Last-minute shoppers and scores of people visiting friends and relatives caused a busy weekend on Tanzania's transport network ahead of the year-end festive season.
At the Ubungo upcountry bus terminal, the country's busiest public transport hub, thousands of passengers faced long delays due to a shortage of buses as they tried to make the Christmas getaway.
Some unscrupulous agents took advantage of the huge demand for upcountry-bound buses by significantly raising bus fares by as much as 100 per cent.
An on-the-spot check by The Guardian on Sunday at the Ubungo upcountry bus terminal witnessed hundreds of passengers stranded with their belongings.
Hassan Mchanjama, the chairman of CHAKUA, an association representing the interests of passengers, said scores of people were stranded and were grossly overcharged for bus tickets at the terminal.
"Many upcountry-bound passengers purchased tickets for sameday travel, but were forced to wait for many hours and even days to actually board the buses," Mchanjama told The Guardian on Sunday.
Commercial passenger buses are the main mode of transport for the vast majority of Tanzanians.
The Surface and Marine Transport Regulatory Authority (SUMATRA), the country's public transport service regulator, intervened by issuing a special licence for mini-buses to offer services to upcountry-bound passengers due to a shortage of 65-seater commercial public service vehicles.
Despite SUMATRA's warning that it would take stern measures against businessmen who hike bus fares, many passengers are still being forced to pay through their noses to get a seat on upcountry buses at the Ubungo terminal, Mchanjama said.
He said one-way Dar-Iringa bus fares have been hiked from the usual 20,000/- to 40,000/- per passenger, while Dar-Moshi passengers now have to part with 45,000/- for a ticket, up from 25,000/- previously.
Johansen Kahatano, the director of road transport regulation at SUMATRA, said the Christmas getaway chaos was caused by a surge in demand for upcountry-bound bus services.
He noted that demand for bus tickets from Dar es Salaam to Kilimanjaro and Arusha regions was particularly high during this festive season in line with tradition, where scores of people head home to celebrate Christmas and New Year with their loved ones.
Officials said the annual Christmas getaway is common as thousands of people make an exodus from major cities to upcountry region, causing congestion at bus stations ahead of the festive break.
Elsewhere, it was a hectic day for most people yesterday as they wound up preparations for Christmas and New Year festivities.
Some supermarkets, shops and street vendors countrywide said they recorded booming business during the festive season.
Shops selling children's clothes and shoes, said sales had tremendously improved this year.
The owner of a children's clothing shop at the bustling Kariakoo market in Dar es Salaam, Betrina Mshana, told this paper that business was good.
Betrina said she expects her consignment of children wear imported from China to be sold out within days due to brisk business.
Mustapha Eliakimu, a businessman at the Kariakoo market, said demand for food items such as rice, Irish potatoes, onions, tomatoes, bananas and spices was relatively high during this festive season compared to last year.
However, he noted that due to a good harvest, most traders have not hiked food prices this holiday season unlike in previous years.
A kilogramme of rice was sold at 1,800/- to 2,500/- at the Kariakoo market, while the price of meat remained stable at the 6,000/- to 7,500/- range per kilo.