Car Rental and Driving on Zanzibar Guide
Even though Unguja Island is rather small, car rental on Zanzibar is one of the options for those who want to explore on their own terms and freedom. With my next visit I plan to hire a car on Zanzibar for a few days and being in contact with several companies I am sharing what I learned when it comes to car rental and driving on Zanzibar.
First of all you should know, wherever you book car rental on Zanzibar, you will not be driving new cars. Cars on average are between 10 to 15 years old. There are also some specifics when it comes rent a car on Zanzibar along with some unique driving rules.
Having some hefty years of experience in global car rental market, I was probably a difficult client when it came to my inquiries and additional questions to suppliers, which some of them simply ignored or replied very diplomatically without precise answer I was looking for.
If you start your search online hunting for Zanzibar car hire, you will see many companies have very loose and quite modest information regarding the Zanzibar car rental. I mean specifically when It comes to insurance and liability issues. The terms Zero excess insurance, theft waiver, zero access are not popular here. When shopping for car rental and when coming accross something like this: “all cars are fully insured”, its better to find out more with supplier for specifics of coverage!
Zero excess insurance is not possible on Zanzibar. For those who are not familiar with car rental term, means that these options reduce the deductible to zero USD, so you won’t be responsible for paying anything in the event the car is damaged or in an accident. When you choose a Zero Excess or Zero Deductible rate, you remove the excess you’d be responsible for in the event of an accident. CDW and Theft Protection greatly reduce the amount of deductible you’re responsible for in the event of a collision or theft. A Zero Excess or Zero Deductible option reduces or removes the deductible owed with an inclusive CDW and Theft Protection plan in the event of a collision or theft. The Extended Coverage option, also known as Super Cover, gives you all the benefits of the Zero Excess insurance, but extends them to parts of the car not previously covered, such as the wheels, roof, and windshield.
The most common offer online comes with car photo, info about the price per day, door number and then you are welcome to book on desired date, its not automated online booking, more of a submission form.I was a bit annoying, as we all know loose insurance policy can become a problematic when something happens with rented car.
Say, you have an accident, and its not your fault, but the rented car is severely damaged. Glass is broken, tires dysfunctional. What to do? You will found out that insurance not covering the glass, undercarriage, windshields and tires!
Mostly no one will disclose that glass, tires and undercarriage are not covered with insurance unless you fuss about it further, you might get more information. Theft protection for car rentals on Zanzibar is basically is non existent. When I asked why is that, reply I got was: Zanzibar is small island, sooner or later the car would be found. And because of small island there is zero possibility car would be stolen. If it happens you will get car replacement.
Documents for Car Rental on Zanzibar
As a foreigner you will need to present passport, possess national driving license, according to Zanzibar car rental companies, international license is not obligatory. Those who have documentation in cyrilic should probably also get international driving license. For driving on Zanzibar additional temporary driver’s license from Zanzibar is required that costs 10 USD. Upon booking you can send a photo of national driving license to Zanzibar car hire supplier and they arrange it for you. Once you pick up the car, its all sorted out. Also carry in the car the contract and all documentation received upon rental. If you plan to have more drivers, each driver must be on the contract, and same rules apply for Zanzibar permit, documentation. Without it, no one except the driver should drive a car. Usually credit card is a must when it comes to car rental but not on Zanzibar. Excess amount is accepted in cash rather than by credit card.
Driving on Zanzibar
- The minimum age to rent a car on Zanzibar is 18, although there are few companies that require minimum age 23, upper age limit is 75 years.
- Driving on Zanzibar is on the left side of the road, steering wheel is on the right side of car.
- You must use seat belts. (Although majority of locals is carelessly driving without)
- Speed limit is 80 km/h on country roads
- Speed limit in Stone Town and village roads 40 or 50 km/ hour.
- If you have a traffic coming opposite to you it is mandatory in the island (day and night) to put the right turn blinking light on to show the cars behind you that they cannot overtake you because there is a risk of collision if they do so
- Driving on the beach is prohibited. As well as for motorbikes.
- Driving at night on Zanzibar might be stressful. Watch out for cyclists without night light signals, and pedestrians in dark clothes with no lights walking on the road or cross it without warning, stray dogs appearing from nowhere on and other cars often drive with their full headlights on and don’t lower them.
- Also keep in mind that on Zanzibar roads as there are no lights on the roads also villages have poor light infrastructure, if any at all. Stone Town might be a bit demanding with one way streets also during the day for someone not used to chaos and unpredictable drivers. So pay extra attention on safety, specially careful around dalla dallas.
- Don’t park under palm trees in order to avoid falling coconuts damaging the vehicle.
- In the event of accident call the police and call the car rental company immediately. Do not sign anything until you have a person you can trust with you and is fluent in English and Swahili.
Petrol Stations on Zanzibar
Most companies will provide you with almost empty tank (pick up empty, return empty policy), therefore petrol station will be your first stop upon rental. Petrol stations on Zanzibar are frequent, if you start Zanzibar car rental on Zanzibar airport, you can fill the tank there. Also stone Town has abundance of gas stations. Gas stations accept cash Tanzanian shillings, Euros and US Dollars. With foreign currency you will be at loss on account of exchange rate, therefore its best to pay in Tanzanian currency. Credit cards are not accepted.
Car rental Zanzibar tip: if your car hire contract is pick up empty return empty, make sure you return minimum fuel. Any extra fuel value left in the tank will not be reimbursed to you at the drop off. Similar when fuel policy is pick up full, return full: return full tank. Any missing liter is charged not according to actual fuel prices but according to company policy or the estimation of person in charge, which might be much more!
Price of Fuel on Zanzibar
To fill the tank, the custom on Zanzibar is, you remain seated in the car and petrol station attendant will do the service for you. The price of fuel is roughly 1 USD or around 2500 TSH per liter. You just prepare the money amount you would like to fill and the rest is done by service stuff.
Petrol Stations on Coastal Areas of Zanzibar
Along with Stone Town airport and Stone town there are towns on Zanzibar coast with petrol stations. At the time of writing currently available gas stations out of the city are in Bwejuu, Paje, Makunduchi, Kizimkazi, Nungwi, Matemwe, Chwaka, Mbweni.
No gas stations in Kendwa, Kiwengwa and Jambiani.
Car Hire Prices on Zanzibar
Prices for smallest car group start from 25 USD and can go up to 40 USD per day. Fuel not included. Most of the cars are 4×4 which isnt that bad since some village roads are simply terrible.
Additional costs – Car rental Zanzibar
- According to my knowledge, there are no car rental offices on Zanzibar Airport. Companies deliver cars to Zanzibar airport, Ferry terminal and any other pick up location within Stone Town for free. If you decide to book a car hire Zanzibar while already in resort somewhere out of Stone Town, each company will gladly deliver the vehicle for additional fee – 10 USD and up, depending on supplier.
- Be punctual when returning the car at agreed time. Companies charge a certain amount for each hour passing delivery time in the contract between 10 and 20 USD for each late hour.
- Additional driver on the contract with some car rental suppliers is free of charge, while others charge additionally.
- Most of companies offer limited mileage per day, if you exceed the mileage, you will be charged for extra kilometers.
- Upon pick up of rented car I suggest you take photos of the car for your reference, specially if there are some existing dents or scratches and during the pick up, make sure all is transparently marked in pick up report. This way you avoid paying for previous damage on car.
What Happens if Corrupted Cup Stops You on Zanzibar
Officially, corruption is illegal on Zanzibar. Unofficially corruption still happens.
As a tourist behind the wheel you will most definitely be stopped at least once on Zanzibar. Normal police officer that is strictly doing their job will check the plates, car rental documentation and drivers license and perhaps passport. The rotten apples will start looking for small things on the car, maybe complicating with papers, or try to scare you into thinking you did something wrong – it will soon become obvious they are after some additional chai bribe.
Do not give any money to the police officer. Stay calm, keep your temper down no matter how annoying the situation might be. If the corrupted cop remains persistent, call car hire company emergency number to handle the situation for you. My expat friends from Zanzibar also recommend to demand identification number from the cop, their number, name, and at this point many of them change their mind and will let you go. Little power games! For this reason or in case of accident it is good to own unlocked phone with local sim card.
Taking Car on Ferry To Zanzibar
For those with own car and are considering to take a car on ferry to Zanzibar from Dar es Salaam, on general it is not worth it. Quotes for car on a ferry to Zanzibar are around 350 USD one way, additional 70 USD per passenger. It is better to leave a car in Dar es Salaam and then rent a car on Zanzibar.