Zanzibar: everything you need to know about the island

Zanzibar is still terra incognita for most, although in recent years this island has turned from an unknown African hinterland into a popular, affordable and interesting resort. For everyone who cannot decide to travel to Zanzibar, we have prepared answers to top questions about a trip to the island.

Where is it and how to get there?

Zanzibar is a paradise island belonging to Tanzania and washed from all sides by the warm Indian Ocean. These are the same endless beaches with white sand and incredible turquoise water that you can see in advertisements, this is an inspiring nature and a fascinating local flavor.

Zanzibar is also suitable for adventure seekers who are looking for jungle walks, island hopping tours, diving, kitesurfing, and travelers looking for a quiet, peaceful holiday – the island has a very calm and relaxing atmosphere.

Since October 2020, the Ukrainian air carrier SkyUp has been operating direct flights from Kiev to the island of Zanzibar in Tanzania, so getting there is now much more convenient.

What are the entry conditions?

A COVID-19 test is not required to cross the border, but you need to have health insurance with you that covers the treatment of coronavirus. At the time of this writing (11/18/2020) Tanzania is in the “green” zone, which means that upon returning to Ukraine, you do not need to self-isolate and take a PCR test for COVID-19. But before traveling to the island, be sure to check the entry conditions. You can do this in the “Restrictions” section on our website.

Is it dangerous to vacation in Zanzibar?

Until now, when Zanzibar is mentioned, many people ask the question, is it not dangerous to go there. It’s time to forget all the stereotypes, because today Zanzibar is a civilized and very calm corner in which nothing threatens rest. Modern hotels, cafes and restaurants, a wide range of entertainment combined with amazing nature, warm ocean and good-natured local people – that’s what awaits you in Zanzibar.

As for health: when swimming in the ocean, be on the alert, because there is always a risk of getting on sea urchins; in the rainy season and off-season, the likelihood of being bitten by malaria mosquitoes increases – take high-quality repellents and prophylactic agents in your first aid kit. You shouldn’t be afraid of poisonous snakes and other reptiles – yes, they are on the island, but they live in the jungle, where people rarely visit.

Where to Stay in Zanzibar?

Like any exotic island, Zanzibar, in addition to standard hotels and complexes, can offer lodges and bungalows by the ocean. This pleasure is worth from € 20 per night for two, however, there are also elite complexes with bungalows for connoisseurs of a wilder, but still comfortable stay, where you will have to pay from € 100 and more for a thatched roof over your head.

Double rooms in guesthouses, inexpensive hotels and lodges – from € 35 (and the price includes an airport transfer), many of them, importantly, are also located near the ocean. 5 * hotels are in no way inferior to those that can be seen in popular resorts, neither in service nor in price, you can stay for two from € 170 (per night).

For those who would like to save money on accommodation, there are hostels and campgrounds. The cost of a seat is from € 15.

Where to stay in Zanzibar? Fans of a secluded, beach holiday and vacationers with children will find the west coast suitable – there is a quiet and calm sea, and lovers of water sports will like the southeastern part, where from time to time you can catch good waves. The northern part is also characterized by waves, tides, and it is unlikely that you can simply swim here. However, it is also one of the liveliest areas of the island, full of bars, cafes and restaurants.

When is the best time to go?

It is best to rest in Zanzibar in winter and from June to October, the rest of the time there are rainy seasons (October-November, March-May). During the year, the air temperature on the island is kept within + 28-35 ° C, the water temperature in the ocean is + 27-29 ° C.

Do I need a visa?

Yes, you need a visa. It can be issued at the airport upon arrival, the period of stay is up to 90 days. Tourist visa cost – $ 50.

What to do in Zanzibar and what to visit?

Of course, Zanzibar can offer a standard resort list of entertainment: diving, snorkeling, kitesurfing – everything is there, there are also schools for teaching water sports. Also, tourists are offered fishing trips, including excursions, to fishing villages, where you can not only catch fish for dinner, but also get to know the locals.

There are also plenty of attractions on the island. So, be sure to look:

  • Stone Town (Stone Town) is a historical center that was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. Cathedrals, mosques, an Arab fort and the People’s Palace, the David Livingston House Museum and much more can be found in the old streets of Zanzibar, which will not take long to walk through.
  • Apartment-room Freddie Mercury – the world famous musician was born and lived up to 5 years in Zanzibar. Now the house of Fredia’s family has been turned into a hotel where everyone can stay for a very substantial amount, but everyone can look there.
  • “House of Wonders” – earlier it was the residence of the last Sultan of Zanzibar, then a ceremonial palace settled here. And today it is the Museum of History and Culture – a place where you can learn everything about Zanzibar.
  • The slave cave, the slave market – the inhabitants of the island do not forget about the dark past of the country, and therefore to this day you can visit and see the terrifying places where slaves were once kept and sold. Trafficking in human beings was vetoed in 1873, but by then more than 600,000 people had been sold into slavery.

  • Prison Island is one of the most interesting places in Zanzibar. Yes, this is a maximum security island prison. At least it was before, but now from the surviving prison buildings they have not made a “prison hotel” and a “prison restaurant”. But this island is much more attractive because giant turtles live here, which you can even pet. When their neck is scratched, they just get high. Here the turtles are taken care of, they are carefully looked after, and most importantly, they are protected. The way to the island will take 30-40 minutes from Stone Town;
  • Spice Island – here you will see how the locals grow spices, tropical fruits, medicinal herbs, and, of course, you can try. Curiously, in the middle of the 19th century, Zanzibar was one of the world centers for the cultivation of carnations, which was then the basis of the island’s economy;

  • Jozani Forest is one of the main attractions in Zanzibar. This is a tropical forest, a jungle with mangroves, where monkeys sit on the branches, leopards are found and snakes crawl.
  • Safari tour to Tanzania – if your budget is above average, then do not miss the opportunity to combine your vacation in Zanzibar with a visit to Tanzania. The mainland can be visited as part of a safari tour, which can be purchased in advance online or locally. Please note that on-site purchase prices are usually higher and safari tours take place on a daily basis, so book in advance. Tour price – $ 1500-2000 per person. Add to this the cost of air tickets Zanzibar – Arusha ($ 200-300), entrance tickets to national parks (~ $ 60) and other expenses. In total, such a tour will cost $ 2000-2500 per person.
  • Boribi Reef is a place for diving enthusiasts. Experienced people say that reefs in Egypt are more interesting, but why not check it out personally? Here you can see stingrays, moray eels, parrot fish, clown fish and other underwater inhabitants live;
  • Paja seaweed farm – have you been dreaming of planting seaweed for a long time? Here you can finally do it;) And also watch the locals harvest and plant new cabbage at low tide. As part of the excursion, you will also see all the stages of the production of all good from algae and seaweed. It also houses one of the most popular kiting spots in the world, so if you’re in the know, don’t miss the opportunity to ride;

How much will a vacation in Zanzibar cost?

We wrote about the prices for accommodation and flights earlier, but now let’s move on to other expenses.

Food. Food prices depend on where you are going to eat. So, dinner for two in a good restaurant on the coast will cost from $ 65-70, and you can dine in a small cafe with drinks for $ 15-30. You will save money if you buy food in the markets, as for fruits and spices, it is really profitable. However, you should not buy fish or poultry on the market, they are kept there in complete unsanitary conditions.

Tours. A guided tour of the central old part of Zanzibar will cost $ 20 – 2-3 hours. Boat excursions and fishing – from $ 50, long walks with a visit to several islands, with swimming and trips to farms – from $ 200.

Water sports. Diving, snorkeling: the average cost of one dive is from $ 45, night diving – from $ 50, you can go kitesurfing from $ 60.

What about the local cuisine and are there any establishments with traditional European food?

Zanzibar’s cuisine surprisingly combines several culinary traditions at once: African, Arab and Persian. The main dishes are meat and fish, garnished with rice, legumes or potatoes, as well as various spicy sauces and fruits. These are deep-fried seafood, baked beef with fruit, chicken with stewed bananas, and ostrich meat with various sauces. The most traditional side dish is unsweetened bananas, which are fried, baked, stewed and served here with almost all dishes.

In other words, traditional cuisine is a bit unusual for us, but also not specific, given that you can agree with the chefs in advance so that you don’t add any spices or sauces. If the local cuisine is not to your liking, it doesn’t matter – the island is full of establishments serving familiar European dishes.

Are vaccinations necessary? And what about cleanliness?

To visit Zanzibar, no vaccinations are required, but if you are flying with a transplant in any African country, then vaccinations may be required to visit it – we advise you to further clarify this issue.

As for cleanliness, most of Tanzania’s resorts are pristine beaches, with white sand and crystal clear waters, and the island’s hotels are famous for their good service. The only places to be careful are in the markets, where it is better not to buy anything but fruit. And what you bought must be thoroughly washed.

What else do you need to know about holidays in Zanzibar?

Despite the fact that Tanzania is a Muslim country, there are no strict requirements for tourists – you can dress as you wish. And, in general, the locals of Zanzibar are very welcoming, cordial and sincere to the guests, they will gladly prompt and help with advice. Here they speak mainly English and Swahili, especially the locals are happy if travelers say a few words to them in Swahili, for example, “sana” – thanks, or “jumbo” – hello, keep in mind.

The currency of Tanzania and, in particular, Zanzibar, is the Tanzanian shilling, but you can also pay in dollars, they are accepted in cafes, souvenir shops, hotels, and even prices are often indicated in dollars. Do not hesitate to bargain, you can do it almost everywhere, except for supermarkets. The price can usually be “knocked down” by at least half.

Going on a trip? Don’t forget to get insurance that covers your COVID-19 treatment. You can do this on our website.

What else to read?

  • Tanzania and Zanzibar: debunking stereotypes about Africa
  • TOP 10 most beautiful beaches in Africa
  • African Couchsurfing: An Unforgettable Adventure from Namibia to Zanzibar
  • The best safari parks in Africa: where, why and how much?
  • Safari, wild animals, national parks: what to do in South Africa

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