Zanzibar International Airport: Is This The Worst Airport In The World?

Sometimes African service, outside the realms of a five star resort, can be incredibly frustrating. Nowhere is this more true than the train wreck that is  Zanzibar International airport.

Zanzibar International Airport
Source: Jenny Ellen Brown

Zanzibar International Airport

Zanzibar may be the spice island, or as I have come to affectionately call it, heaven on earth. This may be due to the incredible stay we enjoyed at The Residence, but a departure from Zanzibar International airport is far from bliss. This airport is truly hell on earth.

Take note, a new terminal is under construction, and will be around five times the size of the current ‘shack’. That said, it was due to open in 2014, but at the time of our visit (October 2017) was still shrouded in scaffold. In other words, don’t count on this post becoming irrelevant any time soon. If you are heading to Zanzibar before the new terminal opens, here is what you need to know to minimise your stress.

Leaving the serenity of the Residence above and heading to the airport was truly an example of coming back down to earth with a bump.


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Arriving at Zanzibar International Airport

As you descend from your air conditioned vehicle, the full chaos of Africa assaults you. Porters jostle to wrestle your luggage from you, and if you are in need of the toilet, you would be better placed to bring a she-we with you. This is the first airport I have visited with no toilets in the terminal, whether you are arriving or departing. Be sure to pay a visit on the flight, before you arrive.

Departure toilets

If you are leaving Zanzibar and absolutely need to go, turn left before entering the line for departures. The cost to go to the loo is 500 Shillings (around 15p), but as I had no cash with me, I had to resort to trying to negotiate free access.

It did not work, but thankfully a local man took pity on me and pressed a crumpled note into my hand. Hakuna matata indeed!

Entering the airport

This will be the first line of many, as you fight (literally) to leave the island. Your luggage will need to be scanned before you enter the airport to check in, however this is by far the least painful part of the experience.

Checking in

For some logistical dumbass move I cannot figure, the few flights which leave Zanzibar on a Saturday do so at roughly the same time. The airport is woefully unprepared to cope, and the Oman Air flight sadly has the longest line.  After waiting 20 minutes, the same person is still at the front of the line. I have no idea what the hold up is, but at this rate, it will take until midnight to check everyone in and our flight allegedly departs at 5.15pm.

The line starts to move after he has checked in and by 4.30 we are checked in. Checked in is a loose term, as the person who serves us is the surliest airline employee I have ever come across. Her reprimand for not advising her we want our bags to be tagged only to Muscat does not impress me, especially as I had already informed the baggage staff.

Oman Air, take note, your ground staff at Zanzibar are frankly piss poor. As the ground staff weigh our bags, one guys slyly asks me to tip him for weighing my bags. Seriously?


Things only get worse as we head into immigration. I am struggling to understand whether this is really immigration or a refugee war zone as breeze blocks line one side of the enclosure and chairs slump on the floor. Inside frantic passengers, desperate to make their flights, clamour for attention.

We pick our line which turns out to be at the behest of the laziest immigration officer ever. After serving every alternate passenger, he disappears for a minute while his fellow custom offices diligently try to alleviate the lines of bellowing customers. I have never known a country fingerprint and photograph a visitor on both the way in and out!

I am not averse to extra security, however it would be wise to tell passengers to arrive 3 hours beforehand if this is the norm. We are in danger of missing our flight, as we edge ever closer to the front of the line, only for our immigration officer to quit as we reach the front. No apology, no explanation, nothing – he just jumps up and walks off disappearing into the crowd.


My patience is wearing thin, so I start gesticulating to the neighbouring officer who tells me to jump in front. The Italian family beside me almost have a meltdown, and I start getting abuse from the matriarch.

I try explaining to her that we are not pushing in, and in fact have waited the same amount of time as them. They may be about to miss their flight but so are we. I suspect it is highly unlikely these planes will leave without their passengers, but this airport is pure chaos, so anything is plausible.

I find myself having to control my temper, as I try to nudge Jason in for his immigration check. By this time, everyone’s tempers are frayed and I am amazed a fist fight has not erupted.

Last call

To add insult to injury, over the tannoy, announcements indicate the impending departure of the flights. Ground staff urge us onto the plane but there is yet one more hurdle to pass. We have to scan our bags once again.

Departure lounge, Zanzibar
Zanzibar airport departure lounge: Source Michael Gallagher

This results in more lines, the only consolation being that the waiting room is empty because of this complete shambles. In some respects, it is a relief as there are no facilities, no refreshments, shops or anything. I guess when it takes you so long to get through check in, security and immigration, such basics are pointless as no one will ever use them.

Top tips for navigating this airport

  1. Forget the two hour rule – if you want to avoid heart attack inducing stress, I recommend arriving three hours before. This will give you plenty of leeway to ensure you are not clamouring to get through immigration.
  2. Stock up on refreshments at check in – the only refreshment counter is upstairs above check in. Grab any drinks you want there, as if you do happen to have enough time to sit in the waiting area, you won’t have access to any food or drink.
  3. Pay a visit in flight or at the paid departure toilets outside the terminal – this way you will not get caught short.

Of course, if you are fortunate enough to be able to afford it, I recommend following in the footsteps of many other visitors and flying private. A girl can dream right….?

Give me wine

By the time I finally make it onto the plane and sink into my seat, I am ready for a glass of wine. In fact, bring out the bucket….

I guess the only consolation is that Zanzibar is incredible and this hell is worth it to experience views like this one!

Residence Zanzibar sunset wine
Residence Zanzibar sunset wine

Nightmare airports?

What airport horrors have you experienced? I would love to hear your stories and how you managed them.

This post may contain affiliate links which pay me a small commission should you click on them and make a purchase. Creating blog content takes up a lot of time including researching, fact checking, editing and more and for very little reward. It would be great therefore if you could use these links if anything catches your fancy. These small commissions help towards the cost of running the site, and the occasional glass of wine.
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About Anne

Anne is the founder and editor of Frommilestosmiles. If she isn't travelling, she is thinking of travelling or planning her next trip. She has visited over 90 countries on six continents and sampled everything from backpacking to bank bursting travel. Her mission is to help you enjoy more luxurious travel without the luxury price tag through the use of airline and hotel rewards and other money-saving travel tips


  1. Enrico Quaglia

    Just got back from Zanzibar (fifth visit in 18 years) and had the opportunity to go throught the new airport terminal. Yep, it really is state of the art and a joy to use.
    I absolulutely agree with your asessement of the old terminal, truly onje of the worst in the world with institutionalized corruption literally everywhere.
    The new one also happens to be the cleanest airport I’ve ever been through.

  2. Claudia Tanya Kuzniak

    Where shall I start? How about with the fact that in order to board my outbound plane, which I had a confirmation code for AND a receipt, they claimed “There was no reservation.” This resulted in visiting FOUR “offices” and “officials”. I was at the point of missing my flight and therefore my safari. I am embarrassed to admit I burst into tears. When I produced a $100 bill, they “found” my reservation.

    I was routed through Zanzibar on another portion of my trip to Africa and ANOTHER mess! The rude gate agent would not listen to me when I said that my flight was called-I missed my flight and guess what???? Yep- more $$$$$

    I was also ripped off by the airport money exchange, their transport to the resort, and phone data purchase. Never, ever, ever will I go back to this island and I tell EVERYONE of my experiences.

    Africans can be so stupid and short-sighted how they treat tourists. For a temporary “win” they lose any future business and with media, it is an ignorant thing to do because the message gets out to the world.

    • I am pretty sure I would probably have done the same. As you can see tons of people have had similar experiences so you are not alone. I agree with you – it seems a foolish short term win when you consider the potential long term loss

  3. I am not sure if this is a fake or not.

    Really? Zanzibar is not an island built for 5 star tourists only. The Airport ist still a Public airport funded by state money. The airport is a totally normal „African airport“, believe me.

    Please, if you are privileged to travel to African islands please don’t act like it is Europe/USA. A bit more understanding of the poor environment would be great. If not, use a private jet next time and fly directly to the resort without „touching“ Africa.

    hope you understand. Regards, Tim

    • Sorry. But Zanzibar airport and service is the the worst in the world. Words which come to mind are chaos , disorganised,horrendous,inefficient, queue- jumping,.

      Fortunately, the island is beautiful!

  4. Just an update for the post! It is also the most corrupt airport I have ever been. When we first arrived 4 days ago o our way out of the airport, a man approached my friend and I mentioning we were chosen for a spot check in our luggage. We asked why and he just replied he was chief police officer of the airport. We were taken toa small room on the 1st level of the airport, where 3 other officers opened our luggage and spent around 1 hour checking its contents, opening everything they coils find, even asking why we were bring in candles (we were flying in from Southeast Asia and the candles were some souvenirs we bought along the way).
    They were clearly looking for anything wrong in our luggage for us to make any illegal approach!! They made my friend all the 5 boxes of sweets he bought in Thailand and made him eat one sweet from each of the boxes and even drink the water from the bottle we took from the flight.

    Today was our last day and it was terrible from the moment we got to the airport til the flight took off. First the long line to get into the airport, and then we realized why. They were opening all the luggages and to my bad luck, the guy who was checking my luggage was asking about the receipts just about everything I bought along the teip, even for the souvenirs I bought in Stonetown and (please)….I was asked whether I had receipts for my underwears! He said that I coild not carry anything without receipts but he would be nice to me and let me go, but we would look for me in 5 minutes. Then I asked why, and he just smiled and said “5 minutes for you to think”.

    I went to The checkin line of Mango Airline and my luggage exceeded 0,6KG from the allowance and I was willing to pay the USD7 but the lady refused to give me a receipt. I asked her to give me the money back and I through away a shampoo and sunscreen, that counted for roughly 0,5KG. Still she insisted on the 0,1KG excess but let me go with it. Funny thing is that my friend checked in with her colleague and he let him pass with 1,5KG excess without any charge.

    We were told by many people about the “corruption” in the airport of Zanzibar but we did not know that it was that much institutionalized!!! Police, customs, airline staff!!! Just a big shame because it is a beautiful island and I am sure millions of people do not go there to avoid such hassles.

    • Hi Marc firstly thanks for sharing your experience and I’m genuinely sorry you had to go through this. I thought our experience was bad but your experience makes ours seem tame. In this day and age of open media you would really think some of these countries and airports would get their act together. Pre internet I can understand how certain organisations might have expected to get away with such corruption. People will share these stories and put pressure on these countries to up their game and act more honestly (or suffer the negative international backlash)

    • I left my travel folder with passports, Global Entry cards, International Drivers Permits, Immunization Certificates, and about 300 Euros in the tray at the security scanner. I did not realize the loss until we landed in Dar Es Salaam. There was only one employee running the scanner and no other passengers entered after us, so very clear where and who was involved with the theft. The US Embassy staff in Dar Es Salaam told us that thefts like this were rampant in Zanzibar.

      • Oh god I am so sorry to hear that. That is one of my worst nightmares. Hope it wasn’t too painful trying to sort everything out.

        • We luckily had an extra day in Dar Es Salaam and the American Embassy was fantastic in moving us through the system. Made our flight. Replaced the passports and Global Entry cards upon return home.

    • James D Ashley

      Unlike your experience, we were basically alone going through check-in and security. However, I left my travel folder in the scanner tray and didn’t realize it was missing until we landed in Dar Es Salaam We had sat in the departure lounge for half an hour within sight of the scanner and no one else went through the line after us, so pretty obvious who the folder belonged to, if there had been an honest agent running the machine. Lost passports, Global Entry cards, immunization records, and several hundred Euros. Spent half a day Dar Es Salaam getting replacement documents and barely made flight home due to the thief who took the folder.

  5. Hi Anne

    I think yours is a very good job on earth. It is said you have visited over 90 countries/airports. Have you visited Zanzibar again lately? In one of your ‘dramatic stories’ you mentioned that you will return to Zanzibar. I hope you are once again ready to tell the world as to how Zanzibar Airport is.

    I would not be surprised if you now tell us that there were no single ground staff member at the airport and all passengers lost their luggage. I wonder how you feel when your job seems to be to go at length discrediting African facilities. On the one at Zanzibar, I guess your masters are more than happy to pay you!!!

    • For the record, my blog is not my job but I’ve given up trying to defend myself against these types of comments as they are so obviously written by people with a vested interest in defending the airport. I stand by my comments – the airport is a disgrace but I would return to Zanzibar given the opportunity.

      I do thank you however for taking the time to write such a long reply even if it’s intention is to attempt to discredit me. I’m still flattered that people think I’m getting paid to write somehow discredit Zanzibar. That goes against my own moral standards apart from anything but all these people defending an airport which is a joke (unless of course it now has a shiny new terminal)

  6. Have you been in arusha airport? I think it may be worse, although the fact that it’s not as busy as Zanzibar does help it maintain shorter check-in times. Best regards!

  7. Oops, we are scheduled to leave this morning for Johannesburg, I hope that things have improved since your visit. But I’m glad for the heads up. Zanzibar rocks in every way, let’s hope that the airport experience is less painful than yours was.

    • The island definitely makes up for the awful airport. As you can see I got quite a lot of stick for this post so who knows. Maybe they will have been shamed into improving things!!!

  8. Anne, random question. As a visitor from the US I shouldn’t technically be required to have a yellow fever vaccine, but I’ve heard reports that they’ve forced people to have them anyway. Did you see this happen while you were there? Thasnk!

    • Hi Jessica, no I didn’t see this happening and my understanding is that you should only need it if you have been to a country which is known to have yellow fever within x number of days before arrival. The only place I’ve ever had yellow fever for was Kenya and even then I’m not sure it was mandatory and it was a long time ago. It’s not one I’d rush to have unless I had to as it made me quite sore for a while afterwards

  9. I suppose being a smaller airport and an underdeveloped one, these problems are natural. I have seen quite a few in other places with the same hiccups. However, as a traveler, I would be completely irritated too. You definitely need wine after that 😉

  10. It’s the major vacationer attraction of the state.

  11. Been to the island 4 times. Haven’t had any of the problems you adress.

    • I am really glad that is the case as the island is incredibly and I’d hate for people not to go because of a crap airport. That said, the local authorities really need to address the issue of an airport that cannot cope when it is busy.

  12. wat credit you will got it,I think s during your trip to Zanzibar you had alots of stress in your brain that’s why u didn’t saw a toilets, advise your next trip you will travelled Zanzibar with pure brain

  13. Go ahead with full attribution

  14. There is nothing worse than a bad airport! I’ve never been to Zanzibar, but the airport isn’t selling it haha. I was in the Koh Samui airport a couple of weeks ago and couldn’t believe how amazing it was! They had me at free buffet.

    • Oh gosh I visited koh Samui in 2002 and back then the airport was all little thatched huts. It also had a little toy train to pick passengers up from the plane along with their bags. I suspect it may all be different now but please let me know as I really want to know the answer.

      • It did have the little train! It felt like something from Jurassic Park and felt completely bizarre with planes landing right alongside us, I loved it!

        • Oh that is too cute. I’m so glad that they have kept it as it charming and completely novel. Perhaps I should a do a post on the cutest airports in the world….

  15. I loved your honest and crisp review. The Zanzibar international airport really seems to be in drastic condition and paying for loo is really shocking. I couldn’t even believe that. Taking that long for check-in will be another pain.

  16. Appreciate your candid and honest opinion about the Zanzibar airport. I have not travelled much to Africa and the only airport that I am aware of there is Kigali International Airport in Rwanda. The airport there was really good and so were the services. Zanzibar airport seems to be the pits as compared to other airports. I do appreciate the fact that they may be tight on resources, but what resource is needed for simple, courteous service?

  17. Wow! Zanzibar looks like a tricky place to visit! Your post shares a lot of detailed information which would definitely helps us avoid any tricky situation on our side. Well done!

  18. No toilet? That is so much hassle. Glad that there’s a man who was generous enough. I mean, toilets should be free! Well, that really means we should have currency ready, even just a bit when we go somewhere

  19. Thanks for the heads up on the Zanzibar airport. Whenever I read articles like these, I waver between wondering why focus on the negative and gratitude for someone providing fair warning to those who come after them. Usually the latter wins…

  20. Megan Jerrard

    I didn’t fly into Zanzibar as part of my Tanzania trip, but sounds pretty hectic. I’ve come to realize that in Africa you travel with no expectations and have to be ready for a challenge!

    Doesn’t sound like a fun process at all, so I’ll absolutely be adding more time to our arrival if we ever head through Zanzibar. Sigh – I really do hate “African time”! Sorry you had such a horrible experience 🙁 Hope Zanzibar itself though was fun!

  21. Wow, this is good to know when we would travel to Zanzibar !
    We already visited a lot of airports, huge and small ones, but never really had a nightmare story.
    The only “strange” one was in Qatar, where people were not allowed to enter the Boarding area (where all seats were), so people were just sitting on the ground anywhere….

    • How bizarre. Was that some time ago as the last few times I’ve flown via Qatar I was quite impressed. Let’s hope Zanzibar gets a new airport soon

  22. I think the most inconvenient airport experience I had was unfortunately in my own country. We have 4 separate terminals so just in case you overlook which terminal you need to be in you’ll have to travel a bit and knowing Manila’s traffic, expect to be sooooo late. But guess what? Most flights are always delayed so it’s a life saver. 😁

    • I love the fact that you applaud the flights being late. We were in Manila last year and think all flights were on time but I know what you mean about the traffic

  23. No way is it worth it! I can get a view like your photo just fifteen minutes from my home in San Diego. I would never want to deal with an airport like Zanzibar’s! Your story makes it sounds like a nightmare.


    When we left Zanzibar we were picked up at the Hotel and the driver did not know which airline we were flying on. I had not received tickets from the trip organizer. only an itinerary. That was a little unhinging but then we were informed that the airport was closed because VIP s were coming in. no information about our flight and we just picked an airline line and fortunately got the right one! It was chaotic! . We were fortunate that we were flying to Dar to connect with Emirates. A nice little man grabbed us and said, “follow me the plane is waiting”. We chased him all the way through the airport, I swear. Didn’t know is he was for real or not but he got us through to our gate eventually. What a trip. We were the last on the plane. Heart time. I have never had such an adventure. Still dont know who was landing at the airport that was so special. Our tour company was distressed to hear we had so little help from the folks in Zanzibar. But, it was a lovely stay, they were very friendly and accommodating and the only glitch was our uncertainty about which airline we would fly. Yes, I will go again and plan more time and information.

    • Oh wow that really does sound like an adventure! I had a similar experience in Bali a few years back when our flights were cancelled due to a world summit. We turned up to the airport to find it closed and missed our international flights home!

  25. What an irony some folks simply can’t take criticism; SHE had a terrible experince and that can’t be taken away regardless your own thoughts. I’ve flown here, sometimes 10 times a day and lots are in such a poor state it’s soon hindering development. This is a management issue really. The new terminal is built too close to the runway becoming an obstacle, now try and make an excuse for that one!

    • Thanks JN. Oh god, that sounds like a monumental mistake. I really hope they do get a new terminal built though as the island is stunning and full of colour and culture. It won’t put me off going back but it would put some people off.

  26. Anne seems you came to zanzibar as a dramatic story writer to gain fame and not as a tourist..SMH

    • Seems some people would rather shoot the messenger than deal with the issue that is that this airport was not fit for purpose during our visit. You may wish to check out views of others as I am not alone in my opinion

      Googling Zanzibar airport reviews also brings up a bunch of other unsavoury stories on TripAdvisor which I tend not to take much notice of but my point here is that people can try to defend this airport all they like, but starting a slur campaign against me, instead of addressing the real issue is ridiculous. Nevertheless I’m flattered you think I may gain some fame from this but perhaps you are giving me more credit than I deserve.

  27. angela johnson

    Gross exaggeration! Try mombasa, and Lamu-but wouldn’t stop flying in/out them or zanzibar!
    Get a life

    • I have flown into Mombasa and it wasn’t a bad experience. Our experience in Zanzibar was and I’m entitled to depict our story as it unfolded. I will still return but hope they have got their act together when I do.

      I hardly think almost missing our flight because of the incompetence of the immigration and check in staff counts as gross exaggeration.

  28. We know so many tourists keep visiting Zanzibar and return every year. May be Zanzibar is not for you dear. The world is so big with lots to make people happy and unhappy. May be you should forgive and forget Zanzibar. Good or bad things are the symbol and uniqueness of Zanzibar. We love it all :-).

  29. I am sorry you had this experience – I fly between South Africa and Zanzibar at least twice monthly. Yes, the Zanzibar airport experience is certainly not ‘Heathrow’ or OR Tambo – but to call it ‘the worse airport’ – is a gross exaggeration. Yes, I see you compliment your stay at The Residence – but your comments are completely inaccurat eregarding the airport. There are toilet facilities / coffee bar / refreshments. Ground handlers and staff always do their utmost to assist passengers. I suppose quite typically – there are always people in the world who have a ‘terrible experience’ – and in ‘my experience’ these folks are awful experiences everywhere – the nature of the beast. Might I suggest you stay away from Africa all together.

    • I’m glad that your experience was positive but can only base my comments on our experience which was shocking. For us to get to the front of the queue and the immigration office to simply disappear is not what I consider helpful. It isn’t going to put me off returning though and hopefully next time it will be better.

      • Lara Asmussen

        That is great news Anne! Before your next planned trip to Zanzibar – PLEASE email me – and I will give you best advice to make your trip all the round happier! As I live between Zanzibar and South Africa – and yes, travel into East Africa can be frustrating and very ‘hit and miss’. Best regards

        • Hi Lara, that would be awesome. I’m also heading to South Africa in April visiting mainly Cape Town and surrounding areas so if you have any top tips for there, I would be super grateful

  30. You are exagerating your story vith spice on Spice Islands . As a frequent visitor just left two days back I disagee with you on many comments.. People like you visit Zanzibar because its cheap and hv no understanding of problems of a developing country. What airports you compare with ??
    Wonde whos payrolling you for this.

    • Thanks for your comment but you are totally mistaken. You are entitled to disagree with me but your comments about my reasons for visiting Zanzibar are unfounded. I didn’t visit because it is cheap. In fact where I stayed wasn’t cheap. I visited because the island is beautiful.

      That has no bearing on the airport, no one is paying me to write this post(although I’m flattered that you think someone would) and I’ve visited literally hundreds of airports around the world and this one is the worst I’ve experienced. I do appreciate Tanzania is a developing country and so infrastructure may not be as developed but surely the visa fee should be put to good use to help develop the infrastructure to encourage more visitors?

  31. Excerpt from
    Zanzibar International Airport was supposed to be replaced by a new, much larger airport but construction work was halted more than two years ago, nobody really knows why. For the time being we are stuck with the old airport, which is completely inadequate, to put it mildly.
    Be prepared for some chaos on arrival, take a few deep breaths and be patient.
    When you made it to the top of the queue at immigration,  your visa is processed and a photo of you as well as fingerprints are taken, this only takes a few minutes. Don’t expect your luggage to arrive on conveyor belts – any luggage is carried in by hand by airport staff. In case you want to exchange money, you can do so while you wait for your luggage. After all your bags went through an x-ray machine (usually a customs guy is in attendance there) you’ve made it!   
    The chaos is even worse at departure: After the initial queue to get into the departure hall, your luggage/bags are scanned. Now you face long, slow moving queues at the check-in counter (this hall has no aircon, just ceiling fans). If needed, toilets are up the staircase on the 1st floor of the departure hall, next to the restaurant.
    Then you join more queues at the immigration counters and finally, your hand luggage is scanned again. Now you made it into the boarding hall, which has aircon units. Here you find a shop and some kiosks where you can do your last shopping. At the end of the hall  (walk around the corner) you find a small kiosk for snacks and coffee, fridges with cool drinks and water and around the corner are toilets. 
    NB: Check in at least 2 hours or even earlier before departure to avoid stress!

    • Thanks for the very useful insight. I am really wondering if I was in a temporary hall or something as the room we passed through sounds nothing like what you have just described. Just a square room with no toilets or amenities that I saw, although admittedly we were rushing to board the flight. It’s a shame about the new airport because that will make a massive difference. It isn’t going to put me off returning but I will be arriving considerably earlier next time!

      • Did you by any chance leave with a small aircraft to Tanzania mainland? In that case you would have checked in at a small building next to the airport. There everything happens in one square room and there were indeed no toilets the last time I checked in for a flight to Dar.
        If you were at the regular airport building you would have first been in a large hall with several check in counters. Immigration is in the left corner behind the check in counters. From there you get into the boarding hall which is a square room with several rows of seats, on the right hand side is a large shop, on the left hand side some kiosks; and next to the kiosks is a passage of maybe 3m width which leads to the other end of the boarding hall, where you find a kiosk with snacks, coffee and soft drinks, thereafter you get to the toilets. You might not have seen that passage since you were in a rush.
        Maybe check it out next time you visit this beautiful island.

        • No we were travelling with Oman Air but what you describe sounds more like what we experienced. I’d love to know what the VIP lounge is like that we saw.

  32. I absolutely agree with Anne. It definitely is
    One of the worst airports I have travelled through. Going in or out of that airport is a challenge.. can you imagine passengers were charged $20 some years back just to get through immigration! Apparently for “using” the airport facilities!

    • Oh god that is hilarious! I noticed there were signs for a departure tax but guess that has been replaced by the visa?? I would be seriously hacked off for paying $20 for the poor facilities there.

  33. You, in all honesty, are a liar.
    It’s cute that you’re a writer and want to depict dramatic experiences, but fabricating entire situations that can be verified is just sad.
    I know the Zanzibar airport and have used it multiple times and a lot of what you describe is false.
    Like, I get it, you want to tell interesting stories and sometimes you can get pressed for content. But making it up ends up setting you further back than actually being open minded and LIVING a more interesting life that’s worth writing about.
    Maybe you had a bad experience and didn’t know left from right, but that doesn’t give you license to proclaim places as “hell on earth”.
    It’s all just sad. Stop it.

    • I am most definitely not a liar. I am telling a story as I experienced it. We never saw any toilets in the departure lounge but then we were in the lounge for but a minute. The point still remains that there are no toilets prior to getting into the lounge which takes so long they may as well not exist.

      Furthermore I certainly am not suggesting people do not visit Zanzibar. On the contrary, I am planning to regardless as I loved the place.

      • By the way, the link will take you to other posts I have written on Zanzibar. Some are not published yet so there are more to come. I absolutely loved it and hopefully you will feel this comes through in other posts

      • I agree with u that Zanzibar airport need to be improvement which is under construction the problem is the big challenges with the construction and that is why it took times to finish, but there is a toilets at the lounge so I don’t know why you did not find it. Regarding the immigration officers are so many immigration offices and always very helpfully, hard working and kind so there might be a problem with the one who left but normally someone is always there to replace. When u talked about the x ray machine checking the bags two time this is very good for the security.
        I hope u will see the different on your next visit and you will enjoy at Zanzibar airport.

        • I agree. I’m all for anything which adds to security. Obviously in this scenario everyone in immigration was in danger of missing flights and clearly that wasn’t helping. I will be heading back in a few years to climb Kilimanjaro and will be going back. Who knows the new terminal might even be open by then! I understand that is a couple of years behind though….

  34. Anne, while we understand your frustration due to your stressful experience, I guess the you did not overlook the presence of the Oman Air Business Lounge upstairs.

    However I find it strange that due to stress or anger you decided to adamantly declassify not only the departure lounge but even to suggest to people not to visit Zanzibar at all.

    Even Mr. Dominic had noted that the toilets and the coffeee shops are availabe in the area where you now say I quote “There is certainly wasn’t a coffee shop or confectionary stand in the departure lounge we passed but then even describing it as a departure lounge, is pushing the boundaries of trade descriptions” unquote.
    Even after seeing the development of the new terminal. I thought you would suggest to other travelers to make sure to go to the loo prior to their arrival and Susggest to the authorities to improve the facilities even on a temporrary basis.
    I loo is due to control the use of public especially the labourers and those groups of farewell parties who are usually an informal crowd.
    Just to warn you Dar es Salaam airport is far away from comfort. I suggest you take direct flight to Kilimanjaro Internationa Airport if hou want to avoid un necessary hustles of transit issues.

    • I assume the business lounge is only open to business passengers? sadly I was not one…

      Also I’m not sure that overcomes the issues we experienced as we still needed to check in and passengers in business weren’t faring much better nor did I see a fast track for them through immigration. My experience won’t put me off returning but I will be better prepared next time

  35. Sounds familiar:) For me is opposite experience, the worst was always arrival since i already figured out, three hour minimum time for departures///, The baggage pick up organisation is terrible (actually there is no organisation) . It felt like being a cattle among the crowd specially if you arrive when two or more airplanes land…..But t at the end beauty of island wins.

  36. I had missed my flight the previous day, through my own oversight. I was amazed that the lady
    on Zanzibar airport told me not to worry (“Hakuna Matata”). She immediately managed to
    get me my isle seat in the waiting aircraft to Heathrow, London, and advised me to visit
    Air Canada counter upon arrival and have them reschedule your flight to N.America..

    I found porters and airport staff extremely helpful, and definitely the toilets were free.
    There is a nice restaurant on the second floor. Hopefully, during my next visit, I will
    visit the restaurant for dinners.

  37. Amanda Battman

    Hi Anne
    As you know I was here in June this year. Had the same problems getting into the terminal, through the first scanners, and we were a very large group 200+ very slow progress.
    Surly and difficult check in and immigration staff.
    There is a coffe/refreshment kiosk to the left as you are in the departure lounge, just before the toilets. The is also a ‘duty free’ shop to the right, but I didnt explore it. It was very hot and total chaos throughout the whole airport. Not somewhere I would like to go again. Havi g said that, at least you didnt have to transit for 3 hours in Addis Ababa!
    BTW I though Oman Air was dry?

  38. As above, that picture is definitely NOT Zanzibar airport. I live here and travel frequently in and out of Zanzibar.
    They now have luggage scanning machines. Toilets are free. There are two places from which you can buy food. Nothing spectacular to be honest but there is food.
    Dar airport is much worse.

    • Hi Jon, do you happen to have a photo of ZIA as happy to update? Happy to give full credit. I think I might avoid Dar Es Salaam based on these comments!

      • Will be there on Sunday Oct 29. Will send thru with a fresh photo 🙂

        • Jon that would be awesome. If you could get the confectionary stand too, that either I was too blind to see, or had disappeared I will be eternally grateful.

  39. As someone who has traveled through this airport numerous times, it is not luxurious or full of amenities like American or European airports, but I feel the need to agree with the first commenter and correct some of your statements. Yes, there is a refreshment counter in the departure lounge, to the far left, but it is understandable in your hate to board your plane that you would have missed it. There is also a shop and toilets in the lounge. Those are free. I have never tried to use the toilets outside.

    In addition, it is recommended you arrive three hours ahead of time and when I have flown Kenyan airways we are told that in numerous ways.

    I have had bad experiences in Dar es Salaam with airport staff. I am not saying that they were fantastic, but did their jobs.

    Finally, if the jostling and porters when you got to the airport were so unexpected and troublesome, then in your vacation you did not experience any of the real Zanzibar and the vibrant energy of the people. This is true in many countries around the world. You were only a tourist seeing an elite view of Zanzibar. While that is fine if that is want you wanted to enjoy the beaches, but it is not what live in like in the main city.

    • I have no issue with the general hustle of such places but in an airport I don’t expect to be asked to tip. I’ve paid for my airline ticket! The great thing about these experiences is that ultimately they end up being talking points for years to come, as for the three hours comment, as you can see that is what I have recommended. However our tickets made no such reference

  40. i had the same experience in august 2017. First experience was the fact that we stood verry long in line but there was no action. Then there was an officer ho asked everybody wat there final destination was. We were the only people in line going to the Netherlands. Everybody in line did get a paper to fill in for leaving the country exept us. He asked and take our pasports and run away with it. I didn’t trust him and walked with him because he had our pasports. Then he told me to get back in line and i had to put dollars between a paper he give me. He would pas the line in 10 minutes en than there would be a plauseble exchange with the pasports en the dollars. The we arrived to check in for bagage. The had cheated with te scale so that our bagage should te to heavy and i had to pay again. Than i had to pay again to get a lable on my bagage for the transfer.
    Then we want to buy a sandwich from the last shillings we had. There were no prices in the coffecorner on the products. he let me pay 25000 shillings for a piece of bread with cheese.
    Also the people who grab your bagage on the airport is not a nice first impression from the island.
    Zanzibar and her citizens are verry nice en beautiful people. But we noticed a lot of corruption among police en airportstaff. Its a shame and hope for the peole that the new president going to fix this serious problem.

  41. Have to agree with Anne, one of the most beautiful places I have been to but the airport IS a complete let down. On arrival at the luggage collections the guy told us that if we want our bags sooner we can pay him 😳 And the departure was horrendous to say the least.

    • This kind of thing is such a shame as it gives a place which is truly incredible a bad reputation. I loved the places I visited in Cambodia a few years back but would not go back because got sick of people trying to rip us off. I want to support developing countries and feel that the money I spend does. I do not want to feel like I’m being taking the piss out off just because I happen to be fortunate enough to have been born into a more developed country

  42. I guess you have mixed up and confuse other items with Julius Kambarage Nyerere International Airport

    1. The departure lounge photograph is from Daresalaam Terminal.
    2. Toilets are available just next behind the coffee shop in the left corner.
    3. Only in Dar es salaam wherr you will get pay loos.
    4. There coffee shop and confectionery cum soveneir shop in the departure lounge.

    • Responding to your comments in turn.

      1. I sourced the photo from Pixabay and it came up under Zanzibar airport. It looks like what I remember but given I was fighting desperately to make my flight, taking pictures was not top of my list of activities in the airport.
      2. Regarding toilets. There absolutely were no toilets that we could see inside the terminal prior to immigration. I asked and was directed to the toilets outside. I had to pay to enter those toilets so am confident there weren’t any free ones. That said, it did look as though half the airport was being rebuilt so maybe they would normally be in that section.
      There certainly wasn’t a coffee shop or confectionary stand in the departure lounge we passed but then even describing it as a departure lounge, is pushing the boundaries of trade descriptions. Admittedly we were practically running for our plane so may have failed to see them but short sighted I may be, but missing a whole coffee shop seems unlikely.

      There simply is no defence for how terrible this airport is. I just hope other airports in Tanzania are better as I will be returning in 2019 to climb Kilimanjaro and would prefer to avoid a repeat occurrence. Not my idea of fun!

      • Sorry for your trouble! But I fly from/to this airport several times each year. Toilets are after Immigration to the left. Shortly before you reach the toilets there is a refreshment shop where you can get cold and warm drinks…. could it be that you just did not see that because you where so stressed?

        • You are right this is possible but also a mute point as it took us almost two hours to get into the airport, checked in and through immigration and there were no toilets before we got through to departures, at which point we were having to run on to the plane. I’ve never been to an airport that has no toilets (well, apart from the landing strip I visited years ago in the Masai Mara but that was really just a field) prior to passing through immigration!

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