The TAZARA train from Zambia to Tanzania is one of the most famous and popular train routes in Africa. Here are my tips experiences from the 2-day train journey.
I recently spent two months traveling through from South Africa to Kenya on public transport. Despite the long distances, traveling through southern Africa was much faster than I expected.
Most importantly, Africa has many looooong distance train and bus connections. And at 1,860 kilometers, the TAZARA (Tanzania-Zambia Railway Authority) train from Zambia to Tanzania is one of the longest rides out there.
Booking the Train from Zambia to Tanzania
The TAZARA train leaves two times a week.
If you’re heading north from Zambia, a (so-called) express train leaves Kapiri Mposhi at 4 pm on Tuesday and a slower train departs at 2 pm on Fridays. The express train is scheduled to arrive at 12.10 pm on Thursday and the ordinary train at 10.10 pm on Sunday, although delays are extremely common.
There’s no online booking system for the TAZARA train from Zambia to Tanzania. It’s all pen-and-paper, so you either have to call the train company, use a travel agency or visit TAZARA office (TAZARA House) in central Lusaka to book your ticket in advance.
Many travellers at Seat 61’s excellent website and other online sources report they had no problem booking their 1st class tickets very late. However, this was not the case on my trip. When I visited TAZARA office a day before departure, the 1st class was already fully booked even though it wasn’t a high tourist season.
Luckily I met Spanish travellers Anna and Roc at the booking office. We decided to join forces, booking a 6-berth 2nd class compartment for just the three of us.
For the express train, a 1st class berth from Dar es Salaam to Kapiri Mposhi would have cost 333.6 Zambian kwacha (28.5 €). The second class is berth 272.2 ZMK (23.2 €) and a 3rd class seat 252.7 ZMK (21.6 €).
For the ordinary train on Fridays, the prices are slightly cheaper: 278 ZMK (23.7 €) for 1st class, 226.8 ZMK (19.4 €) for 2nd class and 210.6 ZMK (18 €) for a 3rd class seater.
Preparing for the TAZARA Train Journey
Instead of Zambia’s capital Lusaka, the TAZARA train leaves from Kapiri Mposhi, a small town north of Lusaka. A bus ride to Kapiri Mposhi takes roughly three hours and costs around 95 ZMK (8.2 €).
There isn’t much to do in Kapiri Mposhi, so there’s little reason to get there early. Taxi drivers can get very clingy at the bus stop, but you can just ignore them and walk 10 minutes from the bus station to the new TAZARA train station.
How should you prepare for the TAZARA train from Zambia to Tanzania? Most important things to take with you are snacks and cash.
On Zambian side, you can only use Zambian kwacha on board. After you cross the border, though, kwachas are forbidden and you need to start using Tanzanian shillings. Money exchangers board the train at the border, although their exchange rates are tolerable at best.
The visa-on-arrival costs 50 US$ for most people (but 100 US$ for US citizens).
There are only few small shops at Kapiri Mposhi, so it’s better to buy your snacks in Lusaka. If you don’t buy a lot of snacks, it shouldn’t be a big issue – drinks and meals in the restaurant car are surprisingly cheap.
Traveling on the TAZARA Train from Zambia to Tanzania
Once you’ve paid your ticket at the train station, you can wait at a basic VIP lounge before boarding the train from Kapiri Mposhi to Dar es Salaam. Once all this is done, it’s time to begin the journey.
The new express train was surprisingly clean and well-maintained. There were no samovars (water boilers) like on the Trans Siberian trains, but even the 2nd class carriage had both a shower and a seated toiled (which was mainly kept locked, though).
The 1st class berths were softer and wider than the 2nd class berths, but both should be fine for the purpose. With six people and three berths on each side, the 2nd class compartments might be quite crammed, so I was quite happy there were only three of us.
The landscapes on the way vary a lot. The beginning in Zambia doesn’t offer many surprises, but the view changes as you approach the hills near the border. Tanzania seemed much more lush and tropical than Zambia.
Some travellers have reported spotting wildlife at the Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania, but all we ever saw were birds and cattle.
Is the TAZARA Train from Zambia to Tanzania Worth It?
I’ve always enjoyed train travel. It feels very stress free, and you can simply spend your time reading and hanging out. My train journey from Zambia to Tanzania was especially enjoyable as I got to chat and spend time with my new friends Anna and Roc.
If you want to get from Zambia to Tanzania as quickly as possible, the TAZARA train is not the best option. Buses are faster and more reliable. The TAZARA train from Zambia to Tanzania often gets delayed.
Our train was almost on time until we reached the border crossing. After that the train considerably slowed down and a 1-hour delay turned into 5-6 hours. In the end, we reached Dar es Salaam 7 hours behind schedule.
But if you like train travel, there’s no reason you wouldn’t enjoy the TAZARA train from Zambia to Tanzania. The ride is slower and bumpier than one might expect, but you’ll eventually reach your destination and you might even have some fun along the way.