The local currency is Tanzanian Shilling (Tzs). Many hotels require payment in US$, in particular for accommodation, but also for food and drink and for tours. Taxis and car rentals are also paid in US$. You do need Tzs for petrol in case you hire a car, and if you go shopping in the villages (you get better prices when you pay in Tzs). Tzs come in notes of 10,000, 5,000, 2,000 and 1,000 shillings. Coins used here are 500, 200, 100 and 50 Shilling.
Best place and rates to exchange US$ to Tzs are the EXCHANGE BUREAUS in Stone Town, the banks offer bad exchange rates, the exchange rates at hotels are even worse. Currently the exchange rate is Tzs 2250 per US$ (mid April 2018). You get the best rates for notes of $ 50 and $ 100, don’t exchange smaller notes. You can also exchange Euro, GDP, ZAR and other currencies at the exchange bureaus. NB: US$ notes printed before 2006 are not valid in Tanzania/Zanzibar!
The bigger hotels, restaurants and car rentals have credit card facilities. A surcharge of 5% is applicable. Be aware that at many places credit cards are not accepted.
ATMs: You can only draw Tzs against your credit card or a card with a Visa or Mastercard logo. An ATM is at the airport just outside the arrivals hall, there are a few other ATMs in Stone Town. Most ATMs have a maximum payout of Tzs 400,000 per withdrawal. You can use your credit card multiple times though until your daily withdrawal limit on your credit card is reached. You might have to visit different ATMs though.
New ATM from CRDB Bank in the airport parking lot: you can withdraw up to Tzs 600,000.
If you need to draw larger amounts of Tzs rather go to Barclays in town, you can withdraw up to Tzs 1.2 million (no charge if you are a Barclays customer).
NB: ATMs are only in Stone Town. There are NO ATMs outside of Stone Town, with the exception of Paje (to my knowledge – please email me in case you find other ATMs on the island while you are here!):
A Barclays ATM was opened at the Paje Petrol Station in February 2018. Not sure though if it will be regularly maintained, i.e. if cash (Tzs) will be available on a continuous basis. It is a very good and much welcome step in the right direction though.
Petrol costs Tzs 2344 per liter for Super (mid April 2018) and is paid in Tzs. You can also pay in US$ but you’ll get a really bad exchange rate.
Mobile phone/internet: You can buy a simcard from a choice of service providers at a small kiosk outside the airport arrivals hall, or in Stone Town. The service provider with the most coverage on Zanzibar is “Zantel”, a simcard costs Tzs 1000 (incl. Tzs 500 airtime). I suggest that you buy a minimum of Tzs 5000 airtime and load it (*104*vouchernumber#).
Zantel offers prepaid deals for internet, calls and sms:
Mobile INTERNET ONLY packages (as per October 2017):
75MB for Tzs 250 / 250MB for Tzs 500 / 600MB for Tzs 1000 / 1.5 GB for Tzs 2000
1.2 GB for Tzs 5000 / 3GB for Tzs 8000 / 12GB for Tzs 12000
1.5GB for Tzs 10000 / 3GB for Tzs 15000 / 7GB for Tzs 25000
To sign up: dial *149*15#, dial 4 for mobile services, chose daily, weekly or monthly and then your choice of bundle. You will receive a confirmation sms starting with “hongera” (congratulations – for signing up).
Mobile internet plus airtime for calls and text messages, for example:
Epiq 300: Every day, Tzs 300 are deducted automatically from your airtime and you get 10MB internet, 50 free sms and 6 minutes talk time (local) per day.
Epiq 500: Tzs 500 deduction daily off your credit, you get 10MB internet, 60 free sms and 50 MMS and 12 minutes talk time (local) per day
Epiq 999: Tzs 999 deduction daily off your credit, you get 16MB internet, 500 free sms and 100 MMS and 25 minutes talk time (local) per day
To register, dial *149*15#, dial 6 for Epiq, choose your package, your language and then “register”. If you registered successfully, you will receive a sms starting with “hongera”
You can buy airtime (“Zantel crediti”) everywhere you see the green Zantel sign hanging outside the small shops lining the streets all over the island. Be careful, if you ran out of airtime, you need to register again with Epiq.
Wi-Fi hotspots in Stone Town are at the airport, ferry port, at Forodhani Gardens, Mercury’s Restaurant and La Taverna restaurant. Most hotels and restaurants offer free Wi-Fi for their guests.