Zanzibar Airport: What You Need to Know

Zanzibar Abeid Amani Karume International Airport

Zanzibar at its best

Having thousands of years of history, slavery, wars, and trade, Zanzibar is a melting pot of cultures, insights, journeys into the past; it is an archipelago that consists of more than 47 islands situated off the east coast of Tanzania. Unguja, Pemba and Mafia are the main islands; they attract visitors from all over the world.

Zanzibar is a semi-autonomous island having its own elected government. Tanzania was found 55 years ago through the union of Tanganyika and Zanzibar. This island is a paradise with its stunning mix of sun, sand, sea, and spices and that is why it is known as the ‘Spice Island’ as the fresh spices are grown on the island and traded for centuries.

What to expect when you are in Zanzibar 

As it is located on the Indian Ocean, Zanzibar features a tropical climate. It has temperatures year-round whereby it rains across all the months with a wet season from March until May. There are various ethnical groups within the island. The languages spoken are Swahili and English. The island consists of many high-class international hotels and other beautiful boutique hotels located on and close to the beaches and airport.‍ Therefore you might say: Zanzibar is a popular tourist destination.

The most popular activities are soaking up the sun, exploring the jungles, the old and highly active streets of Stone Town, scuba diving, snorkeling, dolphin tours, spice tours, sailing, windsurfing, and other water sports.

Zanzibar International Airport

Zanzibar International Airport (IACO HTZA; IATA ZNZ) was named after the first president of the island, Abeid Amani Karume and it is located approximately 6 kilometers south of Stone Town. This airport is quite a busy place because it serves as one of the main international airports in Tanzania.

Local, regional and international flights are both serviced from the airport, with domestic departures and arrivals using a separate passenger entrance, exit, and waiting area. Zanzibar airport is connected daily with all the major East African cities such as Kilimanjaro, Arusha, Dar es Salaam, Nairobi, and Mombasa. Moreover, many international airlines land directly on the island making Europe, Asia, and North America within relatively easy reach.

The airport serves more than two million passengers per year. Passengers range from business travelers to honeymooners and adventure seekers. The wealth of adventures and experiences on the island of Zanzibar appeals to both local and foreign tourists. Zanzibar airport is served by the following airlines as of March 2019: As Salaam Air, Coastal Aviation, Ethiopian Airlines, Fly 540, FlyDubai, Flightlink Limited, Kenya Airways, Malawian Airlines, Mango, Oman Air, Precision Air, Qatar Airways, Regional Airline Services, Tropical Air, Turkish Airlines and ZanAir. The above-mentioned carriers offer multiple scheduled flights to Zenji.

Hotels

Most of the hotels can be reached in an hour’s drive on an excellent tarmac road to the southeast coast of the Island. There are basic facilities at the airport to ensure comfortable departures and arrivals procedures for all visitors. Zanzibar International Airport has various services and amenities. It has automated teller machines, banking facilities, duty-free shopping centers, foreign currency exchange and much more. Enough taxis and other airport transfer modes are found. Most of the hotels and resorts offer airport transfer services to their customers. However, in most hotels and resorts, guests have to request airport pickup in advance. There are several cafes and restaurants with good wireless fidelity (Wi-Fi) outside the terminal buildings for longer waits.

One of the hotels near the airport

You may admire the turquoise ocean and possibly with the Stone Town from the air just before landing at Zanzibar airport! Most of the time, it is good to appreciate this beauty of the islands before facing the airport’s reality. The visitors from the mainland and Pemba arrive at the airport easily, there is no visa needed, and luggage comes in about 5 minutes.

If you arrive on a ‘big’ plane, you need to know that there is so much traffic to Zanzibar! There is a chance that your plane arrives at the same time with several other big ones. The arrival area is small and a bit confusing.

No plastic bags allowed

Tanzania has banned many plastic items, most importantly plastic bags therefore you cannot bring plastic bags to Zanzibar, and there is a heavy fine in place.

Arrival forms

If you got the arrival form already while onboard, fill it beforehand and keep it close  it with you when you exit the plane. If not, have a pen ready to fill this first thing. This is not needed if you are a citizen or a resident.

Yellow fever card

When arriving from inside Africa, the yellow fever card is most likely asked for when you just enter the terminal. If you have one, show it. If you do not have one and do not need one, you should explain that you just transferred in Kenya, Addis or wherever you came from, no yellow fever certificate is needed. A yellow fever certificate should not be asked for if you arrive from somewhere else than Africa.

Visa on arrival

After entering the arrival hall and if you already have your visa or residence stamp in your passport, you can just head to the passport control. You have to fill in the visa form and then head to the payment counter if you do not have one. The visa can be paid with a credit card, but just in case, it is better to have some cash with you as a backup if the system is down. With your payment slip and passport, you have to go and line up for the immigration window. They will stamp your visa, and then you are ready for the next phase – getting your luggage.

Surviving with your luggage

The great news is that the first luggage belt has been installed now but you have to remember that after getting your luggage from the belt, it will still be scanned because that is the normal procedure in Zanzibar for all luggage. It is usually a pretty fast procedure and they do not ask you to remove laptops and other things inside.

The older instructions still apply to the domestic terminal, and perhaps if the belt is not working by that time: Luggage is brought from the plane just outside of the hall where a police dog checks them. Then, the luggage handlers start bringing bags inside with trolleys of different sizes or just by hand. When looking for your luggage, an employee might ask you how it looks like and promises to bring it to you. This is not a good suggestion because payment might then be expected, which is against the rules and regulations!

You have to just wait patiently. The luggage will come. If it does not, it has not been lost in Zanzibar but before, so that will be a separate issue which you can easily report at the airport. Getting luggage at Zanzibar airport is very easy but sometimes it takes a longer time. Keep an eye on your luggage, when someone brings it in; just take it as you would from a belt.

Your items are lost? Relax!

If you have lost something during your stay at ZNZ, stay calm and find help at the Lost and Found Office at the airport. There are Customer Service officials stationed at strategic points of the airport where you can also seek help from. For items lost while in the aircraft, you need to contact the airline representatives.

Exiting the airport and transferring between terminals

How to transfer between terminals? Transfer desks are located at strategic points of the airports; you need to kindly consult with airline or airport ground staff immediately when you land for directions.

Many get overwhelmed when they want to exit the airport. There are local hotels offering shuttle service to and from the airport. You may need to contact your hotel for availability and details. Sometimes you may have booked a driver to pick you up, therefore, he would be waiting for you just outside the exit area with your name, the name of the hotel or company name on a piece of paper or a signboard. If many visitors are arriving at the same time, there are many, many drivers there and lots of signboards to read! Slowly, without panic, take your time to 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 is all safe and just says, “I am sorry, I already arranged a pickup!”

This airport seems to be open 24 hours a week but travelers report that the doors are locked at night therefore; you need to have a backup plan if you are planning to spend the night there. For uninterrupted sleep, a nearby hotel offers shuttle services. There are several options from hotels to resorts, homes, and villas for those who would love to stay in hotels near Zanzibar Airport. Zanzibar Beach Resort and Zanzibar Serena Hotel are the best hotels near the airport.

All independent drivers at the airport wear the airport taxi identification cards, they are safe; you do not need to worry about who you go with. You should, however, agree on the price before getting into the taxi. Here is where you can use your bargaining skills to negotiate a lower rate if you did not book yet!

On budget? Everything is easier too…

Maybe you might be on a budget; if so, you can also take a dala dala (local buses) to the city. They do not operate from the airport but you can walk just outside the airport gates to the main road and get one from there. This is easy and cheap, although it is very crowded.

Need a moment before going to the hotel or the city? Restaurants are available for arriving and departing passengers. If you feel like you just need a moment, or for some other reasons you 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 for yourself.

Presence of the airport lounges

There are airport lounges that you can enter by purchasing a lounge pass or through a lounge membership program regardless of what class of service you are flying. You can visit the individual lounge page for more details about the lounge itself and to also find out how you can gain lounge access with just an economy class ticket! From there you can enjoy air conditioning, beverages (non-alcoholic and alcoholic), disabled access, fax, Internet/Wi-Fi, newspapers/magazines, telephones, television and a separate prayer room is available which is a non-smoking one. You can read more here Paradise Arrival Business Lounge | Zanzibar Airport

Disabled visitors are treated equally

The terminal is accessible to disabled travelers. Passengers who needs wheelchair assistance have to contact the airline in advance of travel. If you need to smoke, there is a burgundy smoking lounge at gate 6. Sometimes you want to ensure your children burn off all their energy before their flight or before exiting the airport, then, you may take them to the children’s play area located at gate 11.

Availability of foreign currency exchange booths and shops

There are exchange booths available. There are at least one duty-free shop and boutique to help visitors pass their time while at the airport. There are no luggage storage and lockers. There are also no dedicated sleeping areas, quiet areas or rest zones and showers.

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