Road trip essentials

  • 24/01/2024
  • 6 Min Read

I have driven across every 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


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 cellular network, bank, or mobile money agent around and you may need a bodabodato bail you out. The currency is cash

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

“When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money. Then take half the clothes and twice the money.” – Susan Heller

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

“I travel with a bunch of battery packs because I don’t always have time to charge my phone at the hotel room when I’m traveling. I always change them, so I never run out of battery.” — Avicii

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

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

“The world makes way for the man who knows where he is going.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

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.

“First we eat, then we do everything else.” – M.F.K. Fisher

Playlist, games, or whatever keeps you active

We usually play some games with my friends when traveling. Most 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

“If you’re on a road trip, you need driving music.” – Edgar Wright

Toiletries and period supplies, for ladies

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 to your destination and you don’t want to lose your comfort because of that

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)

“I don’t know how to fix a car. If the car breaks down, and the gas tank does not say “E”, I’m screwed” – Mitch Hedberg

Essential toolbox

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

“Take care of your car in the garage, and the car will take care of you on the road.” – Amit Kalantri

Spare tire and a working car jack

It’s important not to assume that your spare tire is suitable for a safari just because you haven’t used it before. Always double-check to ensure that it is properly inflated and in good condition, in case one of your tires goes flat. When going on long offroad drives, it’s advantageous to have two spare tires since the rough terrain can cause more damage to your tires compared to regular roads. Consider getting a tire inflator that can be powered by the car’s smoke charger. Additionally, ensure that your wheel spanner fits your wheel studs and that the car jack is in proper working condition, as they can unexpectedly malfunction. Remember, you may not always find someone to change your wheel for you, so it’s important to know how to change a tire yourself

“A flat wheel can never take you anywhere” – Someone

Avoid driving on low fuel levels

You don’t want to be stuck somewhere unknown waiting for a bodabodato get you fuel so you can 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

“Cars run on gas, not air. Pay up” – Someone

Hazards ≠ 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

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