Practical Travel Tips: Zanzibar, Tanzania.

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Zanzibar is on our list of places we want to visit but deals to Tanzania aren’t as easy to come by than to Kenya.  However, from Kenya to Tanzania, airfare can be pretty reasonable. Nyahalay from Tucker Loves 2 Travel recently took advantage of a sub $500 deal to Nairobi and added Zanzibar as part of her trip. Here are some practical tips from her trip.

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Zanzibar is an archipelago that is part of the East African nation of Tanzania.  It consists of smaller islands and two main islands: Pemba and Unguja (which is widely referred to as Zanzibar Island or Zanzibar).  Many travelers choose to stay in Zanzibar.

Upon Landing

Zanzibar International Airport is a rather small and outdated airport, but efficient nonetheless.  Upon arrival at the terminal, travelers are immediately stopped to show proof of Yellow Fever vaccination.  In lieu of an actual yellow card, a letter of vaccination record (showing the date and place of vaccination) will suffice.  Although it is widely reported that American citizens do not need such documents, everyone was stopped.  Without proof of vaccination, you run the serious risk of being denied entry.  To be on the safe side, have it handy.

US citizens must pay $100 dollars for a visa, which can be obtained on arrival.  At the time of my visit, acceptable forms of payment were cash, Visa and MasterCard.  Be advised that if more than one plane arrives at the same time, the line can get rather chaotic.

After passing through immigration, there are several money exchange booths with workers who will playfully vie for your business.  In addition, there is a communications booth where you can purchase SIM cards or even a low-end smartphone for about $75.

Currency

The currency used in Zanzibar is the Tanzanian Shilling.  One US dollar is about 2000 to 2200 Shillings.  If you are staying in the resort area of Kendwa (as with most areas of Zanzibar), it is imperative to know that there are no ATMs.  Either arrive with enough cash to exchange or use the ATMs in Stonetown.

Transportation

There are three ways to get around Zanzibar Island.  Option one is the Dala dala bus, which is a bus mainly used by locals.  Although this bus only costs about $2, you’ll be in for a rather long (they make frequent stops), cramped, and uncomfortable ride.  Taxis are the more expensive option, but an absolute must if time and comfort are of importance to you. I stayed in Kendwa, which is located on the Northern coast and a 70-min ride from the airport.  I strongly recommend arranging for a taxi before arrival.  I paid $38 for a pre-booked taxi.  If booking a taxi ahead of time is not possible, don’t fret.  There will be plenty of drivers there to meet you (do expect to pay a bit more).

The adventurous can opt to rent a vehicle and self-drive.  There are rental car companies within close proximity of the airport.  It is important to note that in Zanzibar, driving is on the left side of the road.  Perhaps most importantly, most of Zanzibar has few road lights.  Coupled with the fact that many locals walk and ride their bikes in the dark, I would only recommend driving to those who have experience in such conditions.

Communication

Unless you find yourself in a very remote area, there should not be any real difficulties communicating as most locals speak anywhere from decent to excellent English (an official language along with Arabic and Swahili).

Activities

The beaches around Zanzibar Island are so breathtaking that many tourists opt to stay at their accommodation.  Kendwa Beach is wonderful and perfect for swimming, water sports, or simply basking in the warm sun.

However, if you would like to venture out, there are plenty of places you can go.  Group travel is the most cost-friendly option. Despite this fact, solo travelers should not be deterred.  There will usually be a trustworthy local guide around, which will almost always be a cheaper option than resort-sponsored guides.  Spend some time at a sandbank about 20 minutes off of the coast of Stonetown in the middle of the Indian Ocean.  The cost usually includes transportation from and to your accommodation, boat transportation, food, and drinks.

The sandbank is a serene and calming experience.  Many tourist groups bring seafood and drinks to barbecue, then take a dip in the shallow and cool waters.  It is never heavily populated–perfect for photos and relaxation.

It is a must to walk around Stonetown, which happens to be a World Heritage Site.  There are a wide array of food options and local gift shops to purchase jewelry, art, clothing, etc.  Visit the Mercury House, the birthplace of Rock legend Freddie Mercury.

At night, Forodhani Gardens becomes a bustling, lively food market frequented by locals and tourists alike.

Other places or activities of interest include:

  • Snorkeling at the Mnemba Atoll
  • Prison Island
  • Nungwi Beach
  • Uroa Beach
  • Spice Tour
  • Safari Blue all day tour

About the Author:

Nyahalay is an educator and avid traveler from Bronx, NY who enjoys exploring new places and adventures.  Nyahalay has gone from dreaming of seeing the world as a young girl to a visitor of over two dozen countries and counting.  For as long as possible, she will continue to educate the youth, see the world, and enjoy shrimp. Follow Nyahalay’s travels on her website Tucker Loves 2 Travel or her Facebook or Instagram.

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