Zanzibar Holiday Travel Guide – Frequently Asked Questions


Here are answers to 12 of the most frequently asked questions about travelling to Zanzibar on holiday. Get all the answers you need to plan your ultimate budget Zanzibar holiday.

For any other questions or more in-depth info talk to a travel expert who has been on an affordable Zanzibar holiday and knows the ropes.

Most Popular FAQs about Zanzibar Travel:

  1. Is Zanzibar Safe for Travel?
  2. When is the best time to go to Zanzibar?
  3. How expensive is Zanzibar?
  4. Is Zanzibar worth visiting?
  5. How many days do you need in Zanzibar?
  6. Do I need a visa for Zanzibar?
  7. What vaccinations do I need for Zanzibar?
  8. Which part of Zanzibar has the best beaches?
  9. What’s the best way to get to Zanzibar?
  10. Should I take malaria tablets for Zanzibar?
  11. What is the Zanzibar culture like?
  12. Is Zanzibar good for honeymoons?

Rene MayorgaNungwi beach, Zanzibar – Rene Mayorga


1. Is Zanzibar Safe for Travel?

Yes, it is safe to travel to Zanzibar Islands. This is one of the safest African destinations, even for solo female travellers. 

The Zanzibar Archipelago is part of Tanzania, which is one of the most stable African countries. Tanzania is ranked as the most peaceful country in East Africa, in fact.

The local people are generally welcoming and laid-back. Thanks to the picture-perfect beaches, sunny weather and rich culture Zanzibar is a popular tourist destination. Thus, it features all the necessary tourism infrastructure for a comfortable and safe holiday. Many international travellers enjoy their time on the islands so much that they return time and again. 

Samir LutherZanzibar holiday travel – Samir Luther

However, as World Nomads points out:

With tourism comes opportunities for crimes to make a quick dollar by stealing your stuff. While Tanzania isn‘t as bad as some other African countries, it still pays to be alert and take steps to protect yourself and belongings as you would traveling anywhere else.

That said, the only annoyance you are likely to encounter on Zanzibar is the Maasai hawkers pushing their wares, sometimes over-zealously. The best way to deal with these persistent salesmen is to firmly decline and not give them attention. If you feel harassed report the problem to your lodge or tour company so that they can assist.

6 Travel Safety Tips for Zanzibar:

  1. Dress appropriately and respect Muslim cultural norms.
  2. Don’t take your valuables to the beach.
  3. Lock your valuables in the hotel safe when you go out.
  4. Don’t walk around alone after dark.
  5. Check with your lodge or trusted locals if there are any crime hotspots at the time of your travels. Certain beaches, like the stretch between Kendwa and Nungwi, are known as hotspots.
  6. Stay alert in Stone Town to prevent falling prey to pick-pockets and bag snatchers.

How Safe is Zanzibar for Solo Female Travellers?

Hajo SchatzZanzibar travel safety – Hajo Schatz

In Nina Zara’s post ‘Is Zanzibar Safe for Women Travelling Alone?’ on Safari Junkie, she says:

“… if you stay in hotels with security and use common sense, the chances are very low to have a bad experience as a solo female traveller on Zanzibar.”

Is it safe to swim in the sea in Zanzibar? 

Yes, Zanzibar is very safe for swimming. The Indian Ocean is warm and the waves tend to be small. Zanzibar is a popular destination for snorkelling and scuba diving.

Franasois TerrierZanzibar snorkelling – Franasois Terrier

Conditions do vary from beach to beach and season to season, but overall many of Zanzibar’s beaches are ideal for swimming. Depending on the tides, there can sometimes be seaweed in the water, particularly along the East Coast. You may also encounter sea urchins in the rocky shallows (especially at low tide). Watch where you walk and wear booties (diving boots) to protect your feet. 

Are there sharks in Zanzibar?

There are reef sharks in Zanzibar which are harmless. Then at Mafia Island, you can swim with whale sharks. These sharks are endangered and safe to swim and dive with.  Lastly, great white sharks are occasionally spotted in the deep waters but there have been no shark attacks recorded.

Is Stone Town safe at night?

Erring on the side of caution, the answer is no. Muggings and robberies do happen, especially in dark alleys at night. So, don’t walk around by yourself at night. 

Only take registered taxis or taxis recommended by trusted locals and friends. Alternatively, you can arrange an escort, to walk with you, at some hotels and restaurants.

R BoedStone Town travel safety – R Boed

The same rules apply as in most major cities across the globe. Don’t wear flashy jewellery and keep your valuables on you. Keep your wits about you and don’t divulge where you are staying freely. During the day you should be fine walking around on your own, but keep your eyes open.

2. When is the best time to go to Zanzibar?

The best time to go to Zanzibar is from mid-winter to spring or in mid-summer (Southern Hemisphere timing). These are Zanzibar’s dry seasons. The long dry season is over winter and spring and the short dry season is in mid-summer. 

Rod WaddingtonZanzibar island reef – Rod Waddington

Remember this is a tropical region which means the cooler temperatures of winter are still warm. So, you’ll still enjoy pleasant beach weather. 

What is the best month to visit Zanzibar?

June to September/October are the best months to visit Zanzibar Islands. This is when you’re most likely to get clear blue skies and balmy temperatures. If you struggle with heat and humidity then the sunny winter-to-spring dry season is the best time to visit Zanzibar.

Jorge CancelaZanzibar beach walk – Jorge Cancela

Mid-December, January and February are also ideal months to visit Zanzibar. These months fall in the short dry season which offers the best weather for sun-worshippers who like hot weather. During these months you’re likely to experience clear skies, little if any rain and high temperatures. In early December you may still get some rain, usually in the form of intermittent afternoon rain showers. By mid-December, the afternoon rain showers are less frequent but the holiday crowds haven’t arrived yet. Thus mid-December is an excellent time for a summer holiday on Zanzibar, without the masses. 

If you are planning your Zanzibar holiday for November to February then stay on the southwest coastlines, because prevailing monsoons come from the northeast. For Zanzibar holidays during the southwest monsoon season (June to October) head to the northeast coastline.

Best time for scuba diving in Zanzibar

From July to August and February to April are the best times to go scuba diving on Zanzibar Islands. April is, however, the rainiest month, so think twice about visiting then.

The worst time to go to Zanzibar Islands

Avoid travelling to Zanzibar during the two rainy seasons–November and March to May. This is when NOT to visit Zanzibar.

The main rainy season is from mid-March to May. The rains usually peak in April, so avoid visiting in this month. Also known as the long rains this season entails tropical downpours in the afternoons. These showers can be heavy on any of the islands in the Archipelago. The humidity is also high and the average temperatures climb to the mid-30°s Celcius.

Mathias ApitzZanzibar rainy season – Mathias Apitz

The short rains usually fall from November to early December and are less intense than the long rains. In the years when the short rains arrive on time, it dries up from mid-to-late December to February and starts again in March.

What’s Zanzibar’s weather like?

The Zanzibar Archipelago is a tropical island destination. It is a sunny and warm place–perfect for beach holidays and outdoor activities.

Zanzibar local riding a bike –

Temperatures vary with geographic location and altitude, but the islands are generally hot and sunny. Except of course in the monsoon seasons of March to May and November when it is windy and rainy.

3. How expensive is Zanzibar?

People often ask us if Zanzibar holidays are expensive. The simple answer is no. You can definitely visit Zanzibar on a budget. 

HegeNungwi beach Zanzibar – Hege

The international flights to Tanzania are likely to be the single biggest expense of a trip to Zanzibar Islands. The best way to save money on your Zanzibar Island holiday is thus to keep an eye out for flight specials to Tanzania and even flight deals to Zanzibar, direct.

From Dar es Salaam on the mainland of Tanzania, you can then take the affordable ferry or fly to Stone Town on Zanzibar’s main island, Unguja. 

How much do Zanzibar holidays cost?

On a tight budget, you can spend as little as $45 to $50 USD per day on a Zanzibar holiday. That’s a cost estimate based on simple, no-frills accommodation in hostels and basic beach huts, and meals at local restaurants and food stalls. 

Travel blogger, Lauren, from Never Ending Footsteps spent an average of $51,53 USD per day on her Zanzibar holiday in 2020. That excludes her return flights from London to Tanzania ($491) and Dar es Salaam to Stone Town ($80). Lauren’s $51,53 daily budget included local transport, food, accommodation, travel insurance, a guide book and a total of $176 on activities/ entry fees at attractions. Some pretty impressive budgeting!  

Rod WaddingtonStone Town streets – Rod Waddington

On a less frugal budget plan for $50 to $100 USD per day. That’s a more middle-of-the-road holiday budget at mid-range establishments. Based on Budget Your Trip data from actual travellers a one-week Zanzibar holiday for two people costs an average of $643 USD (about $92 USD a day for two). 

Based on the daily average expenditure of previous visitors Zanzibar holiday expenses are as follows:

  • $15 on meals per day
  • $10 on local transport per day
  • $44 on hotel accommodation per couple per night

Essentially “Zanzibar is one of those destinations that can fit into any budget!” as the seasoned traveller, Wandering Earl put it.

Is food expensive in Zanzibar?

No, you can eat cheaply on Zanzibar. On a tight budget, you can spend as little as about $6 per day on meals. A mid-range estimate for daily food costs is $15 per person. You will also need to budget for bottled water, around $0.70 per day.

David BerkowitzStone Town market – David Berkowitz

You can buy cheap food at the fruit markets and small bakeries for breakfast and lunch. 

For dinners visit the night market in Forodhani Gardens (Stone Town) to pick up fresh seafood at excellent prices. Darajani market is another good dinner option for affordable meals.

David BerkowitzForodhani Gardens – David Berkowitz

According to Numbeo and Hiker’s Bay, local beer will cost about $2.20 (for a 0.5 draught), a cappuccino $2.20 and an inexpensive restaurant meal $4.20.

4. Is Zanzibar worth visiting?

Of course, yes! Zanzibar is a bucket-list African destination for excellent reasons.

Vaughan McShaneZanzibar holiday trip – Vaughan McShane

Here are 12 of the Best Reasons to visit Zanzibar Island

Is Zanzibar a good holiday destination?

Yes, Zanzibar is a fantastic beach holiday destination. It is also an excellent value-for-money destination with lots of character and rich history. The culture is colourful and interesting. The old architecture is unique and the beaches are beautiful.

world wideStone Town World Heritage Site – world wide

Zanzibar also offers authentic experiences and unusual adventures which make it an unforgettable island holiday spot. 

5. How many days do you need in Zanzibar?

Seven days at the least. How long you need for a fulfilling Zanzibar holiday depends on what you want to do, but we recommend at least a week.

The Zanzibar Archipelago is surprisingly large and diverse. It consists of two main islands and numerous smaller islets, together covering an area of about 2,462 km² (951 sq mi). The main island of Unguja is 53 miles (85 km) long and 24 miles (39 km) wide, covering about 565 square miles (1,464 km²). The second-largest island, Pemba is 42 miles (67 km) long and 14 miles (22 km) across. Thus, there is plenty to do and see on the Spice Islands of Zanzibar.

David BerkowitzSpice plantation – David Berkowitz

From spice plantation tours and cultural excursions to eco-tours and trips to Jozani Forest.

6. Do I need a visa for Zanzibar?

US and UK citizens need tourist visas. These can be obtained on arrival in Tanzania but both the American and British governments encourage travellers to apply before travelling. The cost of a single-entry tourist visa for British citizens is $50 USD ($40 when applying in advance) and $100 USD for US citizens. Multiple-entry visas cost $100 USD. 

European, Canadian and Australian travellers will also need tourist visas for Tanzania (applicable to Zanzibar). South African citizens do not need visas to visit Zanzibar Islands.

NOTE:

  • Zanzibar is a semi-autonomous part of the United Republic of Tanzania. Therefore, you do not need to obtain separate visas for mainland Tanzania and Zanzibar Islands.
  • When travelling to Zanzibar ensure that your passport is valid for at least six months from your date of departure from Zanzibar.
  • Visa requirements and costs are subject to change so please check the Tanzania Immigration website for the latest visa information.

7. Do I need vaccinations for Zanzibar, and which shots are recommended?

Yes, certain vaccinations are recommended for Tanzania and Zanzibar. The National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommend the following vaccinations for Tanzania and Zanzibar: 

  • hepatitis (A and B)
  • typhoid
  • cholera
  • yellow fever*
  • rabies
  • meningitis
  • tetanus

*Proof of a yellow fever vaccination is required if you are travelling from a country where yellow fever is present. 

These are the recommended shots for travel to Zanzibar, but they are only general guidelines. We strongly advise that you consult with a travel clinic or your doctor when planning your holiday to Zanzibar to ensure that you get the shots that you need.

8. Which part of Zanzibar has the best beaches?

When planning Zanzibar holidays people often ask what part of Zanzibar is best to visit? What they really want to know is where the best Zanzibar beaches are…

TravelingOtterKendwa Beach, Zanzibar – TravelingOtter

The beaches along the north-eastern coast of Zanzibar Island (Unguja) are the best for swimming, diving and easy access. They are, however, the most popular Zanzibar beaches with the highest concentration of resorts, people and tourist trappings.

Two of the finest beaches of northern Zanzibar are Nungwi and Kendwa. The coastline in this area boasts powdery white sand and clear waters. There are also plenty of accommodation options here, especially in and around Nungwi.  

Jorge CancelaNungwi beach accommodation – Jorge Cancela

The coral reef that shelters the east coast of Unguja from the open ocean makes it ideal for swimming. The waves are gentle, the water clear and the tidal fluctuations less dramatic than on the south and west coast. The reef is also ideal for snorkelling and scuba diving.

Pongwe Beach is very protected by an offshore reef making it arguably the best swimming spot around.

Zander MartineauPongwe Beach Head – Zander Martineau

For a more remote and deserted beach experience on Zanzibar, head south. Bwejuu and Paje are two of the best beaches on the southeast coast and Kizimkazi Beach, known for its dolphins, is an authentic spot on the southwest coast.

9. What’s the best way to get to Zanzibar?

There are two ways to get to the tropical islands of Zanzibar–by ferry or plane.

You can fly to the main island of Unguja (often referred to as Zanzibar Island) and to Pemba Island. Most of the flights to Zanzibar are from Dar es Salaam, on the coast of Tanzania, to Stone Town on Unguja. It’s a short 15-minute flight.

There are also a handful of international flights from destinations outside of Tanzania, including Doha, Nairobi and Johannesburg. If you’re travelling from the UK, Europe or the USA your best option is to fly to Dar es Salaam or Nairobi in Kenya. These cities are the two major travel hubs of East Africa, with many international flight routes. From Dar es Salaam or Nairobi, there are regular flights to Zanzibar. 

David StanleyFerry terminal in Stone Town, Zanzibar – David Stanley

The cheapest way to get to Zanzibar is to take a ferry from Dar es Salaam. But, you don’t always save that much by taking a ferry instead of a cheap flight from Dar. It depends on the ferry (some of the more modern ferries are quite expensive) and the flight specials available for your travel dates.

10. Should I take malaria tablets for Zanzibar? 

Yes. Anti-malaria precautions are necessary year-round in Zanzibar. You will need to take anti-malaria tablets and use mosquito repellent. Zanzibar is a high-risk malaria area so you need to go prepared throughout the year.

Ask your local travel clinic or doctor for advice on how to prevent contracting malaria while travelling. There are a number of effective anti-malaria prophylaxes to choose from these days. Some anti-malaria treatments need to be started before you travel so check in with a medical professional in advance.

Find out more in Malaria Made Simple.

11. What is the culture of Zanzibar like?

The Zanzibari people are descendants of Africa, Arabia, India, Persia and the Comoros Islands. The main religion in Zanzibar is Islam. Over 90% of the population is Muslim with a small minority of Christians, Hindus, Jains and Sikhs.

Mussi KatzZanzibar culture – Mussi Katz

Swahili and Arabic influences are evident throughout the islands, especially at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of old Stone Town. The unique blend of African, Arabic and European historical influences has shaped Zanzibar’s intriguing contemporary cultural and architectural landscape. Remnants of Zanzibar’s sinister past, as the main slave-trading port in East Africa between the 17th and 19th Centuries, also remain.

Son of GrouchoStone Town Slave Trading – Son of Groucho

Can I drink alcohol in Zanzibar?

Yes, you can drink alcohol in Zanzibar, but be discreet. If you drink in the appropriate places and respect the local Muslim culture, having a few drinks is fine. Going overboard is not advisable and can get you into trouble so moderate your intake.

The establishments geared towards tourists generally serve alcohol – tourist and ex-pat restaurants, upmarket hotels and resorts. There are even a few bars and stores that sell booze. Always avoid drunken behaviour and don’t carry alcohol around openly in public. 

Can I wear shorts in Zanzibar?

You can wear shorts at the beach and your resort or hotel. It’s acceptable to wear bikinis and swimwear at the beach.

TravelingOtterKendwa beach, Zanzibar – TravelingOtter

In other places, it is better to dress more conservatively. Shorts should preferably be loose-fitting, three-quarter pants that end below the knee. Ladies should avoid wearing short shorts in public.

Walking around shirtless is not culturally acceptable, even for blokes. For women, wearing mini-skirts and skimpy outfits is sure to cause offence. Be particularly mindful when visiting Stone Town and mosques, where your torso and shoulders need to be covered too.

12. Is Zanzibar good for honeymoons?

Yes, oh yes! Zanzibar is one of the world’s best honeymoon destinations. The authentic charm and picture-perfect beaches of Zanzibar make it a very popular romantic getaway.

Vaughan McShaneZanzibar beach sunset – Vaughan McShane

The combination of picturesque tropical beaches, sunny weather and secluded resorts provide an ideal setting for lovebirds to relax and get away from it all. Add to that Zanzibar’s laid-back atmosphere and friendly locals and you get the ideal honeymoon setting.

Part of the charm of this island paradise is that couples can choose to be as active or idle as they want. Hammocks, gentle walks, lazy swims, soothing massages and sunset sundowners await. As do island hopping boat trips, snorkelling and diving excursions, spice tours, cultural experiences and eco-adventures. 

Vaughan McShaneZanzibar island boat – Vaughan McShane

Zanzibar Holiday Packages & Travel Advice

These high-quality Zanzibar Holiday Packages offer excellent value-for-money:

View all of our Budget Zanzibar Tours and Safaris that visit Zanzibar, Tanzania and other African destinations in combination.

Samir LutherZanzibar island holiday – Samir Luther

For help planning your Zanzibar Island holiday on a budget, contact African Budget Safaris. Our friendly travel experts are here to answer your questions.

We look forward to welcoming you to Africa one day soon!

IreneStone Town girls – Irene





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