidents or rollovers (these are considered a result of reckless driving);
  • damage to the vehicle caused by lack of proper care/maintenance of the vehicle;
  • driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol;
  • driving on restricted roads/areas.

Our full terms & conditions are included in the car rental agreement. You can also consult them here.

Which Telecom providor to use in Tanzania?

Tanzania has several mobile network providers. Airtel usually works best for the northern routes and Vodacom and Tiggo for the coastal region. 

Before you start your roadtrip, make sure you get a sim card and load it with sufficient data for internet and phone calls. You can easily obtain a sim card by bringing your passport to the Telecom company's service centre of your choice. Have you rented your car through us? Then our colleagues, who meet you at the airport or your lodge, can also explain to you where to buy a SIM card. 

How does it work with navigation in Tanzania?

All our rental vehicles in Tanzania come with the latest Bradt Travel Guide and a detailed roadmap of Tanzania.

Besides Google Maps, we strongly recommend that you also install Maps.me on your smartphone before you travel to Tanzania. It's a free app that allows you to use GPS offline. We also recommend downloading the app iOverlander, which includes almost every campsite in the country.

When using navigation apps like Google Maps or Maps.me, increase the suggested travel time by roughly 30%. For more information on actual driving distances in Tanzania, consult our driving times & distances table.

What happens if I get a breakdown or accident while driving in Tanzania?

Our rental fleet in Tanzania consists of well-maintained, second-hand Landcruisers. Our team at Roadtrip Africa checks and services every car before they go out on a trip. Still, unexpected issues may occur when driving on challenging African roads. Breakdowns usually happen due to…

  • the condition of the car
  • the challenging road conditions (washboard ribbons, potholes, speed bumps, dust and mud)
  • driving behaviour
  • a dose of plain bad luck

Although we can only affect the first of these events, we shall help you to the best of our abilities, regardless of the reason for your breakdown. Our team is very experienced in troubleshooting along the way but do not forget that providing road support requires cooperation, flexibility, and patience from your side as well.

In our ten years of experience, we learned that many breakdowns on a self-drive trip are caused by driving behaviour, often infused by jam-packed itineraries leading to long driving days and speeding or fatigue. Hence, our most important piece of advice – make sure your travel plan is not too ambitious. Prevention is better than troubleshooting.

Most mechanical issues that happen on the way are minor things and the fastest way to get you on the road again is to provide help on the spot. We have a network of up-country bush mechanics 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. If a car cannot be fixed on the spot within 24 hours, a replacement car will be provided so you can continue your journey.

Before renting a car in Tanzania, be honest and ask yourself if you easily stress out or become agitated if something unexpected happens. If the answer is yes, then going on a Tanzania self-drive trip is not for you. Getting stuck in the mud, dealing with a flat tire, or experiencing a mechanical issue along the way because of the bumpy and dusty roads are scenarios that can impact your travel plans for the day. 

When something happens, whether it's a mechanical issue or an accident, always contact the Tanzania office first. Our phone number is available 24 h/day. 

For more information, please refer to our Terms & Conditions published on this website.

What happens if I get a breakdown or accident while driving in Tanzania?

How do I deal with traffic police in Tanzania?

There is a lot of traffic police in Tanzania. You can recognize them from far away by their bright white uniform. We always wonder how they keep their uniforms so white on the dusty roads, but that's not answering your question...

Advice that comes in handy when dealing with any kind of government official in Tanzania is to be respectful, remain patient and stay friendly. Greet them in Swahili (jambo!) make a joke, and you will be guaranteed a new friend.

Traffic police can pull you over to check:

  • If your car is insured;
  • If the tires are in good condition;
  • Or to check on your driver's license. Any valid driving license (even from your own country of residence) is accepted in Tanzania.

If you've committed an offence (speeding, dangerous overtaking, etc.), you will receive a fine that needs to be paid via a bank deposit. You can always call our team at the Roadtrip office in Arusha for assistance.

Where can I rent a car in Tanzania?

Are you looking for the perfect car for your roadtrip in Tanzania? At Roadtrip Africa, we are happy to assist you with renting the vehicle that suits your wishes. 

We own all our rental cars and never subcontract from third parties. Our fleet consists of Landcruiser Double Cab, Land Cruiser Hardtop and Toyota RAV4 vehicles. All reliable and widely used 4WD vehicles, and perfectly suitable for your adventurous Tanzania roadtrip.

You are welcome to drive your vehicle yourself or hire a car with a local driver-guide. The driver-guide is there to facilitate and ease your travels, yet you remain in charge of your own holiday and itinerary. The costs for a driver are € 40 /day.

Ready to start driving in Tanzania? Book your rental car today!