trans shipping

Transport in Tanzania

Transport in Tanzania is mainly road transport, supplemented by rail. Tanzania's road network, however, is of limited quality and especially the tarmac roads are few. Dirt roads often turn unpassable in rainy seasons and can halt traffic for days on end or even weeks. The reliable connection to the East of the country towards Lake Tanganyika is by rail during rainy season. Air transport is out of reach for the vast majority of people, uses very few commercial airports and a larger number of basic landing strips for small aircraft.


total: 3 690 km
narrow gauge: 2,721 km 1.000 m gauge; 969 km 1.067 m gauge (2002)


Tanzania is comparatively well-served by railways. Maintenance is a problem but generally the country has relied on railways rather than highways for transport between east and west, to the centre, and between Lake Victoria regions and eastern coastal regions. Consequently highway develoment has been neglected in the past. Only the south-east of the country does not have rail access (Bukoba in the north west is served by the railway ferry link to the railhead at Mwanza).

  • Tanzania Railways Corporation (TRC)
  • Tanzania-Zambia Railway Authority (TAZARA): operates 1,860 km of 1.067 m narrow gauge track between Dar es Salaam and Kapiri Mposhi in Zambia (of which 969 km are in Tanzania and 891 km are in Zambia); is not a part of Tanzania Railways Corporation; because of the difference in gauge, this system does not connect to Tanzania Railways. However, a container trans-shipment yard to transfer freight containers between TAZARA and Tanzania Railways Corporation trains has been built at Kidatu near Morogoro. This allows containers to be shipped from as far as Uganda and Kenya via the Lake Victoria train ferries and the Kidatu yard to the Southern African rail network via Zambia without leaving the rail system.

Towns served by rail

Tanzania Railways Corporation

Central Line

Kidatu Line

  • (Not shown on map)
  • Kilosa - junction
  • Kidatu - branch terminus - also served with break of gauge by TAZARA, with a container trans-shipment facility to move freight containers between TAZARA and Tanzania Railways Corporation trains

Mwanza Line

Mpanda Line

Singida Line

Link Line

  • Morogoro - junction with Central Line
  • Korogwe - junction with Tanga Line

Tanga line

Proposed extensions

Mtwara Line (defunct)
In 1949 a line was built to link the Tanganyika groundnut scheme plantations around Nachingwea with the port of Mtwara. The scheme famously foundered and the railway was abandoned in 1962. Proposals have been made for a new railway to link Mtwara to iron ore deposits in the west, perhaps linking to Mbeya.

TAZARA Railway

Formerly also called TanZam Railway.

1067mm gauge to match Zambian/Southern African networks.

Couplings and brakes

Tanzanian Railways use Chopper couplings. It is not clear if they use air or vacuum brakes. Loco 2927 shows chopper couplings and thin air brake hoses

Railway links with adjacent countries

The central line between Kigoma and Dar es Salaam carries international freight and passengers in transit from Burundi, DR Congo and Rwanda to the Indian Ocean, and the branch from Tabora to Mwanza carries freight and passengers between Uganda and the Indian Ocean.

Isaka Dry Port, a small town and station on the Mwanza Line at its intersection with the paved highway to Kigali has been developed into a so-called 'dry port' for trans-shipping Burundian and Rwandan road freight onto freight trains to the seaport of Dar es Salaam. There are proposals to build a railway from Isaka to Rwanda/Burundi.




  • Line to Rwanda to start soon and be complete by 2013.




total: 88,200 km
paved: 3,704 km
unpaved: 84,496 km (1999 est.)

National roads

Tanzania's principal paved highways are confined to the north-eastern, central-eastern, and south-western regions of the country:

  • Dodoma (the capital) to Dar es Salaam (main seaport and economic capital), 450 km
  • Chalinze turn-off on the Dodoma-Dar es Salaam highway to Tanga, 245 km
  • Segera on the Chalinze-Tanga highway to Moshi and Arusha, 370 km
  • Arusha to the Kenya border, 108 km
  • Morogoro to Mbeya, 690 km.

There are no paved links to south-eastern, western, central and northern regions, and most of the roads between these areas are dirt tracks, with a few improved gravel sections. Within each area there are paved roads isolated from the rest of the paved network. The situation is:

  • South-east regions: paved highways link Mtwara, Lindi, Masasi and Masuguru on the Mozambique border, but the only road link to the rest of the country is impassable after rain. A paved link is proposed from Masasi to Songea which would link with a paved spur of the Mbeya-Dar es Salaam highway.
  • Central regions: only dirt roads with some difficult sections go west of Dodoma, to Manyoni, Singida, Nzega, and Tabora. The Singida-Nzega dirt road is the only practical route between the eastern and western halves of the country, without going to the southern or northern borders.
  • Northern: paved roads connect Mwanza and Musoma on Lake Victoria, but are connected to the central, north-eastern and north-western regions only by dirt roads, some being improved gravel roads.
  • North-western regions have seen recent improvements with a new paved highway from Nzega to the Rwandan border. However the lake port of Bukoba is reached ony by improved gravel roads.
  • Western regions are the most poorly served, with no paved highways except locally in Kigoma and Ujiji. Only one dirt road runs down the western side of the country, and it is just a track between Kasulu and Sumbawanga, prone to flooding south of Mpanda. Between Tunduma in the south-west and Nyakanyazi junction near Kibondo in the north-west, a distance of nearly 1000 km, there are no highways to the centre of the country.

International Highways

The Cairo-Cape Town Highway (highway 4 in the Trans-African Highway network) runs through Tanzania between the Kenyan border town of Namanga in the north and the Tanzanian border town of Tunduma in the south-west, via Arusha, Dodoma, Iringa and Mbeya, passing through some of the best scenery in Africa. The section between the Taragire National Park turnoff and Iringa is not paved and can be very difficult after rain especially north of Kondoa Irangi. A longer eastern route is available via Moshi and Morogoro on paved roads but these have often been poorly maintained in the past and full of potholes. In south-west Tanzania the Trans-African Highway follows the Tanzam Highway linking Zambia to the port of Dar es Salaam.


  • May 2007 - Malagarasi Bridge to cost USD25 million


Tanzania is well served by coastal and lake waterways around its edges, but there are no lakes or rivers used as waterways to any great extent in more central areas.

Indian Ocean coast

Tanzania has a strong maritime tradition going back centuries. Zanzibar was once the chief port along the entire Indian Ocean coast, and its hinterland reached into Central Africa as far as the middle Congo River. Swahili traders used dhows to conduct trade though many ports along the coast. This tradition continues today with motorised craft.

Indian Ocean ports:

Lake Victoria

For about 80 years the famous Lake Victoria ferries carrying rail wagons and vehicles, and run by the railway companies of Tanzania and Uganda, have been the chief means of transport within northern Tanzania, between Tanzania and Uganda, and between northern Tanzania and south-western Kenya. Other ferry services link to the Tanzanian islands and smaller Tanzanian ports. Lake Victoria ports in Tanzania:

Lake Tanganyika

Once a rival to Lake Victoria as a waterway, the Lake Tanganyika ferries are no longer as busy and train ferries no longer operate. Trade has suffered due to wars in the DR Congo. Small ferries link communities along the Tanzanian shore (some with no road access), and commercial traffic runs between Kigoma and Bujumbura, Burundi and Mpulungu, Zambia, including the MV Liemba.

Lake Tanganyika ports in Tanzania:

Lake Malawi

Tanzanian communities along the north-east shore (some without road access) are linked by ferry, and Malawian steamer and boat services have run the length of the lake for about 120 years.

Tanzanian towns with ferry wharves on Lake Malawi:

Merchant marine

total: 10 ships (or over) /
ships by type: cargo ship 2, passenger/cargo ship 2, petroleum tanker 3, roll-on/roll-off 1, short-sea passenger 2 (2002 est.)


gas 5 km; oil 866 km (2003)


123 (2002)

Airports - with paved runways

over 3,047 m: 2
2,438 to 3,047 m: 2
1,524 to 2,437 m: 5
914 to 1,523 m: 1
under 914 m: 1 (2002 est.)

Airports - with unpaved runways

total: 112
1,524 to 2,437 m: 18
914 to 1,523 m: 60
under 914 m: 34 (2002)

See also


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