[Photos at the bottom of the page] We are back from our last trip of 2021, in early December, to the exotic island of Zanzibar in Tanzania. It was a last minute idea, which created more excitement around it. To enter the country we had to do a PCR test 72h prior to entry, due to covid (regardless of the vaccination status). I really wanted to travel outside Europe and to feel the excitement of discovering a place with a different landscape, people, culture, which is what I like most about travelling (and why I usually pick a different country / place for my travels).
Another phenomenon specific to Zanzibar is the high and low tide, they are very extreme and so it’s better to check online for high tide, to decide when to go to the beach (low tide is great for seeing star fish etc.)
Something else to keep in mind is the bargain culture and the hassling. There are tour guides everywhere on the street and they will stop you to offer all sorts of services from taxis to snorkel tours or Stone town tours (“the capital”); sometimes there is a tour guide offering you things every 15mins all day long (if you want to avoid this, pick a hotel with sun beds directly on the beach). We got used to it eventually but it was a bit of a cultural change 🙂
However, the health care system is very basic, so do consider that when booking a trip there (we did have a short experience with it). Don’t forget to get vaccinated before you travel to Tanzania for all sorts of tropical diseases, if this is applicable to your situation, see guidelines.
Despite some not so fun “adventures” once we came back from our trip, I still remember fondly of the days earlier this month on beautiful beaches, the exotic fresh fruit and the lively atmosphere created by the kind local people at sunset every evening.
Overall, Zanzibar was cheaper than we expected, as Western Europe residents, both in terms of food and accommodation.
- Food: ~7$ per meal at an average restaurant
- Accommodation: 60$ / night 2 persons
- Car rental: we used taxis and we particularly liked the price & service of this driver: +255 772 196 043 (for e.g. from airport to Nungwi it was 35$; 1.5h drive)
- Sunbeds: certain beach restaurants offer free sunbeds if you buy drinks or snacks / food from them
- Activities: snorkel & dolphin trip with fruits – 25$ (we recommend Johnson +255 623 023 821); massage: 20$ – 60min
- It’s best to come with US dollars to the Tanzania which is what they use or better so, convert them to Tanzanian shillings (the exchange rate was better in the capital – Stone Town and in the airport than in the beach resort areas) – you can double it check it by googling it.
- Don’t forget to bargain at least 30-50% of the price initially offered, for everything.
When should I visit?
Avoid Zanzibar in April, May and partly March which is the rainy season. November is sometimes rainy too.
We usually use booking.com for our hotels research: an 8+ our of 10 review score and ideally around 50 eur/2p/night. We also compare prices with the hotel’s website, agoda.com, hotels.com or other providers on the Google Map entry of the hotel, if we have time.
Location wise, the best part of the island for a first time visitor is Nungwi (the north). If you book west and south of the Hilton hotel in Nungwi and almost on the beach, you will likely enjoy the location. We also stayed a few days on the east beaches of the island, Kilimajuu, which is more wild and super quiet (you mainly stay at the hotel). We enjoyed Nungwi more.
We landed in Zanzibar airport directly (some airlines make stops in Dar Es Salam, the capital too). Within the island we either walked or used taxis, we enjoyed particularly the services of this fellow: +255 772 196 043 (for e.g. from airport to Nungwi it was 35$; 1.5h drive).
Places of interest / Activities
- Mnemba island snorkel & dolphin watching small boat trip (from Nungwi): 25$ (we recommend Johnson +255 623 023 821)
- Turtle sanctuary Nungwi: 10 $
- Snorkeling / Diving (Tumbatu island): we went with Lulu Dive center in Nungwi (overall Nungwi is the best to do snorkeling): 25-30$; side note: there were tons of moon jelly fish (not harmful) the days we took the boat to snorkel and overall the state of the coral & fish diversity were much worse than south of Egypt / Marsa Alam.
- Stone town (capital): visit the old slavery market and museum; visit the Zanzibar spice community shops / market; visit the evening food market (near Zanzibar ferry terminal).
Food and drinks
- Appex (Nungwi) – this was our favourite place, we mostly ate there.
- One of our hotels on the east of the island had dinner included, and we enjoyed that too.
- We tried all sorts of local basic places and they all offered similar things: curries, fresh seafood, etc.
- Have USD in cash as taking money out of the ATM has most of the time commissions of about 4%. Paying by card at the hotels has a 5% commission.
Places I wish I saw but didn’t have time
- I wish I did a safari trip of about 4 days. Although I got a few good offers from a couple of companies, I decided to postpone this to next time, as I wanted a relaxed holiday this time around, rather than an adventurous one: