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Country Overview – Zanzibar


Fast Facts

  • Languages: Swahili, English, Italian, Arabic
  • Population: 800,000
  • Capital city: Stone Town (also known as Zanzibar Town)
  • Currency: Tanzanian Shilling
  • People: Native African, Arabic, and Indian
  • President: Amani Karume
  • Government: Republic
  • Religion: Muslim (95%), Christian and Hindu (5%)
  • Climate: Hot and humid
  • Average Temp: 25ºC (77ºF)
  • Major Industries: Tourism, Spice, and Fishing


Most tours will begin with a stay in Stone Town as this is where the international airport is located. Stone Town has a variety of accommodation ranging from budget bed and breakfast inns to extremely luxurious hotels. All accommodation featured in our packages have been tried and tested by ourselves and we have a policy of "if we have not seen it, we will not put our guests in it". This means that all the accommodation featured on this website has been tried and tested by ourselves.

The most popular resorts are located on the East Coast of Zanzibar , mainly in Kiwengwa and some very good accommodation is found on the northern tip in Nungwi . Nungwi is possibly the most "happening" place of Zanzibar with international backpackers frequenting this area due to its cheap diving and budget accommodation.


International access to Zanzibar is either via Zanzibar International Airport, situated in Stone Town, or via the port also located in Stone Town. Direct flights to Zanzibar from South Africa are from Johannesburg International Airport with flights leaving on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. The only direct carrier is Air Tanzania. Local transport is freely available at the airport and the port, but all charges are in US$. A daily ferry leaves from Zanzibar to Dar Es Salaam and vice versa. These ferries leave approximately every 4 hours, and the journey between the two ports should take about 2 to 3hours. Traveling around Zanzibar can be quite tricky if you do not know what you are doing. The local taxis are called "dala dalas" and can be quite intimidating if you are a first time traveler on these. The best alternative is to contact us and we will arrange all transfers for you. Visitors can also hire motor bikes and cars, but this is also not recommended as the roads are quite tricky to navigate, with many cyclists and motor cyclists driving all over the roads. If you do not have proper licenses, or you knock over a cyclist, the police are quick to arrest you.

Pemba Island is only accessed by domestic flights from most Tanzanian domestic airports and from Zanzibar Airport and ferries. Flights leave to Pemba on a daily basis whilst ferries to Pemba leave the Zanzibar and Dar Es Salaam ports from Tues - Fri.

When 2 Go

July to October - during this period, there is little rain, the average temperature is 25 degrees celsius and the humidity is low. Light breezes at night provide some relief from the hot days. Not as many tourists as in January, so for somebody who likes a bit of privacy, it is ideal.

November to March
- are good months although the short rains come at this time and it is VERY hot and humid. If you are planning to go to a resort, this is a fantastic time.

April to June - this is the quiet season. The long monsoon rains pour down. It does not rain the whole day every day, but you will have to remain indoors for some time when they come down. If you are on a budget trip, then this is the best time in terms of price unfortunately. Many resorts are closed though during this period, so you will have a smaller selection of places to stay.

Please note that Zanzibar is predominantly Muslim and they celebrate Ramadhan every year, which see Muslims fasting during the daytime for an entire month. This festival moves back a couple of days every year, so be sure to check here again if you plan on going to Zanzibar a couple of years down the line. Some local restaurants, bars and discos are closed during this period. All resort and accommodation entertainment is still open though.


Communications from the island are easily accessible, with a multitude of internet cafes who also provide telephonic facilities. International cell phone roaming is also available, please contact your network to ascertain if they have facilities in Zanzibar.


Electricity is 230V AC but you will have to buy flat 3 pin plugs should you wish to use any electrical appliances. These are available at most shops in Stone Town.


Medical services in Zanzibar
Healthcare facilities on the island are not up to Western standards. It is highly recommended that you obtain sufficient medical insurance prior to your departure to Zanzibar. Flying doctor facilities are available with the nearest hospital being in Nairobi, Kenya.


Currency in Zanzibar
The local currency is the Tanzanian Shilling. The current rate of exchange (May 2001) is Tsh900 =  1USD Almost every hotel and resort accepts US Dollars but beware, some of their exchange rates are not very favorable. It is best to exchange your currency at a local Bureau de Change into Tsh as their rates are normally the best. Not many Bureau de Change or hotels accept ZAR.


Banks in Zanzibar:

  • People's Bank of Zanzibar - Stone Town
  • National Bank of Commerce - Stone Town
  • Bank of Tanzania - Stone Town


Credit Cards and Traveler's Cheques
Credit cards are accepted at some of the major hotels, restaurants and resorts. Traveler's cheques are the safer option as these are more widely accepted than credit cards.


Languages in Zanzibar:

The official language of Zanzibar is Kiswahili. Most residents have a good knowledge of English, Italian and various Arabic dialects. Some important words in Swahili are:

  • Jambo - hello
  • Habari - what's news?
  • Mambo - slang greeting like habari
  • Mzuri - I am well
  • Asante - thank you
  • Kwaheri - good bye
  • Maji - water
  • Chakula - food
  • Kahawa - coffee
  • Chai - tea (also referred to as a bribe)
  • Moja - one
  • Mbili - two
  • Tatu - Three

The majority of people on the island follow the Muslim faith. Dress code to them is of particular importance and it is suggested that women try to dress fairly conservatively in order not to offend the local people. 95 percent of the people are Muslim, with the balance being a mixture of Christian and Hindu.


Zanzibar is a few degrees south of the equator and enjoys a tropical climate that is largely dominated by the Indian Ocean monsoons. Average temperature in the summer months is 27ºC and in the winter months is 24ºC. It is very humid all year round, particularly in the summer monsoon rain period. April and May experience the highest rainfall with figures averaging at 249mm and July and August with the lowest averaging 60mm.

There are no National Parks on the island of Zanzibar although there are some fantastic places to see:

Chumbe Island Marine Reserve
This is the only marine reserve near Zanzibar. The island has accommodation for guests and provides an romantic getaway place for couples. Guests are not allowed to dive here, but the snorkeling is just as good. See our accommodation guide for more details on Chumbe Island.


Jozani Forest
Jozani forest is a protected forest and is home to some of our primate cousins. The Red Colobus monkey are indigenous only to Zanzibar and there are about 2300 in and around the forest. Nature walks are available and it is suggested that you cover yourself properly if undertaking a hike, as there is very little shade.


Spice Tours
Zanzibar is known as the spice island, and the tour shows visitors the various spices are grown and harvested. Visitors will have the pleasure of seeing cinnamon trees, nutmeg trees, vanilla trees (believe it or not) and the likes. You will be asked to smell and taste various spices and guess what they are, as well as witness harvesters climbing huge trees with no harnesses or protection, to bring down coconuts for your delight.


Historical Monuments in Zanzibar
There are a multitude of historical buildings in Stone Town, and most of these are within walking distance of each other. Building to see include: Forodhani Gardens, The Palace Museum, St Joseph's Cathedral, Arab Fort, House of Wonders, Durajani Bazaar and many more. We can provide a list of what to see, or if you prefer you can walk around Stone Town and discover things for yourself.

Travel Tips

What to pack
Light sandals or rubber flip-flops. Some places require you to remove your shoes before entering. Good walking shoes if you plan on doing a lot of sight seeing.

  • Raincoat or umbrella if you are traveling in the rainy season. Monsoon rains are heavy.
  • Flashlight, for those irritating power cuts. Many hotels do have generator backup systems though.
  • Clothes – these should be light as it is very hot and humid. A jersey or windbreaker is recommended for those winter nights (just in case). Women are "frowned upon" for wearing revealing clothes. Mini-skirts are a definite no. Try to wear shorts (no not hot pants) or a long skirt, and try to keep the shoulders covered.

Malaria Tablets
Zanzibar is situated in a malaria zone, so it is recommended that you consult your physician on the prescription right for you. Pregnant women are not allowed to take Malaria prevention drugs, and are cautioned before entering any malaria area.


Insect/ Mosquito repellent
Mosquitoes, like little vampires, favour night conditions. Be sure to take a repellent, and cover all exposed areas of your body (e.g. neck and arms). We recommend that you wear trousers at night and long sleeved shirts should you be outdoors. If the heat is too much and you wear a short sleeved shirt, make sure you smear/ spray your arms with repellent. At night before you go to bed, make sure your mosquito net is either touching the ground, or is tucked in, and your exposed areas (especially your ankles) are protected with repellent.


Travel insurance
It is imperative that you have travel insurance. Even though they do not check any certificates when you enter the airports, for your own peace of mind, make sure that you are adequately covered.


As with all cities, Zanzibar is not free of crime. Unfortunately it has been on the increase, so make sure you do not take valuables on holiday with you. If you do take expensive jewellery, make sure it is either locked up when you go out, or hidden from sight.


Be careful not to walk the streets at night alone, this invites trouble. If you are confronted, do not resist, and try to report the matter to the police as soon as possible. The police are sometimes rude and arrogant, but an attempt will be made to recover your property.

Tides in Zanzibar
Tides may be a problem if you are staying at a hotel without a swimming pool. If you are concerned about tides, please ask one of our consultants to tell you how the tide will affect the resort you will be staying at.

Entry Requirements

A visa and a yellow fever inoculation certificate are pre-requisites to enter Zanzibar. Visas cost $50 per person and are obtainable from the Tanzanian Embassy at:
822 George Ave
Tel: (012) 342 4393

You will need 2 passport photographs and 2 completed application forms. Should you not have the time, please let us know and we will do it for you for a nominal fee.

Yellow fever inoculations are available at travel clinics around the country.
Possibly one of the most important requirements, although not a pre-requisite is travel insurance. Visitors must make sure they are adequately covered. If you are unsure about what you should take out, please contact us and we will gladly help you.

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