The Ultimate Zanzibar Travel Guide

Post By: Joy Idahosa – TMID (Follow on Spotted Places @JoyIdahosa)

 

Have you always wanted to visit Zanzibar but you get so overwhelmed with all the details and complications that you just give up altogether? A lot of people struggle with planning a trip so much that they either keep procrastinating or they just don’t bother with it at all. This post will help you plan your trip, from finances to choosing dates and finding cheap flights to Zanzibar. So ‘alla’ y’all who’ve been wanting to visit the beautiful island but don’t know how to go about it, this one’s for you.

Zanzibar airport

I decided to make this into a series because of the amount of detail I plan to share, which would be way too much for one blog post. I’m sure you’d either get bored with the amount of information or it’ll just add more to your already existing travel anxiety that you’d give up even before the third paragraph.

 

Zanzibar airport beach view

This was my first major trip all planned by myself, my first venture into the travel world. I know it can get a little overwhelming or scary or even seem impossible, but I’m going to walk you through it step by step. So I’m asking you to trust this process first; the other posts in this series will help with the rest of it. This one will be solely about how I made the decision, finding really cheap flights, and the other details about planning the trip.

Zanzibar port

About Zanzibar

 

Did you know Zanzibar is a country on its own? Well, sorta. It is a semi-autonomous part of Tanzania, with its own government and laws. It is made up of the Zanzibar Archipelago, which consists of two large islands and several smaller ones. Unguja, which is generally referred to as Zanzibar, is one of the large islands, with Pemba being the second. Stone Town in Zanzibar City, on the island of Unguja is a World Heritage Site.

 

Zanzibar is a Swahili-speaking country and it is a majorly Muslim country. The currency used in Zanzibar is Tanzanian Shillings. Most hotels, restaurants and service providers will transact in dollars, but it is advisable to transact in shillings, as they convert at a lower rate, saving you some money.

Zanzibar

FLIGHTS to Zanzibar

 

After sitting at my office desk everyday, searching for cheap flights to Zanzibar, playing around with the dates, eventually finding those cheap flights and staring at my screen wondering if I could do this, travel to a new country all on my own, for my first time, ah, I took the plunge! I had initially promised myself I’d travel twice in 2017 since I was reaching a major milestone, 25. I had set that as one of my goals this year and I wasn’t going to start a chain of failing on promises I’d made to myself. So, one day after I’d planned my finances thoroughly, I clicked “Book Flight”, and I could NOT contain the excitement I felt after that. I mean, I was traveling to a beautiful island. For the first time in my life, I’m doing something so big, all by myself. It was so exciting and butterflies-in-my-tummy inducing.

I had initially checked on Skyscanner for the cheapest flight dates, since it shows flight prices per date when you choose the whole month option. I saw it was cheaper to fly out on a Tuesday and fly back in on a Wednesday. So I headed over to CheapFlights and chose the exact dates. Cheapflights always has cheaper flights than Skyscanner or any other flight booking site I’ve ever used, so make sure to put CheapFlights at the top of your list. You usually will be directed to the actual website offering those flight prices, and I was directed to Budgetair using Ethiopian Airlines. My return flight ticket eventually totaled somewhere around R4400 ($350), including the Visa card payment option fee.

VISAS

 

Zanzibar is a really “easy” destination, especially if you live in Africa which is why I chose it as my first travel destination. It’s visa-free for most African countries. Once you arrive at the airport, you pay for a 3-month single entry visa. That already makes the process so much easier, you get to skip the hassle of applying for a visa. A 3-month single entry visa costs $50, which I think is quite fair.

Zanzibar visa

Soon as you step out of the airplane, you’re welcomed by the hot and humid air from the shack-like airport arrivals, like something out of an Indiana Jones movie. Just as I got in, a lady asked me for my yellow fever card (so take yours with you guys), which I actually had no clue that I had to bring with me. She then took me into a room and asked me a few questions after seeing my passport was a Nigerian one. Luckily I had my South African ID in my passport case and soon as she saw it, she let me go. Although, I knew she just wanted some money, so I just pretended I really had no money and needed to use the ATM. So definitely take your yellow fever vaccination card with you and don’t pay anyone any money.

Zanzibar immigration

HOTEL/ACCOMMODATION

 

After finding an AirBnB R600 discount online, I was torn between using AirBnB and Booking.com. I eventually went with Booking.com and I’ll tell you why. Flipping through the pages on AirBnB and realizing that based on my budget, I’d have to stay at a really crappy accommodation because although most of Zanzibar isn’t very developed, it is an expensive island. A small average room was going for a completely unreasonable price, without much to offer. I eventually figured booking a hotel would be better, offering a fairly better price, and most offered breakfast and free WiFi and I’d end up getting my money’s worth. So I went with that. After going through a lot of hotels and their offers, I miraculously found Nur Beach Resort (there will be a review later on this AMAZINGG resort), and the pictures and reviews were all it took to get me to make a booking. Luckily a friend decided to join me last minute so I was able to split the $378 for 7 nights bill into two.

Zanzibar Stone Town

EXCHANGING CURRENCY

 

You can definitely change your money while at the airport at a very reasonable rate actually. I didn’t really notice a difference between the exchange rate outside the airport and that within the city. But if you’ve booked a hotel by the beach, and not close to town, I’d definitely advise you change all your money at the airport. Except you have to be willing to spend the 55,000 Tanzanian shillings which is about $25, for a one-way drive into town, every time you need to change money.

Zanzibar immigration
Zanzibar immigration

Otherwise, you can exchange before your trip at your bank or any company that offers foreign exchange. I found that the rate at the airport (R1 = 110 Tanzanian Shillings) was way less than the rate my bank was offering (R1 = 155 Tanzanian Shillings) at that time. So I’d suggest you change your money at a bank in your country before your trip.

AIRPORT TRANSFER

 

Most hotels will offer airport transfer for $50 but we were able to get Zanzibar Airport Transfer who offered it for $40, with an air-conditioned bus. Ask for Masoud at +255 777 043 720. You can also WhatsApp them or check their website here. But funny enough, our trip back to the airport when we were leaving was only $25, so always remember to negotiate. Although I don’t know how possible it is to negotiate before initial pickup, because you kinda have to be friendly with them before they’d be fine with negotiating. They’re usually not very open to negotiations while you’re still in your home country and have never met them.  Always remember to negotiate.

Zanzibar pickup service

BASIC SWAHILI WORDS YOU SHOULD LEARN BEFORE VISITING ZANZIBAR

 

  • Hakuna Matata – No worries
  • Jambo/Habari – Hello/How are you?
  • Karibu – Welcome
  • Asante Sana – Thank you
  • Tafadhali – Please
  • Samahani – Excuse me
  • Pole – Sorry
  • Poa Poa – Take it easy/Calm down
  • Kiasi Gani – How much?
  • Kaka – Brother
  • Dada – Sister
  • Ninakupenda – I love you
Zanzibar port view

CONCLUSION

 

Zanzibar is a really beautiful place to visit, with the many islands and the brightest turquoise blue water. Have you ever visited Zanzibar? If yes, what was your experience like, where did you visit and what was your most memorable experience? Or have you never visited? Is it somewhere you’d like to visit and has this post fulfilled its purpose and made it easier for you to decide? If yes, do let me know, I’d be happy to know this post was helpful.

There will be posts following this one such as an one-week fun packed itinerary (things to do), cost breakdown, where to stay/visit, and outfit ideas. Check out my blog for new posts and updates. Looking forward to sharing my amazing experience in Zanzibar with you guys. Believe me, I have a lot of exciting and hilarious stories. Till next time, xx.

Zanzibar door
You can find Joy Idahosa here  :

Spotted Places :  @JoyIdahosa

Blog site  :  tmidofficial.com

Joy Idahosa

Joy Idahosa

A software developer with an insane love for travel and fashion. Sharing my experiences and ideas with the world one blog post at a time. You can find more of her work at TMId blog.

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