A lot of people never ever hear about Zanzibar. Even name sounds magical, but nobody could say where it is. Zanzibar is small island close to Tanzania. Technically Island is called Unguja, but we keep it as Zanzibar which it is easier for foreigner ears and more common in internet. Tanzania is an East African country known for its super wilderness areas. Event Zanzibar is relatively small island, but it have around 1.3 mln habitants. It is semi autonomous from Tanzania, so some things goes a bit different here. Most of people concentration of course is in capital Zanzibar. Based on 2002 data there are 200.000 inhabitants. Despite that Zanzibar have plenty of various accommodations types to choose from all around island. Zanzibar is perfect combination with safari or just to have relaxation with spectacular untouched beaches. Zanzibar have a tropical climate, so like i said it is perfect spot.
Accommodation. Which hotel is the best in Zanzibar? Which location is the best?
Biggest city in Zanzibar island is Zanzibar with its old town called Stown Town. Stown Town was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000. If you stay close to it there will be more opportunities to meet people and experience city. Many hotels in Stown Town have sea view, but these one is not for budget travelers. There are plenty affordable options close to city center with also good amenities. If you choose staying in capital highly recommend to stay only in Stown Town since staying a bit outside bring transportation hustle. Even relatively small distances could be impossible to travel sometimes.
- Stown Town is big city lowers. Even it lacks a lot of big city stuff, it is still the best big city option in Zanzibar. It have many bars, two clubs (dancefloors), many shops, acceptable beach, some events time after time, so it have some city vibe
- Nunwgi, nothern island. Calm the best beach, with luxury taste. A bit less activities compared to south side
- Jambiani, Paje have more sport activities, so if you fan of kite surfing you will more options here.
Of course all island full of 3,4 or 5 star hotels in all locations. All locations is easy accessible by one or a at most two hours drive. Even if you wont happy with your current location you could easily access others. Price per car could vary between 40-60 for small group up to 7 people. Beaches basically is everywhere more or less same, so do not target the best beach. Better look for free time activities.
What items to take
Do not forget sunscreen. Really i am serious. Sun is always hot here and getting sunscreen, if you book some beach hotel could be complicated. Sometimes shops with bigger variety of items could be really really far. Mostly many different items could be found only in Zanzibar city (capital). Also take all camera memory you have. Internet here is good enough for surfing web, but uploading your 4k 1 hour video to Internet could take years. Just take casual tropical stuff. Even if you go for safari you wont need much items. Basic type items could be found in shops, just in case if you forgot.
Visa visa visa. Is it possible to get it before coming to Zanzibar?
Easiest way to get visa when arrived. Technically you could sent passport and get it before arrival. I really doubt that someone would like to send passport somewhere and wait for. Normally price is 50 USD, just some cases like if you are citizen of USA you need to pay 100 USD. Of course there are some exception where you can enter Zanzibar for free, but these countries are mostly African. Full list could be found http://www.kilimanjaroairport.co.tz/index.php/2011-05-02-12-33-35/visa-immigration .
Small tips and tricks. Mostly you will get visa paper in plane, so fill it there. After landing go strait to payment booth. Not that one where officer sits, but other on left. Pay there, take all papers back with attached receipt. Then go to stand in officer line. It is not game changer, but let you save some minutes. Do not forget to smile since you will have big sticker in your passport with your photo in it. Visa is valid for 3 months.
Flights. Cheap flight to Zanzibar.
Here comes trickiest part. If you book package from tour company this part is not for you. I recommend to use some search engine to save your time. Most of flight is connected via Turkey, Egypt, UAE or Oman. My recommendation to check there Europe cities as departure destination like Madrid, Milan, Amsterdam, Frankfurt or Oslo. Flight price depend on season and luck, but from Europe if you find something around 400-500 euro you should consider good deal. Of course rarely you could find last minute deals for 350 or event 300 euros both ways. Aslo keep in mind that the best day to buy flight tickets is Tuesday.
Airport and domestic flights
Probably if you come to Zanzibar is should not miss Safari or vice versa. In that situation you will need domestic flights. Most popular safari flight is Zanzibar-Arusha. There is some exotic flight straight to park, but it could increase price several times. Surprisingly cheapest way go to safari by flight is Zanzibar-Arusha then back Kilimanjaro-Zanzibar. It is proven to work in most cases. My recommendation after safari stay one day in mainland and explore Kilimanjaro surroundings. It have really interesting parts and really worth visiting.
It is recommend to contact tour organizer before booking flight tickets, because sometime they have better rates than those on-line from flights page. Probably the most important part is that planes are small. I mean very small. Normally it fits ~15 people. Keep that in mind because that plane do not take a lot of luggage and there are many rules, so please check before. Forget taking three bags of photo equipment. Normally it take one 20kg bag for free. I found domestic flight is easy and less complicated than international arrival to Zanzibar.
Vaccination and other medicine. Should i have vaccination before coming?
You probably read many articles before preparing for trip about many deadly diseases which could kill you instantly. Nowadays it is not the case and only Yellow fever vaccine is must to have. Very rarely someone get sick of fly Tsetse or other similar disease. If you got one you should consider lucky. If you keep basic sanitation no problems for you. So if you really fan of clean you could take hand sanitizer.
Food and sanitziation
Some people may get shocked of sometime missing some parts sanitation. Like soap, paper towel or other parts so common in western world. Some of places looks very clean, but when you look ever the fence you could you see pile of trash. Same rule applies as everywhere. Everything is on your own risk. If you eat only street food your chances get sick will increase. It is not recommended to eat street sea food, since sometime it could be bad, because it could stay several days.
The best place to try local street food is everyday going on Forodhani night food market. Three thing must try Zanzibar soup, Zanzibar Pizza and Sugar cane juice. My favorite is Zanzibar soup, but others also very unique and tasty. If you stay in Stown Town and want to try sea food it is hard to miss Lukmaan Restaurant. Could be hard to find at first, but worth it. Place could be very crowd of tourist so think going not so busy hours.
- Street Food
- Forodhani night food market sea food
- Forodhani night food market
- Zanzibar Soup
- Zanzibar Pizza
- SugarCane Juice
Tour companies. How and where to book tour in Zanzibar?
The big question is to book before or try get on streets. Lets analyze second option first. Some people think that they book tour when arrive from guy where they meet on street, beach or anywhere else. Sometimes it could be good idea, but in most times you could not get the best value or even be robbed.
Why is bad idea buy tour from “street agent”:
- In Zanzibar almost everyone thinks they could be perfect guide, knows the best places and everyone should go with them.
- In Zanzibar person must have tour guide license to work with tourists. Many of them do not have to save money and it is to avoid government check.
- If you ask this “expert” for price once, then he start thinks that you are friends and every-time he meets you he will try to sell something.
- Also if they sell cheaper than tour company it is big chance that they are saving money on safety, exclude most important things and/or use old equipment. This way you are risking ruining you wonderful holidays.
Working with tour company assures that you get the best values with the best experts. Choosing right tour company could be compelling at first, but after some time most only one possible option left.
How choose good tour company:
- Always choose those with online payment options. Al lot of people do not know, but PayPal offers money back guarantee if you payed through them. It means if you are not satisfied with product, then you text PayPal, then PayPal give you money back and then charge from company. This way you always safe.
- Second, always choose good website design websites. It could sounds strange at first, but this shows that company is dynamic and try be closer to customer. Also these website provide updated information, than those where information never change in 10 year.
- And finally check social media. Surprisingly you could learn and find a lot of in those companies FaceBook/Instagram pages. Also drop a message on FaceBook since it is way more faster, than waiting email response
Tours. Most popular tours in Zanzibar
Every locals know what is the most popular tours in all Zanzibar. Most popular tours among tourist are these.
- Prison Island. Tortoise island in Zanzibar. Many many of them.
- Stown Town history tour. Show around Stown Town and off course Freddie mercury house in Stone Town
- Jozani forest. Red Colobus monkey from very close.
- Spice Tour. Taste, cook and smell many different spices of Zanzibar. You know, that Zanzibar is also known as Spice Island.
- Sand Bank Picnic with dhow sailing. Most relax tour in all Zanzibar. Sail, snorkel and have bunch of sea food.
I think all these take around 80% all tours in Zanzibar. The good part from Zanzibar that you always could reach some attraction from any point of island. There is no part of island with zero attractions. Some parts have dolphins, other water sport activities, snorkeling or natural aquariums or even caves. My personal favorite is Prison Island. I really doubt that anywhere in world you could so freely see so many and so close so many turtles. Also feeding and touching also possible, but it think it could be forbidden in any time.