I have never been to Africa so far and haven’t traveled since 2019 due to Covid. So booking this trip was so exciting and so awaited.
I am the type of girl that I usually like to combine relaxing time with some new and exciting places to visit. But somehow, this vacation was so different from all the others in the past.
First, once you land in Zanzibar, the primary thing to do as soon as you are out of the airport is to remove your mask as there are no restrictions on the island. So liberating!
Second, it seems like time has a different speed there. Everything goes as the locals say Pole Pole (Slowly Slowly) or if you want an expression which is even more authentic – Kidogo Kidogo – which means the same.
In a nutshell, I think Zanzibar has a little something to offer to everyone. Sun, wide beaches, palm trees, a lot of water activities, parties, great resorts tailored for families or large groups, or cheaper hotels for travelers on a budget. Also, if you stay longer or at least 7-10 days, you could pair your travel with a Safari tour on the mainland. Down below, I left a contact of our guide. He was excellent and super helpful, so feel free to contact him as he can arrange everything for a lower price than any agency or a hotel would charge you (big wink).
All these being said, for those who want to travel to Zanzi, I would love to share bits and pieces of my experience. Hopefully, my tips will help you plan your trip.
HOW TO GET THERE
There are three convenient 5.5 h straight flights per day to Zanzibar from Dubai, where I am currently based.
If you come from another part of the world and land in Dar El Salam, you can take a flight or a ferry to reach the island.
Most nationalities will have to pay for a visa on arrival, which is 50 USD.
Covid vaccine – no one will ask. All you need is a printed negative PCR test.
Yellow Fever vaccine – no longer required.
Local people are super nice and friendly, and they love it when you say Hello in their language – Mambo – or use any other expressions that they will be happy to teach you.
I heard the Masai can be pretty annoying. I think they were very sweet. They are completely harmless; they want to say Hi, talk to you and eventually sell some of their beautiful handmade arts and crafts. They also told my friend it is challenging for them to find a wife and get married. They need to own 20 cows which are very expensive for them to purchase (75 USD for a cow).
The feeling of peace. All is Hakuna Matata over and over again, giving you the sense that time goes so slow. And trust me, when you come from a hectic schedule at work, it’s a #blessing
It is Covid free. No masks, no restrictions, and believe me, it’s refreshing.
The landscape, the ocean, the wide beaches, the serenity, the weather, the tides, the relaxed people.
If you are a wine aficionado like me, you will love the delicious South African wine they import.
If you are into techno parties, B4 is the place to be, and they have two really good parties every Tuesday and Saturday. I don’t know how it was before but now one of the leading promoters of Ibiza parties that used to work a lot with the famous Ricardo Villalobos is currently based in Zanzibar (Paje). He is bringing every week awesome DJ’s that set the mood and put the atmosphere on fire. A must-go for techno music lovers.
The airport. It’s Not the cleanest nor the nicest, but it is very small and doesn’t take long to check in or out.
Coffee is good, and the one we bought from Stone Town with mango & vanilla flavor is yum!. I guess it’s a matter of taste here, but all in all, I am a coffee drinker, and the coffee they produce there passed the test for me.
I took several massages both at Dhow Inn and B4 Beach Club, and every time it was excellent. For 30 – 40 USD / 1 hour, you can get a fantastic relaxing / Swedish / aromatherapy massage. Tips are highly appreciated (everywhere, in fact).
Taxis do a pretty good job: they are not as expensive as we thought, and they come fast.
The Food. Oh well. I am the type of gal that eats almost everything, and I am not picky about food—never been. But the island tested my limits. Zanzibar is a melting pot, and their cuisine is a mix of African, Indian, Arabic, and European. Sounds exotic and exciting. Ughhh, it’s not.
Everything comes paired with mountains of rice/French fries/bread/chips, etc. Even when you mention you don’t want any of that, it will still somehow land on your plate or next to your plate as a separate dish … just in case. All is oiled up, superly fried, with heavy dressings. Luckily they have amazing fruits, some salads are ok, and the seafood or the many assortments of fish are delightful.
I heard that if you stay in a five ***** resort and have an all-inclusive package, the food is much better. However, I always choose boutique hotels with personality and go out for lunch & dinner because the experience will be much different. Plus, being stuck in a resort is not my thing.
The internet connection – works on its own very personal terms: when it wants, how it wants, and definitely if it wants. We bought a local SIM card in the airport, and it was slightly better … slightly.
Some local men can be very persistent, especially if you are at a party with a free entrance like Jambo (every Friday in Paje). With diplomacy, you can avoid any drama, and they will eventually leave you alone. But it is a bit eghhhh. Personally didn’t feel comfortable especially coming from Dubai, where this will never happen, and security is just 1 sec away (no joke).
As a woman or even in a group with men, it’s not safe roaming after the sunset on the beach or in any of the streets—a total no-no.
A Few Expressions That We Learned There
Jambo – Hello, but this is more the touristic version
Mambo – Hello, and this is more the local version
Poa – This is how they reply to Hello
Karibu – Welcome
Asante Sana – Thank you very much
Karibu Sana – You are very welcome
Pole Pole – Slowly Slowly (touristic version)
Hakuna Matata – No worries / Take it Easy
Kidogu Kidogu – Slowly Slowly (more authentic version)
Habary Yako – How are you
I am a planner by definition, and I always organize my trips in the tiniest details before reaching my destination.
Zanzibar was my first vacation where I took it very easy, very slow, and everything one day after the other. Pole Pole.
Swim with the Dolphins in Kizimkazi – 50 USD / person
This one was an extreme adventure. Just to understand – more extreme than when I did skydiving.
I don’t regret it, but I am not sure If I would do it again or at least in that scenario.
We left Paje around 6 am and reached Kizimkazi around 6.30 am.
Before boarding, if they sell you waterproof cases for your mobile, BUY it. It saved my phone. I actually like to make fun of it and say my mobile survived the Indian Ocean due to a small investment ( 4.30 USD / 10.000 TZS).
Now, why is this trip extreme and maybe not the best idea in some cases:
1. The electric boats that can take up to 4-6 people are tiny and rudimentary.
2.In the morning, the ocean is very wavy, and it will shake you to the core – every single wave. My guide had to hold my hand at all times.
3.We went in July (it’s winter there), and the water is a bit cold plus it is very windy. And don’t think that if you are in the boat, you will be dry. No, you will be soaking wet all the time.
After 30 min of sailing together with many other boats far into the sea (we were around 10-15 boats in the same area with people being there for the same reason) soon we saw the playful wild hump dolphins swimming in small or larger groups. The feeling is amazing and unique.
At this point, you have the option to jump in the water and, with the help of the goggles, see them closer in their environment.
Even though I am a pretty good swimmer, I choose not to for the following reasons:
1.The water was pretty agitated, and even with a life vest, you don’t play with the ocean.
2. The boats are entirely chaotic, so the chance to be hit is high (some people were hit before, from what I have heard).
3. I didn’t find it safe all in all, and in the end, humans should just stay away from wild animals’ environments like they are away from ours.
Bonus: on the way back, at some point due to wind, waves, or whatever the reason was, I fell overboard and found myself in the middle of the ocean, and the little boat was coming high speed to “rescue me” right towards me … like I said thank God I am a good swimmer.
To conclude, this is an exciting trip for high adrenaline seekers, a one-in-a-lifetime experience but not safe at all—definitely a no-go for elders, children below 14, and people with back issues.
They say Safari Blue is one of the best trips. It was nice but not that memorable.
Our other guide and driver took us in the morning to Fumba Village and from there, we sailed again with a local wood dhow which was bigger and a bit safer.
First, we stopped at a sandbank which was super crowded with noisy people having beer and chilling. The tide was already high, and pole pole the island became smaller and smaller, and we had to leave. (yay!)
The best parts were exploring Blue Lagoon, seeing an ancient baobab tree on another island, and an excellent seafood lunch (of course, I ignored the rice and french fries).
Not the best place to snorkel as there is not much marine life to see in that area.
To conclude: it was a nice trip, but very commercial, very touristy, the boat was better, but on the way back, I felt like we were gonna turn over any time.
Stone Town & Prison Island
Two days before your flight, you have to do your Covid test (USD 80). It’s a simple process: you have to log in https://zanzibarcovidtesting.co.tz/app/home, fill in some personal & flight details and choose your center.
We chose Migombani as we combined this with a trip to Stone Town and Prison Island.
After the Covid test (the process takes around 30 min), we continued our journey by sailing with another “amazing” wood dhow to Prison Island to see and feed the giant turtles.
Shortly after, we returned to the main island, and we stopped for a pretty nice lunch at a restaurant called Freddy’s place.
For those who don’t know, the mind blowing Freddy Mercury was born in Zanzibar and his house is a museum at the moment. Unfortunately (and I don’t know why) that day, we couldn’t go in, so we could only take a few pictures outside.
Our guide took us to the spice market, fish and meat market, and we roamed around the Old Town.
We bought lovely spices, excellent flavored coffee, and a few canvases painted by the local artists.
FYI – Most merchants refused to negotiate. It was – take it or leave it.
We ended our trip in Stone Town to Africa House Hotel.
Its huge terrace that overlooks the ocean is praised and mentioned in many blogs and touristic guides. It was pretty disappointing for us, and we found it overrated.
The view is not mesmerizing and the sunset which most people go there for, well the sun goes down after some high trees, and we couldn’t take any worthy pictures.
They only sell cheap Spanish wine if you want to buy it by the glass and the staff is not that friendly. Plus, the place has no flavor or authenticity.
We stayed on the East Coast in Paje in 2 different locations.
Our initial plan was to stay the whole journey at B4 Beach Club https://www.b4beach.club, but we were told it is very noisy because of the parties and we preferred to move for the first six nights to Dhow Inn https://www.dhowinn.com/es/ which was only a 15-20 min walk on the beach or 5 min drive from B4.
It was a mistake actually because B4 only has two parties on Tuesday and Saturday, and we wouldn’t sleep anyway as we were at the parties as well until morning. But it’s ok, Dhow Inn was not that bad, and it was ok to try two different hotels.
Dhow Inn is a decent hotel with pluses and minuses:
The room is ok but below expectations.
The shower is separate from the bathroom, and it only has a curtain
Breakfast was awful, and the first day we had to pay it as it was included only starting the following day, which we knew. But to pay 15 USD for some fruits, not so tasty sausages, sautéed mushrooms, grilled tomatoes and plain pancakes (no marmalade nothing ) ugh too much if you compare quality vs. price.
Staff was friendly & helpful
The trips they offered were double the price
Linta, the massage girl, was amazing.
As Salma left after six nights, I moved for another three nights to B4 Beach Club, which has 12 bungalows on the beach, and I was assigned to Luna Express, which was wow.
You have your own little garden, your own banana tree (if you are lucky like I was, you might even have visitors from Jazani forest having a delicious lunch right in front of you), your own porch with a swing, the whole restroom is outside in another little private garden. The place had one living room on the ground floor with a small kitchen + a small bedroom upstairs.
Just one point here: as cute as it was, well, it was a bit small, and even for two people would have been a bit tight.
So I guess this was la piece do resistance in terms of accommodation. The pool concept is also very cool. They have these double swing beds by the pool where you can chill, and you are just a few meters away from the beach club and B4 Kite Centre. Actually, the venue is like a beach lounge during the day and a party place at night. A good place to hang out and a paradise for the kite surfers.
Even the food was much better there.
Parties we Attended
During our ten days, we went to 4 parties that I will talk about below:
Paje – B4 Beach Club, which is literally the place to be, and they have two amazing techno parties with DJ brought from all around the world:
Tuesdays from 4 pm to 2 am
Saturdays from 9 pm until sunrise
Paje – Jambo
Friday – this one is an open party. The music is not bad for a change: a mix of 80s, 90s and so on. The issue is that many of the local people are very annoying and persistent even if you are in a group with men.
Paje – Mahali
We went on Tuesday before the B4 party. This is not really a party, it’s more like a restaurant with a live band which is pretty good, and eventually, everyone will stand up and dance. Plus, this is one of the very few places where the food was excellent. Me happy!!
Jambiani – Coral Rock
Monday – They have a live band and a dance floor plus places around where you can sit. Not really my type of music and, again, weird people, but we had fun.
Keep in mind that almost every day, there is a party somewhere in Zanzibar.
My Advice For The Trip
High heels – don’t carry with you not even one pair. You will never use it, not even in Stone Town.
Snacks – If you are into clean eating, take some healthy snacks with you (just in case). I know they have different kinds of nuts at the supermarket and fresh fruits but having some with me honestly was not a bad idea.
The weather – If you go in July, keep in mind the season is reversed, so it’s “winter. During the day, it is sunny and pleasant, and ok to sit at the pool. But it is super windy, and the moment the sun goes down, it gets chilly. So just make sure you have a jacket or a cardigan to keep you warm.
The Slang – Learn at least to say hello to them. It is super easy, and locals will love it.
Transportation. Do not take Dala Dala. It is slow and crowded. Taxis are not that expensive as I’ve heard before going there. And don’t rent a car. The roads are bad; they drive on the right side, and driving there is chaotic. Hotels will give you a higher price for the trips often and also for the taxi. For a 5 min ride, you shouldn’t pay more than 10,000-15,000 TZS.
Electricity: coming from Dubai was easy as they used the same voltage and plugs. Otherwise, make sure you have a plug converter with you.
Local men approach – be diplomatic and try to avoid any drama or arguments. It is honestly the best way 😉
At night – Seriously, try to avoid this part as well, especially as a woman (even if you are a group of girls) going alone in the streets after it’s dark, even on the beach avoid long distances. Just use a taxi or have some guys with you.
High & Low Tide In Paje, it’s high and low tide, so if you wake up in the morning and instead of waves you see a few km of sand, don’t panic, the water will come back in the next few hours.
Jozani Forest – there is a specific trip to go to this forest which is not very far away from Paje. The main attraction of this forest is the Red Colobus monkey, a protected species. These monkeys are a bit special because they cannot live anywhere else in the world due to their specific diet, which consists of 70 different plants. They are very curious and playful, and it will be effortless to take some pictures of them. However, when we moved to B4 Beach Club, we had an adorable encounter with them as they were all over the place eating and playing. Also, in the banana tree that was right in front of my bungalow, we had a little family “having lunch” and playing.
Covid – No one will ask you about the vaccine. All you need is a negative PCR test when you land and one when you get back.
Finances – First, I advise you to bring USD and change 70% of it to TZS in the airport. Just to be warned, you’ll get loads of TZS bills. We had a big envelope with money for the ten days that we kept in the room’s safe.
Internet – As mentioned in the beginning, the internet is pretty slow, and it often does not do the work. We advise you to buy a SIM card from the airport and it will help a little.
Tipping – this is entirely up to you, but we did this most of the time, and they were very happy.
Safety – Most careful you have to be about your mobile and laptop and try not to have expensive jewelry. And because I know the question “Is Zanzibar safe”?” is on everyone’s lips. Yes, it was very safe. You just have to follow some common-sense rules that I am also highlighting above. And you will be fine.
Our Guide For The Trip
I list this as a separate section as being helped by a local will make your life much easier and safer.
In our case, we learned about Madiba when we were in Dubai some friends recommended it.
He organized Stone Town, Prison Island, and Safari Blue, and he took me to the airport on the way back.
In Stone Town, for example, most drivers will leave you there and pick you up later. Madiba came with us everywhere and waited for us when that was the case. Plus, he took us to the right spots.
And for two girls alone, it was perfect.
His local number is +255 777 109 284
And I would like to end this blog post mentioning that traveling with someone is most times sensitive, especially with someone for the first time, so I was really lucky to share this journey with my Tunisian BFF Salma, an excellent companion and a great cool travel buddy!
Have you ever been to Zanzibar?
Note: Sadly many of our amazing high-quality images were not supported by WordPress so I couldn’t upload them :((