Backpacking Tanzania. Lushoto, Usambara mountains.

We went to Tanzania in February - March 2015,
during a complete trip (8 months), 
through Southern and Eastern Africa.

If you are planning a budget trip in Tanzania, here you can find useful information to save money. We travelled by public transport, did sometimes couchsurfing. slept in local accommodation, and eat in local restaurants.
Here we share info for low-cost travellers. See the right sidebar menu, to read more about our trip in Africa.

Lushoto - Usambara Mountains: a break on the long way Dar - Moshi/Arusha

Up in the Usambara Mountains, with cooler weather, there are hills and green plantations, a big change if coming from the lower dry and hot plain between Dar and Moshi. That´s why the area is popular among "mzungus". And this for many years, as there are old christian organisations in the area.
We didn´t find the area so beautiful (you can´t compare it with the Uganda or Rwanda landscapes), a lot of erosion, many eucalyptus and pine plantations, populated hills, with houses and crops everywhere (Usambara vegetables and fruits are famous in northern Tanzania). Villages have no special interest, simple and normal arquitecture, don´t expect traditional Africa huts and tribes around!
 Lushoto has a cool climate (it´s 1.500 m high) and it´s easy to get there, with a narrow tarred road and direct transport connecting with Dar, Tanga and Moshi.
30 km off Moshi-Tanga road, from Mombo crossroad, which is 200 km from Tanga, 220 km from Moshi. Nice views just when going up from Mombo to Lushoto (views to the plain, waterfalls).Then just hills, plantations and villages.
Just a cool stop on the northern Tanzania route, in our opinion.


Lushoto is quite spread out, with different neighbourhoods. In the hectic center, you find the bus station, the market, shops, lodges.
Around the center and the main road, it´s quite noisy, til late at night, with music, traffic, etc. So most of the central accommodation options in Lushoto are not exactly very relaxing places…

Public Transport Lushoto:
-  Dar Es Salaam- Lushoto: bus, 15.000 Sh, 7 h. Direct bus, departures early morning, in both directions, a couple of companies (6:00-9:00).

-  Lushoto- Moshi: direct bus,13.000 Sh, 6 h. 
   Departures only early morning, in both directions, at 6:30, 7:00 and 7:30.

If not, transit via Mombo (main national road, all the buses  Moshi/Arusha  from/to Tanga or Dar pass there), many dala-dalas Mombo- Lushoto.

Small bus station in Lushoto, just near the market, with many dala-dalas and shared taxis going to surrounding villages (the main Usambara road, Mombo- Soni- Lushoto- Magamba, is the only tarred road, all the other roads in the Usambaras are gravel). Plenty of boda-boda (moto-taxis).

Cheap accommodation in Lushoto:

Many options with affordable accommodation (we don´t really understand why so many rooms in Lushoto...seems to be a popular trading place in Tanzania... and just a few travellers and volunteers too).
Just follow the steep street going up the hill behind the bus station. Many simple and cheap local guesthouses, some have also a bar and can be noisy with the music and street traffic. Check before, as quality varies a lot and not the prices, always around 15.000 - 20.000 Sh.
Also other options, a few km outside the center, maybe quieter and not that cheap, but you will need extra transport or ask to be stoped on the way (as most are off the main road).

Shooting Star Inn: where we stayed.

Price:  20.000 Sh for a double room, breakfast included, private WC with hot shower (but not working). 
As staying 3 nights, we paid in total 50.000 Sh (small discount). 
Very clean place, quite new building, muslim family. Nice!
At the top of the steep street behind the bus station, one of the last hotels. Expect some noisy neighbours (music til late, like everywhere around the center).

Food&Drinks in Lushoto: 
Many chips&chicken&eggs stands around the bus station, also offering local goat/mouton. A few simple local restaurants (near the bus station and on the main road). Bars, plenty.
Many shops and a big market.
Water is not always safe to drink, so better buy bottled water in Lushoto.

Services in Lushoto:
Carry cash as the only ATM doesn´t operate with international cards.
Not many wifi signs, but there´s an internet shop on the main road.

   Things to do in Lushoto  

  • Thursdays and Sundays are market days. Many people come from surrounding villages. Quite colourful, with fruits and vegetables and general stuff, but nothing too special (don´t expect tribal dresses or weird things). There´s also a permanent market.
  • Walk around, to see rural life: but don´t expect too much wild and impressive scenery around Lushoto, just hills, fields, plantations and normal simple houses. As many inhabitants around, plenty of roads and tracks, but no real mountain trekking around Lushoto, just rural walks! There are at least 3 tourist offices, with “community tourism”. A few "cowboys" are always waiting for tourists around the bus station. Joining a tour around Lushoto? Expensive, around 40 $/pp (lunch included) to visit a view point, a waterfall and a forest. Half price for half-day. Also multi-days “trecks”. To walk around Lushoto, even to get to Irente´s view point (there´s a dirty road heading there), you don’t really need a guide, just ask people (they are friendly) and we found the area really safe (like all Tanzania).
  • Irente View Point: a very popular walk around Lushoto, cause there are views to the lower hot plain. It´s 6 km southwest from Lushoto center, via a dirty road, follow the signs, easy. Different lodges there with view points (one charge a 2.000 Sh entrance fee, but also free ones). We didn´t go til the view point (we saw the view from the road up from Mombo... and the weather was cloudy), just walked the first kms (steep road at the beginning, than flat). It will take you around 4 hours, return. Also plenty of boda-bodas, on this small road, as many houses all the way.
  • This part of Usambaras is land of agriculture and plantations, just a few areas have kept original forest (small protected areas, where you have to pay a fee, and maybe see a few monkeys and waterfalls), like Mazumbai Forest (access gate is around 15 km from Soni, which is 15 km down from Lushoto). We didn´t go.

Around Lushoto: some references.

Amani Nature Reserve (East Usambaras): we didn´t go but, if thinking in going there, there´s a 30 $ entrance fee (if very interested in birds and flowers). Far away from Lushoto area, access from Muheza on the main road to Tanga. It seems that not too much transport and bad road. Ask around.

Pare mountains: closer to Moshi (around 100 km east), access road in Same. Not too many guesthouses in the mountains, it´s based in “cultural tourism” (check the website if interested). We didn´t go.

Mkomazi National Park: behind South Pare and Usambara mountains; we saw 2 road access signs (heading to gates): one in Mkomazi (west of Mombo) and one near Same. The park is just at the border with Kenya (Tsavo NP is on Kenyan side). Not many visitors, so maybe not easy and cheap to find a car to go there. Entrance fee is 30 $/pp.