12 Feb Zanzibar: Living in a Tropical Paradise in East Africa
Zanzibar is still a very poor country with low minimum wages, poor services and infrastructure and limited opportunities for its residents. However, its people are extremely happy and friendly and the independent island of its country of Tanzania is showing many positive signs for the future. I first visited Zanzibar at the start of 2019 for a good 6 weeks and explored most of the island. There are many different areas and much to learn about
Everyone is very friendly and nearly always say hello with the common, “Jambo” which you respond “Mambo” and they say “Pua” which means welcome. The people are chilled, probably because they have learnt to enjoy the simple things in life. With the growth in tourism there are a growing number of wealthy locals and it seems there is always something for sale. Something being a short term resident nomad and not a tourist can get annoying after a while.
Food in Zanzibar
Being a tropical island, the fruits are some of the tastiest and juiciest I have experienced. It is historically a trade route between Africa, Europe and India so the food heritage is an interesting mix. Breakfast is usually included in most accommodations and consists of a fresh fruit selection, usually pineapple, mango, banana and papaya with a choice of eggs and tea and coffee. Tanzania is known for its coffee and tea so
Accommodation can range greatly in Zanzibar. If looking for a base for a month or so we recommended use booking or airbnb in the area of Paje or Jimbiani. Pay close attention to reviews and only go for 4.5 star or above on Airbnb and 8-10 on Booking.
Work Spots in Zanzibar
Bahari Pizza – Jimbiani – Great pizza and good prices along with the best wifi on the island on the beach.
Transportation in Zanzibar
Taxis cost a lot on the island, but you will always be quoted at least double the fair price. I managed to barter taxis to well under half the opening price for most rides.
Scooters are also very expensive with most places charging $40-$50 per day. Again, bartering is key and I managed to get a scooter for a week at $20 a day. This was confirmed by a few expats who know Zanzibar o be the rock bottom price. Be prepared to walk away from some deals as some can be quite firm in their resolve.
It is advised to carry an international driving license as there are police stops. You can obtain a temporary one with most rental companies for $10. UK information here, please consult your local govenment for further details.
Living in Zanzibar
Zanzibar is a great place to live for a 1 to 3 months of the year. Food, laundry, and bike and car rentals are on the expensive side compared to places like Thailand and Bali. However is you choose to hang at places like Jambiani, you don’t really need full-time scooters, so can just rent for a few days here and there to explore or haggle cheap taxi or tour prices.
Everything in Zanzibar can be highly bartered. Because of the number of tourists, many people make their living from this industry.
- ACCOMMODATION – £500 – £950 per month
- SIM CARD – £7 to buy sim card (Halotel)
- DATA – £8 for 1 month with 12GB
- CAR – £20 per day
- SCOOTER – £16 per day
- TAXIS – £10 for 20mins ride
- BREAKFAST – £5 for fruit, eggs and tea / coffee
- LUNCH – £6 to £11 ranging from local curries to fresh seafood
- DINNER – £6 to £20 local cuisine to fresh lobster
- WATER – 1.5 litres – £0.33 in supermarkets – £1 at resorts and restaurants
- BEER – £2 for most local pint-sized bottles
- WINE – Not huge selections and prices vary massively
- COCKTAILS – From £1.50 upwards
- COWORKING: None available at the time of writing
Sim card in Zanzibar
The Internet is slow in most places in Zanzibar so a sim card is a must. We recommend buying a Halotel sim card (£7) and loading up with 12GB for the month (£8) which should last a while. I had to top up several times while there for 6 weeks which is a small price to pay for reliable internet. The coverage of these sim cards is the best on the island and the signal only disappeared in a few remote spots.
The overall vibe is great, people friendly and a great place to be healthy by eating the local vegetable curries and plenty of reading time.
When to visit Zanzibar?
- JUNE / DEC – Perfect conditions
- JAN / FEB – Windy season, good for kitesurfers and a good time for nomads and always a cooling breeze
- APRIL / MAY – Avoid, extreme rainy season and many places close for the whole of May.
Final Tips & Recommendations
- Barter on every price, you can save a lot of money by going in under half and standing firm
- Get a Halotel (best coverage) sim card and get 35,000 TZX ($15) and get 12GB for a month
- If you can operate on average internet, go live in Zanzibar for a month or two.