Ride like the Locals: My Trip in a Daladala
While outside of Africa public transport is organised with departure schedules, comfortable buses, luxury trains, and digital innovations such as ‘personal travel cards’, in Tanzania transport is a bit more ‘local’ … There are many varieties of transport available – you can catch a mini bus taxi (‘daladala’ in Kiswahili), jump behind a motorbike (‘pikipiki’) or grab a bicycle (‘baiskeli’).
Last week I decided to leave my car at home and to experience the local transport of Arusha. After a 30 minute walk to the main road I hailed a daladala. The daladala is a really local means of transport and I must admit – I enjoyed the loud American hip-hop music and the cool wind blowing through my hair as I was squeezed up against the window so that we could make room for one more! The sound of Tanzanians speaking Kiswahili sounds almost like singing, while the smells of the live chickens scurrying beneath my feet (that I was sure the man next to me was taking home for dinner) only added to the experience. This taste of Tanzanian life for only 300 Tanzanian shilling (USD 0.20) is unbeatable.
The name daladala originated from a corrupted version of the word dollar. While they typically stick to a fixed route, they will stop at any point where someone is waving them down on the side of the road. Typically, a busy street resembles an orchestra between the maneuvers of the motorcycles, bicycles, and daladalas all running at different speeds and starting and stopping frequently and often with little notice.
Daladalas add colorful personality to the roads though and often are used to display different messages, both religious and not (as you can see from the picture below). They operate with both a driver and a conductor that stands in the back and shifts depending on how many people are on board. The conductor is responsible for collecting the fare from the passengers, opening and closing the door, and paying any fees from lots they may pass through or stop temporarily in.
Check out this slideshow from Kenya, where you can see just how far some go to design the best daladala (called matatus in Kenya).
Pikipiki’s are another alternative – basically a motorbike which takes you short distances quickly! You’re lucky if your driver has an extra helmet, but for zipping up into the hills above Arusha, you won’t find a faster way. The experience you have on the back of a pikipiki is both thrilling and dangerous, so we always like to warn those brave enough that you really do ride at your own risk in this country.
Whether you choose to take your chances with the local transportation or not, we know you will enjoy all of these modes both inside and out!