Nairobi to Mombasa via SGR (Standard Gauge Railway)
If you’ve ever heard of a spontaneous trip, this one was for me. My friend Belen and I decided to tour Tanzania from Kenya for a few days. But little did we know our days in Tanzania were to be completely different from what we thought.
We booked a 2:30 pm train to Mombasa the day before our departure. Luckily there were a few seats left in economy class only. If you want a first-class ticket you’d better book one at least three days earlier. The journey takes 5hrs.
We got to the train station 20 minutes before departure. There are thorough security checks with sniffer dogs and it takes a little bit of time. We had to do a bit of running to get everything and board the train.
Our trip was interesting as being in economy class, you get to meet interesting people. The seats face each other so everyone is on your face.
The scenery on the way is amazing with game views at Tsavo National Park
We got to Mombasa around 7:20 pm and had booked a hotel that’s 10 minutes from the bus station to Tanzania if using a tuk-tuk. Tuk-tuks are the easiest ways to go around short distances.
We had booked a Modern Coast bus ticket to Tanga Tanzania with Buupass. The bus was leaving at 6 am with reporting time by 5:30 am; Which you should take seriously as they gave us a call while on our way there.
Mombasa To Tanga via Bus
We left the bus station at 6 am, timekeeping for the bus was very good. The seats were very comfortable and the bus was clean and modern. They give one complimentary bottle of water too.
We arrived at Lunga Lunga Border at 8 am and got everyone cleared in an hour.
There are people who do money exchange on the other side of the border but at the rate of 21. It’s better to do it in a bank in Kenya.
We had some police stop a few miles from the border who checked our visas.
The drive was interesting and we got to Tanga at 10 am.
Tanga to Pangani
From Tanga, we got into a matatu for 10 minutes to get to Pangani bus terminal which cost $0.20. Buses to Pangani are small Nissans that carry as many passengers as they can fit with some standing.
The journey was long as the road wasn’t great. Tanga is in the countryside so don’t expect much. We got to Pangani in one and a half hours.
From Pangani Bus terminal, we got a tuk-tuk to the ferry station.
Everyone writes their names down and pays $0.20 for the ferry which takes 5 minutes to the other side. I did take a photo of the scenery with the ferry and almost got in trouble with the port security. Turned out I didn’t see the “no photography sign” that was behind the gate. But my mind was everywhere and I was surprised I missed it. I managed to get out of it with a lot of apologies though.
On the other side, the only mode of transport to where we were going was a motorbike ride. Our Airbnb was 16km away. We paid $3 (Tzs 6,600) each. You have to bargain hard for such a price as they will try to overcharge at $5 as a starting price.
Pangani is deep inside the village but the scenery on our way was amazing.
After 30 mins we got to our Airbnb which was a 3 minutes walk to Ushongo beach.
The beach is amazing with warm water and big waves. It is peaceful too with very few people. Most of them were tourists. I would recommend a visit to Ushongo beach if you want to have a quiet, peaceful and isolated stay.
The water is always warm and you’ll spot many crabs on the shore.
There’s an airstrip about 1km away which makes it easier to access.
The airbnb had very good hosts and they made us delicious pilau. We met other travelers who told us of an easier way to get to Dar and we decided to leave the next morning.
Pangani to Dar via Local Bus
We spent the afternoon at the beach and the next morning woke up at 5:30 am for a trip to Dar via a local bus. The local bus is just a normal bus that picked up everyone on the way. We didn’t know that until we arrived at the bus terminal. But what’s a better way to experience people’s everyday life than to travel like a local?
It wasn’t as fast as our previous ride from Mombasa but it was an interesting ride. We left Pangani at 6 am and arrived in Dar at 4:20 pm.
In Dar, we stayed at Mbezi beach which took us 1 hour due to traffic. Lesson learnt, book a place in downtown if arriving past 2pm. The traffic out of town was crazy.
Mbezi beach is a nice area and it’s 5 minutes away with a dala-dala (tuk-tuk) from our Airbnb.
The sand at Mbezi beach is fine and there’s a nice beach area but it was very polluted with trash washed up ashore the previous night. There was cleaning going on though which was nice.
We went out to have some mishkaki and chicken meat just close to shoppers plaza.
Our next day trip was to Zanzibar with a ferry.
Dar To Zanzibar via ferry 2.5 hrs
Buying tickets for the ferry is a very stressful activity because of all the “agents” or shall I say conmen out there trying to convince you to go with them so they can give you a ticket.
We, unfortunately, paid $36 for a ferry that costs $20 for VIP with Flying horse which takes 2.5 hours. So be careful who tickets you and if possible, pay in dollars and look at the receipt given. Also, it’s best to just go to the front office of a given ferry company and get your ticket.
We wanted to use Azam Kilimanjaro ferry as they take 2 hrs and have a good reputation, but they were full by the time we arrived. For online booking, they only process tickets 3 days prior to the intended trip.
Our ferry trip to Zanzibar wasn’t very pleasant as we decided to go out and look at the ocean.
Seasickness only took a few minutes to set in and I spent a while in the washroom vomiting my brains out.
Luckily we had very little breakfast in anticipation of seasickness but I wasn’t prepared for how bad it got. We went back to our chairs and laid down until we got to Zanzibar two and a half hours later.