Hiking is the main agenda here in Tanzania but there’s been on constant amidst all of the trekking and safari transits. After each trip, I always come back to Arusha to reset, recover, write, publish, and then set off again. So what is life like in Arusha?
Arusha is a seemingly small town although it has a scattered population of 400,000. A mix of paved and dusty dirt roads create a web throughout the town most well-known for being a jump-off site for the Mount Kilimanjaro trek. Most tourists stay for a few nights before or after Mount Kilimanjaro and then that’s it for Arusha. I’ve stayed in Arusha for several weeks now in total throughout different periods so I thought I’d share a little about what to expect when staying in Arusha. Sorry there aren’t too many photos as I usually don’t touch my camera in between hiking and safari trips.
Accommodation: I’ve stayed in a fancy hotel provided by our tour operator and cheap hostels. A hostel can be as low as $10 a night per person including breakfast and the fancy hotels can get up to $200 per night with a swimming pool and luxury facilities. After staying at Outpost Lodge, Kibo Palace, and the Whitehouse Tanzania I found my favorite chill spot. Wakawaka House is super chill, has a decent enough breakfast (included) of fruit, coffee, eggs, and toast, and is great for me at $22 a night for a private room with a private bathroom. It’s an 800m walk to Kitamu Cafe where I do my work on the laptop so life is simple, cheap, safe, and for me, that’s a very great combo at a basic price.
Restaurants: There are lots on offer in Arusha from traditional barbecue to Ethiopian to Greek or Chinese. I’ve tried George’s Tavern (Greek), Chinese Whispers, Kitamu Cafe, Uzunguni, and an Ethiopian Restaurant among others. There is pretty much something for everyone. A local-style meal of chapati, grilled fish, and vegetables can go for $5 USD while at a foreign restaurant like Greek can be closer to $10 or $15 for a full meal and sides. Lots of street vendors are selling food also and you can eat very cheaply if you stay away from the major sit-down restaurants. So far, I haven’t had a bad meal and have enjoyed the moderately spicy food that has a hint of Indian to many of the dishes.
Getting around: Tuk-tuks, motorbikes, taxis and the always-crammed vans are the main ways to get around town. However, I’ve been walking almost everywhere as the main points of interest are all within a few kilometers. A tuk-tuk ride for 1-2 kilometers can cost as little as $1.
Safety: I’ve been told by a few locals not to walk at night but so far I’ve only had had friendly interactions both at night and when solo. Knowing how to say hello and how are you is usually enough to keep you safe if you are on the main streets. It’s been quite a friendly atmosphere throughout Arusha and only the tour operators tend to hassle you a bit but never in an unsafe manner, just a very persistent approach to selling a tour.
WiFi: Not great. There are lots of cafes and hotels that claim to have WiFi and they do. Does it work? Barely. I gave up after a couple of weeks on WiFi and bought a sim card. 30Gb costs $21 USD and that’s all I use now. If you just want Facebook you can probably use the local WiFi but for a digital nomad or anyone who needs to do something with a greater need for a strong connection just buy a sim-card. The 4G has been working very well and I’ve been blogging, uploading big files to WordPress, uploading YouTube videos, and so forth. So in that sense, Arusha is actually not a bad spot for digital nomads because the data is cheap and works but the WiFi is not reliable. I’ve been working at Kitamu Cafe, which has lots of power outlets and good food. Combine that with my huge data allowance and I’m all set to get a lot of work done.
Things to do in Arusha: To be honest, I’ve used Arusha to just chill and get my work done. There are a few things to do but it seems like the activities are mostly just for people in between safari and trekking who get a bit restless or bored. Coffee tours, waterfall tours, or a visit to the Tanzanite museum didn’t really get me too interested. I’ve been walking around the town quite a lot and taking in the local scenes. I did do one day trip to the Chemka Hot Springs, which was stunning. The obvious things to do in Arusha are to book a trek at one of the mountains like Mount Meru or Mount Kilimanjaro but those of course are several hours of driving to the trailhead. I probably wouldn’t come to Arusha if I wasn’t hiking at one of those two destinations and think most tourists here are doing one of those treks or in Arusha as a base pre or post-safari.