Travelling to and around Zanzibar has never been easier, which is great news if you only have a few days of leave but are desperate for some sun, sand and slothing. Here’s our guide to everything from boats to budget airlines, and how to find flights to Zanzibar.
Flights to Zanzibar
While ZNZ may sound like something you do on a flight, it’s actually the airport code for Zanzibar. The Spice Islands remain authentically exotic but travelling to and around Zanzibar is easy – especially if you want to fly to Zanzibar from Johannesburg.
You’ll only be in the air for about 3 hours and 25 minutes – just long enough for a movie, a snack and a drink to celebrate the fact that you’re swapping the office for the beach for a few days at least. Local budget airline Mango has two or three direct flights to Zanzibarper week. As yet, there are no Kulula flights to Zanzibar.
As an alternative toMango flights to Zanzibar, you can use Kenya Airways or Ethiopian Airways, although then you’re looking at a layover in Nairobi or Addis Ababa. From Europe, you’re also looking at least one stop en route.
If you’re already in East Africa, there are flights from Nairobi and Addis again, as well as from the Tanzanian capital, Dar es Salaam. This last option takes just 20 minutes – ideal if you simply can’t wait to get to Driftwood Beach Lodge!
Given that Zanzibar is an island, you can of course arrive by sea. The wonderfully named Azam Marine Kilimanjaro Fast Ferries has at least four crossings daily in each direction, giving you two hours to enjoy the sea breezes as you watch the African mainland slip below the horizon. Tickets cost from US$35 per person, each way.
Then, like generations of seafarers before you, you can watch the minarets and rooftops of Stone Town gradually get larger as you come into port. You may well pass traditional dhows in the Zanzibar Channel, their distinctive sails a reminder that people have been crossing this stretch of warm ocean for centuries.
Speaking of dhows, we do occasionally hear of travellers who’ve found a berth on one for the crossing. While this would be a wonderful (and authentic) way to travel, it would require a lot of negotiation in Swahili and no guaranteed departure or arrival times.
There are also ferry routes from Tanga (near the border with Kenya) via Pemba Island, but these are also only really for diehard travellers.
How to travel around Zanzibar
Once you’ve landed in the Spice Islands, you have plenty of Zanzibar transport options. Zanzibar car hire companies tend to offer rather old cars with surprisingly low mileage – after all, there aren’t that many roads here! You’ll get better value deals if you rent (and return) your car at the airport or ferry terminal. Just be sure to use a reliable car rental firm and ask them to organise the compulsory temporary Zanzibar driving permit in advance. Hiring your own car gives you complete independence but be prepared for lots of police roadblocks (nothing new if you’re coming from South Africa).
Private taxis can be expensive (they tend to charge ‘tourist prices’) but there is always the budget option of a dala-dala. This is the ubiquitous Tanzanian and Zanzibari minibus taxi (more colourful and more likely to contain livestock than their Jo’burg equivalents).
Expect variable standards of driving, lots of stops, and to be sharing with as many other people as the driver can cram in. That said, this is a wonderful way to meet Zanzibaris and see real life on the island, up close and personal.
Finding your feet
Travelling to and around Zanzibar doesn’t need to be complicated. If you ask us how to get around in Zanzibar– especially in Stone Town and on the endless beaches by Driftwood Beach Lodge – we’ll recommend that you make like a local and walk. There’s nothing quite like a stroll along the beach, hand-in-hand with your significant other, to make you fall in love with Zanzibar.
Once you’ve arrived at Driftwood Beach Lodge, you may find that you don’t want to go anywhere else. That’s just fine by us – we feel the same way! While you’re in Jambiani, we can organise a sunset dhow cruise for you, or help you rent a ngalawa (dugout sailing canoe) from the village.
If you have more questions about travelling to and around Zanzibar, we’re here to help, so please feel free to contact us with any questions.