White sand beaches, crystal clear ocean water & warm tropical weather. Zanzibar which used to be a package holiday & retirement destination is now on the Digital Nomad destinations radar. Thanks to the Covid19 open policy adopted by the Tanzanian government in 2020, Zanzibar has become a hot destination for remote workers and location-independent entrepreneurs.
Zanzibar archipelago’s main island is called Unguja. It is the biggest island and mostly referred to as Zanzibar island. It is the island where visitors mostly stay while the other islands are commonly visited on day trips or short-term trips. The 3 areas with the best infrastructure for a digital nomad’s life on the main island are:
The East Coast
Zanzibar’s East Coast consists of three main areas: Paje, Jambiani, and Bwejuu. The most lively is Paje then comes Jambiani and Bwejuu. All of them are touristy areas but not as much as the north coast, so authenticity still exists. Paje was my favorite since it has the nicest beach on the east coast, more lively especially at night, and had a better 4g coverage in addition to more places with good wifi than the other east coast beaches.
The North Coast
The mainstream touristy part of the island including Nungwi & Kendwa beach areas. It is the main package vacation places with big chain hotels and vacation vibes. The beaches are beautiful & the parties never stop. If you want a quiet place to get some work done, the North Coast beach areas may not be your best option.
Commonly referred to as Stone Town. Stone Town is only the old part of Zanzibar city. It has some historic sites such as Zanzibar fort, Freddy Mercury’s museum, the palace museum, and more. The street food is nice and the architecture of the small allies is beautiful. However, it is not recommended for long-term stays.
The accommodation options range from guesthouses, hotels, hostels, and private houses. It might take some time to find a house that suits you and is up to the standards.
The island becomes nearly fully booked during the high tourism season. The high season is usually during the summer months, December and January. Most of the private houses and many of the hotels don’t have fast enough wifi to do work from. If you decide to rent a place long-term, you might have to invest in wifi or work from a place that provides good wifi.
There are no clear fares for any of the means of transportation except for the public buses. For other means, you will always bargain and usually, the rates become higher at night. As a rule of thumb, you should always bargain to get better deals in Zanzibar.
- Car/Motorbike rental: The most fun method, in my opinion. Just be careful if you decide to drive at night. Driving at night may not be a good idea due to the quality of the roads and the lack of lights. The average rental prices are mentioned down below.
- Taxi: The most expensive, yet the most convenient option of all.
- Motorbike taxi (Bodaboda): Cheaper than normal Taxis. Basically, any motorbike in Zanzibar can be a bodaboda.
- Local bus (Dala Dala): The cheapest option to move between areas. It would be nice to try it as a local experience. However, it is so slow and not air-conditioned.
To get the best value for money deals in Zanzibar, You will need to bargain very often. Here I list some of the common daily expenses.
Food: A meal from a local village restaurant starts at $1.5 while a meal in a touristy restaurant or a hotel restaurant starts at $5. There are many fine dining options inside the hotels and foreign-owned restaurants which will cost more.
Transportation: Regarding car or motorbike rentals, you can get better deals if you are going to rent long-term. Renting a motorbike costs $10-$30/day & renting a car costs $25-$40/day depending on the season. A motorbike taxi ride starts at $0.80 while a taxi ride starts at $4 and can reach up to $50 or more depending on the distance.
Accommodation: Due to the $9/person tourism tax, you won’t find any $3-$5 per night hostels bunk beds or $10 per night hotel rooms like what you can find in the tropical destinations of South East Asia. A hostel bed usually starts at $12/night. It is possible to rent a guesthouse room for $15-$20/night if you are renting monthly. The average hotel room price is around $30 per night which usually doubles during peak times. If you are more into living in a private house, room prices start from $300/month and average at $500/month.
4G: Zantel has 3 monthly packages: 10GB for 10,000 TZS (~$4.3), 20GB for 20,000 TZS (~$8.6), and 30GB for 30,000 TZS (~$12.9).
The official language of Tanzania is Swahili. Since Zanzibar is a touristy island, English is spoken almost everywhere a typical visitor will visits. You will find fewer English speakers when you go deeper into the villages. There are areas where many locals speaking other languages such as Italian or Russian due to the presence of many organized tours from specific countries to some beach areas.
Places to work from & Wifi
It is not impossible to find a fast internet connection in Zanzibar but you should do some work to find it. In general, finding a fast internet connection is a challenge in Zanzibar with Stone Town as the only exception. Stone town isn’t a preferred place to stay long-term for most foreigners since it is just a busy place with not much to do.
In every area, there will be at least one cafe, restaurant, or hotel that has invested in good wifi. In Paje, Summer Beach hotel was where I found the fastest connection. I have also heard that New Teddy’s on the beach in Jambiani had a good connection.
As a backup, it is better to have a sim card with 4G. Locals recommend Zantel as it is the provider with the best coverage in Zanzibar. To make sure that you will have the best data connection, it is worth noting that it is better to choose an accommodation near a signal tower. The 4G signal can drop if you stay far from a tower.
Fun and Activities
Besides chilling on the beach, swimming, or partying, there are many fun activities to do and beautiful places to see. Here are some of the many trips & activities that you can do around the Zanzibar archipelago:
- Kite Surfing: The east coast of Zanzibar (especially Paje and Jambiani) is a great place to learn and practice kite surfing. There are many kite-surfing centers and schools along the coast.
- Changuu Island ( A.K.A Prison Island): Located a few kilometers northwest of stone town. The island was previously used as a quarantine station for yellow fever cases. Currently, it is a touristy attraction.
- Safari Blue: The common name of a full-day tour that includes visiting a few islands.
- Mnemba island: Zanzibar’s spot for snorkeling & spotting dolphins.
- Spice tour: Zanzibar is also known as the spice island. It is a nice way to be introduced to the local spices and their cultural use.
- Sunset at Mitchamvi: An acrobatics show and a fire show are organized daily at Kae Funk bar. It is located on Mitchamvi beach.
All the island trips can be organized by any of the tour operators around the main island.
Zanzibar is a beautiful place and definitely worth visiting and spending some time there. The main challenge that a Digital Nomad will face is finding a fast internet connection which is possible but not widely available. Spending a few months there or longer will be a great experience for sure.