Why is Zanzibar So Expensive?

Even if Zanzibar is part of Tanzania, the prices tend a vary a lot on this island. Indeed, when you take the boat from Dar es Salaam to Zanzibar city, you can easily see some prices double. Why is that? Why is Zanzibar so expensive?

Compared to the Tanzania mainland, Zanzibar is expensive because it is an island, meaning that import fees and high taxes increase the prices. Zanzibar is also a tourist place, so hotels, restaurants, and luxury accommodations are more expensive on Zanzibar. One day in Zanzibar costs $100 for a tourist.

What is the cost of traveling to Zanzibar?

As a tourist, it is important to budget your trip beforehand. This is what I will help you to do right now. In order to do that, we will live a typical tourist day in Zanzibar. We will spend a night in a hotel, eat 3 meals (breakfast, lunch, and diner), enjoy the beach in the morning, and do a little boat tout in the afternoon.

man and woman on lounge in expensive zanzibar
That’s the kind of luxury resorts you can find in Zanzibar. Credits to Antony

How much does one day in Zanzibar cost?

For this experience, I looked for real hotels and restaurants that I found on the Internet. I was able to know the prices thanks to hotel websites and virtual menus. Let’s detail the prices.

After comparing several virtual menus, it seems like a normal breakfast for one person costs  TSh 10,000 (TSh representing Tanzanian Shilling). This is equal to around USD 4,3. Then, a classic meal in a restaurant for one person costs TSh 35,000 ($15). We will double that amount for the total because we eat two meals a day.

Then, the prices of boat tours vary a lot. Some boat tours have a tourist approach, whereas others are much cheaper. I went for the touristic approach and found a boat tour for $35 (around TSh 80,000) for one person for a big afternoon and evening.

Finally, it seems like a hotel room for two persons for one night in Zanzibar costs USD 60 (or TSh 140,000). We need to divide this price by two in order to be coherent. Indeed, all the other prices above are for one person. Now it’s time for the final price. How much does one day in Zanzibar cost?

One day in Zanzibar costs USD 100 (or TSh 230,000). This is the amount for a tourist day in Zanzibar including one breakfast, two meals, a hotel room, and a boat tour.

Type of expenseAmount (USD)
Boat tour$35
This data table summarizes the amount needed for one tourist day in Zanzibar

Is Zanzibar expensive for tourists?

After the research I made, I wanted to confirm my finds. I watched several travel reports of former tourists who went to Zanzibar, and one of them helped me to confirm my research. It is the following video.

This video is a travel report giving pieces of information about prices in Zanzibar and places to visit. Credits to MaxTheSensei

In this video, this former tourist was able to spend $43 for one night in a hotel with breakfast included. This corresponds to what I found during my research. Then, he found a boat tour for $130 for 2 people. This does not really correspond to what I found, but this boat tour was a full-day boat tour with food included and it was for two people. Overall, the price range is correct.

The author also mentions prices that I first did not think about, such as the visa and the boat to Zanzibar. I only choose to focus on the daily expenses. However, one expense that he does not mention is the flight tickets to Tanzania. And of course, according to where you come from, this can vary heavily.

What is the cost of living in Zanzibar?

For now, we saw that tourists tend to spend a lot of money during their vacation to Zanzibar, compared to vacations in the Tanzania mainland. Let’s now change our point of view, and think like a local.

As a local living in Tanzania, it could be interesting to move to Zanzibar. Why? Because the rent prices tend to be lower on the island. Basically, there is a balance between the prices of the rent and the prices of the food. However, you can use this fact to your advantage.

For instance, you can choose to live in Zanzibar and cook your own food. Groceries cost more in Zanzibar because of import fees to the island, but at the end of the month, you will be the winner. This is what I was able to find thanks to numbeo.com, a great database about costs of living around the world.

On this website, you can see that rent prices in Dar es Salaam are 49.68% higher than in Zanzibar (Dar es Salaam is the biggest city in Tanzania). However, restaurant prices in Dar es Salaam are 26.80% lower than in Zanzibar and grocery prices in Dar es Salaam are 14.13% lower than in Zanzibar.

Data found on numbeo.com

This means that it costs way more to live in Dar es Salaam when it comes to the rent (almost double the price), but way less when it comes to eating in restaurants (a third less). However, groceries cost 15% more in Zanzibar, so it does not make that much of a difference.

Summary: how expensive is Zanzibar?

I was a little bit confused by this last research I made: if it is worth living on this heavenly island, why does no one do it? I choose to back up my research with another tool. It is a tool called budgetyourtrip.com. They also summarize the average prices of expenses around the world. What I found there was a little different.

In fact, it almost confused me even more, because it is stated that it costs
TSh 1,028,523 to live a week in Dar es Salaam and only TSh 743,820 to live a week in Zanzibar. It is confusing because vacations in Zanzibar should be more expensive than in Dar es Salaam. But those numbers are confusing because the maths behind them is wrong. Budgetyourtrip.com takes the average prices of all types of accommodations into account! But the thing is that there are more hotels in Dar es Salaam (which is also a huge city and a resort) than in Zanzibar. This explains it.

To conclude, it means that living in Zanzibar could be cheaper if you find affordable accommodations. However, as a tourist who eats in a restaurant and who spends his nights in luxury hotels, it will cost more. Zanzibar is extremely expensive for tourists but is relatively cheap for locals.

I hope that you learned about what to expect in Zanzibar. Tanzania is a great country with great people, and you should also consider visiting the mainland. If you want some inspiration, I wrote two articles about Kilimanjaro: one about general pieces of information, and one about summiting Kilimanjaro with oxygen. Then, if you prefer reading about other prices reviews, you should read the articles I wrote about Bali, Thailand, and Cape Breton Island.


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