If you heard some nice things about Zanzibar and you're planning to go there next time you're on vacation, you might soon realize that there's a lot more to this tiny collection of self-governed islands in Tanzania.
So it's definitely a good idea to keep that in perspective and get informed about the most important facts and details you have to know before visiting Zanzibar.
1. Getting Around Is Surprisingly Easy
When you're in Zanzibar, the general perception will be that you'd expect to find stuff with difficulty and run into a lot of challenges and culture barriers. The reality is that you will be able to safely and conveniently plan your own trip and itinerary, especially if you can afford to rent a car.
If you can't then you'll find the cheapest way to travel is to spend about $1.50 for a dala dala that will take you from one side of the island to the other. Unguja, Zanzibar's main island is only about 30 km wide at its widest point, so it won't take you long to get to just about any point of the island that you want to see.
2. Travel Requirements and Cash
When you visit Zanzibar, you'll find that it's very important to have some cash on you - especially in the form of Tanzanian Schillings and US Dollars. Surprisingly enough, most other international currencies will not be as readily accepted as USD. You'll also be expected to provide USD$50 upon entry in order to pay for your visa.
The great thing for citizens from many countries around the world is that they will not be required to use a visa, if they only visit Zanzibar for 3 months or less. Unfortunately, the US, the UK and some other western countries are not on the list, so there will be visa requirements to visit Zanzibar for anyone traveling from those locations regardless of their circumstances.
3. Religion and Customs
Judging by the colorful look of the garments that Zanzibar's girls and women wear, you wouldn't expect it to be a conservative place. However, with most of the population being Muslim, the customs and traditions in Zanzibar tend to be somewhat more restrictive.
The dress code is typically modest, colorful and inscribed with a proverb, that is considered to be an essential part of the dress code women adhere to. Also, it's worth mentioning that the Muslim faith, as it is applied in Zanzibar, ensures that it's an overall safe, pleasant and interesting place, where a tasteful moderation in all activities is typically preferred.
4. Get Ready to Be Wowed by the Local Cuisine
Another thing you need to know when you visit Zanzibar is that the local cuisine is simply amazing. From green boiled bananas to cassava in coconut milk and octopus curry, you can expect many of the local dishes to surprise and astound you; and in many cases the surprise will be a remarkably pleasant one! The cuisine is inspired by Arab, Portuguese and Indian dishes, ensuring that there will definitely be something tasty for each member of your party.
5. A Surprisingly Large Array of Activities
Zanzibar is so much more than just a place where you can relax on the beach. You'll be surprised to see how many activities are in store once you visit. From swimming with dolphins, underwater safaris and a calming sunset cruise, to a visit to the Nungwi lighthouse or Zanzibar's former slave market site, there will be a wealth of locations to explore and adventures to enjoy. So be ready to tackle everything with enthusiasm and an open mind.