Zanzibar is the semi-autonomous archipelago off the coast of Tanzania in the Indian Ocean. Zanzibar consists of two main islands of Zanzibar and Pemba and many other small islands.
While Zanzibar is part of Tanzania, it has grown into a major travel destination for beach and diving adventures, that it enjoys semi-autonomous popularity of its own. This is why many people keep asking about all aspects of safety when it comes to visiting Zanzibar.
Is Zanzibar safe?
The Zanzibar Islands are safe to visit for all tourists from all around the world. In 2019 alone, Zanzibar received more than half a million international visitors that came to explore the beautiful beaches, rich history and tasty dishes.
The safety of a place is hard (if not impossible) to state with full and absolute certainty. While we maintain that Zanzibar is safe to visit, we have to mention that common sense travel safety tips still play a huge role in keeping you and your things safe.
Like any place, there are bad patches where you are advised to take extra caution or not walk alone at night. This is true on all continents, and quite fairly for almost any tourist centre.
Petty crimes like muggings and pickpocketing do happen so you need to be aware of this and keep vigilant. We've mentioned some safety tips below.
Politically, Zanzibar and Tanzania as a whole are very stable. Tanzania has the longest record of political stability in East Africa.
Safety Tips while in Zanzibar
Here is a quick refresher of common safety tips whenever you are travelling.
1. Leave valuables at home or at the hotel.
Whether it is an expensive watch or any other kind of jewellery, having it with you can always attract the attention of bad characters.
2. Respect the local Muslim Culture.
Since most of the people in Zanzibar are Muslim, a conservative dress code is recommended. It doesn't have to be a Hijab or something that completely covers you, but very short shorts, skirts or dresses should be left for closed resorts where everyone is used to it. In principle, cover from your shoulders to your knees.
As it is your duty to respect the culture and sensitivity of the local people, make sure you are modestly dressed especially in public areas. Tourists can be fined for having a dress code that goes against this.
3. Leave your passport at the hotel.
Losing your passport in a foreign or unfamiliar place will definitely ruin your entire holiday. If you need to carry some documentation with you, make a photocopy of your passport and carry that with you.
You could also save the paper and ink and have a picture on your phone. This applies to any other important documents you will have with you.
4. Careful with street food.
Food is a great way to experience anyplace and street food is the best way to experience life with the locals. If you have a sensitive stomach or some allergies, you should steer clear of much of the street food offerings.
5. Check with your doctor.
While yellow fever is no longer a strict requirement for much of East Africa, malaria is very much present. Before you get any anti-malaria medicines, ask your doctor to advise you. The same advice goes for your regular medication and doses.
Is Zanzibar safe for females?
Safety on a trip is important to everyone, even more so for females. This is even more critical when a female is travelling alone to a foreign place where they don't know anyone or the local customs.
While many solo female travellers have been to Zanzibar and had a great time, it can be quite daunting and scary. The same petty crime could still happen - plus some offensive cat-calls especially if you are moving around alone.
The best advice here is to move with someone - be it your local guide or some trusted person, and avoid moving late at night in some areas.
Is it safe to Swim in Zanzibar?
The beaches in Zanzibar are gorgeous and the Indian ocean water makes for great swimming.
For people who are not advanced with swimming, it is advisable that you be careful when swimming in low tide. This is because the tide can rise and make it hard to swim ashore.
Some beaches where the tide doesn't fluctuate so much are the best option for swimming since you can swim all day long.
Remember that Zanzibar is close to the equator and the sun is really hot, so carry sunscreen to avoid getting sunburnt.
Is Zanzibar safe for LGBTQ?
Safety for people of the LGBT community is another concern that comes up when international travel is being planned. This is equally important for Zanzibar.
Tanzania's law does not recognize or protect the rights of any other sexual preferences aside from heterosexual relationships. This is the case for many places in Africa - and other parts of the world.
Sexual preference is not a requirement for you to enter Tanzania and you will most likely not need to answer to anyone about that. If you are using the services of a reputable tour operator and staying in places that are familiar with tourists from all around the world, you will not experience any issues.
Public displays of affection are completely frowned upon - even for heterosexual relations, and you should remember that.
All in all, the choice comes down to the traveller - you. You can read more about the laws, and be forthright with your hotel/tour operator to make sure that you have the confidence to visit and enjoy the place.
As earlier stated, safety is not something where the answer is absolute. Things can always change on a daily basis - for better or for worse.
The situation at the time of your travel is what determines your level of safety. Your chosen hotel or travel operator is a direct and important source of information especially as your trip draws closer.
Our criteria for choosing partners - such as tour operators and accommodation is based on a demonstrated high level of respect for ALL people and the environment. We do this, such that we can give you the best personally-vetted options in any place. You can always reach out to us for these recommendations.