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.
I am the creator of Nomadic Memoir and the author of this article :D; Living as a Digital Nomad since 2016; Founder of the remote digital agency, Web Leap Garage. I share my experience as a Digital Nomad. Also tips, destination info, and travel stories.
12 comments on
“A Digital Nomad’s Guide to Zanzibar: Areas, Prices, Wifi, Vibe, and more”
Zanzibar looks and sounds like a lovely place to visit and explore. I’ve heard of it before, but I haven’t done much research on it. This was a great read!
I would love to visit Zanzibar one day! I love this blog, some great travel inspiration.
Zanzibar is a place I hear much talk about from other travelers. I have never visited there, but would love to some day.
I think a mix of a party beach and a quieter one would be good. Depends on the mood or what you have to do for the day/evening.
It would be nice to visit Zanzibar. It looks like an exciting place, but a bit expensive, I would say. If I do get the chance to visit, I’d love to try kite surfing there.
Sounds like a great place for me to visit and to explore.
The place is really beautiful and I can say that it makes me feel so happy and relaxing to be there.
Thank you for this information about Zanzibar. I really don’t know much about the area. It looks like a good place to sit quietly and relax for a while.
Hi! First of all thank you so much, this is very helpful. I am planning on going there this January for a month, but I do have many calls for work. Did you have to stay at the hotel to use their wi-fi? Could I just pay them for the day to stay and work or try something like that? I am definitely planning on getting a sim card from Zantel. I will be staying at Paje beach because I like to kitesurf. Do you think I can manage to work through my sim card at my apartment? Thank you in advance for any additional info you may have.
First, sorry for the late reply & Merry Christmas.
Short answer: Yes, you can.
In general, SIM card coverage isn’t strong out of stone town. However, The Zantel 4G signal was strong enough to make video calls when I stayed in a house between Paje and Bweejuu areas which was like 50 meters away from a signal tower. So the closer to a tower the better the signal will be. Many hotels invest in good Wifi but you need to go around and check the signal before making a booking or give yourself a few days to change locations and choose which one works best for you.
Please, take into consideration that power cuts are very common in Zanzibar. Sometimes it lasts for 3-4 hours. So make sure that you always have your laptop battery fully charged and an a power bank to make your phone last longer when you use it as a hotspot whenever you don’t have power.
To get good internet in Zanzibar it’s best to use multiple connections at once, e.g. by using Speedify with a hotel wifi (mostly Zanlink cable) and two SIM cards (Vodafone and Zantel).
Thank you for the great tip. I haven’t considered using speedify before but I will definitely try that in the future.
Total. A mí me encanta. En un par de meses comenzaré mi andadura como “nómada digital” en Zanzíbar, un paraíso al que tengo mucho cariño. A ver q tal esas conexiones. Gracias por el artículo 🙂