Getting an Apartment in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Things are a bit different here in Tanzania. While the apartments are furnished they are lacking the most basic things, such a bedsheets, drinking glasses, water cooker, cleaning material. Apparently that’s how the international community wants it. For me it will be forced spending into Tanzania’s economy, which is good and everything I buy will stay here, which is even better for the local community.

IMG_20150705_170329957_HDRThe list of things I need to get is long – surprisingly long. I take it as a license to go shopping in various places. Kariakoo Market is already ticked of – it’s one of the largest market places Eastern Africa I was told. Another one is Shoppers Plaza with a good stock of goods. Or the local market a few bus stops west of the office. I got a cubic 6 x 6 x 6 feet mosquito net for TZS 12’000. You decide if that’s a good price.

Here’s an idea of the things I need to convert the “furnished” apartment into living quarters: Towels, washing powder, rack to dry clothes, ironing board & iron, toilet paper, floor towel, floor cleaning rag, dustpan and brush, bucket, surface cleaning agent, bleach, liquid soap, mosquito spray, mosquito net, frying pan, sauce pan 2l with lid, cutting board, cutting knife, forks, spoons, knives, wooden laddle for frying, plates, glasses, cups, bowls, drying towels, cleaning cloth, paper towels, 2 waste bins, waste bags plastic, 10 liters of water, plastic containers (Tupperware style), cling wrap film, ziploc bags, 2 bedsheets and pillow cases. Mind you, there are no essential cooking items like salt, sugar, oil – things you would find in hostels from previous tenants, things your AirBnB host will let you use. Maybe I should make some advertising for AirBnB to the expat community of Dar es Salaam?

IMG_20150703_141936764But back to finding an apartment. In Dar es Salaam they come in all different modes of dilapidation. A few are well taken care of and others look like no one ever fixed anything. One thing to consider is the location in relation to the traffic jams. Commute might take long from the fancy areas of expat living. I didn’t care too much about it and was going for an apartment 100 m from the sea where a Hummer from Texas stood parked. This was intriguing. My imagination went wild with what a Hummer can do in traffic jams

Then came the next peculiarity. Contractual agreements are far from standard here. My top-ranked apartment wanted cash only which was not acceptable to FINCA. So they went for the next best. Here the owner wanted money before he would sign the contract while FINCA needed a signature before they could instruct a payment. Both cited in-house policies. Amending the agreement was out of question even though at least three people had stumbled over the same ill described term. In the end I paid a deposit so I could move in while the parties sorted it out themselves.

IMG_20150708_240907597When I moved in it was a sunny and humid afternoon of around 30° C. I would have liked to turn on the aircon. But there was no power. To get power I had to go to a shop and present the meter number and power provider. It was then keyed in a device from selcomm and I got a receipt. The guy who keyed it in had no idea how much electricity costs and how much is needed to cover a few days with moderate a/c usage. So I purchased power for TZS 60’000 (USD 27) which got me 96 kWh (USD 0.28 / kWh). Price like in Switzerland! I wonder how much of it is left after I get home for the second night…

IMG_20150707_171132896Next thing I needed was Internet. As I opted to use my phone as a hotspot I had to go to another shop. There I got a SIM card, which was cut to micro size on the spot and my dual-SIM phone was set up by a knowledgeable lady, all within 15 minutes. This cost TZS 25’000 (USD 11) for 5 GB per month. No setup fee or cost for SIM card. The shop didn’t have a cash register or PC but instead the lady used her smartphone to record details of the new contract, take a picture of me, of my passport and got the contract running. It took less than 5 mins! This is the kind of innovation that saves resources, leverages existing technology and is cost effective – perfect for a developing country like Tanzania.

If you are wondering: yes, I do have running water inside the apartment, but I better keep my mouth shut. Whatever the reasons, water is full of bacteria here and while I’m slowly getting used to eating fresh veggies on my plate, I’m not ready for a mouthful of water yet. Taking a shower is a lot less fun with a closed mouth.

Special thank to Revocatus, who went the extra mile not only by showing me several apartments but also by being there during my move on a public holiday!

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