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Top 10 Zanzibar money tips
If you are planning to visit Zanzibar on your travels, then it pays to be prepared cash-wise, so that you have the right money at the right time. To help you be ever-ready, Mambo has put together Zanzibar money tips to help you make the most of your time here.
- The simplest thing is to bring US dollars, but it's also worth checking a currency conversion site like Oanda.com to see if other widely accepted currencies, such as the Euro or UK pound, are stronger against the Tanzanian shilling if you want to maximise your funds. But if you just want an easy time, bring dollars as they are straightforward to change.
- Large dollar bills (such as $50s and $100s) command a better exchange rate than small ones, but watch out for certain types and years of note that some bureaus will refuse to change. For example, avoid bills with 'small heads' on the front and ideally only carry currency from 2005 onwards. Make sure bills are not torn or damaged.
- If you are coming from the UK, bring only English banknotes as other notes, such as Scottish and Northern Irish, are not usually accepted.
- While they are a good option in some countries, travellers' cheques are not ideal for Zanzibar as few places change them, even major banks such as Barclays. If you are nervous about travelling with lots of hard cash, bring enough to get you started then use the island's ATMs.
- It used to be difficult to get money out on Unguja, the main island of the Zanzibar archipelago, but now it's a (relative) breeze as long as you are in town. Here, banks such as Barclays, FBME, Eximbank and NBC allow you to take money out from your current account for a small charge. Be aware, though, that sometimes machines break down or are affected by power cuts, so it always makes sense to have a cash reserve.
- You can also draw money out on credit cards at some travel agencies for a larger fee (Visa cards seem to be much more widely accepted in Tanzania as a whole than Mastercards), or in an emergency get money wired via Western Union - this is fast but expensive.
- Zanzibar Town is the only place with a wide choice of ATMs. If you are then setting out for the north or east coasts, make sure you have a plentiful supply of cash with you unless you are staying in a place that has confirmed with you that they take credit cards.
- If you are going to stay on Pemba or Mafia islands, take all the cash you will need for your stay, again unless you are staying somewhere that accepts credit cards. There was one branch of Barclays in Pemba, but this recently closed down its ATM.
- Tanzanian shillings cannot be taken in or out of the country, so you can only get local currency once you have arrived. You can change money at the airport on arrival, but make sure the money you are given matches the rate displayed on the board - some moneychangers shortchange tourists who are tired from travelling and just accept what they are given, so make sure you don't lose out.
- At the end of your holiday, you can't take shillings out of the country, so if you have any extra, spend them while you can! Travellers used to pay a departure tax on their way out of Zanzibar on international flights, but this has now been incorporated into ticket prices, so don't worry about this.