Tanga in northern Tanzania is the regional headquarter and one of the largest cities in the country. Compared to Arusha or Moshi it is a rather quiet city, but with a comparable population. The city of Tanga is located on the Indian Ocean near the border with Kenya.
The name Tanga comes from the word “sail” because the port and its surrounding area is still the center of life in Tanga today. The most important export goods from the port include sisal, coffee, tea and cotton. The Portugese already used it as a trading hub. They controlled the region around Tanga between 1500 and 1700. After that, the Sultanate of Oman gained control of the settlement. The city was a trading port for ivory and slaves until slavery was abolished by the European powers in 1873. In 1891 the Germans bought the Tanzanian coastline Mainland off the Sultan of Zanzibar. It became the first settlement in German East Africa and was the center of German colonial administration. Later Dar es Salaam was founded in the early 20th century.
As a coastal city, Tanga was on the forefront at the beginning of World War I with British East Africa (Kenya). After the war Great Britain took control of Tanganyika and the city developed further and used its agricultural potential. The port of Tanga continued to be a gateway for the export of sisal from the region in the early stages of independence from 1961. However, with the government’s control of agricultural trade and the devaluation of world market prices for sisal. The port of Tanga began to lose revenue.
Today, despite its size, Tanga is a pleasant place with a sleepy, semi-colonial atmosphere, wide streets full of cyclists and motorbikes, fascinating architecture and faded charm.
How to get to Tanga
By bus from the southern Kenyan border post of Lungalunga/Horohoro, it is a beautiful drive on a new highway through the quiet Mkinga district, with the rising Usambara Mountains in the west as you approach Tanga.
The city, being on the highway between Mombasa and Dar es Salaam, is well served by bus services from both Kenya and the northern Tanzania regions of Usambara, Moshi and Arusha. Ratco and other buses for Dar es Salaam depart daily every few hours from 6am to 2pm in each direction (six hours).
To Arusha there are at least three departures daily between about 6am and 11am (seven to eight hours). To Lushoto there are several direct buses departing daily from 7am (four hours).
A defunct railway link also still exists between Moshi and Tanga. A small airport in the city is served by only two small local air operators.
As of July 2019, diesel powered cargo trains are leaving Tanga Railway Station again and passenger transport between Tanga and Arusha is set to start in September 2019. This is in operation now.
Tanga has a small airport and is currently served by only two regional airlines Auric Air and Coastal Aviation providing scheduled services to Dar es Salaam, Pemba Island and Zanzibar. There are also a small number of private airstrips in the surrounding area around the city that facilitate the private estates and surrounding industries. The city is served by Tanga Airport.
Azam Marine’s Sealink ferry goes weekly between Tanga and Pemba (four hours, US$35), with connections on to Zanzibar Island. Departures from Tanga are on Tuesday, and from Pemba on Sunday. Tickets can be bought online or at the Azam Marine Booking Office.