What are the roads like in Dar? I was asked this by a friend so I took some photos to share while riding in a bajaj (more on what that is later).
Once you get off the main roads, a lot of side streets are unpaved. They are dirt roads and pretty rocky and holes everywhere. Definitely a bumpy ride and I’m guessing these will be horrendous during rainy season. We’re trying to avoid getting an apartment that involves driving on an unpaved road to get to it. Some parts of Mikocheni, which is the neighborhood next to the Peninsula are all unpaved and it makes for slow and bumpy goings. This is why it’s better to get a 4WD. We’re still looking for a car—they are in short supply here it seems. All the cars are imported from Japan so they are really expensive once you add on the cost of shipping and import duties. We looked at a 1999 Toyota RAV 4 and it was over $11,000 USD! Cars tend to retain their value more over here though because of the supply shortage.
Driving in Dar is not too bad on the Peninsula except at night it gets really dark and everyone drives with their high-beams on. They do this because they feel like they can’t see but in turn it renders everyone else night-blind! There are no lines painted down the middle of the road, so drivers don’t always stay on their side of the road. Sometimes you feel like they’re going to crash head on into you, I guess you just have to go slower and be careful. There are no sidewalks so everyone just walks on the dirt paths by the road but this is scary at night when it’s so dark. I’m always worried someone’s going to get accidentally hit by a car!
The other option for transportation is a dala dalas, which are the minivan/buses. Most local people use this since this is the cheapest and they run along the main roads. They don’t really run as much on the Peninsula, more downtown. I haven’t used these since you have to be careful about pickpocketing and it’s not that useful for getting around the Peninsula. Mostly if we want a quick ride, Mike and I will hop in a bajaj, which is like a tuk tuk. It’s a little 3 wheeled moped with a covered back, like a motorized rickshaw. It’s called a bajaj because of the Indian company that makes them.
Around here, it’s an everyday thing to get pulled over by the police for traffic inspections. A lot times these are bogus and they will try to pin you for nonexistent charges. You have to always make sure your insurance stickers are all up to date (there are a ton you have to put on your windshield) and you always need to have emergency orange triangles and a fire extinguisher in your car. We’ve heard that 1,000 or 2,000 Tsh (around $1 USD) will get them off your back. Some are opposed to paying the bribes since it enforces bad behavior but it will take you longer to talk your way out of it. Usually asking for a receipt or requesting to go to the police station will help. We haven’t actually experienced this, so it will be interesting when it finally happens. Apparently it could happen at least once a week!
Driving from the Peninsula to downtown would usually only take 15-20 minutes without traffic, but during rush hour it can take up to an hour or more! The roads here just haven’t expanded enough to support the growth of cars every year. The lights are also not very good and sometimes not working so people end up just turning whenever they can. Thankfully Mike works on the Peninsula so he can avoid all of that, but we are not sure how that will affect us if I get a job downtown. It’s kind of funny that I had this much to write about driving in Dar, haha!