Daladalas in Bongo…

If you haven’t been to my city, Bongo, (that’s Dar for those who aren’t familiar with the term), you’ll find that daladalas are the most popular form of transportation for the common mwananchi (citizen). What daladalas are is simply mini buses that were introduced back in the 90’s when before that all we had were these huge buses that took forever to arrive and only did limited trips at that. They were named after the  TSH 5 coin (dala– street slang for ‘the Dollar’ I suppose) that was the original fare when they were first introduced. They come in the small version:

daladala small

Or the big version:

daladala big

At the moment however daladalas are just about the most annoying thing in the city due to the congestion they cause, but we can’t do much about them as most of the city dwellers depend on them to travel around. But annoyances aside, let’s learn some daladala- related must know stuff!

First, daladalas can stop anywhere as long as there’s no traffic cop lurking around. This is Africa it’s how we roll! So you can basically just go to the main road and expect to flag down a passing daladala as you would a taxi! Thing is they are all privately owned so all the driver and his side kick are thinking is to make enough money to take to the boss as agreed beforehand then the rest is all theirs that’s why they would stop anywhere to pick up a passenger and make as much money as they can. Daladalas are also very easy to spot as their routes are always in huge letters on the ‘front face’ (as seen in the pictures).

Secondly, if you ask nicely enough you can be dropped off wherever you wish, not necessarily the fixed stops. These ‘favour stops’ so to speak are what we call msaada (help). So what you do is, very kindly ask the conductor or driver to drop you off at xyz place, it has to be an easily recognizable place so they know beforehand exactly where you are referring to. For example where I live is not a stop but a ‘msaada’ so I always have to say “Naomba msaada Super!”. (‘Super’ being the name of our unofficial stop).  Most of the times you will be granted your ‘msaada’ but don’t act like you were just denied your basic human right if they say no, it’s just a favour they are doing you.

Thirdly, daladalas tend to get quite crowded especially during rush hour so you’ll encounter just as many people standing as those sitting. If you’ve been to London, think the Central Line in the morning or evening-down to the ridiculous smells especially during the summer! But if crowds aren’t exactly your thing, fear not, there’s plenty of taxis to go around!

Lastly, and this is the most important bit, daladalas take for-ever to arrive at their destination! So you’d be well advised to give even up to 2 hours of extra time if you need to be somewhere promptly. As I mentioned, they tend to congest the roads so much that traffic can be at a standstill for quite a bit. Here’s a tip though, if you need to go somewhere minus the hustle and overcrowding and at quite a reasonable speed, lunch time is the best time! No traffic, no people, you just cruise all the way to your destination!

And if I’ve just about managed to scar and traumatize you to the point of cancelling that Dar trip you were planning…… not so fast! Soon these pesky daladalas will be a thing of the past as they give way to some pretty cool public transportation system. We can hardly wait! Here’s a sneak peak…karibuni Dar!


(one of the BRT bus terminals under construction)

LESSON #3: Learn Swahili vocabulary with pictures #1

Bongo street 1

words to learn: barabara, basi dogo (mabasi madogo), daladala, matatu, abiria, magari (gari), mama, mtoto (watoto), daraja (madaraja), mabango (bango) Read More