By air is the only feasible method for reaching Zanzibar from outside East Africa. There are very few direct flights, but from Dar es Salaam it is not too difficult to book a short hop flight to Zanzibar or Pemba, or there are frequent ferries (some old and slow and worryingly un-seaworthy to the eye, and some fast and modern though more expensive).
Be warned that loss of or delays to luggage can be more common on flights to and around East Africa. Especially if you are making numerous transfers.
From Arusha (base of Kilimanjaro and start point of many Safaris)
From Arusha it is possible to travel to Dar es Salaam by bus and transfer to Unguja or Pemba by ferry to Zanzibar. However it is advisable to fly. The bus journey is over 650 km can take more than ten hours. Add to this the bizarre driving habits of local bus operators and one is in for a very rough ride indeed.
Internal flights are a far more comfortable and less time consuming option. Flights can be arranged through Alternative Airlines. Flights can be arranged from Arusha for around GBP 100 / USD 150 / EUR 120 one way. The flight is approximately one hour fifteen minutes.
Zanzibar Airport, though convenient, can be a nightmare for Western travellers. The airport has a chaotic and makeshift feel and security measures, when it comes to baggage reclaim especially, are practically non-existent.
Travelling from Dar es Salaam to Zanzibar
Dar es Salaam to Zanzibar by Air
From Dar es Salaam there are daily flights to Zanzibar. Flights cost around GBP 70, USD 100, EUR 90. Booking through Alternative Airlines seems to be the most cost-effective and simple option.
Zanzibar Airport, though convenient, can be a nightmare for Western travellers. The airport has a chaotic and makeshift feel and security measures, when it comes to baggage reclaim especially, are practically non-existence.
Dar es Salaam to Zanzibar by Ferry
There are many boat options from Dar es Salaam to Zanzibar and back. The table to the right summarises the services (if the text is too small, please hold down the ‘control’ or ‘command’ key while scrolling upwards with your mouse wheel, if you are using one, to expand the text). Each provider charges differently with tickets priced between USD 20 and USD 50 one way. It is advisable to opt for one of the faster more modern boats. Many of the ferries look worryingly un-seaworthy and though few accidents have been recorded, safety and peace-of-mind are, of course, invaluable.
Travelling from Nairobi to Zanzibar
Some travellers may choose to book their return international flights to Nairobi as these are often cheaper. At the time of writing it is possible to find return flights to NBO from the UK for under GBP 300 / USD 450.
Direct flights to Zanzibar take off weekly from Johannesburg, operated by 1Time. The flight lasts approximately three and a half hours and costs roughly ZAR 4,500 return.
South African Airlines also flies daily to Dar es Salaam from Johannesburg (approx. ZAR 5,000) or Cape Town (approx. ZAR 7,500). However these flights sometimes arrive late and may necessitate an overnight stay in Dar before making the transfer to Zanzibar.
Getting to Zanzibar from the UK and Ireland
Only Kenya Airways offer through fares from the UK with a stop in Nairobi. The flight costs from GBP 625. The other option is to book a separate onward flight from Nairobi, Dar es Salaam or Mombassa. Precision Air offer flights to Zanzibar from all of the above. They are easiest booked through Alternative Airlines.
To Dar es Salaam Emirates are normally cheapest but fly via Dubai, British Airways fly direct from Heathrow, and KLM fly overnight (usually with a stop in Amsterdam). Flights cost upward of GBP 540.
Flights to Nairobi are available through Air France, KLM, Virgin Atlantic and Qatar with Virgin offering a direct service. The flight costs upward of GBP 400 return (off peak). Indirect flights to Mombassa are available through Kenya Airways, Air France, Ethiopia Airlines and KLM and cost upward of GBP 500 return (off peak).
Getting to Zanzibar from the USA and Canada
There are no direct flights from North America to Tanzania (at time of writing). The best idea is to search for the cheapest indirect flight to either Dar es Salaam or Nairobi and book a separate flight or ferry from there. Emirates, KLM and British Airways all offer indirect, one-stop services from JFK to Dar. Fares are upwards of USD 1,900 return in high season. From Canada you can fly Swiss Airlines via Zurich to Nairobi or Dar. Flights take around twenty-one hours and cost upwards of CAD 2,000 in high season.
Getting to Zanzibar from Australia and New Zealand
From Australia the journey is long and costly requiring at least one stop to reach Tanzania, sometimes two or three, and up to 35 hours. Check Qatar Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, Emirates and Singapore Airlines for deals; flights cost upward of AUD 2,200 from Australia to Dar es Salaam and NZD 4,000 from New Zealand (based on cheapest return flights during peak season).