The archipelago of Zanzibar – also known as the ‘Spice Islands’ is found 35km off the east coast of Tanzania. It consists of the main island of Zanzibar, Pemba Island, and about 50 smaller surrounding islands and coral reefs.
The island’s varied history includes the legacy of seafarers, explorers and the slave trade. Much of this past is depicted in the Arabic alleyways and historic monuments of the islands.
It used to be the world’s largest producer of cloves and still plays a major roll in the production of spices with over 50 different spice being cultivated. Zanzibar still remains an irresistible attraction for those seeking a heavenly beach holiday or an exploration into its exotic heritage – or a bit of both.
Passports and visa
Contact your closest Consulate for updated information.
A return ticket or proof of onward travel, all documents for next destination, and proof of sufficient funds is required for all travellers.Those arriving from an infected country must hold a yellow fever vaccination certificate.
It is highly recommended that passports have at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.
Travellers are advised to seek medical advice at least three weeks before leaving for Tanzania. Visitors should consider vaccinations for hepatitis A, typhoid, yellow fever and polio. Those arriving from an infected country are required to hold a yellow fever vaccination certificate. There is a risk of malaria all year and outbreaks of Rift Valley Fever occur; travellers should take precautions to avoid mosquito bites and take malaria medication
New Year’s Day 1 Jan
Good Friday 25 Mar
Karume Day 7 Apr
Union Day 26 Apr
Easter Monday 28 Mar
Worker’s Day 1 May
Saba Saba 7 Jul
Id al Fitr (End of Ramadan) 7 Jul
Farmer’s Day 8 Aug
Eid al-Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice) 13 Sep
Nyerere Day 14 Oct
Independence Day 9 Dec
Birth of Prophet Mohammed 12 Dec
Christmas Day 25 Dec
Boxing Day 26 Dec
Money & duty free
The official currency is the Tanzanian Shilling (TZS), divided into 100 cents. The tourism industry prices everything in US Dollars and they are the preferred unit of currency.
Travellers to Tanzania do not have to pay duty on 250g tobacco or 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars, 500ml of alcoholic beverages, and 473ml perfume. Restrictions apply to firearms, plants, plant products and fruits.
230 volts, 50Hz. Rectangular or round three-pin plugs are used.
The international country dialling code for Tanzania, as well as Zanzibar, is +255. There is good mobile phone coverage in main cities and towns, with operators using GSM networks; rural areas may have limited coverage. There are international roaming agreements with most international operators. Avoid making telephone calls from hotels; they can be very expensive. Internet cafes are available in the main towns and resorts.
Swahili and English are the official languages. Several indigenous languages are also spoken.
Immigration & border crossing
Please consult with your travel agent and nearest consulate with regards to this information.
Zanzibar has a warm climate year-round and its coastal resorts are tempered by sea breezes. The island is best avoided in April and May, the rainy season.
What must I wear:
Light cotton trousers
Light cotton shirts (long and short sleeved)
Comfortable walking shoes
Shower-proof rain jacket/windbreaker
Camera (telephoto lens recommended)
Abeid Amani Karume International Airport (ZNZ)
The airport is located 5km south of Stone Town
Taxis are available at the terminal. Some hotels in Stone Town offer shuttle services from the airport.
+255 24 2233979
Tanzanian Tourist Office: +255 22 2111244 or www.tanzaniatouristboard.com
The heart of Zanzibar, Stone Town, was constructed during the 19th century and remains largely unchanged. Labyrinths of narrow alleys lead to palaces, mosques and old Arab houses. Tiny shops sell dotted tinga-tinga paintings, Zanzibari clocks and heavily adorned chests. The early-morning market on Creek Road is fabulous, as determined Zanzibaris haggle over fragrant spices, exotic fruit and enormous fish.
Stone Town is an easy place to explore on foot; you never need to travel by vehicle.
Note that Stone Town can be noisy. frequent calls to prayer from the mosques, along with the hustle and bustle of town, are part of everyday life here. It’s a lively, vibrant atmosphere.
Some other attractions in Stonetown are:
- Freddie Mercurys House:
The late Freddie Mercury, former lead singer and front man for the rock band Queen, was born in Zanzibar on 5 September 1946. His name then was Farouk Bulsara, and his father was an accountant working for the British government in the House of Wonders. His family had immigrated to Zanzibar from India but were originally of Persian extraction.
The current inhabitants of various houses around Zanzibar Town will tell visitors ‘Freddie lived here’; his father moved house several times so the claims could all be genuine. Local historians confirm that the Bulsara family lived in the house now occupied by Camlur’s Restaurant, and in at least one other house near the post office, either on Kenyatta Road or the small square just behind the post office.
- House of Wonders:
Is a very large square-shaped building, with several stories, surrounded by tiers of pillars and balconies, and topped by a large clock tower. It was built in 1883 as a ceremonial palace for Sultan Barghash and was the first in Zanzibar to have electric light and an electric lift.
The local people called it Beit el Ajaib, meaning the House of Wonders when it was complete. It is one of the largest buildings in Stonetown and there are plans to open it as the National Museum.
- The market:
Is a great place to visit even if you don’t want to buy anything. It is a vibrant place where everything under the sun is bought and sold. People bring their produce here from all over the island. Of special interest is the huge selection of brightly coloured khangas (worn by the local women) and the auctions that are held regularly.
There is lots to see and do and other interesting places to visit in Stone Town, so exploration is the order of the day!
There are many possible day-trips on Zanzibar, the majority of which are most easily reached from Stone Town.
The most popular is the classic Spice Tours. Spices are integral to Zanzibari life providing food, remedies, dyes and income. One of the popular local tours is a ‘spice tour’, which takes a few hours and costs about US$20 each(rough estimate). On such a trip you’ll be guided around a plantation to pick leaves, pods and twigs, and discover how many of our common spices grow, including cinnamon, pepper, vanilla, nutmeg, ginger and turmeric.
There are also options for visits to the giant tortoises of Prison Island, and the endemic red colobus monkeys of Jozani Forest.
However, if you want an original and very authentic experience, then a day-trip to Ufufuma Forest is what you will want. No two trips here are the same, but you may spot some wild Kirk’s colobus monkeys, and perhaps consult with a local ‘witchdoctor’. These aren’t staged: you’ll be treated as an individual, and because they are so new, they’re both fascinating and unpredictable.
- Safari Blue Tour:
A full day excursion in the Menai Bay Conservation Area on traditional hand-built dhows. With guided snorkeling, dhow and ngalawa sailing, swimming in a lagoon, delicious seafood buffet lunch, tropical fruit tasting and much more.
The Beaches on the South East coast are popular among travellers. The sand is brilliant white, and the warm waters of the Indian Ocean are a deep teal.
Deep Sea Fishing with ” Hooked on Fishing” in Nungwi in the North Coast.
Kite-surf at the Ras Nungwi beach with full equipment is also an option. Experience divine diving in Zanzibar’s crystal blue waters and pristine white beaches. Explore over 25 different dive sites with a variety of abundant, vibrant, colourful corals and marine life.
Kite-surf is a popular sport in Paje Beach, where the crystalline lagoon waters and reef protection offer ideal conditions for both advanced and beginner kitesurfers. Zanzibar Kite Paradise offers beginning classes as well as rentals.
- Kendwa Beach
On the North Western coast is beautiful. Here you can swim during low and high tide, which is not always possible on the East side of the island. Just beware of the “Sea Urchins” that give a powerful sting if stepped upon during low tide.
Fishing with local Dhow and “jumping” out of the dhow on the coral reef like a local, the most exciting feeling must try in a life time or you can sit and stare at the water for hours on end.
Arrange for a ride on a local’s dhow (a carved, wooden boat).