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: the number of travelers is growing, more and more big airlines fly to Zanzibar, and the old terminal has a hard time handling all this.
This is not a blog post to complain about things. It’s just a heads-up for anyone arriving in 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 turquoise ocean and with good luck, Stone Town from the air just before landing! It’s good to appreciate the beauty of the islands before facing the Zanzibar airport reality.
Now, if you arrive on a small plane, you might not even realize what this is all about. Those tiny Cessna from the mainland and Pemba are easy, no visa is needed, and luggage comes in about 5 minutes. So if this is how you arrive, you can actually stop reading here.
If you arrive on 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 as several other big ones. However, the arrival area is small and a bit confusing. Do this:
- Plastic bag ban. I hope you have heard that Tanzania has banned many plastic items, most importantly plastic bags! You cannot bring plastic bags to Zanzibar or anywhere else in Tanzania. There is a heavy fine in place. Read more about the Tanzania plastic ban here.
- Arrival form. If you got the arrival form already while onboard, fill it out beforehand and have it with you when you exit the plane. If not, have a pen ready to fill this out first thing. (Not needed if you are a 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 to Kenya/Addis/wherever you came from, no yellow fever certificate is needed. If you arrive from somewhere other than Africa, a yellow fever certificate should not be asked for.
- Zanzibar visa on arrival. Now you have entered the arrival hall. If you already have your visa (or residence) in your passport, you can just head to passport control. If not, fill in the visa form and then head to the payment counter. Visa can be paid with a credit card, but just in case, better to have some cash with you as a backup if the system is down.
- Zanzibar immigration. With your payment slip and passport, line up for the immigration window. They will stamp your visa in, and then you are ready for the next phase – getting your luggage.
Getting your luggage at Zanzibar airport
Great news! The first luggage belt has been installed now, which hopefully makes the below instructions useless. Just remember, after getting your luggage from the belt, it will still be scanned. That is the normal procedure in Zanzibar for all luggage. It’s usually a pretty fast procedure and they don’t ask you to remove laptops etc.
These older instructions still apply to the domestic terminal, and perhaps if the belt is not working:
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 what it looks like and promise to bring it to you. This is not a good suggestion, as payment might be expected, which is 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 report 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 out for your luggage, when someone brings it in, just take it as you would from a belt.
Exiting Zanzibar airport
Why is there even a need for such a headline? Because 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, and read them through. It might seem like too many 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 should, 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 airport 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 reliable arrival transfer in Zanzibar, we of course recommend booking through us. See our Zanzibar transfer options.
Looking for things to do in Zanzibar? Join our most popular tours Zesty Zanzibar (spice tour with a twist) and Culinary Stone Town (tour the city while tasting all local favorites).