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Africa > East Africa > Tanzania > Southern Highlands (Tanzania) > Mbeya

Mbeya

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Mbeya is a city in southwestern Tanzania. It is the main transit point for connections to Malawi and Zambia, and the southern access point to Lake Tanganyika.

Get in[edit]

  • Buses run from Dar es Salaam and Iringa several times a day. There are buses from Mbeya going to Sumbawanga. From Sumbawanga you can get a bus to Mpanda and Kigoma.
  • Nane-nane bus station is 10 km from the centre of Mbeya. TSh 400 in a Dalla-dalla.
  • Dalla-dallas (minibuses) and coasters (30-seat buses) run frequently to and from Kyela near the Malawian border and Tunduma on the Zambian border, either ride taking about three hours.
  • 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. 1 Mbeya railway station is located about 4 km south of the city centre.
  • Flight services are available to and from Dar es Salaam with low cost airline Fastjet. The small airport in town was closed with the opening of the bigger "Songwe International Airport", 22 km west of the city (between Mbalizi and Songwe).

Get around[edit]

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.

See[edit]

About 65 km southwest of Mbeya down the Tunduma road is the Mbozi meteorite, one of the largest meteorites in the world. There is no charge to visit, but you will need your own transportation.

Do[edit]

Mbeya is located at the foot of Loleza Peak and near Mbeya Peak. At 2656 m and 2820 m respectively, both can be fine day hikes, although an experienced guide should be hired. Guides can be found through many of the travel agencies or better hotels in town.

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.

Go to the beach! Find a driver, hire a car, or take a few local buses- just be ready for a longer trek. Matema Beach, before Kyela, rooms under US$10, breakfast included, basic western bathrooms. Excellent beach and breathtaking views. More than worth the sweat to get there. Helpful staff. One of the best beaches on the mainland by far.

Buy[edit]

Jacaranda- ask for Goba, excellent hand made crafts and goods. Large table set up under the tree at the bottom of the street when you head down from Posta.

Eleganté super market- has everything one might need. It's located in the Camel oil petrol station at the first traffic light on the main road.

Mwenjelwa shopping centres- be bold and see what treasures you can find in the weaving back alleys.

Mbeya is as great as you make it.

  • Equity Bank. Has a MasterCard/Visa ATM.
  • Stanbic Bank, Lupa way & Karume Road.. Has a MasterCard/Visa ATM.

Eat[edit]

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 (~19 km from Mbeya).

Drink[edit]

  • 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, Sae: to the left of the Sae dalla dalla stopgreat bar for a special occasion or to watch any major television event. Tasty food.
  • E Point: Sae 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.

Sleep[edit]

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. Room from TSh 8,000 without and TSh 13,000 with bathroom. Hot water is only in theory. (Jan 2014)
  • Holiday Lodge and Restaurant large rooms with large beds, nets, bathroom with hot shower, about 10 minute walk from center. From TSh 17,000 (May 2014).
  • 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. Prices start from TSh 35,0000 (Jan 2014).
  • Ten Commandments Motel (near the Central bus station.). Double room with outside bathroom. TSh 10,000.

Go next[edit]

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.

There is frequent local transport, both 30-seat "coaster" buses and dalla-dallas to Kyela. Double check that the driver can drop you off at the border ("boda-boda"). The border stop is only a 5-10 minute walk from the Songwe River bridge crossing into Malawi. There are no services on the Malawi side of the border; have a few hundred kwacha on hand to secure transportation at least as far as Karonga. For Itungi and Lake Nyasa (Lake Malawi), you will need to ride all the way to Kyela and secure additional transport from there.

Local transport also runs to Tunduma on the Zambian border; onward transportation can be arranged on the Zambian side.

If Mbeya is your stop off on entering Tanzania on the way to Dar es Salaam, try to head for Iringa next, an easy 4-5 hour bus ride. The district capital, Iringa is a good base for exploring the highlands along the Tanzam road. Buses are also available to Songea to the southeast, Sumbawanga to the northwest, or Tabora to the north, for connections to Kigoma or Mwanza.

Peace of Mind: clean affordable rooms just down the hill from the city center


This city travel guide to Mbeya is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.