Zanzibar travel guide
Updated: Mar 25, 2020
When it comes to Tanzania, safari is the first thing that comes to mind. But a lot of people are surprised to hear that it has dreamy tropical island like in Mauritius or the Seychelles. Zanzibar Island is a tiny holiday island located in the Indian Ocean. A nice destination for those who want to take a few days of beach vacation before / after safari or just to enjoy the white beaches and crystal clear water.
How to get to Zanzibar ✈️: There are direct flights from many European cities. Alternatively you can layover in Doha or Dubai. Another option is to take a ferry from the mainland or a short domestic flight.
Best time to visit Zanzibar 📅: The best time to visit Zanzibar is between June and August, which is a great honeymoon destination for couples having a summer wedding. December - January are the dry and warm months and also a great time to visit but prices may increase during that time. The remaining months fall under the raining season. We went in early April and didn't encounter much rain, it always rained at night while we were sleeping.
Zanzibar Visa 🛂: You need to get a visa for Tanzania which is sold before immigration for 50 dollars. The transaction takes 5 minutes and you can even pay by credit card.
Do I need any vaccination for Zanzibar 💉: When it comes to Africa, one of the first questions that comes to mind is “Is vaccination necessary?”. Malaria or Yellow Fever has not been seen in Zanzibar for many years and you do not need to be vaccinated. However, if you are traveling directly from another Malaria / Yellow Fever region, you will need to proof your vaccinations. If you do a safari it is recommended to get vaccinated but not mandatory for Zanzibar. General vaccinations and Hepatitis A vaccination is a must though, as clean water etc. is a bit of an issue.
Where to stay in Zanzibar🏨: Hotel rooms start from 100 Euros per night. A good 5 star hotel will cost you around 250 euros per night. I recommend to go for a hotel in the upper price range (if your budget permits) since you will spend most of your time on the hotel premises. We stayed on different parts of the island and also in Stone Town. Click for the hotels we stayed at.
Getting around in Zanzibar 🚋: Renting a taxi, driver or a car is the only means of transportation on the island. We've chosen the driver option. Your hotel can also organize transfers for you. If you want to book excursion tours on the island, transfer from/to hotel is usually included in the price.
Itinerary: Stone Town, the city center, should be definitely on your itinerary. The island has many different beaches to offer and you might want to get around a bit. You can also book day trips to the neighboring islands, Pemba Island or Mafia Island. Jambiani Forest and Prison island may also be great excursions.
Click for all articles about Zanzibar.
Our itinerary was: Stone Town - Nungwi - Jambiani. Even though we went for a short time (5 days), we wanted to see different parts of the island. We booked a local guide who I can also recommend you for transfers and tours, if you are interested, just send a message here.
This is the capital of Zanzibar. Stone Town, which is part of the Unesco World Heritage, really impressed me. It reminded me of both Morocco and Cuba. Narrow streets, run down but cute houses and gates, friendly people and a lot of street markets ... We spent a full day here and we're glad we did. When people go straight from the airport to a 5-star hotel, they don't see much of the local life. Visiting Stone Town was very impressive and to get to know the history of the island and seeing the poverty that actually exists was really moving. We discovered super nice places and had really good food here. Our hotel was Emerson Spice and we loved it so much.
If you are going to buy souvenirs, make sure you do it in Stone Town. Bargaining is absolutely necessary. The initial prices are always way higher then what you end up paying at the end. Don't forget to buy some local spices, you can even join Spice Tours or visit Spice Farms if you are interested. Another an interesting tour you can do during the day can be a Robben Island tour. Here you can deep dive into the islands history, which unfortunately is really sad. Other than that the best activity is to get lost in the narrow streets and just explore. Security should not be a concern here, there are security cameras on every street.
Places to eat in Stone Town:
• Zanzibar Coffee House - The coffee is nice, the atmosphere is cute. Breakfast is also available.
• Tower Top Restaurant at Emerson Hurumzi - This terrace restaurant is especially great to have lunch or watch the sunset.
• Livingstone Beach Restaurant - This was my favorite for the sunset. Located right on the beach, your feet are in the sand and your beer is cold. The scenery is very peaceful. There is also live music in the evening.
• Secret Garden - This was my favorite place for dinner. This hidden garden within the Emerson Spice hotel is so romantic. The food was delicious and the music and ambiance was great.
• Taperia - A nice Tapas restaurant
• La Taverna - A nice Italian restaurant.
This is one of most touristy parts of Zanzibar. There are many great hotels in Nungwi which is in the Northern part of the island. There's not much here except a little town center. The great thing about Nungwi is that it is least affected by the tides. While in some parts water pulls out up to 2km, in Nungwi it is possible to swim in the sea even during low tide. However, this is not the case for all seasons, Tidal clocks and water levels are different every day. Before you go, I’d recommend to check out the Tide Calendar and plan accordingly. Some months are more affected by the tides.
We stayed in a boutique hotel called The Zanzibari which is a bit outside of Nungwi. Overall we really liked it and especially our villa was one of the best we have ever stayed at. Click for the detailed article about The Zanzibari. We also spent a full day at the Essque Zalu hotel. It has a huge pier and you can easily go swimming from there.
We went down to Nungwi one evening and had an extremely nice dinner at a place called Baraka. The tables are set on the beach, steps away from the ocean. At night, stars appear and you can eat unlimited seafood accompanied by the sound of the ocean. Prices are quite reasonable. The only bad thing was the extremely slow service (this applies to most parts of the island) but we didn't mind much with that location. After all Hakuna Matata is the motto here.
The last stop of our trip was Jambiani beach. Jambiani is located on the east coast of Zanzibar. This could be the whitest sand I've ever seen. Long walks on the beach during low tide were the best. We did not have chance to explore the environment because of short time but in general this is a great place to stay. Our hotel Sharazad Boutique Hotel was super cute and we spent all day here on the beach. We had the full board option, so we had all meals at the hotel right on the beach. The famous The Rock restaurant is a 15 minutes drive from Jambiani but we did not go because we thought it would be very touristy and crowded.
All in all, Zanzibar is stunning and the island is slightly different from other popular tropical islands. Low tide can sometimes be a bummer because you don't have the sea a few hours a day. When the water comes back the sea can get wavy and seaweed may come as well. For those who say I'm just going for the turquoise water, Zanzibar may not be the ideal choice. Zanzibar is a suitable island for those who like to explore. Another great thing is that prices are much more affordable than the Seychelles or Mauritius and you can have a tropical island holiday without going too much over budget. Combining this trip with a safari for a few days would be my recommendation.