See also When to go to mainland Tanzania
Mid Jan – end Feb: dry, very hot and fairly quiet
March: cooler, occasional rain, quiet - considered best for diving
April – May: very wet, cool, many hotels are closed
June: progressively drier, hotels start opening
July – Oct: dry, warm, lovely - but busy, especially in August
Nov – mid Dec: unpredictable, with rain progressively likely
Mid Dec – mid Jan: usually dry, warm, very busy
Bear in mind that ‘cool’ and ‘dry’ are relative terms – it rarely drops below 25 Celsius and 50% humidity!
If you have a free choice of when to travel, our advice is to go in late June-July, in September-October, or, if you don’t mind the extra heat, in January-February.
Note: flight, boat, train and bus timetables change constantly, and airlines come and go, so please do not rely solely on this information for your travel planning. Check with relevant companies, or a flight search engine like Skyscanner, first.
See also Getting to mainland Tanzania
There are very few direct flights into Zanzibar – just a few charter carriers from Italy and the UK – which tend not to sell seat-only. So you’ll probably fly via Kenya or mainland Tanzania, which is no bad thing, especially if you’re intending to do a safari there as well.
From the UK:
KLM and Kenya Airways, who code-share with each other, fly from Heathrow via Amsterdam and Nairobi (Kenya) or Dar to Zanzibar (10-15 hours’ journey time, including stopover).
British Airways flies to Dar-es-Salaam in Tanzania (going out on an overnight flight Thursday, Saturday and Monday and returning on a day time flight Friday, Sunday and Tuesday), with connecting flights on Air Tanzania to Zanzibar (11-15 hours’ journey time). Or you can catch a ferry, hydrofoil or light aircraft from Dar to Zanzibar.
Ethiopian Airlines fly from London via Addis Ababa and Dar to Zanzibar but slow connections mean a minimum 18-hour journey.
From the rest of Europe:
KLM fly from Amsterdam to Dar and Nairobi and, using Kenya Airways, on to Zanzibar.
Emirates flies from various European cities via Dubai to Dar, where you can book separate connecting flights to Zanzibar.
From the USA:
There are no direct flights, so you are best off flying via London or Amsterdam.
See also Getting around mainland Tanzania
There are 3 carriers flying between Zanzibar and Pemba, Dar-es-Salaam, Mafia, Arusha, Selous, Tanga, Ruaha and other Tanzanian game parks. The short but exhilarating flight in a tiny, twin-engined Cessna is part of the holiday fun.
We flew with Coastal Air, who were reliable and friendly. They fly daily from Zanzibar to Pemba, Dar, Ruaha, Selous, Tanga (via Pemba) and Mafia (via Dar).
Precision Air fly from Zanzibar to mainland Tanzania, including Dar, Kilimanjaro and Mwanza.
Zan Air fly from Zanzibar to Dar, Pemba, Selous, Arusha and Saadani (mainland coast).
There are 8-10 crossings daily between Stone Town (Zanzibar) and Dar, taking 1.5 - 2 hours depending on the vessel. No need to pre-book, just turn up at the city docks – and watch out for pickpockets and papaasi (self-appointed guides and hasslers).
There is a slow ferry from Stone Town (Zanzibar) to Mkoani (Pemba) departing four times per week and taking about 3 hours.
Hotels situated on private islands or road-free coastline, such as Chapwani, Chumbe and Fundu Lagoon all have their own private speedboat or dhow to collect you from the road-head or your previous hotel. Bear in mind that you may need to get your feet and legs wet, and low tides may mean walking a short way over the tidal flats.
Most visitors use taxis to get around the island. On Unguja (Zanzibar island) there are lots of vehicles in Stone Town and the more popular resorts - mostly Japanese minibuses seating up to 7.
All our hotels can arrange transfers, or you can make independent arrangements - this may work out cheaper, especially if there are several journeys involved. You can also brave a dala dala (crowded bus or lorry) which follow set routes and cost a fraction of the price of a taxi.
Hire cars are less popular, because of the bumpy roads, bad signposting and short distances involved, but work out well if you are a group of four or want complete independence. See our car rental recommendations and ask for a 4x4.
Bicycles are the most common form of transport for the Zanzibari, and the sight of someone cycling along a white beach, often carrying palm-leaves or a crate of sodas on the back, is an enduring and endearing image of Zanzibar. You can rent a bike from most hotels for around USD$5 for half a day, depending on its state of repair. Do watch out for sunburn and sunstroke.