Has Zanzibar been on your bucket list forever and just the thought of planning it gives you anxiety that you drop the idea like a hot potato? Maybe you’ve never been to any African countries or you’re even a seasoned traveller. Planning a long haul trip can be quite stressful and can be the reason many people don’t travel or take that dream trip.
So your girl is introducing this “Ultimate Guide” series on the blog going forward. These posts, I hope, will remove the stress from the planning process and will aim to answer all the questions you might have before you travel. This post and part two will include everything from a little history to what to wear to finances and how I got my cheap flight to Zanzibar. So for all the people that have sent me DMs or have wanted to visit this beautiful country for the longest, this one is for you so let’s get into it!
A bit about Zanzibar
Did you know that Zanzibar was once the former capital of Oman?? I found this out after my unexpected trip to Oman in 2017 (Read about it here!). In 1840 Sultan Said made Zanzibar the capital of Oman, transferring it 3,000 miles from Muscat. At the time, Zanzibar was prospering while Oman was in decline and the Sultan thought by doing this he could safeguard his territories on the African mainland and still dominate Indian Ocean trade. This also helped to give the Arabs more of a reach in mainland Africa during slave trade, over 10,000 slaves were being brought to Zanzibar from the mainland every year. I found this so fascinating that just like that someone can just call a whole other country their capital! Zanzibar got its name from how those early Arab traders described the East African coast; “zinj el barr” translated a “land of the blacks”.
Omani architecture is still prevalent around Stone town and so are Omani people/descendants.
The only airport is Zanzibar is the Abeid Amani Karume International Airport (ZNZ) and there are direct flights available from parts of Europe. There are no direct flights from the UK, Canada, USA or Nigeria. There’s no luggage carousel in the airport, luggage is manually brought out by the airport staff from the plane so don’t be shocked as I was haha!
You could also travel to the Dar Es Salaam Intl airport on the mainland and get the ferry to Zanzibar. The ferry takes about 2 hours to get to Stone town and prices start from $35, sometimes the agents tend to add a $5 “tax” so don’t be surprised in case this happens. There are 2 main ferry companies, Azam Marine and Fast Ferries and it doesn’t really matter which company you use (but at first glance Azam seems to look a bit more together), so check out their websites for timetables.
There are also flights that’ll have you in Stone town in about 30 mins and is priced anywhere between $40 and $70! Precision Air operates had the cheapest flights when I researched, $40 one way. Considering a taxi to the port would cost you about $20-$30 I’d definitely consider flying.
We got an amazing deal on Secret Flying for a return flight on TUI from Brussels direct to Zanzibar and a quick stopover in Mombasa on the return flight for €317.98 (approx. £275) including 20kg luggage; we just had to get our return flight from Manchester to Brussels in addition.
Most commonwealth and Scandinavian countries don’t need visas for entry into Zanzibar but UK, USA and Nigerian citizens all require visas, which can be gotten on arrival (for the UK & USA) and get you about 90 days. It’s a very easy process; single entry visas cost $50 for UK and most other citizens while it’s $100 for USA citizens. You’ll need either a $50 or $100 note to pay for it, smaller denominations are not accepted. Nigerian citizens need to acquire a visa from the Tanzanian Embassy in Abuja before going to Zanzibar/Tanzania as Visas on Arrival are no longer being issued to Nigerian citizens of 21st September 2018 (See here for more details). Cards are accepted however in case of connectivity issues, I’d suggest having cash ready.
Even though yellow fever isn’t a danger in Tanzania but you’re arriving from African countries or countries with a threat of yellow fever then you will need to have your Yellow card to show you’ve been vaccinated. I didn’t have one and wasn’t even asked for one either probably because I was coming from Europe. However, if you can get one, regardless of where you’re coming from, try to.
Zanzibar is actually has a number of islands (An Archipelago, I love saying that word) and when people refer to Zanzibar, they usually mean the main (biggest) island, Unguja. There are a few other islands like Pemba, Mnemba, Mafia, Chumbe, Thanda Island and more that you could stay on, that’s if you have the coins!
Pemba and Mnemba are the most popular of the others and you can stay there if you have the money because they can be quite expensive! Mnemba (nicknamed Millionaires Island), off the north coast of Unguja, is the most exclusive with 1.5km of immaculate white sand on a coral atoll, great for diving, sounds so romantic! It’s also one of, if not, the most expensive place to stay in Zanzibar with room rates from $1760/person/night! What a wow!! They better take off my makeup, brush my teeth, oil & massage my scalp and everything in there!
Pemba Island (nicknamed the Green Island because of the fertile land) is a great place to explore the reef of Misali Island and beyond. It’s also great for diving, snorkelling and game fishing.
When to visit Zanzibar
Zanzibar is warm all year round and there are two main seasons, dry and wet. The long dry season lasts from June to October, the shorter dry season from late December to February. The long rainy season lasts from March to May where heavy afternoon rains should be expected. There’s also a short rainy season in November and December where the rain is lighter and less reliable.
I went in November and didn’t see any rain at all in the day but I did hear the thunderstorms at night. The perk about visiting in the November is that prices are lower so you can get great deals on hotels and flight prices, if you don’t mind a little rain.
Christmas is an especially busy time on the Island so prices are likely to increase and hotels will sell out. During Ramadan, a lot of shops and restaurants are closed so just a couple of things to think about when planning your trip.
Where to Stay
Now I’m sure you’re thinking where on the island should I stay?? Your location can affect the prices you’d be expecting to pay for accommodation, food and other things. I stayed in Bwejuu (near Paje) and Kiwengwa. I’ll suggest Bwejuu again; Paje or Jambiani in the South as I’ve heard it’s absolutely gorgeous in Jambiani!
Kiwengwa was more expensive from my experience and I didn’t enjoy the beach as much (as I said in my last post). So I would recommend Nungwi instead of Kiwengwa in the North as I kept reading everywhere how beautiful the beach in Nungwi is.
Searching for accommodation in Zanzibar is really easy and you’ll definitely be spoilt for choice! A lot of the 3 & 4 start hotels and resorts in Zanzibar are surprisingly well priced and also within the same ranges! You just need to be patient and I assure you you’ll find something great in your budget and in the area you want. I stayed in three hotels on the island and this is another way to reduce your accommodation spending.
First Sahari Zanzibar in Bwejuu (South East coast)
Then Zanbluu in Kiwengwa (North West)
And finally Jafferji House and Spa in Stone town.
We loved all the hotels we stayed at, the hospitality at Sahari was amazing, and we literally feel like family to the point where we didn’t want to leave. We were completely in love with the views and the infinity pool at Zanbluu and being able to eat breakfast facing the ocean in the mornings was a highlight!
Getting around Zanzibar
The ‘public’ transport in Zanzibar is mainly the dala dala. These are mini busses with open sides that a lot of locals use to get between the villages. It’s an extremely cheap way to get around but I personally didn’t use it in Zanzibar. It costs about TZS2,000 (less than £1) from Stone Town to coastal areas which is dirt cheap!
The best way for us to get around was by taxi and they are all readily available. You can get your hotel to call you one or ask for a number from them and you can use keep calling that taxi throughout your stay. The fares are a trumped up for tourists so definitely negotiate!
To get from the airport to your resort will probably cost you about $40 but we were able to find a company that did it for $35 so let me give you guys the plug, here’s the link. Make sure you book your airport transfer before you arrive and don’t pay before you get here. From the airport to the town centre should cost about $10.
You can rent a car to get around Zanzibar and you would need to get an international license. I personally don’t think you’ll really need a car; the taxis are really easy enough and not significantly more expensive when you factor in fuel costs.
I know this was a looong post haha but the idea with introducing this “Ultimate Guide” series is to be your one stop shop for all the information you’ll need or questions you might ask as you plan your trip! These are all questions I asked or things I wondered about before travelling to Zanzibar and I hope it helps you whether it’s your first time travelling or you 100th!
If there are any questions you have or things you would like to add, this will be a live blog posts so it will be updated periodically so send them in, leave a comment on my Instagram, send me a DM or leave a comment below!
Until next time Biscuits,