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Introduction

Mbeya is an unavoidable stop on the way between Tanzania and Malawi. Its elevation provides some relief from the heat of the plains, and the surrounding hills contain trekking opportunities.

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Sights and Activities

Lake Ngozi. The second largest crater lake in Africa, very lush.
Mbozi Meteorite (down the Tunduma road, about 65 kilometres southwest), ☏ +255763324227. One of the largest meteorites in the world. There is no charge to visit, but you will need your own transportation.
Kitulo National Park (100 kilometres east). Protected area of montane grassland and forest on the Kitulo Plateau, known as the "Serengeti of Flowers" or "Bustani ya Mungu" (Swahili for Garden of God) for its flowers, including orchids, geraniums, proteas, and lobelias. Best flower viewing season from Oct-April. Average elevation is 2,600 metres. On southwest slope is the Livingstone Forest, home to unique primate, bushbaby, and antelope species.

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Getting There

By Plane

Songwe Airport (MBI IATA) is located off the A104 trunk road (22 km (14 mi) wast of town, between Mbalizi and Songwe). Flights are available to and from Dar es Salaam with low cost airline Fastjet. The small and unpaved airport in town was closed with the opening of the bigger Songwe Airport.

By Train

Train service consists of two Tazara Line "express" trains per week connecting Dar Es Salaam and Kapiri Mposhi, Zambia via Mbeya, and one "regular" weekly service between Mbeya and Dar. The train departs Mbeya going to Kapiri Mposhi every Wednesday at 13:00 and Saturday at 14:00. The trip takes around 24 hours. 2 Mbeya railway station is about 4 km south of the city centre.

By Bus

There are several buses per day from Dar es Salaam. Most go from the Ubungo bus terminal, which is far from the centre of Dar es Salaam. You are probably better served taking the Scandinavian bus from the Scandinavian terminal which is much closer to the centre - the higher bus fare will be more than offset by the lower taxi fare. Abood is another company that does this route. The journey takes about 13 hours.

Getting out of Mbeya into Malawi requires some patience. Despite what you may be told, there are NO services of any description that actually go into Malawi - you need to take a minibus to the border town of Kasumulu, then a shared taxi from there to Karonga in Malawi, from where you can pick up buses to Mzuzu or beyond. Be prepared to unleash your entire haggling arsenal in order to obtain the local fare from Mbeya to Kasumulu - in all likelihood you will have to pay the fare for the journey to Kyela instead (which is at the end of the route). The journey takes about 2 hours but this does not include random market stops - you may even need to change minibus at some point (though the conductor will tell you this). The border crossing itself can be accomplished on foot and you will no doubt be approached by a shared taxi driver whilst you are at Malawi immigration.

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Getting Around

The city center is compact, but taxis are a better bet to reach the train and bus stations, or after dark. Dalla-dallas also ply the roads, though they will be difficult to negotiate with luggage.

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Eat

Sombrero Hotel has nice restaurant cross the street from the hotel. There are also some reasonable restaurants along south end of Lupa Way, New Appricourt restaurant being one, just opposite to Gazelle safaris.

Mbeya Hotel. Very nice place with Indian and Chinese food, curries.
Metro Cuisine. Really good pizza, decent burgers.
Hill View Hotel. Good food for good prices, but takes ages.
Utengule Coffee Farm. Good food, higher prices and own transport or taxi needed.

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Drink

Shakesbeer's Garden: take the dalla dalla to Sae and walk down the main road for 3 min. This neighborhood gem will be just off the road to the left. Great bar to people watch and spend an afternoon alone or with a large group. If no food is available just ask - there are plenty places near by that will deliver right to you! Friendly staff, ask for Peter the owner, fluent English speaker.
Mbeya Golden City Hotel: to the left of the dalla dalla stop, great bar for a special occasion or to watch any major television event. Tasty food.
E Point: across the street from the dalla dalla stand amongst smaller bars and shops. Excellent late night spot to dance, much less threatening to a small group than Pamozi, located in city center opposite the post office which is not to be missed but proceed with a little caution and a lot of common sense.
Mama 2000: great bandas all the way outside in the back - friendly staff, but be a proactive patron to get what you need, great entertainment some nights, pool tables, and hot soccer watching spot.
Weru Spring Garden, wonderful outdoor seating, very private and beautiful setting.
Babu Kubwas: sit outside and watch the happenings of Mbeya. Great bites and a well stocked market attached.
Peace of Mind: very quiet and quaint bar with limited outdoor seating. Excellent date night spot - make sure you have a lot to talk about because the food is special but time is taken.
Continental: sit outside and enjoy a bowl of mtori banana stew with chapati- no better way to cure a Tanzanian hangover than at the Continental Hotel.
City Pub (on the main road behind Century Plaza). Has good, fresh food, with drinks, and they are reasonably fast.

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Sleep

There are some guesthouses across from the bus station, convenient if you are heading to Malawi the next day. Avoid the travel agencies attached and ignore the many touts in the bus station, as many people have reported scams with transport, and do not trust the bus driver to give you the real destination, but ask other passengers instead.

Warsame Guesthouse is the cheapy in the town center, with clean rooms and some clean bathrooms. There is a small restaurant at the corner a minute walk.
Holiday Lodge and Restaurant large rooms with large beds, nets, bathroom with hot shower, about 10 minute walk from center.
New Millenium Inn, Across the main street from the bus station. Very nice and clean rooms, with or without bathroom, hot water could be more hot, no restaurant.
Ten Commandments Motel (near the Central bus station.). Double room with outside bathroom.
Peace of Mind Resthouse (just down the hill from the city center.). Nicely decorated and well-maintaned rooms, the better rooms are very spacious. Restaurant in the basement is serving mostly Indian food.

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Safety

See also Travel Safety

For those who are travelling through Africa by vehicle, there is a very good garage just out of town on the Zambia road at Mbalizi behind the hospital at Mbalizi vocational training centre, best mechanics in Tanzania according to locals from many towns other than Mbeya, near Utengule Coffee lodge.

There are several bus ticket scams running out of Mbeya. The well-established scam artists attempt to sell tickets into various cities in Malawi. They have various price sheets and other documentation. They will even make phone calls to verify there is availability on the bus. One group even has an office in the Malawi transportation/bus center. They will get the passengers on a dalla-dallas that will just let them off at the border where there is supposed another bus that is waiting. Of course, there isn't. As of April 2010 there are no buses that go directly from Mbeya to Malawi. The buses only go to the border town of Kyela.

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Keep Connected

Internet

Major tourist areas and cities have internet cafes and many hotels offer (free) wifi nowadays. Connections can be slower at more remote places.
Also safari oriented places offer some sort of internet connections as well, by computers or wifi.

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

The International Dialling Code for Tanzania is +255, followed by area codes (e.g. (0)22 for Dar es Salaam, or (0)27 for Arusha). Calling from Tanzania, you dial 00 plus the relevant country code (44 for the UK, 1 for the USA).

There are four cell providers in Tanzania: Zain (the major one), Zantel, Vodacom and Tigo, who all offer roaming facilities. Connections are good in Tanzania, even in places such as Tarangire, Manyara, Ngorongoro Crater, and some parts of the Serengeti (the western and northern region of the Serengeti not). You can buy the prepaid cards in amounts ranging from $5 to $50. You can even buy a cell phone while in Tanzania. The price for a simple cell phone ranges between $55 and $80.

Avoid roaming charges with you home cellphone and turn it off. Instead, use a local SIM card or just wifi.

Post

Tanzania Posts Corporation is the national postal services of Tanzania. There are post officies in most major cities and towns throughout the country, which are generally open Monday to Friday from 8:00am to 4:30pm and Saturday from 9:00am to noon. Services are generally quite reliable though not very fast. Prices for international airmal services start at around 500-600 TSHS to other countries in East Africa and 700-900 TSHS to Europe and North America for postcards and letters up to 20 grams. Small packages start at around 2,000-3,000 TSHS, but it's generally better to do business with international parcel services like TNT, UPS, DHL or FedEx.

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Mbeya Travel Helpers

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This is version 5. Last edited at 10:26 on Dec 15, 20 by Utrecht. 1 article links to this page.

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