Driving / getting around on Zanzibar

There are different ways in Zanzibar to get from A to B, mainly:

taxis cost from Zanzibar International Airport to the coastal areas US$ 50 (rather pre-book your taxi, you get a better price than if you get a taxi at the airport desk)

– local transport, called daladala (see photo); nowadays there are also safer but still crammed to capacity mini bus dala-dalas; cost Tzs 2000 per person from the coast to Stone Town, or back

public transport

 

shuttle service: from $ 10 per person between Zanzibar airport/Stone Town and the northern part of the island (e.g. Nungwi) or the south east coast (e.g. Paje, Jambiani), as well as between the northern region and the south east coast.   https://www.thezanzibus.com

– rent a scooter/motorbike or for shorter distances a bicycle, they are available all over the island. Scooter/motorbike: You and your passenger must wear helmets and you need a local driver’s permit (bring your original driver’s license from your home country). Nowadays there are mountainbikes and even e-bikes available for rent (at some places).

rental car, cost for a reliable car incl. insurance is around US$ 35 per day for a small four wheel drive

NB: In case you rent a car and arrive at night, rather stay the night in Stone Town. I do not recommend driving at night, especially if you are not used to drive in utter darkness on African roads (I am, and I still don’t drive at night, it is just too stressful). Alternatively take a taxi and ask the car rental company to deliver the car to your hotel the next morning.

I do recommend to hire a car to explore the island, even if only for a few days. Our tar roads are good.  We drive on the left hand side of the road, the steering wheel is on the right hand side. Rental cars are usually with automatic transmission. Most resorts, hotels etc are off the tar road and sometimes the access roads are quite rocky. Rather choose a four wheel drive and ask the car hire company to show you how to use the four wheel drive function.

Rental companies usually provide a very basic Zanzibar map. You can also use Google Maps.

Be careful when choosing a car hire company.  Some of them have cars that are hardly roadworthy – you end up paying fines at the many police stops on the roads. Rather opt for a company that has recent reviews on their website. A car hire company with consistently excellent reviews is http://www.kibabucars.com.

(I just received an email from a couple who decided to rent a car – I have permission to publish it, please read it at the bottom of this page.)

Please be aware that rental cars on Zanzibar are usually 15 years and older. Despite the age of the cars, they have a very low mileage since Zanzibar is a small island.  There are no new rental cars available in Zanzibar and you will not see many new cars (privately owned) on our roads. Do check the car rental companies’ websites and especially their reviews!

Speed limits: In Stone Town and villages 40-50 kmh, on country roads 80 kmh. Zanzibar has some weird traffic laws:

On country roads: as soon as you see oncoming traffic you must set the indicator as if you’ll turn right.  It started off to warn cars behind you of oncoming traffic but now it became a general rule.

If you see or hear police cars (blue lights or red lights flashing) you MUST pull over and stop the car, no matter which direction they come from!

Do not drink and drive.  Don’t give the traffic cops a reason to fine you since you smell of alcohol.

By law, drivers and passengers have to wear seat belts.

Do not park your car under a coconut tree, those coconuts leave very unsightly dents in the roof. That’s not a joke.

Petrol is paid in Tanzanian Shilling. You can also pay in US$ but you get a really bad exchange rate.

In general: Be aware of Vespa and bicycle riders, they don’t look out for traffic, not even when they cross the road! At night, drive slowly because of ox karts on the roads and bicycles without any lights.  If I have to drive at night, I stay behind a local minibus taxi, keeping a safe distance in case it has to brake.

You need a temporary Zanzibar driver’s permit.  An international driver’s license on its own is not valid here. There are many traffic police checks on our roads.  The car hire company will get you the permit (just a piece of paper with your name on it) before you arrive on Zanzibar, it costs US$ 10 per person. A photo or copy of your valid driver’s license is sufficient to apply for the permit.

At traffic police stop: Just show them your temporary Zanzibar driver’s license together with your original driver’s license, and keep a copy of your passport handy. Greet the cops with a big smile and a hearty Jambo. Corruption is nowadays forbidden on Zanzibar!  In case you should get to a stubborn traffic cop (especially in the northern part of the island), openly write down the number on his ID batch (all of them have to wear it on their chest) and ask for his name.  If they want to fine you for anything, ask for an official ticket.  He will give up then.  If not, call your contact person at the car hire company, they will sort them out. This is highly unlikely, but just in case.

Feedback received February 2018:

dear gaby,
I’m writing to thank you for the terrific job you did on your “insider buzz” website. I consider myself very lucky to have found it on google soon after I’d booked a trip to Zanzibar. Together with the Bradt guide it meant that I was very well prepared for the trip.  we saved a lot of time because we didn’t have to find things out for ourselves.
your top tip, in our case, was the recommendation of Kibabu cars.  we are independent travelers and felt a bit stuck out on the east coast at the Paradise beach resort.  at the resort, they even discourage guests from using dalla-dallas!  The Bradt guide, too, doesn'[t recommend renting a car.  but the fact that you do, assuming certain rules are observed, gave us confidence.  we called Kibabu at 9am on a sunday morning, and at 11 we had our Suzuki, including local driving license and full Insurance.  they only charged 20 dollars to deliver it.  although we were frequently stopped by police, they were always friendly.  one policeman on a motorbike even stopped to direct us back to the east coast.  the lack of signposts was a challenge, but apart from that we had easy rides.
on our last day, at your suggestion, I visited a local school to deliver the pens I’d brought.  I had a nice chat with a teacher and the registrar and took some good pix (see attached).
again, thank you very much.  your input made us enjoy our holiday more than we would have done without it.  feel free to use some or all of this mail on your website.
with best wishes,
terri and pieter jan from amsterdam and france
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40 thoughts on “Driving / getting around on Zanzibar

  1. Jambo Mailaika,
    thanks for this useful information about the police “habits”. Just returned from our Zanzibar trip. We had a rental car from Kibabu and I must say I have nothing to complain at all. We stayed in Nungwi and the car battery died overnight (guess I left the light on). But no problem, the guys came over and fixed it while I was scuba diving. Great service and no charges at all. Of course we also came into a police check. He wanted to keep my driving license. SoI followed your advise and asked him for his police ID for noting it down. After 20min he gave up on us and let us drive.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hatujambo. Mambo vipi?
      Great to hear that you were happy with Kibabu Cars, Kibabu is indeed the best, and also that my advise re police stops helped 🙂 Corruption is prohibited on the island and if an officer is reported, he will be dismissed immediately. Well done.
      Cheers
      Gaby

      Like

  2. Hi Gaby,

    Your blog post is excellent, thank you. And I’ve found it at exactly the right time. My wife & I are staying in Nungwi & have rented a car for the next 3 days. Apart from Stone Town, is there any other area or beach you recommend we explore by car? Also, where do you recommend I can safely park my car in Stone Town? Cheers, Andy

    Like

    • Hi Andy,
      Great to hear that you enjoy my blog and that it helps you to make the most of your holiday on Zanzibar. That’s why I wrote it. So many visitors came here who just stayed at a resort/hotel, not exploring the island because they didn’t know about the beauties of Zanzibar besides its white sand beaches – her people, delicious Swahili food, her fauna, flora, amazing empty beaches (away from the touristy spots), the ever warm Indian Ocean with its colourful inhabitants and so forth! There is so much to do and to see here that can easily fill a month.
      In my opinion, the best beaches on Zanzibar are in Kendwa (next to Nungwi) – although very touristy – and at the south east coast of Zanzibar, in Paje, Bwejuu and Michamvi. This area is simply beautiful. Paje is vibey and active with kitesurfing, diving, local musicians performing at different places. Bwejuu is tranquil and laid back. Many years ago Michamvi looked to me like Robinson Crusoe’s beach, it now has a few small resorts, but it still is very special. If you want to, you can walk from Paje via Bwejuu towards Michamvi, up until about Sultans Palace – these are 9 km of a beach walk, where you will see only a few people. You might want to stop at Blue Lagoon to swim in the chanel there even at low tide. These beaches are lined with coconut trees, which to me is the ultimate tropical island feel, and is not matched by the beaches of Kendwa, by the way. You might want to extend your car rental 🙂
      Please read the pages “discover Zanzibar south of Stone Town” for some info and stories related to this area.
      As to parking in Stone Town: You can park your car safely at Forodhani Gardens, where the Old Fort is. There a parking attendands, you pay I think Tzs 1000 per hour. From there you can explore the labyrinths of Stone Town on foot. If you take a guide, please make sure he is an official guide. These guides attended a course and paid a substantial fee for it. If you are guided by another person, you might get fined. This is to protect the guides that invested in becoming a guide and who should be supported.
      Karibu sana, Gaby

      Like

  3. Hi Gaby! Thanks so much for all the info. Now I’m convinced I should rent a car.

    I want to know what’s your take on babu and have you heard positive feedback about them?

    So I’m planning to rent a a car and drive it myself, but I have a couple of questions to clarify regarding hiring a chauffeur as well. How does it usually work. Does the chauffeur drive you all day wherever you want and wait for you? Does he leave you the car when he is no longer needed for example and come back the next day again? are there specific hours were you can have him and others were you cannot.

    It would be useful to have one, specially if we go out to dinner and have drinks and don’t won’t to drive back as you have explained is prohibited or on those days we don’t feel like driving. So please let us know your take on this. Thanks in advance 🙂

    Mo

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    • Hi, I rented cars from different car hire companies until I bought my own car. I found Kibabu Cars the best, excellent service, hugely reliable and punctual (which is not at all the norm here!) and their cars are in very good condition. No other company matches that. I suggest that you look at a company with good reviews, as recent as possible.
      Cheers
      Gaby

      Like

  4. Hi, how do you go about renting a driver for your rented veichle. Is it normaly done through the car hire companies or through the hotel?

    Like

  5. Jambo again. We are back from perfect holidays on Zanzibar. We rent car from Kibabu Car. After a miscommunications with other rental company (which has cheapest car for 5$ cheaper), I made the reservation in “5” minutes only two days before arrival. I reserve cheapest 3 door Suzuki for 30$ a day, but they freely upgrade me for 5 door car. I also get for additional 10$, Zanzibars foreigners driving permit – which is in fact just statement that you have your local driving permit. This is must have, because we were stoped few times every day – but always without any problems
    Car was clean and everything works fine – especially A/C which is must have! We do about 550 km and spend little less than 10 litres on 100 km.
    We get and leave car on Airport, and everything was done in 15 minutes.

    I recommended them a lot!

    Like

    • Hatujambo! Great review of Kibabu Cars, I will forward it to them with pleasure.
      If one looks at the big picture, it is definitely better to pay slightly more for a car and enjoy dealing with true professionals. You got an excellent deal!
      Cheers
      Gaby

      Like

  6. Hello Gaby

    We’re setting of within one month to your beautiful island. We consider hiring a car. Can you recommend a particular road map we can use that is detailed enough to find our way around?
    Many thanks in advance for your help!
    Your blog is both informational and inspirational. Many thanks for that.
    Kind regards,

    Dirk

    Like

    • Hi Dirk,
      I most definitely recommend that you hire a car. This island offers so many beautiful spots. A rental car works out substantially cheaper than booking taxis for transfers and day excursions, besides the added advantage of flexibility.
      There are only very basic maps available on the island. Google Maps is much better, you can also use it offline.
      Cheers
      Gaby

      Like

  7. Hey Gabi
    I am swopping homes with a friend aswel as cars. I am coming from Cape Town.
    How do I go about getting the temporary driving licence?

    gerry

    Like

    • Hi, you need to go to ZRB Zanzibar Revenue Board, bring your original valid drivers license of South Africa. In case you need a 3 months license, you also need a photo.
      Cheers, Gaby

      Like

  8. Jambo! Thanks for a wonderful blog and great info on this beautiful island. We just returned from a fantastic trip but felt compelled to leave feedback on our driving experience. We are an experienced traveling family of four and I rented a car from Kibabu based mostly upon info from this site. Kibabu was great:: service, car, etc was fantastic and I would recommend them if you must rent a car. However, hindsight 20-20, I wish we had just skipped the rental car and used taxis. Our drive to/from the North side of the island went great. However, to get to most destinations, including our luxury resort, you must leave the paved roads and drive on uncharted dirt roads (loose term) navigating a maze of buildings and other obstacles. When we returned to stonetown, we learned we could drive to our hotel and spent much time just trying to get close and then find a place to park. We had plans to go to the Rock restaurant but cancelled because of concerns both finding the exact drop location but more importantly driving back at night. I’ll echo info elsewhere that driving in Zanzibar is doable and that Kibabu is the place to rent. However, if staying for less than a week and/or just visiting a few places, use a taxi service or other means to get around. The few dollars you might save and the freedom of exploring on your own are quickly offset by off road driving and stress/time over directions, parking, safety, etc. Zanzibar was exciting and wonderful–we can’t wait to return–and take a taxi 🙂
    Thanks for a great site!

    Like

    • Sijambo Tom, thank you for your great feedback. Some hotels or resorts are indeed quite far from the tar road, however most of them are closer to the tar road and easily accessible. Parking in Stone Town is a mission and I fully agree that one should not rent a car if one stays in Stone Town.
      In my opinion one should rent a car at least for a few days to explore the island outside of Stone Town. Kibabu and his team are fantastic, I gladly recommend them.
      Fantastic to hear that you will be coming back to my beautiful island.
      Cheers, Gaby

      Like

  9. Good afternoon Gaby,

    Genuinely appreciate the masses of information you have posted on your website, I am enjoying reading all of your blogs. I was just about to rent a car for 7 days then I read your recommendation for Kibabu Cars and opted to use them. They were quick to respond, very efficient and professional in organising a car for our trip to Zanzibar in September, 2017, so thank you very much for that. I read that you don’t recommend driving at night as the roads are completely unlit and dark. I have searched the web for things to do in Zanzibar and Mtoni Palace Ruins is a place we definitely want to go and experience, it’s only open from 18:00 and as we are staying in a hotel on Nungwi Beach that means driving at night North on Nungwi Road, is it really such a perilous and stressful journey because there are no street lights ? Any information gratefully received and keep up the outstanding work, well done !

    Like

    • Hi Lee, Thank you for your comments. Always great to hear that my info helps.
      Driving at night here entirely depends on you and how comfortable you are with driving with no street lights. Take it easy, drive slowly and if you can, follow a taxi at a safe distance – that way you become alert of any possible obstacles in the road. Every person is different when it comes to night driving.
      It would be great if you post your experience on this page. I of course wrote about this topic from my perspective.
      Hope you have a fantastic time on “my” island.
      Cheers, Gaby

      Like

  10. Hi Gaby,

    You’re blog is fantastic, so excited about my trip next year. I wondered if you knew of any good local taxis in the Bwejuu area? I’ve read online if the hotel calls one for you they charge $30+ for 5 min journeys to Jambiani which seemed a bit steep and would be a bit of an obstacle to leave the resort and see the local villages and towns.

    Thanks in advance, sorry if this questions been asked before, I did read through the posts and couldn’t see anything.
    xxx

    Like

    • Hi Naomi, thank you, I am always happy when I hear that my blog really helps.
      The amount quoted is indeed ridiculously high. I personally use Mr. Abuu or his friend Rama, both are based in Bwejuu and they are very reliable. Only have Mr. Abuu’s number: +255 (0) 776 864 100
      Have a wonderful holiday on my beautiful island.
      Cheers, Gaby

      Like

  11. Hi Gaby
    Thank you the valuable information on your blog
    I will be doing a driving trip from Mozambique via Malawi, through tanzania and I would love to pass by Zanzibar. Is it possible that i can put my vehicle on the ferry and use it in Zanzibar. What are the requirements for me to use a foreign registered car in Zanzibar.

    Like

    • Hi Victor,
      I have seen a few cars with a foreign registration number on the island, so it must be possible. I have no idea what the requirements are. You might want to check with Azam Marine, the major ferry operator between Dar and Zanzibar (www.azammarine.com).
      Cheers, Gaby

      Like

  12. Hi Gaby,

    Just some feedback. I hired a car based on your advice and it gave us so much freedom. We were lucky and were never pulled over.

    We paid 265 US dollars for 6 days. They delicered to close to our hotel and collected at the airport. We saved a fortune on taxi fees.

    We drove to the North from Stone town had lunch at Nungwi where we saw very peaceful cows on yhe beach. We then drove to Jambiani where we staued for 6 days. We used the car daily to explore.

    Do you know if anyone ever get a car without the deposit if 100 Dollars.i am convinced I paid the deposit but did not get it back because they did not issue a receipt for it.

    I must admit besides the deposit issue this was easiest car rental process I ever experienced.

    I can’t wait to go and visit Zanzibar again. I loved Stone town.

    Alta Grobbelaar

    Like

    • Hello Alta,
      Thank you for your feedback. Glad you opted to hire a car. As you wrote, it works out much cheaper than taxis and gives you the freedom to explore this beautiful island.
      To my knowledge all car rental companies on the island ask for a US$100 deposit for which they issue a receipt, if not you should have asked for it in order to get your money back on return of the car.
      Cheers, Gaby

      Like

  13. Hi Gaby,
    The information on your blog is very useful. We wanted to get some advice on our upcoming trip to Zanzibar – we are not sure whether we should rent a car or rely on other means of transport, like a private minibus booked through travel agencies at the towns we are going to. What would be the best option in terms of cost and comfort, for two people?

    Our rough itinerary (We are travelling from late Dec to early Jan):
    Stone Town – Nungwi – Matemwe – Jambiani + Jozani – Stone Town

    Thank you v much!
    -Louisa

    Like

  14. Hi Gaby,
    have you heard about ZanCars Rental? They have the cheapest cars (25$ small Suzuki 4×4 in low season) and no booking deposit.
    Can’t find any recommendations or reviews about them..

    thanks
    Michał

    Like

    • Hello Michal,
      Never heard of ZanCars. The cheapest cars more often than not turn out to be the most expensive cars because of the bad condition of the cars. There are many police checkpoints on the island and you will be fined if the car is not roadworthy. You also need a free breakdown service since rental cars here are usually 10-15 years old, the “cheap” cars are even older. In case of a breakdown reputable car rental companies offer free roadside assistance or replace the car if needed. All reputable car rental companies on the island require a refundable security deposit.
      I strongly advice to choose a company with consistently good reviews.
      Cheers, Gaby

      Like

  15. Hello Gaby, I will be staying in Uroa Beach for the first week of April. Is there any value in renting a car/scooter for a few days while I’m there? I’m interested in snorkelling and do not know if Uroa Beach has any coral reefs close by.

    regards,
    Vijay

    Like

    • Hi Vijay,
      The entire east coast has a coral reef about 1 km offshore. You can take a local boat out there for snorkelling. Also, the Mnemba attoll off Matemwe (north of Uroa) is also a much liked snorkelling spot. You can arrange for transport with one of the local taxi drivers – which works out much cheaper than booking the trip through your hotel. Or you can rent a car or a scooter, it depends entirely on you.
      Cheers, Gaby

      Like

      • Thank you Gaby. I will check it out for the first few days and will then decide if I should hire a scooter/car. Having driven in the UK and India before – at least I am comfortable driving on the correct side of the road 🙂 I will consider a car simply for the AC.

        regards,
        Vijay

        Like

  16. Hi Gaby,

    Thanks for your blog, it has settled some concerns. We’re leaving for Zanzibar next Saturday (super excited!!!).

    Our travel agent informed us that we would need an international drivers permit (we have Namibian drivers licences). After looking at a few car rental sites I saw that we would also require the $10 permit. Do we need both or is our Namibian drivers licence along with the permit sufficient?

    Our travel agent, though so far super helpful, does not recommend hiring a car. However I feel they might be overly cautious a possibly a bit dramatic? As we’re keen to explore the island and see more than just the resort we are staying at we’d prefer our own transport.

    On a similar note, any sites you’d recommend that might be overlooked by travel blogs? We’re staying close to Bweeju.

    Like

    • Hi Jess,
      An international drivers permit is not valid on Zanzibar. You just need a temporary Zanzibar drivers permit which your rental car company will organize for you (it costs US$ 10), plus your original Namibian drivers license.
      As I explained on the page “driving/getting around” I do recommend renting a car. On that same page are a few basic rules you should follow.
      As to things to do at the south east coast please read the page “discover Zanzibar south of Stone Town” and the other “discover” pages on my blog.

      Like

  17. Hi-
    Have loved reading your blog. We are staying in Kiwengwa for a week in mid-December. We are there primarily to dive (we are diving with Divepoint in Matemwe). The dive shop said we are back in Matemwe between 13:00 and 14:00. We have rented a car (through Karibu Kwetu at your recommendation) with a driver. Do you have some suggestions of things that we could still do in the afternoon when we are back from diving? Is Jozani Forest too far? What about a visit to a spice farm (we are not really interested in having lunch at one)?

    Also, we have one full day and one half day (morning) for sightseeing. What would you suggest as an itinerary? As we will have our own driver and car, we don’t really want organized tours with pick ups. We would rather show up somewhere and hire a guide on the spot. We definitely want to visit Stonetown, maybe do a tour focusing on the history of slavery, Jozani Forest, visit a spice farm and possibly Prison Island. Also of interest would be the turtle sanctuary. As I am not sure how long it takes to drive to different locations on the island, I’m not sure what is realistic to try to cover in a day.

    Thanks in advance for your advice!

    Like

    • Hi Kim, glad my blog helps. For good order’s sake, I recommend Kibabu Cars, not Karibu Kwetu.
      You can easily do the turtle sanctuary in Nungwi in the afternoon. Jozani is too far for an afternoon trip. I would combine the Stone Town tour with the Prison Island trip and visit Jozani Forest afterwards before you head back to Matemwe. Please read my different “discover” pages for any other suggestions that might interest you.
      Cheers, Gaby

      Like

  18. Hi, great blog, thanks. I will be working in Zanzibar long-term starting this year and would be interested in renting a car for the long-term. Alternatively, I might consider buying a car. Any advice? I noticed that you bought a car yourself.

    Many thanks,

    Andrew

    Like

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