While planning our trip to Tanzania, we regularly came across the reputation that Tanzanians were one of the nicest people on the African continent. Warm, welcoming and friendly were the adjectives attributed to them. Unfortunately the other information that we found everywhere was that the country was very expensive compared to its neighbours and that most higher costs had to be paid for in US dollars.

We therefore spent quite a while searching the internet for affordable and still not too scruffy accommodation in Dar es Salaam (abbreviated Dar). We ended up booking a room in the Kariakoo area, a district a few kilometers from the city center that is quite lively and very diverse with people of various ethnicities and religions.




Not wanting to linger for too long in Dar at the beginning of our stay, we spent our first day in Tanzania getting to know the Kariakoo quarter with its bustling market and organizing our onward journey. Every step on the way was accompanied by friendly locals calling out “Jambo! Vipi” to greet us, meaning something like “Hi! How are you?”






On our way to the offices of Akamba busses that had been recommended by our guide book for the drive to Moshi, our first planned destination, we were approached by another friendly guy who asked us where we were going and if we needed help. Even though we said we were fine and knew where we were going, he insisted on “helping” us and joined us. At some point we weren’t quite sure where to make a turn and he took over asking people for the way and pointing us to our direction. Again and again we let him know that we would be ok on our own, but he stuck to us, explained small details of the city on the way and consulted people in shops and snack bars for directions. The whole thing started getting on my nerves when he insisted on “helping” when we wanted to buy a sim card from a street vendor. He started speaking in Kiswahili with the vendor, leaving me unsure of whether he was making some kind of deal with him. I explained to him once again that we had travelled before and were very capable of managing our own business, but tried staying polite nevertheless, as we were not sure of course if this was the famed Tanzanian friendliness.

Sometime we got to the bus company to find out that Akamba no longer existed and was now Kampala Coaches. Our unwanted “friend” started discussing our trip with the bus staff at which point I could not help myself and put a stop to his doing. I made clear that I wanted to talk to the people and that he needed to keep his distance. We got our bus ticket for the next day to Moshi, where Mount Kilimanjaro is and started walking back towards the market…our shadow still at our side. We thanked the guy for his help and said we would be fine continuing on our own now, which didn’t make a big impression on Mr. shadow. He claimed the area was dangerous and we would be better off if he would accompany us to wherever we were going. After a while we got the message across by pretending we were going to get a taxi. Only now did he accept the fact that we would be saying our goodbyes and replied that we should give him something in return for all his help and his guide efforts. We were furious! After insisting on sticking to us despite our friendly refusal of his help, he now wanted money?! To avoid further annoyances I offered him 1000 Tanzanian Shilling, about 50 cents, which he felt was not enough and insisted we should give him 5000 for all he had done. Now was the time to stop being polite. V told him off and we made clear it would be 1000 or nothing. After some time of quarreling on the street he wished us many bad things for the rest of our journey and asked for the 1000 Tsh. We gave him the money to get rid of him and wondered where the acclaimed Tanzanian friendliness was?

The following morning, when we got to the bus station the next surprise awaited us. There was no Kampala Coach on that day headed for Moshi! In the first moment we were annoyed and a bit worried about having payed the fare already and not being able to travel. But to our relief the people at the bus station were a lot more relaxed than we were and put us on some other “VIP” express bus that ended up being quite comfortable without having to pay extra. Judging from the look on the face of the bus conductor we had probably paid far too much anyway already!

Upon our arrival in Moshi we were greated by many touts wanting to persuade us to book a tour in the Serengeti national park or to go on a 6-day hike up Kilimanjaro with them. Apart from the fact that we did not feel physically fit enough for such an undertaking, we were also not willing to pay 600 dollars per person for this hike, that on average only two thirds complete by reaching the summit.


What we were interested in doing was a day hike around the base of Kili. So, when we were approached by a decent looking, not too pushy tour guide at our hotel, we followed him into his office to book our tour. V and I had agreed beforehand that our maximum for a one day hike in expensive Tanzania would be 25 Euros, about 34 US dollars. The friendly guide showed us pictures of the hike he offered through forests and bushes and to a waterfall. The price for the hike would be 60 dollars and we told him our limit. He explained that lunch would be included and asked if we could raise our limit a bit and we raised it to 40 dollars, about 30 Euros per person. All was set! We got a receipt, made an early appointment for 7:30 the next morning at our hotel (Mount Kilimanjaro is covered by clouds most of the day and can only be seen from below in the early morning and the late afternoon) and enjoyed the rest of the day in pleasant Moshi.

Hindu Temple Moshi


The next day at 7:30 no one was there to pick us up at our hotel. We waited for 15 minutes, then walked over to the guide’s office and found a friendly neighbor who called him for us. He would be right there we were told. When after another 10 minutes still no one showed up, we went over again and had the guy called once again. We were told some story of having to pick up our lunches still, but he would only need a few more minutes. At ten past 8, the guy came wandering over, red eyed, grinning and telling us he had been looking for us at the wrong hotel…all a bit weird, but ok. Let’s not be too German here and let’s try to enjoy the trip! So, we followed the guide who started walking away from the hotel….and walked and walked…until I asked where we were going. Weren’t we supposed to be driving to the base of Kilimanjaro to start our hike? Yes, the answer was: We were walking to the bus stop to take a bus to the base. At this point V snapped! She told the guy off in the middle of the street and asked for our money back as we were naturally expecting to be taken to our hike by private transport as part of a tour. He now became very official and asked us to show him our contract in which it states anything about private transport. And of course the man knew well that we had been trusting enough not to ask for a detailed contract but only a receipt. And, instead of just paying a deposit the way we normally do, we had given the guy the entire sum the day before. Beginner’s mistake! How could we?!

Anyway, after threats both ways including going to court and involving the police, we decided to pull things through, seeing we would not get our 80 dollars back and because he was assuring us we would have a great day. So, we took a so-called Dalla-Dalla, the public bus which is a typical African overcrowded vehicle for an hour to our destination.

Once we got to the starting point of the 6-day Kili-tour, we assumed we would either make the first Kili stage or start our hike somewhere there into the forest…but first, we were told we could read some of the signs around the starting point. Then our guide told us, we could have a look in the souvenir shop. Ok! Could we start now? We then carried on walking towards the first few houses on the road and the guy kept stopping to shake hands with people he saw, giving high fives and strolling along…Ok! Could we start now?


At some point, while walking down the first few hundred meters of the tarmac road behind the man taking baby steps, ensuring that he doesn’t loose the coolness of his stroll, we realized this already WAS our hike.


Just to have clarity, we asked what exactly would be happening now. He replied that clouds were hiding Kili at the moment and we would walk the road from the starting point back down to where we had come from, to a view point and wait there until the clouds would move. Then, once we had gotten that Kodak moment, we would continue the tarmac road until we would hit a little mud road that would take us to see the production of Banana beer, could savour a cup of coffee at a coffee plantation and take a dive at the waterfall.

The waiting part did not make any sense to us, as it was obvious that the clouds were there because we had left too late and had taken public transport and it was after nine o’clock now. When we got to the view point, he continually said that the wind was moving the clouds and we would see Kili soon. We only had to wait.


What he didn’t seem to see was that more clouds were there that would follow the “moved” clouds. There was no way we would be seeing the mountain anytime soon. He said “Pole pole” – slow, slow “we are not in a hurry!” Well, yes. If we were friends that were having a day out together, I would agree. But we had paid the moron 40 dollars per person…to wait? Nevertheless, we waited…while waiting I had to bear the most ridiculous conversations with our “guide” explaining to him what exactly sushi was, as he was planning to open a sushi restaurant in Moshi. “Tourists like sushi. No one else has had this idea in Moshi. I am always thinking of good, new ideas…!”


After ten minutes we put a stop to the silliness and said very clearly that we do not believe there would be anything to see and that we would like to continue. Reluctantly Mr. Cool crawled on, continuing down the tarmac road. When I started moving faster, after all we were on a hike, again he said “Pole pole…if we go too fast, we will arrive in no time!” 😯



This went on for about two hours, during which “the idiot” as we dubbed him spent most of the time on his mobile phone, banging a plastic bottle stuck on his finger against anything he found.


We passed by many pretty mud roads that would have been ideal for a nice hike, that we did not turn into though unfortunately.


At last our road came and we wandered down the path with the speed of a grandmother with hip problems. Half an our later we made a stop at the mentioned waterfalls that neither of us was in the mood to get into at this point.


After that our “guide” wanted to drop us off at a coffee shop that makes and sells arabica coffee (not a plantation as promised), so that he would be able to go and order our food at the place where we would eat. Once we found out that not even a cup of coffee was included in our 40 dollar per person tour fee, we no longer felt like coffee. He was hesitant to take us along with him, as he explained it would take some time to prepare our lunch…and we just wondered why he hadn’t used the hours spent on the phone to pre order our food?!

We went to a pleasant bbq bar and decided that we need a beer while waiting for our meal. Of course drinks where not included in our fee either, so we splurged and paid the 2000 Tsh (1 Euro) ourselves. 😉


Shortly before lunch we had gotten into another fight with “the idiot”, because we wanted him to know how dissatisfied we were with the hike, the fact that virtually nothing was included in our tour fee and that we were absolutely aware that we had been totally overcharged and thus he was a crook. After that we spent lunch at two different tables and did not speak much anymore.


Once our so-so lunch was over, our “guide’s” eyes had become even redder and we got the feeling he was slightly drunk, as he started stumbling over stones and roots. Our next stop was at a house where the local Banana beer was brewed, which we got a taste of (for free!!!) and which our guide enjoyed a few buckets of himself. We really didn’t like the stuff too much though.


After that we drove the hour back to Moshi by bus, during which our guide fell asleep in his seat. Before we actually arrived in Moshi he told us, he was getting off earlier and waved good-bye. And again we asked ourselves, was this the acclaimed Tanzanian friendliness?