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Car Hire / Driving in Tanzania

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Car Hire / Driving in Tanzania

We have had a number of holidays in Namibia, Botswana, Mozambique where we have hired a 4x4 and driven ourselves, so far without mishap. We want to do the same in Tanzania however I have just read the Rough Guide which paints a very negative view of driving in the country and suggests no one will hire me a car even if I wanted to without a local driver.

Having searched the internet I have found Avis do 4x4 rentals from Dar so that implies the guidebook is out of date. Can anyone tell me if it is a good idea to drive oneself, we aim to spend 5 weeks in November / December in Tanzania and possibly the north of Mozambique as we only managed the south on our last visit.

I look forward to some comments.

Findlay, Ohio
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for Tanzania, Ngorongoro Conservation Area
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1. Re: Car Hire / Driving in Tanzania

Most car hire companies will only allow you to take a vehicle out of the city with one of their drivers; but not all of them have this requirement. (Fortes Car Hire in Arusha doesn't I believe). The reason for this is many, but the major reasons are that the roads are not well marked (it's not like Namibia), only some of the roads are hard surfaced, unless you are an automobile mechanic you will probably get into difficulty with a breakdown. You need to be a bush mechanic there and most of the drivers are. They can get you to somewhere where repairs can be made. And if you don't speak Swahili you will have a difficult time getting around because you can't ask for directions.

I can speak some Swahili, have my own vehicle there, and know many of the ways to get to where I need to go (that means that I know the landmarks and know at which baobob tree to turn to the right at a Y in the road). But whenever I go outside of the town I am at, I will also pick up a driver. They are cheap, I think I typically paid my driver about $10 - $15 a day plus his expenses.

And you are going to complicate it by going to another country, there are requirements for that, if the car hire company will even allow you to do that.

I would not advise you to drive there yourself.

Edited: 02 March 2012, 12:34
Singapore, Singapore
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2. Re: Car Hire / Driving in Tanzania

Hello. Try Safari Drive as they specialise in self drive trips in Africa including Tanzania. Also read all the websites and info on http://www.africa-overland.net/

Also try Fortis car hire in Arusha http://www.fortescarhire.com/

A self drive trip is fantastic and you will have a real fun adventure. It sounds like you have some good experience so don't be put off by a guide book, especially one called Rough yet does not want you to get dirty!

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3. Re: Car Hire / Driving in Tanzania

Thanks for the comments; Karl says the same as the guide book whilst Mindy takes the opposite view!

It is not that we want to save money by not having a driver, it's the independence of not having a third person on holiday with us that we are looking for.

Forte sounds a good tip as we drive a Land rover at home so we are familiar with them if something falls off.

We might fly between countries so we only hire a local vehicle (previously we have hired in SA and driven across the borders without too much hassle)

Any other comments

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4. Re: Car Hire / Driving in Tanzania

I think if you do a "search" on here you will find some quite recent very long threads about this. People have different opinions.

I for one wouldn't every consider self driving in TZ. Some of the roads are terrible, even the best vehicles breakdown so unless you are a car mechanic that will be a problem. As Karl says there are no road signs/sign posts to tell you where you are or where to go or where the next petrol station is etc. I have no idea what "rules of the road" the locals use to decide who gives way to who etc - they seem to be a law unto themselves and I also don't remember any road markings etc to help you - and we saw a lot of truly awful driving. Also as Karl says unless you speak Swahili you may have problems asking for help/directions etc.

All in all I would listen to Karl. He regularly spends time in TZ and knows what he is talking about.

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5. Re: Car Hire / Driving in Tanzania

Can't provide specifics re car hire, but ask -

- do you plan to use vehicle to sleep/set-up camp?

- if so, better know where the public campsites are and if reservation required

- facilities - loos/showers - will be shared and rather basic

- park fees have to be paid, believe by pre-paid Smart Card.

- know that you have to be off park lands and at your camp or lodge by dusk (6:30pm)

- any other rules/regulations when visiting here.

If you plan to sleep in lodges, permanent or seasonal tent camps, better to have a tour outfitter in Tanzania handle (their rates are more competitive than trying to do so direct) this which will also include the park fees.

It's doable and there have been some who have, so do 'search' here on TA, also on Fodor's (believe poster there with screen name 'canadian-robin' did a self-drive last year... good info).

For sure you need good maps, GPS, know where petrol stations are, need local currency for this, of course, mobile phone always charged, etc.

Good luck whatever you decide.

Edited: 02 March 2012, 17:34
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6. Re: Car Hire / Driving in Tanzania

We hired a land rover with roof top tent from Fortes a few years ago and really enjoyed the self-drive experience. We took a Garmin GPS with the Tracks4Africa maps loaded on to it and managed to navigate around with few problems. The maps show locations of petrol stations, campsites etc. We booked the public campsites as we went along and even got the ones at Lobo and Lake Manyara to ouselves.Fortes also provided an emergency contact number in case of vehicle problems.

Have also since hired vehicles from X Car Rentals in Dar a few times, and believe they now have an office in Arusha. www.xcarrentals.com

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7. Re: Car Hire / Driving in Tanzania

Thanks for all your comments. Some of you warn us not to try driving in Tanzania whilst others such as Karen and Mindy recommend it.

We have used Tracks4Africa in Mozambique and Botswana where it was fantastic, I did mean to write a review recommending the maps to everyone, we were truly amazed by the level of detail and accuracy so based on that experience we are not too worried about getting lost.

We have no intention of going too far off the beaten track and I have a reasonable knowledge of car mechanics so we will give it a go. If you hear of some stupid British tourists getting stranded in November then it will probably be us.

I presume this forum will be closed by the time we get back but I will write up some comments on our experience to help others who might follow in our footsteps.

We will probably use Fortes as they seem to be recommended by everyone. Thanks again for all your comments.

Gill & John

Brisbane, Australia
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8. Re: Car Hire / Driving in Tanzania

I hired a 4WD from Fortes for a month in 2010. Be aware many of their vehicles are very old and from my experience not very mechanically sound. After I had the vehicle a week (we had gone to Karatu so I couldn't take the car back earlier) I returned it, as it wobbled after the vehicle got over about 80km/hr.

After waiting more than 24 hrs to have it repaired, they gave us another vehicle which its engine blew up approx 45 mins out of Arusha. We had to wait by the side of the road for a couple of hours (with a baby!) while they brought us another vehicle - the same one I had returned which still had its wobbly problem.

Three weeks later when I returned the vehicle they tried to charge me $4000 for the repairs to the vehicle that had left us stranded on the side of the road. Given I had only driven it out of town, I did not accept responsibility for it and I left without paying.

Would I drive myself around Tanzania? Yes, there is nothing quite like having the freedom of going where you want when you want, without having a driver in tow. What is life without a bit of adventure?

Have I ever used Forbes again? No, and I never will.

I catch public transport when I go there now, so unfortunately I can't recommend another car hire place - but there are places that will hire you a car without a driver, although Forbes seems to be the cheapest of all of them (that may explain why their vehicles are not well maintained).

Ottawa, Canada
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9. Re: Car Hire / Driving in Tanzania

I won't comment on to drive or not to self drive, but there do seem to be maps of the roads/tracks in the Serengeti, and driving circuits, available at the Seronera Visitor's bureau. It may be advisable to visit the TANAPA office in Arusha to enquire and obtain any possible park map available.

Isle of Man, United...
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10. Re: Car Hire / Driving in Tanzania

Go for it Gill and John,

We will keep the post open for your return or ou can start another thread. The main thing is we want to hear how it went.