The TAZARA train from Zambia to Tanzania is one of the most famous and popular train routes in Africa. Here’s a guide for the 2-day train journey.

I recently spent two months traveling from South Africa to Kenya on public transport. Despite the long distances, traveling through southern Africa was much faster than I expected.

How come?

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.

New Kapiri Mposhi Station track

The TAZARA railway was funded by the Chinese government. The new express train is also built by the Chinese.

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.

Anna and Roc of Anti-Viaje travel blog on TAZARA train.

My new travel buddies Anna and Roc made the trip very enjoyable.

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.

African train journey from Zambia to Tanzania

The views along the way vary a lot. We spent a lot of time waving at kids that ran along the railroad tracks.

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.

Grilled fish and rice on a train restaurant car from Kapiri Mposhi to Dar es Salaam.

The food on the train was cheap and filling. We especially loved the fried fish!

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.

Kapiri Mposhi train station VIP lounge.

Despite having only 2nd class tickets, we were directed to the VIP lounge of Kapiri Mposhi station. Our white skins might have had something to do with that.

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).

TAZARA train from Tanzania to Zambia or Zambia to Tanzania. Second class train compartment with six berths.

A full second class compartment might feel a bit crowded.

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.

TAZARA train from Kapiri Mposhi to Dar es Salaam, Dar es Salaam to Kapiri Mposhi. Train restaurant car.

The restaurant car was often full. Most passengers were local Africans, although there were nearly a dozen foreigners on board as well.

Is the Zambia to Tanzania Train 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.

My temporary travel companions Anna and Roc keep a Spanish/Catalan travel blog called Anti-Viaje. You can find their report and video of the TAZARA train journey here.


How can you take a bus from South Africa to Zimbabwe? Can you get a Visa on Arrival at Beitbridge border crossing if you travel with Greyhound or some other bus company?

UPDATE 2023: Greyhound doesn’t run the route anymore. The only bus companies that go form Johannesburg to Bulawayo are Wezwe Coaches and Delta Coaches. There’s also a new immigration building in Zimbabwe. Check Mikaël’s comment below for more details!

Before leaving South Africa during my 2-year trip around the world, I was very, very nervous about crossing from South Africa to Zimbabwe on public transport. I had booked a Greyhound bus from Johannesburg to Bulawayo, and my ticket clearly stated the following:

“All visas applications must be done prior to travel as this is no longer available at the borders.”

I did not have a visa, but as a Finnish citizen, I knew I could get a Visa on Arrival at the Zimbabwe border. I just didn’t know if I could get the visa at the Beitbridge border while traveling on a bus. If the Greyhound bus wouldn’t wait, I might be left at the border in the middle of the night.

Beit Bridge border crossing on the Limpopo river. Visa issue.

The Beitbridge border is located at Limpopo river.

I eventually got across the border without any issues. Still, while doing my research, I noticed there was very little information available online about getting through the Beitbridge border crossing from South Africa to Zimbabwe on a bus and getting your visa at the border.

Because there weren’t any guide posts available, I decided to write one myself. To help other travellers relax more than I did, this post describes how you can get a visa at the Beitbridge border crossing if you travel on a bus.

My bus company says I can’t get a visa at the Zimbabwe border. Is this true?

Most likely not. If your country is included in the list of nationalities that can get a visa on arrival for Zimbabwe, you can get your visa very quickly at the border.

As of February 2018 December 2022, a single entry visa cost 30 US$ and a double entry visa cost 45 US$ for most countries. The visas for British, Irish and Canadian citizens are more expensive.

Why does Greyhound / *insert bus operator here* insist I should get a visa in advance before traveling from South Africa to Zimbabwe?

Probably to save time at the border. However, the reality is less strict than the rule on the ticket. My bus driver seemed unbothered when I told him I’d need a visa on arrival, and he also instructed me how to get one.

What do I need to get a visa on arrival at Beitbridge border crossing?

Your passport + cash in either dollars or rands (I don’t know about other currencies). The border workers should/might have some change, but giving the exact sum makes the whole process faster. You cannot pay with a credit card.

I wasn’t asked for a return/onward ticket or yellow fever certification. I also didn’t need to hand any extra passport photos.

Traveling through Beitbridge border crossing on Greyhound bus.

No visas here. You only get an exit stamp on your visa at the South African side of Beitbridge border crossing.

Where do I get my Visa on Arrival while crossing from South Africa to Zimbabwe on a bus?

You get your visa on arrival at the Zimbabwe side of Beitbridge border.

You first stop at the South African border control, but at this point, you simply follow the queue and get your passport stamped like everybody else. The Zimbabwe border control buildings are another stop on the other side of the Limpopo river.

Getting a Visa on Arrival at Beitbridge border crossing while traveling on Greyhound public transport.

To get a Visa on Arrival at Beitbridge border crossing, you can skip past the immigration queue from the left side and go directly to a counter.

Okay. And how do I get a Visa on Arrival if I cross Beitbridge border on a bus?

Once you enter the Zimbabwe border control building, skip past the immigration queue (that all other passengers use) and head directly to one of the counters. Tell the workers you need a visa on arrival and you’ll get a visa application form.

Fill the form as quickly as you can (have a pen and an address in Zimbabwe ready!) and return to the counter. Hand your passport, pay for the visa and wait for the workers to do the paperwork.

In my case, the whole visa process took less than 15 minutes.

What do I do after I get my Visa on Arrival?

Once you get your visa, head to the next room on the left and take a blue customs declaration form from a table next to a guard. Fill the form and return to your bus (or the other way around).

At this point, all our passengers waited outside the bus with their forms. We had to take our luggage out, form a line and open our bags… just to get our customs declarations forms checked and stamped. Despite the extra hassle, there was no luggage check of any kind.

We then put our luggage back in the bus and walked fifty meters forward. The bus followed a bit later. We formed a line outside the bus and showed our new passport stamps at the door to get in.

Getting a visa at Zimbabwe South Africa border while traveling on Greyhound bus public transport question.

There should be plenty of time to get your Visa on Arrival while crossing to Zimbabwe on Greyhound.

Do I have enough time to get my visa at the Beitbridge border if I travel by bus?

Yes, I think so.

During my crossing, I was the only person on the bus who needed a visa on arrival. Once I finished my visa process, I was the last passenger at the immigration hall.

Slightly worried, I returned to the bus as soon as I could – and ended up waiting for the custom declaration check for around fifteen minutes with everybody else.

How long does it take to cross from South Africa to Zimbabwe via Beitbridge on a bus?

In our case, the whole South Africa – Zimbabwe border crossing took roughly 90 minutes. As far as I know, all the scheduled buses cross the border during the night when there’s less civilian traffic at the Beitbridge border.

Is there something else I should know before crossing from South Africa to Zimbabwe on a bus and getting my visa at the border?

If you take a bus from a town other than Johannesburg or Pretoria, it’s good to know that some South African towns have old and new names. I took my bus from Mokopane, but I could only find the bus on the Greyhound website when I searched by the town’s old name Potgietersrus.

Besides towns, the streets might also have different names. My Greyhound ticket gave me a departure point with an old street name that had been changed over 10 years ago!

I heard Beitbridge border has a bad reputation. Is the Beitbridge border crossing as bad as they say?

Beitbridge border is infamous for long queues, corruption and other issues. For these reasons, many South Africans avoid it completely and prefer to travel to Zimbabwe through Botswana instead.

However, I experienced none of this during my crossing from South Africa to Zimbabwe on a bus. The border crossing went very smoothly and I have nothing bad to say about the service I got.

Thank you for the tips. You are awesome!

Thank you! So are South Africa and Zimbabwe.

Ps. Some of you might take a flight instead of boarding the TAZARA train. In that case, please consider donating 10% of your ticket price to a high-impact climate charity, especially those suggested by Giving Green. Carbon offsetting isn’t very effective, so direct donations can make a more meaningful impact.