Exchange rates and prices in Zanzibar

Exchange and payment in Zanzibar

The first option where you can exchange money for the Tanzanian shilling is at the airport. As in other countries, even in Zanzibar, it is not convenient to change money at the airport. The exchange rates at the exchange offices can be negotiable but you will never get close to the rates that are in Stone Town.

Stone Town, Zanzibar

USD bills not older than 2006

The bills should not be issued earlier than 2006. Otherwise, at some places people don´t want to accept them.

Acceptance of credit cards and supplement charge of 5%

You can change dollars for shillings just in Stone Town (I have seen one exchange office in Nungwi too).  So if you plan to travel around the island, try to change the whole amount of money which you’ll need during your stay in Zanzibar. I have one good friend from the nearby city, Dar Es Salaam, so he exactly knew which conversion rate would be fine for me.

We were in Zanzibar in December 2015 and the conversion rate was 1 USD = 2170 Tanzanian Shillings (in Stone Town). For comparison, the airport offered us for 1 USD = 2000 shillings. When changing a larger amount of money, the difference of 10% is quite high.

When buying meals at the restaurants or souvenirs on the beach in Zanzibar, it is always better to pay in Shillings. This is because, if you pay in dollars, it will be converted again with unfavorable exchange rate.  In this case the conversion rate would be again 1 USD – 2000 shillings.

However, if you book a taxi or some of the trips offered around Zanzibar, then usually you would pay in dollars. Normally, the prices in the restaurants in Zanzibar are in shillings, but for example at some places like Matemwe, all prices in restaurants were in US dollars, which of course increases the costs.

The place where I changed money in Stone Town

Where can you find the exchange bureau in Stone Town? We were staying at the Tembo House Hotel, 200 meters from there is a small street where you can find two exchange offices. Just ask in the reception at this hotel (do not change money directly at the hotel). Both offer good rates and you don´t pay any commission. Be careful that the exchange rate is better using 100 USD banknotes (1 USD = 2170 TZS), but if you change smaller bills like 50$, 20$, 10$, then your rate will be lower (1 USD = 2135 TZS).

The best option is to carry both currencies (shillings and also dollars). Normally (if you don´t have a half-board meal plan) two people can spend daily from 70 to 100 USD. Of course, this does not apply to the most luxurious hotels, where you can spend 100 USD only for lunch.

What are the prices of food in Zanzibar?

The prices vary in every restaurant. The average cost of one meal is 24000 TZS (11 USD). For that price, we ate at the 4 star hotel. However you can find a small hotel or local restaurant on the beach where you can eat from 6-8 USD without problems.

Do you like seafood? The best place where to eat seafood in Stone Town is the local market in Forodhani Gardens. Here, every day from 6 in the afternoon, you can taste everything that can be found in the sea. Everything is as fresh as can be. What fishermen caught during the day, in the evening they do barbecue and sell the seafood on the wooden sticks. It is a popular place where to eat for the tourists and for locals as well. Be prepared to negotiate the price. One stick with the lobster could stand about 10 000 TZS, which is less than $5. But, you can negotiate the price for 8000 TZS. For the same meal in a hotel you could pay $12 on average, and in better hotels it could be even more. For a crab we negotiated a price of 15000 TZS (7 USD). This is a pretty good price, don’t you think? If you are in Stone Town, then taste the seafood as much as you can.

There are major differences in the prices of drinks. For example Cola. From a local, I learned that for a bottle of Coke, it is normal to pay 1000 TZS (50 cents). But in a smaller bar on the beach it reached 2000 TZS, the hotel price is somewhere around 3500 TZS and we have also seen coke for 2 USD, which is 4340 TZS. So the price can be 4 times higher than normal. The same applies when you buy a bottle of water. For a 1.5 liter bottle we paid $2 in one hotel, and in the second one they asked for an incredible $6.

If you would like to read more articles about Zanzibar, click here. You can also buy fine art prints of my pictures here.