Replies: 12 - Last Post: Jun 26, 2012 3:57 AM Last Post By: alexjeikner
Feb 25, 2012 8:24 AM
Does the month of Ramadhan create a problem for visitors to the island?
How bad are the touts in Zanzibar?
Should i book accommodation beforehand in order to avoid paying commission to parasitic touts that cling on to new arrivals?
Good food, nice places to visit, cool things to do? all suggestions are appreciated.
Thanks in advance!
Feb 25, 2012 1:28 PM
1I've been to Zanzibar twice and here are my recommendations. Note that I was going on extreme cheap budget as a Peace Corps volunteer so if you have a high budget my recommendations will not be helpful:
I would not recommend going during Ramadhan. You are not supposed to eat during the day and booze is impossible to find. Friends of mine went at this time and advised against it.
The touts are bad and you will constantly get harassed. I found its best to just pretend like you can't hear them.
I would not book ahead of time because almost every place you can negotiate a cheaper price. Stonetown is a bit tricky to navigate though, so if you don't know where you are going you may need a tout to show you the way. Or take a taxi.
Places to stay:
- Stonetown: loved Manch Lodge (cheap and clean rooms, include breakfast, nice staff, good location in the middle of stonetown)
- Kendwa: recommend Sunset bungalows over the popular Kendwa rocks due to the bed bugs and expensive, subpar food at kendwa
- Paje: Teddys place (very rustic, just beds in a bungalow with a sand floor, great beach without all the touristy nonsense at kendwa, good food, much more of a cultural experience than backpacker party vibe at kendwa but it depends on what you are looking for)
- Matemwe: Ally Keys (very rasta place on a chilled out beach in the middle of nowhere, id recommend paje over matemwe though)
- lazuli in stonetown (really delicious, but more american/euro style food)
let me know if you have any more specific questions and i can try and help more.
Feb 25, 2012 3:42 PM
2Hi - #1 has offered some good info. I spent 7 weeks in Zanzibar (Aug-Oct) last year. My time coincided with the last week of Ramadan. This year (2012) it will commence around 23 July and conclude 30 days later (or after if the Imam has not sighted the new crescent moon). Yes for practicing muslims (generally over the age of 12 and in good health) they are not permitted to eat or drink during daylight hours - for non-muslims the only restrictions are that some of the local restaurants will be closed (often for the whole month), tourist eating houses will offer facilities not visible to locals (or street traffic). Bars are in general in short supply in Stone Town at the best of time - significantly less than in non-muslim mainland areas. Livingstone is still operating (its the major watering hole next to Tembo hotel) - and of course after sunset everything is back to normal. One of the great features of Ramadan is the feast/festival that concludes this period.
Accommodation - Stone Town has a large range of accommodation venues - backpackers hostels to 5 star. Get a copy of the 2010 ed of Rough Guide to Tanzania - has an excellent section on Zanzibar. Select your desired place and send off emails asking for your preferred dates.
Eating - the guide also has a full suggestion of places to eat.
Touts - yes they do cause discomfort - but in general they are only trying (in a difficult situation) to make a living. If you are firm but polite they usually get the message.
If you arrive by ferry - you are probably better to get a taxi to your accommodation (some will send a car) but negotiate the price before hand - should be around 3500-5000 Tsh. If you fly in then the taxi will be around $15-20 US (but again fix the price before hand). Again a good hotel will send a car (at a price).
The best time to visit is between June and late September (even if this coincides with Ramadan) - its warm (not overly hot) and there will be lots of visitors. (Sorry I no longer make recommendations for places to stay at etc). Hope you do go its a great place - almost paradise.
Feb 25, 2012 10:18 PM
3If people say there is no problem going in Ramadhan, this is not totally true. Last Ramdhan according to Tanzanian newspapers about twelve bars and restaurants were burnt down and the Islamic clerics welcomed the burnings and gave advise, that in next Ramdhan also the tourists have to observe the Islamic regulations and dress code (everything in the Daily News, Daressalaam). Muslims on mainland are more relaxed then those in Zanzibar. This has in my opinion also to do with their wish for independence from mainland Tanzania.
Feb 25, 2012 11:52 PM
4My dear friends we are on the ground and we advice based on experience, Tourist don't come to East Africa to rapture the traditional living standards of these places, Who ever intends to visit any part of the region must know what she/he is supposed to do and what not.
The number of tourist in Zanzibar is high in Zanzibar during Ramadhan compared to most of the other time of the year, and tourist come here to exactly see what it is meant by the Ramadhan and most of the tourist join the locals to during if tar( breaking fast) and the eid celebrations it self
There are do's and don't during Ramadhan as previously mentioned and when not followed properly as a travel destination a negativity will always be attributed and doing anything deriving to those negativities has no impact of telling the public that its not advisable to visit Zanzibar during Ramadhan
There is a difference between znz and Dar , Zanzibar is a UNESCO site while Dar is not and that simply differentiates it and therefore conservative visits must be taken.
Feb 26, 2012 12:31 AM
5Hi #4 please advise (other than that quote from the newspaper) that
"Last Ramadhan according to Tanzanian newspapers about twelve bars and restaurants were burnt down and the Islamic clerics welcomed the burnings and gave advise, that in next Ramdhan also the tourists have to observe the Islamic regulations and dress code (everything in the Daily News, Daressalaam)".
As I said I arrived in Stone Town a week before Ramadan ended at the end of August last year. I spent a few days down at the south end of the island and then 5 weeks in Stone Town and one week at Paje and at no time did I see or hear about twelve bars / restaurants were burnt down. If all you have is the Dar es Salaam "Daily News" then I strongly suggest you find another source to base your opinions on. I read a number of the English language newspapers and mixed with a large cross-section of the Isalmic community and at no time was this garbage ever reported.
The muslim community on Zanzibar / Stone Town city and other places live in cooperation with the small christian community and yes they understand that the tourists are a very significant component of the Zanzibar economy and as long as the tourists are respectful then they are accepted and welcomed.
Feb 26, 2012 12:41 AM
Feb 26, 2012 7:20 AM
Feb 28, 2012 7:28 PM
8Dont worry about the Ramadhan , the locals have been touristised for over a Century, Ive been there twice through Ramadhan, you might just find the shop owners more hungry and tired.
I stay at the Dhow Palace Hotel in stonetown, very clean quiet and a great private pool, depends on your budget, but its a slice of tranquility that I enjoy.The owners are completly trustworthy and can assist with anything you need.
I did a photo shoot of the place for them, good people.
Jun 25, 2012 10:42 AM
9We too were thinking of visiting Zanzibar in August - but now, with Ramadhan, are a bit wary. We are of course respectful of other religions and customs, but that does not mean we also want to follow them. When spending your hard-earned money during holidays, you want to enjoy them according to your own customs, after all.
So, our question is whether a tourist in August can freely drink (water/coffee/juice at least) and smoke, outside during the day? Are shops and restaurants and cafes open during the day? Is alcohol served in the evening?
Please do not misunderstand this mail, it is not meant to be insulting. We just want to make sure whether Zanzibar is the right island for us this summer.
Jun 25, 2012 1:55 PM
10You are definetely expected to be discrete about eating, drinking and smoking during the day, especially in Stonetown. Most likely, nobody will be too offended if you take a quick sip out of your water bottle, but if you sit down in a Stonetown alley with your picknick, don't expect people to love you for it.
Like O_M mentioned above, most local places will be closed during the day, tourist places sometimes have an eating area in the back or otherwise shielded from view with canvas covers and the like. You will be served breakfast in your hotel.
Some places will not serve any alcohol during Ramadhan, others only during the day. The bars catering totourists and expats will be open in the evening.
Shops will be open, the people working there may be a bit more tired and / or grumpy than otherwise.
In the evenings, eating places will come to life and the atmosphere is often very special.
All in all, if I had the choice I would visit outside of Ramadhan or towards the end of it so that you can take in the celebrations at the end. But if you have no choice (as will be the case for me and my family this year), I would still go (and we will).
Jun 25, 2012 2:11 PM
11Alex - Stefo has summed up the situation perfectly. As for being there at the end of Ramadan - I was fortunate to experience this event last year in Stone Town and even for a non-muslim it was a great experience. So if your visit includes the period 20-26 August (dates are approximate) it should be an exciting time.
Jun 26, 2012 3:57 AM
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