What to Pack for Zanzibar: 17 Essentials For Any Time of the Year

Have you ever had that gut dropping feeling after you’ve arrived to your destination, only to realize that you forgot to pack some major essentials? To help save you from this feeling in the future, I’ve put together this practical packing list that includes the daily essentials you’ll need, along with what clothes to pack and the best way to dress in Zanzibar.

This packing list is relevant for a visit to Zanzibar any time of the year. This is because Zanzibar enjoys sunshine and a tropical climate year round. Yep, even through their rainy seasons.

The clothing and essentials you should pack for your trip to Zanzibar are:

  • Aloe Vera gel
  • Clothing that covers knees and shoulders
  • Ear plugs
  • First aid kit
  • Flip flops
  • Hat
  • Lightweight fabrics
  • Medication
  • Mosquito repellent
  • Rain jacket
  • Sneakers
  • Snorkeling mask
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Swim shoes
  • Universal adapter
  • Waterproof bag

Beach Essentials to Pack for Zanzibar

1. Snorkeling mask

If you plan to go on a snorkeling expedition with a tour operator, you will be wearing used goggles and a breathing tube. The equipment is sanitized after each use, however, you may not like the idea of wearing used snorkeling equipment. In this case, you will want to bring your own.

Another reason you’d want to bring your own snorkeling mask is if you plan to go on snorkeling adventures on your own. For example, the southeast and southwest regions of Zanzibar, near Kizimkazi have a sea filled with fishes, colorful sea urchins, and beautifully bright coral reefs. From your hotel, you can step directly into the water with your snorkeling mask and explore what’s underneath.

Despite there being a recent craze on a new snorkeling mask which covers the whole face, I recommend getting the traditional mask and tube.

2. Swimming shoes

Depending on which Zanzibar beaches you visit, you will likely find seaweed, sea cucumbers, or sea urchins on the ocean bottom. If you’re the type to feel a bit icky about stepping in seaweed, then I recommend bringing swimming shoes.

In general, you should also try and avoid walking barefoot on beaches. Swimming shoes, or flip flops will help protect your feet against possible infections that could come from walking on the beach barefoot.

3. Waterproof bag

Whether you’re having a lazy beach day or will be going out on an excursion, a waterproof bag is a sure way to keep your belongings dry. They come in different sizes and styles, so you’ll have to determine what’s best for you.

There were times where I spent the whole day away from the hotel. I needed a bag that could carry about 2-liters of water, snacks, sunscreen, a book, and my camera. Therefore, I needed a bag that was big, durable and comfortable.

I found that this waterproof bag met all my requirements. It was big enough to hold what I needed and it had two shoulder straps so it was comfortable to wear.

A line of coconut trees with the blue sky in the background

Daily Essentials to Pack for Zanzibar

4. Aloe Vera gel

Vacationing in Zanzibar will expose you to the very strong African sun. This can quickly cause your skin to burn or dry out. If you are susceptible to sunburn, be sure to add Aloe Vera gel in your suitcase.

Aloe Vera offers great benefits to our hair and skin because it has soothing and healing properties. Its properties are so well known that it’s even widely used for treatment among the Zanzibarians.

5. Ear plugs

I only discovered ear plugs a few years ago, and they have easily become one of the most important items I could ever pack! They are extremely beneficial if you are a light sleeper, like me.

In some parts of the island, you are surrounded by the sounds of nature. For example, in Kizimkazi, you can hear birds and insects all throughout the night, and trust me, they are not quiet creatures.

In Stone Town, depending on where you stay, you can hear the town come alive in the early hours of the morning. If you don’t want to be woken up before you have to, ear plugs will save you from some cranky mornings!

6. First Aid Kit

For many people, packing a first aid kit is not something that jumps to mind. Honestly, it isn’t the first thing I think of either. But it should be!

Bringing a first aid kit on your vacation can really make a difference. Whether you get a cut, scrape, rash, minor burn, or insect bites, the first aid kit will help you care for it.

At minimum, a first aid kit should include items such as band-aids, gauze, itch relief cream, antibiotic ointment, and pain relief medicine.

7. Medicine

In most cases, your body may not be used to the type of food originally eaten in Zanzibar. This could be related to the meat, dairy, or fruits and vegetables. To be prepared for any illness that could come, such as nausea, constipation or diarrhea, be sure to pack medicine.


To combat constipation, I find that fiber is the best solution. It can be difficult to get your daily dose of recommended fiber when traveling, so I find it useful to pack fiber that I can dissolve and mix with water. My favorite fiber on-the-go is Benefiber.

Diarrhea and nausea

For traveler’s diarrhea and nausea, the best medicine for you would depend on what’s available in your country. In the U.S., I found that Pepto Bismol worked best for me. If you’re only traveling with a carry-on bag or if you’re looking for medicine that is convenient to carry, grab Pepto Bismol in pill form.

In Europe, Pepto Bismol is very difficult to find so my preferred choice is Smecta. I buy Smecta in its powder form and mix it with water. The best place to find Smecta is from the local pharmacy.

Pain reliever

To help fight a headache, mild fever or pain, or a hangover (hey, it happens), be prepared by packing general pain relievers.


Zanzibar is an island identified as possibly having malaria. For this reason, visit your doctor a few weeks before your trip and see what they recommend. In most cases, the doctor will want to prescribe you malaria pills to take before, during, and after your trip.

The medication generally has a strong prescription, so be sure to discuss possible side effects with your doctor so you can make the best decision for you. 

This packing list is also relevant for a visit to Cape Verde!

17 Things to do in Sal, Cape Verde

A First-Timer’s Holiday Guide to Cape Verde

8. Mosquito repellent

If you’re looking for something really strong, then try Off! Deep Woods. This is probably the most powerful repellent I’ve ever used, and it works wonders! This has been my go-to mosquito repellent for years.

It doesn’t just prevent mosquito bites either. If you were bitten before you’ve applied the product, then you may find that the repellent also soothes existing bites and removes any urge to further scratch them.

This stuff is extremely powerful, so I strongly recommend you always spray yourself outdoors. I also recommend that you hold your breath while doing so.

Planning a trip to Zanzibar? Here are some articles I wrote for you!

Top things to see and do in Zanzibar

Best beaches in Zanzibar

9. Sunglasses

When packing for Zanzibar, don’t forget your sunglasses! They don’t just protect your eyes from the sun. Sunglasses are also useful because they protect you from dirt, sand and saltwater. If you’re someone who wears contact lenses like me, sunglasses offer very good protection to your eyes from these natural elements, which might otherwise dry your contacts out.

My preferred style of sunglasses is the aviator with a mirrored lens. It’s got both style and functionality!

A woman sitting at a restaurant table wearing aviator sunglasses with blue lenses. Zanzibar, Tanzania

10. Sunscreen

Zanzibar gets hot and this is greatly due to the African sun! Don’t risk your skin’s health by skipping the sunscreen. Because of how strong the sun is, you will need to reapply sunscreen several times per day. This is especially true if you will be swimming.

When I consider buying sun screen, one of the first things I look for is the SPF, or how well it protects you from UVA/UVB rays. If it’s under SPF 50, I don’t even look at it.

I also need something that blends into my skin very well. As I have brown skin, most of the sunscreens on the market leave white residue. Currently, my go to sunscreen is Nivea Sun Immediate Protection Moisturising Sun Spray SPF50.

11. Universal adapter

Before gaining independence, Tanzania was a British mandate so it is quite standard to still find electrical sockets fitting Type G plugs on Zanzibar Island. If you don’t already have one, be sure to buy a universal adapter.

What Clothes to Pack for Zanzibar

12. Breathable, lightweight fabric

Zanzibar has got a tropical climate, so wearing breathable fabrics will help you feel comfortable. Consider wearing lightweight fabrics such as bamboo, cotton, linen and rayon.

In fact, many of the traditional fabrics worn in Tanzania, such as the khanga are actually made of cotton.

13. Knee length shorts, skirts, or dresses

Now that you know what kind of material you should wear to feel comfortable, let’s now focus on the best way to dress in Zanzibar in order to respect the local culture.

Zanzibar, unlike mainland Tanzania, is predominantly Muslim. In general, the locals wear clothing which covers most of their body. To 1) respect their local way of life, and 2) not stand out like a tourist with bad manners, it’s important to pack clothes which reach or cover your knees and shoulders.

Women, try to consider packing maxi dresses, and knee length dresses and skirts. One of my favorite websites for dresses is ASOS.

I also recommend packing knee length shorts. They will be beneficial for when you want to go explore the island, visit local villages, or go on a spice farm tour.

Please avoid shorts and skirts that are too short. This could cause offence to the locals.

14. Tops which cover the shoulders

For men and women alike, be sure to pack a few tops which cover your shoulders. If you plan to stay on your resort, you can get away with wearing tank tops and swimsuit cover-ups, like this one.

If you plan to visit local villages or move around outside of your resort, then I recommend wearing a top which covers the shoulders. Consider packing several short sleeve t-shirts and at least one long sleeve shirt in case of a chilly night or two.

Again, loose, breathable fabrics will do you wonders as the temperature reaches more than 30-40 degrees Celsius.

15. Light rain jacket

If you’re visiting Zanzibar during the rainy seasons (March – May; November – December), be sure to pack a light rain jacket.

The North Face and other outdoor clothing brands make fabulous rain jackets! Over the last few years, my go-to brands have been The North Face and Quechua. When visiting Zanzibar, I had my North Face jacket with me. It repels water so well, leaving you feeling dry. It’s also unlined which means you’ll be kept dry without feeling weighed down or being too hot.

16. Sneakers

No matter what activities you’ve got planned in Zanzibar, I guarantee that packing a pair of sneakers will come in handy. You may decide, while you’re on the island, to go on a hike, visit the Jozani forest, or do a cycling tour. If you also plan to visit the local villages, you will need to wear something super comfortable that withstand the pressure for your feet.

My go-to sneakers that I pack for every single trip are my Nike’s. As I tend to walk long distances during my travels, they provide really great support for my ankles and shock absorption for the bottoms of my feet.

17. Flip flops

Okay, so here is one item I did not have with me in Zanzibar, but I wish I had! I brought a pair of sandals with me, which I thought I could alternatively use as flip flops. Sheesh, was I wrong!

Whenever I got out of the pool or went walking in the sand, I found that my sandals were not the best choice for ease and functionality. Wearing flip flops mean you can slide your feet in and out of them quite easily. In addition, the materials used to make flip flops tend to be more waterproof than your average sandals.

Flip flops, overall, are more convenient to wear when you are lounging around in your resort, dipping in and out of the pool, or walking on the beach.

This packing list will prepare you for many activities in Zanzibar, but what makes Zanzibar truly unique is its ability to attract all types of water lovers thanks to the pristine beaches and climate.

You’ve got the relaxed beach-goers, water enthusiasts such as kite surfing and kayaking, and nature explorers who enjoy diving and snorkeling. Zanzibar has beaches to fit whatever kind of beach-goer you are! Nungwi Beach has some of the softest sand to sleep on. Paje Beach is a kite surfer’s paradise! Mnemba Atoll is home to beautiful and colorful coral reefs – the most famous conservation site on Zanzibar.


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