An archipelago off the coast of Tanzania, Zanzibar’s position in the Indian Ocean with its perfect tropical weather makes it a popular tourist destination.
But is Zanzibar safe for visitors?
In short, Zanzibar is extremely safe and many travellers return here over and over again.
Whether travelling solo, with family and friends or as part of an organised tour, there are a few warnings and dangers travellers to this part of the world need to be aware of to make their trip to Zanzibar safe.
In order to understand whether Zanzibar is safe for travellers, let’s review a few concerns and evaluate the risks.
Is Zanzibar Safe for Tourists?
The laid-back and friendly attitude of the island’s local population is a big attraction for tourists who seek fun in the sun on the spectacular Zanzibar beaches. Throw in vibrant history and all the necessary amenities to make it a safe and comfortable holiday, and a return journey to this part of the world is guaranteed.
Traditions, Customs and Religion Awareness
Zanzibar is largely a Muslim community. Although locals are familiar with Western ways, tourists should always be respectful. This means not displaying too much public affection, making an effort to cover arms and legs and be discreet when consuming alcohol. This is especially relevant during Ramadan, the month of fasting when daytime eating and drinking should be done with respect.
Crime in Zanzibar and Pushy Sellers
Since tourism is the main source of income, Zanzibar is regarded as a safe and welcoming destination for travellers.
As everywhere else, of course, there have been instances of violent crime, this is, however, extremely rare. Visitors should be aware of their new and unfamiliar surroundings and remain vigilant at all times.
A lot of Zanzibar residents present themselves as tour guides for a wide range of activities, from historic excursions to Stone Town to swimming with wild dolphins. They can be overbearing and pushy, so inform them with a firm but friendly attitude that all is already arranged. Bookings for these kinds of activities can be made at hotels and with recognised tour operators.
Most police are friendly and glad to assist tourists to Zanzibar. There are however exceptions sometimes when they fine tourists for some kind of infraction without a ticket. When this happens, ask for a formal ticket, this usually waves payment.
Safety Tips Wherever You Go
I live in South Africa, which is a very dangerous country, and over the years have learned a few safety tips you might find useful in Zanzibar or anywhere else on the planet:
- Lock away passport, jewellery and other valuables in the hotel safe.
- Be aware of pickpockets when out and about exploring and keep money hidden.
- Avoid carrying large amounts of cash.
- In the unfortunate circumstance of a robbery, don’t resist.
- Avoid walking alone at night, rather arrange a taxi through a reputable service.
- Avoid exercising alone, particularly in isolated areas and on beaches.
- If staying in a residential property, lock all doors and windows at night.
- When taking the overnight ferry to and from the mainland, keep valuables hidden and close by.
- When police demand payment for an infraction, ask for a formal ticket to be written.
- When in need of emergency services, dial 112.
Is Zanzibar Safe When It Comes to Health?
Food and Drink Safety
Only drink bottled water in Zanzibar. Tap water should be avoided as the island gets its drinking water from the mainland and is not safe to consume. Caution should be at the order of the day when buying fruit and food on the street, rather be safe than sorry.
See our guide to Zanzibar food.
Zanzibar is a mere six degrees south of the equator which makes the island’s climate hot and humid throughout the year. Proper protection against the sun is therefore very important so be sure to pack effective sunscreen and suitable to individual skin types.
Based on the current global coronavirus pandemic and the emergence of new variants of viruses that cause Covid-19, Zanzibar’s Ministry of Health has implemented the following preventive measures especially in regards to international travellers*.
- All travellers will be required to present a negative RT-PCR test taken within 72 hours before arrival.
- All travellers arriving from India, South Africa, Uganda, DRC Congo, United Kingdom, United State of America, Peru, Brazil, Philippines and Indonesia shall be subjected to rapid test at the Point of Entry at a cost of USD 25. To book the rapid test for arrival and pay online use the following link: https://zanzibarcovidtesting.co.tz.
- All arriving travellers will be subjected to enhanced screening measures at port of entries.
- While in the country, all international travellers and returning residents shall adhere to Infection Prevention and Control measures as required.
- A negative Covid-19 test result on departure from Zanzibar is not needed by travellers unless required by the airline or country of destination.
*Subject to change, please use the link above to check the latest requirements. Ironically, the Ministery’s official website is deemed ‘not secure’ by Google search.
Travellers need to present proof of yellow fever vaccination to safely enter Zanzibar if they are from a country where yellow fever is present.
Whilst visiting Zanzibar, the World Health Organisation also recommends vaccinations against typhoid, hepatitis A and B, rabies, meningitis, polio, measles, mumps and rubella (MMR), Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis), chickenpox, shingles, pneumonia and influenza.
The taking of anti-malaria tablets and the use of mosquito repellent is recommended in order to stay safe in Zanzibar.
Is Transport in Zanzibar Safe?
Travellers to Zanzibar intending to hire a vehicle, need a temporary driving permit. This can be obtained by providing a passport and driving licence from their home country.
Self-driving can be challenging and the following are important points to take note of to travel safely in Zanzibar:
- Driving takes place on the left side of very narrow roads, full of pot holes and with locals more often than not exceeding the speed limit of 50 km/h.
- Driving at night is not recommended as light is virtually not existent with pedestrians and stray animals on the road.
- Road maps are hard to come by and not always up to date.
- Service stations are infrequent and may not have supplies of fuel.
- Keep doors locked, windows up and valuables out of sight, as vehicles are sometimes targeted by thieves.
- There are frequent police road blocks. If stopped by the police, ask to see identification before making any payments for traffic violations.
Travelling between Dar es Salaam on mainland Tanzania and Zanzibar is usually done via ferry. There have been some accidents involving the local population.
Tourists need to heed the following advice to make travelling on a ferry in Zanzibar safe:
- Only make use a reputable ferry company.
- Make sure of the emergency procedures on board and where the life jackets and emergency exits are located.
- If the ferry seems to be be overloaded or unseaworthy, do not get on.
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