Taking the Ferry from Tanzania to Zanzibar

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Zanzibar, the tropical island a mere 28 miles off the coast of Tanzania, is a top tourist destination. Known for it’s white sand beaches, incredible scuba diving, labyrinth like spice markets, and fascinating history, Zanzibar is typically near the top of people’s priority lists while visiting East Africa.

Though an island, Zanzibar has attracted a steady flow of travelers for such a long time that getting to the lush isle in the Indian Ocean is surprisingly easy. The most popular and easiest country to depart from is Tanzania and specifically Dar es Salaam, the coastal city just south of Zanzibar. The port in downtown Dar has ferries leaving daily that arrive directly in Stone Town, Zanzibar’s main city.

The earliest ferry you can catch leaving Dar is 7 am. Next is 9:30, 12:30, and the latest is 3:45 pm. Returning to Dar  – the times are the same except the very last one leaves at 3:30 pm. Ticket prices also vary depending on which class you choose to ride in: VIP is the very top deck, enclosed with comfy chairs and AC and cost $40 for non-residents. The Premium and First class decks are still $40; which ticket you get depends on how far ahead of time you buy it. These decks are fine, just more crowded, and you run the risk of not having a seat for the two hour ride.

Those with seasickness issues, beware. Sometimes there are huge waves that cause the ferry to rock vigorously, and being in the very top cabin is the worst place to be. Economy tickets are $35 and are on the outside decks where there is more air circulation which helps alleviate the nausea.

Inconveniently, you cannot purchase tickets online ahead of time. You can book your seats in advance on the Azam website, but you still have to arrive at the ferry terminal ahead of time to claim your tickets, at least a day in advance is best. Your hotel can arrange a taxi to take you to the port and drop you off in front of Azam Marine ferries. It’s important not to buy any tickets from someone in the street, or follow them to where they say the Azam office is. There are several less legitimate ferry companies who have a reputation for being less safe. The ferry port can be hectic with lots of people trying to convince you where to go and what to buy, but make sure you only go into the office with the big blue Azam sign on top. You should arrive at least 30 minutes before your ferry departs.

Additional Helpful Tips:

  • No alcohol is allowed on the ferry!!
  • There is a snack bar on the First class deck that sells snacks and nonalcoholic drinks.
  • You can pay for the tickets in USD or credit card at the booth in the ferry office at the port.
  • You must bring your passport and yellow fever card.
  • 25 kg worth of bags is permissible, anything extra will be charged.
  • The ferry is usually safe, but it’s best to keep your bags with you at all times.
  • More information can be sound at the Azam Marine webpage.

It may seem confusing at first, but taking the ferry to Zanzibar is an incredibly simple and quick process, and cheaper than a plane. After completing the process once, you’ll find it’s no problem to hope on the ferry and let it transport you to this island paradise!

What was your experience like on this ferry?

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About Author

My name is Mandi and I have a gypsy soul. I quickly realized the normal, sedentary life just wasn't for me, so I've made it my life's ambition to never stop exploring. This decision has led me to study, volunteer, intern, work, backpack and travel all over the world, including Rome, London, Costa Rica, India, Southeast Asia, Montana, and San Diego. Now I'm living and always writing in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Keep track of where I go next via thislimitlessworld.com and @1LimitlessWorld.

10 Comments

  1. Pingback: What to Pack on a Trip to Tanzania

  2. Appreciate the information – but confused with the reference to the “yellow fever card?” Any further information???

    • To travel in most countries in East Africa you have to have a yellow fever vaccine. That will be recorded on a vaccine card (your doctor will take care of that when you do your meds and shots) that you should carry with you any time you enter a new country. As Zanzibar is like a loosely affiliated territory of Tanzania, they operate their own immigration and customs so you will need to show your vaccine card to enter Zanzibar even if you are coming from elsewhere in Tanzania.

  3. I’m flying in from California through Dubai to Zanzibar. I thought from reading the Tanzania government page that I did not need a yellow fever shot but based on your response to the above question am now not sure. Do you know if we’ll need one entering Zanzibar? Also taking a trip to selous reserve as well, not sure if that changes anything. Thanks in advance for your help!

    • Hi Shannon, flying through Dar es Salaam (from Dubai and NYC), I did not need to show a yellow fever vaccination. However I’ve heard other stories, esp if you’re coming through Kenya, that travelers have been asked to show it and in some cases, vaccinated at the border or airport. Since you’re not coming through Kenya though, I think you should be okay and should not have to show a yellow fever vaccination. Hope that helps!

  4. Hello

    Do the ferrys normally arrive in Dar (coming from zanzibar) on time? Just wondering because I have a 4h30PM intercontinental flight, if taking the 9h30 ferry from zanzibar is ok.

    Thank you

    • Hey Marta, the ferries are generally on time ish, but if you’ve got a tight connection I don’t know if I’d rely on the timetables you see. If I were you I’d probably fly via charter flight instead.

      • Thank you. If I take th 9h30AM ferry I’d still have 4h to get to the airport so I think it will be ok… maybe I’ll even take the 7AM ferry just to be sure!

  5. Hi Mandi! Thanks for the helpful tips. Quick question, if we buy our tickets online, is there a reason to pick them up a day early? We are landing in Dar at 8:30 AM. I found flights over to Zanzibar, but they don’t leave until 4, so it makes sense I think to take the ferry. But, we’ll have to take a cab fro the airport to the ferry and pick up our tickets that day. Is this too risky? This is the start to our trip; we’ll stay for a coulple days in Dar at the end of our trip.

  6. Finally! A clear cut guide to how the ferries work there. I’ve been searching for so long and stressing about getting the tickets. Sadly the Azam booking site has been down for a while now.

    Thanks so much!

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