Nose-picking in Tanzania

Dar Es Salaam is easy to walk and does not feel like a really African city except in one thing: public nose-picking.

According to a popular travel guide, there is not much to see in Dar Es Salaam except the outlying island of Zanzibar. This means less hassle and rip-offs in the city itself, which is not necessarily bad, especially if one is coming from Kenya.

We took a swing to Tanzania’s capital, Dar Es Salaam, to apply for a six-month visa to India but learned that they only grant three-month visas in the Tanzania embassy. We were kindly advised to apply the visa from Finland. That cryogenic treatment is not really tempting. Was this the famous Indian hospitality or bureaucracy?

We came from Mombasa, Kenya, by bus. The ride took nine hours with border formalities. The road was partly potholed rodeo and the driver was speeding the tarmac parts. Once he was passing by a truck and hit a cow damaging the bus and killing the poor animal.

The Must-See Sights In Dar Es Salaam

Dar Es Salaam is easy to walk around with a compass and a free photocopied map available at the official tourist office. We didn’t try taxis, but the amount and eagerness of drivers predicted a lot of expensive, unnecessary sightseeing.

One of the city’s main tourist attractions is a modest Clock Tower in the heart of the city. It works with solar power and shows four different times. All clocks had stopped. It is therefore advisable to choose carefully the time of arrival so that the clock you want to see will be on time.

Zanzibar is the main tourist attraction in the area. It is particularly famous for Arab architecture, which is— according to us—best experienced in Arabia, not in Africa. We skipped the overly expensive ferry trip and touristy hassle.

Not Cheap But Not Expensive

In Dar Es Salaam, you can get a decent hotel room with a fan, TV and breakfast for 25000 TSh (13 €). We spent the first night in a 14000-Tsh-hotel and had a mini-safari with bedbugs and other exciting nightly man-eaters. In the morning, we upgraded our accommodation and found a nice hotel in a busy local area where we were the only mzungus, white people.

Taxi drivers went crazy when they saw us and started yelling “Mzungu, mzungu!” There was also mzungu prices in some shops, and some hotels even had separate prices for residents and non-residents like in Russia, one number but in rubles for Russians and dollars for foreigners.

Other similarities with Russia—or the former Soviet Union—were local supermarkets. The first time we went to one of the biggest Tanzanian supermarkets called Shoprite, the lights were dimmed and there was no bread available because of electricity shortage. The shelves had some stuff, but the selection was poor. Still there was a lot of people guarding the precious few goods. Prices were much like in Kenya but obviously too dear for locals. They seemed to do their shopping in the market or in small local kiosks.

The Nose-picking Nation

English is spoken but not as widely as in Kenya. Most of the people speak Swahili and can have trouble understanding English words pronounced in a non-African way. We got by with the help of a map and compass as locals could not always direct us to the right place.

Dar es Salaam does not feel like a really African city except in one thing: public nose-picking. We have not seen such a dedication to this sport anywhere else in the world. Even the kitchen maid was practicing it while putting our two breakfast bread slices to a plate.

Our journey continues. More news coming soon—stay tuned.


Anonymous said…
interesting that you havent had anything positive to say about kenya or tanzania. you get what you pay for. do you expect 5 star service for $15??

safe travels and hope you find some positivity in this fanstastic continent soon.

a tazanian born globetrotter living in east africa for most of his life.
Dear Anonymous,

thanks for your comment fellow globe trotter. Actually as we wrote we found a very nice hotel after the first horrible night, which we are happy to recommend to anybody travelling to Dar Es Salaam. It's called Flex II Hotel near Kariakoo market. It's clean, the staff is friendly, honest and caring, and they didn't have prejudice against mzungus. The same prices good servicevfor everyone. We ended up staying there over a week.

Your idea that people should pay a lot to get good service is not sustainable. One can see from the minimal amount of tourists in Kenya and Tanzania compared to for example Asia. There lower range budget options exist and offer good quality and value for traveller who don't need to show-off with their money.

Happy travels,

Päivi & Santeri

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