The TAZARA train runs from Kapiri, Central Province, Zambia, to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. I have taken it three times, twice from Kasama, Northern Province, Zambia to Dar, and once the opposite way. It’s about a three day train ride, and not terribly comfortable, but I 100% recommend it if you have the chance. The bathrooms get more gross as the train goes on, but the food is good and views, incredible. If you’re going with friends its like one long sleepover, but even if you’re traveling alone it is safe, and you have the opportunity to meet some really cool people. You’ll become very familiar with the people you’re traveling with. There is an express train and a regular train. Each run twice a week.
The Express train leaves Kapiri on Tuesdays, gets to Kasama at around 1am on Wednesday, and we arrived in Dar es Salaam Thursday evening. There are timetables online at tazarasite.com but honestly, both trains will be late, the regular train will be more late, you just have to figure that into your plans. Like if you’re leaving from Kasama, get to the station at 12:45am, but be prepared to sit there until possibly 3am or 4am. The Express train is newer so its also more likely that the fans and outlets will work on the train, but with all land travel, don’t expect anything. Bring batter chargers for your phone, and tank tops to stay cool. When I took the express in October first class was 236 Zambian Kwacha and second class was 188 Zambian Kwacha. SUPER cheap for a few days on a train. Highly recommend first class. I’ve ridden second class too, and while you get a bed, there are six in the cabin and it is like laying in a coffin. First class is 4 beds per room, with more storage space, and less smelly.
The Ordinary train leaves Kapiri on Fridays, reaches Kasama at around 4-7am on Saturday, and gets to Dar es Salaam on Monday. This train is usually more late than the Express as regards to the online time table. I suggest booking a hotel room for Monday in Dar just in case, but there’s a chance you won’t get into the city until early Tuesday morning. First class is 197 Zambian Kwacha.
Along the way you’ll get beautiful views of the Zambian and Tanzanian countryside. Truly breathtaking. I was sad when it was dark because I couldn’t see the views. In Tanzania toward the end of the ride you go through a National Park, and if you’re lucky enough to go through during the day time you might see some animals.
As far as food, I suggest bringing a bag of snacks and water on the train with you, but you can always buy meals on the train. The food is actually pretty decent. But you need cash. On the Zambian side you need Kwacha and on the Tanzanian side you need shillings. No exception. At the border, the staff, currency, and food, all change and if you don’t have shillings after crossing the border, you’re not getting any food. Luckily there will be money exchange people at the border, but I can assure you they won’t give you a fair exchange rate. But get enough for food on the train, and a taxi ride in Dar to an ATM.
So VISA! At the border the train will stop at a border patrol place on each side. So if you’re going from Zambia to Tanzania, the train will stop in Zambia, and officers will get on and go cabin to cabin and check passports and visas and stamp that you are leaving the country. Then the train will go another hundred feet and stop again. TZ officers will get on and check passports, ask you to fill out visa paperwork, ask for the visa fee, which for TZ is $100 USD that you have to have exact on, and some officers even made a fuss about the bills being newer than 2011, so make sure that is all prepared BEFORE you get on the train. They threatened to throw my friend off the train because she had an $100 bill from 2009. If everything is in order they will stamp your passport and you’ll be good to go. There will also be people going around on the train for people to exchange money, and to buy SIM cards (for you phone) and talk time (minutes). I would buy a SIM card and a talk time just for emergencies for the remainder of your ride, but I wouldn’t put a lot of money on the card, and buy a new one when you get to Dar from an authorized dealer. The card I bought, as well as the Tanzanian lady in the car with me bought, both started stealing our talk time as soon as we entered it. Obviously the card was being double sold so someone could take our money. Before buying a SIM card make sure it doesn’t look like its been used before, i.e. the card is punched out of the holder, or theres strange writing all over it.
Feel free to message me, or check out their website here if you still have questions. Like I said, I absolutely recommend taking the train if you have time. The adventure of it was just as exciting as most of my trip.