Local services in Zanzibar Town
This section covers local services that visitors may require during their time in Zanzibar Town. For more general matters covering Pemba and Mafia, refer to their respective chapters.
The Zanzibar Tourist Corporation (ZTC) is the state travel service. It has offices in livingstone house, on the northeast side of town on the main road towards bububu, where you can make reservations for the ZTC bungalows on the east coast. For general tourist enquiries, you're better off asking at the ZTC office on creek road, where the members of staff are a bit more helpful, and there are postcards and maps for sale.
For general information, hotel staff and some tour companies are happy to help, even if you don't end up buying a tour from them, try Sun N Fun Safaris, Sama Tours and Suna Tours. Also worth visiting is the information desk at the Arab Fort, which has details of local musical, cultural and sporting events.
For less formalised (but equally useful) information, check the noticeboard at the open-air restaurant inside the Fort. Local events are advertised here, alongside details of companies selling tours, spare seats on charter flights and local residents selling cars or motorbikes. This is also a good place to leave messages for those people you last saw in Cairo or Cape Town and are trying to contact again, as is the famous message board at the Africa House Hotel.
For details of international and domestic flights to and from Zanzibar, see the getting there
section. If you do need to book or reconfirm a ticket while you are on zanzibar, this is most easily done through one of the tour operators recommended earlier in this chapter. Airlines represented on zanzibar are:
Vuga Rd, near junction with Creek
Rd; PO Box 773; 0242230213/0297;
Zanzibar airport; 024 2233112;
Precision Air Flight Services
Kenyatta Rd (next
to Mazson's Hotel); 024 223 0029/4521; 024
PO Box 2113; main office, Malawi Rd,
Malindi; 024 223 3670/3788; 233768; branch
office, Zanzibar airport; 024 232993, 0777
Banks and money-changing
Some general points on banks and change bureaux are given in Chapter 4
. Hard-currency cash can be changed into local currency at most banks as well as at a number of private bureaux de change dotted around the Stone Town. These days, there isn't much to choose between the rates offered by banks and the private 'forex bureaux', indeed some of the private bureaux offer an inferior rate to the banks, but you'll generally find the transaction takes a minute or two at a private bureau whereas changing money at banks often involves long queues and plenty of paperwork. Good private bureaux de change include the Shangani bureau de change (at the northern end of Kenyatta Road, near the Tembo Hotel), and Malindi bureau de change (next to the ZanAir office, east of the port gates). Most large hotels will also change money, although some deal only with their own guests, and they often offer poor rates. There are also change bureaux at the port and airport. The only place that exchanges travellers' cheques is the first-floor 'Foreign Trade Dept' at the National Bank of Commerce on Kenyatta Road. The rate here is pretty good and the commission (0.5%) is negligible. You can draw cash against Visa cards at the ATM outside the same bank, but the only place where you can draw against MasterCard is the Barclays ATM a couple of kilometres out of town along the road towards the north coast.
Elsewhere, getting cash on a debit or credit card is virtually impossible, although most upmarket hotels will accept major credit cards.