Hi. I am travelling to Tanzania in July to August 07 to volunteer in a community development project for four weeks. However, I have never travelled O/S before and am going alone. The first four days ( Before I meet up with my Program co-ordinators) I will be going to Zanzibar and wondered if anyone could provide me w some info on the Ferry from Dar to Zanzi - what to look out for at the port, buying tickets etc. Any general info you could provide on travelling alone in Tanzania - Dar, Zanzi, moshi, would be very much appreciated. Also, info on bike hire and the best way to sightsee in Zanzi would be great. Cheers.
First thing to note about Zanibar, even though it is Tanzania, you will have to clear customs again when you get to the island. Follow the crowd from the ferry across the docks, you will see the clearance hut near the road. While you are in the hut you will be able to organise a taxi if you want one.
On the ferry, you can get first and secon class tickets. There isn't a great deal of different except 1st are upstairs and 2nd are downstairs (down being better if you are prone to seasickness). Both are indoors so I would recommend not paying the extra for first.
It has been a couple of years since I was there but there are ticket offices down at the dock and the process is pretty straight forward to buy tickets. I recommend buying a return ticket.
Watch out for people who try to carry your bag, they won't give it back until you have tipped them adequately. If you put your bag on the racks as you get on the ferry and don't want the "porters" to carry it for you, get it from the rack as the boat is docking. Once the doors open they rush in and grab bags and will ignore you if you tell them you aren't willing to pay. My favorite line was "hapana Pesa" (no money).
At the time I was there, the Lonely Planet had good details about the ferry and I suggest you check out what they have to say.
If you have time, bone up on some basic Swahilli, it will make the world of difference, particularly in Dar. Zanzibar is pretty tourist, particularly Stone Town and the beaches in the North, so English is widely spoken. If you head to the South East beaches around Jambiani, while being developed, the area doesn't get the overlanders and tourist groups so English isn't a common.
Without boring everyone with lots of details, drop me a line if you want to know more.
Don't bother with taking any buses or taxis in Stonetown, as it's very tiny and pretty entertaining to get lost in. You can take a "beach transfer" minibus from town to get to the east coast, which has the best beaches. The island is pretty tiny, so transport isn't a huge deal. Take a look at some of the ruins to the north of Stonetown if that's your thing, go swimming, and buy all the exotic spices you fancy. Saffron there is ridiculously cheap! The food is excellent--great seafood and obviously great spices, so if you're going to Zanz before spending any time on the mainland, enjoy it! The food of mainland Tanzania is not particularly appetizing; I lived with a family on the slopes of Kilimanjaro in a village called Sungu, north of Moshi, for a month, and I'm all for living the local culture, but God, the ugali nearly killed me. For the ferries back to Dar, try to get the MV Sea Star or the MV Sea Express, both of which are pretty legit. Don't bother buying first class tickets. If you're taking a bus from Dar to Moshi, I STRONGLY discourage Buffalo (and about ten other companies) as your driver will probably be stoned and, if you're not a native Tanzanian, you will probably be stared at for the entirety of the six-hour ride. Scandinavian Express is worth the extra few dollars, both in terms of safety and comfort. Moshi itself is a nice little town where you can get pretty much anything you need. Alim's Grocery, on Boma Road, has a good selection of dairy, fruits, veg, dry goods and even Herbal Essences shampoo. The Coffee Shop, on Kilma or Hill Street, tends to be frequented by expats but serves some lovely Western style food in a nice atmosphere, and of course they sell great coffee. It's pretty easy to get in and out of Moshi; there's a stand with daladalas that go pretty much everywhere and larger buses for longer distances (avoid Hood, Kilimanjaro Express, Abood, Air Msae, Tashriff, Air Bus, Tawfiq...and of course Buffalo). It's a pleasant town that occasionally reveals a stunning Kili view (when the fog parts) and has a good cool climate. Enjoy your time there--it's a great country and people should be happy to help you out!