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Getting to Zanzibar from Dar es Salaam: How to take the Ferry

So you are heading to Zanzibar? Prepare yourself for the time of your life! But first, you’ve got to figure out the details for getting to Zanzibar from Dar es Salaam.

Note: you can fly or take a ferry from Dar es Salaam to Zanzibar. One time it was actually cheaper to fly when I got a seat sale, and this option is obviously way more convenient if you are transiting straight from the Dar Airport. If you are already in Dar city, you may want to take a ferry over.

getting to zanzibar

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 to Zanzibar from Dar es Salaam

Taking the ferry to Zanzibar from Dar es Salaam is a quick and economical option. I booked my ferry ticket online ahead of time and recommend apps like BookAway, where you can compare ferry companies and even flights by cost and review.

I have personally flown to Zanzibar with Air Tanzania and have taken the ferry with Azam Marine Kilimanjaro fast ferries.

(Get directions to the ferry port 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.

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 (if you have not already booked online).

What to expect on the ferry to Zanzibar from Dar es Salaam

Your experience on the boat 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 several ferry accidents in Tanzania, I was curious to see how they adhered 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.

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. 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).

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 in case you experience a language barrier.

getting to zanzibar

If only the ferry was this nice!

The Pro’s of Getting to Zanzibar from Dar es Salaam by ferry

  • It’s usually cheaper than the cost of a flight
  • You can easily get to the port if you are already in Dar
  • It’s convenient to get off the ferry and go straight into Stone Town

The Con’s of Getting to Zanzibar from Dar es Salaam by ferry

  • The traffic. If you fly into Dar and transit to Zanzibar by ferry, you will need a taxi or Uber and will likely get stuck in Dar’s infamous traffic
  • 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

Ultimately, it’s always worth comparing your options and ferry companies by their reviews and cost before you book.

I hope this transport guide was helpful to plan your trip to Zanzibar.

If you have more time in the country, browse my Tanzania resources to help you plan your trip!

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Getting to Zanzibar

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