By Mabel Collins
Zanzibar, often referred to as the "Spice Island," is a tropical paradise that promises a unique and enchanting experience for travelers seeking sun-soaked beaches, vibrant culture, and a rich history. Nestled in the Indian Ocean, just off the eastern coast of Tanzania, Zanzibar is a place where azure waters meet powdery white sands, and where a blend of cultures has created a destination like no other.
In this comprehensive Zanzibar travel guide, we'll explore everything you need to know about Zanzibar, from how to get around to where to eat, where to stay, and essential traveling tips.
How To Get To Zanzibar, Tanzania?
The easiest and most common way to reach Zanzibar is by air. The Abeid Amani Karume International Airport (ZNZ) is the main gateway to the island and is conveniently located in Zanzibar City, also known as Stone Town. Several international airlines, including major carriers, offer flights to Zanzibar from major cities like Nairobi, Dar es Salaam, and Johannesburg.
If you're looking for a more adventurous way to arrive in Zanzibar, you can take a ferry from Dar es Salaam. The Azam Marine and Coastal Fast Ferries are two reputable ferry operators that offer daily services between Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar. The journey takes approximately 2-2.5 hours, and it's a great way to see the coastline as you approach the island.
Traveling to Zanzibar Tanzania is easy
How To Get Around Zanzibar?
The primary mode of public transportation in Zanzibar is the "dala dala," which are minibus-style vans that ply fixed routes across the island. While they are a budget-friendly option, they can be crowded and uncomfortable for some travelers. However, they provide an opportunity to experience local life up close.
Taxis are readily available in Zanzibar and are a more comfortable and convenient way to get around, especially if you're traveling with luggage or in a group. Make sure to agree on the fare before starting your journey, as taxis do not typically use meters.
For those seeking more independence and flexibility, renting a car or scooter is an option. It allows you to explore Zanzibar at your own pace, but keep in mind that road conditions can vary, and driving can be challenging, particularly in rural areas.
How to get from Kilimanjaro to Zanzibar?
To travel from Kilimanjaro to Zanzibar, start by traveling from Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO) to Arusha, which is about 46 miles away. Then, make your way to Arusha Airport (ARK), the closest domestic airport, which takes around 1-2 hours by road. From Arusha Airport, book a domestic flight to Zanzibar's Abeid Amani Karume International Airport (ZNZ), with flight durations typically lasting 1-2 hours.
How to get from Dar Es Salaam to Zanzibar?
To travel from Dar es Salaam to Zanzibar, head to the Dar es Salaam Ferry Terminal or the Azam Marine & Coastal Fast Ferries Terminal. Purchase your ferry ticket from operators like Azam Marine and Coastal Fast Ferries, with advance booking recommended during peak seasons. The ferry journey takes about 2-2.5 hours, depending on sea conditions.
How to get from Arusha to Zanzibar
Flight: This is the quickest route from Arusha to Zanzibar. Air Tanzania, Precision Air, and ZanAir are among the carriers that provide direct flights. The flight lasts around 1 hour and 30 minutes.
Train and ferry: There is also a railway that runs from Arusha to Dar es Salaam. The train travel takes around 15 hours, and from Dar es Salaam, you may take a boat to Zanzibar.
Bus and ferry: You may also take a bus from Arusha to Dar es Salaam and then a boat to Zanzibar from Dar es Salaam. The bus travel takes around 10 hours, while the boat ride takes approximately 12 hours.
How to get from Mombasa to Zanzibar?
To travel from Mombasa to Zanzibar, you have two primary options: by ferry or by flight. If you choose the ferry route, start by getting to Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, then take a ferry from there to Zanzibar. Book your ferry tickets in advance, as the journey takes around 2-2.5 hours. Upon arrival in Zanzibar, you'll likely land in Stone Town or another coastal town, where transportation to your final destination is readily available.
Alternatively, you can opt for a direct flight from Mombasa's Moi International Airport to Zanzibar's Abeid Amani Karume International Airport, a journey of about 1-1.5 hours. Ensure you check schedules and consider booking tickets ahead of time, especially during peak seasons.
Dala is the most common type of transportation in Tanzania
When Is The Best Time To Visit Zanzibar Tanzania?
The best time to visit Zanzibar, Tanzania, largely depends on your preferences for weather and the type of activities you want to enjoy on the island. Zanzibar has two main seasons: the dry season and the wet season.
Dry Season (June to October)
This is considered the best time to visit Zanzibar for most travelers. The weather is dry and relatively cool, making it comfortable for outdoor activities and beach vacations.
July and August are particularly popular months as they offer pleasant weather and are ideal for diving and snorkeling due to excellent underwater visibility.
September and October are also great for wildlife enthusiasts as it's the start of the Wildebeest migration season in nearby Tanzania.
Short Dry Season (December to February)
This is another favorable time to visit Zanzibar, with warm and sunny weather. It's the ideal time for water sports, including swimming and sailing.
February is the warmest month, and it's excellent for enjoying the beaches and water activities.
Wet Season (March to May and November)
While the wet season brings occasional heavy rains and high humidity, it's also the time when Zanzibar is at its lushest and greenest.
Prices for accommodations and activities are often lower during this period, making it a budget-friendly option.
If you don't mind the occasional rain and seek a quieter experience with fewer tourists, you can consider visiting during these months.
Read more: Best Places To Visit In Zanzibar
Zanzibar can be visited all year round
Where To Eat In Zanzibar?
Zanzibar's culinary scene is a delightful fusion of African, Arab, Indian, and Persian influences, resulting in a rich tapestry of flavors and dishes. This Zanzibar travel guide will show travelers some must-try foods and places to eat in this place.
Seafood on the Beach: Zanzibar is famous for its fresh seafood. Head to Forodhani Gardens in Stone Town for a lively night market where you can savor grilled fish, lobster, and other seafood delights.
Spice Tours: Zanzibar is renowned for its spices, and you can embark on a spice tour to learn about the island's spice trade history and sample exotic spices like cloves, vanilla, and cinnamon.
Local Delicacies: Don't miss trying local dishes like "Urojo," a tangy soup, and "Zanzibari Pizza," a delicious street food made from a thin, crepe-like dough filled with various ingredients.
Fine Dining: For a more upscale dining experience, visit restaurants like The Rock Restaurant, which is perched on a small rock in the ocean, offering breathtaking views along with exquisite seafood.
Local Cafes: Explore the charming cafes in Stone Town for a taste of Zanzibar's coffee culture, offering freshly brewed coffee and delectable pastries.
The big meal of Seafood in Zanzibar, Tanzania
Where To Stay In Zanzibar?
Boutique Hotels: Stone Town, the capital of Zanzibar, is known for its rich history and vibrant culture. Consider staying in one of the boutique hotels nestled within the narrow streets of the UNESCO-listed Stone Town for a unique experience.
Heritage Properties: Stone Town is home to beautifully restored heritage properties that offer a glimpse into Zanzibar's colonial past. These accommodations often feature traditional Swahili architecture and intricate designs.
Budget Options: For budget-conscious travelers, there are guesthouses and hostels available in Stone Town that provide affordable and comfortable lodging.
North Coast (Nungwi and Kendwa Beach)
Beachfront Resorts: If you're looking for a quintessential beach vacation, head to the north coast of Zanzibar, where you'll find numerous beachfront resorts. Nungwi and Kendwa Beach are particularly popular for their stunning beaches and vibrant nightlife.
Luxury Villas: Consider renting a private villa with a beachfront view for a more exclusive and luxurious experience in this area.
East Coast (Jambiani, Paje, and Bwejuu)
Waterfront Retreats: The east coast of Zanzibar offers a more relaxed and laid-back atmosphere. You can find boutique hotels and resorts overlooking the turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean.
Eco-Lodges: For environmentally conscious travelers, there are eco-lodges in this area that offer sustainable accommodations while preserving the natural beauty of the coastline.
South Coast (Michamvi and Kizimkazi)
Secluded Getaways: The south coast of Zanzibar is known for its tranquil and secluded beaches. Consider staying in a boutique hotel or lodge for a peaceful and romantic escape.
Dolphin Tours: This area is also famous for dolphin tours, so you can choose accommodations that offer easy access to these excursions.
Consider where to stay to match your travel plan
Tanzania Visa Requirements: Ensure you check the Tanzania visa requirements for your country before traveling to Zanzibar. Some nationalities may require a visa, let’s apply for an e-visa and you will obtain the result within 03 business days through Tanzania Immigration Services.
Currency: The official currency is the Tanzanian Shilling (TZS). Credit cards are accepted in major towns, but it's a good idea to carry some cash, especially in more remote areas.
Respect Local Customs: Zanzibar is predominantly Muslim, and it's essential to dress modestly when outside of beach areas. Always remember to ask for permission before taking photos of locals.
In conclusion, Zanzibar offers a unique blend of natural beauty, culture, and history that makes it a dream destination for travelers. By following this Zanzibar travel guide and being mindful of local customs, you can make the most of your adventure and create memories to last a lifetime in this tropical paradise.