If you’re planning to stay in Stone Town for a while, then book accommodation in advance for a few nights. This will give you somewhere to aim for when you arrive, but won’t tie you down if it turns out to be less desirable. Once there you can explore the old town on foot and move to a nicer spot if you need to. Don’t try this if you’re visiting in July, however, when Stone Town is packed for the Festival of the Dhow Countries.
You can employ this same strategy in Nungwi, Paje and Jambiani where there are plenty of good budget options within walking distance along the beach. You’ll find huts and bungalows that don’t even take advance bookings and survive exclusively on walk in guests. As with Stone Town in July, there’s always some risk, and along the northern and eastern coasts it’s busiest from July to October. Jambiani is currently one of the quieter stretches of beach and a good place to start if you’re worried about availability.
Be aware that the smaller, cheaper guesthouses almost always require cash and there’s nowhere to draw money outside of Stone Town, Kiwengwa and Chake Chake. Officially all accommodation must be paid for in US dollars, though euros are increasingly accepted and some budget hostels may take Tanzania shillings. The best option is to arrive with all your dollars in cash as you’ll get better rates than if you exchange on the islands. If you do need to change money (a few shillings can be useful for smaller purchases such as street food), then use a private bureau de change in Stone Town. The larger hotels often provide a FOREX service, but usually at much poorer rates.
Expect to pay $15 to $ 30 for a dorm bed in Stone Town and $ 50 to $ 80 for a clean double room anywhere. Single rooms are rare in Zanzibar and you’ll often be charged the full rate for a double. Local food and basic drinks will set you back about $30 a day, so all-in-all you’re looking at around $50 a person a day sharing, for a decent guesthouse on a fairly tight budget.
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