8 Tips for Visiting Zanzibar: Africa’s Spice Island
If you’re keen on tacking on some R&R after your oh-so-stressful Safari, consider Zanzibar. The “zan” in Tanzania is just an hour-and-a-half ferry ride from the mainland in the Indian Ocean. It’s the perfect tropical spot to kick back and relax. Here are a few tips to help you plan your trip.
1. Remember your visa. Visitors from the United States and Europe require visas to enter Tanzania. Zanzibar is a semi-autonomous state within Tanzania, so you don’t need a separate visa to visit, but you do need to show your passport.
2. Travel June through October. This is the best time to visit Zanzibar because the temperature averages 26°C (79°F).
3. Plan your trip around the holy month of Ramadan. Zanzibar observes Ramadan for a month every year. During this period Muslims are forbidden to eat, drink, or smoke between sunrise and sunset. Although hotels catering to tourists are not affected, many small shops and restaurants are closed during the day. If you plan to arrive during Ramadan, aim for the end, when a huge feast called the Eid al-Fitr (which means “end of the fast”) brings everyone out to the streets.
4. Rent bikes. Bikes can be rented from shops near Darajani Market. Mopeds and motorcycles are another great way to get about the island.
5. Take the ferry. Not a big fan of flying in the small planes? Several hydrofoil ferries travel between Dar es Salaam and Stone Town. The fastest trips, lasting about 75 minutes, are on hydrofoils operated by Sea Express and Azam Marine. Tickets can be purchased on the spot or in advance from the row of offices next to the port in Dar es Saalam. Timetables and prices are displayed on boards outside each office. Tickets for nonresidents range from $40 for first class (Tsh 65,000) to $35 (Tsh 60,000) for second class. The harbor is quite busy so keep an eye on your possessions and if you don’t want help from a porter, be firm.
6. Take a deep breath when flying. Remember to exercise patience with all the local airlines because schedules are flexible and very often flights are delayed.
7. Be wary of taxi drivers. Whether you arrive by plane or ferry, you will be approached by taxi drivers. Be sure to agree on a price before getting in, as taxis do not have meters. The fare to Stone Town should be around Tsh 11,000 (around $10–$15). Your driver may let you out several blocks before you reach your hotel because the streets are too narrow. Ask the driver to walk you to the hotel. Be sure to tip him if he carries your luggage.
8. Be very careful when using ATMs. Make sure you use one that is on a reputable bank’s premises and that the bank is open—cards get swallowed all the time. Beware the airport ATM—it is omnivorous.