What is the Tazara Train?
Tazara stands for the Tanzania-Zambia Railway Authority. It is a single track railway which was financed by China and opened in 1975. It links the port of Dar es Salaam in east Tanzania with New Kapiri-Mposhi in central Zambia. The journey is around 1,860 km (1,160 mi) long and takes around 46 hours (without delays) from point to point. The route takes you through various parks in Africa including the Selous Game Reserve in southern Tanzania, one of the largest faunal reserves in the world where passengers can see wildlife such as elephants, giraffes, and zebras. Spoiler alert, we didn't see anything! It is said to be one greatest engineering efforts of its kind since World War II.
Kilimanjaro vs Mukuba
Tazara is made up of two trains, the Kilimanjaro Ordinary Train operated by Tanzanian authorities and Mukuba Express Train, operated by Zambian authorities. The only differences are the days of departure and the number of stops. As the title suggests, the express train has less stops (however, I'm not really sure if this makes much of a difference given all the delays that come with taking Tazara). Additionally, as of 2016, the Mukuba Express Train operates with newer Chinese built cars compared to the older cars used by Kilimanjaro. Both trains include a dining and bar cart, both western and non-western style toilets plus a separate room wash room, clean bedding, electric sockets in each cabin, a reading light, and an oscillating wall fan (the windows also open).
Tazara Schedules (as of 2016)
As you can see below, the Ordinary passenger train departs Dar es Salaam every Tuesday at 1:50 EAT (scheduled to arrive on Thursdays) and departs New Kapiri-Mposhi every Friday at 2:00 CAT (scheduled to arrive on Mondays). Alternatively, the Express passenger train departs Dar es Salaam every Friday at 3:50 EAT (scheduled to arrive on Mondays) and departs New Kapiri-Mposhi every Tuesday at 4:00 CAT (scheduled to arrive on Thursdays).
Brian and I took the Friday Mukuba Express Train in August of 2016 and after re-reading our blog post, it looks like our train left exactly on time. In the moment, however, we must have gotten the timetables confused because we thought it left two hours late. We were extremely lucky as we arrived around 46 hours later but we have heard plenty of horror stories (including our close friends) who were stuck on Tazara for up to 60 hours!