Backpacking Zanzibar. Cheapest way to reach it and public transport.

We went to Zanzibar in February 2015,
stayed there 3 weeks, during a complete trip (8 months), 
through Southern and Eastern Africa.

If you are planning a budget and independent trip in Zanzibar, here you can find useful general information about transport. Also other specific articles about cheap accommodation, tips, services...(check the right sidebar menu).  

Many tourists go to Zanzibar to spend there a few days after having done safaris in mainland Tanzania or Masai Mara, travelling with organized tours. Most of them with a fixed and limited schedule, take a plane to reach Zanzibar or a fast boat from Dar.
If you are a low-cost traveller, there´s also a slow ferry from Dar to Zanzibar. It will make you save 30$ respect the fast boat (return) and one night of accommodation (you have to stay on board in the return trip).

Ferries port in Dar Es Salam... view from the boat


Many boats leave everyday, different schedules, between Dar Es Salaam and Stone Town (Zanzibar).
As foreigner, you pay double price than locals and residents. No way! They ask for you passport to sell the ticket, so bring it (you also we´ll need it to enter Zanzibar). 
Possible to pay the boat tickets in US$ or ShillingsUsually no discount, but we had some in Dar paying in shillings (exchange rate).
No need to book in advance (maybe only during holidays). Just arrive with time.

The jetties are in the same area, for fast and slow boats. 
It´s in front of Dar Cathedral, in the city center. Around 20 minutes walk from Posta dala-dala stop. Each company has an office and a jetty.
In Stone Town, there´s a new ferry terminal in the port, walking distance from the old town. The offices are just outside, on Malawi street (east of the terminal).

We recommend you to buy the tickets at the company office directly. Around the jetty and street, there are a lot of people looking for comission and offering their help. You don´t need them, go direct to the company and buy there. 

Speed Boat to Zanzibar:
Differents companies, similar schedules and prices.
Azam (Kilimanjaro boats) has new boats and it´s the most popular and used. 
Other companies: Fast Ferry, Sea Express, Sea Star. 
Prices for "speed" boat Dar-Zanzibar:
- Business/Economy class - Foreigner: 35$
- VIP/First class - Foreigner: 40$
- Economy, only for residents: 23.000 Sh

Duration of the trip Dar-Zanzibar (fast):1h30 to 2h.

Azam departures:  all day long. 
From Dar: 7:00, 9:30, 12:30 and 15:45. From Zanzibar 7:00, 9:30, 12:30 and 15:30. 

Slow ferry to Zanzibar:

Only one company with this service, Flying Horse.

Prices for "slow" ferry Dar-Zanzibar 
- VIP class - Foreigner: 20$ or 38.000 Sh (we paid 35.000 Sh in Dar, small discount).
- Economy, only for residents: 15.000 Sh.
 Duration of the trip Dar-Zanzibar (slow):
3 h, navigation.
Return trip Zanzibar-Dar: weird. Departure from Zanzibar at night, stay on board without moving on Zanzibar waters (6 h) and start navigation to reach Dar early morning (6:00).

Flying Horse, slow ferry, departures: once a day.
Departure from Dar 12:00. Arrival Stone Town 15:00-16:00. 
Note: in our case, the ferry left 45 min late (so we arrived at Stone Town around 16:00).
Bording time from Stone Town: 21:00. Arrival to Dar: 6:00 (night on board). On time.

No need to book in advance, at least outside big holidays.Easy, just go to the office one or two hours before departure, buy the ticket and go.

 VIP class (left) and economy class in the slow ferry

Correct (except WC, dirty), iron boat.VIP class has AC and a few long couches (good for return trip at night). Also open deck. Small shop with food on board.
The ferry has free wifi.

This slow ferry is the cheapest way to reach Zanzibar: 40 $ return ticket + one night on board (return), fast boat is 70$! This is the way we travelled there.

Passengers port in Stone Town- Zanzibar

In Stone Town-Zanzibar, there´s a new passenger terminal. For fast and slow boat.
Waiting area. Free wifi. There´s a AC VIP room but it was not open. WC.
There´s an immigration post at Stone Town port, for arrival and departure, even if Zanzibar is in Tanzania, it´s an autonomous island (you will have to fill an immigration card and get a stamp). Just a control.

The terminal is just at the edge of the old town, walking distance. 
The company offices are just east of the reminal, outside, on Malawi Street.

To connect with beaches once you get off the boat, the Darajani Market with the dala-dalas stops is around 1 km south (20 minutes walk, across narrow streets or follow the port and Malawi Road). Ask in the local shops for directions.

Warning when arriving in Zanzibar: too many “cowboys” surrounding you, wanting to "help" you (guys looking for commissions and easy money). Keep calm! 
Try to walk alone, but sometimes it´s difficult, they follow you. No real danger. Just too sticky!
If you really need their help, ask before if it´s for free; usually the driver or hotel manager pay them, not you. 
If you are lost or need help for directions, it´s better to ask in small shops or  to “normal” people in the street


Zanzibar island is not too big (around 90x30 km). There´s public transport! Easy, safe and cheap to go around!
Dala-dalas (vans, minibuses and trucks) are the cheapest way to move around Zanzibar. Departure when full, from sunrise till sunset. From Stone Town to main towns and beach areas (north, east and south of the island). 
 Tip: it´s more confortable to travel by minibus than in a small truck for the same price, so try to wait for one!

No bus station in Stone Town. The dala-dala stops are around Darajani market (Creek road), just ask where they stop depending of direction. 

Keep in mind that the old neighbourhood in Stone Town is quite compact and small and the best way to discover it is by walk. So you don´t really need transport inside Stone Town.

Price dala-dalas Zanzibar2.000 Sh (1 €), from Stone Town to Nungwi, Matemwe, Paje, Jambiani, etc.(final destinations) and 500 Sh for shorter trips. Don´t pay extra for the luggage, locals never do!
It takes around 1h- 1h30 from Stone Town to the different beaches of Zanzibar.
Also dala-dala from/to the airport (7 km southeast of Stone Town) to/from town, 500 Sh.

Many taxis and bajaji (tuctucs).
Taxis are expensive to get to the beaches. 
Price taxis Zanzibar: around 20 $ (35.000 Sh) from Stone Town to Paje (50 km). Maybe if you share...

Many tourist vans-shuttles around Zanzibar. Departure from Shangani area (Stone Town), near main hotels. 
Quite expensive too.
Rent a car o motorbike: around Shangani area (in Stone Town) and also popular to rent a motorbike in the beaches. 
But quite expensive, around 30 $ (this is not Asia). Bargain! 
International license needed, expect police controls.

  • There´s an international airport in Zanzibar (7 km south-east of Stone Town).
  • The less expensive flights to Zanzibar are from Dar Es Salaam for around 60 $ one way, Kilimanjaro airport (Arusha-Moshi) for around  100 $ one way. Also connections to neighbour island, Pemba.
  • The main companies are Zanair and Coastal Airways.
  • Also flights from Nairobi (with the Kenya low-cost, Johannesburg via Dar. And some months charters from Italy, Spain, France.

   Boats Zanzibar - Pemba   

Ferries: Azam company (fast boat).
Price: 70 $ (35.000 Sh residents), 4 h
Departures from Dar Wednesday and Saturday, 7:00 via Zanzibar. Departure from Zanzibar 9:30.

It seems that no ferries are now connecting Pemba and Tanga.
But there are maybe small boats. Try to contact hotels in Pemba or Tanga to get the complete information.

   Boats Zanzibar - Pangani   

No official ferry.
Sometimes tourist small boats connecting Nungwi (Zanzibar) and Pangani or Ushongo.

Price: expect to pay around 150-200 $/boat for 4-6 people
In Nungwi, ask at the small tour shop near Mamma Mia Restaurant. It will depend of the number of tourists, maybe only once a week in high season.
It seems that from Mkotoni (a small port 20 km south of Nungwi) there are boats crossing to Mkwaja. Enquire.