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The allure of Zanzibar is timeless, with daily life shaped by the rhythms of the Indian Ocean and monsoon winds. Pristine white sand beaches and turquoise waters ring the island, and African, Indian, Arabic and Persian influences intertwine in Stone Town to form a rich cultural backdrop. If it is your first time visiting East Africa’s most famous beach holiday destination, here are 20 things you need to know before visiting Zanzibar.

21 Things You Need To Know Before Visiting Zanzibar

1. Visa requirements For Zanzibar

All nationalities – except 70 exempt nationalities including Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Seychelles, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Cyprus, Zambia, Malaysia, Mauritius, Hong Kong and Singapore – require a visa to visit Zanzibar.

Tourists are required to apply for a Single Entry Visa type (Ordinary Visa); this type of visa will allow a traveler to stay up to 90 days in Tanzania. The cost of a visa is $50 and $100 for US travelers. We highly recommend you apply for a Visa online from the official site of Tanzania Immigration Department before you land here to simplify the process.

Please note that Zanzibar is a part of Tanzania and the entry requirements and visas are the same for both destinations. Read more about Tanzania visa requirements.

2. Local Foods in Zanzibar

things you need to know before visiting Zanzibar

Before visiting Zanzibar you also need to know the best local foods you may want taste while on a holiday here. Zanzibar is well-known for its best spiced cuisines and Seafoods; like Prawns, Lobsters, Calamari, Octopus, oysters, Fishes, and Crabs.

The list does not end there, also you may try other common unique dishes; like Zanzibar Pizza, Zanzibar Mix (Urojo), Zanzibar biryani, Pilau, Chips mayai, Mishkaki, and Cassava.  Remember to try the tropical fruits. 

Zanzibar is a tropical island with plenty of tropical fruits to taste, fruits such as Jackfruits, Pine Apple, Mangoes, Breadfruits, Bananas, Oranges, Water melone, and Avocado.

3. Mainland Tanzania & Zanzibar are different destinations

Mainland Tanzania and the Indian Ocean islands of Zanzibar are stunning destinations but different. Tanzania mainland area is known as Tanganyika and the semi-autonomous archipelago located approximately 37 kilometers from the Mainland known as Zanzibar, also known as Spice Islands.

In fact, the name “Tanzania” was created as a clipped compound of the names of these two states that unified to create the country: Tanganyika and Zanzibar. It consists of the first 3 letters of the names of the 2 states (“Tan” and “Zan”) and the suffix, “ia” to form Tanzania.

The people’s behaviour and cultures are very different between Zanzibar and the Tanzania Mainland region. The cultures in Zanzibar are the mixture of many different backgrounds, including African, Persian and Arab.

Visiting both offers a wonderful experience of the best that Tanzania has to offer. You can enjoy the Tanzania safari of a lifetime in the game parks on the mainland, and then follow it up with a laid-back beach holiday on Zanzibar.

4. Muslims make up 99% of the population in Zanzibar

The word Muslim is derived from the Arabic word “Islam” which means Peace in English.

Among the things you need to know before visiting Zanzibar, is that you are coming to the real safe and peaceful Island in Africa. Zanzibar’s population is 99 percent Muslims.

There are other religions on the Island such as Hindus and Christians. So, when walking on the Zanzibar streets, particularly in Stone town, expect to hear the Muslim call prayer at every time of Muslim prayers. Actually; it is 5 times a day.

5. Clothes to Wear While In Zanzibar

Dressing style is vital aspect consider before you visit any Muslim country like Zanzibar. You should not forget that 99% of the population in Zanzibar is Muslim.

Therefore, you are advised not to wear extreme shorts particularly for women visitors when walking on the streets like Stone Town, or in the local Villages.

So it is very important to show them respect. But you can wear your shorts or bikini when you are strolling on the beaches or swimming.

6. Where to Stay In Zanzibar

Zanzibar tours

Another of the very important things you need to know before visiting Zanzibar is that choosing the place to stay here will depend on the interests of the travelers. Interests such as Beaches, Luxuries, and Budgets.

If you are interested in beaches, you should stay at Kendwa beach (North), Nungwi (North), Jambiani (South East), or Paje (South East). In case you want to know more about Zanzibar beaches, check this article on the best beaches in Tanzania.

If you are looking for the luxurious places to stay in Zanzibar, their prices range from US$200 to US$600). These include the Zanzibar White Sands Luxury Villas & Spa, Melia Zanzibar, Residence Zanzibar, Zuri Zanzibar, Riu Palace Zanzibar, Tulia Zanzibar Unique Beach Resort, Park Hyatt Zanzibar, Sea Cliff Resort & Spa, and Hotel Verde Zanzibar.

If you are on budget, the price for some economic places to stay in Zanzibar ranges from US$16 – US$35. These include Ten to Ten Hostel, Zlife, Baraka Aquarium Bungalows, Nungwi House, Mars Resort, Barefoot Zanzibar, Imani Beach Villa and Milele Lodge.

7. Best Time to Visit Zanzibar

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As you plan your holiday to Zanzibar, it is also good to know the best time to visit so as to get the best holiday experience.

Zanzibar is a tropical climate island, hot all year round and there is two rainy seasons in Zanzibar. The first rainy season, which is also the long rainy season starts from March to May. And the second rainy season, which is short, starts from mid-October and December.

The best time to visit Zanzibar Islands depends on your interests, but in general the best time to visit Zanzibar is from June to October and from December to March.

Read more about the best time to visit Zanzibar

8. Wild Animals in Zanzibar

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Do not confuse wild animals found in Tanzania mainland and Zanzibar.

On Zanzibar Island, you will not see any Lions, Leopards, Cheetahs, Elephants, or Giraffes. These wild animals are found in national parks of Tanzania Mainland; so you will need to organize the safari from Zanzibar or visit Zanzibar a safari on the Tanzania Mainland.

The most attractive wild animals for tourists found in Zanzibar are The Red Colobus Monkey in Jozani Forest, The Giant Tortoises on Prison Island, Dolphins in Kizimkazi Fishers Village, and the Bats that are found at Ngezi Forest in Pemba Island.

9. The Old Zanzibar Stone Town

things you need to know before visiting Zanzibar

Zanzibar Stone Town also known as “Mji Mkongwe” by the locals is the old Historic town in Zanzibar. We recommend you tour this town while on your vacation here. Zanzibar Stone Town has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2000.

There are so many places to stay (hotels and guesthouses) you can book here in Stone Town for your stay including Mizingani Seafront Hotel, Tembo Hotel, Double Trees, Maru Maru Hotel, Park Hyatt Luxury Hotel, and Serena Hotel.

10. Zanzibar Banned Plastic Bags

The government of Tanzania has placed prohibitions on plastic bags since June 1, 2019. Visitors to Tanzania are advised avoid carrying plastic bags because of Environmental reasons. Thus, these prohibitions also apply in Zanzibar Islands because Zanzibar is a part of Tanzania.

11. Zanzibar Sunset and Sunrise

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Stone Town has the best places to experience the Sunset, whether on the beach or on the Rooftop bars. The best Rooftop bars to experience Sunset in Stone town include Sunset bar at Africa the House, 6 Degrees South Grill and Wine Bar, The Swahili House, Travelers Cafe, and Bamboo Beach Cafe.

You can also see Sunset on Kendwa and Nungwi Beaches. The best places to experience the beautiful Zanzibar sunrise are on Kiwengwa beach, Matemwe beach, Michamvi beach, Paje beach, and Jambiani beach. You may also like; how many days do you need in Zanzibar?

12. Malaria Risks in Zanzibar

Tanzania is one of the countries with a high Malaria risk. The government of Zanzibar is making efforts to completely remove Malaria.

Despite these efforts, it is not sure that malaria is 100% completely removed. Nearly all Hotels in Zanzibar are constantly taking care of their guests concerning the possibility of Malaria. Therefore, we do suggest that you talk to your doctor for medical advice.

13. Pack Sunglass and Sunscreen

things you need to know before visiting Zanzibar

When packing your staff for a Zanzibar vacation, we advise you pick these vital staff for your holiday. Zanzibar is blessed with beautiful and shiny beaches; therefore you need your Sunglass and sunscreens especially when walking on the beaches.

14. Languages Spoken In Zanzibar

Swahili is the he mother language in Zanzibar Island. However, there many locals who can speak English fluently. Thus, if are lost just try to speak English words.

But when walking on the beach, there are different young people who can speak different languages. These young people known as “Beach Boys” The widely foreign languages spoken by the Beach Boys here in Zanzibar are English, French, Spanish, Italian, and German.

15. Drinking Alcohol in Zanzibar

Don’t forget that Zanzibar is a Muslim society. We advise that you not drink alcohol in on public to show the respect.

If you drink, then please drink in the Bars or Hotel. Nearly all Hotels in Zanzibar offer alcohol, but, here are some Hotels that do not provide alcohol; such as:

  • Mizingani Seafront
  • Tembo Hotel
  • Forodhani Park Hotel

16. Public & Private Transportations

The common used means of transport in Zanzibar are; Taxis, Private transfers, Dala dala (Public), and some tourists decide to Rent Cars or Scooters.

You can also take a local flight between Zanzibar Airport and other two local Airport; Kigunda Airport in the north part of Unguja Island or Wawi Airport in Pemba Island depending on where you want to go.

If you are a Vlogger who wants to really observe the way of life of people in Zanzibar, then we suggest you get Dala dala. Dala dala is a public transport here in Zanzibar and it is very economical. But it may not be the best option if you are here for the relaxing holiday.

If you are here for your Holiday, then private transfers is perfect option for you. Private transfers come with different advantages; comfortable and clean cars with Air-conditioning, baby seats and much more!

17. Learn some Swahili

Get to know the word “jambo” This is the most frequently used Swahili word when locals and tourists meet. It is important to know this word when visiting Zanzibar Islands and Tanzania as a whole. The word “Jambo” means Hello/ Hi/ how are you?

Other Swahili world you’ll hear karibu (“welcome”), pole pole (“slowly”) and asante (“thank you”). Beyond this, Swahili is such an inclusive, melodic language and attempts to learn it are greatly appreciated. Making the effort to master even just a few simple phrases will go a long way in facilitating cultural interactions and easing your travels.

18. Set aside money for tips

Tipping in Zanzibar is customary but it is not mandatory to give tips. Don’t forget that Zanzibar receives 63.5% of travelers from the Western countries; thus it has become a habit to receive tips after their service in the tourism Industry.

19. “Zanzibar” Is an Archipelago of Nearly 50 Islands

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The Zanzibar is an Archipelago (group of islands) that sits in the Indian Ocean, off the coast of Tanzania. It’s actually made up of 3 main islands of Unguja, Pemba, but there are many other small Islands around them.

Unguja, the largest island, is the place most people are referring to when they talk about Zanzibar Island. It is the main island in Zanzibar where you will arrive for your vacation. And from there, you can explore other small Zanzibar islands.

Almost all beaches that are visited by tourists are located in Unguja Island; such as Nungwi beach, Kendwa, Paje, Jambiani, Matemwe beach and so on. Pemba Island is not well known by many tourists who visit Zanzibar, but it is an amazing Island.

Other small islands where people live include Tumbatu Island, Uzi Island, Kojani Island, and Njau Island. The best small Islands for Holiday in Zanzibar include Prison Island, Mnemba Islands, Bawe Island, and Nakupenda sand bank.

You may also like, is Zanzibar good for a honeymoon?

20. Airports in Zanzibar

There are there airports in Zanzibar; one is an international Airport and other two local Airports.

  • Abeid Amani Karume International Airport also referred to as Zanzibar Airport.
  • Pemba Airport also known as Wawi Airport
  • Kigunda Airport (North of Unguja Island)

Kigunda and Wawi Airports are local airports, but Zanzibar Airport is an International Airport where you will be landing here for the first time in Zanzibar.

The famous direct flights to Zanzibar Airport;

  • Uganda Airlines
  • Kenya Airways
  • Emirates/FlyDubai Airline
  • Ethiopian Airways
  • Qatar Airlines
  • KLM Royal Dutch Airlines
  • Turkish Airlines
  • Air Tanzania

21. Money Exchanges & ATMs in Zanzibar

Money Exchanges and ATMs are widely accessible in Zanzibar. You can exchange money at Zanzibar Airport or other places in Darajani Market and Stone Town. Not only in Stone Town, but also you can exchange money in some beach destinations like Paje and Nungwi beaches if you will be staying there.

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