by Conor Walsh & Sofeeyah Lloyd
Getting to Zanzibar from anywhere in the world has never been easier, thanks to recent upgrades at Abeid Amani Karume International Airport (its main international gateway) and increasing direct flight routes from major international airports.
What’s more, the Dar Es Salaam-Zanzibar ferry service has seen huge improvements, with modern ferries that are safer, faster, and much more comfortable (no more seasickness!).
If you’re planning an international conference or event in Zanzibar – this is all great news! Your attendees can enjoy a smoother journey and arrive fresh and well rested.
In this (very quick) guide, we’ll show you:
- International flights to Zanzibar
- What to expect on the Dar-Zanzibar ferry
- How to get from Zanzibar airport to anywhere on the island
- How to get around Zanzibar by public and private transport
If you have any more questions about transport to Zanzibar, get in touch! Our local experts have all the information you need.
Direct International Flights
You can now fly directly to Zanzbiar from 18 international airports located in Africa, Europe, and Asia. Hopefully, more routes are coming soon from North America and elsewhere. But for now, here are your direct flight options:
Flights from Africa
- Dar Es Salam, Arusha, and other locations in Tanzania
- Nairobi, Kenya
- Kigali, Rwanda
- Johannesburg, South Africa
- Entebbe, Uganda
- Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
- Nosy Be, Madagascar
Direct flights from Europe
- Istanbul, Turkey
- Milan and Rome, Italy
- Frankfurt, Germany
- Amsterdam, the Netherlands
- Paris, France
- Zurich, Switzerland
Direct flights from the Gulf
- Doha, Qatar
- Dubai, UAE
- Muscat, Oman
Direct Flights from Asia
- Guangzhou, China
Note: Not every route runs year round. Alternatively, attendees can fly into Dar Es Salaam and get a connecting flight – or ferry – to Stone Town (see below).
If you’re planning an international conference in Zanzibar and need help organizing travel for your attendees, we’ll help you navigate the logistics involved. Contact us for more details.
Getting to/from Zanzibar Airport
Abeid Amani Karume International Airport is located 20-30 minutes south of Stone Town. It’s a small but modern airport, surprisingly nice compared to the airport in Dar Es Salaam (and many other old, outdated African airports).
Booking a taxi or transfer in advance is the easiest way to get from the airport. Expect to pay $20 for a one way hotel transfer to Stone Town, and $30-50 to get everywhere else on the island.
Every hotel and travel agent can book a transfer for you.
When leaving Zanzibar, the same is true: book a private transfer from your accommodation for the smoothest experience.
Flying From Dar Es Salaam
Getting to Zanzibar from mainland Tanzania is also very easy. As of April 2023, there are 140 flights per week from Dar Es Salaam to Zanzibar, and many more flights from other airports in the country.
Flights from Dar Es Salaam start at 7:00 AM and run until 9:00 PM.
Flights from Zanzibar start at 07:50 AM and run until 9:25 PM.*
The flight takes 30 minutes (excluding check in, security, etc.) and costs on average ~$40. Some flights cost as little as $26, while busier flights can be $100+.
Every airline running the route allows up to 20kg of checked luggage.
- Air Tanzania
- Auric Air
- Coastal Aviation
- Flightlink Air Charters
- Precision Air
*Flight times are subject to change. Accurate as of April 2023.
Getting to/from Dar Es Salaam Airport
Julius Nyerere International Airport is 20 minutes drive from downtown Dar Es Salaam, and 25-30 minutes from Oyster Bay and Masaki.
Uber or a private hotel transfer are your best options. A private transfer is significantly more expensive than Uber, but much more convenient if you’re arriving into Dar Es Salaam for the first time.
When going to the airport, be warned that traffic along the route gets quite busy during the day, with lots of construction on the way (Dar Es Salaam is still building the Bus Rapid Transit lanes that will hopefully ease traffic long term).
If your flight is during rush hour, allow for an extra 30 minutes to safely get to the airport on time.
Taking the Ferry
The Dar Es Salaam to Zanzibar ferry is notorious for being slow, uncomfortable, crowded, and rough enough to induce seasickness in even the hardiest travelers.
However, we don’t think its reputation is fair. The route now has modern, fast ferries built for the rough passage. On the more modern ferries, the journey should take less than 2 hours. Slower ferries take about 3 hours.
So, while the boarding and departure processes are still a bit chaotic, if you don’t have much luggage, the ferry is a fun way to get to Zanzibar and experience a little bit of local life before you arrive on the island.
There are three ferries operators running the route:
- Azam Marine (Kilimanjaro series)
- Fast Ferries (Zan Fast Ferries)
- Sea Express (older, slower ferries)
You can book your ticket in advance (recommended) on the operators’ websites, at the ferry terminals in Dar Es Salaam and Zanzibar, or through your hotel or travel agent.
Don’t book any ferry that is not run by one of these three operators: it could be fake or just unreliable.
Ferry Terminal Locations
Dar es Salaam: New Ferry Terminal (Kivukoni Front), in the downtown area.
Uber or a hotel transfer are the best options for getting to the terminal. Take into account potential rush hour traffic if you’re driving through downtown Dar Es Salaam to get to the terminal.
Zanzibar: Zanzibar Ferry Terminal (Malindi)
The terminal is a short walk from Stone Town and also accessible by car. Organize your transfer from the terminal to your hotel in Zanzibar in advance. Otherwise, you’ll be at the mercy of aggressive touts and taxi drivers, or public transport (see below).
If you’re staying in Stone Town, cars can’t enter the old city, so you’ll have to walk the final part. Check with your hotel in case this is the case, and they can organize a solution for you.
Departure times are roughly the same, whether you’re leaving from Dar Es Salaam or Zanzibar.
Morning departures: 7:00 AM, 7:30 AM, 9:30 AM
Afternoon departures: 12:30 PM, 3:45 PM
Early evening departure: 6:00 PM
Ticket Prices (subject to change)
In the following table, an adult is anyone above 10 Years, and a child is anyone below 10 years.
Adult: 25,000 TSH
Child: 15,000 TSH
Adult: 35,000 TSH
Child: 35,000 TSH
Adult: 50,000 TSH
Child: 50,000 TSH
Adult: 60,000 TSH
Child: 60,000 TSH
Checking in for the ferry can be a hustle, as it’s usually very crowded and a little unorganized. To ensure you don’t have any issues boarding, arrive at least 1 hour before departure. You’ll need to present your passport or Tanzanian government ID and ticket before boarding, and your luggage will be screened by security.
Luggage Allowance and Fees
Each person is allowed up to 25kg included in your ticket price. Any additional weight above this allowance is charged at 1,000 TSH per kg.
For the smoothest and most enjoyable experience on the ferry, we suggest packing as light as possible. It will make every step of the process much easier.
The ferries are basic but comfortable, and you can sit outside to enjoy the view and fresh air. If you’d prefer to stay inside, we suggest getting a Business class ticket or above, so you can avail of air conditioning and more privacy.
Regardless of which ticket you purchase, you can access a simple snack and drinks bar open to all passengers. Alcohol is not sold on any of the ferries, and you won’t be allowed to take any onboard with you.
There are plenty of clean restrooms throughout the ferries.
The passage between dar Es Salaam and Zanzibar can get very rough, especially during the rainy seasons (March to May, and October to December).
Seasickness is common, so if this is a concern, we suggest buying some medication before you board. You can also choose to sit in the middle of the ferry for less movement, or sit outside in case the fresh air helps.
The ferries are generally very safe, and we’re not aware of any recent accidents or incidents on the routes. They’re equipped with modern safety equipment, including life jackets and life rafts – although we doubt you’ll need them!
While theft is not really a concern, we still recommend keeping your belongings safe at all times just in case.
A few things to keep in mind for the best possible experience on the ferry:
- Be cautious of overeager porters, touts, and potential scams at ferry terminals
- Expect chaotic boarding and disembarking processes
- Keep valuables and important documents secure in a money belt or neck pouch
- Book return tickets in advance, particularly during peak travel season
- Don’t wear revealing clothes, as Zanzibar is a conservative culture
Getting Around Zanzibar
Zanzibar is a small island with (mostly) good roads that’s very easy to get around. While Stone Town can be a bit chaotic and congested, if you’re coming from a major African city, you’ll find the traffic a relief. If this is your first stop in Africa, it might take some getting used to first.
And once you’re outside of Stone Town, the traffic lightens up significantly.
If you’re traveling around the island, you have four options for transport:
Zanzibar has plenty of semi-public bus services ferrying passengers between towns. While there are designated bus stations and bus stops, they also pick up and drop off passengers as they go, like in most African cities.
The buses range from modern-ish coaches down to converted pickup trucks – known locally as dhala dhalas. The level of comfort varies depending on which mode of transport you choose.
However, generally, we only recommend using public transport if you’re traveling solo and on a small budget. While the buses are cheap and the drivers are generally responsible, they’re not very convenient.
You’ll only get dropped between towns, and will have to organize onward transport to your hotel or conference.
Private Car Hire
The most convenient option for getting around Zanzibar, private taxis are usually modern mini-vans with capacity for 6-8 people. You can organize one to collect you from your hotel or another location, or pick one up on the street.
They’re usually very trustworthy and don’t price gouge too much – although if you approach one on the street, you can expect to haggle a little.
A private hire from Stone Town to another part of the island will cost from $20-$50 depending on the distance. Traveling between coastal towns – for example, Nungwe to Kendwa, or Paje to Jambiani – will start from $10.
If you feel comfortable driving in Zanzibar, there are plenty of cars and motorbikes available for rent.
Most rental shops are trustworthy and reliable, but quite expensive. Daily rental for a car starts at $30 per day, while most places charge $20+ per day for a motorbike or scooter. However, if you rent long term (1 week+), prices drop significantly.
We’ve paid $10 per day for a scooter and heard of people paying the same for a car.
Driving in Zanzibar is generally very safe. Surprisingly, most motorists stick to the very conservative 50mph speed limits on most roads, and Zanzibari drivers are usually both cautious and patient.
However, driving at night is not recommended. There are no road lights or sidewalks, and Zanzibaris like to walk in the middle of the road. There are also some very big potholes. And the occasional cattle.
You could easily miss all of these obstacles and get into a serious accident. So, stick to driving during the day.
Within Zanzibar’s towns, you can find plenty of motorbike taxis. They’re not for everyone, but we’ve found them to be a safe, cheap, and quick option to get around. You may also find some tuk tuk if you’re in a group.
Expect to haggle with drivers, but they’re usually quite friendly and cordial about it.
Book your next outdoor event in Zanzibar, Tanzania
Are you looking to host an international event in Zanzibar? Let us help you! Hallpax has destination experts dedicated to making your event planning process enjoyable and stress-free. We’re passionate about the cities we work with, and with our in-person presence in Africa, we help our clients navigate their cities of choice with ease.