Dala Dala-ing

Alright, sneaked a few pictures of a dala dala when I was on my way to the district hospital. For those of you who are curious about how the dala dala system works, it’s the method of public transportation around here. But it seems to be highly unregulated. There aren’t timely stops, ticket prices posted, a ticketing system at all, or a limit on the number of people a dala dala can hold. It’s notorious for pick pocketing and people bring all kinds of things with them on the dala dala – there was once a body sized bag which smelled like it was full of fish.

You stand at the side of the road and flag down a dala dala (or sometimes, they slow down in front you yelling “Twende, twende”, which means let’s go – I guess if you wanted to hitch a ride, you’d just run and hop on?). The door slides open and you squeeze your way on. If you’re lucky, you get a seat. Then, you sit and wait as the bus picks up more and more people. At some point in the journey (it’s not at a predictable time), the guy who stands at the door will shake his hand full of change, which is the signal to pull out your money and give it to him. They hate making change, so I always try and have bills of less than 10,000 ($5) shillings to give. Depending on where you go, the fee is between 300 and 600 shillings. I never know the fee when I get on – I just hand them a small bill and hope they’re honest enough to give me the correct change. The fee doesn’t seem to be determined by distance though because a trip from ADRA to the city center of Arusha is 600 shillings and takes an hour, but a trip from the main Usa River area to ADRA is 300 shillings and takes about 5 minutes.

When you’re ready to hop off, you say the name of the stop (for ADRA, you say Danish) and the bus driver taps the side of the bus to signal the driver to stop. Most people are really elegant and fast when they get off, but I haven’t quite figured that out yet. You usually have to climb over people while ducking your head down and it’s usually a mess when I try and get off. I usually really like taking public transportation when I travel (especially in Europe), but taking a dala dala is honestly not my favorite way of traveling. It’s still one of those things a tourist “must do” when visiting Tanzania though!

Dala dalas are usually white, with various bright stickers on them. Each one will have two horizontal stripes (these are blue and green on this one) signaling the direction of travel.


This guy leans out of the door for most of the ride, calling out the potential riders on the street. He’s the same person who signals to the driver when a passenger needs to get on/off and he’s the person who collects the money from you.



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