How to survive Zanzibar airport?
Zanzibar airport, Kisauni airport, or Abeid Amani Karume airport – this place has many names. The new terminal is under construction and it has taken longer than planned. This has led to a very obvious issue: number of travellers is growing, more and more big airlines fly to Zanzibar, and the old terminal has hard time handling all this.
This is not a blog post to complain about things. It’s just a heads-up for anyone arriving to Zanzibar for the first time. And we do hope the new terminal is finished soon, they are working hard on that!
Landing to Zanzibar
Admire the turqoise ocean and with good luck, Stone Town from the air just before landing! It’s good to appreciate this beauty of the islands before facing with the Zanzibar airport reality.
Now, if you arrive with a small plane, you might not even realize what this is all about. Those tiny cessna’s from mainland and Pemba are easy, no visa needed, and luggage comes in about 5 minutes. So if this is how you arrive, you can actually stop reading here.
If you arrive with a big plane, the experience might be different. And since there is so much traffic to Zanzibar, there is a chance your plane arrives at the same time with several other big ones. However, the arrival area is small and a bit conusing. Do this:
- Arrival form. If you got the arrival form already while onboard, fill it beforehand and have it with you when you exit the plane. If not, have pen ready to fill this first thing. (Not needed if you are citizen/resident).
- Yellow fever certificate in Zanzibar. When arriving from inside Africa, this is most likely asked for when you just enter the terminal. If you have one, show it. If you don’t have one and don’t need one, you should explain that you just transferred in Kenya/Addis/wherever you came from, no yellow fever certificate is needed. If you arrive from somewhere else than Africa, yellow fever certificate should not be asked for.
- Zanzibar visa on arrival. Now you have enetered the arrival hall. If you already have your visa (or residence) in your passport, you can just head to the passport control. If not, fill in the visa form and then head to the payment counter. Visa can be paid with credit card, but just in case, better to have some cash with you as a back up if the system is down.
- Zanzibar immigration. With your payment slip and passport, go and line up for the immigration window. They will stamp your visa in, and then you are ready to the next phase – getting your luggage.
Getting your luggage at Zanzibar airport
The scene you face now might be a bit different than what is usually expected. The luggage hall has no luggage belt and, in fact, the doors are just two huge holes on the wall. Don’t let this fool you, there is a system in place, just it might take a while to understand it.
Luggage is brought from the plane just outside of the hall, where a police dog often checks them. The luggage handlers then start bringing bags inside. This is sometimes done with trolleys of different sizes, and sometimes just by hand. When looking for your luggage, an employee might ask you how it looks like and promise to bring it to you. This is not a good suggestion, as payment might then be expected, and that’s against the rules and regulations. So we strongly suggest you just wait, patiently. The luggage will come. If it doesn’t, it has not been lost in Zanzibar but before, so that’s a separate issue, which you can easily repoert at the airport.
So getting luggage at the Zanzibar airport is actually pretty easy – wait, sometimes long, sometimes just a short time. Keep an eye for your luggage, when someone brings it in, just take it as you would from a belt.
Then just one more thing to remember – in Zanzibar, luggage is scanned on arrival as well. So you need to join the line for the luggage security check. It’s usually a pretty fast procedure and they don’t ask you to remove laptops etc.
Exiting Zanzibar airport
Why is there even a need for such a headline? Beacuse this is where many get overwhelmed.
If you have booked a driver to pick you up, he waits for you just outside the exit area with your name (or sometimes, hotel or company name) on a sign board or a piece of paper. If there are many arriving at the same time, there are many, many drivers there and lots of sign boards to read.
Do not panic! Take your time, read them through. It might seem like too much people and possibly some overly friendly taxi drivers trying to get you as their client. It’s all safe and just say “sorry, I already arranged a pick up”.
If you did not book yet, you can get a driver at this stage. All independent drivers at the airport that wear the airport taxi ID are safe, you don’t need to worry about who you go with. You cshould, however, agree on the price before getting into the taxi.
If you feel like you just need a moment, or for some other reason need to wait a bit at the airport, there are some nice cafes just next to the terminal, inside the airprt grounds. You can walk up to the parking lot, then right to the cafes, sit down and order some refreshments.
If you are on a budget, you can also take a daladala (local bus) to the city. They don’t operate from the airport, but you can walk just outside the airport gates to the main road and get one from there.
For a relaible arrival transfer in Zanzibar, we of course recommend to book through us. See our Zanzibar transfer prices.