WHEN TO GO
Zanzibar's weather is shaped by the monsoons, which bring heavy rains to the East African coast during the two rainy seasons. The "long" rains typically arrive in mid-March, continuing through May and often into June; many hotels and restaurants close during this period.. June brings the start of the long dry season, with sultry days and pleasant nights cooled by a tropical sea breeze. The ideal weather lasts through October, though it also brings Zanzibar's biggest crowds—and highest prices. If you're not put off by flocks of camera-toting masses, this is the best time to visit. The "short" rains of November and December give way to another dry spell from January into March, but the heat can be oppressive during this period. You'll also have hordes of holiday crowds to contend with, and most resorts are booked between Christmas and New Year's.
HOW TO GET THERE
Direct international flights to Zanzibar can be made with Kenya Airways (from Nairobi; 254-20-327-4747; www.kenya-airways.com) or Oman Air (from Muscat; www.oman-air.com). However, most travelers will have to first connect through Europe and then again through Tanzania's capital, Dar es Salaam. For information on getting to Tanzania, visit our Tanzania guide.
Air Tanzania (255-22-211-8411; www.airtanzania.com), ZanAir (255-24-223-3670; www.zanair.com), and Coastal Aviation (www.coastal.cc) fly daily from Dar es Salaam to Zanzibar for around $60 each way; daily flights from Arusha (around $150) are convenient for anyone touring the northern safari circuit who would prefer to bypass Dar es Salaam altogether. Traveling to Zanzibar by boat makes for a more atmospheric trip. Sea Star and Sea Bus make the trip around four times daily, with departures staggered between the hours of 7 am and 4 pm. The two- to three-hour ride costs $35 each way; tickets can be purchased directly at the ferry terminal on Sokoine Drive in Dar es Salaam or through your hotel.
Airport pickups can be arranged prior to arrival through any of the island's hotels; if you're bypassing Stone Town and heading straight to a beach resort, this is a better option than negotiating a fare with a taxi driver upon arrival. If you prefer to take a taxi, the one-way fare from the airport to Stone Town costs around $10.
The ubiquitous dalla-dallas (minibus taxis) that clog the roads of Zanzibar are a colorful (and crowded) mode of local transport, but it's easier to arrange a shared taxi if you're traveling from Stone Town to any of the busier beaches, like Nungwi or Paje. Fares should cost around $15 per person, and arrangements can be made through any hotel in Stone Town. Private transfers to the island's beach resorts and remote island lodges are a more costly option but offer optimum comfort and convenience; excluded from the price of a stay, they can easily add $200 to $300 per person to the cost of your trip.
Though you're not likely to encounter any problems during your stay, keep in mind that robberies in Stone Town are not uncommon. Try to stay in small groups if you're walking around after dark; if you'd prefer not to leave anything to chance, take a taxi. They gather outside all the popular tourist haunts at night, with fares around Stone Town not likely to cost more than $2 to $3.
The more likely threat will come from the mosquitoes, which make Zanzibar prime malaria territory. Most hotels provide mosquito nets at night. Be sure to take your antimalarial pills before leaving home and be liberal in your use of insect repellent.
Equally persistent—and no less of a nuisance—are the touts who prowl Stone Town's streets offering T-shirts, CDs, wood carvings, spices, and informal, often unsolicited tours of the town. After a few polite but firm refusals, most will get the hint. Be advised that if you use the services of such a person to find a particular shop, a small commission will undoubtedly get tacked on to the cost of your purchase.
Zanzibar Commission for Tourism
Tel: 255 24 223 3485
Tanzania Tourist Board
Tel: 255 22 211 1244