Life as a visitor to Zanzibar is very easy indeed, which is what makes it such a wonderful holiday destination. However, you’ll have an even better time if you brush up on your knowledge before your trip to Zanzibar. That way, you’ll know what to expect, and you’ll be completely in tune with the island vibe from the moment you arrive.
1. Getting Inked
If you’re travelling on a South African passport, then we’ve got some good news for you – that little green book means that you won’t need a visa if your stay is for three months or less. Holders of other passports (such as British, American, Canadian or New Zealand) can obtain a visa on arrival. Fees vary but are usually from US$50 – US$100.
Whatever your nationality, make sure you have at least six months’ validity left on your passport, and that you have at least two blank pages for stamps.
Even though Zanzibar is part of Tanzania, and you can use your Tanzanian tourist visa for your trip to Zanzibar, you’ll be asked to show your passport when you arrive on the island, and yes, it will get stamped again!
2. Money Matters
Zanzibar is a great value destination – street markets and food stalls are amazingly cheap, and wherever you are, you’ll find it easy to pick up a budget snack or drink. Don’t rely on your credit card when you’re here – they’re only really accepted in the big hotels. Instead, a mixture of local money (Tanzanian shillings) and foreign currency works best.
There are ATMs in Stone Town, but they can be hard to find elsewhere on the island, so keep some cash with you.
3. Material Girls and Boys
Zanzibar is a traditional Swahili society, and most local people are Muslims. That means that they may take a more conservative approach to clothing than you’re used to. Bikinis and shorts are perfectly acceptable on the beach (and anywhere at Driftwood Beach Lodge, of course), but in villages and towns, you’re less likely to attract attention and stand out if you cover up a little more. In particular, female visitors should ensure that their shoulders are covered, and their legs above the knee.
Zanzibaris are very friendly and welcoming, but the island is their home, so it makes sense to respect their cultural sensitivities and be a good ambassador for your own culture.
4. Weather or Not?
Like the rest of Tanzania, Zanzibar has two dry seasons – a longer one from June to October, and then a shorter one from December to March. Both are ideal times to visit the island – you’re unlikely to experience anything other than wall-to-wall sunshine, with lower humidity and temperatures that are just right.
The short rains in November mean that this month is quieter in Zanzibar, but you can still have a great holiday as the rain tends to fall in afternoon showers which are easily avoided.
However, if we’re honest, the long rains in April and May can bring very high humidity, and so you may want to plan your trip to Zanzibar either side of these months.
5. Slow Down, You Move Too Fast
Zanzibar has its own unique rhythms… Nothing happens quickly here, other than falling in love (or so we’ve heard!). This is another reason why Zanzibar is the perfect place to relax and destress.
If you’ve just come from a big, fast-paced city, you might need a short period of adjustment. When you order a coffee or a drink, it may take a little longer to arrive than you’re used to, and service in restaurants is not all that speedy.
Our advice is to kick back, kick off your shoes, and feel the sand between your toes. There are no deadlines on Zanzibar, and urgent is not a word we tend to use all that much. No-one’s going to send you an email, so enjoy the chance to truly chill.
It’s Only Natural
Zanzibar isn’t as renowned for wildlife as other parts of Tanzania (but it can be easily combined with a safari). However, you’ll notice plenty of colourful, tropical birds and butterflies, and you may spot the distinctive red colobus monkeys in the trees.
Some of the most endearing wildlife can be found in the warm waters around Zanzibar – swimming with dolphins is just one of many popular ways to enjoy the ocean.
One unwelcome creature you may encounter is the occasional mosquito, but we’ve fitted each bed at Driftwood Beach Lodge with a mosquito net, so your sweet island dreams won’t be disturbed.
If you have more questions about Zanzibar, we’re here to help, so please feel free to contact us before you book your trip to Zanzibar.