Island Of Swahili's History

Zanzibar Island is a jewel in the ocean, surrounded by beaches that rate among the finest in the world. Here you can swim, snorkel or just lounge the hours away, while shoals of luminous fish graze over nearby coral gardens and pods of dolphins frolic offshore.

In the island's capital, Zanzibar Town, sits the historic quarter of Stone Town, with a mesmerising mix of influences from Africa, Arabia, India and Europe. For these reasons and more, Zanzibar Island (officially called Unguja) is the archipelago's focal point, and the most popular destination for visitors.

The best time to visit Zanzibar is from June to October during the cool, dry months of spring. Another popular time to visit this tropical island is from December to February when it’s hot and dry. We don’t recommend visiting Zanzibar during the two rainy seasons, from mid-March to late May and again inNovember.

Zanzibar Island's gentle beaches alone are enough to make the island the perfect family destination. Many hotels also have swimming pools (ideal for passing time while the tide is out) and spacious grounds, and there's a wide choice of child-friendly cuisine.

Provided you have a visa, Tanzania is straightforward to enter.
Exporting seashells, coral, ivory and turtle shells is illegal. There’s no limit on the importation or exportation of foreign currency, but amounts over US$10,000 must be declared.

Almost everyone needs a visa, which costs US$50 for most nationalities (US$100 for US citizens) for a single-entry visa valid for a maximum of three months. Officially, visas must be obtained in advance by all travellers who come from a country with Tanzania diplomatic representation.

One month is the normal visa validity and three months (upon request) is the maximum. For extensions within the three-month limit, there are immigration offices in all major towns, including Dar es Salaam, Arusha and Moshi; the process is free and generally straightforward. Extensions after three months are difficult; you usually need to leave the country and apply for a new visa.

Many visitors to Zanzibar Island travel from Dar es Salaam on one of the fast and efficient Kilimanjaro ferries. Other ferries are Mandeleo, Serengeti and Flying Horse, but the best are Kilimanjaro ferries. All ferries arrive in Zanzibar Town.

It's also possible to fly to Zanzibar Island (arriving in Zanzibar Town) from Dar es Salaam, Tanga, Mombasa, Nairobi and other destinations in East Africa.

The people of Zanzibar are traditional, mostly rural, and overwhelmingly Muslim, and attitudes are often correspondingly conservative. Avoid getting off to a bad start by observing the following tips:

Clothing Dress appropriately in public: locals are deeply offended by revealing clothing. Keep swimwear to the beach. In towns and villages women should avoid sleeveless tops, plunging necklines and shorts, while men should keep shirts on and avoid shorts that come anywhere near skimpy.

Photography Always ask permission before photographing local people.

Ramadan During Ramadan take particular care with dress, and show respect by not eating or drinking in public places during daylight hours.

Tanzania’s currency is the Tanzanian shilling (Tsh). There are bills of Tsh500, Tsh1000, Tsh5000 and Tsh10,000, and coins of Tsh1, Tsh5, Tsh10 (although these three are rarely encountered), Tsh20, Tsh50, Tsh100 and Tsh200.

US dollars, followed by euros, are the most convenient foreign currencies and get the best rates, although other major currencies are readily accepted in major centres. Bring a mix of large and small denominations, but note that US$50 and US$100 bills get better rates of exchange than smaller denominations. Old-style (small head) US bills and US bills dated prior to 2006 are not accepted anywhere.

Exchanging Money

  • Change cash at banks or foreign exchange (forex) bureaus in major towns and cities; rates and commissions vary, so shop around.

  • Forex bureaus are usually quicker, less bureaucratic and open longer hours than banks, although most rural area don’t have them. They also tend to accept a wider range of currencies than banks.

  • The most useful bank for foreign exchange are NBC,KCB and CRDB banks with branches throughout the country. Countrywide, banks and forex bureaus are closed from noon on Saturday until Monday morning.

Zanzibar Map