Zanzibar is an archipelago about 86 km long and 39 km wide. It’s formed by two main islands, Unguja (commonly known as Zanzibar) and Pemba, as well as several smaller islands including Mafia, Chumbe and Mnemba Island. The population is approximately 1 million, with the official language Kiswahili. About 98% of the population are Muslims, the other 2% are Christians or Hindus. Zanzibar’s International Airport lies about 5 kilometres south of Zanzibar City (including it’s old quarter of Stone Town, which has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO). Tourism and spices are Zanzibar’s main industries. Zanzibar is often still referred to as the Spice Islands due to the production of cloves, nutmeg, pepper and cinnamon. Wifi is widely available throughout the island, but the signal can be intermittent.
Weather and Climate
Lying just south of the equator, Zanzibar has atropical climate and is hot and humid all year round – perfect for a beach holiday! From October to March, temperatures average 31-33 degrees Celsius. The arrival of Kuzi (wind) in April brings in the long rains, where it can rain every day until May / Early June. In between the rain showers, it’s generally still sunny and hot. From June to August the winds are stronger, cooling the temperatures to around 26 degrees Celsius. Temperatures at night never drop below 19 degrees Celsius, even in the coolest months. The arrival of the Kazkazi winds in November and December bring the short rains, which are normally light and don’t last long.on, followed by the return of the sunshine. Rain in Zanzibar generally comes in short, sharp showers in the morning or afternoon, followed by the return of the sunshine.
VISA and Entry Requirements
Most visas are obtainable on arrival at Zanzibar International Airport for US$50 CASH per person (American Citizens pay US$100 for their visas). You can also get Visas on entry at Dar es Salaam, Kilimanjaro International Airports and Namanga Entry Point (Tanzania-Kenya boarder point). All visitors require a passport that is valid for 6 months after departure, and has at least two clear pages.
- NB: Visa costs and requirements are subject to change, so please double check with your embassy before you travel.
Before leaving home, visit the doctor or a travel clinic for advice on vaccinations, malaria prophylactics and general advice. Basic traveller vaccinations recommended include yellow fever, tetanus, typhoid and hepatitis A. It is vital to take out comprehensive travel medical insurance, and it is essential that is should include repatriation to your home country in the event of an emergency. There are a wide variety of policies to choose from, so shop around. If you are going to be active in Tanzania (mountain climbing or scuba-diving for example), ensure the policy has adequate provision.
There are some good private hospitals in Dar es Salaam, Arusha and Stone Town on Zanzibar, but facilities are rudimentary outside of these and medicines are often unavailable. All treatment must be paid for in advance. Tanzania’s emergency telephone number (ambulance, fire and police) is 111. The best private hospital in the country is the Aga Khan Hospital, Ocean Road, Dar es Salaam, (Tel: +255 22 211 5151 – www.agakhanhospitals.org). However, for cases of extreme emergencies or surgery, visitors with adequate health insurance will be transferred to a private hospital in Nairobi, Kenya which has the best medical facilities in East Africa.
Food and Drink
You may see locals drinking tap water while in Tanzania, but we do not recommend that visitors copy them. Bottled water is freely available and Dhow and Jeep Tours Limited recommends all visitors to drink only this and any water designated as ‘Safe’ by your hotel or lodge.
Locals are fully adapted to Tanzanian Tap Water, but its different composition containing minerals which may not be present in the water of your home country – means you should avoid drinking it. Visitors drinking Tanzanian tap water may fall ill and while this is usually limited to a bad stomach, it can confine you to your accommodation and spoil a few days of your Tanzanian vacation.
Don’t let this prevent you from drinking water when in Tanzania! We at The Mountain Tours & Safari recommend that you drink at least two litres of water while you’re here. Keeping well-hydrated in the Tanzanian climate is absolutely crucial.
Other food hygiene precautions should be strictly observed if eating in a local restaurant, but visitors should encounter few problems if eating in upmarket restaurants and hotels. Eating snacks from street stalls (common in Tanzania) is not advised, but if items are fresh and cooked well (and the same could be said about buffets in tourist hotels) then you shouldn’t encounter any problems. If you get traveller’s diarrhoea, which doesn’t usually last more than 48 hours, the key treatment is rehydration. If it is more persistent, then seek medical advice.
Currency and Money
Tanzanian Shilling (TZS; symbol TSh). Notes are in denominations of TSh10,000, 5000, 2,000, 1,000 and 500. Coins are in denominations of TSh200, 100, 50, 20 and 10 but these are worth very little and are rarely used. In Kiswahili, it is shilingi and written prices are often denoted with the symbol /=; i.e. 100/= is the same as TSh100. The import and export of local currency is prohibited. The import of foreign currency is unlimited, subject to declaration. The export of foreign currency is limited to the amount declared on arrival.
US dollars, Pound sterling and Euros may be changed at banks and bureaux de change. However, US dollars are the best currency to take to Tanzania as it is widely accepted alongside TSh to pay for hotel bills, souvenirs and flights, and is needed to purchase visas on arrival and pay for park entry fees. Bring newer notes – because of the prevalence of forgery, many places (including banks and bureaux de change) do not accept US dollar bills printed before 2005. Large dollar bills (such as US$50 and US$100) command a better exchange rate than smaller ones. Ensure bills are not torn or damaged.
Credit Cards and ATM
Most top-end hotels, safari lodges, airlines and tour operators accept Visa and MasterCard (American Express and Diners Club less so), though a commission of 2-5% is usually charged. Budget hotels and most restaurants and shops do not accept credit cards, and they are rarely accepted for payment outside the main tourist areas.
Cash easily can be withdrawn from ATMs using Visa or MasterCard. Any sizeable town has at least one bank with an ATM, and there are ATMs at the larger airports. ATMs generally only dispense notes in increments of TSh 10,000 and these larger notes are often hard for people to change – hoard smaller change whenever possible to pay for taxi fares, snacks, souvenirs and the like.
The Best Time To Visit
The best time to visit Zanzibar is from June to October during the cool, dry months of spring. Another popular time to visit this tropical island is from December to February when it’s hot and dry. An African beach holiday means sundrenched shores, palm fringed beaches and glorious sunsets – expect all this and more on a Zanzibar Beach Escape. There are two best times to Scuba Dive off the coast of Zanzibar, in July and August and in February and March. Diving off the north coast is particularly good from June to October and off the south coast between November and March. We don’t recommend visiting Zanzibar during the two rainy seasons, from Mid-March to late May and again in November.