Meeting Locals on a One Year Trip Around the World

The Travelers Guide to Riding a Dala Dala in Zanzibar

November 27, 2018|Lena

If you have the necessary money, getting around Zanzibar island from the comfort of an airconditioned privately hired car is perfectly acceptable. A trip from Zanzibar City, also known as Stone Town, will cost you 50 US dollar no matter where you want to go on the island. You hand over the cash, you sit back and relax until you arrive at your destination. Or at least that’s how I imagine it to be. I didn’t hire any cars in Zanzibar.

Because I don’t have that kind of money. And if you are on a trip around the world, you probably don’t have it either. If privately hired cars are out of the question, there is only one thing you can do: Riding a Dala dala in Zanzibar.

Let me tell you right away, riding a Zanzibar Dala dala (or minibus) is uncomfortable, confusing and definitely not stress-free, but it is an adventure, and ridiculously cheap from a travelers perspective. In this post, I will tell you about my misadventures riding Dala dala in Zanzibar and what you need to know before riding one yourself.

Riding a Dala dala in Zanzibar. All you need to know about getting around Zanzibar like a local using public transport called Dala dala.

How to Find the Right Dala Dala Terminal in Zanzibar City

Chances are you arrive in Zanzibar by ferry (the best one is Azam Marine Kilimanjaro Fast Ferries for 35 dollar, you can even book online). After spending a day or two in Stone Town, the cultural city center, you want to go on exploring other parts of the island. I stayed two days at Lost&Found Hostel in Stone Town (book through booking.com), exploring the city and doing a spice tour (for 15 dollar, which I highly recommend). The next two days I spent in Bwejuu Beach on the east coast (which I can’t really recommend; instead you should visit Paje Beach) before heading north to Nungwi Beach.

Depending on where on the island you want to go, the Dala dala leave from different places. If you’re going to go north, the Dala dala terminal is at Darajani Market, within walking distance of the city center.

If you want to go to the east coast, places like Paje, Bwejuu or Michamvi you need to head to Mwanakwerekwe Market, 5 kilometers east of the city. To get there take a Dala dala from close to Darajani Market, on Karume Road.

I created a little map to make it easier to find the different Dala dala terminals.

Once you are at the right terminal, there are many Dala dala (the blue open ones) and minibusses. They usually all have a number and a sign indicating where they are going. This should make it easier to find the right one. Of course, you can always ask for help but be aware that there are people who try to scam you out of your money by helping you find a Dala dala.

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What to Pay for a Dala Dala in Zanzibar

the darajani market dala dala terminal in stone town

Like I mentioned before, Dala dala, as well as minibusses, are very cheap. The ones connecting the different terminals in Zanzibar cost 300 shilling (13 cents) per person, any other ride to any destination on the island costs 2000 shilling (87 cents) per person and maybe an additional 500 to 1000 shilling (22 to 44 cents) per big item of luggage. If you don’t want to pay extra for stored luggage, you can (and sometimes have no choice but to) keep your luggage on your lap.

These prices are fixed, so don’t ask for the price before riding, or else they will try to take more of your money. And don’t pay anyone before riding, or even after getting on board. The correct timing is to pay during your ride when everybody else pays as well.

What Not to Do When Riding a Dala Dala in Zanzibar

inside a dala dala minibus in zanzibar

When I rode a Dala dala in Zanzibar for the first time, a friendly looking guy offered to show me which Dala dala to take to Mwanakwerekwe Market from Darajani Market. Once I was on the right one another guy, I assumed he was the conductor, (but now I believe he wasn’t) pressured me to pay him 15000 shilling (6.5 dollar), telling me this was a private bus, intimidating me and confusing me so much that I paid him in the end. I now assume he must have paid the correct fee to the real conductor, and he and the friendly guy pocketed the difference, they made a nice profit, too.

When I arrived at the Mwanakwerekwe Market terminal, the friendly guy took me to the minibus leaving for Bwejuu. We got on board, and again there was a guy who wanted 10000 shilling (4.3 dollar) per person and an additional 2000 shilling (87 cents) per luggage.

Fortunately, a nice guy was sitting next to me; he spoke English very well, a skill not too many people in Tanzania poses. He told me not to give them any money, that the correct fee is 2000 shilling (87 cents) per person, and that we should pay once the Dala dala is moving and not before.

The scammer gave up and vanished, as did the nice guy. I guess he was happy with the amount he got from the first ride for his trouble showing me to the right Dala dala.

How to Beat the Scammers When Taking a Dala Dala in Zanzibar

a modern minibus dala dala in Zanzibar

As I mentioned before after Bwejuu Beach, I was heading to Nungwi Beach in the north. The only way to get there is via Darajani Market in Stone Town. So, at Bwejuu Beach I waited for a couple of minutes at the road and got on the first Dala dala passing by. I paid my fee of 2000 shilling per person and 1000 shilling for my luggage. The Dala dala dropped me off at Karume Road close to Darajani Market.

In theory, I knew I had to go to Darajani Market to get a Dala dala heading north, and because I am a blond tourist with a big backpack, I seem to attract scammers. I told him up front I didn’t need his help, but he just said he was going in that direction anyway and that he didn’t want my money. I was thinking my part, but I let him show me the way. He found me a seat on a very crowded Dala dala going to Nungwi. Sometimes there are so many people wanting to get a ride that it is a little bit like war getting a seat. The guy took my backpack and put it on a back seat through the window to reserve a place for me before I got on. As soon as I was sitting, a new guy approached me telling me I needed to pay now.

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But finally I understood the game, and this one I was intent on winning. I told him, of course, I will pay, when everyone else pays. He started shouting that this is business and that if I don’t pay I should find another Dala dala. He even tried to take my luggage, but fortunately, it is heavier than it looks. I got angry, he got angry, the guy who showed me the way was standing outside the window and got angry.

But in the end, I won! I was sitting in the Dala dala, and there was nothing either one of them could do about it. I shut the window in the face of the one guy and just ignored the other one. Eventually, he realized I wouldn’t give him any money. Additionally, he was standing in the middle of a crowded minibus, about to depart, with no intention of riding it himself. So, he gave up and vanished.

My Conclusion About Riding a Dala Dala in Zanzibar

I told you, riding a Dala dala in Zanzibar is cheap (at least if you do it right), and it isn’t comfortable (especially if you have your big luggage on your lap for an hour), but it definitely is an adventure. And even if you do it all wrong, like I did the first time I rode a Dala dala in Zanzibar, at least it will make for a good story to share with your family and friends once you are home from your trip around the world.

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Riding a Dala dala in Zanzibar. All you need to know about getting around Zanzibar like a local using public transport called Dala dala.
Riding a Dala dala in Zanzibar. All you need to know about getting around Zanzibar like a local using public transport called Dala dala.

Authors Note:
None of the experiences in this post are in any way sponsored and have all been paid for by myself. The opinions stated are all my own and have not been influenced in any way.
This post might contain affiliate links. I receive a commission if a product is purchased through one of these links, at no extra cost to you. Please support me by buying products through my links!

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About Lena

Hi, I'm Lena the founder of The Social Travel Experiment. My mission is to help bussy millennials plan an unforgettable trip around the world, through stays with locals, without wasting valuable time and money.

Find out more About Me and The Social Travel Experiment

If you are a business we might be able to work together so check out the Work With Me page for more details

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About Lena

Hi, I'm Lena the founder of The Social Travel Experiment. My mission is to help bussy millennials plan an unforgettable trip around the world, through stays with locals, without wasting valuable time and money.

Find out more About Me and The Social Travel Experiment

If you are a business we might be able to work together so check out the Work With Me page for more details

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