How to get to Zanzibar Island via ferry

Table of Contents

Introduction

Once you know how to get to Zanzibar by ferry, it’s really easy! This is great news for environmentalists and budget travellers alike. Here’s everything you need to know about the Zanzibar ferry.

There are two different ways to get to Zanzibar. Of course, you can fly (from Nairobi, Kilimanjaro, Dar Es Salaam and even a few international airports). Admittedly, it’s super convenient. Zanzibar airport is really small, and you’ll be through it in a few minutes. However, Zanzibar airport is seriously boring! There’s really nothing to do there, so it’s no fun if you’re waiting for your flight home. Additionally, flying is not very budget friendly and it’s the least environmentally-friendly way to travel. Our favourite way is to take the ferry – it’s super easy, not too expensive and goes really frequently.

Upon learning that Zanzibar has an airport, most tourists tend to fly in and out. However, it’s actually really easy to reach Zanzibar without needing to fly, and it’s significantly cheaper too! In recent years, the ferries to Zanzibar have also really improved, meaning that it’s quite a comfortable trip. You can even choose from a variety of comfort levels and, shockingly for Tanzania, it’s usually on time! For budget travellers visiting Zanzibar, this is great news, and means you don’t have to miss out.

It’s so quick that even if you’re short on time, it shouldn’t delay you. We’ve taken the ferry now multiple times, and in several different cabins, so let’s get to what you need to know.

This article may contain affiliate links. There is no additional cost to you and they are often discounted, but we may receive a small commission if you use them to book.

A beach bordered by a brick wall and some palm trees. This is in Dar Es Salaam, the first stop on your trip: How To Get To Zanzibar
Dar Es Salaam Public Beach

Zanzibar Ferry Schedule and Route

The ferry goes from Dar Es Salaam. That means you do need to get to Dar Es Salaam first, but, being that it’s the adThis article may contain affiliate links. There is no additional cost to you and they are often discounted, but we may receive a small commission if you use them to book.ministrative capital of Tanzania, there are plenty of connections from the other Tanzanian cities, like Singida, Moshi, Arusha, Dodoma etc. There will be direct public buses from each of these places.

Public buses in Tanzania, again, have really improved lately and now make for generally quite a safe and comfortable trip. Of course, this is subjective. We have travelled a lot in Tanzania and are very comfortable with it, but know your own limits. You can also drive – we find driving quite easy in Tanzania too. The roads are straightforward and easy to navigate, and other drivers are generally considerate.

The most up to date Zanzibar ferry schedule is below:

A ferry schedule for Zanzibar. The ferries run roughly every 2-3 hours daily in each direction between Zanzibar and Dar Es Salaam
Current ferry schedule Dar Es Salaam – Zanzibar

As you can see, each trip lasts around 1 hour 45 minutes. Occasionally, there are delays because of the loading and offloading but actually, we are usually surprised by how punctual the ferry is! If you have an international flight from Dar Es Salaam, book your ferry at least 48 hours before in case of any delays.

Price of Zanzibar ferry and different cabins

There are different prices for foreigners and locals. These are clearly marked. At at least $35 each way for a ‘foreigner’ economy class ticket, it’s not exactly cheap (for Tanzania), but it will save you money vs a flight, which usually costs around $200 internally in Tanzania or, of course, more internationally.

There are 4 different cabin classes: Economy ($35 USD), Business ($40), VIP ($60) and Royal ($100). These are all ‘foreigner’ prices. For residents, these prices are around $5 cheaper per cabin and the price is usually in Tanzanian Shillings. Prices for adults and children are the same. Prices are up to date as of March 2024, but do change quite regularly.

By the way, PRO TIP, if you can pay in Tanzanian Shillings, the price often works out much cheaper. This is because they don’t usually check the exchange rate often, so the dollar price tends to be estimated and often higher than it should be to cover them just in case.

A view out over the sea in Zanzibar. There are some old fishing boats (some wooden, some larger) on the beach and palm trees in the foreground.
Stone Town

What’s the difference between the cabins on the Zanzibar ferry?

We have travelled Economy and Business, and peeked into VIP and Royal. Economy and business are both fine, and this is not a ferry where we’d turn our nose up at travelling in the basic cabin. There aren’t many facilities in Economy, but the ferry doesn’t last very long so you don’t need them. It has toilets, free WiFi, which is a nice bonus, and a canteen where you can order breakfast, have coffee and tea etc.

If you are feeling a little flush, the Business cabin is nice. It has a communal TV, spacious seats, free WiFi again, and direct access to the canteen so you don’t need to wander around.

The VIP cabin looks very comfy (we had a look!), but the only real difference we could tell between VIP and Business is that VIP had carpet, whereas business is a wooden floor. VIP and Royal class both have access to the VIP lounge, which has a few extra amenities.

The Royal seats are more like Business Class seats on a flight and have seat-back entertainment. There are only around 18-20 seats in this cabin on each ferry, so it’s advisable to book your tickets early.

Anyway, all this to say – for the duration, for budget travellers, Economy (or Business if you’re feeling fancy!) is fine. For those willing to splurge, you can opt for a higher cabin.

A beach in Zanzibar with a few loca people walking around. There are lots of palm trees and thatched huts on the beach
Beaches in Zanzibar are stunning!

What are the seats like on the Zanzibar Ferry?

I’ve included two videos of the seats which are both not the best quality – they’re from a friend! It does however show what the seats look like in Business Class, and you can also see the canteen in the second one briefly.

Business Class Cabin

There is a good YouTube video here showing the Royal Seating. Note that this is not our video, so all credit goes to the original creator.

The sea is not too choppy, so generally the trip is quite smooth and comfortable.

Facilities onboard the Zanzibar ferry

As you can see in the above videos, there is a small canteen. It sells coffees, tea, cold snacks and beverages and even a variety of hot food, such as chapati, samosas and some small meals. We read online that they often run out of food, but this wasn’t our experience.

There are toilets onboard too and they are OK. The Royal and VIP class cabins have pretty nice toilets.

Each cabin has free WiFi and a TV. The VIP and Royal cabins also have seat-back TVs, with remote controls.

There are also baggage storage spaces at the back of each cabin for large bags. You have ample leg space in most cabins, so smaller bags should fit beneath your seat.

How to book the Zanzibar Ferry

The best company to use is Azam, and you can buy tickets on arrival to the Dar Es Salaam or Zanzibar ferry port. You can FINALLY now book tickets online with Azam, but only ever use the official website linked here. Whether you choose to book in person or online, try to book a day or so in advance, as the ferries do sell out. It’s a really straightforward booking process online.

In person, you’ll be asked which category you’d like to book. Note that for tourists, they do usually offer business seats first, so you may need to make clear if you’d like to book economy or a higher cabin.

How to get to Zanzibar via alternative forms of transport

You can also take a flight to Zanzibar from Dar Es Salaam, Kilimanjaro, and a few other international airports. Personally we prefer to take the ferry, because we find it to be the more sustainable choice, but flights do exist if you are really short on time.

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    Written by Emma

    Emma

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