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Decent cheap hostels?
Do I need to carry USD or the local currency?
Thing to see?
Money - I'd take travellers cheques and some US dollars - you some time get a better price for dollars. The T shilling often comes in massive notes which people don't have any change for so you'll have to wait whilst someone walks for up to 20 minutes trying to change it up.
In Stone Town I stayed in Florida Guest House. It was great, cheap, pretty clean, awesome breakfasts of omlettes and mandazis and fruit. It looks a bit run down but that's just Stone Town.
First of all, just wonder around Stone Town, it's a UNESCO world heritage site for a reason. Maze like streets, gorgeous medieval Arab doorways.
Do a spice tour. Get to see amazing countryside and taste spices where they're grown (Zanzibar is renowned for its spice) though while most people in Zanzibar are quite poor, the level of deprivation in rural areas can be really quite shocking and upsetting.
Boat tour - I think there's Prison and Grave Island. Really beautiful, one of them has a giant turtle shelter (though they charge $5 for food to feed the turtles?!) They'll usually stop for you to go scuba diving in the Indian Ocean.
I can't remember the name of the forest now it's in the centre of the island is the only place in the world to see red colobus monkeys.
In the castle at night there is this area called the Gardens where there's loads of food and oil drum barbeques, using freshly caught sea food. You select skewers of what you want and they cook it fresh for you. Also Zanzibari pizzas which are like meat and peppers and onions fried and cooked into a parcel on a grill. Delish.
Passion fruit fanta. drink it everywhere.
Then we went to the northern tip of island Nungwi. I hear it's a lot busier now then when I went 2004, but it was beautiful. Stayed in a hut on the beach, loads of amazing beach hut bars, can get a bit party at night, loads of lush fresh seafood, and a few nature reserves. Take a ride in a dhow (tradtional arabic ship) at sunset.
General tips - look after your stuff. A lot of people live in tremendous poverty and are desperate so there's a lot of petty crime like pickpocketing.
The roads are narrow and poorly lit. And everyone drives like a nutter. Take care at night.
Politics - the north part of the island is closer to Pemba which suffers from piracy. Also people from Pemba are bitter at Zanzibar's privileged position in Tanzania and can be nasty about it. People from Tanzania are bitter about the mainland and I saw a few hairy *FREE ZANZIBAR!* moments when I was there. Also a lot of people are muslim so being raucously drunk or flashing a lot of skin can vary from being frowned out to outright hostility, especially for women.
Taxis are good for getting around but need to be booked and will either turn up 3 hours early or 2 hours late.
If you complain about something people will shrug and say *This is Africa*
Everyone you meet will insist on having a full conversation with you. Ridiculously friendly people. If you just replay JAMBO! they'll speak English but if you say SIJAMBO! they'll give you a crack in Swahili.
You have to pay extra in restaurants to have heinz ketchup. Their normal ketchup is horrid.
Under no circumstances drink konyagi
Just wish I'd gone under happier circumtances
We'll probably look to stay in the more backpacker areas (cheaper, more fun etc).