Complete Guide to Zanzibar (4 Days)
Zanzibar is truly a little piece of paradise.
We just returned from a long weekend in Zanzibar, and we can only recommend this gem of a place to anyone living in the UAE. It is close, gorgeous and a must visit.
Friendly and inexpensive, it is an island that you really need to experience at least once in your life, so here is our guide to Zanzibar and how we did it all in just 4 days.
The advantage of this small island is that it is possible to condense the essential activities in three full days, but offers enough to stay there for two weeks and really enjoy the relaxed atmosphere if you have the time.
People, colors, food and postcard scenery, everything is absolutely beautiful!
WHAT IS THE BEST TIME TO GO TO ZANZIBAR?
The best time is from May to October, the dry season, and from December to February, or it will be warmer but dry.
That said, we went late March and we had a great time, except when we left and it was pouring rain – a gamble we were willing to take!
HOW TO GO FROM DUBAI TO ZANZIBAR:
We booked our tickets with FlyDubai back in January and got them for an insane deal – less than AED500 each.
The flight there is direct, but the return is via Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. However, we did not have to leave the plane, so it is relatively convenient. We landed in Dar es Salaam, some passengers got off and we left an hour later.
For a 4 day weekend, the logical flight leaves Wednesday 2am (Tuesday night late!) And landed at 6:30 in Zanzibar on Wednesday, leaving a whole day to discover Stonetown, a World Heritage of UNESCO, which is located 6km from the airport.
We left Saturday morning at 9:30 and landed in Dubai that night at 18.30.
OUR HOTEL IN ZANZIBAR:
This hotel is a gem located a little away was very tourist beaches. Very quiet and relaxing, I highly recommend to anyone wishing to make a trip to relax.
Check availability on booking.com !
WHAT TO DO IN ZANZIBAR:
We stayed exactly three full days in Zanzibar.
HERE IS OUR PROGRAM:
We landed at 6:30 am on Wednesday. Our driver picked us up at the airport and took us directly a hotel in Stonetown right on the beach for a hearty breakfast for $ 7.
Our driver, also our guide, then took us around Stonetown for a walking tour for about 2 hours. We learned a lot of interesting anecdotes and visited this beautiful historic city center! Stonetown really is a fascinating place and well worth the time to walk around it when you visit.
Did you know? Freddie Mercury, Queen, lived in Zanzibar until he was 19!
After visiting Stonetown, Aben took us to a Spice Farm called “Hakuna Matata” (no worries in Swahili) for a Spice Tour. We honestly thought this might be a bit dull, but it was utterly fascinating and we’d absolutely recommend a visit.
For a little over an hour we wandered into the forest with our guide, and we stopped at almost every trees and shrub to learn what grew in Zanzibar, from cinnamon to pepper, jack fruit (Jeff’s favorite) to ginger root, nutmeg and coffee beans.
Vanilla, pineapple, lemon grass and other plants and fruits grow in Zanzibar, and it was more interesting than we thought to find out how and when these plants are grown.
We were even given fresh coconut water, freshly picked from one of the palms! (Have you seen our Snapchat?)
Seeing someone climb a palm tree 20 meters high with his bare hands is awesome!
We then drove the rest of the 30 minutes to our hotel where we could finally rest for the afternoon before an early start the nest day.
Thursday was a busy day, but amazing: we left at 8:30 and headed to Mnemba by way of a small village without any tourists, with a deserted beach which was absolutely beautiful (you’d know if you follow the Snapchat ” WhatDoesntSuck “!).
From there, we took a small boat with a friend of our guide and the island of Mnemba, one of the most exclusive private islands in the world – but lucky for us, anyone can swim and snorkel in the water (Just don’t step foot on the beach, as Anne found out!)
En route, we stopped because … wild dolphins had decided to follow us!
Our boat driving just stopped and told us to jump in and swim right over these magnificent creatures. Neither of us could even believe what we were doing – swimming right next to some of the most amazing animals in the world – it was breathtaking.
We then continued our boat trip to the outskirts of the private island, went swimming around, snorkeled all over and saw some amazing fish.
Quickly heading back to our hotel to change, we ate a quick lunch and jumped in a car to Cheetah’s Rock – a must see in Zanzibar.
This nonprofit foundationcollects animals that were given to them or the owner recovered from zoos or abused house holds. The owner, Jenny, is an amazing person who really loves animals and treats them as her children. The tour is quite expensive ($ 140 per person, payable in cash) but worth it. It is the number one activity on TripAdvisor and the education we received on animals was incredible – and it was a full 6 hours playing and learning about these amazing animals.
We hand fed Aslan, a white lion she raised from a pup, learned that the smallest antelope is the cutest animal in the world, and even drank a glass of champagne with the leopard Tyson!
We finally headed back to the hotel where we enjoyed a nice dinner and drinks by the sea.
Friday was dedicated to relaxation, we didn’t even leave the hotel, only venturing on the beautiful beach and stopping at a local beach bar to share a few hours with locals and trying to learn Swahili conversing with them.
We decided to dedicate this day to relaxation, but it is always possible to do more Activities. Visit TripAdvisor for a long list of activities not to miss based on your budget and the duration of your holiday!
BUDGET FOR 3 DAYS IN ZANZIBAR FOR TWO:
- Airplane tickets: AED 1,000 (promotion FlyDubai) Hotel Pongwe Bay Resort for 3 nights + full board (3 meals per day) + drinks: $ 600 (AED 2200) City tour + Spice tower: $ 70 (AED 260) Pick up and drop off at the airport + transfers StoneTown and Mnemba: $ 40 (AED 150)
- Snorkeling: $ 60 (AED 260)
- Cheetah’s Rock: $ 240 (AED 880)
TOTAL: AED 4720
All prices cited above are for two.
SOME TIPS FOR A SUCCESSFUL STAY IN ZANZIBAR:
The beach boys are young men (and sometimes women) on the beach that will approach you and try to sell you magnets, massages, souvenirs and tours. The tours they offer in general are not worth the trouble and it is best booking in advance with tour society recognized by TripAdvisor.
It is expected that you give a tip to everyone who helps you, whether your driver, your guide or driver of your boat. It is customary to give about 20,000 Tanzanian shillings (about $ 10) for a guide, and about 50,000 Tanzanian shillings (about $ 23) to your driver, especially if they served you for many days.
According to our driver “everything is negotiable in Zanzibar”, even housing prices!
If you want to buy souvenirs or even book a tour, you will have to negotiate. Some tips for this: always offer half the amount you want to pay first. Climb slowly and stop before that amount. If the person stops, just leave the store and continue to walk. They know that many stores offer the same thing and you have the power, so most of the time they catch up with you and accept your price.
Do not exaggerate either by offering too low a price as most of their income comes from these sales!
The population of Zanzibar is 99% Muslim, so the dress code will be similar to that of Dubai. At your hotel, you can dress how you want and on the beach. However, when you visit Stonetown, the Spice farms or another place, try to at least cover your knees and shoulders out of respect for the locals.
Most shops accept US dollars as well as Tanzanian Shillings.
If you want to change your dollars, make sure that these are the new notes, because the old or slightly damaged ones might not be accepted in the exchange offices.
During your stay, you will hear “Jambo!” all the time, which simply means “Hi” in Swahili. Feel free to shake hands with people who call you and talk a little with them.
Here are some words in Swahili – it is always appreciated that a foreigner learns a few words of the language:
- Jambo! – Hi!
- Asanta (Sana) – Thanks (Many)
- Hakuna Matata – No problems!
- Sawa – OK
- Habari gani – How are you?
- Jina langu or (…) – My name is (…)
- nor wapi Choo – Where are the toilets?
The contacts below are those we personally use and recommend. Contact us if you have other contacts you have used in the past.
Tours + Driver / Guide
Have you been to Zanzibar? Feel free to give your recommendations in comments below and share this article!