You ever sort of throw a statement of intent to the universe? And you have no idea how to achieve what you so confidently proclaim but you know that one way of the other, it must happen?
That’s what happened the day I told Alice, “We are going to Zanzibar”. We were driving back from teaching bits of our passions to kids and I had just earned KeS 10,000 that I hadn’t planned for. That might have had a lot to do with my sudden surge of confidence in achieving this dream I’d wanted for several years. If I were to borrow money from my usual lenders, the money could easily come to about 25K, I thought, and that was a very good start! I didn’t know exactly how much the trip would cost so the math begun.
I had three options (two really when you consider that I was travelling on a budget. The cheapest flight cost about 17k so that was definitely not happening!) To get to Zanzibar from Nairobi, I could either cross the border through Namanga, or go the Mombasa route and go through the Horohoro border. I chose the latter.I really didn’t mind travelling by road because the stretch from Mombasa to Dar and onwards was one I had never been to, so I was super curious to see how life was as we went.
The bus fares below are according to Modern Coast. I used Tahmeed on the Nairobi-Mombasa stretch though, and intended to do the same from Mombasa – Dar es Salaam (it cost about 100-200 less but came with many regrets!)
This is also fare one way. Of course I stuck to the cheapest option meaning I’d spend Kes 10,200 on fare to and from Zanzibar! This was pretty sweet except for a tiny complication.
When you get to Dar, you need to cross the ferry to get to Zanzibar.
First of all, all buses from Nairobi or Mombasa depart very early in the morning to arrive around 5.00 pm in Dar. Secondly, the Azam Ferry’s last ferry departs for Zanzibar at 4 pm daily. (There is a night ferry I’d read about on Trip Advisor and other sites and literally everyone who’d been on it said “DO NOT!” Even Zanzibaris themselves don’t recommend it. Also, it takes 8 hours where the Azam speedboat takes only 2.)
Arriving in Dar later than the last ferry (which was definitely going to happen) meant I’d have to sleep over and wait for the next day’s ferry.
I had not initially factored in sleeping over in Dar while calculating my accommodation.
Budget so far: Kes 10,200
I am thrifty as thrifty goes but I would never sleep in a dirty or unsafe place if it saves me a million shillings. N.E.V.E.R!
Now ZIFF takes place in Stone Town, so I wanted a place near enough to walk to and from the festival. Also much like Mombasa’s Old Town, I very much liked the thought of getting familiar with the town by walking.
Alice and I favored a double room because it tends to be cheaper once the split is done.
And so I begun stalking Jumia Travel for any deals that could save me a shit ton and I actually got a couple at a go. I finally settled on Malindi Boutique because I found both good and not so bad reviews. The photos looked nice, it was near the ocean and also, it was a 10-12 minute walk from the main ZIFF venues. It was it!
Again, I am very thrifty but I do not believe in visiting a new place for less than 5 days. It is simply not enough!
Despite my budget constraints, I was dead set on spending about a week there (basically the whole festival duration) and so I started playing the booking game. Many hotels including Malindi Boutique had the free cancellation option and so some days I’d have made a booking only to find out later that the price had come down. So I’d cancel my previous booking and make a new one, and on and on. I did this for weeks!
That was how I got the deal of the century. The hotel had a 20% discount and around that time, there also happened to be a 50% off Idd offer. I applied both vouchers and for a 7 day stay in a double room, we were to pay a maximum of Kes 9,500 ( Kes 4250 each person).
I’d heard cases where a hotel refused to accept Jumia’s vouchers so just to be safe, I called Malindi Boutique to ensure that that price stood and they assured me that whatever Jumia said I’ll pay is exactly what I would.
The day I arrived and checked in, I could tell that it pained the receptionist to give me a room at such a price and for so long a stay. I was very pleased with myself!
Budget so far: Kes 14,450
Malindi Boutique offers breakfast at no surcharge so I only needed worry about lunch and supper. I love street food and I knew it would be cheap because street food usually is. (I was obviously not ready for the open air food market at Forodhani Gardens where most of my money would go (and with very little regret))
7 days for food costing 500 shillings sounded quite fair, so I set aside Kes 3500 and bumped it up to 5000 because shit happens and I am a foodie.
I was looking forward to cocktails as well, but I could live without them so I didn’t really count them. If they didn’t fit into the 5000, then I simply was going to have to do without one (P.S : this was a lie ).
Budget so far: Kes 19,450
4. Miscellaneous but really, Travel Documents
Ideally, this would’ve been money I could blow away on cocktails or souvenirs. Ideally.
Realistically though, I had never traveled out of the country and a passport at the time cost a minimum of Kes 6000. Obviously, no thank you! I applied for the East African Passport that cost Kes 990 instead, very naively I might add. There’s something about the government taking things online, that for a moment makes you actually have faith in our systems. Site works like a charm, the instructions are clear as hell and the waiting period says at least 10 days. Further delay they say, only happens if you haven’t correctly submitted your documents. L.O fucking L!
And then you go Nyayo House and it’s a fucking nightmare! I expected very long queues so the 3-4 hour wait was nothing! Got my photo taken and told to come back after two weeks.
Exactly two weeks later, I am mentally skipping to Nyayo House barely waiting to hold my first ever passport, only to, very nonchalantly, get told to come back after another 2 weeks. It was nonchalant in the same way employees at the Kenyatta University Finance Department tell you to go back to another office first, just so you can get off their hands for a while, and they can have extra time on their already extended lunch break. And it gets me so mad I want to see my application for myself, just to make sure it’s not that someone wants their palms shamelessly oiled.
So I demand my birth certificate back because seeing that will enable me to see my application forms. They stapled them together and when your passport is ready, it comes in that folder with your original birth certificate. The customer care desk ask me why I’d like my birth certificate back and I cite “personal reasons”; because even if I want to just stroke it like my precious, it’s my fucking birth certificate goddamn it!
I get referred to 1st floor Nyayo House which has all the hallmarks of a life sucking government office, but the people there are surprisingly helpful. I even get to chit chat with the man and woman in the room where I finally find my documents, truly unprocessed in a pile like probably thousands others. Here, when they ask me why I’d like it back, I tell them I truly only need the copy for an application I need to make. They do the photocopy for me, staple the original back to the file, and I leave disappointed but not that mad anymore. There were people with bigger problems.
A woman I chatted with on the queue needed to have traveled by the following week and her passport was apparently not yet processed months after she’d applied! Another guy had clocked four months that day, just being told to come back fortnight after fortnight.
I went home and applied for the temporary East African Pass instead. It cost Kes 350 and the getting the stamp a few days later was so easy and fast I couldn’t believe I’d wasted my time on something that later proved too ambitious for the government!
Secondly, to travel Zanzibar, one needs a Yellow Fever shot. A certain friend who shall not be mentioned quoted the shot at a measly Kes 250 and I was thrilled! Same friend went to get her shot and called me later, laughing and saying the shot is actually Kes 2500. SMFH!
(I paid Kes 2,500 and later found out from other Kenyan friends who got theirs at the border, that the shot there costs Kes 1000.)
Around the time I went to get the shot, it hit me that I had not factored in having to sleep over in Dar es Salaam, so back I went to Jumia Travel to find the cheapest, nearest to the ferry hotel I could find and I settled for one called Hotel Concorde. (I didn’t actually sleep here though. More on this later) It would’ve cost me about Kes 1400 meaning Kes 2800 because of the way back.
Budget so far: Ksh 26, 090
I bundled up things like running around money, expected taxi expenditure, airtime and on the way snacking all together. I bumped the budget up to about Kes 35,000 because shit fucking happens, and it did.
Total Budget: Ksh 35, 000