The beautiful Tanzanian Island of Zanzibar is without a doubt one of the most breathtaking destinations in the world. The azure waters, exotic setting, welcoming locals, fresh seafood and an assortment of water activities make Zanzibar the ideal escape to paradise.
When visiting any new destination, no matter how alluring it may be, it's always good to be prepared and do your research about the in and outs of travelling there. Since most people loathe extra admin, we have put together a cheat sheet to help travellers navigate Zanzibar.
Tripindigo's Cheat Sheet To Navigating Zanzibar
1. Time Zones:
The time zone in Zanzibar is GMT+3 but visitors should remember that in Swahili culture, timekeeping begins from sunrise, not midnight. A helpful tip is to specify morning, evening, or afternoon when mentioning important timings. To keep track, imagine a line running across the clock face, so 12 becomes 6, and 11 becomes 5!
When visiting another country, it is extremely important to check their policies and requirements regarding documents. In Zanzibar, travellers should ensure that their passport is valid for 6 months, and must always carry it. Tourists should confirm that they have the correct visa information i.e. most nationalities are provided visas on arrival, but others must make sure that they already have one. Additionally, it is vital to have a Yellow Fever vaccination certificate if you’re arriving from a known Yellow Fever area.
Food in Zanzibar is mouthwatering, with its abundance of spices such as cinnamon, pepper, and cloves. The cuisine includes seafood like shellfish and prawns, the famous Zanzibar pizza, sugarcane juice, octopus curry, chapati, ginger chai, and spiced potatoes etc. Be ready to try many new tastes because Zanzibari food is influenced by Arab, Indian, Chinese, Portuguese, and African cuisines!
Tourists can enjoy cheap transportation such as buses, or tuk-tuks, and small trucks. Travellers should try boat rides and dhow trips. Ferries offer an enjoyable experience, as decks are mostly breezy, and the views are beautiful! An important tip for tourists is to book ferry tickets in advance, to prevent hassle, delays, or fraud.
The local currency is the Tanzanian Shilling, which can be used for convenience. While most places accept the US Dollar, tourists should keep the local currency for local markets. ATMs can easily be found, and many spots accept credit/debit cards.
6. Safety and Security:
Zanzibar is not a wealthy island, with many of its inhabitants informally or unemployed. The standard of living is low. Add to this the high number of tourists, their relative affluence and relaxed disposition, and an environment for criminal activity is created. Be aware, use licensed service providers only, do not walk dark streets and beaches at night, and especially not alone. Common sense will be your best ally!
Visitors must show respect to local primarily Muslim culture! Beachwear is for the beach only. Do not wear skimpy clothing, bikinis and shorts on the streets, and avoid drinking alcohol publicly unless in reserved areas such as bars and hotels etc.
The ideal time to visit Zanzibar is in the cool, dry months between June and October. Try to avoid the heavy rainy seasons from March to May. The ‘small rains which will not spoil any vacation are from November to December.
Different destinations offer different experiences. Prison Island offers a rare experience with the ancient ruins, Kizimkazi beach allows visitors to swim with dolphins, and Mnemba Island has a rare display of millions of marine creatures! Visitors should not limit their trip to one destination, but try to have many different experiences to ensure that their vacation is enriching and unique!
10. Stone Town:
When visiting Zanzibar, it is absolutely essential to go to Stone Town, the heart of Zanzibar. This charming destination is bustling with life and has wonderful food. Tourists can get lost in its small and safe streets and experience the Zanzibari lifestyle, beauty and culture.
Doorway Stonetown Arch