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Hiring 4x4 in Tanzania and ferries to Zanzibar

Hey guys,

We're planning a holiday for March next year, and we're going to do a safari tour in Tanzania, but we want to spend a couple of days in Zanzibar afterwards. I know you can technically fly, but I'm more keen on seeing the country. Maybe renting a 4x4 and driving across Tanzania. Has anyone done this before? Is it safe?

What I really wanted to ask was are there only ferries to Zanzibar from Dar es Salaam? I'm looking at the map, and coming from around Arusha, it's quite a drive. Does anyone know if there's a ferry from Tanga to Pemba or Zanzibar? Or should we just fly to Dar es Salaam and go from there? I've heard that Pemba has a more chilled vibe than Zanzibar - any other experiences? We're not really big party people, we kind of just want to lie on the beach, can we get that in Zanzibar too?

I'd really appreciate some advice, thanks!


  • edited October 2017
    Hi @loudle991

    I just got from 2 weeks in Kenya and Zanzibar.

    Although I actually didn't spend anytime in mainland Tanzania we did travel around Kenya in a 4x4. Although, it seems like a good alternative to flying one thing I would suggest you consider is not just the time you'd be spending on the road if you chose to drive but the standard of roads you'd have to deal with. From my experience, city roads in Kenya were fine (although traffic was an issue!!). But as soon as you get out of the city the roads can be really bad. Of course, having a 4x4 helps but I still think you'd need to be a very good driver to be able to handle all the potholes, animals on the road (yes really!) and other crazy drivers. We chose to hire a driver who was really great but even then being a passenger on these roads can be pretty gruelling. Some days we drove for 2 hours but it felt like 10 by the time we got to our destination. The rough roads really take it out of you. Are you planning on driving yourself? I would definitely recommend getting a driver.

    We flew into Zanzibar from Nairobi as that was the fastest way and we were pushed for time. Sorry, I can't comment much on the ferry situation. Zanzibar is beautiful. We didn't go there to party and I think there are resorts and areas that cater for all types of tourists. The beaches are stunning and I would recommend doing your research. As we were only there for 3 nights I didn't get to see as much of the island as I would have liked. Although I would suggest that you stay close to Stone Town. It's a really special experience almost as if you are going back in time.

    No doubt you'll have an amazing time. Holler if you have anymore questions.

  • Thanks for the reply @Shantalie

    I know the roads in Tanzania aren't great, but I like off-roading haha! I thought since I've got 4x4 experience, it might be cool, but you make a good point about the time. We were planning on taking it slow, but not if it's going to be uncomfortable and if there's not much to see.

    I don't know about getting someone else to drive. Any guys out there done this before? I've been talking about driving myself, and I don't want to look like I wussed out.

    About Stone Town - how's the restaurant scene? My girlfriend's not really into seafood, she'll eat fish but not every day. Are there places we can get more western stuff like burgers?

    Thanks for your time!
  • @ianMpackham Do you know anything about moving through Tanzania and across to Zanzibar?

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  • edited October 2017
    I travelled around Tanzania by public transport - so its certainly possible to go by road. Road conditions are pretty good by African standards, but obviously rougher than Europe/US.

    There are daily ferries to/from Dar to Stonetown, Zanzibar and frequent ferries on to Pemba from Stonetown. Western-style food is easy to come by in Stonetown, just head for the waterfront by the fort, museums and port. The Zanzibari pizza is also particularly good. Food, indeed pretty much everything, becomes more traditional in Pemba, which is definitely more laidback. I barely saw any other travellers. For relaxing on beaches I'd recommend Zanzibar's northern shores though.

    There is also a boat (not really a ferry) that travels weekly (if your lucky) from Pemba to Tanga and vice versa. It's basically an open canoe with an engine. For safety reasons I wouldn't recommend it...
  • @ianMpackham

    Thanks for the info! We're still deciding between Zanzibar and Pemba, definitely going to have a look at north Zanzibar now.

    Talking about public transport - I've heard the dala-dalas are quite dodgy, but how else will you move around? Are there other options? Obviously you can walk, but the girlfriend wants to see the ruins and such. What's the range of the dala-dalas?

    And also, how much time should we set aside to see some of the ruins? A day? More? I've read some Tripadvisor reviews that said that some of them are really meh. Are they really worth it?

    Sorry for the barrage of questions, I really appreciate your time.

  • Hi @Loudie991

    No problem, its a pleasure.

    Dala-dalas are pretty much the only way to get around unless you want to use a private taxi/hire a car. They go everywhere anyone would want to go. The biggest threat you would face using them is a road traffic accident. Though its difficult to gauge relative risk I can say I've travelled around Africa for 2 years using them and never been in an accident.

    From memory the ruins are realistically too far to walk (unless you fancy a sweaty hike). If you like history you'll love them, if you only have a passing interest you might be disappointed. A day would be plenty of time to see them.

  • Thanks @ianMpackham

    Was wondering about the ruins, I might convince her to give them a skip then.

    I was reading about the diving in Pemba, and we might give it a try. I got a basic-ish diving certification years ago, but I haven't dived for a while now. Should I do it again? My girlfriend hasn't dived before, so she'll need it as well. Are there places that do the basic certification on the north coast of Zanzibar?

    But then again, is a safari and a diving holiday too much for 2 weeks? As I remember it, the certification has a written component as well, will there be enough time? Has anyone been diving and went on a safari in the same holiday?

    Appreciate it
  • @Loudie991

    I can't help a lot with this, but I know there was a dive centre on Pemba. Safaris generally last 3-5 days, so its definitely possible to do both. I would however make sure you have time to relax and just experience the country/islands!
  • edited October 2017
    Hello! Zanzibar is a very nice place! Zanzibar is known for its fairy-tale and pristine tropical life atmosphere and high hospitality standards. The North and West of Zanzibar are endless beaches, where turquoise water crosses the boundaries of imagination. South-eastern areas are real paradise for surfers. The island is not yet popular among tourists, and you will enjoy individual excursions and activities, such as visiting spice plantations, walking between lianas and ferns in the wild jungles, meeting large Galapagos turtles and even a catching swordfish during deep-water fishing!
  • @AltezzaTravel

    Can you recommend a resort or hotel on the north/west of Zanzibar? And a PADI certified dive school? I know there are couple - ideally we'd like something close by.

  • Hello)! I do not know how much money you can spend on your vacation. I can recommend you Amaan Bungalows*3, Doubletree by Hilton*4, Essque Zalu*5. And Spanish Dancer Divers in Nungwi - dive school. All the hotels are in Nungwi too
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