Travel to Zanzibar

Welcome to Zanzibar, a slice of paradise located off the coast of Tanzania in the Indian Ocean!

This island isn’t just about stunning beaches; it’s a place where history dances through the narrow streets of Stone Town, and the air is fragrant with spices. 

Zanzibar enjoys a sunny, tropical climate year-round, making any time a great time to visit. From its rich cultural blend of African, Arab, and Portuguese influences to its crystal-clear waters and vibrant coral reefs, Zanzibar offers an escape like no other. 

Whether you’re a history buff, a beach lover, or an adventure seeker, Zanzibar has something special just for you.

Quick Tips to Plan Your Trip to Zanzibar

Here are a few of our favorite things to do and places to stay in Zanzibar.

Top activities

Accommodation

Travel tips for Zanzibar

Planning Your Trip to Zanzibar

Before booking your trip to Zanzibar, you need to figure out when to go and how to get there.

 

Best Time to Visit

Zanzibar is sunny and inviting almost all year round, but there are some sweet spots for your visit! 

The island has two rainy seasons: heavy rains from March to May and lighter rains in November. 

For sun-seekers, the best times are June to October and December to February, when the weather is dry and perfect for beach days. 

If you’re into cultural festivities, July’s Zanzibar International Film Festival is a treat, and February’s Sauti za Busara music festival is a blast!

Related read: How to Plan the Perfect Honeymoon in Zanzibar

 

Getting There

Jetting off to Zanzibar is easier than you might think! 

International flights land in Stone Town, the heart of the island. Some travelers fly to Dar es Salaam on Tanzania’s mainland and hop on a short, scenic ferry ride to Zanzibar. 

For the best flight deals, keep your dates flexible and book in advance. Don’t forget to check out local airlines for budget-friendly options too!

Check out: How to Find Cheap Flights With a VPN

 

Visa and Entry Requirements

Getting into Zanzibar is pretty straightforward. Most visitors can get a visa on arrival at the airport or ferry terminal. The process is simple, but make sure your passport is valid for at least six months. The cost varies, so check the latest before you travel. 

As for health, no vaccinations are required, but it’s wise to be up-to-date with your shots. Malaria precautions are recommended, so bring along some repellent and consider antimalarial meds.

Accommodation

Finding the perfect place to stay in Zanzibar is like picking the ripest mango from the tree – there’s something for everyone, and it’s all delicious! 

Whether you’re dreaming of luxury resorts with infinity pools overlooking the ocean, cozy budget hotels nestled in the heart of Stone Town, or charming guesthouses with the friendliest hosts, Zanzibar has got you covered.

  • Luxury Resorts: For those looking to splurge on that once-in-a-lifetime dream vacation, Zanzibar’s luxury resorts on the east coast offer private beaches, spa treatments, and dining under the stars. Ideal for couples on a romantic getaway or anyone celebrating something special.
  • Budget Hotels & Guesthouses: Traveling on a shoestring? No problem! Budget hotels and guesthouses offer comfortable, clean accommodations that won’t break the bank. They’re great for solo travelers and backpackers, often located in Stone Town, putting you right in the middle of the action.
  • Family-Friendly Stays: Families will find plenty of resorts and hotels with family-sized rooms, kid-friendly pools, and activities. Some places even offer babysitting services, so parents can enjoy a little downtime.
  • For Solo Travelers & Backpackers: The island is a friendly place for solo adventurers and backpackers. Look for hostels with communal areas to meet fellow travelers, or guesthouses where the host can give you the inside scoop on the best local spots.

Check out our complete guide on Where to Stay in Zanzibar.

Things to Do and See in Zanzibar

Zanzibar is a treasure chest of experiences, with each activity more exciting than the last. Whether you’ll lounge on pristine beaches, soak up some history, or dive into adventures, you’re in for a treat!

 

Beaches

Zanzibar’s beaches are the stuff of postcards. 

  • Nungwi in the north is perfect for those who love soft white sands and lively beach bars.
  • Paje on the east coast offers crystal-clear waters and is a kite surfer’s paradise. 
  • For a quieter day by the sea, Mnemba Island provides an exclusive beach experience with unparalleled snorkeling opportunities. 

Remember to respect local customs by dressing modestly off the beach and always ask before taking photos of people.

 

Cultural and Historical Sites

Zanzibar isn’t just beautiful beaches; it’s a vibrant mix of history and culture waiting to be explored. Popular cultural and historical sites include:

  • Stone Town: This UNESCO World Heritage site is the cultural heart of Zanzibar. Wander through winding alleyways, marvel at intricately carved doors, and feel the pulse of centuries-old markets. The Freddie Mercury House celebrates the iconic singer born here, and the Old Fort offers a glimpse into the island’s past defenses. Don’t miss the ancient doors, the House of Wonders, and the Forodhani Gardens for delicious street food in the evening.
  • Spice Farms: Zanzibar is known as the Spice Island for a reason. Embark on a spice farm tour to discover the origins of cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, and more. It’s not just informative; it’s a feast for the senses!
  • Slave Market Site: A visit here is a solemn reminder of the island’s role in the slave trade. The site includes memorials and the historic Anglican Cathedral, built on the location of the former slave market.

When exploring Zanzibar’s towns or cultural sites, modesty is a sign of respect. Covering shoulders and knees goes a long way toward respecting local customs.

Zanzibar is full of photogenic spots, but always ask for permission before taking photos of people. It’s not just polite; it’s an opportunity to connect and learn more about the local culture. Whether you buy souvenirs or choose a guide, supporting local businesses helps contribute to the community and offers a more authentic experience.

 

Activities and Excursions in Zanzibar

Zanzibar is an adventurer’s paradise, with every day offering a new opportunity to explore, learn, and have the time of your life. Let’s dive into the activities that make Zanzibar a bucket-list destination!

 

Snorkeling and Diving

The clear, warm waters of Zanzibar are a snorkeler’s and diver’s dream. Mnemba Island is the jewel in the crown, with vibrant coral reefs teeming with marine life. Whether you’re a first-timer or a seasoned diver, the underwater world here will leave you mesmerized.

 

Kite Surfing

Zanzibar’s east coast, especially around Paje, is renowned for its excellent kite surfing conditions. The consistent winds and beautiful scenery make for an unforgettable experience, whether you’re learning to kite surf or showing off your skills.

 

Spice Farm Tours

A visit to a Spice Farm lets you step into the aromatic world of Zanzibar’s spice trade. Learn how spices are grown, harvested, and used in local cuisine. It’s not just educational; it’s a sensory experience that ends with a delicious spice-infused meal.

 

Day Trips from Zanzibar

  • Forodhani Gardens in Stone Town comes alive in the evening with a bustling food market. It’s the perfect spot to try local delicacies and mingle with locals.
  • Prison Island offers a glimpse into the island’s history, plus the chance to meet the giant tortoises that call it home.
  • The northern beaches of Nungwi are ideal for relaxing, with crystal-clear waters and stunning sunsets.

Related read: Most Popular Day Trips from Zanzibar

 

Booking Tours and Activities Responsibly

When booking tours and activities:

  • Choose local operators to support the community.
  • Look for eco-friendly tours that respect the environment and wildlife.
  • Read reviews and ask for recommendations to find reputable providers.

At Travel Dudes, we’ve partnered with top local tour providers in Zanzibar, including:

Food and Dining in Zanzibar

Zanzibar’s cuisine is a delicious melting pot of flavors, with influences from Africa, the Middle East, India, and beyond. The island’s rich spice history means that every dish is a delightful taste exploration. 

From street food to fine dining, Zanzibar offers an array of culinary experiences that are sure to tantalize your taste buds.

 

Make sure to try these dishes:

  • Zanzibar Pizza: A must-try street food that’s unlike any pizza you’ve had before. Found in Forodhani Gardens, this treat can be sweet or savory.
  • Pilau and Biryani: These rice dishes are a testament to the island’s spice culture, flavored with a blend of spices and either seafood, chicken, or vegetables.
  • Urojo: Also known as Zanzibar mix, this is a spicy soup that combines various textures and flavors, including mango, fried potato balls, and sometimes meat or fish.

 

Where to get the best food in Zanzibar:

  • Street food at Forodhani Gardens: As the sun sets, the gardens transform into a bustling market filled with vendors selling fresh seafood, Zanzibar pizzas, and sugarcane juice. It’s the perfect place to indulge in local flavors and soak up the vibrant atmosphere.
  • Local eateries: Scattered across Stone Town and beyond, local restaurants offer the chance to try authentic Zanzibar dishes at very reasonable prices. Don’t miss the opportunity to try fresh seafood, grilled right in front of you.
  • Fine dining: For a special night out, Zanzibar has several fine dining options that blend local ingredients with international cuisine, offering stunning ocean views and exquisite menus.
  • Markets The markets in Stone Town are not just places to buy food; they are experiences in themselves. The Darajani Market is the heart of Zanzibar’s culinary scene, where locals shop for spices, seafood, and fresh produce. Wandering through the market, you’ll get a sense of the island’s vibrant culture and the chance to try fruits and snacks you’ve never seen before.

Nightlife in Zanzibar

Zanzibar’s nightlife might surprise you with its vibrant array of options. It perfectly blends traditional entertainment with a sprinkle of modern flair. 

As the sun dips below the horizon, the island comes alive with beach bonfires, live Taarab music, and bustling night markets. 

Forodhani Gardens transforms into a nocturnal feast, where locals and travelers alike gather to sample street food under the stars. 

Beach bars in Nungwi and Kendwa offer the perfect blend of cocktails and sand between your toes, often accompanied by DJ sets or live bands. 

Whether looking for a chilled evening or a night of dancing, Zanzibar’s nightlife provides a memorable end to your day in paradise.

Related read: Zanzibar Nightlife: The Island’s Magical Nightlife

Shopping and Souvenirs in Zanzibar

Shopping in Zanzibar is a colorful and engaging experience, offering a chance to take a piece of this enchanting island home with you. From bustling markets to quaint boutiques, the island is brimming with unique finds and handmade treasures.

 

Where to shop in Zanzibar

  • Stone Town’s markets: Wander through the maze-like streets of Stone Town to discover markets and shops filled with vibrant textiles, handmade jewelry, and intricate wood carvings. The Darajani Market is perfect for spices and local flavors, while the smaller stalls and shops offer a variety of crafts and souvenirs.
  • Curio shops: Scattered around the island, curio shops are treasure troves of Zanzibar’s artistry, from colorful Tinga Tinga paintings to delicate soapstone carvings.

 

What to buy in Zanzibar

  • Spices: As the Spice Island, Zanzibar’s cloves, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg are fresher than anything you’ll find back home.
  • Zanzibar doors: Miniature versions of the famous Zanzibar doors make for a unique and beautiful souvenir.
  • Kangas: These brightly colored cloths worn by local women are versatile and make for a lovely gift or keepsake.

 

Bargaining and supporting local artisans

  • Bargaining: It’s part of the shopping experience in Zanzibar. Start by offering a lower price than asked, but do it with a smile. Remember, it’s about finding a price that’s fair to both you and the seller.
  • Supporting local artisans: Buying directly from artisans gives you a more meaningful souvenir and helps support the local economy. Look for cooperatives or shops that source locally made products.

Safety and Travel Tips

Zanzibar is a welcoming destination for travelers, offering breathtaking natural beauty, rich history, and vibrant culture. To ensure your visit is as enjoyable and safe as possible, here are some safety and health tips to keep in mind.

General safety advice

  • Stay aware: Like any travel destination, it’s important to stay aware of your surroundings, especially at night or in crowded areas. Keep your belongings secure and avoid isolated areas after dark.
  • Respect local customs: Understanding and respecting local customs and dress codes not only enriches your experience but also helps you blend in better.
  • Travel insurance: It’s always a good idea to have travel insurance that covers medical emergencies, theft, and cancellations.

 

Health precautions

  • Vaccinations: Consult with a travel doctor before your trip to ensure you have all the necessary vaccinations. While Zanzibar has no mandatory vaccinations, typhoid, hepatitis A, and tetanus are recommended.
  • Malaria prevention: Zanzibar is an endemic area. Prophylaxis, using mosquito repellent, and sleeping under mosquito nets can significantly reduce your risk of contracting malaria.
  • Drink bottled water: To avoid any stomach issues, stick to bottled water and ensure your food is thoroughly cooked.

 

Emergency contact information

Keep a list of emergency contacts, including local police, your country’s embassy or consulate, and local medical facilities. 

Here are some general numbers:

  • Police: 999 or 112
  • Medical Emergencies: 112 or 114
  • It’s also wise to have the contact information for your accommodation readily available.

FAQs

1. Do I need a visa to visit Zanzibar?

Most visitors can obtain a visa on arrival in Zanzibar at the airport or ferry terminal. The process is generally straightforward, but ensure your passport is valid for at least six months beyond your visit. It’s also a good idea to check the latest visa requirements before you travel, as these can change.

 

2. What currency is used in Zanzibar?

Zanzibar uses the Tanzanian Shilling (TZS) as its currency. While US dollars are widely accepted, especially in tourist areas, you’ll get better prices, and it’s more convenient to have local currency for smaller purchases, tipping, and local markets. ATMs are available in Stone Town and major tourist areas, but carrying some cash is advisable as not all places accept cards.

 

3. Is Zanzibar safe for tourists?

Yes, Zanzibar is generally safe for tourists. Like any popular travel destination, it’s important to take standard safety precautions such as safeguarding your belongings, avoiding walking alone at night in less populated areas, and respecting local customs and advice.

 

4. What language is spoken in Zanzibar?

Swahili is the main language spoken in Zanzibar, and it’s a great gesture to learn a few basic phrases. English is widely spoken, especially in tourist areas, hotels, and restaurants, so communication is typically not an issue for English-speaking travelers.

 

5. What is the best time to visit Zanzibar?

The best time to visit Zanzibar is during the dry months, from June to October and December to February. These periods offer the best weather for beach activities and exploring the island. However, Zanzibar’s warm climate makes it a great year-round destination. When planning your trip, just be mindful of the rainy seasons in March to May and November.

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