In this post we explain you how to get around in Zanzibar (on your own). We have been there, and we assure you that it is comfortable, it is not difficult, it is safe, and it also allows you to discover corners away from the typical tourist stops, where you will discover the local side of the island, away from the beach lines where most of the hotels are located.
Zanzibar is an ideal destination for travelers who are sightseeing in Tanzania and want to spend a few days on the beach and sun after a safari or for newlyweds looking for an exotic place with very little time difference with respect to Spain.
A bit of history
Zanzibar is a semi-autonomous island belonging to Tanzania and located opposite the country’s capital Dar es Salaam.
The island of Zanzibar is a fascinating mix of cultures and religions because several cultures such as the Persians, Arabs, Portuguese, or English have passed through it. This makes the island a very different region from the rest of Africa.
What is now a famous tourist destination, was in the past a region highly coveted by the countries that controlled the world and has the sad history of being one of the most important slavery points in the world between the 18th and 19th centuries.
Zanzibar is also known as the “Island of Spices” due to its great variety and cultivation of spices, and for being the island where one of the most famous singers in the world was born: Freddy Mercury.
How to get around in Zanzibar?
Zanzibar can be reached from several cities, as it has a small airport with international connections. So it is easy to arrive from Spain without having to go through other airports in the country.
During our trip to Tanzania, we first visited the area of Arusha and Kigoma. Zanzibar was our last stop and from where we returned to Barcelona. So to go to Zanzibar we took national transportation. After analyzing pros and cons, we decided to go by boat fromDar es Salaam, as it was cheaper than the plane (about 30 USD vs 100 USD).
The truth is that the boat ride was a bit overwhelming, just arriving at the port ofDar es-Salaam, some tourist fighters came to us and started trying to sell us boat tickets when the boat stand was right in front and we just had to go there and buy them. We didn’t know exactly what they wanted, well, they wanted dollars, but we didn’t know in exchange for what since we didn’t release any or let them “help” us. We were a bit annoyed to see how they try to confuse you, being very insistent, and also lie to you, telling you that the tickets are bought in a different place than the one where they are actually bought. We arrived by cab and they were practically climbing into the car through the window.
For us, after visiting the national parks of northern Tanzania and Gombe with total tranquility and without stress, this incident caught us by surprise. But well, we are used to the fact that in port areas, not only in Tanzania, it is already common to find this type of situation. You have to get through them, and soon forget the momentary stress.
If you go by plane you will not have that experience because we never had any problem at Dar Es Salaam Airport.
Of course, the aircraft will almost certainly be a small plane with a capacity of 10-12 people and with only one propeller. This is important to know in case you do not like to fly. You can find this type of domestic flights at Skyscanner.es or at tripindigo.com where you can find smaller flights like the one we took.
Another option to reach Zanzibar is from Arusha, where there are direct flights with Air Tanzania and with larger planes than those mentioned in the previous point. Book flights in advance as they are the first to fill up.
Getting around Zanzibar
Getting around in Zanzibar by Taxi
Get around Zanzibar by taxi is a very comfortable option but also quite expensive. Especially if they are not one-off trips, and you use it as a daily service.
The first few days we used the cab to go from Stone Town to our first hotel in Kizimkazi (southwest). Cab’s are relatively expensive and at the minimum they charge 50 usd each way. We use Gettransfer.com, which gives you the prices of other cab drivers in the area and you can book them. It also serves to negotiate with the cab drivers in front of you, since you show them the price indicated by the app, and you can negotiate from there.
In summary, visiting Zanzibar by Taxi is a good option to go from one point to another, for example from the airport to the hotel, but it is expensive if you want to visit the whole island.
How to get around in Zanzibar by motorcycle
The rental motorcycle is a good way to get around Zanzibar if you are used to riding a motorcycle. If not, it can be a bit difficult in some unpaved areas, such as inside the villages, where the terrain is dirt, with potholes and sometimes with accumulations of sand.
We rented two motorcycles, first in Kizimkazi and then in Jambiani. We pay between 40 and 30 usd per day.
The motorcycle is a good option to move around your hotel, visit nearby villages or beaches, or get to some points such as Jozani Park or the Swahili Cave. As long as you keep in mind that inside the towns it will be a little more difficult to drive it since most of the streets are not asphalted.
If you’ve never ridden a motorcycle before, this is probably not the option for you. In our case, Xavi has a motorcycle license and has been driving for many years, so he did not have many problems and even enjoyed some sections.
Getting around Zanzibar by motorcycle is economical and gives you the freedom that other forms of transportation don’t give you. And the main roads connecting the larger towns are in good condition.
Getting around Zanzibar by rental car
We had been in the south of the island for a few days, and disobeying what a Spanish guide had told us, we decided to rent a car. We had the car for about 4 days, which helped us to get to know the villages farther away from our hotel. They will tell you that it is not convenient, perhaps because there are guides who have commissions with cab drivers, but it is very comfortable, and you have nothing to worry about.
The car gave us the freedom we wanted. It allowed us to get around the whole island, and we were able to visit the northern most part of Zanzibar: Nungwi, Kendwa, Matemwe, Kiwengwa and Pongwe. We also went with him to our favorite beach: Mtende Beach.
The good thing about the car, besides the safety it gives you, is that you can play music along the way and enjoy the scenery even more, and it allows you to make longer journeys without ending up with a broken back or backside.
The only inconvenience we had was that in a village and following google maps we got into a bad road. Luckily, and thanks to the Rav4, we passed without any problems. The alternative would have been to go down the main street where all the cars were passing, but this one we saw later 😆 .
Tips for renting a car in Zanzibar:
Keep in mind that in Tanzania they drive on the left, so it is important that you rent an automatic car as this saves you from shifting gears to the left or stepping on the clutch, which is also on the left. In a car with an automatic transmission you are spared these two problems.
It should be a 4-wheel drive vehicle: 4×4.
Although it is not as important as it being automatic, if you can, rent a small 4×4 that has better traction and, being a little higher, you won’t be afraid of scraping the underbody of the car. We rented an old Toyota Rav4, which was going great and allowed us to go with the security of a 4-wheel drive car. We paid 100 USD for three days in low season.
Check the condition of the vehicle before driving it.
Although the car was not new, it is important to check the condition of the car before getting in to avoid misunderstandings with the owner. We took pictures to avoid problems later and also checked that the tires were more or less new and that the lights were working properly.
There were some tourists with more modern cars. We assume that they can be rented from any rental car company near Stone Town at a higher price. It is also a good option.
If you want to rent a car, motorcycle or bicycle, we leave you the phone number of the rental company in Jambiani: +255772721472 (Mustafa), you can send him whatsapp, he responds in a short time. If you are not going to Jambiani, you can rent it here.
Tips for driving in Zanzibar
Even if the roads are in good condition, there are two potential hazards you may encounter:
During the night, there are many cyclists or passers-by walking on the road. They do not have lights, and it is difficult to see them, so it is not very advisable to drive in certain areas away from the most touristic points.
Another issue that you have to be careful with are the radars and police controls. Some of them stopped us and let us continue without any problems, but there was one who stopped us and wanted to fine us. It was at a police checkpoint in a village and we were told that we were speeding. We were 98% sure it was not true. We told him to show us the photo of the radar, and as there was no photo, and after a tug-of-war that lasted 5 minutes at the most, he let us continue our trip without paying anything.
Our recommendation in case you are stopped by the police is to be calm, show security and, above all, be nice to them. And be careful in giving them your driving license, they can keep it until you pay them the supposed fine. The best thing to do is to show it to them but without giving it away (although this is not always easy).
Requirements for driving in Zanzibar
To drive in Zanzibar you need a special permit. The same people who rent you the car will arrange it for you, it costs about 10 USD. For this permit, it is obvious that you need to have your Spanish driving license with you. If you are in Stone Town you can take advantage of this permit, which is a piece of paper with a photo of yourself and an expiration date.
This is the permit that the police asked us for when they stopped us. We were never asked for a Spanish driver’s license.
Finally, there are other methods of transportation such as the local vans called Dalla Dalla, the cheapest option for getting around but which we do not use and therefore cannot share.
We hope you find our information useful. If you want to know more about Tanzania, you have more information here.
Routes in Tanzania:
If you want to do a safari in Tanzania that has a positive impact on the territory, a real and authentic Maasai immersion away from the tourist circuits, we invite you to take a look at our sustainable and responsible routes in Tanzania. You have them in the following link:
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