Arusha is the safari capital of Tanzania and with so many iconic places at a stone’s throw away it has become a necessity for any travellers coming to Tanzania for safari.
Arusha lies close to Tarangire National Park, Lake Manyara National Park, Ngorongoro Conservation area and Serengeti National Park. The city is close to the majestic Mount Kilimanjaro and even close to Mount Meru. It also has its own Arusha National Park.
Most people will pass through the city on their way to and from safari just like I did. There is not much to do in the city and you can see everything here in a a couple of hours as most things are right next to each other. It is much better organised than Nairobi and has some good food options.
Check out my Tanzania guide for detailed information you will need for this trip.
Arusha & Kilimanjaro Travel VLOG
Getting to Arusha
If you’re coming from outside Tanzania the best way is to take a flight to Kilimanjaro airport which is 60km from the city of Arusha. The taxi costs roughly $50-60 for transfer or arrange a shuttle for yourself in advance. Some airlines also have shuttles for free or much less if you inquire.
The city has its own airport, Arusha Airport but it is very small and only serves domestic locations.
I arrived in Arusha from Kenya via Namanga border crossing. The crossing took me to the coastal town of Namanga and then I took the shuttle from border to Arusha which took about two and a half hours. You can read about the detail here with full details of shuttle and crossing experience.
Getting Around in Arusha/ Public Transport In Arusha
The cheapest and most unsafe way are the daladala vans which are not great for use if you don’t speak Swahili. They are also dangerous drivers and risk of pickpocketing is high. The second option is to use tuk tuk which is great. Taxis are also available but not easy to reach. We had to ask hotels or restaurants to order us one specifically.
Another option are motorcycle taxis which have been associated with mugging incidents so better avoid those.
Uber and bolt are not available in Arusha. There is an app called InDrive which I didn’t use because I found out about it on the last day. See if that works better.
It is very important that you agree the care with the driver in advance. A lot of times taxi drivers would arrive and ask for higher fare than agreed, this happened pretty much always, it was extremely frustrating. To avoid this agree the price, write it down in your phone and show them to avoid ambiguity.
If they ask for more mid way or at the destination, just pay the fare only and be firm. Taxi drivers in Arusha are the absolute worst, I have never had to deal with such cunning driver anywhere else in the world.
Is Arusha Safe?
Arusha is safe to walk around in the centre only if you’re with someone, it is definitely not safe to walk in the evenings or if you’re alone. I felt really weird walking on the main road to get taco or tuk tuk after dark and always asked the restaurant to call me one.
The touts are also very persistent, don’t engage and politely decline, they will be persistent but walk on and avoid confrontation.
Food in Arusha
Food was the best prt of Arusha and there were some great options for local cuisine. I looked endlessly in Kenya for African food and in 3 weeks there I didn’t get any good options. Arusha fixed that completely.
It was also my first time seeing red bananas and while they don’t differ much in taste they are a novelty, do try some.
Some of my favourite spots are:
This is a nice restaurant/cafe located in the centre near the clock tower. The food was simple and delicious. I really liked the local options.
This restaurant has a nice outdoor and indoor area. It used to be a house and retains all the interesting features. The food is great and the variety is perfect. Everything from Injera to curry was amazing and delicious.
Themi Living Garden (Vegetarian)
This is perhaps the simplest and the most delicious option. The place is run by the community and lunch is buffet style with 3-4 simple vegetarian dishes. The environment is calm and peaceful and food very delicious. The ladies who run this place are also very sweet and friendly.
The best option to dine with the views of Mount Meru! The menu is actually quite simple but the food and service were good. Food could have been slightly better but the view and drinks make up for it. It is a great option for after spa dinner.
Gay Arusha/ Arusha Gay Travel
Arusha has a very small gay scene which is only online and there are no gay or LGBT venues in Arusha. It is very dangerous to be openly gay in Tanzania due to the government stance in homosexuality, you can read full details here.
Grindr showed a few profiles but none had any photos and most approached without any.
The use of fake profiles and catfishing is very common and you must be very careful, tourist scans are common and some guys use these tactics to blackmail tourists.
All is not doom and gloom though because a few of the sensible guys are also really sweet and amazing and provided a ton of useful information. Overall Arusha is not a gay safe city.
In terms of gay travellers passing by, the hotels seem to be courteous enough not to question your choice of double beds even if you’re two men, rules are lax for foreigners but PDA is a big no no, you won’t see it with straight local people either.
Things to do in Arusha
Below are my favourites for Arusha. Check out my Top Things To Do In Arusha guide for complete details.
1- Safari, Safari, Safari
2- Pamper yourself in Arusha
3- Check out the Clock Tower
4-Shop at the Maasai Market
5- Head to Mount Meru
6- Visit Kilimanjaro
7- Soak yourself In the Chemka Hot Springs
I hope this guide helps you in planning a great holiday in the safari capital of Tanzania. If you have more questions, don’t hesitate to ask.