Road trip essentials

All the useful tips, info and hacks you need for a road trip

I have driven across or through almost region in Tanzania, in both rainy and dry seasons. I have driven 4WDs and sedans, and this list ultimately sums up the essential items that are key for a road trip. Having these may not solve all your challenges on the road, but at least you are covered in most of those

NB: These tips are specifically for private drives, but you can tweak them anyhow to fit your context 

1. Cash

Urban life may deceive you that you may pay for services using your card or mobile payment anywhere. Well, the truth is, cash is still king on this side of the earth, and although mobile payments such as M-Pesa, AirtelMoney, Halopesa, and TigoPesa are available almost everywhere you still need to cashout and pay vendors manually. Also, the worst may happen somewhere with no bank or mobile money agent around and you may need a bodaboda to bail you out. The currency is cash.

NB: You don't not need to have plenty of it, just enough to help you with minor issues. I'd recommend a minimum of 50,000 TZS

2. Car charger or power bank

What is life without a phone these days? You need it for taking pictures, making calls, playing your favorite playlist, maps, and everything. So unless your car has an inbuilt USB port, make sure you have a car charger or a power bank. I sometimes use my PC for charging (always-on USB port). You can use your phone for payments and navigation too

3. Download offline maps/navigation

Google Maps allows you to download offline maps about a certain geographical area. With varying and unstable internet connections along the road, you are better off with offline maps so that you can easily navigate through places and destinations. 

Ps: I once missed a turn by over 40km, rough road and it was a sedan.

Also, a point to note, Google Maps is more effective in Tanzania than Apple Maps

4. Snacks and soft drinks

Anything may happen on the road and may delay you to your next stop for food. And trust me, the last thing you want while stuck on a road trip is a hungry stomach. As such, be sure to carry some dry snacks, fruits, and soft drinks. For several reasons, I don't recommend carrying alcohol in the car, especially if the driver is. also a consumer. I also don't recommend carrying and trying foodstuff that you have never used before while on a road trip unless you are a food adventurer and are sure about your stomach. 

NB: Snacks include cashew nuts, ground nuts, almonds, crisps, apples, biscuits, etc.

6. For ladies, period supplies

I don't even know what to write about those, and I think you usually walk with them but make sure you have them on your road trip. Your preferred brand may not be available all the way to your destination and you really don't want to lose your comfortability because of that

7. Playlist, games, or whatever makes the journey fun

We usually play some games with my friends when traveling. Mostly are conversational games, asking about what an ideal morning looks like, what would you have done if x,y,z happened, etc. Sometimes, we get tired of talking and we play some songs. I don't know what gives you energy but you need that. A quiet trip is boring and I'm sure you just can't be talking all the way - boring too. 

8. Basic knowledge about your car

Can you even read and understand your dashboard lights? Do you know where your car battery sits?

Some cars are known for having certain common problems. Before you travel, inquire from your mechanic about some of these problems and how you can easily detect and fix them, if possible. If your car is modern, just get yourself a diagnosis kit, and learn how to use and travel with it. It may save you a dozen somewhere (it did to me with my mini)

9. Essential toolbox and spanners

Some cars come with an essential toolbox in one of the compartments and some don't. And some are just not very common. E.g. my Mercedes has some odd studs and nuts sizes (11, 13, 17, etc.). As such, it is important to have the basic tools for your car. Sometimes, a problem can be so minor that when you call your mechanic s/he just tells you to tighten a bolt, then you are good. Alas! No spanner whatsoever in your car. Shame on you really

10. Spare tire and tire inflators, if possible

Don't carry the assumption that your spare tire is good for safari just because you've never used it before. Crosscheck to be sure that it is properly inflated and in a good condition to take some kilometres should one of your tires run flat. For long offroad drives, having two spare tires is a bonus since the irregular structure of the road may have more damage to your tires than on the tarmac. For tire inflators you may get one that can be powered by the car smokecharger 

11. Wheel spanner and a working car jack

Again, just because you have never used it does not mean it is in good condition. Make sure your wheel spanner is fitting for your wheel studs and the car jack is working properly - they jam, out of nowhere, sometimes. Also, you may not always get someone to change your wheel for you, so make sure you know how to change at least a tire should anything happen somewhere 'lone'

12. Triangle reflectors and torch

Reflectors come in handy at any time of the day. Sometimes, your emergency may come about somewhere so risky for you and other road users if they are not signaled from a distance e.g. around a corner, at a slope, etc. Make sure you have two, for the front side and back side. A torch may be useful when emergencies come about during the dark and you need more light for you to fix your car. 

13. Fire extinguisher and first aid kit

Cars are just electronics and gases rotating to give you motion, anything may happen and may spark a fire anywhere in the car. Just make sure you have your extinguisher somewhere easily accessible to you. It may save you the whole car or some damage. Same way, a first aid kit can also be handy in an event of an accident, to you or third party as you wait for further medical help. 

14. Battery jumpers and towing cables

These may not be absolutely necessary, but they may help you someday, somewhere. Because of long drives, you may forget to turn off your lights and drain the battery, or maybe you may hit a pothole somewhere and break your sump guard, and several other worst-case scenarios. Someone may be willing to help, but they may not have the tools, but since it's your liability, having something in your hands at least makes a difference

Bonus tips:

Avoid driving on low fuel levels

You don't want to be stuck somewhere unknown waiting for a bodaboda to get you fuel so you could continue your journey. Always make sure you have enough fuel to take you to your next big point and, if possible, identify the filling stations where you'll refuel your car. Very low fuel levels may also damage your engine or block your filter because of the dirt settling in the tank

Hazard does not mean stop or park anywhere

You're not driving in town. That's probably a highway with a lot of cars - lorries, buses, etc. - so. just because your hazard lights are on doesn't mean you can just stop anywhere. Be sure where you stop is safe for you and other road users