Arrival and Pre-Safari

Arusha is the most usual choice of pre-safari location at which to spend time. Those coming to Tanzania and crossing many lines of latitude, will often choose to arrive two nights prior to their proposed safari start date. There are two main reasons for this:

To recover from jet-lag and dehydration caused by prolonged exposure to air conditioning and recycled airline oxygen.

It is very common for luggage to be delayed. The more connections involved with getting to East Africa, the greater the likelihood that bags will fail to make their necessary relays on time, and you may have to wait until the next day before your luggage catches up with you.

There are three usual methods for visitors to reach Arusha:

Airport arrival and transferring to Arusha

1. Arriving direct to Kilimanjaro International Airport from abroad

If you have succeeded to obtain affordable flight fares all the way into Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO) this is usually the best way of reaching your safari start point. During your booking process we will request your flight details and will send one of our airport transfer drivers to meet you off your flight. The driver will usually be wearing a black T-Shirt with our logo on it, and ought to be carrying an A4-size placard with the name of the main correspondent representing your safari group.

The transfer from JRO to Arusha takes around 40 minutes and covers 47km. First-time visitors to Africa are often surprised – and can be alarmed – by local driving conventions. It is, for example, quite normal for three vehicles to be abreast of each other despite the road having only two lanes. Additionally, pedestrians (who may sometimes be inebriated) and cattle are able to walk alongside the road on high-speed sections, and at night. Passengers should be aware of the obvious risks associated with this scenario.

Things That Go Wrong When Flying to JRO

Luggage Delays: Luggage is frequently delayed, having failed to make the connection between planes as quickly as passengers have themselves transited. We find that these delays afflict around 1 passenger in 7 coming into JRO. Please bear this in mind when deciding what to put into your hand luggage. Late luggage usually arrives 24 hours later, but can be as late as 3 or 4 days behind in about 1 case in 500.

If your luggage doesn’t arrive with you, you’ll need to speak to the Swissport desk beside the baggage reclaim area and complete a lost-luggage form. The form will ask for your hotel details as well as a contact name and telephone number. You can either detail your own mobile if it’s working, or else state the contact as ‘Amina’ and the number as +255 78 777 5895.

If your safari is scheduled to start the next morning, we’ll need you to let us have a list of everything you’d like us to try to obtain for you at short notice in order not to delay your safari. If you liaise with us on +255 78 777 5895 or +255 76 777 5895, we’ll send round a member of staff to meet you at your hotel and collect this list from you. Our staff will then work through the night if necessary, to try to obtain as much as possible of what you have requested on your list. In such circumstances, we may advise delaying the start of your safari by around 90 minutes to 2 hours.

Where luggage delays incur additional equipment replacement and hire costs, please ensure that you request a receipt for these. This will enable your travel insurance to reimburse you for these costs, depending of course, on your premium type. It is sometimes also necessary to request a letter from your safari coordinator, confirming that such events have necessitated your claim.

Late Drivers: Very rarely, an airport transfer driver may be delayed. Where this occurs we ask you to call us on our Arusha number (+255 78 777 5895 or +255 76 777 5895) as soon as you have finished verifying that he is definitely not anywhere near the airport entrance. In this event we’ll usually contact a reserve driver based at the airport and will request that he tries to find you quickly for him to find you quickly. If we cannot reach any of our reserve drivers we would ask you to please use one of the government authorised taxi-drivers from the airport to transfer you to your hotel. All drivers are nowadays screened airport security at the checkpoint barrier which must be crossed prior to being admitted to the airport. Most freelance drivers will be happy for us to pay your fare on arrival at your hotel, in which case we’ll usually send a representative to meet your driver when he arrives at your hotel, and will pay his fare direct to him. Occasionally a driver may not agree to this. In this event, travellers should know that the going rate for transfers to central Arusha is between USD 50 and USD 60. If you are requested to pay this yourself, we will of course arrange to reimburse you when we make contact with you.

2. Getting to Arusha from Nairobi

Most visitors arriving into Nairobi will use the Riverside Shuttle Bus to transfer to Arusha. There are however, only two shuttle bus departures daily, one at around 0800 and the other at around 1400. If therefore your flight is not scheduled to arrive into Nairobi before 1300 it will most likely be necessary for you to transfer into Nairobi City to spend a night, before taking the morning shuttle from there to Arusha.

If you are required to spend a night in Nairobi we advise that you stay at the Comfort Hotel as it has a safe reputation and is just across the road from where the shuttle bus departs, (see the map here). As regards the transfer from Nairobi Airport to the Comfort Hotel, you can either ask us to book this with the hotel (in which case we will need your flight code and arrival time) or you can simply get an authorised taxi from directly outside the front entrance of the Arrivals terminal. Please do not walk with a local catcher to an area away from the main entrance as this option may not be safe. Please ensure you enter a vehicle that is waiting in the queue directly outside the main entrance. These vehicles are screened by Airport Security and are licensed by the government to carry passengers.

If your flight reaches Nairobi early in the day we would recommend that you arrange with your safari coordinator to book you seats on the scheduled shuttle bus. Although booked and with your name on the passenger list, you will be required to pay for your seat in cash in US Dollars. The price will usually vary between USD 25 and USD 40.

If using the shuttle bus transfer service please ensure that you are waiting in position at least 15 minutes before the departure time, so that the conductor has time to stow your luggage. The transfer to Arusha takes around 5-6 hours and includes a refreshment stop a few kilometres before reaching the border, and a 20 minute stop for customs formalities at Namanga border, where you enter Tanzania.

If transferring from Nairobi to Arusha and you are booked into a central Arusha hotel (ie. The Arusha Hotel, The Outpost Lodge, L’Oasis Lodge, The Impala Hotel, The Arusha Naaz Hotel, or Le Jacaranda) please detail your shuttle bus driver to drop you off at your hotel. In some cases you will not need to change vehicles to do this, however sometimes Riverside will ask you to switch to a smaller car once the shuttle reaches its terminal (which is currently at La Meza Luna beside The Impala Hotel).

If arriving from Nairobi into Arusha and you are booked into a hotel outside Arusha (ie. Onsea House, Moivaro Coffee Lodge, Arumeru River Lodge, Arusha Coffee Lodge) you will need to advise STT of your arrival time into Arusha so that we can dispatch a driver to meet your bus. Please however be aware that shuttle buses are sometimes ahead of schedule and that while we generally have our drivers in place ahead of time, if your bus is particularly early you may need to wait a few minutes for our driver.

3. Getting to Arusha from Dar es Salaam

If flying into Dar es Salaam and wishing to reach Arusha we would generally advise that you fly, if budgeting constraints permit. This is usually very simple to arrange via Alternative Airlines’ website. If however you choose to use the bus from Dar es Salaam to Arusha please be aware that this 646 km journey may take up to 10 hours and that you will be exposed to driving techniques with which you may feel uncomfortable – particularly if you are unfamiliar with 3rd world country driving customs.

Arguably the best and safest means of arranging this transfer – or overland transfers from elsewhere in East Africa – is through Scandinavia Express. You can book a seat on this service on their website. The website may appear out of date but was current when this STT page was published.

It may not be possible to know accurately what time your bus will reach Arusha. On arrival at Arusha’s Central Bus Terminal you may therefore wish to arrange a taxi transfer from the Terminal to your hotel however please ask your shuttle driver for advise and assistance with this. The fare should be around USD 5 for a central Arusha hotel, or some USD 20-30 if staying at say, Moivaro or Arumeru. Alternatively, if you have your mobile phone with you it is advisable to ask your driver for an ETA once you have passed Moshi and to then call us on +255 787 77 5895 to request a scheduled pick-up by one of our drivers.

Unless your shuttle bus driver has supplied additional help and advice, it is not necessary to tip a shuttle bus driver. However please note that when using all other vehicles for transfers it is customary to tip the driver. Tips for short transfers within Arusha tend to average some USD 1-3 to the driver. For longer journeys, such as airport and mountain transfers, these tend to be around USD 5-10 to the driver.

At Leisure in Arusha

If time constraints permit, many visitors will choose to allow for a day’s leisure to be spent in Arusha prior before their safari. If you do opt for this, you are of course at liberty to simply wander into town from your hotel on your own. If however you wish to have someone to assist you in showing you the sites, such as the local market, some crafts and souvenir shops, etc, please advise us and we’ll send a guide round to meet you at your hotel at the time that you request. The cost to have a guide assist you will be USD 20 if walking, with additional charges if transport is required. Safari-goers will generally tip the guide also.

A phenomenon of which you should be aware is that when out and about in East Africa it is very common indeed to be approached by ‘fly catchers’, local people who are aiming to make commissions by assisting you in buying anything from small souvenirs and pieces of locally-mined Tanzanite, to another safari with a local operator. Many visitors have described such attentions as annoying and unwelcome. This factor should be considered when deciding whether you wish to move alone through town or request the assistance of a STT guide who will be able to fend off any unwelcome attentions.

Pre-Safari Briefing

If your flight details or overland transfer arrangements ensure that you are in your hotel prior to 1800 on the evening immediately preceding the morning on which you are scheduled to begin your safari, and if you are staying at a central Arusha hotel, we will send a member of our staff to come and brief you at your hotel at 1800. The briefing assumes that you have spent time familiarising yourself with your route overview and other information available on our website and so should not require much of your time, but you are warmly invited to ask our representative to elaborate on any aspects of the brief that will assist you with last minute preparations or put your mind at rest about anything that you have as yet not managed to resolve.

If your flight or overland transfer arrives too late to ensure that you are at your hotel by 1800 on the evening immediately preceding the morning on which you are scheduled to begin your safari, or you have elected to stay at a hotel outside Arusha (ie. Moivaro, Arumeru, KIA Lodge) you will only be briefed by your guide when he collects you at 0730 on the morning of your safari. Please note that if you know that your circumstances will disallow a briefing on the evening before your safari, you are strongly advised to liaise in detail with your safari coordinator before flying to Africa, over any aspects of concern you may have about your kit, as there will usually not be any opportunity for the guide to either check your kit or obtain any replacement items, as this would impose delays on beginning your safari, and others in your group who have succeeded in completing their administration ahead of time, will usually be disappointed to have such delays imposed.

Kit Hire Delivery

During your booking phase you will normally have been invited to advise us whether you wish to hire any items of kit from us for use on your safari – particularly if you are attempting an ascent of Oldonyo Lengai and may require specialist mountain clothing. If you have submitted a kit hire request form our usual procedure is for one of our staff to deliver this to you when he comes to brief you at 1800 on the evening immediately prior to your safari. On rare occasions this is however not possible, in which event your kit hire will be delivered to you when you are collected at 0730 the following morning.

Security in and around Arusha

Please at all times be aware of the security of your luggage and valuables and make use of your hotel’s safe deposit facilities. We have now experienced two events at two different hotels in the last few years where visitors’ cash has been stolen from within their hotel rooms. While this represents a very low ratio of our visitors overall, we nonetheless advise caution and awareness.

Sadly, muggings have also increased sharply in Arusha. Until the beginning of 2008 we were aware of only two visitors who had been mugged. Since 2008, such incidents have increased sharply, such that we hear of muggings in Arusha on a weekly basis nowadays. The way to avoid being mugged is simply to avoid travelling alone at night on the streets. We recommend in the strongest possible terms, that if venturing out of your hotels at night, you do so only in a taxi, and preferably have someone escort you that you know and trust.

Mugging Techniques in Arusha

Muggers in Arusha will usually have no desire to harm the victim. They will generally rely on intimidation techniques, such as brandishing a machete or knife, and demanding compliance, or on snatching a handbag. In the latter case, a motorbike is usually parked in the street ahead of where the victim is walking. The robber then quietly approaches from behind, grabs a bag or cellphone, and then runs onwards to his friend who is waiting to rush him away on the motorbike. While Tanzanians are generally far gentler than the indigenous populations of most countries in Africa, tourists are seen as having plenty of disposable income and it is believed that their losses are insured. Please therefore reflect on the extent to which you pose a temptation to an out-of-work local with criminal inclinations.