Island Escapes

Travel tips for Zanzibar

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I recently traveled to Zanzibar with dear hubby. We thought 4 hours flying, beach, why not…

He who wanders around by day a lot, learns a lot.
Atangaye na jua hujuwa.
(Kiswahili proverb from Tanzania)

We booked an All Inclusive holiday through Mango and it was a really good deal. Plus it meant the Rand could do what it wants (and a certain president could flap his lips as per usual) and we wouldn’t have unforeseen exchange rate issues.


  • Get US dollars – in small bills. $1 dollar notes are A-OK for pretty much anything tip related.
  • Even if you get quoted in Tanzanzian Shillings you can pay in Dollars and get change in shillings. Exchange conversions are sometimes a bit loose and fast.
  • Running out of Dollars and still want to tip? No problem, have your Rands handy. They love a R10 or R20 more than no tip – and it’s worth more than Tanzanian Shillings.
  • On Mango you also still have to buy your drinks and food in the air – and you pay in Rands.
  • Credit cards are handy at hotels but useless when you buy from the locals. You will also be charged a 5% transaction fee.
  • You can exchange money at the airport after landing… I don’t trust airport currency rates.

Not all tour companies are equal

We used 2 different tour companies and I can say without a doubt that some will herd you around like cattle and others will actually go the extra mile.

  • Speak to the Beach boys, sometimes they are licensed with licensed taxis and boats. However if they fail to deliver… and not licensed, you are screwed.
  • Do go on a Blue Safari. It is amazing! Check the weather. It is no fun on a dhow when it hops over waves instead of gracefully gliding.
  • Go off-menu for tours. Request a tour of a local village combined with a visit to a market.

Chat to the staff

When you are friendly to the staff they will share some local secrets… and let you know what to look out for or which trips are really worth the money. They will also tell you more about their customs and food without you having to ask.

I was lucky enough to chat to a Maasai named Ngulele who got his friends together for a few photos. These warriors still wear their traditional clothes, most don’t speak English – but… meeting these friendly Maasai was certainly a highlight of my trip. I will write a post on them – so look out for it! (The Maasai generally take on the role as security staff at hotels.)

Buying souvenirs

Negotiate. Always negotiate. When you buy more than 1 item informal traders will offer discount already.

Support the informal traders, they have the same stuff as the formal shops – and they are usually cheaper.

Other stuff to take on your Zanzibar holiday

  • Waterless hand sanitizer
  • or wet wipes
  • lots of it… pack it on outings even.
  • Sunscreen
  • Mozzie repellant
  • Shoes to walk over coral
  • Snorkeling gear

How would I rate Zanzibar

  • Compared to traveling to Thailand and Maldives, Zanzibar offers great value.
  • The beaches are OK once you get past the coral but Maldives’ beaches are much better.
  • However the people in Zanzibar are friendlier than Maldivians and they definitely don’t bug you to buy stuff the whole time like the Thais.
  • The Maldives is much further but prettier.
  • If I had to choose between Thailand and Zanzibar it would not be Thailand.
  • You can drink beer outside of the resorts in Zanzibar but in the Maldives it is a little more strict. In Thailand the party goes 24/7.

I really loved Zanzibar. It is a beautiful country with friendly people and there is a lot to explore and do. I would go back in a heartbeat.

Don’t set sail using somebody else’s star.
Asisa firie nyota ya mwenzio.
(Kiswahili proverb from Tanzania)

I will also share the items that was really useful on this trip. Like these:

  • I took a a 3/4 sleeve BOODY shirt and wore it almost all the time.
  • Ugly shoes that water just streamed out of – because my “plakkies” got sucked down by the sand and kept dismantling itself.

I am a Johannesburg based freelance writer, social media manager - and of course share bits from my life with you on this blog. We have 2 kids through surrogacy and 3 black cats.


  1. Do You need to have a Yellow Fever Injection (Certificate)

    • Susann Reply

      Not anymore 🙂
      We were there in May/June and this injection and certificate wasn’t necessary.

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