If you visit Zanzibar, you’ll see some of the world’s most beautiful beaches. They are complete with gorgeous reefs for snorkeling and crystal-clear turquoise water.
But Zanzibar is more than just a beach vacation. Great restaurants, wonderful live music options. You will find many festivals within the city and its historic center of Stone Town. Everything you need to know is right here.
Arriving In And Departing From Zanzibar
Zanzibar has two main access points: the airport and the seaport. Both will result in a somewhat hectic arrival. It’s a good idea to plan ahead of time how you’ll get to your destination.
This is directly in the heart of Stone Town, so getting to the ancient town is a breeze. Unfortunately, Stone Town lacks public transportation. The only way to get to the beach is to take a taxi or walk about one kilometer to the local buses, known as dala dalas.
Taxis are plentiful, and local buses also run through the airport (outside the gates). However, because the buses are exclusively city buses, they are of no use for going to other locations. You’ll need to change at the bus station (which is currently just a sidewalk with no direction signs – hey, it’s an adventure!). If you’re traveling further than Zanzibar city, you’ll need to change at the bus station.
Taxis from town (including the ports and airport) to beach destinations like Nungwi, Matemwe, or Paje should cost around USD 30 to 60. Expect to pay around USD 10 to get from the airport to Stone Town.
How To Get Around Zanzibar
Local dala dalas and taxis are the two possibilities. There are also shared buses that run between Stone Town and the beaches. This costs around USD 10 per passenger.
Public Transit/Dala Dalas
Depending on your destination, public transportation is very reasonable, costing under USD 4. They’re also slow since they stop frequently along the way. There seems to be no limit to the number of people who can squeeze on one bus! Be warned: figuring out which dala dala to use will most likely take some work. But the conductors are really helpful.
Taxis are plentiful in Stone Town, but they might be difficult to locate from the shore. It’s usually a good idea to request a taxi from your hotel or discover a reputable firm that can provide you with transportation. Taking a cab in Zanzibar is secure, but keep in mind that they are frequently late and charge as they like.
There are a few taxi companies in Zanzibar (such as the Zanzibar Taxi). None are available on demand; you must let them know when and where you want to go ahead of time.
If you’re staying in Stone Town, walking is the most effective mode of transportation! Walking through the town is safe as long as you keep an eye out for the fast-moving vespas. Walking is also enjoyable. If you venture a little further out from the more popular, touristy spots.
What Can You Do While You Are in Zanzibar?
Stone Town has a plethora of bars and lounges. Some of them have quiz nights, karaoke nights, and live music, but most of them have DJs. The Shangani section of Stone Town includes a variety of venues to visit. You can visit Tatu, 6 Degrees South, and The Post. In addition, the Park Hyatt hotel conducts regular parties.
Head outside of Stone Town to the pubs and nightclubs for a more down-to-earth experience. The most well-known, Messi Club, is oddly owned by the army. It is on army grounds in the Chukwani neighborhood. In the Chukwani area, and the surrounding Mbweni, there are other interesting locations to visit.
Always remember that being drunk in public outside of bars, and drinking in public, is not acceptable.
If you enjoy live music, the Dhow Countries Music Academy’s concerts of classical Zanzibari music are a must-see. Almost every night, the Emerson on Hurumzi hotel in Stone Town hosts a live music meal on their rooftop. Monsoon Restaurant also hosts regular live music evenings.
Check out the bands and artists performing at the various hotels. Saturday nights at Kendwa Rocks and Crazy Mondays at Red Monkey Lodge, for popular music.
What Is Going On In Zanzibar?
Unfortunately, there is no central place to go to find out what’s going on in the city. You can find some Facebook groups, such as Zanzibar Residents, where you can find out what’s going on.
There is the longest-running Zanzibar International Film Festivals (ZIFF), it takes place in June and July. It is the most important event in town. Another popular event is the Sauti za Busara music festival, in February.
There is also the Jahazi Literary & Jazz Festival, the Stone Town Food Festival, and the Zanzibar Beach & Water Sports Festival. These are just a few of the smaller festivals that take place in Zanzibar.
Expect to enjoy mainland Tanzanian favorites and Indian and Arabic cuisines. Zanzibar has a very diverse food culture. Seafood is, of course, an important component of Zanzibari cuisine.
It has a variety of curries, sauces, soups, and fried meals to choose from. Food is spicy but not hot; hot sauce (pilipili) is normally provided separately, so if you don’t like it, you may skip it.
Most Zanzibari meals are dairy-free and meat is frequently served separately. Zanzibari cuisine is particularly vegetarian and vegan-friendly. Almost every restaurant offers vegetarian options. Some Indian eateries in Stone Town specialize in vegetarian cuisine.
Lukmaan Restaurant in Stone Town is one of the most dependable destinations for local cuisine. It’s consistently delivering delicious meals at a reasonable price.
Another must-see is the Forodhani Night Market. Your best chance is to go where the locals go because you’ll know the food is likely to be fresh.
When in doubt, take a seat in one of the cafés and place an order. Tea and coffee are important in Zanzibar culture, so bring some with you. They’re usually served with spices and are rather tasty. Don’t forget you can find the luscious fresh fruits almost anywhere.