Travel Destinations / Zanzibar
Known as the “best-kept secret in the Indian Ocean”, Zanzibar is the perfect island for travelers looking to enjoy a destination with both historical attractions, as well as picturesque, secluded beaches. Stone Town, the old city, is the cultural heart of the island and very little has actually changed over the course of the past 200 years.
The old city is made up of a myriad of alleys, vibrant bazaars, gorgeous mosques and fantastically grand Arab houses, which used to be a visual measure of its owner’s wealth. Zanzibar may have a fascinating heritage and history, but there can be little doubt about what draws visitors every year, its beaches are simply to-die-for.
Pristine white sandy beaches are lapped by the bright turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean, creating the perfect sunbathing, relaxing, swimming, all-in-one beach holiday destination. There are numerous little fishing villages along the coast to explore as well, so finding something to do is easy on Zanzibar.
At the very top (north) of the island is Nungwi, and it provides a great insight into the building trade of the island as it’s the building capital of Zanzibar. To the west visitors should visit Mangapwani beach and for some notable beaches on the east, a trip to Matemwe, Pwani Mchangani, Kiwengwa, Uroa, Bwejuu and Jambiani are all worth investigating.
There are a number of smaller islands which surround the main island, and that gives travelers the opportunity to explore the area from an entirely different perspective. Numerous day trips are available and it’s highly recommended to embark on one, or more, of these day trips from Stone Town. Changu Island is possibly the most popular with visitors, as this old prison was used by Arabs to detain slaves before the British built a jail, which was never used.
The population of Zanzibar consists of a rich mix of ethnic backgrounds, and this is clearly visible throughout the island. From architecture, to religious beliefs, the island is extremely diverse. The island has around 800,000 inhabitants, most of which speak Swahili (or Kiswahili to the locals), and there is also a belief that it’s the purest form of the language spoken anywhere, with some claims that Zanzibar is actually where Swahili originated.
Wood carvings, chests, clothes, spices, paintings and antiques are what prospective visitors to Zanzibar can expect to find in the shops of Stone Town. For something a little different, travelers should explore Kiponda Street, Market Street, Malindi Street, Darajani Street, and Mchangani Street where jewellery, electronic goods, textiles, cosmetics and electronic equipment is sold. One very useful tip is that you should avoid any/all products related to the island’s protected species, including sea shells and turtles.
The currency used in Zanzibar is the Tanzanian Shilling – Tsh
The exchange rate is approximately 1 USD to 1500 Tsh
Your hotel should offer you the best exchange rate, but if you want to double check, find the nearest bank, or exchange office to assist you. The island doesn’t have a lot of ATMs, and the few they have are only available in Stone Town.
When traveling to Zanzibar, travelers will need to be in possession of a valid Yellow Fever Certificate, it’s compulsory. Getting the appropriate inoculations should be as easy as a trip to your GP or Travel Clinic. The certificate is valid for 10 years, and it’s important to keep it nearby, we’d recommend you keep it with your passport. Zanzibar is also listed as a High Risk Malaria area, so please do take the appropriate precautions prior to departure. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist for the right steps to take to protect yourself against malaria.
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Zanzibar enjoys a warm, tropical climate year-round, but officially winter and summer peak in June and December respectively. Days consist of approximately 7 – 8 hours of sunshine, and during November guests could experience some short rain showers in the afternoon, but during April and May the island experiences what locals call “Green Season”, so expect longer rain showers if you’re visiting during that time.
Best time to visit
Very similar to Tanzania, there is almost no bad time to visit the island of Zanzibar. Zanzibar enjoys a tropical and humid climate, and sees most of the “long rains” during March, April and May. This results in afternoon showers almost daily, and they can be very heavy, but luckily they don’t tend to last very long and they also help cool the air down. Temperatures are generally in the low 30s during this time.
The other season is the “long dry” season, and it spans from June through October. Rains are far less common then, but the temperatures are generally milder, making it the ideal time to visit Zanzibar. During peak season in December and January the island experiences the “short rains” season, but prices on the island will increase due to the peak time, so if you are after a quiet break, the long dry season is highly recommended for you Zanzibar holiday.