Travel Challenge : Traveling from Daressalaam to Lusaka by bus

Whenever I am about to take off to a destination I find that doing research online about it and how to get there as one of the most challenging part of the journey. No matter how many blogs and reviews you read you can never be at a state where you say “this is it, I have got the perfect plan!’

For the past 4 weeks I have been planning for a trip to Zambia and the major things that I had to consider were:

How do I get there?

Fortunately from Daressalaam you have three very affordable options:

1) You could fly with FastJet which about a week ago the highest fare for a one way flight was about TZS 285,000/= it keeps changing and you would get a better deal if you plan ahead. This is by far the fastest option but unfortunately you will miss out seeing the great scenery on land.
2) By rail through TAZARA first class tickets are about TZS 110,000/= and the journey is estimated to about 46 hours.
3) By road. I should imagine that there are a number of bus options once you get to Ubungo terminal however I travelled with Taqwa since they were the only bus services that you could find on google. However while on the road I came across another bus called Falcon. The fare is TZS 100,000/= . The bus was pretty basic not on the luxury end at all, it was over loaded with packages under every seat and the over head baggage carriers were small for my bag. Would I recommend Taqwa bus services? Yes but only if you are a budget traveller. The great thing about them is their customer care and the power sockets inside the bus to charge your electronics through out the journey. The driver and conductors make you feel very at home and it looked like most of their customers were regular business people. The journey to Lusaka took about 38 hours,  I am not sure whether this was due to the national bus strike which resulted in a delay to our departure time or whether it was usual. Be aware though they drive quite fast!

Tip: You may have to sleep at the border, there are various accommodation options many of which are very basic budget accommodations although there is also the Tunduma hotel which is said to be of good quality. If hotels is not your thing or you haven’t got a budget for it then you may sleep in the bus however I would strongly recommend checking-in into one.

Should I travel with dollars or Zambian Kwacha?

With the current appreciation of the dollar the decision on what currency to get was very important. I opted to take the Kwacha which proved to be a good decision. It is not very easy to get Kwacha in Dar however the Karafuu Bureau in Posta (on the ground floor at Benjamin Mkapa building) could be a good starting point. If you need over 500 Kwacha you may have to go to a number of bureaus. Luckily you should be able to get what you need in bureaus around city centre. If you don’t manage to get all the Kwacha you need then do not worry you can still get some at Tunduma through money brokers at the border at a probably better exchange rate (it is not an option that I have tried but I noticed may other travellers opting in. As usual take necessary precautions). Another convenient point is that you will have access to major bank ATM machines there is one for Umoja Switch as well as CRDB and NMB.

Tip:  A word of advice, make sure you also take a few dollars with you and a master or visa card as a precautionary measure.

What should I expect at the border (Tunduma/Nakonde)?

Before you cross to the Zambian side you have to pass through the Tanzanian migration to get your exit stamp. This should usually be a straight forward process if you have a Tanzanian passport as you don’t need a visa to Zambia  but beware that it can also be cumbersome. What ever your reason for travel make sure you have supporting documents such as booking confirmation or address of the hotel you are going to stay at, address of your host or even better a letter of invitation, if you are employed in Tanzania then take your work ID or letter from your employer. I experienced some challenges at the Tanzanian immigration since my passport was stamped randomly and I had a number of visas. The immigration officers quizzed me for a good while as to why do I travel so much? What is my line of work? Why do I want to visit Zambia? Just be aware that you may have to answer a bunch of questions.

The immigration process at the Zambian side was pretty straight forward

Tip: Make sure you have your yellow fever card. If you got yours from Tanzania ensure that your Typhoid and Cholera page is up to date (you need to stamp it every 6 months) otherwise it may cost you up to TZS 5000/= to get it stamped by the medical officer at the Zambian immigration office.

How do I stay in touch back home?

Fortunately if you have a Tanzanian SIM card it will continue to work until you reach the border, in fact you can still use it when you cross to Nakonde (Zambia). You may opt to buy a Zambian SIM card which you can easily acquire from the street hawkers at the border. A SIM card costs TZS 3000/= or 5 Kwacha . You get a choice of MTN, Zamtel or Airtel. I went for Airtel because it is a carrier I am already familiar with. To start off make sure you get  at least 20 Kwacha worth of air time, find out the different bundle deals. It is strongly advised that you should get a SIM card as early as possible.

What to expect at the Lusaka bus terminal?

Once you arrive at the Lusaka bus terminal for the first time you may feel nervous however if you have survived the Ubungo bus terminal in Daressalaam then there is absolutely nothing to fear, just be on alert as you would in any unfamiliar place. If you have already made your accommodation arrangements you can take a taxi to your destination. Otherwise if you were not able to make any previous accommodation arrangements then there is nothing to worry there is many options around from expensive hotels to budget accommodation. Some accommodation options that you can check out include:

1) Stay Easy (A Tsonga venture)
2) Kalulu Backpackers
3) Lusaka Backpackers
4) Lui’s Guest House
5) Fair View Hotel
6) Flinstones Backpackers

Tip: There is a big shopping centre and a police head quarter a few metres walk from the bus terminal. To leave the terminal and walk to the police HQ/Shopping Centre just walk out of the gate and turn right, walk across the petrol station and onto the adjacent street. Walk up the street.  Google map is a very handy tool for navigational purposes. If you arrive in early morning hours say around 5a.m then stay at the bus terminal until day break which is around 6a.m, you should then be able to walk to any of the accommodation options suggested above.

What next?

Be confident, open to the experience and enjoy your stay but always keep the general safety measures in check at all times in relation to your personal belongings.

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