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General Information on Zanzibar

All you need to know about Zanzibar Island!

What is Zanzibar?

The word "Zanzibar" is derived from the old form "Zengbar" which initially meant the Eastern Coast of Africa. It is probably a Persian word "Zeng" means black and "Bar" means land or region. The Arab version was "Zinjibar".

The Zanzibar archipelago is one of Africa’s most bewitching destinations, the name itself evoking palm-backed beaches, languid tropical waters and colourful coral reefs. But the islands are more than just the backdrop for dedicated beach bumming. Their history is a visitor’s book of peoples from around the Indian Ocean and even the Mediterranean, each of whom left their mark, whether in the form of ruined palaces, fortresses or citadels or Zanzibar’s famous cuisine or some very strange but enjoyable cultural events, including Pemba’s Portuguese-style bullfights, and Makunduchi’s raucous celebration of the Persian New Year.

Unguja is the archipelago’s main island, and the one with the best beaches. The historical Stone Town, part of the capital Zanzibar Town, is the an alluring Arabian-style labyrinth densely packed with mansions, palaces and bazaars, most of them constructed on the back of the nineteenth-century slave trade, which Zanzibar controlled. Unguja’s sister island of Pemba. 48km to the north, is quite a contrast. With few beaches to write home about, tourist facilities are extremely limited, so the main reason for coming is for scuba diving. History buffs can poke around a host of medieval ruins dating from the height of the Swahili trading civilization, whilst nature lovers have Ngezi Forest, an incredibly dense tangle that’s home to unique birds, and the giant Pemba fruit bat.

Zanzibar is that picture-perfect island you’d imagine when somebody mentions the words ‘Tropical Paradise’. Beautiful spice markets, white sand beaches lined with palm trees, tranquil turquoise oceans await those who head to Zanzibar. It is the premium holiday destination in East Africa, and one you should visit before its popularity causes an influx of tourists.


Before you start booking your tickets, you have to consider the best time to visit Zanzibar. After all, if you wish to go on spice tours, walk the old cobbled streets of Stone Town, or relax with some cocktails by the beach, you need to know the weather in Zanzibar. This will determine just how much fun you can have in the sun! Read on to find out when to visit Zanzibar.

Zanzibar is Located about 23 miles off the coast of Tanzania, Zanzibar is the very definition of a picturesque island paradise. It has a rich history, and some brilliant beaches. No matter what draws your interest, Zanzibar will make sure that your vacation is filled with adventure. Indulge yourself in a Spice Tour, or explore the Swahili architecture of Stone Town. Lounge by the beautiful beaches in Northern Zanzibar, and go snorkeling along the coral reefs. This is a tranquil vacation that will leave you satisfied, happy, and yearning for more.

The tropical island has quite a tropical weather as well. Therefore, you have to make sure that you’re visiting during the right time. Determining the best time to visit Zanzibar will help you understand the activities that you can do. Read on to find out what the weather in Zanzibar will be like during each season, so that you can pick the favorite time for you to visit.

Currency in Zanzibar

Zanzibar's currency is the Tanzanian shilling (TZS). See www.oanda.com for the most recent exchange rates. Most lodges on Zanzibar charge in USD; very few will take travellers' cheques, although most accept credit cards (they may charge an additional fee to do so). Buying Tanzanian shillings in Europe or America can be hard; most travellers will buy local currency on arrival in Tanzania or Zanzibar.

Currency in Zanzibar

Zanzibar's International Dialling Code

The International Dialling Code for Tanzania and Zanzibar is +255, followed by the destination's phone number. Calling from Zanzibar, you dial 00 plus the relevant country code (0044 for the Great Britain, 001 for the States).

Food in Zanzibar

The food served in Zanzibar's beach lodges in generally very good, focusing on what's locally available. There are some fine restaurants in Stone Town, mainly serving local dishes, seafood and curries, seasoned with the island's exotic spices; outside of Stone Town, the choices are limited. Drinks include Tanzanian beers (Tusker, Kilimanjaro and Safari), as well as imported beer and wine from South Africa.

Health in Zanzibar

Zanzibar is a tropical island and vaccines are sensible (typhoid, polio, tetanus and yellow fever). Malaria is common, so you should take anti-malarial measures. Always check the latest recommendations with your travel clinic or doctor – more travel info on Zanzibar and Tanzania is given by the Scottish NHS.

Language in Zanzibar

English and KiSwahili are the official languages, spoken by most Zanzibari; beside this, there are many ethnic groups, who speak localised dialects and languages. Some basic KiSwahili will help you to enjoy your trip even more – and even poor attempts to speak it will be hugely appreciated by most islanders!


Please be sensitive when photographing people. Tanzanians are renowned for being friendly, however it is courteous to ask permission before snapping away. Some Government areas and sites (Police station and Post, Army sites, State House) are prohibited to be photographed. We advise you to ask your guide before taking any picture when you pass through these sites.


What to pack

Due to Zanzibar being a conservative Muslim society, dress for both men and women should be modest. For women, skirts or shorts to below the knee or loose-fitting long pants and modest tops with some sort of sleeve are recommended. For men, shorts to the knee or long trousers and shirts with sleeves are recommended. When traveling around the Island we suggest that you travel light, dress comfortably. Also imperative are: sunglasses, sunhat, sunscreen, insect repellent, film and camera.

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