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?