There are different ways in Zanzibar to get from A to B, mainly:
– local transport, called daladala (see photo); nowadays there are also safer but still crammed to capacity mini bus daladalas; cost is Tzs 2000 per person from the coast to Stone Town, or back. Please be aware that there are no direct daladalas from the south to the east or north coasts. For example, if you stay in Paje (south east coast) and want to travel to Matemwe (north east coast) you have to take a daladala to Stone Town (West coast) and then another daladala to Matemwe.
– taxis from Zanzibar International Airport to the coastal areas cost US$ 50 if you pre-book your taxi (if you get a taxi at the airport desk you pay $60+ depending on where you go). Whilst on the island you can negotiate prices with the local taxi drivers. Never pay anything upfront! A trip from the north coast to the south coast is about $80 one way. It is not advisable to leave your luggage in the taxis if you stop for sightseeing. If you prefer to book your taxi via your hotel expect higher rates, they usually get a commission for bookings.
– rent a scooter/motorbike or for shorter distances a bicycle, they are available all over the island. Scooter/motorbike: You and your passenger must wear helmets and you need a local driver’s permit (bring your original driver’s license from your home country). Nowadays there are mountainbikes and even e-bikes available for rent (at some places).
– rental car, cost for a reliable car incl. insurance and breakdown service is US$ 30-35 per day for a small four wheel drive, depending on the duration of the rental period. You need a temporary Zanzibar drivers permit which a reputable car rental company will organise for you before you arrive. A copy of your valid drivers permit as well as your photo are required (scanned copies can be sent by email), you don’t need an international drivers permit here. The permit us valid for max. 3 months. You can also rent a car with a driver.
I do recommend to hire a car to explore the island, even if only for a few days. Our tar roads are generally 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. Rather 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 Kibabu Cars.
(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: