Since I did a post on the tuk-tuks, I thought I’d do one as well on the daladalas. A daladala is a minibus or small passenger van. Daladalas are privately owned (I think) and cover the bus routes all over Dar Es Salaam. The public mass transit system is under construction, so this serves as the bus transit system. I’ve read there are thousands of these buses across 250 or so different routes criss-crossing Dar Es Salaam. The buses are crowded, have no air conditioning (although the windows are usually open), no seat belts, and in various states of disrepair. Many seem to have been repurposed from other Asian countries, so you’ll often see Japanese lettering for example on the inside of the buses. For the ones that follow a set route, each daladala has painted on the front the two end points of the route, plus a “via (road)” in the middle. So as it’s approaching, you’ll see that painted on the front like this one on the Mbezi-Kivukoni route (sorry, can’t make out the “Via” in the middle):
On the side near the door, you can see a small notation with fare in TSh. Typically it’s in the 250-500 range. The top number is the adult fare, the bottom number is the child fare. On the city routes, this doesn’t change based on how many stops you stay on the bus, but on the rural routes the longer the distance, the higher the fare. It’s helpful to have the coins to pay exact change as the drivers don’t seem eager to make change, particularly for a large bill. Bus stops are sometimes marked, sometimes not. It doesn’t take long to spot them though because there are so many daladalas and so many crowds of people waiting on them. When you find one on your route, you watch for its approach and stick out your arm and wave it up and down like a whale tail to indicate you’re interested. Even if you don’t wave, they’ll often stop, usually with the fare collector hanging out the door doing a twisting hand motion to prompt for riders.
Climb on board quickly, and depending where they are on the route and the crowds, you may not find a seat. The bus will start moving as soon as (or before) your back foot leaves the ground, so hold on. If you have much in the way of baggage, my advice would be don’t do a daladala at all as it’s just too difficult, but that would probably come with experience . Often there are 1 or 2 seats per side with an aisle down the middle. There will be 2-3 standing per row in that aisle. So a bus for 16-30 can seem to hold 50+. Just when you think they can’t possibly add any more, the driver will slow and they’ll shove more in. The guy doing the loading will eventually make his way back and ask for the fare by sticking out his hand and maybe jingling some coins. If it’s a long haul route, he may ask for your destination. Don’t expect the driver or the door man to speak English, but you could be surprised. There are no tickets. One time, I was on a particularly long ride, and the guy took my money but instead of change wrote something illegible on a piece of paper, handed it back and turned away. From watching the other passengers, I figured out that the expectation was that I would hand him that when I got off and he would make change at that point. On the rural routes, you’ll find that you share seats with people, their baggage (luggage, sacks of grain, boxes of goods, etc), and their chickens and goats. I have seen the chickens, but not experienced the goats yet.
These guys make their money on moving passengers, so they are very aggressive drivers. I haven’t been in an accident, but I’ve seen 5 roadside accidents with daladalas in the 4 weeks that I’ve been year, but only one serious (overturned on its side in the country). All of the others have been city fender benders, including one that t-boned a tuk-tuk right in front of our car, but hopefully the driver in that tuk-tuk wasn’t hurt. We saw the accident, then about 15 seconds later the driver stumbled out and fell over and was dragged away by the arm into the crowd that instantly surrounded him. I tell myself he just got a concussion because it didn’t look like the bus was going very fast, but bus on tuk-tuk can’t feel good.
Anyway, back to the driving – they lurch forward quickly, and just as quickly will stop 300-500m later for the next pickup. This makes for slow going, but with the traffic in Dar I’m not sure you lose much time. It has a much bigger impact on the rural routes when you catch the local daladala and stop at every tiny village. I found it interesting to watch from the window, but the charm wears off after several hours of it with the dust and diesel. If it’s a long route, my advice is skip the daladala and look for the “Express” busses at the official bus terminals.
If you have questions about it, let me know in the comments.