Top Tips for Visiting Zanzibar

When visiting Zanzibar last year I had a few near misses when it came to silly travel mistakes during my stay. As a seasoned traveller you can sometimes become a bit relaxed about certain things when it comes to foreign money, visas, vaccines. You’ve done it all before, made your way through and so far nothing has gone wrong.

I had a few more lucky escapes on my trip to Zanzibar, but to stop you from making the same mistakes and instead safely glide through your holiday in this beautiful country, here are my top tips for visiting Zanzibar.


Cash Machines are hard to find

I’m not one of those people who gets my money out at the post office before I leave a country, that would be far too organised! And what do you do when you are heading to several countries with different currencies, travel with hundreds of pounds on you? No no, I much prefer to just take out what cash I need when I arrive in a country, one less thing to worry about… that is until you arrive in a country that has very few cash machines.

The airport did have a cash machine, where I got out a few Zanzibar Shillings to pay for my visa on entry. My head was a little confused by the exchange rate so I only got out enough for my visa and then jumped into my pre-paid taxi to the hotel.


Next morning I discovered the only cash machines were in Stone Town (2 hours away) or at the airport (1.5hours away), thank goodness I was at an All Inclusive resort. I mustered through with no cash for a couple of days until my day trip to Stone Town, where I was able to get some cash out.

Moral of the story… GET CASH OUT AT THE AIRPORT!

Dollars for a visa!

They much prefer you to pay in dollars for your visa on arrival into Zanzibar, they were not happy about me having to get Zanzibar Shillings out for them, at one point they weren’t even going to accept them and they may have even added a few shillings to the cost that I would have paid in dollars. 


photo (58)

Zanzibar is a Muslim Country

It is easy to forget this when you see pictures of perfect white beaches with travellers jetskiing in bikinis, but ultimately in the majority of Zanzibar you should cover up. Not completely, but modest dress, covered shoulders and below the knee skirts or trousers are expected. There are areas around the hotels where it is ok to be on the beach in just a bikini, but when venturing into local villages and Stone Town this isn’t acceptable.


Moral of the story… DRESS APPROPRIATELY!

Yellow Fever

Thank goodness I had already had my yellow fever jab for Ghana earlier last year and had my Yellow Fever card with me. I had a mild panic at the airport when I thought I had forgotten it, thankfully I eventually found it hidden in the depths of my backpack. Double Phew!


Barter and Haggle

Everyone loves some bartering banter, including most of the locals in Zanzibar, they expect it so will always tell you a crazy price to start with. I wouldn’t barter in restaurants with set prices, but when buying local crafts haggle away. When you walk away and they don’t follow the chances are you went a step too far, though they could also be one step ahead of you…



Don’t take photos without permission

The people of Zanzibar don’t like their photo being taken, unlike other countries I have visited where children and even adults will run up to you asking you to take their photo (with your camera) it is not like this in Zanzibar. Adults and children will put their hands in front of their face, get angry and are generally not very happy about you taking their photo. So respect this. If you really want a photo of someone you can always ask, they might say yes.

Moral of the Story – IF YOU DON’T ASK DON’T TAKE!


I hope these hints and tips go some way to help you on your visit to Zanzibar… I make the mistakes so you don’t have to 🙂

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  1. Thanks for the tips Jenny. I love the carved wood on one of these photo’s. Is it a door? Pleased to hear that you are still enjoying your travels. Spent last week at Delhi Book Fair after a Poetry workshop (with one of our authors) in Sultan Pur Lodhi in the Punjab and a visit to the Golden Temple in Amritser (whilst we were in the area). Returned to Bangalore this morning after a two-night and one day sleeper train journey. Really enjoyed a lovely bath after such a long time on a train! Tonight we launch a ‘book swap initiative’ in auto-rickshaws!
    My worst nightmares whilst travelling have been: losing my passport – takes ages to sort out a temporary one to get home – so always keep it in a really safe place. The other was: dysentry – you really don’t want that I assure you, so always drink safe water and don’t forget to avoid ice and salad veg washed in local water!
    Keep on enjoying Jenny. xx

  2. Great tips! I find myself forgetting to do these basic things whenever I travel. And I have NO idea where my yellow fever card is….gotta find it! Thanks.

  3. Excellent tips. Many people fail to heed local customs and cultures and end up in trouble. Zanzibar may see more tourists in the coming months as people shun Kenya.

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