Out of Africa....Wait!

February 7, 2008 - Zanzibar, Tanzania

Dave:
I have to admit, Namita has been a very good travel partner. In all the weeks we have been on the road together there has been very few differences of opinion that have resulted in 'discussion'. Working on this journal has been one of those things as well as the lead time required before a flight. Namita likes to give plenty of time where I tend to cut it a little closer. For example, on one of our flights in Africa Namita was at the gate pleading to them to continue to hold the last shuttle to the aircraft as I had gone to the washroom. 
Sidebar: for the record,it was not my fault Rupe, Namita and I missed that flight to Costa Rica a couple of years ago.

Our final day in Zanzibar started with breakfast on the hotel rooftop with Mark and Terry. We were saying goodbye to our very good travel friends. Namita and I were now heading to India and Mark and Terry were off to London for a couple nights before flying back to the US. Namita and I were planning our day which was going to include walking the alley shops of Stone Town for part of the morning. Inevitably the conversation got to setting up a cab to get us to the airport. The negotiation began. It always ended with Namita's trump card 'You just never know what could happen'. At the beginning of this trip I didn't put much weight in that statement but I was slowly learning that travelling these countries there is some truth to it. However, in this case, the airport in Zanzibar is only 10 minutes away and is tiny. I swear it is practically two rooms - one for departure and one for arrival. They don't even have luggage conveyors. When we arrived from Arusha all the plane's luggage was thrown on tables and we had to fetch what was ours. Really what 'could happen'?

We arrived about an hour and a half before our flight. The airport is so small the Check-In is actually outside on the sidewalk. Due to our re-routing to avoid Kenya we were now flying Ethiopian Airlines instead of Qatar (nothing like switching airlines from one of the world's wealthiest countries to one of the poorest). Check-in took about a half hour. There were about 15 people ahead of us in line and there was no computer system. It's the first hand-written boarding pass I had ever been given. We proceeded pass the counters to drop our checked baggage to some airport employees. A man asked Namita to open her luggage (the airport did not have an x-ray machine) and he haphazardly looked inside. A woman motioned to me but I wasn't sure what she was asking (a single lock secures the transport bag around backpack). She moved it around a bit to make it look like she was checking it, then she said 'favour' and she pushed it through. What a fail-safe security system!

Across from the baggage 'area' were two booths against the wall.  One was for customs and one for exit tax - EXIT TAX!!! No one told us about that! Throughout our travels in Africa, it was our goal to spend all the local currency before getting on the plane as it is very difficult to get rid of afterwards (in total we had 5 differnt currencies in Africa). Therefore, before leaving for the airport we had budgeted ourselves so we would walk on the plane with essentially no Tanzanian Schillings remaining. The exit tax was $30 US each and they only accept US dollars, not their own currency. Makes sense, right? They do not accept credit cards and there is no ATM at the airport. So you are required to make this payment but aren't given a method to do so. We began emptying our wallets but all our emergency money was spent on a Visa to get into Zambia due to Gap's screw up. Between Namita and I we had $35 Canadian, $5 US and some Schillings (few bucks). We said we would take a taxi to the closest ATM and be back in time for boarding but the airline employee said she was boarding the plane fifteen minutes. She took the money we had, got it exchanged and attempted to convince the exit tax people to let us go. She returned asking for more. I found some SA Rand and Namita found a bit more. She once again went to plead our case. This time she returned and said that we are ok to go.

What was that Namita said, 'YOu never know what could happen'.

The carry-on luggage security was just as bad as the Checked-One. We had some rather sharp items that they found as they went through our bags but they let us go. Also, I actually forgot to remove my full-size Swiss Army knife from my carry-on. They didn't find it there but when we changed planes in Ethiopia I had to check my whole bag.


 


Pictures

Rickshaw Madness
Zanzibar Airport
 
 

1 Comment

Mark and Terry:
March 11, 2008
Don't get me started! First, that airport forgot to put my luggage on the plane. It arrive a few minutes after I made my connection. That pattern continued and my luggage went from Zanzibar, Dar Es Salaam, Dubai, London (arrive a few minutes after I boarded the plane 3 days later - so I missed it again), Atlanta, JFK New York, Honolulu, and finally Kauai where I got it 2 weeks late. It is better traveled than I am. When my carry on went through security in Tanzania I was asked for a "tip" I assume in exchange for a quick hassle-free check-in. Makes you feel safe. Somehow in all the commotion I forgot to exchange our cash and we left with over 280,000 TSh that I can't exchange anywhere except in Tanzania.
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