Last Updated on January 8, 2023
Before travelling to Zanzibar, I didn’t really have much of an idea when it came to how much I would need to budget for. In this post I share my 10 day trip budget breakdown including the different prices in Zanzibar for various elements of my trip. From accommodation costs, transport, tours and food and drink.
Is Zanzibar Expensive?
When it comes to budget travel I found Zanzibar to be fairly middle ground. I travelled comfortably but it could have been cheaper and it could have been way more expensive. You’ll find hostels, hotels for different budgets including all-inclusive resorts. All my costs were based on me travelling solo, so I had no one to split taxi or accommodation costs with.
My total expenses for 10 days came to approximately $1100.
Dividing this equally into days, it works out at: $110 per day.
Currency in Zanzibar
Local currency in Zanzibar = Tanzanian Shillings (TSh)
For the most part, you can’t get Tanzanian Shillings outside of Zanzibar/Tanzania. I took US Dollars in cash and then changed up a chunk of money into local currency at the airport.
Dollars were mostly used for: accommodation, transport and tours. I used shillings for: food, drink and souvenirs.
I arranged most things through my accommodation. they accepted card payments as well as cash payments in US dollars, Euros and Shillings. I was able to charge most things to my room and then just pay at the end in one big transaction.
I already knew the cost of all of the tours I wanted to go on. I kept the tour amount in dollars and then changed up the rest into shillings. As I didn’t spend as many shillings as expected, I was settled my hotel bill with the left over shillings and then paid the rest in USD. After all USD is more useful to keep and saved me from converting the shillings back at the airport on the way home.
Restaurants and shops had everything priced in local currency. They had a standard conversion that they would use for USD payments. If you paid in dollars, they would often give you the change in shillings. One restaurant we went to in Paje added extra to the conversion rate if you paid with bill denominations that were smaller at $20.
Zanzibar Currency to USD
At the airport I changed up $200USD and received 460,000TSh (in late 2022)
I was given it ALL in 5000 notes, so as a rule of thumb I was working on the rate of: 5000TSh converted to $2USD
As you can see from the header image, the pile of notes was HUGE. I only carried my daily budget of 50,000TSh around with me ($20). The rest stayed locked in my bag in the hotel room.
Cards and ATM in Zanzibar
Most major places accepted card payments. Including hotels (and their restaurants), The Rock restaurant etc. (Although the hotel I stayed at for 1 night ONLY accepted cash). HOWEVER all card payments were subjected to a 5% fee (on top of any foreign exchange fees from banks). My main hotel removed the 5% fee for the room rate ONLY when paying by card, but any other charge to the room (tours, restaurant, yoga etc) had it added.
This was one of the reasons I preferred to use cash to avoid all the extra 5%’s adding up!
As mentioned I took cash to exchange for cash, but there are ATMs at the airport, as well as a handful where I was staying in Paje. I saw them in Stone Town too but didn’t use any of them. The ATMs in Zanzibar have a maximum withdrawal of 400,000TSh.
Prices In Zanzibar
During my time in Zanzibar I stayed in 2 separate hotels in Paje. There were several hostels in Paje with dorm rooms, however I wanted to stay in private accommodation so opted for more budget friendly hotels instead.
Both hotels had swimming pools, breakfast included (which took away a meal expense), WiFi and good ‘safety’ reviews for solo female travellers. Paje by Night had slightly more amenities and facilities which is why I decided to spend most of my time there. There are also discounts with Paje by Night when booking direct, such as a 15% discount early bird offer and 10% on stays over 5 nights.
Heart of Zanzibar Bungalows – 1 night: $52
Paje by Night – 8 nights: $540 ($67.50 per night)
Total: $592 (9 nights)
The budget friendly local transport in Zanzibar are the Dala Dalas. However, as I was travelling alone and had the budget for it, I used taxis. The taxis were absolutely spotless and always on time. I pre booked my first airport pick up with Zanzibus and they charge in EUROS. I paid €5 online in advance and then €30 in cash to the driver. The others were organised via my accommodation.
Zanzibar Airport to Paje (with Zanzibus): €35
Paje to Zanzibar Airport: $40
Paje to The Rock restaurant RETURN: $25
Tours & Activities
Not including The Rock restaurant, I did five tours/activities. The two biggest expenses were the combined full day tours that I did. Again, as I was travelling solo, my tours were private and the driver stayed with me all day. If I was travelling with others, the cost per person would have been lower.
Compared to UK/USA prices (around $1/£1 per minute), I was impressed with the price of my massage. It’s something I do like to treat myself to when I travel and it was definitely on the lower end of the scale (although maybe not SE Asia prices!).
75 minute Yoga session: $15
75 minute massage: $45
Stone Town & Prison Island: $110
Jozani Forest & Spice Farm: $70
Food & Drink
I paid for all food and drink in cash. Apart from The Rock restaurant, I paid for everything else in Tanzanian Shillings. I had a daily food budget of 50,000TSh ($20). But in reality I ended up only spending around 27,000 ($12) per day (not including The Rock).
As mentioned above, both hotels had very good sized breakfasts included in the room rate. (For non guests, Paje by Night charge 20,000 shillings for a breakfast). Paje by Night also provided a large flask of drinking water which was refilled for free every day. Because of this, I didn’t need to spend anything on water (to refill the flask was 2000 shillings).
The Spice Farm tour included a good sized lunch in the cost of the trip.
The Rock restaurant was one of the most expensive meals I’ve had while travelling…potentially ever. I had: a bottle of local beer, chicken skewers with potatoes and vegetables (the cheapest main on the menu) and a pineapple flambé for $40. The food was ok, you definitely pay for the novelty of the restaurant being on a rock in the middle of the sea/beach.
Instead of listing every last thing I ate and drunk, here are some of the average food and drink prices in Zanzibar (in Tanzanian Shillings), specifically at bars and restaurants in Paje:
Local beer (Safari, Kilimanjaro etc): 5000
Coke/soft drinks: 2000-3000
Noodles and vegetables: 10,000
Burger and chips: 15,000
Chicken and rice (in a Stone Town restaurant…HUGE portion!): 20,000
Avocado salad: 11,000
Lunch dishes/light bites: 10,000
Ice cream: 4000-6000
(275,000 paid in shillings – 83,000 of which was alcohol ($35) + $40 in USD at The Rock)
I spent around 50,000 shillings (plus $15) on random things like souvenirs for myself and my family and tips. Tipping isn’t expected in Zanzibar, but it is appreciated.
Like I said above, I did use all the 460,000TSh I had exchanged, as I paid for some of my tours (which were priced in USD) with what I had left over. However I actually only spent 325,000 in local currency while out and about.
In this budget breakdown, I didn’t include flights. Depending on the time of year or where you are flying in from, this could vary. I flew from London Stansted (STN) to Zanzibar (ZNZ) via Dubai, flying with Emirates and FlyDubai. The flight cost around £700 and included meals and checked bags (although I only took hand luggage). STN to DXB took around 6hrs and the DXB to ZNZ took just over 5hrs.
In GBP my budget was around £1500 for the whole trip, everything included. Typically I also hit the poor exchange rate, just before GBP and USD were almost level!