Zanzibar Town is made up of two sections, the “old city” known as Stone Town and then the newer part of town called Ng’ambo. You will find exemplary Zanzibar accommodation in both of these areas.
The entire coast of the island is made up of a series of sandy beaches with coral reefs, which shelter the shore from the sea. In these areas there are exceptional locations for diving, canoeing and swimming - or just spend a day at the beach, shaded by the tropical vegetation which grows almost to the shoreline. The neighbouring Pemba Island offers divers dramatic underwater walls and drop-offs, which attract colourful fish. For some alternative Zanzibar travel cycle around the island (which will take 10 days to complete) where the route will take you through quaint fishing villages and past quiet diving and swimming spots serviced by basic guesthouses. Protected wildlife areas provide sanctuary for a vast range of bird species, as well as the tortoise population.
Zanzibar is a beautiful, evergreen island, covering an area of 1 464 square kilometres, situated 36 kilometres away from the Tanzania coast in the Indian Ocean and is 76 kilometres from Dar es Salaam. It is known for its spectacular architecture, meandering lanes, luscious tropical fruits, aromatic spices and charming friendly people. The breathtaking beauty of its coastline and the magnificence of the historical Stone Town make Zanzibar one of the world’s famous touring destinations.
The economy of Zanzibar relies heavily on two areas. The first is agriculture in the form of spice plantations and the second tourism, which explains the array of Zanzibar accommodation. Fishing plays a small role but is more supportive to the tourism industry.
A valid International Certificate of Vaccination against Yellow Fever and Hepatitis A is necessary for everybody.
Zanzibar enjoys a tropical climate, the cooler season being July- October when the average temperature is 26 degrees Centigrade. This is the most appropriate time to visit the Spice Islands when holiday travel is pleasant. Short rains usually come in November when the average temperature is in the range of 28 degrees Centigrade all the way to about March when the long rain sets in.
The best time to visit Zanzibar is between July and March when Zanzibar travel is most comfortable. November can be very humid and has short rain showers that last for a few minutes on some days. Otherwise the weather is consistently warm to hot and the air quite humid, although the more luxurious Zanzibar hotels have air-conditioning.
There are no international banks in Zanzibar, only local banks. US Dollar cash is widely accepted and can be easily exchanged for the local currency.
The local currency is the Tanzanian Shilling divided into one hundred cents. Always look for competitive exchange rates at bureaus de change or banks. Some Zanzibar holiday hotels and souvenir shops accept major credit cards. Tanzania has no restrictions on the amount of money one can come in with.
English is widely spoken but it is advisable to learn a few Kiswahili words like jambo and habari (hello), asante sana (thank you very much) and kwa heri (good bye). The local people are so kind and hospitable that you would find yourself at a loss for not having these words to reciprocate. Many of the locals are employed at the Zanzibar hotels, and will always greet you in their native language.
Zanzibar has a strong Islamic tradition and you are asked to respect their culture. Men and women should cover their arms and legs when out among the locals. Alcohol should be consumed discreetly when in public. Depending on where your Zanzibar accommodation is, you may get a fright when the believers are called on big loudspeakers at dawn for morning prayers. The longer you spend in Zanzibar the less you will notice this.
The Muslim community are the majority in Zanzibar town itself. Descendants of the Omanis, they no longer trade in slaves, but are still powerful and wealthy members of the city’s society. The Arab business revolves around the import and export of spices and other natural produce, and explains the strong Islamic presence seen in its mosques, architecture and social customs. There are many African people here of mixed cultural background, which has resulted in the unique art and crafts for which Zanzibar is famous.
Apart from the distinctive designs of local handicrafts and the geometrically decorated splendour of the Sultan’s palace, there is also special music. The Arab tradition of Taarab music came here with the Omanis and is still the musical style of choice for rituals and celebrations. The main instruments are the drum and a traditional violin, but these are only a backing for the singers who undergo years of training before they are ready to perform. Although Arabic music has influenced Western music, it is a particularly haunting cultural tradition and whoever hears it again will always remember Zanzibar.
Different local dishes are available to suit every pocket and satisfy every palate. Try as many places as possible to get the feel of the large variety of Zanzibari kitchen engineering. The Forodhani Gardens offer an excellent dinner that is prepared while you wait. Imagine partaking in a prawn barbecue in a garden while enjoying the sea breeze under moonlight and shining stars! The food the locals eat is varied, but fish and rice make up a large portion of their diet. The Zanzibar hotels will offer both traditional and international cuisine.
Zanzibar is not the shopper’s paradise but certainly has plenty vendors that offer a wide selection of curios, spices, antiques and clothing.
The electricity is mainly generated by hydropower in Tanzania. The main supply is 240V AC, 50Hz. Wall plugs can be either round or square pin types.