Travelling to Zanzibar? The essentials you need to know before arriving

WT Writer
May 6, 2021

As one of the selected countries open to UAE travellers at the moment, Zanzibar is continuing to be a popular vacation destination for the long Eid weekend and beyond.

Zanzibar, located in the Indian Ocean, is proving a more popular holiday destination than ever for UAE residers. As many other destinations are either closed to tourists, require quarantine or isolation or are simply too far away for a long weekend, Zanzibar has been The Place to Visit for holiday seekers in the age of Covid-19.

Whether you’ve booked your flights or you’re mulling over your next getaway, here’s the basics you need to know before arriving.

Zanzibar: Get to know the basics

boat on shore in Zanzibar blue skies sunrise
Zanzibar is a collection of islands. Credit | Pixabay

Is Zanzibar a country?

Similarly to the Maldives or Seychelles, Zanzibar is a group of islands in the Indian Ocean. However, it’s actually a partly self-governing state in Tanzania rather than an independent country, and visitors with visa to the East African country don’t need a separate one to come to Zanzibar.

The main (and biggest) island is commonly referred to as Zanzibar Island, however, it is actually known as Unguja locally.

Is Zanzibar expensive? And what currency is in use?

The currency in Zanzibar is Tanzanian Shilling (TZS). According to Xe Currency Converter, at the time of writing, 1.00 Emirati Dirham converts to 631.51 Tanzanian Shillings. But how far will that get you once in the archipelago?

According to hikersbay.com, prices for basics in Zanzibar are cheaper than in the UAE. They prices some basic as follows:

“Bottle or carton of milk (1 litre): 5.70 AED (3,600 TZS)
Popular yellow cheese (1 kg): 41 AED (26,000 TZS)
A bottle of hop from a known brand: 8.40 AED (5,300 TZS)
A sausage or cold cuts (1 kg): 24 AED (15,000 TZS)
A mid-range grape (one bottle): 30 AED (19,000 TZS)”

In terms of a seven-day stay, a budget stay is on average AED1,800, a comfortable week is priced at AED2,100, while a luxury week in Zanzibar will set you back AED8,000.

White sands and palm trees… Zanzibar boasts a tropical climate. Credit | Pixabay

What is the landscape and climate like?

Much like its Indian Ocean neighbours, Zanzibar is a warm, tropical landscape boasting sandy beaches, clear blue waters and green landscapes.

Untouched land is surfaced with greenery and vegetation such as coconut palm trees. Across the islands, there are only four named mountains, and the highest point across the islands is Uwemba Hill, which has an election of 157ft. This makes Zanzibar a ripe location for snorkelling, diving and hiking adventures.

The best times to visit are between July and October when the weather is mostly dry and warm. Between May and August, temperatures range between 20-30 degrees celsius.

What is the main language?

Primarily, Zanzibaris speak Swahili (Kiswahili), but, the country as a whole is multilingual, with many people speaking English. Keeping it basic, familiarise yourself with the word ‘shikamoo’ – which is a respectful hello to elders or people you’re not acquainted with.

Is Zanzibar a religious region of Tanzania?

A secular state, yet Tanzania has a mix of religions among its population. According to data published in 2010, two-third of the religious population is Christian, one-third Muslim.

Zanzibar, however, is mostly Muslim (as much as 98 per cent of the population) however.

Zanzibar and Covid-19:

Covid-19 face mask, gloves and PPE
Travellers to Zanzibar require a negative Covid-19 test result. Credit | Pixabay

How many Covid-19 cases have been reported in Zanzibar?

According to worldometer, at the time of writing, Tanzania has only had 509 cases of Covid-19.

Is there a Covid-19 vaccine programme in place in Tanzania?

Earlier this year, headlines were made as the country rejected any vaccine programme.

On February 2, 2021, Health Minister, Dorothy Gwajim, announced that the country “has no plans in place to accept COVID-19 vaccines,” adding, “we are not yet satisfied that those vaccines have been clinically proven safe.”

There have been no further updates at the time of writing.

What is the Covid-19 testing policy when travelling between UAE and Zanzibar?

According to Emirates Airlines, “All travellers, whether foreign nationals or returning residents are required to present a negative Covid‑19 RT‑PCR test certificate. The test must be conducted within 72 hours before arrival in Tanzania. All travellers […] will be subjected to enhanced screening for Covid‑19 including a rapid test for those arriving from countries with a high number of Covid‑19 cases. The cost of the rapid test is USD 25 per traveller.”

As for returning, a negative test must be presented on arrival, but quarantine rules differ depending on emirate.

Staying put over the long weekend? Then discover these UAE staycation spots to help you reconnect with Arabic culture and traditions this Eid.