We flew from Kilimanjaro Airport near Arusha to Zanzibar in this very small plane. I loved it, but if you’re a nervous flyer you might find this a little disconcerting – especially the way you can see straight through to the pilot and his controls, and the nearness to the ground. But if like me you enjoy flying, you’ll love the sensation of actually doing so, which large jets cannot really convey in the same way.
Flights from Arusha take approximately 1.5 hours and there are several each day. They land at Zanzibar’s small airport. When we arrived it was early evening and we stepped off the plane to a wonderful smell of warm spices that was to become my abiding memory of this magical place.
We left the island a week later on a rather larger (though still not huge) plane to Mombasa, where we were to pick up our connection for London. Checking in at this airport was another “interesting” experience – the desks are out on the pavement, so our minibus dropped us literally at the end of the queue! We sat there on our bags for a while waiting our turn, then after check-in proceeded inside to the small departure area. There’s not a lot to do here (though there is a snack bar and small duty free shop) so I would recommend you don’t allow more than the minimum time allowed before your flight.
If you want to go by boat from Dar es Salaam to Zanzibar Town or back you have much choices. There are ferries, catamarans, hydrofoils or you can even go by dhow or governmental boat. There are different prices depending on which boat you take (10 -35 dollar). The boattrip will take 90 minutes at the fast boats and 6 hours at the slowest ones.
From Zanzibar Island back to Dar es Salaam we took the fast catamaran called MV ''Seabus'' of Azam Marine, two departures a day.
But there are also other good companies. Check the fares and times at the company-offices before you make your choice.
Having some free time in Zanzibar, we decided to rent a car to have some flexibility. We had already used public transport - but whilst quite satisfied, we felt we needed some extra freedom.
Anyway - it is a good idea to rent 4x4, though I believe this is the main choice. There are very few asphalted roads in zanzibar - the rest are either tracks in the sand or soil. Pot holes are enormous, and in the rainy season you may end up with your 4*4 half submerged in water. Or else honking the horn to scare off the ducks happily swimming in them. Believe me it does happen - I have experienced this first hand. Another major 'danger' in the secondary roads is the amount of children, cows and chickens running around, unaware of any road protocols - so always keep a sharp eye out for such 'obstacles'.
Still, driving through secondary roads of 'remote' villages is fun - you get a chance to see the real everyday life of the locals away from the tourist industry.
There are quite some options to get around zanzibar, especially from Stone Town to other coastal villages. Taxi is the most comfortable and hassle free - and is reflected in the price. Another alternative would be to get one of the many tourist-mini buses leaving from stone town to the other villages. Ask your hotel or else the tourist office in Stone town to arrange such transport. Should cost you $5 tops. There are also buses, but are mainly used by the locals, and I heard it can take ages to get from one place to another - even though it looks like real fun.
Always take into consideration 2 factors :
1) You have to go to stone town to get from one village to another unless they are in the same direct path
2) Even though the island seems small, certain roads are in bad condition, thus slowing down expected arrival times. 'Just' 30km may take 1-2 hours.
Converted pick-ups or Dalla-Dallas (minibuses) link all major towns on Zanzibar Island. The main 'Bus Station' is on Creek Road just beside the Darajani Market on the edge of Stone Town. They tend to leave once an impossible number of people have been squeezed into, and often onto, these overworked vehicles. Each one has a number and many are decorated with English Football teams logos. The ones with letters on them have routes in Zanzibar Town. Numbers indicate farther destinations.
Destinations around Zanzibar Town:
A Amani Stadium
Destinations accross the island:
1 Mkokotoni (sometimes Nungwi as well)
2 Mangapwani & Bumbwini
6 Chwaka (sometimes to Uroa)
8 Unguja Ukuu
9 Paje (sometimes Bwejuu or Jambiani)
10 Jozani, Makunduchi and Kizimkazi Junction
I did see others with 3 Numbers, like the 309 in Jambiani. These may be internal routes and not go to Stone Town. Always best to ask 2 questions: 1) Where are you going? and 2) Are you going today?
Dalla-Dalla’s can be a very cheap way to leave Stone Town and can give you some real insight into the lives of native people. It can also be a crowded and not overly safe way to get there. Some outlying areas are only served once a day.
Returning to Stone Town from remote areas may not be possible by Dalla-Dalla. Just look at one of my pictures of 5-6 passengers on the roof. And if it is really far out, they may leave before 6am. You may not be able to get on board.
PRECISION AIR is a small well-run airline based in Tanzania. Unlike many airlines that fly you about 6 miles above the earth, Precision air has a fleet of smaller planes allowing you to see the real beauty of Eastern Africa. Their fleet consists of ATR 42’s, an ATR-72 and LET – 410’s. While most travellers to Tanzania see just clouds, you can see the plains of Kenya and the awe-inspiring sight of Mount Kilimanjaro. Always ask the staff which is the best side to sit on for their flight. I flew on the right hand side from Nairobi to Zanzibar and had a first class seat to view Mount Kilimanjaro. Staff are friendly and genuinely seem to be happy to see you aboard. This airline is a partner of Kenya Airways, so you can combine their flights with your adventures.
Me and my sister hired a couple of bicycles here and it was a great way to get around and see some things from the ground level. it was very memorable and just thought id share that.Its easy to find people hiring them out and for a small deposit there cheap transport and alot of fun .
It is not very easy to get around the island. Although there are no long distances but the roads are narrow, often bumpy and the traffic is pretty high. You have a choice of the local bus (dala-dala) which is not really comfortable (very cheap though), taxi (expensive) or you can easily rent a car or a bike (the latter one is quite dangerous). If you rent a car (we got a small jeep for 50 USD a day), be careful:
1.) Drive the British style (on the left) and look out for the people, animals and all kinds of vehicles.
2.) Park in a secure place
(During parking one of our rear-view mirrors was just taken away. Luckily our renters did not asked for a compensation - you know: "Hakuna matata", i.e. no problem, the most common Swahili phrase :-))
Need some Wheels? Ally Keys is The Man in Stone Town. He hires bicycles, motorcycles, cars and 4x4 jeeps. What ever you need, Ally has the keys to it. A friendly man with a great sense of humour ? Ally can help. Prices are reasonable and you can negotiate on longer hires.
As his own sign says:
'The main man in town for motorcycles is a colourful character called Ally keys. He's not as disreputable as he looks and his bikes are safe.'
In the Kiponda area Just to the west of the Bus Station (where the Dala Dalas are) and north of the Darajani Market. Just ask anyone, Ally is well known.
Phone: 0777 411797
There are several flights everyday to Zanzibar Island from Dar es Salaam, Mombasa and Arusha and maybe more towns.
We came from Arusha with Precisionair. We decided to fly, to have more time at Zanzibar at the end of our overland trip. We booked the flight two days ahead and had a lot of choice in airlines and flighttimes.
From the office of Precisionair in the centre of Arusha we had a free shuttlebus to the airport 8 KM outside of town, departing exactly in the right minute. Also the pleasant flight -with a marvellous view at the Klimanjaro- was exactly in time. The flight time was one hour.
The ferry to and from Dar Es Salaam is not that expensive and the website below has the timetables. The night ferry is cheaper, but you run the risk of thieves on board waiting for you to go to sleep.
There are different prices because you will find middlemen. Try and argue the price down. They usually add $10.
Air Tanzania calls itself ‘The wings of Kilimanjaro’ and they have some excellent prices within Tanzania. Their international flight prices are not as economical. You might want to consider flying vs ground inside Tanzania as a quicker transport option at these prices.
There are shuttle services from stone town to the north for around $10 return. The most fun way to get around is by motorbike, 250cc. They are cheaper in stone town by $5. in nungwi they are $20 if you have an international permit, if not an extra $10 for a permit whether youve ever ridden a bike before or not! they are great fun, we took ours all over the whole island and found the best beach ive ever seen - Kiwengwia in the east!
PLEASE NOTE: I do not recommend these as a means of transport.
Dhows are traditional wooden boats with a triangular sail. You will see them, both big and small, all over Zanzibar. Larger ones are called ‘Jahazi’ by locals and have sails and motors. ‘Mashua’ are the smaller ones that may be powered by sail only. They are used for just about anything from fishing, goods transport, ferry service, and even snorkelling trips. No problem hiring them to take you snorkelling or fishing. You can haggle the price way down. The reason that I do not recommend using them to get to the mainland or any far distance is that they may not be trained sailors, know the way or be safe at all. Not only could it take a very long time to get there, you may not even make it. They carry no safety equipment and have been know to be lost at sea. Stick to the proper ferry services for the mainland and Pemba Island. The government has also made it illegal for foreigners to ride on Dhows to sail to Dar es Salaam – following numerous accidents.
Transport on the island can be a bit of a problem. I suppose you can use the local dala-dala, but we passed many f them and they don’t seem very safe, they are overcrowded and takes very long to cross the island. They might be suitable for short distances. We paid 40 USD for a return trip from the hotel to Stone Town, which was very reasonable (the hotel charged 80 USD!!!).