Before visiting any tourist spot, there are some basics, such as code of conduct, and local rules and regulations, that travellers should know. For your trip to the stunning Zanzibar archipelago in 2021, where you can find breathtaking flora and fauna, rich culture and heritage, mouth watering food, gorgeous landscapes, and friendly locals, here are the most important things you should know that can help you learn how to act in the region, and stay out of trouble.
- Response to COVID
Although a negative test report is not required for visiting Zanzibar, tourists should get tested and ensure that they are healthy before going to the pristine island. Wearing a mask at all times is advisable, and you should wash or sanitize your hands frequently. Many shops and attractions can deny entry if you refuse to comply with SOPs.
- Getting tested for COVID
Regulations regarding getting tested for COVID-19 have been placed by the island’s Ministry of Health, Social Welfare, Elderly, Gender, and Children. If the home country or airlines requires a negative test report, tourists can visit testing centres in Pemba, Migombani, and Lumumba. You must get tested 72 hours before their departure, after paying a fee of USD $80. Appointments can be booked online at https://zanzibarcovidtesting.co.tz/app/home and confirmation letters must be shown at the centre. If the confirmation is not shown, you do not have a valid appointment, or you arrive later than the appointment time, the centre can refuse to administer the test.
- The Dress Code
Zanzibar is a conservative place, so tourists should comply with local values of modesty. Visitors must always ensure that they are at least covered from their shoulders to their knees. You must not dress in revealing clothing, as a sign of respect for the local culture. If you intend to visit a mosque, you must try to cover your heads. Women must carry a scarf that can cover their hair in mosques. Bathing suits are acceptable at beach destinations, but nudity is not allowed. In 2021, travellers, and the tour guides that accompany them, can be fined at least $700 for dressing in ways that are considered indecent.
- Interaction With Locals
The locals are generally very friendly, down to earth, and helpful. It is important that tourists interact with them kindly and respectfully, and avoid displaying any biases or mockery. Many people know English in Stone Town and popular tourist spots, but it is a good idea to learn a few words and phrases of Swahili to make interaction easier and smoother. Greetings should be learnt, and as most locals are Muslim, you can also say the Salam! When meeting children, tourists must not take any pictures without the consent of the child’s parent, nor give any item or food to the child unless they have permission to do so. You should not disrespect, insult or offend locals.
- Public Behavior
Behaving indecently in public can get you in public. Drinking or carrying alcohol in public places may be seen as offensive. Any public display of affection between couples is not allowed. Tourists should be careful when taking pictures, as they can not photograph locals without permission. In certain sensitive areas, such as military regions, taking pictures is forbidden, and should be avoided.
- Understanding Local Time
Swahili time might be different from what you are used to, as locals count time from sunrise, instead of midnight. This can create confusion but an easy way to cope is to specify morning, afternoon, or evening, when setting up meetings and timings.
- Protection From Malaria
Malaria is still prevalent in the island, so you should take precautions to protect yourself from this disease. Tourists should sleep under mosquito nets that can be attached to beds, and wear insect repellent at all times. It is also advisable to wear long-sleeved shirts and trousers so less skin is exposed to mosquitoes.
- Protecting the Natural Environment
During their trip, tourists should not harm the stunning environment and take care of the natural beauty that surrounds them. You can donate to many conservation or preservation projects, and ensure that they do not damage the beauty of the region. You can practice ecotourism, where sustainable resources such as solar power are used and the local environment is not harmed. You should not pollute beaches or forests. Buying any natural resources, such as seashells, is illegal. Permits may be needed for some protected areas.
- Support the Local Economy
You should buy from local sellers and vendors, eat street food, visit the local markets, donate to charities of the region, hire local guides, travel on public transport, and tip service workers. Although tipping is not compulsory, many tourists pay around 5% of the restaurant bill. You should also tip guides and porters who join you on your tours.
- Local Food
The mouth watering cuisine of the region is unique because of its African, Arabic, Indian, Portugese, Turkish, and Swahili influences. The food is made with spices such as cardamom, turmeric, lemongrass, cloves, cumin, garlic, ginger, vanilla, nutmeg, and pepper. Tourists can try delicious dishes such as pulao, biryani, Zanzibar pizza, octopus curry, plantain soup (Mtori), date nut bread, chapati, coconut bean soup, kebabs, porridge (Uji), cassava (Muhogo), donuts (Mandazi), and fresh seafood! At places such as Forodhani Night Food Market, visitors can try the street food, where food that is served hot is expected to be safe for consumption.