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Experience the true Zanzibar – tips and tricks

Two girlfriends, two red suitcases, 75 outfits and a fantastic destination – Zanzibar! In January we spent five wonderful days on the island of cloves and vanilla. We came home not only with tanned skin, but also with new knowledge and unforgettable experiences. Are you interested in what is behind the luxury resorts, what the real Africa is like or whether Zanzibar is worth it? Read our article because in it you will find useful tips and tricks on how to really enjoy Zanzibar and how to discover its true face!

When is it worth buying the plane ticket?

No wonder Zanzibar is becoming more and more popular. White beaches, turquoise sea attract many tourists. It is always better to book airline tickets in advance.

When is the high season?

The main season lasts from July to March and temperatures are around 30-32 degrees during the day. Even if it’s cloudy, be careful not to burn your skin. From April to mid-June is the rainy season, but it doesn’t rain every day and temperatures are around 26 degrees. The advantage of this period is that there are fewer tourists on the island. During this period, it rains the most in April – around 19 days, in May it’s 16 days and in June it’s around 8 days.

Is a visa required for Zanzibar?

The answer is YES, but no fear – don’t worry in advance. How’s the visa going? We should fill in all necessary forms with details of our journey on board during the flight. After arrival and the heat shock (28 degrees in the morning) we paid the 50 dollars for the visa, then the passport control followed, we picked up our luggage and off we went to the hotel.

Vaccination and hygiene

Before we left, we made sure that we didn’t need any vaccinations or medication. According to the Zanzibar Vaccination Center, vaccination against yellow fever is only required if you come from a country where this disease occurs (countries in Africa and South America). If you are traveling from Europe and have your transfer in these endemic countries and you are staying there less than 12 hours, the vaccination is not required. It’s up to you how you decide.

Anyway, pack a repellent in your suitcase. Mosquitoes are also present in Zanzibar and they are mainly active at night and during the rainy season. Malaria is a rare phenomenon here, but prevention doesn’t cost you anything, so you should use not only the repellent after sunset but also the mosquito net.

As far as hygiene is concerned, you should be aware that you are in Africa and that habits and possibilities are different here than in Europe. Most resorts and hotels meet the standards. The rooms are simply furnished, the equipment is minimalistic, but everything also depends on the stars of each hotel. But one does not visit Zanzibar to sit in the room all the time. We do not recommend drinking water from the tap. Buy bottled water instead.

How can you pay?

The official currency is the Tanzanian shilling, but you can also pay with dollars almost everywhere. If you want to shop cheaply, we recommend paying with shillings. As always, for most things and services it is more worthwhile to prefer local currency. If the goods do not have a fixed price, the locals will try to play with you. So it would be good to find out about prices outside of the hotel. That way you don’t spend as much money as necessary.

High tide and low tide

One of the most interesting things about Zanzibar is the high and low tide. The water level at high tide drops until the sea reaches its lowest level – that can be a few hundred meters. Our accommodation was in the southern part of the island, specifically on Bwejuu Beach. The sea started to drop around 10am and by 3pm everything was back to normal. During the high tide we walked on the beach, more precisely through small pools that remained in the sand, we also collected shells and admired this unique show. Most resorts have swimming pools where you can refresh yourself even during high tide.

Dala-Dala

Or local bus. Before we tell you more about public transport, we want to tell you that we decided to discover the true face of Zanzibar and see what lies behind the luxury resorts. We also wanted to chat with the locals, taste the local cuisine and that includes the Dala-Dala public transport – minibuses, with whom the ride was weird. You would look for the stops in vain. We didn’t find any either, we stood on the shoulder and raised our hands. Whenever a bus stopped, we asked for Stone Town and when the bus went in that direction, we got on. This transport is mostly used by locals. The trip to Stone Town cost us 2000 shillings ($1). If you want to take Dala-Dala, find out the prices, don’t pay with big bills, and give the exact amount to the bus driver. At the hotel we were advised to come back before sunset because that’s when the buses get crowded with people going home from work.

Stone Town

The city of Zanzibar is divided into Stone Town, Old Town and Other Town (Ng’ambo). As you already know, we came here with Dala-Dala and got off at the last stop. To be honest, we were confused. The city was noisy, millions of cars and after the silent resort it was a real change. We used an offline map that we downloaded to find our way around the city and we also had a guidebook. If you travel to Zanzibar, you should know that there are no ATMs on the island except in Stone Town. You can pay with the card in hotels, but if you need cash you have to withdraw the money in the city.

Haggling

For us it was a game that the locals expect. It can happen to you that the prices in markets, in shops with souvenirs or even on excursions are exorbitant. If you indulge in haggling and have iron nerves, you can even get half of the original price after a few minutes. If haggling gets on your nerves, you will also find so-called marina shops where you will find fixed prices. We also recommend haggling in hotels, because they also offer various excursions. Combined individual excursions, we did it that way too. We wanted to visit Jozani Forest National Park and experience the Spice Tour. We did these two trips in one day, which saved us $40.

Tip

You should know that the average wage is around $250, but of course people who live in villages earn a lot less. We noticed that several locals work as volunteers and attend language classes in the evenings and their only income is tip from tourists. It’s up to you who and how much you tip. We only left a few dollars for cleaning and other services at the hotel. We were lucky and only met guides who spoke perfect English, were warm and gave us useful and interesting information. We gave some five dollars, some ten dollars.

Safety

During our trip we never once felt in danger. Of course it can happen that your mobile phone or wallet is stolen during the excursion in Stown Town, but something like this can also happen to you in Vienna, New York or Tokyo. Pay attention to your personal belongings, handbags or backpacks should remain closed. Don’t go for walks on the beach at night, but if you feel like one, ask someone at the hotel to accompany you. During the day we left our wallets and mobile phones on the sun lounger and nothing has disappeared.

Rent cars, scooters or bicycles

In Zanzibar, cars drive on the left, as in England. The roads are quite good, but pay attention to the speed bumps, because they are not well marked. You can rent the car on the island, but we cannot tell you the exact price. Here, too, the rule is that if you haggle, you drive cheaper. Before renting a car, make sure you have all the licenses as the police often carry out checks. And it can happen that the police officers fine you. However, we recommend you to rent a scooter or a bicycle. Most hotels rent them for just a few dollars. You can drive along the beaches and visit the surrounding villages.

For how many days is it worth visiting Zanzibar?

That’s up to you, there’s a lot to do on the island and if you fancied going for a safari you can just head to Dar Es Salam.

What shoud you see?

Nungwi, Kendwa, Paje, Jambiani – beaches

Experience the Spice Tour

Visit monkeys in Jozani Forest

Stone Town

Prison Island and giant tortoises

Dive in Mnemba Atoll

Swim with dolphins

Full Moon partys

Who is Sansi for?

For everyone! Zanzibar has it all. If you are newly married and looking for a romantic destination – we recommend Zanzibar. If you’re traveling with your kids but don’t plan to stay in the hotel all day but plan to go on excursions, swim with dolphins, scuba dive or kitesurf – again, we recommend Zanzibar. If you want to really relax, you are looking for a quiet place with beautiful beaches without TV and idyllic resorts – our answer is again Zanzibar! If you want to learn about local culture, Africa, taste seafood and discover true beauty – Zanzibar will not disappoint you. For us it was love at first sight and that’s why we give this destination 10 out of 10!

Photo source: Shutterstock, Dreamstime, Unsplash.com
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