Stone Town

Travel Guide Africa Tanzania Zanzibar Stone Town

edit

Introduction

Stone Town is located on the island of Zanzibar, off the coast of Tanzania. Stone Town is the main city on Zanzibar. It is a city of prominent historical and artistic importance in East Africa. Its architecture, mostly dating back to the 19th century, reflects the diverse influences underlying the Swahili culture, with a unique mixture of Moorish, Arab, Persian, Indian and European elements. For this reason, the town was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2000.

Top

edit

Sights and Activities

Old Fort. Adjacent to the House of Wonders, is a heavy stone fortress that was built in the 17th century by the Omani. It has a roughly square shape; the internal courtyard is now a cultural centre with shops, workshops, and a small arena where live dance and music shows are held daily.
Palace Museum (Former Sultan's Palace ("Beit el-Sahel" in Arabic​)). Another former sultan's palace, also on the seafront, to the north of the House of Wonders. It was built in late 19th century, and now hosts a museum about the daily life of the Zanzibari royal family, including items that belonged to Sayyida Salme, a former Zanzibar princess that fled to relocate in Europe with her husband.
House of Wonders ("Palace of Wonders", also known as "Beit-al-Ajaib"), Mizingani Road on the seafront. (Closed since 2014 for renovation.) Probably the most well-known landmarks of Stone Town. It was built in 1883 and restored after the Anglo-Zanzibar War of 1896. A former Sultan's residence, it became the seat of the Afro-Shirazi Party after the revolution. It was the first building in Zanzibar to have electricity and the first building in East Africa to have a lift. Since 2000, its interior has been dedicated to a museum on Swahili and Zanzibar culture.
Livingstone's House. A small palace that was built for Sultan Majid bin Said and later used by European missionaries. David Livingstone lived in the house while preparing his last expedition to the interior of Tanganyika.
Old Dispensary. Built from 1887 to 1894 to serve as a charity hospital for the poor, it was later used as a dispensary. It is one of the most finely decorated buildings of Stone Town, with large carved wooden balconies, stained-glass windows, and neo-classical stucco adornments. After falling into decay in the 1970s and 1980s, the building was accurately restored by the AKTC.
Anglican Cathedral. Purchased by missionaries, the church sits atop the world's last slave market. The altar is said to be built over the market's whipping post. US$3.
Hamamni Persian Baths. A complex of public baths built at the end of the 19th century by Shirazi architects for Sultan Barghash bin Said. These baths are not open anymore but are open to visitors. Visits are limited to some areas of the original complex because part of it (e.g., the restaurant) has since been adapted for private residences.
Forodhani Gardens. A small park along the main seawalk of Stone Town, in front of the Old Fort and the House of Wonders. It has been restored by the AKTC. Every evening after sunset the gardens host a popular, tourist-oriented market selling grilled seafood and other Zanzibari recipes.
Mercury. Near the port, it is dedicated to Freddie Mercury who was born on the island. The only interesting thing in the place is the atmosphere and the nice view over the harbour and bay -- skip the food unless you're in for a stomach ache.
There are a number of historically important buildings in Stone Town, like The House of Wonders and The Arab Fort. It is easy to arrange a simple walking tour with a local guide who can teach you some history.
The market in Stone Town is one of the largest, most vibrant open-air markets anywhere. Here, you can find several varieties of bananas, "elephant garlic" unique to the island, the largest avocados you'll probably ever see, and more. Prices are extremely reasonable. Even if you have no intentions of purchasing food, the spectacle alone is worth a visit.
Visit Slave Market, the site of the old Slave Market is quite an experience. Go into the holding chambers to see how this wretched piece of history played itself out in small dark dungeon-type cells. Priced at US$5, it's well worth it.

Top

edit

Weather

Stone Town has a tropical climate with hot and humid conditions year round. The average highs range from around 28 °C from June to August to around 33 °C in February and March. Lows average between 22 °C and 25 °C respectively. Almost half of the annual 1,400 mm of rain falls in April and May, while July and August hardly see any rain at all except maybe the odd late afternoon shower.

Top

edit

Getting There

By Plane

Abeid Amani Karume International Airport (ZNZ IATA) is on Unguja Island, about 5 km south of Zanzibar City. Airlines that fly to Zanzibar are: Regional Air, Precision Air, ZanAir, Coastal Aviation, Tropical Air, Mango, Flydubai, Qatar Airways, Oman Air, Auric Air, Kenya Airways, Ethiopian Airlines, and Fly540.

Zanzibar has 2 departure taxes: domestic flights TSh 5,000 (or US$5), and international flights US$30. For almost all cases though, this tax is incorporated into your flight ticket price.

Transport to/from the airport
There are taxis waiting for passengers when you exit the terminal. Despite having a "list" of prices for the various tourist destinations on the island, prices are negotiable. Although you can arrange a pick up at the airport with your hotel or tour company, even a little negotiating will get you a better price than the inflated one quoted by most hotels. However, some Stone Town hotels do offer free shuttle service from the airport.

There is a bus stop just outside of the airport gate. The dala dala is mainly used by locals, and can be very awkward if you have large bags or suitcases, but is managable with a backpack. The buses run along creek road, TSh 200, 20 min (2018). If traveling from Stone town to the airport look for buses marked Ndege (Airport in Swahili). These can be most convienently caught at the crossroads just south of the market on creek road.

By Boat

There are many ferries and catamarans that can take you between Dar es Salaam and the Island. Azam Marine, Sea Express, Sea Star, Seagull Kilimanjaro and Sepideh Megaspeed Liners are among the nicest available. Some of these are run by Azam (2 hr, US$35 for non-residents, leaving Dar es Salaam at 07:00, 09:30, 12:30 and 15:45 and returning from Stone Town at 07:00, 09:30, 12:30 and 15:30.

Depending on demand, weather and condition of the boats additional ferries may run at different times. Arrive at the port at least 30 minutes in advance to allow for emigration, luggage security checks and to secure a good seat on the boat.

First class is US$5 more expensive than economy and often not worth the money: While there’s good comfortable seating, you’ll stay in a freezing room with the A/C set to 18 °C and foreigners are often allowed in first class anyways, since they already pay around 2½ times the local price. If you prefer to stay on the sundeck outside, choose economy.

The quoted US$ price may be more expensive when paid in local currency, so it may be a good idea to exchange money first.

Flying Horse makes the same journey for US$20. However, it will take around 4½ hours. There are also evening departures on a slow night ferry. It runs towards the destination and anchors there until the morning before it enters the port. This has been reported to be a beautiful trip, but security is an issue and close attention to belongings must always be paid.

You may be able to hire a private boat for cheaper, but the trip will take considerably longer and unless you know something about boats, you could be on a vessel that is not equipped for bad weather conditions or an emergency. Remember: you get what you pay for.

While not advisable there are also dhow connections, e.g. to Bagamoyo (4-8 hr, TSh 5,000). Since you’re not arriving through official customs on this route you may need to pay a departure tax of US$5 on exit and face some questionnaires.

Day trips
Ferry schedules allow you to do the return trip the same day. For instance leave Dar es Salaam at 07:30 and return from Zanzibar on the 15:45 ferry. That leaves plenty of time to explore the Stone Town, the museum and have a nice lunch. The trip is beautiful and lasts about 2 hours. However, if the weather is bad it can take much longer and the trip can be very unpleasant. If you suffer from seasickness you are advised to take some anti-seasickness pills prior to boarding. The on-board personnel hands out free sickness bags at the start of the journey.

Touts and annoyances
The "porters" at the Dar ferry terminal will hassle you for money, expect tips for referring you to "the best boat" or guide you to a ticket office that sells tickets at inflated prices. To avoid touts be forceful and head straight towards the ticket office of the ferry you intend to take. Touts will tell you anything to get you to use a service which pays them commission, and scam you in any way they can. They will say the company kiosk you are heading towards is closed, the ferry runs only later or only goes to mainland destinations (when they do service Zanzibar), they will say their service is a 90-min ferry (when it actually takes over 2 hours), they will quote you a price for first class tickets (but issue "e/c" economy tickets and pocket the difference), they will sell you a return ticket (leaving you to later find out it is actually only valid for return travel with a different, cheaper company and the seller has pocketed the difference). The dock is a zoo -- a prime hangout for pickpockets.

Top

edit

Getting Around

Walking around is the best way to admire the town and its surroundings.

Top

edit

Eat

Hurumzi, 236 Hurumzi Street in. Earlier known as Emerson and Green and later as Emerson's Tower Top Restaurant, is well worth a visit. Amazing food and sublime atmosphere. While dinner is quite expensive and has to be booked in advance, the rooftop view of the sunset punctuated by the sound of prayer calls is not to be missed.
Kidude (near Hurumzi). Serves traditional Zanzibari cuisine at moderate prices
Forodhani Gardens. Is a nightly affair by the water. You can purchase 'Zanzibari pizza' or get all sorts of grilled seafood and meat for less than US$1 per serving. Also available are banana and chocolate pancakes which are to die for (Note: bring an extra bar of chocolate for them to add to your pancake) Some consider the market to be overrated -- the food quality can be mixed and there will be papasi or touts who may hassle you. The twilight atmosphere however makes for a nice setting to have a cheap meal.
Amore Mio. On Shangani Street, serves good Italian gelati ice cream, pizzas and pasta. US$10-15 per person.
Monsoon Restaurant. Just to the west of the Tunnel at the edge of the harbour and the southern corner of Forodhani Gardens.
Passing Show Restaurant (next to the Malindi Police Station just outside the harbor). A place where they have very decent local food, like pilau, and all sorts of stews. All the men go there in the evening to drink tea. Muslim place, so no alcohol.

Top

edit

Drink

Serena Hotel, Stone Town. Has a very nice restaurant with live music almost everyday. Beautiful view of the ocean and excellent, although expensive, food. edit
Botanic Country Resort (Tunguu central region, 14 km from the Stone Town towards the East Coast behind the new Tanzanian Houses of Parliament.). Taarab Square and Kipepeo Grill and Pub/Beer Garden with discotheque on weekends, live music on public holidays including outdoor cinema and live sports events on giant screens. Beautiful Gardens, food is from traditional Swahili & Zanzibarian dishes to International Cuisine.
Lukmaan. A small restaurant on the same road as the slave market does very affordable and delicious food. Point at what you want and you get it right away. The prices and convenient speed makes it a favourite for many lunchers.
Africa House Ice cold beer and a huge balcony that overlooks the ocean - great at sunset.
Taarab Square At the Botanic Country Resort, Tunguu Central Region offers reasonably priced spirits and drinks compared to most of the bars on the island. Live sports bars and the only outdoor cinema showing Indian, African and English movies, discotheque over weekends and live music on public holidays.

Top

edit

Sleep

Zanzibar Lodge (Njila guest house), Stone Town (250 m from darajani market), ☏ +255 777458584. Check-in: any time, check-out: 10AM. The lodge has 4 rooms and can accommodate up to 8 people. single US$25, double US$40 (including breakfast).
Coco del Mer. Nice and central hotel with mostly decent rooms. Ask for discount for about half price. There is also a restaurant downstairs. double US$60.
Flamingo Guest House. A great budget place 10 minutes from the city centre. It is simple, clean and rooms with private bathrooms are a bit more expensive. The breakfast is quite nice and substantial including fruit, a loaf of bread, eggs, and coffee/tea. Single US$15, double $28, dorm $15 per person. edit
Funguni Palace Hotel, Funguni Rd (near to Ferry), ☏ +255 777411842, ✉ fungunipalace@yahoo.com. 24 hrs. This hotel contains 11 rooms in Zanzibar traditional style inside. Some rooms have self-contained bathrooms and some use shared bathrooms. There are air conditioners in rooms. US$35.
Pearl Guest House (in middle Stone Town, about 5 minutes walk east of the port and Mercury's Restaurant. If your are coming from the market, it is about 2 minutes walk east of the junction of Creek Road and Malindi Street). A simple budget guest house for backpackers. Don't expect much (common bathrooms, cold water shower and without breakfast) but the owner is friendly and it offers a very good value for money.
Malindi Guest House Hotel, Funguni Rd (Near the ferry). Check-in: any time, check-out: 10AM. It's close to the Zanzibar Port (off Malindi Street) and near the fish market (but the smell isn't so bad). Known to double book rooms during high season. US$20 per person per night, $40 sharing with private bathroom.. edit
Annex of Abdullah (south of Jaws Corner, (opposite white & green Mosque)). Very basic but very cheap single rooms with shared bathrooms. Basic breakfast included. A really decent find for the budget traveller. US$15.
Jambo Guest House. Check-out: 10AM. Simple, but nice and clean rooms with fans and shared bathrooms and a great breakfast with lots of fresh fruit make this a welcoming place that is famous with backpackers and fills up quickly. The staff is a bit disorganized, but generally friendly. Has free Wi-Fi. low-season double from TSh 45,000.
River Man Hotel. A cheapy, but some of rooms are really big and bright. Rooms area clean and have fans and shared bathrooms. Breakfast can be organized on request. It's next to a mosque and a busy walking street, so check which room your getting if that’s an issue for you. Low-season double from TSh 30,000.
Furaha Resort, ☏ +255 772279353, ✉ hassanjumbe@yahoo.com. Check-out: 10AM. 7 km from Stone Town the way to north of Island, with a nice rooms,sunset view restaurant. Rates quoted above are on per room per night and on bed and breakfast basis. Children below 6 years old will be allowed free if no extra bed is needed. Extra bed US$20 per night. Facilities: swimming pool, en suite bathroom, AC, hot water, ceiling fan, pool garden view rooms offer cable TV and mini bar. Single/double occupancy rates: basic room US$50/65, standard/twin US$85/80, pool view deluxe US$75/95, Triple Deluxe (1 king size bed and 1 single bed) US$115. All taxes are included.
Pongwe Beach Hotel. A small hotel on the eastern side of the island. It is ideal for those looking for a relaxed and secluded "paradise island" experience. The food here is also excellent with half-board and bed & breakfast options available. Most rooms have sea views, some have their own splash-pools.
Botanic Country House in Tunguu, central region (behind the new Tanzanian House of Parliament) is a great option for budget travellers who have had enough of the beach. A night for two people goes for US$40/night which includes a tasty breakfast. Nights are cool and it is a mosquito-free environment in the countryside of Zanzibar.
Dhow Inn, Paje Beach (turn left at the Paje junction, go for about 200 metres, then turn right), ☏ +255 777525828. Check-in: 1PM, check-out: noon. This quiet, comfortable and atmospheric hotel is small and intimate with only 6 rooms. Well equipped rooms, stylish swimming pool, free wifi, attentive staff and the hotel is active with various local NGOs. No small children. US$65.
Tamarind Beach Hotel, Uroa Village, East Coast, ☏ +255 777411191. Bungalow hotel by the Indian Ocean on the east coast of Zanzibar. US$380.
Fontaine Garden Village, Stone Town (south east coast of Zanzibar in the village of Bwejuu), ☏ +255 713419451, +255 714902618, ✉ reception@fontainevillage.com. Offers 11 bungalows, some en suite, some shared facilities. There is also a house that sleeps 5. 20-seat restaurant. 100 m from the beach. 45 minutes from Stonetown.
Ras Michamvi Beach Resort, Michamvi, ☏ +255 24 22 31 081. A peaceful hotel on the northern end of the southern East Coast of Zanzibar. All 15 rooms are overlooking the Indian Ocean, with powder-white sand.
The Zanzibari, Nungwi, ☏ +255 774-323318. A beachfront boutique hotel with 8 rooms. An adjoining bar and restaurant is crafted out of a traditional wooden boat.
Teddy´s Place, Paje (at Paje junction turn right and after the wall of Cristal turn left), ☏ +255 773 096 306. Backpacker style accommodation. Zanzibari food, and bar. US$12-25.
Mustapha´s Place, Bwejuu (at Paje junction turn left and drive for a few minutes until you see a sign for Mustapha's Place on the right - follow this), ☏ +255 774 366 841. Mustapha's is popular with backpackers, volunteers and families and offers rustic accommodation and reliable food about 2 minutes form Bwejuu beach US$15-60.
Milele Villas (Private Holiday Villa Rental), Fukuchani, ☏ +255 773-828026, ✉ info@milelevillas.com. Environmental friendly and self-sufficient set of villas located on the North-Eastern tip of Zanzibar. Sleeps from 2-12 people, and includes facilities such as an infinity swimming pool, sea-view and volleyball court. edit
White Beach Hotel Zanzibar, Bwejuu (East Coast Bwejuu), ☏ +255 772279353, ✉ hassanjumbe@yahoo.com. Check-in: any time, check-out: 10AM. This hotel contains 6 bungalows along the beach. US$40 as a single and $25 sharing room double. Price includes breakfast and taxes.
Dhow Palace Hotel. Check-out: 10AM. Slow internet connection (Wifi) available. Non-residents from US$75 for a single.
Chavda Hotel is in the middle of Stone Town, 15 min by foot from the Harbour (or TSh 1,000 by taxi). Rooms are nice but without luxury. Double beds, 2 single or 3 single beds are available, all with air conditioning and mosquito drapes. Breakfast is small (it's better to eat around the corner) but the cheap hotel is on the roof of the hotel and offers nice views of Stone Town. Rate for a room with double bed US$90 incl. breakfast and taxes (10% charge when you pay by credit card).
Kisiwa House, Baghani St. Check-in: 1PM, check-out: 10AM. In a nicely restored building. Big rooms, though only the more expensive ones has view of the ocean - the cheaper rooms only have view to the street. High season: US$165-220, low: US$110-170.
Kholle House, Malindi 607/608 (2 minutes walk to the ferry & Mercury's), ☏ +255 779779898200. Kholle House is a unique and historical hotel in the heart of Stonetown. All of its 10 rooms are different and special with en suite bathrooms, AC and fan. Built in 1860 by Princess Kholle, daughter of the first Sultan of Zanzibar is now one of the most authentic places in Stonetown. Enjoy the à la carte breakfast and the swimming pool by the garden, and do not miss the stunning 360° views from the terrace! US$90-190.
Island View Hotel (located in Kilimani (about 2 km south of Stone Town)). A great option for budget travellers. Rooms have a TV with many channels, clean washrooms, a telephone and the option of air-conditioning. Staff are very friendly and helpful! Double US$35-50 including breakfast.
Africa House Hotel. A historical building dating back to the first generation of old Arab houses at Shangani waterfont in Stone Town. Around 1900, it became the English Club for members of the British navy officers. In 1964 the club was taken over by the Tanzanian government. The building was privatised in the 1990s and offers hotel accommodation, the Sunset Bar (a popular meeting place for sundowners), a restaurant, a library and an Arabic shisha smoking lounge.

View our map of accommodation in Stone Town

Top

edit

Keep Connected

Internet

Major tourist areas and cities have internet cafes and many hotels offer (free) wifi nowadays. Connections can be slower at more remote places.
Also safari oriented places offer some sort of internet connections as well, by computers or wifi.

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

The International Dialling Code for Tanzania is +255, followed by area codes (e.g. (0)22 for Dar es Salaam, or (0)27 for Arusha). Calling from Tanzania, you dial 00 plus the relevant country code (44 for the UK, 1 for the USA).

There are four cell providers in Tanzania: Zain (the major one), Zantel, Vodacom and Tigo, who all offer roaming facilities. Connections are good in Tanzania, even in places such as Tarangire, Manyara, Ngorongoro Crater, and some parts of the Serengeti (the western and northern region of the Serengeti not). You can buy the prepaid cards in amounts ranging from $5 to $50. You can even buy a cell phone while in Tanzania. The price for a simple cell phone ranges between $55 and $80.

Avoid roaming charges with you home cellphone and turn it off. Instead, use a local SIM card or just wifi.

Post

Tanzania Posts Corporation is the national postal services of Tanzania. There are post officies in most major cities and towns throughout the country, which are generally open Monday to Friday from 8:00am to 4:30pm and Saturday from 9:00am to noon. Services are generally quite reliable though not very fast. Prices for international airmal services start at around 500-600 TSHS to other countries in East Africa and 700-900 TSHS to Europe and North America for postcards and letters up to 20 grams. Small packages start at around 2,000-3,000 TSHS, but it's generally better to do business with international parcel services like TNT, UPS, DHL or FedEx.

Top

Accommodation in Stone Town

We have a comprehensive list of accommodation in Stone Town searchable right here on Travellerspoint.

Stone Town Travel Helpers

We don't currently have any Travel Helpers for Stone Town

This is version 7. Last edited at 14:08 on Nov 19, 20 by Utrecht. 3 articles link to this page.

Creative Commons License
Except where otherwise noted, content of this article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License