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Car Rental in Tanzania: Your Journey Through the Country of Extreme Landscapes
A renowned tourist destination thanks to its famous Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania is an excellent place to explore by automobile rental simply to take advantage of the incredible diversity of sites and experiences. It is truly a country of extreme landscapes. From the hot and humid shores along the Indian Ocean to the largest lake in Africa, Lake Victoria, or from the second longest waterfall in Africa at Kalambo to the deepest lake on the continent at Lake Tanganyika, from the Serengeti National Park to Africa’s highest mountain – you’ll want to travel a lot during your visit to this phenomenal country.
Swahili is the major language spoken in Tanzania, though many governmental institutions continue to use English. But just like the landscape, Tanzanians are incredibly diverse and almost 90% speak Swahili as their second language, favoring one of over 100 different regional languages as their first. The local currency is the Tanzanian shilling.
The best time to visit the Serengeti is January and February, when the wildebeest are on the move – though be aware that this is the hottest season of the year! For visits to other regions, plan to visit Tanzania between June and August, when evenings provide a cool breeze.
If you’re arriving from overseas by air, you’ll likely land in Dar es Salaam or Kilimanjaro. Cars are available to rent at both of these airports, as well as in Mwanza on Lake Victoria. These are each great places from which to venture out by car, but don’t be too ambitious! Mount Kilimanjaro alone is a long day’s drive from Dar es Salaam, and you’ll likely get more of your visit if you plan short day trips with plenty of time to sight see.
Driving in Tanzania
Although roads are poorly maintained in Tanzania, hiring a car is an authentic and inexpensive way to explore this fascinating and multifaceted country. Just keep your eye out for sudden changes in road conditions – especially for the sudden appearance of overloaded vehicles, animals, pedestrians, and children at play!
Traffic travels along the left-hand side of the road, as you will be reminded in the “Keep Lefties,” or roundabouts, where the traffic circles are marked to conduct traffic in a leftward direction.
Faster traffic will pass on the right; you can assist those driving behind you by blinking your left turn signal to indicate that the way to pass is clear.
Unless otherwise posted, the speed limit outside of populated areas is 80 km/h, and you can expect to come across police speed traps.
Driving defensively is necessary in Dar es Salaam, which is very congested during business hours, and where streets are crammed with vehicles, pedestrians, and carts. Other cities and populated areas are less congested and more relaxed areas to drive.
Visa regulations change depending on the country from which you are arriving; Namibians, Rwandans, and Romanians can enter without a visa, while Americans, Indians, and most Europeans do need a visa. It is possible to purchase a visa upon arrival by air, but be sure to check regulations beforehand and consider receiving your visa before you depart.
To park in Dar es Salaam, lock your doors and leave, and then pay the attendant who approaches when you return to drive away. This should cost around 300 Tanzanian shillings for two hours.
An international driver’s permit is required for all car rentals.
If you’re interested in crossing borders into any of Tanzania’s neighboring countries, be aware that you may face substantial fees from your rental agency.
If you come across or are approached by a convoy of governmental vehicles, immediately yield right of way and pull over to the side of the road.
Make sure you fill your gas tank before entering any national parks, and it is highly recommended to carry an extra canister of at least 20 liters of extra fuel at all times!
Renting a 4x4 sport utility vehicle is highly recommended for your travels through Tanzania, especially if you’re planning on visiting any of the country’s incredible national parks.
Particularly if you’re planning on travelling long distances by car, make sure you purchase a good map, with up-to-date and thorough information on village and town locations.
Take pictures of the car you rent when you pick it up and drop it off, and ask your rental provider to write down any damages to the car that he or she can see before and after you rent it. Keep a copy of these documents to avoid any unfair additional charges. You may want to hire a driver along with your automobile to help you navigate out-of-city travels; this can be done quite cheaply as well!
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