Zanzibar is a lot larger of an island than I imagined! It can take up to 2 hours to drive across it but I don’t let that stop you from exploring because each area has its very own beauty. The ocean here is in my opinion, the most beautiful in the world. With crystal clear blue and turquoise waters, bordered with long white sandy beaches. There is a rich culture here and locals are passionate about it. Definitely one of the best trips I have ever taken.
CURRENCY: Tanzanian Shilling
CLIMATE: Tropical (warm & humid), Dry season: June – October
DRESS CODE: Casual
GETTING AROUND: Uber, Local taxis, Boda-bodas (moto taxis)
COST OF VISITING: $S – Hostels start at $10 per night but majority are over $20 per night depending on which area of the island you want to stay
TIPPING: Tipping is not mandatory but appreciated. For safaris, a tip of $10-$15 per day for the driver is satisfactory.
SAFETY: Generally safe but known for theft, Motorbikes are known to grab purses/phones while driving by, be sure to keep these hidden.
FROM THE AIRPORT
Abeid Amani Karume International Airport is located about 15 minutes from Stone Town and can be reached by one of the local taxi drivers who are waiting outside. Definitely negotiate as the rate should be around 15,000 TSH (~$8 USD) but expats usually end up paying more like $15-$25. I went to Paje from the airport and ended up paying around $50 which is pretty high.
You can take a ferry to Stone Town from Dar. The trip takes around 2.5 hours and costs around $35 USD. There are multiple ferries per day and they do sell out so it is best to buy tickets in advance if possible. You can also take a flight for around the same price which takes you on a very, very small plane for about 15 minutes of total airtime.
WHICH AREA TO STAY IN ZANZIBAR
Stone Town is a small part of the larger Zanzibar City. This town is filled with history. Here you will find a labyrinth of alleyways, bustling markets, and cobblestone streets. Even if you are visiting Zanzibar for the beaches, I recommend staying in town for at least 2 or 3 nights.
Paje is located on the southeast coast between the villages of Bwejuu and Jambiani. Here you will find a more laid back atmosphere with white sandy beaches and crystal clear turquoise waters. There is not all that much to do in the city, people mainly come here for the ocean. Paje is a popular spot amongst kite surfers.
Kendwa is a village in the far north west part of Zanzibar. It is a quiet little slice of paradise where people mainly come to enjoy the beaches and resorts.
Nungwi is a village in the northern part of Zanzibar known for its beautiful beach. Slightly more touristy than the nearby Kendwa but for good reason.
WHERE TO STAY
A really chill hostel with pod style beds. It isn’t exactly a party hostel (because I don’t like those) but there is a common area with a foosball table, as well as a balcony on the top floor. I did end up meeting some really cool people here and was also still able to have privacy when I wanted it. Great location in the middle of Stone Town. Would definitely stay here again.
I absolutely loved this hostel. The dorms are located in bungalows, directly on the sand (the floor is sand). They have a volleyball court and restaurant/bar area with a huge space to lounge around during the day. Every single person here was super friendly and outgoing (staff and travelers alike) that I felt so much at home. I only stayed here for one night but made quite a few friends and laughed more than I have in a long time.
A nice resort style hotel directly on the beach in Kendwa. There is a large restaurant and bar here, a bar/club, volleyball, and more. They are known to have pretty crazy full moon parties as well. I heard that they do have a dorm here (for cheaper prices) but it wouldn’t allow me to purchase it through their website.
A lovely boutique hotel in the heart of Stone Town. The architecture and decor in the rooms really give you a sense of Zanzibar’s heritage.
WHAT TO DO
GO ISLAND HOPPING
NAKUPENDA BEACH (“SAND BANK ISLAND”)
Definitely the coolest place I went while in Tanzania. Nakupenda Beach is a small sand bank about 30 minutes away from Dar es Salaam (but toward Zanzibar) and literally translates to “I love you” Beach. The sand bank is a small strip of sand with nothing else on it where you are completely surrounded by the crystal clear blue water of the Indian Ocean. And the exciting part is, as the tide comes in during the day, the sand bank gets smaller and smaller until it is completely covered by the ocean. Therefore, it is best to go early in order to have some time to hang out before it disappears! The best way to get there is to meet someone who has a boat or take a day trip with one of the many companies offering it from Stone Town in Zanzibar.
LEARN TO KITE SURF
Paje is a great place to come and learn to kite surf! If you stay at Teddy’s Place, they should be able to set you up with an instructor. What better place to learn than on the most beautiful ocean in the world!
ADMIRE THE ARCHITECTURE
The buildings here are old and beautiful. But the doors are even more magnificent! I literally spent a whole day walking around just taking photos of the doors.
TAKE A TOUR
There are numerous tour operators around the island. One of the guys I met who I still keep in contact today runs them for snorkeling, sunset cruise, Prison Island, Jozani Forest, blue safari, dolphin tour, spice tour, city tour, or big game fishing. Send him a message and tell him I sent him your way! (Not because I get commission – I don’t – but because he is a really sweet guy)
This restaurant is located in the middle of the ocean. Most of the day, you even need to arrange to take a boat to get there. A little pricier than other restaurants but that is because it is the likely the most iconic restaurant on the island.
Excellent Indian restaurant located in the heart of Stone Town. Portions are generous and the ambiance is nice as well.
Raved about by locals and tourists alike. I didn’t get the chance to eat here but is totally my type of local joint.
An extremely cute family owned restaurant with a peaceful outdoor patio. They serve homemade pizzas, breads, and desserts. I came here a few times for the bolognaise pizza. It was absolutely amazing, highly recommend trying it or anything on the menu for that matter.
Most locals drink Konyagi which means I did too. Lots of it. Many even usually have some in their pockets and you can ask the Maasai where to buy some after hours. They seem to know everything that is going on around town.
Cool place to go and walk all the way up to the top floor of the building. You get an excellent view of all of Stone Town.
Great place to come and watch the sunset. During happy hour they have deals on champagne and other drinks on their upstairs patio
A great place to sit on the deck and people watch those on the street below. They have both outdoor and indoor seating and live music on some days. The food is delicious as well.