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Zanzibar Travel Essentials

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Ideal duration: 2-3 days

Best Time: June - October Read More

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"Spice Islands and Tropical Beaches"

Zanzibar Tourism

Zanzibar is a captivating archipelago in the Indian Ocean, just over 15 miles from Tanzania's coast. It's famous for its stunning beaches like Nungwi, Kendwa, and Paje, as well as its rich history and unique blend of African and Arab cultures. The historic Stone Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is known for its fascinating architecture and historical significance.

Adventure seekers can indulge in various water sports on the island's stunning beaches, while food enthusiasts can savour the tantalizing flavours of cloves, turmeric, cinnamon, nutmeg, lemongrass, and black pepper that Zanzibar is renowned for as the Spice Island. For wildlife enthusiasts, the Jozani Forest Reserve offers a chance to encounter the rare and endangered Zanzibar red colobus monkeys, one of the rarest primate species in Africa.

Must Know Before You Travel to Zanzibar

  • Zanzibar or Unguja: "Zanzibar" refers to the whole Zanzibar Archipelago, not just one island. The main island is called "Unguja." Apart from Unguja, there are many smaller islands. The most famous ones, like Pemba and Mafia Island, are also inhabited by people.
  • Ferry from Dar Es Salaam to Zanzibar: It is recommended to buy ferry tickets in advance, especially in the peak season when travelling from Dar Es Salaam to Zanzibar. It can be bought online on the website of Azam Marine.
  • Ferry Ticket Scam: When buying ferry tickets to Zanzibar, avoid trusting the crowd of men outside the terminal offering tickets as theirs might be fake or overpriced. Only purchase your ferry ticket from the indoor booth.
  • Ferry Timings: Around 4 ferries between Dar es Salaam to Zanzibar operate from 07:00 AM to 04:00 PM in a frequency of 2 hours.
  • Zanzibar Drivers Permit: Note that an international driver's license is not valid in Zanzibar. Obtain a temporary Zanzibar driver's permit from local authorities. Alternatively, ask your car rental company to arrange it in advance by providing a scanned copy of your valid driving license. The permit typically costs around $10.
  • Vaccinations: Get vaccinations for hepatitis, typhoid, cholera, yellow fever (with proof if from an affected area), rabies, meningitis, and tetanus. While Zanzibar is low-risk for malaria, Tanzania isn't, so consider malaria prevention medication when combining a Tanzania safari with a Zanzibar beach trip.

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Travel Tips for Zanzibar

  • Accommodation: Divide your stay in Zanzibar between beaches and Stone Town for a complete experience of the historical beach town.
  • Getting Around: Tou can try using dala-dalas for budget-friendly rides with fixed routes. But it is recommended to commute through taxis for a safer and hassle-free experience.
  • Self-Driving: Self-driving in Zanzibar is not recommended due to a lack of traffic discipline.
  • Car rental in Zanzibar: If you choose to self-drive, choose a reputable car rental company like Kibabu Cars in Zanzibar. Remember, rental cars on the island are generally older (around 15-20 years) with low mileage due to their small size. Make sure to have your driving license, temporary Zanzibar driver's permit, car insurance, and road license stickers.
  • ATM: You can find the closest ATM near the Zanzibar ferry point. Several ATMs are available in Stone Town and one each in a few other locations like Paje, Nungwi, and Dunga. Note that ATMs in some areas may occasionally run out of money and have a limit of TSH 400,000.
  • Taxi: Choose reputable drivers or established taxi companies to ensure safety and fair pricing for your transportation needs.
  • Weather: Pack light, breathable clothing and sunscreen as Zanzibar has a tropical climate with warm temperatures year-round.
  • Currency: The Tanzanian Shilling (TZS) is used in Zanzibar, and currency exchange services are available at the airport and in major towns.
  • Language: While Swahili is the official language, English is widely understood, especially in tourist areas.
  • Dress Code: Respect local customs by dressing modestly, with t-shirts and knee-length pants when walking through villages, as the majority of Zanzibarians are Muslims.
  • Banned Souvenirs: Avoid buying shells or taking sand out of Zanzibar, as it is prohibited.
  • Tap Water: Tap water in Zanzibar is not potable. Stick to bottled water, and also avoid ice and salads washed in tap water.

Nightlife in Zanzibar

Zanzibar's nightlife follows a unique sundowner tradition, starting early and winding down by midnight. Tourist areas such as Nungwi, Kendwa, and Stone Town offer beach bars with live music and cultural performances as well as popular local and international music. Popular clubs and bars in Stone Town include 6 Degrees South, Dharma Lounge, Garage Club, Kendwa Rocks, Starehe Club, and Forodhani Gardens. In Nungwi, Gerry's Bar and Cholo's Disco Bar are well-known spots, while Paje by Night in Paje and Red Monkey Beach Lodge in Jambiani are also great choices to experience the vibrant nightlife on the island. Read More

History of Zanzibar

Zanzibar's history is rich and diverse, shaped by centuries of trade and cultural exchange. The island's strategic location made it a thriving centre for trade between Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, attracting merchants from Persia, Arabia, India, and beyond. In the 19th century, Zanzibar became the seat of the Sultanate of Oman, and the Omani influence left a significant impact on the island's architecture and culture.

The island also played a crucial role in the East African slave trade, serving as a major hub for the capture and export of slaves. In 1964, Zanzibar gained independence from British colonial rule, and shortly after, it merged with Tanganyika to form Tanzania. Today, the island's fascinating history is evident in its UNESCO-listed Stone Town, a maze of narrow streets, ancient buildings, and bustling markets, offering a glimpse into its vibrant past and the legacy of its diverse heritage.

Shopping in Zanzibar

One of the most popular shopping areas is Stone Town, where you can explore the lively Darajani Market for a variety of spices, fresh produce, and local crafts. For intricately designed jewellery and handmade souvenirs, the Zanzibar Curio Shop and Memories of Zanzibar are worth a visit. The Mwanzo Mpya Women's Cooperative is an excellent place to support local artisans and purchase beautifully crafted woven baskets and textiles. To taste Zanzibar's vibrant art scene, head to the Gallery Bookshop, which showcases local artists' works. Don't miss the Forodhani Night Market, a sensory delight offering a wide range of street food, snacks, and seafood dishes.

Best Time to Visit Zanzibar

How to Reach Zanzibar

How to Reach Overview

Zanzibar can be reached by air through Abeid Amani Karume International Airport, situated near Stone Town, which is approximately 5 kilometres away from the main city. The airport receives numerous international flights from major cities in Africa, Europe, and the Middle East. It takes around half an hour to reach Zanzibar Airport from Dar es Salaam and about an hour from Kilimanjaro Airport.

Another option is to travel by ferry from Dar es Salaam to Stone Town, with the journey taking approximately 1.5 to 2 hours. Once on the main island, visitors can use taxis, buses, or private cars to explore various attractions.

How to reach Zanzibar by flight

 Zanzibar is accessible by air through Abeid Amani Karume International Airport, located near Stone Town. It is around 5 kilometres from the main city. Numerous international flights operate to Zanzibar from major cities in Africa, Europe, and the Middle East.
It takes around half an hour to reach Zanzibar Airport from Dar es Salam and can cost approximately $50 for one side per person. From Kilimanjaro Airport, reaching Zanzibar can take around an hour and cost $100 for one side per person.
You can book your flights on Skyscanner.

How to reach Zanzibar by road

As Zanzibar is an island, reaching it by road is not possible from mainland Tanzania or other countries. However, once on the main island, visitors can use taxis, buses, or private cars to travel around and explore various attractions.

How to reach Zanzibar by waterways

Visitors can reach Zanzibar by ferry from the mainland of Tanzania. The most common route is from Dar es Salaam to Stone Town, Zanzibar's main city. Ferries operate regularly between these two locations, and the journey takes approximately 1.5 to 2 hours and costs around $35 to $40. The ferry is a popular and affordable mode of transportation for both locals and tourists. 

You can book your ferry tickets in advance through Azam Marine, the primary ferry company.

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