These are the words you’ll most likely hear when you arrive to Zanzibar – an island located on the east side of Africa. If you didn’t already know my name is Martina and besides being a teacher, I am a sucker for travelling. Tanzania is currently ranked as a 45th country I visited. I’ve been travelling non-stop for the past 4 years, all along accompanied by my husband Damir. Every year after 1st of January we visit some hot country due to the fact that both of us live for the sun, the sea and the hot weather. However, this year was different in many ways, including travelling. My days were filled with constant checking of the borders, isolations and restrictions linked to the Corona Virus. One of the few countries which allowed the entry without any complications and restrictions was Bosnia and Herzegovina, so naturally we decided to go there.
We had an awesome time there, but I was still dreaming of the tropical beaches in my head. We came back home from Bosnia on Thursday and I decided I really wanted to go to Zanzibar so I found the airplane ticked that fit us perfectly. On Friday we finally bought the tickets from Vienna to Zanzibar and the flight was scheduled for Saturday night. That was the moment it really hit me and I realised I had to plan the whole 10 day trip in 24 hours. I forgot to mention before, but the reason we decided to travel to Zanzibar was the fact that we didn’t have to provide a negative Corona Virus test. Moreover, this island was everything we were looking for to escape the reality.
We drove to Vienna on a Saturday afternoon. That was a pleasant travel because everything went smooth, including the borders. The only thing we needed to do when we approached the Austrian border was show our airplane tickets and say that we are only doing stop through Austria on our way to Zanzibar. We left our car in a nearby hotel (which is a 5 minute drive from the airport) and the transfer to our Terminal was included in the price. The airport was pretty empty so the Check in went smooth. First we flew to Addis Abeba (which lasted 6 hours) and then we continued our flight to Zanzibar for another 2 hours.
At 1pm we landed in Zanzibar and we were welcomed with the temperature of 30 degrees which honestly felt like 40 degrees. We had to pay 50 $ each for a Visa and then we exited the airport. We saw a bunch of Taxis and made a deal with one of them to drive us to the hotel in Stone Town for only 10 $. The streets were so narrow that he had to drop us off in the city. We spent our first two nights at Antonio Garden Hotel – excellent location with clean and tidy rooms + the pool and the restaurant were amazing. We wanted to explore as much as we could and quickly realised that the cheapest way to do so was to buy the excursion plans from the locals on the side of the streets.
PRISON ISLAND & NAKUPENDA ISLAND
Next day we embarked on 2 excursions. For the first one we hired a private boat driver who took us to Prison Island (30 mins with the boat). The highlight of this island was seeing enormous turtles which were a gift from the king of Seychelles to Zanzibar. The oldest turtle was 194 years old and the heaviest one weighted 250 kg. It was incredible to be able to feed them, play with them and make some great photos. It costs 4 $ to visit the island. If you get tired, there is a cafe where you can relax and have a drink.
After the visit to Prison Island we went to a small island called Nakupenda, which means ‘I love you’ in Swahili. An hour on this island was enough to see everything. The locals were preparing food and the tourists were enjoying the sun, the sea and the food. The island in itself is 100 m long and the interesting fact about it is that every 7 days it disappears due to the overflowing of the sea.
FREDDIE MERCURY MUSEUM
Another interesting thing is that Stone Town is the birth place of the one and only Freddie Mercury. His birth house is now a museum definitely worth visiting (8 $). It’s a small museum filled with posters, awards and albums and Queen music is played on repeat. The biggest moment for me as musician was to be able to play a piano which Freddie played in 1985 at Wembley stadium. It was so inspirational to see the difference between how he was brought up and what he achieved with his life and career.
Given the fact that we booked our holiday last minute, the hotel prices were really high and most of them didn’t have any available rooms. We spent the next 2 days on the east side of the island, to be precise – in a place called Matemwe (Sunshine Marine Lodge). The price for one night was just over 100 euros, including breakfast. Resort was beautiful and the service was amazing. The only flaw of the east side was that we couldn’t go into the sea because of the oscillations between low and high tides. This side of the island is quiet, without many things to do so we had to eat in the hotel where the prices were close to the European ones (lunch was roughly 15 euros).
Our trip to Matemwe was a true experience. We travelled with a local bus called Daladala and that was a true African experience. At one point, there was more than 20 people in it – bare in mind that the bus fits maximum of 10 people. After that experience, we decided to travel everywhere with Taxi regardless of the price (which is by the way very high compared to everything else).
After spending 4 days in Africa I realised a few things and knew exactly how I wanted to spend the rest of my vacation. We spent the following 5 days on the most popular beach in Zanzibar called Nungwi beach (we took the Taxi from Matemwe to get there and it costed 30 $). We spent 4 days in Amaan beach bungalows (70 euros per night including breakfast). The location was perfect, the rooms were clean, the beach was nearby and the restaurant had an awesome view. Drinks and food were a bit more expensive than in Stone Town but that’s reasonable because Nungwi beach is the most known place there.
I felt like a true tourist there because everything was made to make tourists feel as good as possible, which is contrary to the rest of the island. The beach is filled with bars, restaurants, water sports, shops, currency exchanges – everything you need. The sea located on the north part of the island is the best for swimming because it doesn’t have many oscillations which I mentioned above. When we stepped out of the resort, we immediately felt the African life and energy, which was really interesting to me and definitely worth getting out of the resort for. There were also a few restaurants there that had lower prices than the hotel. Nungwi beach is the ideal place for relaxation and vacation, as well as for long walks on white sand. You can see beautiful sunsets there, eat amazing food, experience a night life… It’s definitely a must see if you decide to visit Zanzibar.
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After 5 days of relaxation, swimming and sunbathing, we headed back to Stone Town. We spent our last night at Spice Palace Hotel (60 euros per night) which is in the heart of Stone Town. We enjoyed delicious, cheap and local food, we walked on the streets of town and talked with the locals.
The next day after breakfast, we headed to the airport. Our flight home was through Kilimanjaro, and then we flew to Addis Abeba where we waited for our next flight for 6 hours. We landed in Vienna at 7am the next day.
Even though this trip wasn’t planned, I am more than satisfied with everything. Zanzibar is the island for all of the people who want to experience something new, fit in with the locals, enjoy paradise beaches and long walks. I would say that this destination is not too cheap but also not too expensive – actually you could say you get what you pay for.
Important information for travel to Zanzibar:
– currency: Tanzanian shilling 1 euro=2823 TS
– bring only dollars and make sure they were not made before the year 2000
– they don’t understand the difference between euros and dollars (in their heads: euro=dollar)
– it’s best to have cash because if you’re paying with a card they take 5% commission
– exchange your money there, the rate at the airport is not good
– have 50 $ ready for a Visa
– clothes:light and transparent
– sunscreen with high SPF, UV index is 12
– mosquito spray
– vaccine is not essential if you’re travelling directly from Europe
– average meal in a local restaurant: 3-6 euros
– water: 0.20 euros
– electricity: UK socket
– rain season: from April to June, and in November
Costs (for 2 people)
– Flight: 1100 euros
– Parking and travel to Vienna: 150 euros
– Visa: 85 euros (100 $)
– Accommodation: roughly 700 euros
– Food, transport, excursions: 500 euros
– Travel insurance: 50 euros
Total: 2600 euros
If you have any extra inquiries, you can contact me and I will gladly answer your questions. I hope this travelogue helps you plan your next travel.
You can find more info on my Instagram.
Thank you for reading.