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Located in Tanzania, driving in Zanzibar is fun and even though it’s not encouraged, can be classified as a leisure activity for tourist as this is an island with proper road network, tarred roads at that, combined with multiple coast lines all around. You are in for a hell of a time.

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The name given to this island was gotten from Arabia (Arabic), zanjibār, which itself was derived from a word in Persia, zangbâr.  All names which share both similar topographical as well as racial features that translates in English to mean “land owned by blacks”. This of course is in stereotypical reference to the dark skin coloration of the 713,000 (pop. Est. 2007) inhabitants of the island.




How Does Driving In Zanzibar Feel?

Driving in Zanzibar is synonymous with an aristocratic activity reserved for royalty. It brings to mind rural scenes from the 1988 blockbuster movie coming to America. This is because while approaching the mainland of Zanzibar one is confronted with a low island whose diameter is immense in length, offering one the comfort of testing the limit of your vehicle, with a central north-south axial hemisphere characterized by bordering small ridges.

Crisscrossed with coconut palms and a land mass attributive of its vast vegetative cover. The Island of Zanzibar is 53 miles (85 km) in length and 24 miles (39 km) in width. It possesses a 390 feet (119m) peak point above sea level, an altitude which is home to Masingini, a system of central ridges.

It is worth stressing that when driving in Zanzibar Tanzania utmost caution has to be taken because of its undulating, but elevated grounds, which themselves connect to a number of small rivers with westward tributaries linking the sea and corals that surrounds the environs.


driving in Zanzibar

What Is The Weather Condition Prevalent In Zanzibar?

This island has a tropical climatic condition with an extremely high moisture content. Evenly distributed precipitation which is quite strange for a city located in East Africa. Zanzibar is known to get really windy in the month of December to March as well as from May to October. Never overlooking the alternating patterns of short and long rainfall that both occur between October and December, then March and May.

What Other Modes Of Transportation Are Found In The City?

In Zanzibar, the communication and transport sectors eat up 5.2% of the Gross Domestic Product with 2.5% alone being accounted for by the road transport sub-sector. In the city, network of roads spans more than 1150km. In addition to road transportation, being a coastal city with Unguja housing one of the main Zanzibar ports, with another in Mkoani, which is located in Pemba, but one operating in a lesser capacity compared with the former. Lastly, a civil aviation which is a sub-sector that regulates the activities of both international and domestic airports. All of these make up the transportation system in the Island of Zanzibar.


Zanzibar seaport


Thinking Of Driving In Zanzibar? What Are The Quality Of Roads On The Island?

With investment in road infrastructure from prestigious financial institutions like the world bank, Zanzibar has been able to operate a road network categorized by an open streetmap highway classification system. Construction of new roads and maintenance of existing ones has always been a going concern on this island since 1998. Even though it is a coastal city, a lot of money is invested to ensure that the road network is kept in pristine condition.

What Is The Visa Requirement And How Do You Visit Zanzibar?

Depending on your country, you might not require a visa to visit Zanzibar, Tanzania. However if you are traveling from countries like the United States, Canada, Australia etc you will need to apply online in advance of your trip by completing the e-visa application as well as making payment online.


tanzania visa


A grant notice will be sent to you through your convenient means of communication, if your e-visa application is approved. Which of course has to be presented at the immigration desk upon arrival in Tanzania. A sum of USD100 will have to be paid on arriving Tanzania as this is the fee required to process and consequently issue a tourist visa. Which is done on arrival.

Other things that you might need are; a valid passport with a term life beyond six months of visa issuance and/or entry date. Your passport must have at least one visa blank page, which is a key requirement. As a tourist on a tourist visa in Zanzibar, you must show proof of funds to cover your stay. Thrill seekers from all around the world also need to present a roundtrip ticket.


visa requirement for tanzania


It is not uncommon to see people trying to explain the status of their visa while arriving or leaving Zanzibar as well as handing their passport over for inspection. A comprehensive vaccination card that shows the right inoculations against diseases such as Yellow fever and Sars Covid-19 is a must for tourists arriving Zanzibar. For non-endemic locations around the world, direct arrivals from countries in Europe and North America, are normally not mandated to show a yellow fever vaccination certificate.

What Are The Conditions To Be Satisfied Before A Visitor Goes Driving In Zanzibar?

To go driving in Zanzibar, a driver’s permit is required, it has to be temporary. This is issued by the city’s local government authority and has a surcharge of $10 attached to it per driver. Also a national driver’s license obtained from your country of origin is compulsory before a permit can be given.  Usually this is gotten from a reputable car rental on or before your arrival.


Zanzibar diver's permit


Both a permit for the driver, a personal picture photograph and a driver’s license has to be submitted, it is common practice to get these copies scanned and sent via email. There is no place for an international drivers permit as this has to be processed locally. The Zanzibar drivers permit obtained upon arrival has a validation period of 3 months.


driving in Zanzibar permit


The cost of renting a car includes insurance, breakdown service (which typically cost US$ 30-35 on a daily basis for a little four-wheel drive). When all the documents have been submitted, you can choose to drive yourself around or to rent a car with a driver. You do not need to enroll in a driving school in Zanzibar

Can I Use My Zanzibar Drivers License In The US?

As stated earlier, to rent a car in Zanzibar, all you need in addition to the national driver’s license issued by your country of origin is a local driver’s permit which can be processed by the city’s local authority and issued to you by a refutable car rental service company. You do not need to get another driver’s license while in Zanzibar and if you do manage to get it somehow, it will not work when you get back to the U.S. For a learner’s permit you also need to go through the local council hierarchy. With Zanzibar driving license in the U.S, the conditions are different as will be explained further below.


driving in zanzibar steering wheel position


For one, cars on the island of Zanzibar are driven on the left side of the road. However, the right-hand side of the steering wheel is where the car is controlled from. This is in stark contrast to how cars are driven in the United States. So, for those asking; “can I use my Zanzibar driving license in the USA?” Simple answer, no you can’t.

Are There Safaris In Zanzibar?

Driving safari in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Zanzibar share one thing in common, the convenience of wandering around with no restrictions. Embarking on countless adventures and building unforgettable memories as you drive along. Enjoy the view of small patches of native forest and isolated large trees scattered on your path through the safari.


driving through the safari in Zanzibar


An exposed coral-outcrop country offering balance to a dense thicket vegetation. Take in the clay plains flat all grass-covered. And if you are lucky driving in Zanzibar at the right time of the year, you might spot some major wild life such as leopard, out of which there are a peculiar specie in Zanzibar. The mongoose, lemur, the African pig, 30 forms of snakes and so much more.

How Does It Feel Driving Through The Safari?

While the climate, topography, tarred road and other infrastructures support driving in Zanzibar. This might be advisable while in the open country side of the safari. However, due to the elevated altitude of certain parts of this island, the roads that surrounds most car rental service companies are very rocky and is thus not advisable to drive yourself while in this type of area. You could hire a driver who can navigate this rough terrain, at which point you could take over when you reach open country.

undulating topography of stone town Zanzibar



Driving in Tanzania Zanzibar is fun and exciting; however, the topography is a bit tricky. Do you think you could stomach up the courage to drive in this climatic conditions?

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fuse chronicles


travel and tourism blogger

Chinedu Okoronkwo known fondly by friends as Fuse is a Father, biochemist, certified business administrator and entrepreneur specializing in supply chain management and logistics, with vast experience in founding and building businesses in this space. Having worked in an embassy for a number of years and with a passion for traveling, he started Fuse Chronicles, a platform that offers information on everything related to global travels and issues confronting cultural acclimatization around the globe. 


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