Backpacking Tanzania. Babati, Singida and Mwanza.

We went to Tanzania in February - March 2015,
during a complete trip (8 months), 
through Southern and Eastern Africa.

If you are planning a budget trip in Tanzania, here you can find useful information to save money.
We travelled by public transport, did sometimes couchsurfing, slept in local lodges and eating in local restaurants, no activities, no tours.
We share information for low-cost travellers. See the right sidebar menu, to read more about our Africa trip.

NORTHWEST TANZANIA: FROM ARUSHA TO MWANZA AND RWANDA

Arusha - Babati - Singida - Mwanza - Rusumo border

Heading west of Arusha, the landscape becomes more interesting, till Singida. It´s a hilly and diverse area. Specially green around Babati and Singida.
The Arusha-Babati road is really interesting, passing first a Masai area west of Arusha, with traditional Masai boma villages. Then the Manyara lake area with its crops and finally the green Babati area (above the Rift Escarpment). Mountains and hills around all the way from  Babati to Singida.



The road is perfect between Arusha and Singida, quite good between Singida and Mwanza but with heavy traffic in some sections. Between Mwanza and Rwanda via Geita, some sections are still not tarred, but there are construction works around, and the last km to the border the road is tarred but full of potholes and trucks.

   BABATI   


Beautiful surrounds, green, just south of lake Manyara and Tangarire National Park (one of the gates is only 35 km north of Babati).

Babati is quite small, a rural town, the center is around the bus station and the main Arusha-Dodoma road.

Nice stop if travelling between Arusha and Mwanza, to see local life without tourists and to have a walk around Lake Babati


PUBLIC TRANSPORT in Babati:

Bus Arusha- Babati: 6.500 Sh, 2h15 (170 km, good tarred road). Many departures, all day long, most of the buses continue to Singida.

Many bajaji and boda-bodas (if going to the lake with luggage, cause of few km south).
The center is compact to walk around.


CHEAP ACCOMMODATION in Babati:

Many local lodges for such a small trading town, all walking distance from the bus station, and cheap (around 10.000 Sh). Some are really basic and grey, with a bar next door, so check a few ones before.

Elusemo Lodge: where we stayed.

Price: 15.000 Sh for a double room (WC with hot shower, TV), breakfast included. 
Clean and quiet. 
Just on the street down the bus station, passing the butcheries, one of the last lodges on this street.


Royal Beach Hotel: if you want to sleep near the lake, there´s a nice camp, but not as cheap as staying in town. Camping will be the cheapest option. Nice place, on a peninsula of Lake Babati.
Price: Camping: 10.000 Sh/pp, 15.000 if hiring a tent; 30.000 - 35.000 Sh for a bungalow.
In march 2015, they were under renovation. Nice staff.
Around 3 km south of Babati center (Dodoma road, just passing the Singida crossroad, following a dirt road up a neighbourhood or following the lake shore from the main road if walking).
You can take a bajaji from the bus station or ask to be drop off at the Singida crossing (closer to the place).

What to do in Babati:

  •  Interesting to see local life, markets, football field. People are really friendly in Babati, no tourists in the area.

  • Beautifull surrounds, mountains, hills and quiet Lake Babati, just 3 km south of Babati center. 
  • Walk to Lake Babati: follow the main road, Dodoma direction (south). Nice to walk along the peninsula where Royal Beach Hotel is (no fees). Or you can take a bajaji or boda-boda. Many fishermen with small canoes. They can bring you to see the hippos if interested (bargain, fishermen or Royal Beach Hotel).
  • Mount Hanang (3.400 m): access to mountain is via Katesh, 75 km west of Babati on the Singida road. Fees apply. There´s accommodation in Katesh. The area around is beautiful.We didn´t go. 


   SINGIDA   

A rural town on the main road, if you want to do a break on the long way to/from Mwanza or from Dar to Rwanda. It´s the sunflower region of Tanzania.

160 km west of Babati, 450 km from Mwanza and 600 km to Rwanda border.

PUBLIC TRANSPORT Singida:

- Babati - Singida: bus, 7.000 Sh, 2h15. Many.
- Singida - Mwanza: bus, 20.000 Sh. Around 6h30-7h. (6:30 and 7:30 departes from Singid; if not, many buses all day long coming from Dodoma, Dar or Arusha going to Mwanza, easy to find a seat).
The bus station is east of the center (around 3 km). But if just stoping on route, you find everything needed around the bus station.

Many bajaji and boda-boda around.

Note:“commissions”land in all this area around Singida and Mwanza, with bus and bus station staff. So expect to pay a bit more than normal travel fares, also local people, many complaining around these towns.

CHEAP ACCOMMODATION in Singida:
Around the bus station, many lodges. It´s quieter if you go a bit further from the station and the main road.



Ndalechi Lodge: where we stayed.
Price: 15.000 Sh for a double room (WC with hot shower), TV, breakfast included. 
Just behind the bus station, walking 5 minutes (left of Bahamas Lodge, passing the football field, the house with the red roof). New and clean. Good!

What to do in Singida:
There are 2 lakes, west of town (we didn´t go) and many granite rock hills in the surrounds (also near the bus station). Just walk around and views are there.


   MWANZA   


On Lake Victoria, the second most populated city of Tanzania, but it just looks like a big town, spread out around an hilly area.

Called the “Rock City”: many big granite rocks.

But not specially pleasant to stay long. No waterfront and not many things to do.

PUBLIC TRANSPORT in Mwanza:

Nyegezi bus station is 10 km south of town (a dalla-dalla to town is 500 Sh). It´s the main bus station and all buses departe/arrive here. We didn´t see any bus station in the center or bus companies agencies there. 
Many dalla-dallas on the main roads. Prices vary depending on distance, in average 400-500 Sh.

Also many boda-bodas. Few taxis.

Mwanza is well connected with all the main towns of Tanzania, but most of the places are really far away. Only Musoma is close (220 km) and 70 km further is Kenya border .
There are buses from Mwanza to Kampala (800 km) via Bukoba (departure 5:30), Lake Victoria area.
No direct bus from Mwanza to Kigali-Rwanda (even if some guide-books say that, NO). You will have to transfer, near the Rusumo border. There are direct buses Dar Es Salaam to Kigali (following the main road Dar- Morogoro-Dodoma-Singida-Nzega, you can board in these towns too).

Public transport from Mwanza to Rwanda border (Rusumo).

Bus Mwanza-Ngara, getting off in Benako (20 km from the Rusumo border, around 50 km from Ngara).The road via Geita and Biharamulo junction is not completely tarred, under works.
Price: 20.000, departure 5:30, around 7-8 h.

From Nyegezi bus station, the bus goes to Mwanza port and crosses by ferry to Kamanga (passenger fee not included, 1.000 Sh). Don´t plan in boarding at the port: dark and buses are full.

From Benako to Rusumo border: 
shared taxi, 3.000 Sh, 30 minutes.
Benako in google maps is Nyakasanza.
If coming from Rwanda, many buses from Benako on the main road Nyakanazi, Nzega, Singida, Dodoma, Dar.From where you can connect with other towns.
Lodges in all these towns, also in Benako.

Ferry Mwanza - Kamanga:  
Price: 1.000 Sh, 30 min. Many buses heading west of Mwanza, take this ferry (Bukoba, Kampala, Rwanda directions). The ferry fee is extra, not included in the bus tickets.
It´s not a good idea to try to get a bus at the ferry station as the buses usually are full, and specially if early morning (the center area is really empty and dark).

Ferry Mwanza - Bukoba:
Ms Victoria travels between the 2 towns every 2 days, always at night.
Mwanza departure 21:00, Tuesday, Thursday, Sunday.
Bukoba departure 21:30, Monday, Wednesday, Friday.
Price is 36.000 Sh. Correct (according with Argentina travellers who took it).

CHEAP ACCOMMODATION in Mwanza:

Around Nyegezi bus station, many cheap and correct guesthouses, if you have an early departure or late arrival. 

Check first, the area is quiet if going a bit down the bus station, but it´s full of garbage.

Transit Inn: where we stayed.

Price: 12.000 Sh for a double room with WC, TV. 
Correct. Just down the bus station.





In  Mwanza center (nothing to keep you there long), a few hotels (Lake Hotel, 15.000 Sh).

Couchsurfing in Mwanza:

There´s a very limited community in Mwanza.
We stayed with Dorocella, nice lady, big hospitality!
Thanks!



What to do in Mwanza:
  • Not too many things, as the shores of Lake Victoria don´t have a waterfront, and there aren´t nice walks around either. Mwanza is not a resort town on the lake, no! Just go up one of the hills (there are nice ones, north of the center, with very big rocks) and enjoy the views of the lake.
  • Walk to the ferry port (center) and look at the Bismark Rock and the shores of Lake Victoria.
  • Fish market: in a central street, between 15:30 and 17:30, just ask around. Don´t carry any valuables.
  • Lake Victoria has bilharzia, not a good idea to swim there, even local people don´t swim in Mwanza.
  • The center is just a few streets, busy and noisy.

   REFERENCE PRICES FOR WEST TANZANIA  

- Rubondo Island National Park: west of Mwanza, on the way to Bukoba or Rwanda. 
   Fee: 30 $, but expect to pay quite a lot for the boat to get there.
- Katavi National Park: 30 $. Access from Sitalike (accommodation).Remote are.
- Mahale National Park: 80 $. Chimpamzes. Boat (south of Kigoma). Lake Tanganika.
- Gombe National Park: 100 $. Chimpanzes. Boat or car (north of Kigoma). Lake Tanganika.

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