Useful Information before going to Zanzibar
- Zanzibar - Weather, Sports, Tides, Where to go & Zanzibar History
In general: Zanzibar is an archipelago made up mainly of “Zanzibar” – the local name is “Unguja” but it is internationally known as Zanzibar - and Pemba Islands, as well as over 50 small islands. It is located in the Indian Ocean, about 40 km from the Tanzanian coast, and 6° south of the equator. The island is roughly 85 km long and 39 km wide.
Summer: December-February with temperatures around 35°C
Winter: June - August, around 25°C The Indian Ocean has about the same temperatures during these months.
The main rainy season is from April to mid June. In May 2017 we had massive floods (most of the month) with kanus being used on the submerged streets in order to get from A to B. According to locals, last time there was that much rain was 30 years ago. The second “mini” rainy season is in October/November, usually with short lived rains, sometimes though it rains for an entire day. Please note that even if it rains, the Indian Ocean remains wonderfully warm. I love swimming in the Ocean while it rains. As everywhere else in the world, the weather changed quite a bit lately. September/October 2017 were incredibly hot with temperatures of 35°C December 2017/January 2018 were cooler than usual with very unusual rain in January, even sometimes for the entire day, and temperatures around 25-28°C. Please be aware that the weather at the west coast (facing Tanzania mainland) and the east coast is very different, the east coast usually gets more sunshine and less rain than the west coast.
You find here picture postcard beautiful white sand beaches lined with coconut trees. My favourite part of Zanzibar is the south east coast. It is quiet, tranquil, the locals of the south east coast are extra friendly (genuinely friendly, they smile with their eyes). Here you have approx. 20 km of white sand beaches stretching from Jambiani via Paje and Bwejuu to Michamvi. Paje is the main village at the south east coast; it is very popular with kitesurfers – be aware that the beaches are crowded with kites during kite season and swimming in the ocean is almost impossible if not dangerous. If you stay in Paje, rather walk a few minutes till you find a peaceful beach and safe swimming. Luckily we are blessed with a 20km stretch of beach, there is a perfect place for everyone.
Especially the east coast of the island is protected by coral reefs that make swimming safe – no sharks or huge waves.
At low tide you cannot swim in the Indian Ocean at the east, south and west coasts. The beaches at these coast lines are very flat, hence the ocean recedes at low tide out to the coral reef, which is anything between 1 and 1.5 km offshore. You can walk out towards the coral reef at low tide. Watch out for the black sea urchins, spiky things that you don’t want to step into. They are clearly visible so watch your step and wear special shoes. Also don’t pick up cone shells – see page To do and not to do. You can check the time table for low and high tide for Zanzibar on on http://tides.mobilegeographics.com/calendar/year/7156.html
At the north coast, you can always swim even at low tide since the beach falls off deeply after a few meters. Therefore, the north coast is very popular with tourists. In December and January (high season) the beaches are packed with tourists there and it is quite noisy. If you are looking for a quiet holiday, this ain’t the place for you. The west coast is my least favorite part. Especially at the southern end it is very rocky and there are only small patches of sand. Also, the sand at most of the west coast is coarse yellow, not the amazing white sand Zanzibar is famous for.
Include scuba diving, kitesurfing, SUP, snorkeling, deep sea fishing, wind surfing; golf (only at Sea Cliff Resort and Spa, 18 holes); cycling, volley ball, beach soccer. Only in Nungwi/north coast: fly boarding, parasailing, water skiing, jet skiing.
Besides the beautiful white sand beaches and delicious food, Zanzibar has quite a lot to offer. There are a few lime stone caves scattered all over Zanzibar and it is believed that in ancient days people lived in these caves. Some of the caves (like Tazari in Nungwi) are believed to have been used as hiding places for slaves in the pre-colonial Zanzibar era of the slave trade. Most of the caves are home to African bats. You can watch them at sunset flying out of the cave entrance. In Bwejuu at the south east cost is a large cave big enough to hold up to 1000 people. It is still used as a shrine. I mention a few of the caves on the pages “Discover Zanzibar”.
There are a lot of stories and tales that villagers insist are true. One of those talks about a phantom ship that appears at night and vanishes in front of the Palm Beach Inn reef off Bwejuu (see Discover Zanzibar south of Stone Town).
The capital is Zanzibar City, located on the west coast of the island. Its historic center is Stone Town and it is said to be the only functioning ancient town in East Africa. There are three buildings that I know of that have underground tunnels leading out to the ocean; these were built after the slave trade was prohibited by the British; that way the poor slaves were smuggled at low tide from the boats through the tunnels into these buildings. Stone Town’s architecture, mostly dating back to the 19th century, reflects the diverse influences underlying the Swahili culture. Stone Town was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000. Zanzibar’s main industries are spices, raffia (products made from raphia palm trees), seaweed and of course tourism. The islands mainly produce cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon and black pepper. For this reason, the islands are also known as the Spice Islands. Please do try to go on a spice tour, the plantations are about 20 km north of Stone Town, it is definitely worth your while.
Language is KiSwahili but English is widely spoken especially in Stone Town, also Arabic and Italian and lately there are quite a few tour guides in town who speak German. It is lots of fun if you try to speak some words in KiSwahili, greetings for example. You will for sure be rewarded with a bright smile. Most important word is “Jambo” which is a friendly greeting – you just reply also with “Jambo”. Thank you is “ahsante”. For the English word “cool/okay” you can use “Poa”. For more phrases, please check “To do and not to do”. As per the last consensus in 2012, approx. 1.3 million people live on Zanzibar island. Population growth annually is just over 3%.
- How to get here, Visa & Zanzibar International Airport
Getting here from overseas
Direct flights to Zanzibar:
Condor, Jetfly, Ethiopian Airways, Kenyan Airways, Oman Air, Qatar Airlines, Arkia Israeli Airlines, KLM, FlyDubai, Turkish Airlines, Meridian and Mango. There is talk that other international airlines might get permission to land in Zanzibar in the near future. Other airlines fly to Dar es Salaam.
Getting from Dar es Salaam to Zanzibar:
The airport is on the outskirts of Dar es Salaam quite a distance from the Harbour/Ferry Port which is in the center of Dar. Traffic in Dar is horrendous, it can take you 2 hours or longer by taxi from the airport to the ferry port (the distance could be done easily in 30 min if there were no traffic). The taxi will cost anything from US$ 30 upwards to the ferry port. Make sure you agree on the taxi fare before you get into the taxi!
Zanzibar International Airport:
Zanzibar International Airport was supposed to be replaced by a new, much larger airport but construction work was halted more than two years ago, nobody really knows why. For the time being we are stuck with the old airport (see photo below), which is completely inadequate, to put it mildly. Be prepared for some chaos on arrival, take a few deep breaths and be patient. When you made it to the top of the queue at immigration, your visa is processed and a photo of you as well as fingerprints are taken, this only takes a few minutes. Don’t expect your luggage to arrive on conveyor belts - any luggage is carried in by hand by airport staff. In case you want to exchange money, you can do so while you wait for your luggage. After all your bags went through an x-ray machine (usually a customs guy is in attendance there) you’ve made it!
In order to avoid any chaos at departure check in well in advance, minimum is two hours before departure! After the initial queue to get into the departure hall, your luggage/bags are scanned. Now you face long, slow moving queues at the check-in counter (this hall has no aircon, just ceiling fans). If needed, toilets are up the staircase on the 1st floor of the departure hall, at the far left of the restaurant (there are no signs).
Then you join more queues at the immigration counters and finally, your hand luggage is scanned again. Now you made it into the boarding hall, which has aircon units. Here you find a shop and some kiosks where you can do your last shopping. At the end of the hall (walk around the corner) you find a small kiosk for snacks and coffee, fridges with cool drinks and water and around the corner are toilets.
- Malaria & Yellow Fever Vaccinations
Zanzibar is not an official Malaria area anymore. It is up to you to take Malaria prophylaxis or not. Do bring Mosquito repellent and drink lots of Tonic water (Mosquitos hate the smell of chinine in the tonic water which your skin somehow gives off). If you drink alcohol, enjoy a gin tonic at sunset (gin also contains chinine = double dose of chinine) – the gin tonic is only to keep the Mosquitos away of course. In the hotel rooms, you have mosquito nets and staff usually spray the rooms at night when they get your bed ready.
YELLOW FEVER VACCINATION:
Yellow Fever vaccination is not compulsory for visitors arriving directly into Tanzania from NON-endemic countries like Europe, the USA and Japan. Tanzania is mapped by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a low risk country for Yellow fever (WHO 2015 update). However, the presence of Yellow fever vector (mosquitoes) poses potential risk for Yellow fever if the virus is introduced into the country. All visitors from Non-Endemic countries, whom on their way to Tanzania have passed through Endemic Yellow Fever zone(s) but they did not get out of that country’s airport, will not require Yellow Fever vaccination certificate provided the transit time at the airport is less than 12 hours.
In order to conform to International Health Regulations requirement and safeguard public health security in Tanzania, Yellow fever vaccination is mandatory to travellers arriving from Yellow fever endemic countries. This condition also applies to travellers subjected to long flight connection (transit) in an airport of a Yellow fever endemic country for twelve hours (12hrs) or more. All visitor from Endemic Yellow Fever zone(s), and those visitors whom on their way to Tanzania have passed through Endemic Yellow Fever zone(s) and get out of that country’s airport, will be required to show their yellow fever certificates on their arrival into Tanzania or receive vaccination at the entry point on their arrival (vaccination fee is US $ 50). All visitors from Tanzania mainland to Zanzibar will not be required to show their yellow fever vaccination certificate because Zanzibar is inside the United Republic of Tanzania
- Money, ATMs & Internet on Phone
The local currency is Tanzanian Shilling (Tzs). Many hotels require payment in US$, in particular for accommodation, but also for food and drink and for tours. Taxis and car rentals are also paid in US$. You do need Tzs for petrol in case you hire a car, and if you go shopping in the villages (you get better prices when you pay in Tzs). Tzs come in notes of 10,000, 5,000, 2,000 and 1,000 shillings. Coins used here are 500, 200, 100 and 50 Shilling. Best place and rates to exchange US$ to Tzs are the EXCHANGE BUREAUS in Stone Town, the banks offer bad exchange rates, the exchange rates at hotels are even worse. Currently the exchange rate is Tzs 2240 per US$ (early February 2018). You get the best rates for notes of $ 50 and $ 100, don’t exchange smaller notes. You can also exchange Euro, GDP, ZAR and other currencies at the exchange bureaus. NB: US$ notes printed before 2006 are not valid in Tanzania/Zanzibar!
The bigger hotels, restaurants and car rentals have credit card facilities. A surcharge of 5% is applicable. Be aware that at many places credit cards are not accepted. Please do visit the villages, the locals do not regard you as an intruder, to the contrary, they welcome you as a guest to their home village. Try to support them by buying their craft, fabrics, bags etc. And do haggle – that’s the way of shopping on Zanzibar.
You can only draw Tzs against your credit card or a card with a Visa or Mastercard logo. An ATM is at the airport just outside the arrivals hall, there are a few other ATMs in Stone Town. Most ATMs have a maximum payout of Tzs 400,000 per withdrawal. You can use your credit card multiple times though until your daily withdrawal limit on your credit card is reached. You might have to visit different ATMs though. New ATM from CRDB Bank in the airport parking lot: you can withdraw up to Tzs 600,000.
NB: ATMs are only in Stone Town. There are NO ATMs outside of Stone Town, with the exception of Paje (to my knowledge, please email me in case you find other ATMs on the island while you are here!): A Barclays ATM was opened at the Paje Petrol Station on 03 February 2018. Not sure though if it will be regularly maintained, i.e. if cash (Tzs) will be available on a continuous basis. It is a very good and much welcome step in the right direction though. Petrol costs Tzs 2256 per liter for Super (mid February 2018) and is paid in Tzs. You can also pay in US$ but you’ll get a really bad exchange rate.
Mobile phone/internet: You can buy a simcard from a choice of service providers at a small kiosk outside the airport arrivals hall, or in Stone Town. The service provider with the most coverage on Zanzibar is “Zantel”, a simcard costs Tzs 1000 (incl. Tzs 500 airtime). I suggest that you buy a minimum of Tzs 5000 airtime and load it (*104*vouchernumber#). Zantel offers prepaid deals for internet, calls and sms
Mobile INTERNET ONLY packages (as per October 2017):
75MB for Tzs 250 / 250MB for Tzs 500 / 600MB for Tzs 1000 / 1.5 GB for Tzs 2000
1.2 GB for Tzs 5000 / 3GB for Tzs 8000 / 12GB for Tzs 12000
1.5GB for Tzs 10000 / 3GB for Tzs 15000 / 7GB for Tzs 25000
To sign up: dial *149*15#, dial 4 for mobile services, chose daily, weekly or monthly and then your choice of bundle. You will receive a confirmation sms starting with “hongera” (congratulations – for signing up).
Mobile internet plus airtime for calls and text messages, for example (as per mid August 2017):
Epiq 300: Every day, Tzs 300 are deducted automatically from your airtime and you get 10MB internet, 50 free sms and 6 minutes talk time (local) per day.
Epiq 500: Tzs 500 deduction daily off your credit, you get 10MB internet, 60 free sms and 50 MMS and 12 minutes talk time (local) per day
Epiq 999: Tzs 999 deduction daily off your credit, you get 16MB internet, 500 free sms and 100 MMS and 25 minutes talk time (local) per day
To register, dial *149*15#, dial 6 for Epiq, choose your package, your language and then “register”. If you registered successfully, you will receive a sms starting with “hongera”
You can buy airtime (“Zantel Credit”) everywhere you see the green Zantel sign hanging outside the small shops lining the streets all over the island. Be careful, if you ran out of airtime, you need to register again with Epiq. Wi-Fi hotspots in Stone Town are at the airport, ferry port, at Forodhani Gardens, Mercury’s Restaurant and La Taverna restaurant. Most hotels and restaurants offer free Wi-Fi for their guests.
- To do and not to do / Ramadan
It is strictly prohibited to export shells, no matter what size! Curio shops will offer them to you, or kids at the beach. Do not buy them! You will pay heavy fines if you are caught with shells in your luggage. Curio shops will also try to sell you cow horns or any other animal parts. Only buy them if you receive an exportation permit from the Ministry of Agriculture. This applies to any animal part. The shop keepers will most probably tell you “hakuna matata” (no problem). It IS a BIG problem if you are caught with any animal part in your luggage without the official exportation permit. A tourist recently spent 14 hours in prison because he had a cow horn in his luggage without the necessary permit. Only with the help of his Embassy was he released from prison but he had to spend 2 weeks at a hotel until the court case came up.
Concerning ivory, one needs a CITES permit. Having said that, nobody should buy any ivory in any case. In Tananzia, the population of elephants reached shockingly low levels because of ruthless poachers who kill the elephants for their ivory. Our children’s children might not be able to see a live elephant anymore if people don’t stop buying ivory. Zanzibar airport as well as Dar es Salaam airport have x-ray machines. Every piece of luggage is thoroughly checked. Please do not take any chances.
98% of the Zanzibaris are Muslims. Especially in Stone Town, ladies please do cover your shoulders (good excuse to buy a beautiful Zanzibar scarf) and your knees. Men should wear knee length or long pants and t-shirts. Nothing happens if you don’t dress like this, nobody will say anything, but I believe that one should respect the traditions of the people of the host country. This dress code doesn’t apply at the coastal areas though. At the beach you wear normal beach wear, no nude or (ladies) topless sunbathing though. If you happen to be on Zanzibar during RAMADAN (15 May -14 June 2018) kindly read the guidelines at the end of this page.
Please do walk through the villages. Zanzibaris are wonderful and hospitable people, super friendly, they smile with their eyes (dress code in villages is a bit more relaxed than in Stone Town but please do not walk through the villages in a bikini!). You will be greeted with plenty of “Jambo” (hello) while you walk through the village, please do reply “Jambo”! It would be rude not to. Due to latest news of arrests, Homosexuality is a criminal offence here and punished by imprisonment. If you see Zanzibari men walking hand in hand it is a sign of friendship, not homosexuality – this only applies to locals!
At the beach / in the ocean:Shells, no matter what size, are the houses of crabs and other sea creatures and if they are taken away, the creatures don’t have any protection. If you go snorkeling to the coral reefs please do not touch or even step on any corals. If you are lucky enough to swim with dolphins, please do not touch them – they ain’t Flipper! Please do not pick up Cone snails or Cone shells (see photo). They are found on most of the beaches of the Indian Ocean. These shells look very pretty and are shaped like a geometric cone. The snails are venomous and capable of stinging humans with the effect of paralyzing the area around the sting. The sting of small cones is similar to a bee sting, but the sting of a few of the larger species of tropical cone snails (found at the reef) can be serious.
Watch out for the black sea urchins, spiky things that you do not want to step into. They are clearly visible at low tide so watch your step; preferably wear special shoes. You will encounter so-called “beachi boys” that offer you anything from going snorkeling, selling handmade jewelry, etc. They are friendly guys and if you say no, they in all likely-hood want to just have a chat, finding out who you are and where you come from. As I said, most of them are really friendly. In case you don’t feel like chatting just tell them so. Do not pay a beachi boy upfront for any tour, snorkeling etc!
If you encounter a beachi boy that has a little monkey on a leash “for the entertainment of the tourists” PLEASE DO NOT GIVE THEM ANY MONEY!!! These monkeys were stolen as babies from their mothers, and the mothers are often killed in the process. The babies are then kept in small confinements, crying for their mothers, until their spirit is broken. They do anything for just a scrap of food and are given alcohol, even drugs. This is not a sick joke. This is all done in the name of providing entertainment for the tourists – in order to get money. If these guys don’t get any money from the tourists anymore, they will stop kidnapping the babies and killing their mothers. This is of course officially prohibited, but the police get a share of the apparently quite substantial income. So please, no matter what story they tell you about how they got that little monkey, do not give them any money. Just walk away.
Motorized vehicles are prohibited on the beach! Locals ignore this and usually get away with it but if you are caught riding a scooter on the beach, you will be fined heavily. Besides that, people come to our beaches to relax here and the sound of a scooter riding on the beach is most certainly annoying. Kids will ask you for “pipi” = sweets, “pennie” = pen for school, or “dollar”. PLEASE do not give them anything. They were taught by the tourists to beg and we all try to stop this. If they invite you to play soccer with them, do so! Please speak English with the small and big kids as much as possible, the English they learn at school is shocking. Instead of directly giving kids pens or school books rather bring these items to the principal of the local school and watch him handing them out to the kids!
If you do want to help and bring something for the local community, here are some suggestions:
– pens, pencils and other stationary; books with pictures and the English name printed below the picture
– footballs/any football related items: a sport that all Zanzibaris LOVE is football/soccer!
– medicine: any type of medicine is well-received by our local doctors/nurses who do amazing work for both our local community and hotel guests
– your holiday is an ideal opportunity to clean out your closet: bring used clothes, trainers/shoes
– mobile phones/smart phones are becoming popular, even simple phones with their charger are highly appreciated
If you bring any of the above, please do not just hand them out on the beach – it encourages a begging mentality especially among the children. Either drop them off at the local school (ask for the principal) or ask the hotel manager for assistance to get the items to the most needy. You will be doing good for the local community and at the same time, you will then have enough space in your suitcase to fill it up with our beautiful fabrics, crafts, jewelry and souvenirs.
Please DO use some Swahili words:
The people of Zanzibar are incredibly friendly. Greetings like saying “Hello” are a must.
Here are some basics:
Jambo “Hello” – you will hear plenty of Jambos on this island, please always reply with a friendly Jambo.
Mambo slang for Jambo – reply “poa” (OK, fine, cool)
Habari also means Hello, but more respectful
Habari za asubuhi good morning
Habari za jioni hello, during the day
Usiku mwema good night
Lala salama sleep well
Shikamo greeting used for elders, respectable people – reply “Marahaba”
Nzuri good / nice / beautiful / I am fine
Karibu welcome, come in, also said when someone offers you something
Ahsante Thank you! (reply to Karibu)
Sana means “very”, for example Ahsante sana = thank you VERY much.
Samahani excuse me, sorry
Pole “I am sorry for your misfortune” This applies to everything from watching someone tripping over something, or if someone is sick
Pole pole “slowly, slowly” everything is pole pole on Zanzibar
Haraka faster, quickly
Sawa you hear this quite often, it means “allright, ok, understood”
Poa slang for OK, cool
Sijui “I don’t know”
Safari journey “Safari njema” = safe journey
Picha picture, photo
Hatari means danger, you might see a sign “Hatari” on the roadside warning you of building works
Kesho kutwa the day after tomorrrow
Mchana lunch time
Saa ngapi? what time? – please note that on Zanzibar, the new day doesn’t begin after midnight, but at 06h00 in the morning, which means that 07h00 am is 01h00 am here. Yes, it is confusing.
Chakula food, in general
Chakula chema enjoy your meal
Hakuna matata! no problem, no worries
is the fasting period of the Muslim community (= about 98% of the population). In 2018, Ramadan will start on 15 May and last for 30 days (until 14 June most probably, the exact date depends on the sighting of the New Moon). The end of Ramadan is celebrated with the big Eid Al-Fitr Festival which lasts 3 days. If you are in Zanzibar mid June, make sure you are in Stone Town! The Zanzibar Goverment has set some basic ground rules for everyone in Zanzibar, including foreigners, to follow during the Ramadan season: – no eating, drinking or smoking in public
– liquor stores, night clubs and bars are closed
– restaurants are closed during the day (except for those in hotels; there are also a few restaurants in Stone Town that operate during the day, but their outdoor sitting areas are closed)
– what to wear has always been important here but during Ramadan it is strongly emphasized (see top of this page)
The Zanzibar government is considerate and understands that these rules might not be common for foreigners. Therefore, there is no reason not to come to Zanzibar during Ramadan. You can still have your breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks etc. in your hotel and go out during the day and night and enjoy yourself. Stores and souvenir shops are open, as well as attractions and museums are all operational. But PLEASE do respect the guidelines given. This is part of the travel experience. This is our culture. This is part of Zanzibar.
- Drinks / Food
It’s hot here most of the year. You should drink at least one big bottle (1.5 ltr) of water a day. Tap water is fine for brushing your teeth but not suitable for your stomach. You get bottled water at the hotel or anywhere else on the island. Try a fresh coconut, it is rich in antioxidants. What you most probably know as coconut milk is in the freshly opened fruit actually more coconut water, delicious though, and the white “flesh” inside is very soft and easy to eat. Anyone in the village will climb up a coconut tree for you and get you a fresh coconut, opens it chop chop (I still haven’t mastered that) and you drink it.
Beer drinkers will love this: Tanzania was a German colony. There must have been a few Bavarians amongst them since we have excellent beer in Zanzibar (and yes, I originally come from Munich!). The most popular brand is the “Kili” (Kilimanjaro), followed by Safari, Serengeti (the purest of the beers, without cornstarch), Tusker (all in 500 ml bottles but more hotels seem to stock nowadays the 350 ml bottles) and the “gourmet” Ndovu (350 ml). The locals drink beer “moto” (warm) – iiiieeehhhh! Locals will love it when you order your beer in Swahili: Kili moja baridi (one cold Kili) or “baridi sana” (one very cold Kili). Numbers: 1 = moja, 2 mbili, 3 tatu, 4 nne, 5 tanu, 6 sita, 7 saba, 8 nane, 9 tisa, 10 kumi. Please do not drink and drive!!! Strictly forbidden here.
Wines and bubbly are mostly imported from South Africa. Depending on the hotel or resort you stay, there may also be French or Italian brands. You MUST try the cocktails! Either with alcohol or virgin. There is also a large selection of spirits available. The locals drink Konyagi (sort of Gin but purely chemical, better stay away from it). The fruit juices at the hotels are usually freshly made, simply delicious. Food: The seafood you eat at dinner most probably still swam in the ocean in the morning. It ain’t get fresher than here. Look out for “catch of the day” offers.
NB: Some of our seafood species should not end up on a plate because of their important role for our coral reefs / slow growth / over fishing etc. The Chumbe Island Team put together a beautiful pdf document with colour pictures “Sustainable Seafood Guide 2017” and a short explanation of each species, separated into Good Choices, Choices with Caution and Avoid eating. I gladly send it to you, just drop me an email firstname.lastname@example.org.
In case you cannot open a pdf file, herewith the seafood species that one should avoid eating – the local name is in brackets:
– Parrot fish (Pono)
– Grouper (Chewa)
– Reef (red) Snapper (Janja, Fatundu, Tembo, Mbawa)
– Emperor (Changu)
– Spiny Lobster (Kambakochi)
– Sharks and Rays (Papa and Taa)
Thank you very much for making wise choices for a sustainable future of our seafood species.
Beef is imported frozen from Tanzania, Kenya or South Africa, the same applies to chicken. Meat is served with the typical Zanzibar Pilau rice or any other conceivable way rice can be cooked, or with potato chips/French fries/pommes (for the Germans, jawohl). If you have a chance, try to eat goat. The Zanzibaris know how to cook it, yummy!!! Potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, green peppers, cabbage, spinach, onions etc are mostly grown on Zanzibar.
And then there is the fruit: bananas, sweet (not acidy) pineapples, mangoes, mandarins, oranges, passin fruit, water melon, paw paw, avocado, jack fruit (“Durian” – you find them in Stone Town at the fruit market of Darajani, cut into pieces – they are delicious, the soft part tastes almost like custard) etc etc – fresher than you most probably ever had them before. If you buy fruit at the market, the motto “peel it, boil it or avoid it” applies.
- Driving / getting around on Zanzibar
There are different ways in Zanzibar to get from A to B, mainly:
– Taxis cost from Zanzibar International Airport to the coastal areas US$ 50 (rather pre-book your taxi, you get a better price than if you get a taxi at the airport desk)
– local transport, called dala-dala (see photo); nowadays there are also safer but still crammed to capacity mini bus dala-dalas; cost Tzs 2000 per person from the coast to Stone Town, or back public transport
– rent a car, cost for a reliable car incl. insuThere are different waysrance is around US$ 35 per day for a small four wheel drive
NB: In case you rent a car and arrive at night, rather stay the night in Stone Town. We do not recommend driving at night, especially if you are not used to drive in utter darkness on African roads.
We do recommend to hire a car to explore the island, even if only for a few days. Our tar roads are good. We drive on the left hand side of the road, the steering wheel is on the right hand side. Rental cars are usually with automatic transmission. Most resorts, hotels etc are off the tar road and sometimes the access roads are quite rocky. Rather choose a four wheel drive and ask the car hire company to show you how to use the four wheel drive function. Rental companies usually provide a very basic Zanzibar map. You can also use Google Maps which is available offline.
Be careful with choosing a car hire company. Some of them have cars that are hardly roadworthy. A car hire company with consistently excellent reviews is www.olazanzibar.co.tz
Please be aware that rental cars on Zanzibar are usually 15 years and older. Despite the age of the cars, they have a very low mileage since Zanzibar is a small island. There are no new rental cars available in Zanzibar and you will not see many new cars (privately owned) on our roads.
Speed limits: In Stone Town and villages 40-50 kmh, on country roads 80 kmh. Zanzibar has some weird traffic laws: On country roads: as soon as you see oncoming traffic you must set the indicator as if you’ll turn right. It started off to warn cars behind you of oncoming traffic but now it became a general rule. If you see or hear police cars (blue lights or red lights flashing) you MUST pull over and stop the car, no matter which direction they come from! Do not drink and drive. Don’t give the traffic cops a reason to fine you since you smell of alcohol.
By law, drivers and passengers have to wear seat belts. Do not park your car under a coconut tree, those coconuts leave very unsightly dents in the roof. That’s not a joke. Petrol is paid in Tanzanian Shilling. You can also pay in US$ but you get a really bad exchange rate. In general. Be aware of Vespa and bicycle riders, they don’t look out for traffic, not even when they cross the road! At night, drive slowly because of ox karts on the roads and bicycles without any lights. If I have to drive at night, I stay behind a local minibus taxi, keeping a safe distance in case it has to brake.
You need a temporary Zanzibar driver’s permit. An international driver’s license on its own is not valid here. There are many traffic police checks on our roads. The car hire company will get you the permit (just a piece of paper with your name on it) before you arrive on Zanzibar, it costs US$ 10 per person. A photo or copy of your valid driver’s license is sufficient to apply for the permit.
At traffic police stop: Just show them your temporary Zanzibar driver’s license together with your original driver’s license, and keep a copy of your passport handy. Greet the cops with a big smile and a hearty Jambo. Corruption is nowadays forbidden on Zanzibar! In case you should get to a stubborn traffic cop (especially in the northern part of the island), openly write down the number on his ID batch (all of them have to wear it on their chest) and ask for his name. If they want to fine you for anything, ask for an official ticket. He will give up then. If not, call your contact person at the car hire company, they will sort them out. This is highly unlikely, but just in case.