Important Things to Know Before You Visit Zanzibar

Important Things to Know Before You Visit Zanzibar

Zanzibar is a semi-autonomous region located in Tanzania’s Swahili coast. It is located 25-50 kilometers off the coast from mainland Tanzania. Historically it was an important location used as an ancient trade route for trading boats containing slaves, spices, ivory, and more coming from the Arabian Peninsula and other places.

Tanzania and Zanzibar

Tanzania is not only well-known for its national parks, but it is also famous for its pristine white sand beaches, prime diving, and snorkeling spots.

Tanzania has a long coastal area facing the Indian Ocean giving it access to a lot of amazing beaches. Among these, the ones located on the small island of Zanzibar are a favorite not only amongst foreign travelers but with local visitors, as well.

What Do I Need to Visit Zanzibar?

In order to travel to Zanzibar, visitors must enter Tanzania. To make things easier for holidaymakers, the government of Tanzania has introduced a new online eVisa application scheme that speeds up the process. This new visa system simplifies the bureaucracy necessary to travel to Zanzibar and eligible international visitors can apply for the needed documentation hassle-free.

The first thing foreign travelers have to do is determine the type of Tanzanian visa they need. Once they know whether they are eligible for the Tanzania eVisa, they will be asked to provide some required personal information and fill out the online eVisa application form.

When applicants receive their approved Tanzania online visa, visitors must ensure to bring a printed copy to show the immigration officer at the border to avoid any possible inconvenience.

Zanzibar Useful Information

Zanzibar includes 2 main islands surrounded by lots of smaller ones, the largest being Unguja, or main island, and the Pemba islands.

Zanzibar City is the capital city and the largest. Zanzibar is estimated to have around 1 million inhabitants, of which 250,000 live in the capital.

Swahili and English are both spoken on the islands, and Tanzanian shilling is the currency used.

Zanzibar’s time zone is GMT +3.

Temperatures are usually warm all year long, averaging around 22 °C to 32 °C. Peak season is considered to last from December to February and from June to October, as these months are the driest months of the year. Fewer visitors normally visit during the rainy season so it might be a good opportunity to enjoy the island and get a good deal.

Zanzibar International Airport

Abei Amani Karume International Airport is Zanzibar’s principal airport. It is located in Unguja Island.

This international airport has two terminals. Terminal 1 is currently used for all domestic and international flights while Terminal 2 is dedicated solely to international flights and it is still under construction.

Airline companies that currently fly directly to and from Abei Amani Karume International Airport are from Africa, the Middle East, and Europe.

What are the Best Beaches in Zanzibar?

Zanzibar is famous for its beaches. The slower pace of life on the island gives off an alluring vibe to travelers who want to relax along the shores.

Visitors can enjoy its white-sand beaches, have access to incredible diving spots, and gaze at unbelievable sunsets.

Famous beach spots on the island include the following:

  • Nungwi and Kendwa, where full moon parties are celebrated
  • Paje and Jambiani, offering kite surfing opportunities
  • Bwejuu Beach, a chance to visit a mangrove and Jozani Forest
  • Matemwe Beach, offering scuba diving activities

However you wish to spend your leisure time, whether partying nonstop, unwinding in the tranquil shores or enjoying water activities, Zanzibar has you covered.

What to Eat in Zanzibar: Typical Dishes

Zanzibar has a plethora of mouth-watering dishes. It boasts cuisines borrowed from different cultures around the world, from Indian to Arabian to Chinese food, so there is no shortage of delicious dishes to eat.

It is also called the spice islands, so local foods tend to have a complex flavor.
One should not leave the area without trying Mchuzi wa Pweza (octopus curry), Supu ya Ndizi (plantain soup) and Wali na Maharage (rice and beans with meat and vegetables).

Zanzibar is a Muslim island so alcoholic drinks may not be readily available, except in touristic places. Locals prefer to drink chai, or tea, which are normally sold when the sun goes down and are available on every street corner.

Should I Visit Stone Town?

A visit to Zanzibar is not complete without visiting Stone Town. This town was the former seat of the Zanzibar Sultanate and an influential location for the spice and slave trade in the past.

Due to the historical significance of Stone Town in East Africa, it was also designated as a UNESCO Heritage Site in 2000.

There are many interesting sights to visit once you are in Stone Town. Holidaymakers should venture into the Old Fort and the Old Dispensary as well as try the local markets where they will find a variety of food and souvenir items. It is easy to just get lost and marvel at the colorful alleyways and enjoy the beauty that the town has to offer.

Another interesting location to visit nearby is Changuu Island, or Prison Islands, formerly a slave port, and even a quarantine at one point. The old prison ruins and the iconic wooden bridge hovering in the sea are well worth a visit.

However, it is undeniable that the main draw of the islands are the giant turtles gifted by Seychelles. Travelers are now not allowed to ride them, but they can still feed than and take their picture.