Frequently asked questions
FLIGHTS TO ZANZIBAR
How do I travel to Zanzibar?
Kenya Airways (www.kenya-airways.com) have flights every day of the week from Heathrow, overnight on the way out to Nairobi (8.5 hours) then connecting on to Zanzibar (1.5 hours). Return flight times depend on the day of the week; some days it is a daytime flight with a short transit in Nairobi. There is also an afternoon flight from Zanzibar with quite a long transit in Nairobi connecting with an overnight flight to Heathrow.
Ethiopian Airlines (www.ethiopianairlines.com) also flies direct into Zanzibar via Addis Ababa. Please check their website for further information on flight schedules to Zanzibar.
British Airways (www.british-airways.com) has direct flights from Heathrow to Dar es Salaam overnight (just under 10 hours), three times each week (Monday, Thursday & Saturday). The return flight is a day flight (Tuesday, Friday and Sunday). We can book internal flights DAR – ZNZ – DAR (20 minutes each way) and internal flights are specially scheduled for the incoming/outgoing BA flights.
Emirates (www.emirates.com) fly to Dar es Salaam via Dubai but involves quite a lot of flying time. We recommend flying to Zanzibar from Dar es Salaam as it is much more convenient than using the ferry.
There are no charter flights from the UK so getting there and back is relatively expensive, hence holidays to Zanzibar tend to be more expensive than locations like Goa, India or Sri Lanka which are served by chartered flights. There are some charter flights from Continental countries, especially Italy and Germany.
Mango Airlines (www.flymango.com) also operates from Johannesburg, South Africa to Zanzibar direct; as well as Air Tanzania and South African Airways.
Is a visa required?
Yes, for the majority of countries including the UK & EU countries. We recommend getting a visa before you leave your country but they can also be obtained at the airport on arrival and at border crossings on the mainland from Kenya. Visit the the Tanzania High Commission website for up-to-date details.
When is the best time to visit?
The best time to visit Zanzibar is during the dry season, which is from December to February and June to October. However, Zanzibar is an oceanic island so the weather patterns are unpredictable at anytime of the year.
It is also possible to visit Zanzibar during the rainy season which is between mid-March to the end of May; at this time there are fewer visitors and you are more likely to get a better bargain on hotels, car and bike hire, boat trips and much more. The rain is heavy but not constant and during this time the sunsets are superb on the west coast.
Will I be safe?
Guest safety is of paramount importance and even though Zanzibar is a safe destination, it is wise to take certain standard security precautions. Please carry a record of your passport number, airline tickets and travellers cheques and ensure that these items are kept in a safe place. Make use of your hotel safety deposit box for expensive items and never leave baggage or personal items unattended, especially at airports.
What is the currency in Tanzania / Zanzibar?
Tanzania Shillings (TSH) is the currency which cannot be bought outside of Tanzania/Zanzibar. There are plenty of Bureau of Change and banks to exchange currency in the main towns and airports. Transactions at shops and restaurants are also in TSH. However, arrangements vary for paying for extras at hotels. Some hotels charge extras such as drinks and meals in TSH and it recommended paying in TSH as conversion is at a relatively poor rate. Other hotels charge extras in US Dollars and payment is best made in US Dollars.
Can I use my credit card?
Most top hotels and lodges accept visa and MasterCard. In addition to credit cards, we advise that you also have US dollars and traveller’s cheques available.
What is the electricity supply?
The standard electricity supply is 220 – 240 volt AC. The power supply on the mainland and Zanzibar can sometimes be unreliable. Most hotels have back-up generators. In the safari parks, most lodges and camps do not have mains electricity but use generators. Some have very limited power relying on solar power and kerosene lamps at night, which is quite romantic. Wall sockets at hotels vary; even within the same hotel. Most sockets take a 3 square pin plug similar to the UK, but it is advisable to carry a multi-adaptor with you.
TELEPHONESN AND INTERNET
What is mobile phone coverage like?
You are going on holiday. Leave your mobile at home!! For those who do need a mobile, coverage is almost 100 percent across the whole of the mainland and Zanzibar.
Can we access the internet?
Internet connections have become commonplace across most of Tanzania/Zanzibar with internet cafes in all major towns. In the high-end hotels, you will also find internet and wireless services.
Tanzania/Zanzibar have a combination of religious beliefs means that Tanzania does well in terms of public holidays. Muslim festivals are dated according to local sightings of the phases of the moon so their dates vary on the Gregorian calendar.
HEALTH AND INSURANCE
Do I need travel insurance?
We strongly advise travel insurance, as with anywhere, accidents and robberies do happen and having insurance helps prevent a bad situation becoming worse.
What are the vaccination requirements
You need to get advice from your general practitioner on your vaccination requirements at least six weeks before departure. They may recommend a whole cocktail of things, which will cost quite a lot so ask for what is absolutely essential.
A Yellow Fever Certificate is required by all travellers visiting Tanzania/Zanzibar who may have recently visited a Yellow Fever endemic zone, or may have visited such a zone on their way to Tanzania/Zanzibar. We advise people on safari in Kenya to have a Yellow Fever vaccination before arriving in Tanzania/Zanzibar. The Tanzanian health authorities are advising people to vaccinate themselves against Yellow Fever for their own protection. However, please seek advice from your GP. The Yellow Fever vaccination has to be taken at least 10 days prior to travel.
Our understanding is that it is advisable to have protection for Hepatitis A, Typhoid & Polio as well. It is also advisable to take protection against Malaria so please consult your GP practice about this.
How do we get around Zanzibar?
We strongly suggest your transfers are pre-booked to save a lot of time, hassle and probably money. There are many tales of people arranging their own transfer to a beach hotel, agreeing with the driver to return on a certain day/time. The driver may not arrive, or when he does, the price for the return trip has quadrupled. Stone Town is small enough to walk to most destinations.
What is the main language?
Swahili is the local language although English is widely spoken. Staff at all hotels, shops and restaurants can speak English.
What should I wear?
You will require comfortable, casual and semi-casual clothes for your beach holiday to Zanzibar. It is best to have some warm clothing for early mornings and evenings, especially during June-August.
What should I pack?
- Light cotton trousers
- Cotton shorts
- Light cotton shirts(long and short sleeved)
- Comfortable walking shoes
- Shower-proof rain jacket/windbreaker
- Insect repellent
- Small torch
- Bathing suit
- Suntan lotion
- Camera (telephoto lens recommended)
Is Zanzibar overdeveloped for tourism?
We believe it is not yet overdeveloped and most of the island is about local people going about their daily business. A couple of streets in Stone Town are predominantly for tourists selling local artefact, paintings, wood-carvings, local clothes and much more. There are no high density, high-rise hotels, with the majority of hotels blending in well with the local environment. There are some largish hotels predominantly catering for “package” holidays from Continental countries.
ACTIVITIES ON TANZANIA/ZANZIBAR
What sorts of things are there for visitors to do on Zanzibar?Many people visit Zanzibar and spend the majority of their time at beach locations. For those who want some activity, some hotels can provide water-sport centres mainly offering scuba diving and snorkelling. A few offer also offer dingy sailing, wind surfing, kayaks, etc. A reef, especially the north and east coast where the nicest beaches are located, surrounds Zanzibar. At low tide the ocean recedes a long way, which means that at these times swimming at the beach and water activities, are limited. This is the time to go for long walks; on the north-east and south-east coast you can walk for about 10 miles along the beach calling in at fishing villages, watching village ladies harvesting seaweed for export, the fishermen preparing their nets/boats, children catching fish in the pools of water.
Some hotels offer excursions including village visits where you can have a peek into village life, visit a school and meet local people. Part of the cost of the excursions goes towards funding projects in the village. Beware of the “swimming with dolphin” tours at Kizimkazi; we feel that the people who drive the boats do not respect the dolphins, driving their boats at them and chasing them; then encouraging people to jump in beside the dolphins, which should not be done.
To really appreciate what Zanzibar is all about you should plan, at the very least, a couple of days in or near Stone Town. This really is the essence of Zanzibar with its maze of narrow streets bustling with local people on foot, cycles and motor-cycles; appreciate the different forms of architecture and the magnificent Zanzibar doors with their brass spikes; visit the markets, though the meat and the fish markets are not for the faint hearted! There are a couple moderate, but interesting museums and learn about the history of Zanzibar at the exhibition at the House of Wonders. It was the former ceremonial palace of the Sultans and later the headquarters of the British Administration and it is so named because it was the first establishment in East Africa to have electric lights and a lift.
An organised Town Tour will take you to the former slave market, the dungeons where slaves were held before being sold as well other interesting parts of Stone Town. No visit to Zanzibar is complete without a spice tour, best organised from Stone Town rather than beach location. We give you information about how best to arrange a dhow safari to the islands off Stone Town; unfortunately much of Prison Island has been handed over to a hotel development, leaving only a small part of the island to casual visitors.
Zanzibar also has a spectacular turquoise ocean full of marvellous marine life and exquisite coral formations. Other places of interest include the Jozani Forest Reserve, which is home to the rare red Colobus monkey.
I would like to combine a safari with an island experience, is this possible?
Absolutely, it’s a fantastic package that most visitors opt for. You can come for a week or 10-day visit starting with a safari and then end if off with a couple of days on Zanzibar, which offers a lovely and relaxed island experience. Zanzibar is a tropical island with white, sandy beaches with palm trees and the warm Indian Ocean lapping at its shores. Equally lovely are the islands of Pemba and Mafia just off the Tanzanian mainland, which can easily be combined with a safari package.
What sort of accommodation is available?
There is a wide range of accommodation available, from back-packer hostels to the $800.00 plus per person per night establishments. Hotel sizes range from the small “boutique” style hotels to the larger “resort” hotels with a wide range of facilities.
We do not book at the lower range budget hotels as we know what they are like, and we believe people who book their holiday with us expect a certain standard of accommodation, which budget hotels do not provide. Many people want smaller hotels with a local flavour, and there are plenty of these around the island. Some visitorsopt for a range of facilities such as spa, tennis court, fitness room, watersports centre, choice of restaurants and there are a number of hotels, which provide these. There are also hotels, which are ideal for families with inter-connecting rooms, family rooms and recreational facilities for children. There are just a few hotels that have rooms in individual bungalows; smaller hotels have 2 rooms in each cottage. We only book people in hotels with en-suite facilities.
The board basis at most beach hotels is half board (breakfast & dinner) as alternatives for dinner are not close by. However, at hotels in the villages of Nungwi in the north; Paje & Jambiani in the southeast, we book on bed & breakfast basis as there are lots of places to eat in the villages. In Stone Town, we book accommodation on a bed & breakfast basis as well as there are many restaurants around.
PEOPLE AND CULTURE
Will I be hassled by local people?
Tanzania /Zanzibar in comparatively a hassle free environment unlike parts of Egypt, Gambia, parts of India and Goa. There are, of course, some local lads who will approach people asking if they want tours or transport organised or offering visitors goods; sometimes of dubious legality!! A reasonably assertive, but non aggressive, “No, thank you” is usually sufficient.
What is the main religion?
On Zanzibar, the majority of the people are Muslim. The Islamic tradition means Zanzibaris have a moderate and hospitable manner. Their beliefs are liberal and not fundamental. Please respect their tradition by behaving and dressing modestly in public. During Ramadan (dates vary), we do ask visitors to respect local people who fast during the day by not eating/drinking in public places. A few restaurants remain closed during the day in Ramadan. On the mainland, Christianity is the main religion.
Given the religion, is there a strict restriction on alcohol?
No, alcohol is served in the majority of hotels and restaurants. There are just a limited number of hotels/restaurants in Stone Town that do not serve alcohol. Lager is both brewed in Tanzania or Kenya (and very acceptable) and Castle Lager is imported from South Africa. Most of the wine is from South Africa and there are also a couple of retail stores that sell alcohol in Stone Town.
Is Zanzibar a good family destination?
Zanzibar offers wonderful value for families, although some establishments will cater more for children’s enjoyment than others. Some properties do not accept children under 12 years but be assured that we will advise you of the best family travel options.
FOOD AND WATER
What sort of food can we expect?
Stone Town has many restaurants and quality, understandably, is depends on the prices charged. Most restaurants serve international food, but why go to Zanzibar/Tanzania to have chicken and chips?! However, if visitors prefer it such meals are available. Nearly all restaurants serve good curries with fish readily available and cooked in a variety of ways. There are some restaurants which serve local dishes; cooked, spiced green bananas; dishes made from maize and meat & fish cooked in coconut milk.
Fancy Chinese food in Africa? Stone Town offers on the best Chinese meals outside of China which serves dishes using fresh and locally grown ingredients. Meals at beach locations tend to be taken at the hotel you are staying at, especially the evening meal. For lunch you can venture out to other hotels and restaurants along the stretch of beach where you are staying. Larger beach hotels tend to have buffet meals of very good quality. Smaller hotels might have a limited menu but will always include a fish dish. Lobster is normally available at hotels and restaurants, but at a price, yet a more reasonably priced one as compared to the West!
Is tap water safe to drink?
We urge people to drink only bottled water and also use bottled water to clean teeth. Many shops and stalls sell bottled water, as do hotels and restaurants, although it is cheaper to stock-up with bottles bought at the local grocery store. Make sure the seal on water bottles are unbroken.
What should I tip?
We recommend that you tender small amounts to your lodge/hotel staff and lodge managers will provide you with guidelines for tipping if required. Where restaurant meals are involved, the tipping standard is usually 10% of the bill. Bargaining for local handicrafts is commonplace.