Getting to Zanzibar: How to take the ferry from Dar es Salaam to Zanzibar
So you are heading to Zanzibar? Prepare yourself for the time of your life! But first, you’ve got to figure out how to get from Dar es Salaam to Zanzibar, right?
Getting to Zanzibar from Dar es Salaam
Getting to Zanzibar by ferry is quite straight forward and more budget friendly than flying into Zanzibar. However, it can be overwhelming to enter and exit the ferry ports due to aggressive taxi drivers and baggage porters on both ends. Knowing what to expect on your ferry from Dar es Salaam to Zanzibar can help you avoid these hassles. For your convenience, I’ve compiled everything you need to know before you go!
Booking the ferry from Dar es salaam to Zanzibar
Taking the ferry from Dar es Salaam to Zanzibar is a quick and economical option. I booked my ferry ticket online with Azam Marine Kilimanjaro fast ferries. Essentially, you make the reservation online, they email you a copy of the reservation and then you pay in person at the ferry port. You have the option of paying 35 USD per way for economy, or 70 USD for first class.
Pro tip: It says to pay 24 hours before the ferry departure but we just showed up prior to our ferry departure and paid in USD cash. I brought a printed copy of our booking but it seemed not necessary as they were able to bring up the reservation via computer and print paper boarding passes.
You can take an Uber from the Dar es Salaam airport to the ferry port for approximately 12,000 tsh. (If you haven’t already set up an Uber account, use this link to get your first fare free).
(Get directions to the ferry here).
What to expect at the port in Dar es Salaam
When you arrive, you will be approached by baggage porters to assist you with your bags. This can feel a little overwhelming as they are working on a tip-only basis, so often they will fight for your attention and follow you. If you don’t need help with your bags, just politely say “hapana” (no in Kiswahili) and keep walking .
Pro tip: If you are concerned about the language barrier, I recommend this pocket dictionary, which I personally used when learning Kiswahili. I also used Rosetta Stone in the months leading up to my trip and have an entire post on how I learned Swahili with Rosetta Stone.
If you do need help with your bags, an appropriate tip is 1,000-2,000 tsh per bag. They may immediately show you where to board the ferry, but you need to first enter the main office to pay for your ticket. Plus, there is a waiting area inside.
What to expect on the Dar es Salaam to Zanzibar ferry
Your experience on the ferry will depend on which vessel you board (they have a few different sizes). When boarding the vessel, there was indoor seating areas for both economy and VIP, and outdoor areas for economy. We sat up on the top deck in economy to enjoy the view and breeze (we even saw dolphins).
After the recent ferry accident in Tanzania, I was curious to see how Azam adheres to ferry regulations and was slightly concerned to see many people sitting on the floor of upper deck (there were more people on board the boat then seats available). However, it wasn’t to the point where we felt unsafe and the amount of luggage packed on was reasonable. The entire journey was about 2 hours.
On the return journey, we were on a smaller boat which didn’t appear to have any significant different between economy and first class, so I was glad to have paid for the cheaper ticket.
Pro tip: If you end up on the smaller boat, you will definitively feel the waves. Many people were sea sick, so it might be worth packing motion sickness medicine if you are prone to it (I personally use gravol).
Getting to Zanzibar: What to expect at the port in Stone Town
You will stand in a foreigner line to get your yellow fever certificate checked and your passport stamped, and then re-join the local line to put your bags through a scanner. Once you retrieve your bag, you can walk straight outside. Immediately there are regulated taxis available or you can pass through the parking lot to the street to walk.
Like many places heavily reliant on tourism, the taxi situation can be chaotic so be prepared for people to approach you. I would recommend getting a local sim card if possible with calling (I use Vodacom) if you are expecting someone to pick you up. Conversely, be sure to write down your hotel or Airbnb name, address and contact info so you can give this to a taxi driver. Use the regulated taxi’s to avoid any scams (unfortunately this is your only option other than walking as there is no uber or taxify on the island).
The Pro’s of Getting to Zanzibar by ferry
-It’s significantly cheaper than the cost of a flight
-you can easily take an uber from the Dar es Salaam airport to the ferry port
-It’s convenient to get off the ferry straight into Stone Town.
The Con’s of Getting to Zanzibar by ferry
-The traffic. If you fly into Dar and take the ferry over, you really won’t be saving much time when you consider an hour (or perhaps more) ride. Though keep in mind, if you have a layover after your inbound flight, it may take the same amount of time regardless.
-It can be slightly chaotic, especially if you have a lot of luggage
-If you are prone to motion sickness, you may get sea sick (I recommend trying gravol).
I hope this transport guide was helpful to plan your trip to Zanzibar! If you area staying for a while in Dar, be sure to check out Kigamboni beach.
If you have more time in the country, browse my resources to help you choose your safari tours in Tanzania, to plan a Serengeti safari itinerary or the 9 things to know before a Tanzanian safari.
If you’re not sure where to start, I always recommend Lonely Planet as a useful planning tool or you can feel free to reach out to me with questions.
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