What to Wear in Zanzibar

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General Style Tips

  • This is a strong Muslim community and as tourism is very new there is no flexibility in the dress code.
  • It's hot and humid so our advice is to pack lightweight, loose-fitting clothes in natural fabrics such as linen, silk, bamboo and cotton that will keep you cool and are easy to wash and dry.
  • Avoid blue or black clothing - the tsetse flies are drawn to these colors, and their bite can give you African Sleeping Sickness.
  • Also don't forget your insect/mosquito repellent. Wearing long pants and long-sleeved shirts, especially in the evenings, will also offer some protection - your wrists and ankles are particularly susceptible to being bitten.
  • The sun is very strong and can catch people unawares - wear plenty of high factor sunscreen (we love the Riemann P20 range for 10 hour protection), sunglasses and a sunhat at all times.
  • If you wade in to the shallows to explore the reefs beware the reflected sunlight off the water as you can get very burnt.
  • As in many countries pickpockets and petty crime can be a problem. Use common sense and don't flash your money or valuables around. You may want to consider a money belt, and leave expensive jewelry or valuables at home.

What Shoes To Pack

  • For comfy footwear try Hotter shoes, they're very light and good in the heat (remember your feet may swell).
  • On the beach look out for jellyfish, and sea urchins - take dive shoes to protect your feet.
  • Pack some pretty flat sandals - we like the Lindsay Phillips Switch Flops range; using interchangeable shoe and flip-flop bases with snap-on decorations, you can change your look from day to evening in an instant whilst still packing light.

Clothing Tips for Women

  • Avoid dressing as a tourist when you are out in the towns and villages; shoulders should definitely be covered, as should your knees.
  • A long skirt or loose-fitting pants are good in the heat and will protect you from the sun.
  • A pashmina or sarong is a versatile item that you can use for modesty, sun protection or to dress up the simplest of outfits.
  • If you have blonde hair you may even want to tie it up and hide it under your hat or a scarf to reduce the chances of being pestered - it's a novelty.
  • On the beaches at hotel resorts things are more relaxed; bikinis are ok, but definitely not thongs and do not go topless as it is illegal.
  • When walking on the beach, our advice would be to cover up with a kaftan or sarong, and a sunhat. You'll be protected from the strong sun but also avoid unwanted attention.
  • If you are a lone female traveller, you may be subjected to unwanted advances from Zanzibari men. Wearing a fake wedding ring can be useful to help ward off such attentions.

Clothing Tips for Men

  • If you're looking for versatile and stylish beachwear, try the Madda Fella range of shirts, shorts, polos and swimwear.
  • For great versatile travel jackets with multiple pockets including RFID security options, we love the SCOTTeVEST range.

Other Things To Pack

  • Your local transfer to Zanzibar may have much lower baggage limits than your international carrier. Use an accurate luggage scale to ensure you keep within the weight allowance.
  • A soft-sided rucksack will be more practical than a hard suitcase - it's easier to fit into the small planes or transfer vehicles. Using packing cubes can help to keep your belongings tidy whilst compressing the volume too.
  • Pack a beach bag or lightweight day sack for your daytime essentials.
  • Look after your mobile phone with a phone bunjee - it protects against loss, theft and damage.
  • To use electrical gadgets you may need a travel adapter plug, and also a step down voltage converter if your devices are not designed for the local voltage (230V).
  • Don’t drink or even brush your teeth in tap water. Consider taking a Water-to-Go Filtration Water Bottle.
  • Avoid paying unexpected baggage fees - use an accurate luggage scale to ensure you keep within the weight allowance. Don't forget to leave room for souvenirs on the way home! Look out for Fahari Zanzibar in Stone Town - it's a social enterprise store that supports the local women by training and employing them in the making of handicrafts (beautiful, high quality handbags, jewelry etc) and in working in the shop. The goods aren't cheap, but you know the profits will all go to support the local community.

Last updated 16 December 2016.

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Pack Light

  • Less luggage to carry
  • Save time packing and unpacking
  • Save money on baggage fees

Pack Right

  • Respect local cultures
  • Feel comfortable and confident
  • Suitable outfits for all occasions

A Message From Helen



I want you to have an amazing vacation. That's why I started WhatToWearOnVacation.com,
to help you pack with confidence and stay safe, secure and comfortable.