What you need to know if you want to visit Zanzibar

October 11, 2016

Zanaibar beach tanzania africaZanzibar is an archipelago off the coast of Tanzania on the East Coast of Africa. Zanzibar  usually refers to two major islands, the largest, Unguja and Pemba which is north of Unguja. The capital, Zanzibar City is on Unguja and all my future content will be about Unguja. I have a few posts planned about the accommodation types, food choices and general things to do around the island as well as a travel diary. I haven’t ever written a travel diary before so I am very, very excited to share my days with you! My overall opinion is that Zanzibar is a luxury destination and I do feel that you’ll be missing out  if you don’t see the luxury resorts on the island. Let’s move to the issue at hand. Here are the basics:

1. How to get to Zanzibar

There are two ways to get to Zanzibar, by Ferry or by plane.

A few major airlines offer direct flights to Zanzibar like Qatar Airways. You can also get a flight to Dar Es Salaam Airport and then fly from the mainland to Zanzibar. When we went we booked a flight to Dar Es Salaam  because it was much cheaper than a direct flight, but after the cost of the Dar Es Salaam – Zanzibar leg it ended up being the same price. The second leg often departs from another terminal and you will need to take a taxi to get there. We paid 10000 Tanzanian Shillings for the ride.

If you’re on a budget, you can take the ferry from Dar Es Salaam. It is much cheaper than a flight and costs around $35 one way. However, the ferry takes around 2 and a half hours, while the flight is 15 minutes. You will also need to catch a taxi from the airport to the docks, which could take half an hour depending on the time of the day.

Winner: Flying.

2. What are the airports like?

zanzibar airport

New airports are currently being built, but at the time of writing, the airports at both Dar Es Salaam and Zanzibar are not the best. We arrived at Dar Es Salaam in the middle of the night and the only place to wait for a taxi was outside. There was nowhere to wait inside the terminal when we arrived. The Dar Es Salaam airport also has one cafeteria and the bathrooms were in bad condition.

3. Currency

The currency of Tanzania is the Tanzanian Shilling which currently is 2000 TZSH for 1 USD. Most restaurants we went to accepted American dollars and all hotels we went to accepted Mastercard and Visa as a form of payment. Be prepared to pay a premium for using your card however. This premium was usually 2-3% of the total cost being charged on the card. There are ATMs around Stone Town and apparently in Nungwi too but I did not see them anywhere else, so do keep that in mind. Also, if you are carrying a lot of cash, make sure you keep it safe.

4. Getting around the island


Getting around Zanzibar is relatively easy, if not a little expensive. There are taxis and tour guides everywhere who will approach you and offer you day trips which are very possible because the island is only 85km long. You can also arrange a taxi with your hotel. We paid 40USD to go across the island one way.

5. Photos

The people of Zanzibar often do not enjoy being photographed. If you do want to take photos of the locals, please ask them first.

6. Where to stay

the residence zanzibarThere are a variety of resorts that cater for most travellers on Zanzibar. Ideally, if you are looking for nightlife and a social oliday, Nungwi is your best bet. There is also a full moon party on Nungwi beach. Nungwi is at the northern-most tip of the island and many argue that the best beaches of Zanzibar are at Nungwi.

If you’re looking for a quieter, more secluded experience, there are many hotels dotted across the other coasts. The Residence is a good option if you like resorts that are trendy, modern and luxurious. There are 66 villas with generously sized private pools and the resort has two restaurants and a bar. For a more rustic and far more secluded experience, Zanzi resort is a good choice. The villas at Zanzi resort are decorated in a very rustic style, but the private pools are huge here too.

In Stone Town, you’ll be missing out if you don’t stay at one of the refurbished arab-style hotels in the area. The Mashariki Palace Hotel is a restored part of the Sultans palace and features authentic, but still modern and comfortable decor.

7. Food

lukmaans zanzibar stone town
Zanzibari food is fantastic. Expect indian, swahili influences. There is a lot of curry and the food is spicy, but not hot. Food at resorts is expensive, but in Stone Town, you can visit Lukmaans and have a feast for two at 7USD including water.

8. What to do.
Zanzibar is ultimately a beach destination, but there are a few unique things you can do on the island and in Stone Town. You can view dolphins, go on a spice tour and a variety of others, read about what I loved here.
Are you thinking about visiting Zanzibar? Let us know in the comments!

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1 Comment

  • Reply Mashariki Palace Hotel - Serenity in Stone Town - The Bowtie Travels September 3, 2015 at 9:00 pm

    […] just over nine hours because of our bad flight choices (read about the best way to get to Zanzibar here). Instead of just flying direct, we chose to transit at Dar Es Salaam (bad idea). By the time we […]

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