Mtwara is a city in Pembwe and the Southeast region of Tanzania.
There are several buses daily from Dar es Salaam which you can take from Ubungo, Temeke or Mbagala bus stations. Average travel time is about 8 hours. During the rainy season parts of the road can get flooded; it's usually still passable but this can add significantly to the journey time. The companies operating the route change regularly. When picking a bus go for one with four seats in a row, the ones with five can be pretty cramped. Sitting in the back half of the bus can be somewhat traumatic during the non-paved part of the journey.
From Lindi there are buses throughout the morning; in the afternoon you can make the journey by first getting a bus to Mnazi Mmoja (Mingoyo) then catching an onward bus from there (~2 hours).
From Masasi there are buses throughout the day the last one leave around mid afternoon (about 4 or 5 hours).
From Newala there is a bus in the morning, after that there are pickups throughout the day (these can be packed and quite painful on the dirt road).
From Mozambique there are pickups that meet the public transport arriving the other side of the border.
Precision Air also fly from Dar es Salaam; their timetable is erratic.
Mtwara was designed to be a major town and exporter of ground nuts, however when the ground nut scheme collapsed before it was started, the town never really finished being built. As a result the town is spread out, which can leave you with a bit of a walk to get between places. Bicycles are a great way to get around town and can be hired from the market for Tsh 2000-3000 per day.
Taxis, Tuktuks (little three wheeled vehicles called bajaji in Swahili), and motorbike taxis (pikipiki in Swahili) are available around town. Expect to pay Tsh 2000-4000 for a taxi journey about town, Tsh 1000-2000 for a bajaji and Tsh 1000 for a motobike taxi.
If you do nothing else in this beautiful coastal town, you must go to the fish market. Simply ask, "Soko la samaki liko wapi?" and you will be on your way. It is beautiful and Swahili Tanzania at its finest.
Mtwara offers great diving in the Indian ocean.
- Eco2 (PO Box 784), ☏ +255 746855833, +255 784855833. PADI dive center.
- ADEA (nr. bus stand). An arts and crafts cooperative producing high-quality handicrafts, mostly based around tingatinga painting.
- Hendricks Family (Ziwani). The Hendricks family are the most famous of the Makonde carvers still in Mtwara. Their work is available in town, or you can visit their carving workshop in Ziwani village just outside Mtwara. It's easiest to reach by vehicle, head out of Mtwara on the airport road and take the turn off for Mozambique / Mnazi Bay Marine park. It's a couple of miles down that road. They are most famous for their 'cloud' carvings which are carved out of a single piece of wood and make a cage out of lots of interconnected branches.
- Carving Stand (end of india street, nr posta). A small stand selling a range of Makonde carvings. If you're a good negotiator this is the best value place to buy your Makonde carvings.
- Gift shop (at Msemo (see Eat)). The gift shop attached to the hotel/restaurant has a decent range of local crafts.
- Ray shop (Bima). For general supplies there are a bunch of shops at the Bima made out of old shipping containers. They all contain fairly similar things but Ray Shop usually has the best selection.
- Makonde Mini Mart, Aga Khan street. A little more ex-pat orientated than the container shops at the Bima. If you can't find what you're looking for there this is probably the best bet.
- Market (soko) (nr bus stand). The market is the best place to pick up local goods from food and clothes to traditional medicines. Generally bargaining is not expected and the same price is given to locals and tourists alike.
- Dubai Restaurant (nr Bus stand). A standard Tanzanian place offering all the usual rice and ugali based dishes, a cut above most of the others around. Expect to pay Tsh 2000-3000.
- Bus stand. It may seem odd to recommend the bus stand as a place to eat, but in the evening the buses are removed and it becomes a popular place for food. Snacks and meals are available from Tsh 50 for a small snack to Tsh 3000 for a meal. Alcoholic drinks are available.
- Msemo (aka Southern Cross) (Shangani). This is the only real option for western food in town. It's by the sea and is a nice place to while away the afternoon. During the day it's about a 20-minute walk from the center of town, after dark it's probably better to go by taxi, tuktuk (bajaji), or motorbike (pikipiki).
- Korosho Lodge (Tanu Road, next to exim bank, near bima). A place offering the usual variety of Tanzanian - Indian food. Set in a courtyard, the surroundings are uninspiring but peaceful. Expect to pay Tsh 7000-8000.
- [dead link] Proactive Min Supermarket, Bima Taxi stand (Bima, opposite NMB Bank), ☏ +255 787 339 699, firstname.lastname@example.org. All types of food supplies including Western styled meat products, groceries, snacks, ice cream, soft drinks, condiments, fruits, and juice. You can also send an order list for delivery.
- Bima. This is an area of town where there are a cluster of bars that gets a bit of an atmosphere in the evening.
There are plenty of guest houses in the Tsh 4,000-30,000 range around town, many clustered near the bus stand. Quality varies but you'll get what you pay for. Tell a taxi or tuktuk (bajaji) driver how much you want to spend and they'll take you to somewhere appropriate.
- Msemo (aka Southern Cross), Shangani. This is the main (only) tourist place in town, it's right on the sea front and offers wonderful views over Mikindani bay. US$50.
In general Mtwara is a safe town, however it is best to take caution after dark. A good rule of thumb is if there are other people around it's probably safe, if it's deserted it's probably best to take a vehicle. This is especially true in the residential areas around the town center.
- Dar es Salaam. There are a number of buses each day, all of which leave at or around 6AM and take about 8 hours