Are you wondering whether Zanzibar is safe for tourists?
After traveling to Zanzibar on my own as a female traveler and meeting a friend there, I can tell you that Zanzibar is a safe place for tourists to visit.
Based on my own experience while visiting Zanzibar, I would like to provide you with safety tips in Zanzibar in terms of crime, culture, natural disasters, swimming in the ocean, drinking tap water, and more so you are safe and enjoy your vacation.
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Is Zanzibar Safe?
Zanzibar is a very popular tourist destination. This archipelago off the coast of Tanzania is renowned for its pristine beaches, crystal-clear turquoise waters, and rich cultural heritage. The government and local people try their best to keep it a safe place for all visitors.
Even though Zanzibar is a safe place, you have to know that traveling to Africa is different than traveling to Europe, so you need to be cautious and adapt to the local culture.
Crime in Zanzibar
As tourism is the main source of income for the country, crime in tourist areas is low, however, it does exist. When you are visiting Zanzibar or any African country, there is no need to bring expensive and flashy jewelry with you.
When going to the beach, do not take your passport, credit, and debit cards, cash, and other valuable things with you, and keep them in your hotel safe. Unless you are a group of people and someone can still watch the belongings. Never leave your belongings unattended on the beach as they can be stolen very easily.
When you are going out of your hotel for a tour, visiting different places or Stone Town, take a copy of your passport instead of your actual passport and some cash. When in Stone Town, take care of your bag, have it close to you, and keep valuable things in a smaller pocket inside the bag. Always make sure the bag is closed.
While you are shopping in Stone Town when the prices are not fixed, you should negotiate the price, just make sure you are not putting the price too low to offend the person.
If you want to go for a tour, always book through a reputable company online or through the hotel you are staying in. You will be approached by sellers on the beach or street trying to offer you a tour, so be nice and tell them you already have tours organized.
Never walk on the streets or the beach after dark. It is very dangerous. Not only because of thefts but also the sexual assault of women. Especially in the Stone Town.
For example, I arrived in Tanzania, Dar Es Salam at night and had to take a ferry to Zanzibar. However, there were no ferries at night, so instead of going to the port in the middle of the night, I waited at the airport, which was a safe place, and took a taxi in the morning to the port to take my ferry to Zanzibar.
I was glad I decided like this as in the port area there was nowhere to stay inside a building to be safe.
Religious and cultural customs
Zanzibar is a Muslim country, therefore people are more conservative. There are certain rules that you need to follow to respect the culture and religion and not get in trouble.
When you are on a beach and in your hotel resort, you can wear a bikini and clothes you like. However, when you go for a tour, visiting villages, Stone Town, make sure you are dressed more conservatively.
This means wearing anything up to your knees at least and covering your shoulders. It is illegal to dress unrespectfully while outside of your hotel resort.
Zanzibar being a Muslim country means, that it is also a dry country, so you will not be able to buy alcohol there in stores. Also, do not bring alcohol with you to the country. However, there is alcohol in your hotel resort where you can drink.
When it comes to drinking alcohol, make sure you are not going over the top and ending up on the streets lost as this is not only dangerous but can lead to trouble if police see you.
Otherwise, local people are very friendly, nice, and laid back and you can get into conversation with them easily. If you want to take a picture of anyone, just ask for their permission.
There are no natural disasters in Zanzibar. The only thing that can happen is longer rain during the rainy season. Therefore it is better to avoid going during this time if you love sunny weather and want to enjoy the white sandy beaches.
Swimming in Zanzibar
Swimming in Zanzibar is very safe. Usually, there are no big waves, but it also depends on the season and the beach you are on.
Some beaches experience big differences in low and high tides, so, during the low tide, you may see some starfish or sea urchins. Therefore I recommend wearing shoes for water and taking care where you are stepping.
Zanzibar is also popular for snorkeling and scuba diving. Many people are worried about sharks in Zanzibar. I have never seen any, but I didn’t dive or snorkel there.
In any case, there are only reef sharks that can be spotted on reefs and great white sharks could be swimming in the deep waters. On Mafia Island, there are whale sharks which are safe to swim and dive with.
Therefore, Zanzibar is safe to swim when it comes to sharks.
Tap water in Zanzibar
Never, never drink tap water in Zanzibar. The water is not clean and can cause stomach issues. Always drink bottled water or bring a special water bottle with a filtration system.
When you are having a drink in a restaurant or a bar, rather ask for it without ice as you don’t know whether the ice is not made of tap water.
If you have a very sensitive stomach, you may be cautious with street food and fruits.
Malaria and Yellow Fever in Zanzibar
Unfortunately, there is Malaria present in Zanzibar. The good news is it is not as bad as in some other African countries, like Kenya for example. It is more dangerous during the rainy season, but during the dry season, mosquitoes are not so present.
I was told by the Italian owners of the hotel where I stayed who live in Zanzibar with their little daughter that they don’t even use any repellents.
In any case, bring mosquito spray with a strong repellent with you and use it if you are out early in the morning or later in the evening.
There is no Yellow Fever in Zanzibar. However, if you are coming from a country where Yellow Fever is present, you must have a Yellow Fever vaccination.
Safety in Zanzibar for female travelers
Do you want to visit Zanzibar as a solo female traveler? No problem, Zanzibar is safe even for solo female travelers.
However, stay around your hotel resort and if you want to go for a tour, always book it with a reputable company or hotel where they will pick you up and drop you off in your hotel.
Safety in Zanzibar for LGBTQ
As a Muslim country, the law of Zanzibar does not support any other than heterosexual relationships. However, if you are not showing a public display of affection, you are completely fine.
By the way, the public display of affection is also not tolerated among heterosexual partners. Therefore do not kiss in public in Zanzibar.
FAQs: Is Zanzibar Safe?
Do you still have some questions about Zanzibar? Check out these FAQs to get more information.
Is it safe to walk at night in Zanzibar?
No, it is not safe to walk at night in Zanzibar. As crime and sexual assaults are common in Zanzibar, it is better not to walk at night. If you have to go somewhere at night, take a taxi.
According to Numbeo, safety while walking during daylight is high, while walking at night is moderate.
Is Zanzibar expensive?
Yes, Zanzibar is quite an expensive destination. However, to lower your costs, choose less luxurious hotels, sometimes all-inclusive or half-board could be a better option as dining in the hotel can be costly.
If you are coming to Zanzibar just to relax on the beach, it will not cost you so much as if you go on different tours. You can also connect Zanzibar with Tanzania, where you will save money on flights and use a ferry to come to Zanzibar from Dar Es Salam.
When is the best time to visit Zanzibar?
For your dreamy beach vacation, the best time to visit Zanzibar is during the long and short dry seasons. The long dry season is from June to October and the short dry season is January and February.
These times are also best for your safari in Tanzania therefore you can make both trips at the same time. For more details, read my article here.
Conclusion: Is Zanzibar safe for tourists?
So, is Zanzibar safe for tourists? While no destination is entirely risk-free, Zanzibar is not a dangerous country and continues to attract travelers seeking a unique and unforgettable experience.
Zanzibar offers a wealth of attractions, from the picture-perfect beaches to the historical wonders of Stone Town and the aromatic spice farms. To make the most out of your trip to Zanzibar, stay informed, exercise caution, and follow my recommended safety practices.
By doing so, you can greatly minimize any potential risks and enjoy a memorable experience on this lovely island.