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.

Useful information for backpacking in Tanzania.

We went to Tanzania in February - March 2015,
during a complete trip (8 months), 
through Southern and Eastern Africa.

If you are planning a budget trip in Tanzania, here you can find useful general information. We wrote other specific articles about cheap accommodation, public transport, etc.,  than you can see on the right sidebar menu.  



The Tanzania currency is the Shilling.
The average exchange rate in January-march 2015, was 1 €= 2.000 Shillings, ATM rate always a bit lower, around 1.950 Sh.

Around tourist areas, like Arusha, Moshi and Zanzibar, US$ are also usual for tourist activities and accommodation prices. So expect to pay your safari in US$.
For entrance fees of the National Parks, prices for foreigners are also in US$ and are supposed to be paid with credit card.

You will find banks and ATMs for international cards in the main towns, but not all the ATMs in Tanzania accept international cards. Usually OK in Barclays, Standart, or just try an ATM with a visa/master sign (usually easier with Visa).

Most of the ATMs give a maximum amount of 400.000 Sh (around 200 €).

Payment by card is not avalaible usually, except in some big hotels and expensive shops or big safari companies.

Money changers: many changers in Dar Es Salaam, Moshi, Arusha, Zanzibar and Mwanza.


Airtel vocha
Buying a SIM card is easy in Tanzania and cheap (1.000 Sh), with 3G (E) net access. 

Airtel, Tigo, Vodacom and Zantel are the main companies. 
You need to register (photocopy of passport needed) and maybe they will charge you some extra 1.000 Sh for doing that. 

Easy to find airtime everywhere, called “vocha” in swahili, a voucher  from 500 Sh minimum. Airtime has a limited expire time depending of the amount you put (24 hours or 1 week, for 500 or 2.000 Sh).

Not too many wifi spots, out of Dar, Arusha, Zanzibar; and not too many internet shops either.


It´s easy to find small local restaurants and stalls, specially around bus stations. In bigger towns, more options, also with Indian restaurants and Western food.
Food is really cheap in Tanzania but the offer is not very big.

The most popular and cheap food in Tanzania:
  • Heaps of  “chips”: 1.000 Sh for a dish (0.5 €). 
  • Chips mayai (“mayai” means egg in swahili), for 2.000 Sh (1 €). 
  • And beef (“nyama”) or chicken (“kuku”), usually BBQ. From 500 Sh for a stick.
  • "Wali" (rice) or "Ugali" (maize ) with beans, vegetables and some meat (“nyama”) or fish (“samaki”), from 2.000 – 3.000 Sh (around 1€).

Easy too find snacks, like samosas, boiled eggs, dough balls, chapattis, etc. Usually around 100- 500 Sh.

Most of the hotels don´t have a kitchen for the customers.
We always eat in small local restaurants or stalls in the street, except when doing couchsurfing. OK, not sick, but hygien conditions are not always great in Tanzania!

Plenty of small shops to buy the basic things everywhere but not too many supermarkets, even in bigger towns. Shopping malls have just started recently in Tanzania, with one or two in Dar and Arusha, maybe soon more. Prices tend to be quite expensive there.

Markets and fruit stalls are cheap places to buy fruit and vegetables. Butcheries have a quite limited offer, beef mainly, and no fridges.

Water is most of the times not safe to drink, always ask. 
Bottles are sold everywhere, for 1.000- 1.200 Sh (1.5 l) or bigger (4.000- 5.000 Sh for 10-15 l).
Sodas are really cheap (500-600 Sh for a 33cl).
Easy to find beer, local brands, like Safari, Kilimanjaro, Serengeti. Usually the price is around 2.500- 3.000 Sh for a 50 cl bottle at shops and local places, double or more in western restaurants.


Swahili is the main language in Tanzania, so most of the people don´t speak English and have a very limited understanding. 
Tanzania is the only country we visited (12 in total) where we noticed a real problem of communication with the local people. 
But, it´s true that at tourist places, English is more widely spoken, so easier with people who work at the lodges, drivers, etc. in Zanzibar, Arusha, Moshi, Dar. 


We didn´t feel unsafe in Tanzania. But it´s true that bus stations can be very crowded so always be carefull.
Dar Es Salaam and Arusha have bad reputation, but at least during day time and in central places, we found them fine.

Be carefull at the Tanzania bus station ... just in case
Usually around some bus stations, many boys will try to help you finding accommodation, so be carefull. We never follow them… usually they get a commission that you will pay. Specially usual in Zanzibar, Arusha.

Warning: take precautions if going on safari or doing couchsurfing.We had a bad experience in Iringa, staying with a California guy and a local one! It was our mistake as we let money in the backpack without locking it and they stole us “some” bills. And it seems to be quite usual in Tanzania around safaris. Please, never let money in the room or tent.

Warning with the tour companies in Tanzania: before booking and paying for a tour (safari, etc.), check the references about the tour company, because it is usual to cheat the tourists offering more services than what they finally offer. And many scams!!! At the tourist information office in Arusha, we saw a list of tour companies to be avoided.


Most of the rooms have mosquito nets, even at the cheap local lodges. Always ask around to check if any malaria cases. Some places like Zanzibar seem to be quite malaria free now.
Extreme precautions if going on safari or remote low areas.
In the supermarkets, you will find mosquito coils and insecticides but quite often not so easy to find local repellents, better try in the pharmacy (around 2.500 Sh for a cream).

Like in all Africa, malaria controls are quickly done at the health centers, easy to get the medicine. In towns, you find basic health centers. A test only costs 1.500 Sh in a public hospital! And medicines are usually free in Tanzania!

Water is not always safe to drink. So, it´s better to buy water in Tanzania.

Food hygiene conditions are quite limited in Tanzania, local restaurants and stalls are very basic. We eat at the local places, simple food. But some days not feeling 100%. Avoid salads and cut fruits if very sensitive. This precautions are only for Tanzania. In the other countries visited in Africa, we didn´t have any problem.

AIDS rate is not as high as in southern Africa.

Backpacking Tanzania. Cheap Accommodation

We went to Tanzania in February - March 2015,
during a complete trip (8 months), 
through Southern and Eastern Africa.

If you are planning a budget trip in Tanzania, the cheapest way to save money in accommodation is sleeping in local lodges or small hotels in the Tanzania towns.  
Here you can find useful information about prices, services, etc.


Each town has at least one lodge. So it´s really easy to find a basic room everywhere in Tanzania.
The relation quality / price for rooms in Tanzania is really fine, probably the best we had in Africa, great news for the low-cost travellers. 
For 10 $ and less you get a good double room in Tanzania!

Expect to pay a bit more in big cities like Dar, Arusha. 
And much more in Zanzibar, expensive place, where prices are usually in US$, starting around 40$/room, more than 3 times the price of mainland! But read our Zanzibar post... we found cheap rooms too (hard!).
Not too many “backpackers”and camps, with dormitories, huts, camping, etc. in Tanzania. Just a few places mostly around Arusha and Moshi and around the safaris areas, focused on foreign customers, famous for “overlanders” and safari tours. Usually not the cheapest accommodation of Tanzania, expect to pay around 10 $/pp for camping the cheapest option they will offer and much more for a room.

Accommodation - Camping in Game or National Parks in Tanzania

If visiting the game parks and national parks, camping is crazy expensive inside the Tanzania parks (this is not Southern Africa, with good and cheap camps; here, you are in the nature so you pay for it).

The price for "normal" camping is 30 $/pp and "special" is 50 $/pp (and "special" means usually that there´s only a hole-toilet in a remote place and nothing else!).
So imagine how much you will have to pay for a room inside the park (concessions)!!!

“Hotel” is often a “restaurant” in Tanzania, so if looking for a room it´s a “lodge”, “inn”, “guesthouse”…

 Typical local accommodation in Tanzania: FINE!

Prices of rooms in Tanzania:

In a local lodge:
- Double room with shared bathroom: from 10.000 Sh.
- Double self-contained room: from 15.000 Sh (less than 10 $ for a room).
- Single rooms: if travelling alone, there are. Half price.
Usually no discount, prices are fixed. 

Rooms in a local lodge in Tanzania:

No frills rooms, basic but clean most of the times.
A few times, breakfast is included and even TV. Usually no wifi.
Sometimes, also hot shower (not always really needed). Towel, soap, toilet paper are usually provided

Even the basic rooms have always mosquito nets.
Many guesthouses have also a bar, so they can be noisy. Try to find one without if you want a quiet room.

   Couchsurfing in Tanzania  

The CS community looks big but in fact there are many young people who joined it just to approach  tourists, working for safari tours or travel agencies. So always double check in Tanzania! Specially in Zanzibar and Arusha.
Not so many active people in fact, most of them are foreigners.
The places where you can find a host are limited to Dar Es Salaam and Arusha mainly and just try the chance somewhere else.

With couchsurfing hosts in Tanzania, foreigners and locals.

We did couchsurfing in Dar Es Salaam, Iringa, Arusha and Mwanza.
We had a bad experience in Iringa staying with a guy from California and a local guy, as money was stolen there! Never let any valuables unlocked, just in case, please!