Communications in Zanzibar Town
Telephone and Fax
Zanzibar Town has a very wide choice of places where you can make calls or send faxes. Some are properly equipped bureaux, others are just a dusty phone in the corner of someone's shop which is nevertheless proudly touted as an 'international communication centre'.
One of the best phone centres is Tanzanian Telecommunications
international telephone office, next to the old post office on Kenyatta Road. Calls cost US$1 for ten minutes inside Zanzibar, US$1 for three minutes elsewhere in Tanzania, US$1 for about one-and-a-half minutes to other parts of Africa, and US$2.50–3 for one minute to Europe, the USA and other international destinations. This office is open 08.00 to 21.00 daily. The office is large, cool and quiet, and the staff members are very friendly and helpful – so much better than some of the privately owned booths, where they put a stopwatch in your face and there's no privacy at all.
Another option for international calls is to buy a phonecard
from the international telephone office (they are also sold at some shops and hotels) and use this in the direct-dial phone booth outside. A 150-unit card costs US$7.50 and gives you two minutes to Europe or the USA. A 500-unit card costs US$20. For local calls a 10-unit card is US$1.25, and a 100-unit card is US$5.
If the international telephone office is closed, local boys loiter by the phone booths outside with cards and will charge you per unit to use them. There's even one young entrepreneur with a mobile phone who allows international calls at negotiable rates. It makes you wonder who is really paying the bill.
At the private phone bureaux around Zanzibar Town, international calls are about the same price as those charged by the Tanzanian Telecommunications office, although a few places manage to undercut this rate, and some can be considerably more, so it's worth checking, if you've got a lot of calls to make. For example, at Asko Tours, next to the old post office, local calls are US$0.40 per minute, calls to Africa are US$1.50 per minute, and international calls cost US$3 per full minute. Opposite the international phone office a souvenir shop offers international calls to Europe for US$2.60 per minute. At Next Step Services on Hurumzi Street, international calls cost US$5 per minute. For cheap international calls, worth seeking out is Asad Secretarial Services, near the Clove Hotel, which offers phone calls via the internet for US$2 per minute. There's a delay of a second or two while you're speaking, but once you're used to that, it's fine.
For current codes, see in the chapter 'Planning and Preperation.'
If you bring a mobile phone with you from home, it's emphatically worth the minor investment in a Tanzanian SIM card (which costs around US$0.30 and gives you a local number) and airtime cards (available in units of Tsh 1,000 to 5,000). International text messages and calls out of Tanzania are seriously cheap: at the time of writing, US$1 will buy you around 20 text messages to anywhere in the world, and international calls work out at around US$1 for three to four minutes.
By contrast, you can expect to rack up a hefty bill using your home phone number for calls and/or messages, since in most instances these are charged at international rates out of your home country, even when you are phoning home. SIM and airtime cards can be bought at a specialist Vodacom outlet (there's one opposite the taxi rank on Creek Road) or at numerous other small shops displaying the ubiquitous Vodacom sticker.