The only place I have had to pleasure of riding in a bijaji in Tanzania is in Dar Es Salaam. In Arusha they are mainly used by businesses and trades-people, not as transportation for hire. Though these golf-cart type vehicles are a bit scary to ride in as the zip down the center line or shoulder of a busy street, they are a lot of fun. They get especially interesting when it comes to the rugged terrain of the dirt roads, the ups and down soon had us referring to them as “Tanzanian Rollercoasters”.
Everywhere you go people are riding their bikes, it’s quicker than walking and cheaper than a daladala. However it would seem there’s a lot of maintenance needed because the roads are so rough on the bikes. Flat tires are extremely common.
Coach buses are rarely seen in the city, and are generally only for long distance travel. School buses are common in the city, but are closer in size to a daladala than a school bus in Canada. The bus I took from Dar to Arusha was more or less like a coach bus in Canada, except for the onboard entertainment. They play a variety of movies or shows, on my trip they played some kind of gospel musical and a cheesy Asian kung-fu type flick; there were other films too but I can’t say I paid much attention. Overall, more pleasant than expected and much cheaper than flying, $20 vs $200.
Daladalas are the main form of public transportation. For 300 TSH you get a ‘usually interesting’ ride from one stop to another. During peak commute times it’s not unusual to realize you’re sharing your ride with 20-30 other people, keeping in mind they are basically a large cube van. It is not uncommon for there to be 2-4 people hanging out of the open door of the van as you drive along. The rule seems to be that you can always fit one more person in daladala. This is one of my favourite forms of transportation, nothing will make you feel like a local more than standing on a daladala with your face in the person in front’s armpit. They are nearly always heavily ornamented, either with religious or pop culture imagery. I find myself wishing daily that we had daladalas at home in Ontario.
Pikipikis are small motorcycles. Many people make use of the tiny second seats that are for hire on the back of them. It is not uncommon to see one with a child in front, then the driver, then another person on the back. It is very uncommon to see helmets, and I’ve yet to see a passenger sporting one. They say there are whole wings of hospitals devoted to victims of pikipiki accidents. I don’t think I will be testing this mode of transportation out anytime soon, I refuse to even ride as passenger on my dad’s motorcycle, never mind weaving through traffic clinging to a stranger.
Hiring a taxi is necessary if you will be going out in the evenings, and while not as thrilling as a daladala or bajaji, they are interesting in their own right if only for the road conditions. The way cars manage to handle the crazy roads of Arusha, especially the dirt roads always amazes me. You’re basically ensured a bumpy ride as you travel, but it does allow a good view of nightlife around town, that you don’t get to see if you don’t go out.
The main form of transportation in Tanzania, I have probably gained some pretty toned legs on this trip. As a volunteer you need to walk a lot to work off all the rice and ugali you eat, which is a lot because every meal at home feels like Christmas dinner at my grandma’s where you’re pressured to eat almost to the bursting point!
-Heather Harvie. Youth Ambassador, Tanzania 2012
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