Is Zanzibar a good place to live

Is Zanzibar a Good Place to Live? Learn About Zanzibarian Life

  • Zanzibar offers an idyllic tropical lifestyle with pristine beaches, rich culture, and a unique blend of Swahili, African and Arabic influences.
  • Quality of life is excellent with modern amenities, high-end properties, safety, and access to quality private healthcare and education with growing investment in these areas
  • Zanzibar properties provide luxury chalets, villas, apartments, and beachfront homes for those seeking an exclusive island lifestyle.
  • Vibrant culture with colourful bazaars, spice tours, music, and annual festivals like the Zanzibar International Film Festival.
  • An economy’s growth based on tourism, agriculture, and fishing, with opportunities in hospitality, trade, and professional services.
  • International schools and modern medical facilities provide high-quality education and healthcare.
  • Low crime rates and political stability ensure a safe environment ideal for families.
  • Downsides include high temperatures, unpredictable infrastructure, and occasional power outages.
  • Residents praise the relaxed pace of life, natural splendour, and tight-knit community.
  • For those who appreciate island living, Zanzibar offers an unbeatable mix of tropical beauty and cosmopolitan comforts.

With its picture-perfect beaches, turquoise waters, and intriguing mix of African, Arabian, and Indian influences, Zanzibar has emerged as one of Africa’s most alluring island destinations.

It was even rated by the World Travel Awards as the leading beach destination in Africa in 2022 and it’s easy to see why.

Each year, thousands of tourists flock to this archipelago off the coast of Tanzania to soak up its idyllic charms. But Zanzibar is more than just a tourist hotspot – it’s also home to over 1.5 million residents who experience its tropical paradise lifestyle year-round.

Zanzibar has begun attracting foreign residents looking to relocate there more permanently

In recent years, Zanzibar has begun attracting foreign residents looking to relocate there more permanently. Drawn by its natural beauty, laidback pace of life, and roster of luxury amenities, many expats and retirees from Europe, Asia, and beyond have started calling Zanzibar home.

So what’s the verdict – is Zanzibar a good place to live? There are many factors to weigh for those considering a move to this island paradise.

In this article, we’ll explore Zanzibar’s allure as a place to live, work, and enjoy an unrivalled island lifestyle.

From its standard of living and real estate offerings to economic prospects, education, healthcare, and day-to-day life, we unveil everything you need to know about living in Zanzibar.

One of Zanzibar’s biggest draws is its exceptional quality of life. While still a developing nation, Zanzibar offers most of the comforts and conveniences people expect in the modern world.

Zanzibar residents enjoy access to high-speed internet (up to 20MB/s), satellite TV, international cuisine, and stores stocking familiar brands. Elon Musk’s Star Link is expected to be available in Q3/Q4 2024 for super-fast Internet speeds up to 100MB/s at a more affordable rate than other providers on the Island.

English is also widely spoken along with the local language of Swahili also known as Kiswahili. Expats can find many favourite foods and amenities from back home.

The infrastructure is growing rapidly in development, and is already well developed in the central city of Stone Town. Paved roads, running water, sanitation systems, electricity, banks, and ATMs make it easy for residents to go about their daily errands.

$300m investment from China on the Island’s roads, tarmac roads are being built all across the Island

With a $300m investment from China on the Island’s roads, tarmac roads are being built all across the Island enhancing transport and ease of travel. Shopping malls, movie theatres, gyms, and other urban conveniences are readily available.

In addition, new airports are being built in Paje and Nungwi for short-distance flights to nearby Islands and the mainland, such as Dar Es Salaam. Whether longer haul flights will be provided remains to be seen.

While power outages used to be common, the electricity supply has become much more reliable in recent years. It continues to improve with massive investments in renewable energy, such as solar farms. The government is actively working to improve infrastructure across the island.

Most residents in Zanzibar rely on cheap and plentiful taxis to get around. Driving is on the left, and international licenses are accepted. While traffic has increased in busy city centre areas, congestion is minimal compared to most urban centres.

Another popular mode of travel is the infamous boda-boda (moto-taxis), a cheap, inexpensive alternative, preferable for short distances when you wish to avoid the heat of the climate.

Outside the central city, life moves at an even slower pace. Zanzibar’s remote villages retain a laidback, traditional rhythm of life. No matter where you go on the islands, you’re always close to unspoiled beaches, verdant nature, and that tranquil tropical vibe.

Zanzibar properties

Zanzibar’s spectacular natural environment, alongside development, has created a thriving real estate and luxury property market, such as the Zanzibar property for sale we offer at Shivo. There are several unique options for buying a home or investing in Zanzibar.

In Stone Town, historic Arab townhouses intermix with modern apartments and hotels. The old buildings with ornate carvings, shuttered windows, and winding staircases provide authentic heritage charm. New build apartments offer sleek, contemporary living with all modern conveniences.

For beach living, numerous luxury villa communities and resorts line Zanzibar’s shores. Top developers have launched exclusive properties with private infinity pools such as our Shivo Dreams development with easy beach access. These provide both vacation homes and permanent residences.

Zanzibar real estate provides high value compared to similar European or American offerings with excellent affordability

There are also rental options starting around $1,000 per month, and to buy Zanzibar property ranges from $150,000 for a two-bedroom apartment to $500,000+ for a premium villa. While not cheap, Zanzibar real estate provides high value compared to similar European or American offerings with excellent affordability.

At ByShivo, we blend affordability, luxury and modern architecture. We have some highly unique developments in prime locations and exclusive architecture not found anywhere else on the Island, providing an entire holiday home, rental opportunities with our managed services or a place to live permanently. 

In addition to amenities, most communities provide services like security, maintenance, restaurants, and social events for residents; at ByShivo developments, we offer 24/7 security and electric fences around the estate walls for added peace of mind to protect your property further.

The ultra-luxury market is still in its early stages, signalling huge growth potential for high-end real estate. The tourism industry is booming like never before and Zanzibar properties are seeking huge interest from overseas buyers.

For DIY investors, land is available and, contrary to popular belief, can be owned by foreigners; however, there are specific rules which we will cover in a future Zanzibar investment based article.

Building costs are reasonable, but strict oversight is needed to ensure and maintain standards to construct custom homes accurately.

At ByShivo, we have considerable experience with this and work with one of the top developers in Tanzania. While securing permits can be tricky, agents help navigate the process.

Across budgets and lifestyles, Zanzibar’s peaceful shores are lined with exclusive living options for those seeking island luxury.

life in zanzibar

Beyond sublime beaches, Zanzibar offers a vibrant culture and lifestyle created by a unique blend of African, Arabian, and Indian influences. Residents can immerse in this rich tapestry through daily experiences and special events.

The central Island of Unguja boasts historic Stone Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its labyrinthine alleys and intricately carved doors provide glimpses of Arab, Persian, and European elements. Exploring the old town feels like stepping into the past.

Local markets like Darajani and Forodhani Gardens come alive at night with vendors selling spices, textiles, and street food as music fills the air. The smells of curries, seafood, chai, and tropical fruit mingle in exotic perfection.

Zanzibar’s coastal cuisine integrates tastes from across the Indian Ocean.

Zanzibar’s coastal cuisine integrates tastes from across the Indian Ocean. Local delicacies include seafood curries, coconut-crusted meats, tropical juices, and abundant exotic fruits and spices. Those who enjoy cooking will find inspiration in Zanzibar flavours and ingredients.

Cultural influences are also reflected in the unique architecture featuring Arab courtyards, Indian-inspired decorations, and carved Zanzibar doors. These designs appear across homes, hotels and public buildings.

While predominantly Muslim, Zanzibar hosts religious celebrations across faiths. These include Eid festivities, Hindu Diwali, Catholic Easter, and even Christmas among the small Christian community.

Zanzibar also hosts colourful annual festivals like the Festival of the Dhow Countries showcasing Swahili culture, the Zanzibar International Film Festival, and the famous SautiZa Busara Music Festival.

Between the surrounding sea, soothing trade winds, and lively culture, Zanzibar creates a lifestyle that seamlessly blends relaxation, enrichment, and enjoyment.

While Zanzibar’s economy relies heavily on tourism, several other sectors provide opportunities for residents looking to work or conduct business.

Agriculture is another primary industry, producing spices like cloves, vanilla and nutmeg that drove Zanzibar’s colonial trade. Fishing also contributes to both domestic consumption and exports. The Financial Times reported Zanzibar had Sub-Saharan Africa’s highest GDP growth in 2022, signalling economic expansion.

The hotel and hospitality sector caters to Zanzibar’s over half-million annual visitors (consistently growing)

The hotel and hospitality sector caters to Zanzibar’s over half-million annual visitors (consistently growing). Jobs range from managers at luxury resorts to waitstaff and tour guides. Those with hospitality or watersports experience can thrive, especially if they speak multiple languages.

Trade and retail are also strong, serving both tourists and residents. Zanzibar imports many daily goods, providing openings for savvy traders and merchants. Retail stores and restaurant owners can cater to underserved expat niches.

Professional services like real estate agencies, law firms, and financial advisors aim to support the growing expatriate community. Beyond tourism, the economy necessitates accountants, marketers, HR professionals, and more.

For entrepreneurs, Zanzibar provides opportunities across sectors like food, retail, leisure, and real estate. Low startup costs and little red tape make it relatively easy to get started. Locals are welcoming to foreigners who want to invest in the Island.

While average incomes for locals remain modest at around $1600 per year, Zanzibar offers livelihoods across industries from fishing and farming to educated roles supporting economic expansion.

Families considering a move to Zanzibar will be glad to know there are reputable education and healthcare options. While public facilities are overstretched, private services cater well to expatriates.

For education, parents can choose from a handful of international schools teaching UK, American, and IB curriculums for primary and secondary students. Top picks include the International School of Zanzibar, École Française Internationale, and the recently opened International Turkish Hope School.

School fees range from $2,000 to $8,000 annually – less than in Nairobi or European schools. Curriculums, textbooks, uniforms, and extracurriculars aim to match international standards. The main limitation is a need for more universities on the Island for older students.

Private clinics also serve the expat community for minor issues.

Healthcare is anchored by modern facilities like the Kivunge Hospital, known for its emergency services, diagnostic technology, and English-speaking staff. Private clinics also serve the expat community for minor issues.

For advanced care, neighbouring Tanzania provides additional options like the Aga Khan Hospital in Dar es Salaam. Medical evacuations can quickly transport patients to Nairobi or abroad. Overall, Zanzibar offers trusted care for everyday wellness but relies on referrals for complex treatments.

Between increasing health services and the positive impact of tropical living, Zanzibar aims to be an island promoting well-being. Patients report the relaxing environment helps aid recovery.

One of the most appealing aspects of island living is that Zanzibar offers a safe and secure environment, especially compared to many urban centres. Violent crime is rare, and incidents targeting tourists and expats are highly unusual.

Most residents feel comfortable walking around at night due to the community-oriented culture; however, as with anywhere, it is always best to take logical precautions at night. While petty theft can occur, violent crime continues to decline as tourism provides growing economic opportunities. Anyone taking regular precautions they would in any new place can expect to feel at ease.

Both locals and expats are drawn to the peaceful, friendly atmosphere.

The islands’ strong Muslim values promote social order, traditionalism and harmony. Zanzibar long prioritised stability to support trade, avoiding the wars that plagued much of the continent. Both locals and expats are drawn to the peaceful, friendly atmosphere.

For additional assurance, many apartment buildings and communities provide security guards and controlled access points. In tighter-knit villages, residents look after each other’s homes. Being surrounded by the ocean also creates geographic barriers to unwelcome elements.

While tensions sometimes flare during election cycles, the government is interested in protecting stability to support tourism. Current president Hussein Mwinyi aims to increase international investment. These factors have improved Zanzibar’s safety and security in the coming years.

Let’s summarise the key advantages and potential challenges of living in Zanzibar:

Pros

  • Tropical island setting with breathtaking natural beauty
  • Relaxed pace of life in a close-knit community
  • A remarkable mix of African, Arabic, Indian and European influences
  • Adventure activities like diving, snorkelling, kitesurfing
  • Delicious fusion cuisine with fresh seafood and exotic fruits
  • Year-round summer weather rarely drops below 25°C/77°F
  • Low cost of living coupled with modern amenities and infrastructure
  • Minor traffic or congestion compared to urban centres
  • Safe and secure environment with little violent crime
  • Vibrant culture with festivals, music, and celebrations
  • Easy access to mainland Africa for regional travel
  • No language barrier for English speakers
  • Growing economy and real estate market

Cons

  • It can be hot and humid, especially from December to April, AC is a necessity
  • Occasional power and internet outages, although this is improving drastically
  • Infrastructure is less reliable away from Stone Town
  • Limited healthcare options for complex cases
  • Not many higher education opportunities
  • High import costs for foreign products
  • Conservative cultural norms to adjust to, but ideal if you value traditionalism
  • Lack of concert and entertainment options
  • Visa requirements and bureaucracy for residents, although easily obtained
  • Political stability is not guaranteed long-term

For many, Zanzibar’s pros easily outweigh the cons, making it an ideal place to live. With some adaptation to island life, most expats maintain the pros heavily, overshadowing the few downsides. Those wanting an authentic tropical lifestyle will find Zanzibar welcoming.

The best insights about life abroad come from expatriates who already live there. Here are testimonials from actual Zanzibar residents explaining what they love about the islands and why they chose to call it home:

“We were looking for a tropical paradise to retire to and fell in love with Zanzibar’s incredible beaches. The warm, turquoise waters are breathtaking. There is fabulous snorkelling and diving right offshore. We feel so lucky waking up to ocean views each morning.”

– Sarah & Ryan, retirees from UK

“Zanzibar gave me a chance to own a beach bar and grill I could never afford back home. I work hard but get to live my dream being an entrepreneur in paradise. This Island provides opportunities I never imagined was possible.”

Jamal, restaurant owner from Kenya

“We wanted our kids to grow up enjoying nature and outdoor adventures. Zanzibar gives them beaches, jungles, and oceans right outside our door. They even take sailing lessons after school! The schools are solid, and the community really embraces families.”

Priya, mother of two from India

“Zanzibar attracts such an interesting mix of people from around the world. Our friends are from a dozen different countries. There is a sense of openness and tolerance in this culture. Plus we can travel so easily around Africa and the Indian Ocean.”

Francesca, freelance writer from Argentina

“The Island has incredible energy. After a stressful career back home, Zanzibar gave me a new lease on life to focus on the simple pleasures – sunshine, swimming, fresh fish, and community. This is really living.”

Ryan, entrepreneur from USA

Residents’ enthusiasm speaks volumes about everything Zanzibar offers as a place to live. Their stories help bring the reality of Zanzibar’s life to light.

While its paradise reputation is well-deserved, Zanzibar provides much more than a vacation experience. Pristine shores, historic landmarks, and vibrant culture come coupled with modern living standards, growing infrastructure, and business opportunities.

For those who can embrace an island pace of life, Zanzibar boasts exceptional safety, community, amenities, and natural beauty, which are hard to match anywhere on the planet. With care taken to adapt to a new culture and climate, most expats find Zanzibar’s charms well worth the transition.

While not without its quirks and limitations, this exotic archipelago delivers a high quality of island living. From relaxing weekend getaways to decades of retirement, Zanzibar is a place people happily settle into and proudly call home.

For the right residents seeking safety, tranquillity, and tropical magic, Zanzibar is an idyllic island escape that lives up to its paradise image. If ready to take the plunge, you may just find your own slice of bliss among its palm-fringed shores.

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