Paradise on a budget in Zanzibar

Zanzibar is a Tanzanian archipelago off the coast of eastern Africa. The main island, (traditionally called Uguja) is a beautiful slice of paradise, with white sand beaches lined with palm trees, crystal clear turquoise waters and tiny wooden fishing boats bobbing in the waves. You might think this is out of your price range, but it can easily be done on a budget.

Stone Town

Stone Town is the main city where you’ll find winding lanes, ornately carved doorways and a ton of souvenir shops and there’s no shortage of bars and restaurants to keep you fed. From here you can arrange dive and snorkelling trips or boats to Prison Island to see giant turtles, but the west coast doesn’t have the nicest beaches.

You can get the cheapest food in the nightly food market if you don’t mind eating the same thing over and over again; either Zanzibar pizza, kebab or shawarma, there’s nothing else there for some reason. For good, clean, budget accommodation choose Hostel Lost & Found, a new build right in the centre. Treat yourself to a cocktail at The Sunset Bar at the end of a hard day exploring.

The beaches

If you want to spend your holiday lying on a pristine beach with a drink in hand, head to the east coast. There are so many perfect beaches to choose from, and they all offer something a little different.

Up in the north, you’ll find Nungwi, one of the most popular tourist beach spots because there is a nice range of bars and restaurants lining the gorgeous beach. Our favourite was Gerry’s Bar and Restaurant, a cheap beachfront spot that does great food.

Further south you have the deserted stretch of white sand that is Pingwe. We stayed in the lovely Pweza Beach Bungalows a few steps from the beach, with basic rooms but who needs luxury when you have a beach like that?

The highlight here was cocktails on the famous Rock Restaurant. You can stay for dinner (make sure you book), but it’s overpriced and not as good as Upendo (the fancy option) or Pandu Ngozi (the budget option) back on the mainland.

I spent my last few days on the island (and my first few days solo again!) in Paje, near Jambiani. Both are great places to relax on a budget with the wonderful Summer Dream Lodge being my top choice, offering cheap dorm rooms a minutes walk from the beach.

Get off the beach for cheap, good, local food and get back on it for cocktails in the sun. Here you can windsurf or book a snorkelling trip on one of the tiny fishing boats (maybe while singing “I AM MOANAAA in your head…) for $10. It’s a great place to meet other travellers too, with a lot going on in the evenings from beach parties to all-you-can-eat seafood BBQs for $10.

In the south of Zanzibar, you shouldn’t miss a trip to Kizimkazi, where you have the chance to see dolphins playing in the shallow waves. You also have the option to get in the water with them, to swim and play with them, don’t. Anything that makes a wild animal interact with humans in an unnatural way is not right. You don’t need to touch them to appreciate them.

There are many, many more beaches for you to explore if you have the time, but once you find the perfect spot it’s hard to leave! If you want to explore the centre of the island, to get away from the beaches (although I don’t know why you’d want to…) you can take a spice tour to see where the local spices are grown and harvested, or go for a walk in the lush, green Jozani Forest, Zanzibar’s only National Park.

Getting around the island can be cheap but you need to have plenty of time to spare. You can catch the dala-dalas (local minibuses) for dirt cheap, but it won’t be the quickest or the most straightforward way to get to your destination. Taxis are common but horrendously overpriced. Car rental isn’t cheap either, but it would be a good option if you want to see a lot with a limited amount of time.

You can view the full album here.

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