To do and not to do

Local customs: 98% of the Zanzibaris are Muslims. Especially in Stone Town, but also in the villages, ladies please do cover your shoulders (good excuse to buy a beautiful Zanzibar scarf) and your knees. Men should wear knee length or long pants and t-shirts.  Nobody will say anything if you don’t dress like this but I believe that one should respect the traditions of the people of the host country.  This dress code doesn’t apply at the coastal areas though.  At the beach you wear normal beach wear, no nude or topless sunbathing (for the ladies) though.

It is strictly prohibited to export shells, no matter what size!
Curio shops will offer them to you, or kids at the beach. Do not buy them! All luggage items are scanned at the airport before you even get to the check in counter. You will pay heavy fines if you are caught with shells in your luggage.

Curio shops will also try to sell you cow horns or any other animal parts. Only buy them if you receive an exportation permit from the Ministry of Agriculture. This applies to any animal part. The shop keepers will most probably tell you “hakuna matata” (no problem). It IS a BIG problem if you are caught with any animal part in your luggage without the official exportation permit.

Concerning ivory, one needs a CITES permit. Having said that, nobody should buy any ivory in any case. In Tananzia, the population of elephants reached shockingly low levels because of ruthless poachers who kill the elephants for their ivory. Our children’s children might not be able to see a live elephant anymore if people don’t stop buying ivory.

Zanzibar airport as well as Dar es Salaam airport have x-ray machines. Every piece of luggage is thoroughly checked. Please do not take any chances.

Plastic carrier bags are officially banned on Zanzibar. Zip-lock bags are exempt since tourists usually take them back home with. Kindly leave your plastic bags at home.

Please do walk through the villages. Zanzibaris are wonderful and hospitable people, super friendly, they smile with their eyes (dress code in villages is a bit more relaxed than in Stone Town but please do not walk through the villages in a bikini!). You will be greeted with plenty of “Jambo” (hello) while you walk through the village, please do reply  “Jambo”!  It would be rude not to.

Homosexuality is a criminal offence here and punished by imprisonment. If you see Zanzibari men walk holding hands it is a sign of friendship, not homosexuality – this only applies to locals!

At the beach / in the ocean:
Please do not pick up Cone snails or Cone shells (see photo). They are found on most of the beaches of the Indian Ocean. These shells look very pretty and are shaped like a geometric cone.  The snails are venomous and capable of stinging humans with the effect of paralyzing the area around the sting. The sting of small cones is similar to a bee sting, but the sting of a few of the larger species of tropical cone snails (found at the reef) can be serious.

cone snail shells

Watch out for the black sea urchins, spiky things that you do not want to step into.  They are clearly visible at low tide so watch your step; preferably wear special shoes.

black sea urchin

If you go snorkeling to the coral reefs please do not touch or even step on any corals.  If you are lucky enough to swim with dolphins, please do not touch them – they ain’t Flipper!

Sea turtles, starfish and any other sea creatures: PLEASE leave them in the sea! Some tour guides will tell you it doesn’t harm them when you take them out of their natural habitat, just to please you or for an extra tip. They have no idea that the creatures are harmed when they are taken out of the water! So please stop them if they attempt to do that. Thank you on behalf of these beautiful creatures.

You will encounter so-called “beachi boys” who offer you anything from going snorkeling, selling handmade jewelry, etc.  They usually are friendly guys and if you say no, they in all likely-hood want to just have a chat, finding out who you are and where you come from.  As I said, most of them are really friendly, except in more touristy areas like Nungwi/Kendwa they can be quite pushy. In case you don’t feel like chatting just tell them so. Do not pay a beachi boy upfront for any tour, snorkeling etc!

Motorized vehicles are prohibited on the beach! Locals ignore this and usually get away with it but if you are caught riding a scooter or quad bike on the beach, you will be fined heavily. Besides that, people come to our beaches to relax here and the sound of a scooter riding on the beach is most certainly annoying.

Lately, some ruthless people brought jet skis to the island.  They are PROHIBITED on Zanzibar!  Jet skis destroy the environment and also disturb the peace and quiet that our tourists come here for. Don’t take any chances. If you are caught renting or riding a jet ski you will pay substantial fines.

Kids will ask you for “pipi” = sweets, “pennie” = pen for school, or “dollar”.  PLEASE do not give them anything. They were taught by the tourists to beg and we all try to stop this.  If they invite you to play soccer with them, do so!  Please speak English with the small and big kids as much as possible, the English they learn at school is shocking.

If you do want to help and bring something for the local community, here are some suggestions:
– pens, pencils and other stationary (notebooks have to be of a certain format and must therefore be purchased on the island); books with pictures and the English name printed below the picture
– medicines: any type of medicines is well-received by our local doctors/nurses/clinics who do amazing work for both our local community and hotel guests
– your holiday is an ideal opportunity to clean out your closet: bring used clothes, trainers/shoes
– mobile phones/smart phones are popular, even simple phones with charger are highly appreciated
– and old sunglasses, any shape or size – you can give them directly to the ladies at the beach who plant and harvest seaweed, PLEASE!

If you bring things for the kids, please do not just hand your gifts out to them on the beach – it encourages a begging mentality especially among the children. Kids should receive your donations not as a gift but as a reward, for example for collecting recycling garbage that is washed up at the beaches. There are quite a few such beach clean ups taking place all over the island, mostly organized by some hotels in collaboration with Zanrec (recycling company). Best inquire at your hotel who organizes these events and drop off your donations there. It will be much appreciated.

You can also drop off your donations at the Creative Education Foundation of Zanzibar in Stone Town (CEF). This is a wonderful NGO that focuses on educating orphans and under privileged children. “We believe that if we can provide a quality education to just one child from a family in need, that child can help support their extended family and community in the future.” http://www.cefzanzibar.org  If you wish you can contact them on cefzanzibar@gmail.com to find out what they need. In this case, all donated pens, pencils etc go directly to the kids.

Even the smallest donation counts and will be appreciated by the local community. Additionally, you will then have space in your suitcase to fill up with our beautiful fabrics, crafts, jewelry and souvenirs.

Buying property on Zanzibar: An increasing number of tourists fall in love with Zanzibar and want to buy land here. Some locals will tell you “hakuna matata, you can buy the land together with me since by law you must have a Zanzibari partner”. This is not true anymore, the laws have changed. Herewith a few guidelines:

– All land on Zanzibar is owned by the Government. The locals get a right of occupancy, which they can sell. Ownership remains with the government.

– If you buy land for personal use (you are not allowed to do any business/derive any income from the property): Besides making a sales contract with the local occupant of the land, you must apply for a LEASE from the Government. The lease initially is for 33 years, but can be extended to 66 or 99 years. This is a long process. A beach property can not be bought for private use, only for business.

– If you buy land or a property for commercial use, you must register a company with ZIPA. Visit them BEFORE you buy a property and get as much information as possible.

– DO NOT make any deals regarding land or property directly with locals. Often one person says they own the land but in the end an entire family owns it. Or they don’t have any legal papers for the land, for example.

I strongly advise to get a really good lawyer or Advocate involved if you want to buy a property here. I bought land here a few years ago without involving a lawyer, which was a big mistake. I had to hire a lawyer who was useless, then another one etc etc – I had shocking experiences with incompetent and ruthless lawyers on the island, which turned out to be a very costly experience. This seems to be the norm here. Luckily, I ultimately found really good Advocates who also communicate well (!). I will gladly share their contact details, please send me an email (zanzibargaby@gmail.com)

Please also read https://www.remaxomela.com/2017/05/31/zanzibar-land-transfer-process/

 

Please DO use some Swahili words:
The people of Zanzibar are incredibly friendly. Greetings like saying “Hello” are a must.

Here are some basics:

Jambo “Hello” – you will hear plenty of Jambos on this island, please always reply with a friendly Jambo, and a smile
Mambo    slang for Jambo – reply “poa” (OK, fine, cool)
Habari    also means Hello, but more respectful (reply mzuri)
Habari za asubuhi    good morning
Habari za jioni    hello, during the day
Usiko mwema    good night
Lala salama    sleep well
Shikamo    greeting used for elders, respectable people – reply “Marahaba
Kwaheri    good-bye

Nzuri    good / nice / beautiful / I am fine
Karibu    welcome, come in, also said when someone offers you something
Ahsante    Thank you! (reply to Karibu)
Tafadhali    please
Sana    means “very”, for example Ahsante sana = thank you VERY much.
Samahani    excuse me, sorry
Pole    “I am sorry for your misfortune” This applies to everything from watching someone tripping over something, or if someone is sick
Pole pole    “slowly, slowly” everything is pole pole on Zanzibar
Haraka    faster, quickly

Ndiyo    yes
Hapana   no
Sawa    you hear this quite often, it means “allright, ok, understood”
Poa    slang for OK, cool
Sijui    “I don’t know”
Hapa    here
Safari    journey “Safari njema” = safe journey
Picha    picture, photo
Choo    toilet
Polisi    police
Hatari    means danger, you might see a sign “Hatari” on the roadside warning you of building works

Leo    today
Kesho    tomorrow
Kesho kutwa    the day after tomorrrow
Asubuhi    morning
Mchana    lunch time
Jioni    afternoon
Usiko    evening/night
Saa    time
Saa ngapi?    what time? – please note that on Zanzibar, the new day doesn’t begin after midnight, but at 06h00 in the morning, which means that 07h00 am is 01h00 am here. Yes, it is confusing.

Chakula food, in general
Chakula chema enjoy your meal
Maji water
Kahawa coffee
Maziwa milk
Chai tea

Hakuna matata! no problem, no worries

 

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Fantastic poster of New Teddy’s Place, Paje

 

 

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28 thoughts on “To do and not to do

  1. Hi dear!

    Your page is just marvelous, its so helpful and I love each and every useful tips you give! Keep it up 🙂

    Me and my friends (7 girls) are planing to travel to Zanzibar on the first week of February, we want to go to the beautiful sandbanks in Nungwi and explore stone town, but it all depends on which hotel we find. My question is if it is possible to hire a taxi for all of us, (where?) and how long does it take from ex Nungwi to Stone town. Do you maybe know the price? 🙂

    And if our plane arrives at 1Am, is it possible to find taxis at that hour, by the airport, to take us to our hotel?

    Thank you dear,
    Isra

    Like

    • Hi Isra,

      I am very happy to hear that you enjoy my webpage.

      Taxis are usually available 24/7 at Zanzibar International Airport. However, it works out cheaper if you book the taxi beforehand, besides the peace of mind factor. I always recommend Kibabu Cars since they are consistently reliable and offer a great service (www.kibabucars.com), be that for rental cars or taxis.

      The trip from Nungwi to the airport takes approx. 1 hour. The taxi fare should be US$ 50. I doubt though that all 7 (or 8?) of you plus luggage will fit into one taxi (mini bus). Please check that when you inquire for the taxi.

      Cheers
      Gaby

      Like

  2. Thanks , Gaby ! Lots of useful information in your blog !
    We are going to Zanzibar in Jan 2017 to relax and take photos. Will it possible to see Saturday-Sunday markets in Zanzibar ? If yes, where you would recommend to go ?
    Thanks again !

    Like

  3. Dear Gaby,
    Thank you for so many wonderful information.
    Would you please help me out to know the perfect month to visit/stay in Zanzibar?
    Warm Regards, Ajay

    Like

    • You are most welcome.
      Besides April and especially May (rainy season) any month is good to visit Zanzibar. If you are not used to hot temperatures, avoid December and January which are the hottest months here.
      Cheers, Gaby

      Like

  4. Hi Gaby,
    Your blog is such a great find! Thank you.
    It’s very informative & helpful.
    I am here with my family (husband & 3 young children) inthe Jambiani area over the last 9 days and it is just the most beautiful place. Zanzibar has the most amazing beaches!just love it here and the people are so friendly. Jambo everywhere we go.
    Can I ask you a few questions please?
    We are heading to Stonetown today for one night and have booked accommodation in an apartment I found on booking.com called Stonetown Pearl apartment. I can’t seem to find any rewiews on it. It looks great and the correspondence with the owner is great but it would be nice to read a review. If you know this accommodation, please let me know your review. It is on Shangani street.

    Tomorrow morning we travel on the ferry to Dar a Saleem, then on to Airport to catch our flight home that afternoon.
    Any comments on traveling on the local ferry would be greatly appreciated. Everyone seems to fly but we have decided to take the ferry donot sure how it will be.

    Like

    • Hi Annette,
      Great to hear that my blog helps and that you fully enjoy this beautiful island.
      I don’t know any apartment accommodation in Stone Town. Same applies to hotels, we have almost 400 on the island!
      I never used the ferry. I heard though that the best seats are in the VIP area.
      Cheers, Gaby

      Like

  5. Hello Gaby
    If we want to go to Dar es salaam for a day visit while based in Zanzibar, are we to have had the yellow fever inoculation.
    Is it possible to undertake such a visit?

    Like

  6. Hi! My friends and I are going to Zanzibar for a few weeks in December, we were wondering a couple of things;
    For sunbathing is it recommended to start on a higher than normal sun factor, considering where Zanzibar is on the equator?
    What possibilities are there for ATM withdrawal? Is Debit or Master/Credit Card preferred? Or cash?
    Also, Visa is obtainable at Zanzibar airport for European (UK, Scandinavian) citizens yes? 🙂

    Like

    • Hi, I suggest that you use the strongest sun block available. Rather start off with sun bathing in the shade.
      Please read the pages “money / ATMs / internet on phone” and “how to get here/visa” for your other questions.

      Like

  7. Such a lovely blog. Thanks for all the info.

    I’m travelling to Zanzibar with my husband but have just heard that smoking is frowned on. Is that true and are cigarettes easy to buy?

    Like

    • Hi, you are most welcome. Smoking in public is not common here. You can smoke at the resorts or restaurants and cafes though. Should you be here during Ramadan please do not smoke, eat or drink in public. Nobody will say anything but it will be a sign of respect for the locals if you refrain from doing so.
      Have a wonderful holiday on my beautiful island.

      Like

  8. Hi ,
    Very useful blog!
    So we’re planning on going to Zanzibar in May. Around the 18th. For our babymoon. We just want to have a quiet time and relax on the beach. Is may really bad timing? Does it rain all day? Should we consider another destination?

    Like

  9. Hi Gaby!
    I’m sure by now you must be tired of hearing this BUT you really do have a blog unlike anything else I could find on the internet! 😀 My partner and I are coming for 7 days in December and planning on doing a self-drive trip around the island. I have two questions:

    1. Is there a specific order of driving around the island that is better i.e. heading North first then West and then South or vice versa?
    2. Do you know of any reputable fishing companies? My partner is very interested in doing a fishing outing but we want to use a company that is trustworthy and respectful to the ocean and its wildlife.

    Thank you so much for your time.

    Like

    • Hi Lize,
      I never get tired of hearing that my blog is fantastic 🙂
      1. There is no particular order when exploring the island. It entirely depends on your interests.
      2. I don’t know of any fishing companies but suggest that you contact Safari Blue on info@safariblue.net They are on the island for over 20 years already, taking care of the environment by minimizing their footprints. They also improve the lives of Zanzibaris through their programme of Social Corporate Responsibility. I am certain that Eleanor will be able to recommend a responsible fishing company.
      Have a wonderful holiday on my beautiful island,
      Gaby

      Like

  10. Mambo Gaby!

    Thank you for lots of great info. You mention the need for unused sunglasses (we have probably 10 lying around!) – what would your suggestion be for getting those to the ladies that need them? We will be staying close to Paje and doing a moderate amount of moving around.

    Like

    • Mambo poa. That’s fantastic Manny. You can either bring the sunglasses to the Seaweed Centre in Paje and ask the manager to distribute them to the local ladies who harvest the seaweed. Or you can hand out the sunglasses to the ladies yourself, just walk on the beach at low tide towards Bwejuu where the seaweed grows. Many blessings.

      Like

  11. I hope you don’t mind but I have two questions

    1). Can you but bottles of wine in restaurants and shop in jambanai zanzibar

    2). What’s the average weather in Middle February and Middle March – have looked at forecasts but sadly all different!!!!!
    We would like hot weather with very little rain but not the height of season for tourists
    Kind regards Jan

    Like

    • Most hotels and restaurants on the island stock bottles of wine for their guests. You can buy wine and other alcoholic beverages in Paje at the Supaduka.

      Temperatures mid February to mid March are usually around 25-30 degC. There might be short rain showers in March.

      Cheers, Gaby

      Like

  12. Jambo!!

    Thank you so much for this wonderful blog!

    Me and my girlfriend are going to visit Zanzibar at the end of October for 2 weeks. May I ask do you know anything about Jambiani beach? Is it a safe part of Zanzibar?

    We are planning to ask hotel to send us a taxi which will pick us up.

    Our flight going to leave after midnight so is it safe if we stay at the aiport at the night?

    Also we are planning to bring lots of school acceroies and some clothes. :)))

    Thank!!

    Like

    • Sijambo! Karibu.
      Zanzibar is as safe as it gets. Of course, the ever increasing number of tourists has the unwelcome side effect of petty crimes. Only keep a little cash on you when walking on the beach, leave your passport, credit cards, jewellery and other valuables in the hotel safe (only carry a photocopy of your passport with you). There were some reports lately that tourists got robbed while walking at night on the beach of Jambiani and on the tar road.
      Jambiani has quite rocky stretches of beach, it depends on where you intend to stay?
      I personally prefer the beaches of Paje, Bwejuu (my favourite), Dongwe, Pingwe and Michamvi.
      Check the price of the taxi, it should be max. 50 US$ from the airport to Jambiani. You can also prebook your taxi, I have very good experiences with Kibabu Cars (info@kibabucars.com), they also offer a taxi service. Very reliable.
      Zanzibar International Airport is safe at any time.
      Many blessings and thank you for bringing school accessories and some clothes. Please don’t hand them out directly to the kids, it will only promote begging. Check with your hotel who will organize the next beach clean-up and rather donate your gifts to the organisers, they will then be used as rewards for the kids for collecting recyclable rubbish at the beaches.
      Cheers, Gaby

      Like

  13. Dear Gaby I am planning to stay in Stone town for four nights with my sister and friends. We are booked at the Park Hyatt but I find it very expensive.I would like to stay close to the group and found the Doubletree Hilton a third the price. It looks like comparable accommodation and I could donate the differences to a charity like HABS. My question is how far is it between the two hotels and is it safe to walk at night .Thanks for your help.

    Like

    • Dear Jbc, the Double Tree Hilton is a 2 minute walk from the Park Hyatt. If you are all females rather get a trusted male to walk with you at night. The ever increasing number of tourists has the unfortunate side effect of thugs being drawn to Stone Town from other African countries, besides some local petty thieves. As a general rule leave your valuables and especially your passport in your safe (only carry a copy of your passport) and only have a small amount of cash with you. Rather be safe than sorry.

      Like

  14. Hi Gabi,

    You are just amazing! 🥰

    I am planning to come in November, found beautiful hotel in Nungwa but my concern is if it is safe for a lady to travel alone?
    Of course I would not go anywhere alone at night and planning to arrange day trips during the day, I guess I would not be alone on these trips. If you have any good and reliable guide to recommend in Nungwi that would be great.

    Thanks a lot

    Like

    • Hi Danijela.
      Thank you for your kind words. Zanzibar in general is as safe as it gets, also for solo female travellers. Be streetwise. Don’t walk around with your passport (a photocopy will do) or jewelry. Keep only cash on you that you will need for the day. Nungwi is very touristy which obviously attracts thieves etc from other countries, besides some locals.
      I haven’t been in Nungwi for years. Rather ask on Tripadvisor if anyone can recommend a local guide.
      Cheers, Gaby

      Like

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