Dream Zanzibar? We have TOP flight tickets, accommodation and tips for trips
Zanzibar is a jewel on the ocean surrounded by some of the best beaches in the world. The experience is not only swimming, but also snorkelling amongst the beautiful fish and coral. The unmissable Stone Town is a UNESCO World Heritage site. When you visit it, you won’t be surprised at all. The ancient metropolis has preserved traces of many historical events. Zanzibar is an island of spices, which you can buy in authentic markets. Discover it with us! We bring you top flight tickets, accommodation and tips for excursions.
From where? With whom? When? Tips from Pelicaners on flights to Zanzibar
- From where? Zanzibar can be reached from Vienna, Katowice and Budapest with several airlines.
- With whom? The most convenient and comfortable connection between Katowice and Zanzibar is operated by Turkish Airlines, which allows 2 pieces of hold luggage (up to 46kg) and 2 pieces of hand luggage (up to 8kg and 2kg). With Turkish Airlines you can also fly from Budapest. On this route you get full service and a standard seat, where you also get quality multimedia entertainment. You can also enjoy a luxury flight with Qatar Airways from Vienna.
- When? High season in Zanzibar runs from July to October. During this period temperatures hover around 30-32 degrees Celsius, even when it’s under a cloud take care of your skin. April to mid-June is the rainy season, but it doesn’t rain every day, and temperatures hover around 26 degrees. The advantage of this period is fewer people. During the rainy season, it rains the most in April – about 19 days, 16 days in May and about 8 days in June.
- What is included? Return flight, all taxes, 2 pieces of hand luggage and 2 pieces of hold luggage.
Accommodation in Zanzibar
In Zanzibar you can find accommodation in different categories – from the most expensive and exclusive to the cheapest – it just depends on your preferences. The cheapest accommodation can be found here for 10 euros a night, but there are also luxury resorts where a night for two costs hundreds of euros.
As in any exotic destination, you can stay in Zanzibar at great prices. Check prices and book a hotel through Pelican. Find accommodation tips on this handy map:
What do I need to enter Zanzibar?
- You need a passport for Zanzibar. Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months after your return.
- Children must have their own passport.
- Tourists vaccinated against COVID-19 do not need a negative test, unvaccinated tourists do (PCR test no older than 72 hours)
- You will need a visa for Zanzibar. The cost of the visa is 50 USD.
- The visa is valid for a maximum of three months per entry.
- The visa application (form) can be found at http://immigration.go.tz
- return flight ticket
- 2 x passport size photograph
What to see in Zanzibar?
Paradise-like beaches and a disappearing ocean
Zanzibar has perfect beaches. Miles and miles of white sand so fine it resembles flour and the Indian Ocean in incredible shades of turquoise. A complete speciality and natural spectacle on Zanzibar is the tides. In some places, the sea recedes up to several hundred metres. In its place, only shallow “pools” remain with lots of beautiful shells, starfish and seaweed, which the locals collect and then cook. In a few hours, however, the ocean will return, and it will be so warm that you’ll feel like you’re in a thermal pool.
Bwejuu beach on the eastern side of the island is famous for its tall palm trees and small scattered hotels. If you prefer privacy, fewer tourists and undisturbed long walks, this is the place for you. In the winter months, the sea washes up seaweed.
If you continue south along the coast from Bwejuu, you will come across Paje beach. There are significantly more young people, bars, shops and really a lot of kite-surfers. If you’d like to try the sport, Paje has the perfect conditions – a choice of instructors, schools and shallow seas.
If you prefer a carefree holiday package to travelling on your own, most of the well-known and quality resorts are located on Kiwengwa Beach. Good service, beautiful sea and a wide choice of hotels.
The most famous and most popular beach on the island is in the very north and is called Nungwi. The sea is a beautiful turquoise colour, the tides are not as strong as on the eastern side of the island and there is hardly any seaweed. Understandably, you’ll meet a lot more tourists here, but there’s plenty of room for everyone on the kilometres of beaches. A few kilometres from Nungwi is Kengwa beach, where there are more resorts and more expensive hotels. Every month the popular Full Moon Parties are organised here.
Stories that give chills
Zanzibar has an extremely interesting but shady history. In the 15th century it was a Portuguese colony, along with much of East Africa. European rule was later replaced by Oman, which conquered the island. For many decades, Zanzibar was a slave trading centre for the entire Indian Ocean region, from the Middle East to India. Women, men and even children from various African countries were forced to leave their homes and were sold on into slavery under appalling conditions through a market right on Zanzibar.
A visit to the Slave Market in Stone Town is a must-do for anyone who wants to understand the true essence of this island. You can use an English-speaking guide within the grounds to introduce you to the place. You’ll visit the former cells where slaves were held, understand why there’s a beautifully decorated Anglican church within the grounds, and an interesting exhibition will show you the harrowing stories that took place here less than 150 years ago.
According to official records, as many as one million slaves passed through the “slave market” in Zanzibar’s Stone Town; unofficial sources put the numbers much higher.
On the trail of spices, bananas and perfumes
One of the most famous attractions in Zanzibar is the so-called Spice Tour. Head to a local plantation and see the “behind the scenes secrets” of how some of the best spices in the world are grown and processed. Zanzibar is rightly nicknamed the island of cloves and vanilla. But it doesn’t stop at these two – the ideal climate combined with the very fertile soil make for the perfect conditions for growing just about anything.
You will find out what coffee beans look like when they are still on the tree, that there is only one “pepper” and its colour depends on maturity and processing, you will see what iodine is made of, that nutmeg looks like a little Spiderman and you will also understand why the locals are healthy and don’t need any medicine to stay that way.
You will learn the power of the clove business, from which the Sultan once earned more than from the infamous slave trade, and which is still controlled by the state, which may be its only exporter.
Some farms have a tasting program of Zanzibari dishes seasoned with the freshest spices. Our guides treated us to a fun tasting of assorted fruits and after a great pineapple and mango, a less great “dragon fruit” and three different kinds of bananas, a local dude climbed up a palm tree about 30 meters high and brought us fresh coconuts. And all this to the cheerful singing!
An added bonus is that you don’t have to bring home a magnet or a cup of seashells as a gift for your grandmother – she’s more likely to enjoy a packet of real African cloves, cinnamon, vanilla coffee or a local perfume – they smell amazing and even expensive brands mix in their ingredients. 🙂
The capital Zanzibar City also includes a historic centre nicknamed Stone Town, which still breathes the atmosphere of the colonial past. The shabby but opulent palaces and narrow streets, where it’s easy to get lost, give you the feeling that you’re strolling through the city of the ancient Persian empire. Here, as everywhere in Zanzibar, time has somehow stood still. One of the most famous buildings is the House of Wonders, where you can normally visit the Zanzibar Museum.
Next to the House of Wonders, the Old Fort, an old Arab fort that served as a defensive bastion, is unmissable. Nowadays, the fort really comes alive – the inside has been converted into a large amphitheatre where various music and film festivals are regularly held.
Continuing in this direction you will come across the Old Dispensary. It has a distinctly Indian style and is the most beautiful building in the whole town. As you walk through the town you will come across beautiful, ornate and carved doors at every turn. Some have scary-looking spikes in the centre. This means that the house belonged to a wealthy Indian family. Although the spikes had no practical use in Zanzibar, in India they were used to protect against angry elephants.
The most famous landmark in Stone Town is the Slave Market, a place that witnessed the darkest stage in the island’s history. As we have already mentioned, Zanzibar functioned as the most important slave market for the entire Indian Ocean region. In the grounds you will find a moving memorial, former cells where dozens of people crowded in cramped conditions, an interesting exhibition, as well as a significant Anglican church. Although a visit to this place may give you goosebumps, it is an important part of the history of the entire African continent, which took place less than 150 years ago, and therefore deserves attention.
A few streets away is the famous market – Darajani Bazaar. If you want to experience something very typical and local, make sure to visit it. Its fish market in particular is a powerful experience on the senses. Sardines, tuna, prawns, squid and other creatures we don’t know the name of, tossed on stone counters, vendors sitting or lying among them and the horrible smell of seafood to boot. Next door you’ll find a market selling meat, fruit, spices or local produce. Kind of like our farmers markets, but in an African way.
Wandering around Stone Town, you’re likely to come across the birthplace of Queen frontman Freddie Mercury. The Persian-born singer lived in the town for the first 17 years of his life, and the family later moved to the UK. Fine, you’ll see his house, but don’t expect any miracles – a few photos and a hotel profiting from the singer’s name.
The town is full of restaurants where you can taste the local cuisine. We had Zanzibari specialties at Lukmaan Restaurant. Tasty food, chaotic atmosphere, price about $2 per person and a street called Under the Baobab Tree.
The best culinary experience, however, is the street food market that takes place every day after dusk in Forodhani Gardens. It is a tourist attraction, but also an irresistible place for locals who like to indulge in a ‘light dinner in hand’. Great sea food, fresh fruits, various specialties and an indescribable atmosphere.
Stone Town is a beautiful mix of Africa and the Orient with a pinch (more of a pinch) of disorder and chaos, a labyrinth of alleyways, or one big marketplace towering on a coral rock. If you decide to holiday in Zanzibar, Stone Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is not to be missed.
Monkeys and their mysterious forest
Another stop we highly recommend is the Jozani Forest National Park. Endemic red colobus monkeys live here. You don’t even have to have an extra dose of luck – you’re almost guaranteed to see colobus when you visit. They’re not shy, they seem to like to be photographed, and unlike cheeky monkeys in other parts of the world, they won’t try to snatch your camera out of your hands.
In the beautiful jungle, which you will walk through with your guide, you will find amazing plants, palm trees, tiny frogs, butterflies, unattractive centipedes, but also wild pigs and so-called bushbabies – something like small lemurs. Locals believe that deep in the jungle there is still a nearly extinct leopard.
The most beautiful experience within Jozani Forest is the mangrove forest. The roots of these strange trees look like something out of a scary fairy tale, and you’ll marvel at them as you walk along the wooden walkways. Mangroves are one of the few trees that can draw nutrients from seawater and simply excrete the excess minerals. Large colourful crabs hang out in the mud between the roots and there are plenty of birds and insects.
Want to see what Zanzibar is hiding under the surface? No problem – the water is so clear that you can see down to 60 metres. The island has plenty of coral reefs that are alive and kicking. Octopuses, moray eels, barracudas, seahorses and starfish are therefore a fun spectacle even for beginners. The most famous snorkelling spot is Mnemba Island, which is the site of many snorkelling trips, especially from Nungwi Beach. Diving in the ocean with dolphins is also a wonderful experience. This trip is accessible from most towns and hotels.
The oldest and heaviest inhabitants
Just half an hour by boat from Stone Town is Changuu Island, more commonly known as Prison Island. It was originally intended as a prison for rebellious slaves and was also used for a time as a quarantine for yellow fever patients. While this doesn’t sound thrice as appealing, Prison Island is nonetheless a favorite destination for many tourists. They are attracted by the beautiful lagoons with turquoise sea, the oriental fortress but most of all by its inhabitants. On Changuu, about a hundred giant tortoises live in a reserve, with which you can take pictures, feed them or massage their necks. Some are over a hundred years old and weigh up to two hundred kilos. The coral reef around the island is again a nice place for diving.
The Maasai warriors
Just a few minutes on the beach and you’re sure to meet a group of Maasai. It’s easy to recognize them – they have the typical red clothes, a stick in their hand and white ornaments. Some are very nice, others are slightly annoying. Originally they were warriors from an old tribe in Kenya and northern Tanzania. The Maasai in Zanzibar often do not come from these villages, although they like to claim this about themselves. They make their living selling a variety of bracelets, necklaces and souvenirs.
There are also those who will be happy to guide tourists during their holidays. However, we would not recommend taking advantage of this offer. Since they don’t come directly from the island, they won’t give you the best tips, their services are often overpriced and not entirely reputable. But in any case, the tall Maasai with their coloured sunglasses and wide smiles belong on Zanzibar’s beaches as much as the white sand and turquoise sea.
What does the real Zanzibar taste like?
If you want to experience the real Zanzibar, go exploring outside the hotel resort and ideally on your own. Local buses, also called dala-dala, transport you around the island. Sometimes you’ll come across an open truck with benches, other times a minibus. Prepare for a wild ride, you’ll be crammed in with the locals and forget the air conditioning. While it may not sound thrice as appealing, it’s an amazing experience. Longer journeys cost TZS 2,000 (about USD 1), and shorter routes can be done for TZS 500. However, don’t expect timetables or marked stops. Dala-dala runs when it fills up, wave furiously at it when you see it approaching, and yell at the driver when you need to get off.
It is said that if you want to get to know a country, start with the local cuisine. Zanzibar’s is really good. Lots of fish, meat, fresh vegetables and fruit, with an Indian and oriental influence with great spices. Many dishes are flavoured with curries, coconut milk and served with rice, which is prepared in a variety of ways and flavours. Try urojo – a thick sour soup, mishkaki – marinated chunks of meat, baked and served on rye, roasted green banana, which is eaten in a savoury way like our potatoes, or a special Zanzibari pizza. For dessert are super pieces of dried fruit coated in powder from the baobab tree. They taste quite unusual – something between sweet, sour and spicy.
Life for the people of Zanzibar will seem like a different century. Many houses still don’t have electricity or running water, laundry is done by hand and people own very little. Women wear things on their heads, children play together and run amok in the mud, and the market is often traded without money – goods for goods. Donkey-drawn carts are common on the roads, locals ride bicycles on the beach, collecting shells and seaweed to cook and enjoy at home. They are in no hurry, friendly and, although they often don’t have it easy, they smile a lot.
Weather in Zanzibar
The main season on Zanzibar lasts from July to October. During this period temperatures hover around 30-32 degrees Celsius, even when under a cloud take care of your skin. From April to mid-June is the rainy season, but it doesn’t rain every day, and temperatures hover around 26 degrees. The advantage of this period is fewer people. During the rainy season, it rains the most in April – about 19 days, 16 days in May and about 8 days in June.
Transportation in Zanzibar
Traditional minibuses called daladala run all over the island. These vehicles start their routes on the main island in Stone Town. However, you have to take into account that there is no timetable and they usually leave when they are full.
Taxis are a more expensive option and are worthwhile for larger groups of people. They tend to be cheaper if you book them in advance, and hotels are happy to arrange taxis or car hire, although they tend to add a commission to the price.
When renting a car in Zanzibar, make sure to choose a rental company with good reviews. Rental cars tend to be 15-20 years old with low mileage, as it is a small island. There tend to be a lot of police checks on the roads, who tend to check vehicle documents, driving licences and temporary driver’s permits; international driving licences are not valid here.
Do you have your own tips for Zanzibar? Go ahead
If you feel we’ve forgotten something important or practical, feel free to drop us a message or, even better, add something useful to our article in the comments below. Thank you 🙂Photo source: Shutterstock, Dreamstime, Unsplash.com