TIPS ON LOW-BUDGET, LONG-TERM TRAVEL WITHOUT COMPROMISING YOUR KING OR QUEEN LIFESTYLE
Travelling long-term is nice in theory but when it comes to finances, it’s not always sustainable. During this last year, I have stayed in everything – from luxury air bnbs and beachfront villas to crumbling hostels and hotel rooms going for $8. And honestly, both have been lovely. But in the end, although the high life does have its perks, I will always be a backpacker at heart. Don’t get me wrong, treating yoself once in a while is totally needed, and the low-budget lifestyle is not for everyone, but there is some form of removal from your environment when you’re staying in place without exploring further than the walk from the swimming pool to the beach, not haggling with the locals over fruit or being introduced to their customs, traditions, and of course, food. The room service and bathrobes are always nice, but does it really make you feel alive?
After reading a post about must-visit ‘secret’ destinations, I’ve decided to put a list of my own together, of places I’ve been to, have absolutely loved, and could afford to travel through cheaply but still live like the queen that I am. These are the places that I’d tell other travellers passing through or even sometimes locals about, that no one seemed to hear of – which ended up being pleasant surprises that I could and would happily get stuck in.
Alright, let’s get the obvious out of the way. This isn’t the first time I’ll be talking about Zanzibar nor the last so get used to it. I confess, before planning this trip to Africa, I had never heard of Zanzibar. And upon arrival, I didn’t even like it! After being on the move for so long, the pole pole (Swahili for slow) pace was not the speed I was accustomed to. I mean people went to the beach, partied and… What else? However, in the end, I found out that there is so much more than that.
For now, let’s break down the expenses.
Currency: Tanzanian Shilling 1 USD = 2234 TZS
Visa: 50$ for all countries except the States. You guys pay 100$. I always found that amusing.
As for most places but especially Zanzibar, it is way more affordable to travel, do activities, and stay in Zanzibar during or going into low season. The prices for accommodation are ridiculously cheaper and activities like kitesurfing, surfing, scuba diving, tours and even taxi rides go way down (especially if you know how to bargain). High season goes from June to end of September (and even sometimes into mid-October) and December to February inclusively. I was there from mid-September to mid-October during my first stay, had zero rain and half the people to fight for dinner seats at The Rock (I actually never ate there – it’s actually quite overpriced but the beach is free).
Most people fly or take a bus into dar then either fly or take the ferry into Zanzibar. I took an excruciating 18 hr day bus ride from Nairobi to Dar, which made me question ever stepping into a vehicle with more than four wheels again. Once I got to Dar, I stayed at On the Way Hostel, a super clean and well-spaced backpackers right by the ocean. The vibes there were amazing even though we were only four people there, thanks to our incredible host John Hu. My two-night stay was so good that it nearly made me forget how bad it was getting there. Not good enough though! (kidding John, it was great.) I then took a ferry over to Zanzibar, but you can also take the plane from the ZNZ airport for double the price, but 1/6 of the time.
You can use public transport – the dala dala – within Zanzibar to get around, which varies in price depending on where you’re going. A trip from Stone Town to the East Coast costs a mere 2000 tzs. As a tourist you will get charged more, which is why I only just found out it was 2000 tzs and not the 3000 tzs I’ve been paying all along. Regardless, at about $1 to get anywhere on the island, it’s very reasonable.
While I’m here, I should mention that there’s a $7-10 tourist tax (per person) in Zanzibar, which is why accommodation seems way more expensive than anywhere else in East Africa. I guess paradise does have its price.
Upon arriving, I stayed at The House, owned by a cheeky Peruvian named David, that has now been relocated and renamed to Drifters – voted the number one hostel in Tanzania by Hostelworld. Air bnbs are another great and affordable option.
Kitesurfers that usually stay long term leave after high season is over because the wind is low, so homes and airbnbs become widely available because they need to be rented out. You can join one of the Zanzibar-related Facebook groups (like Zanzibar Residents) in advance to ask around and you’ll get a tonne of offers. Hostel owners usually want to go on holiday during that time, so you can always look to see if you can get accommodation in exchange for work while they’re away. Internships are also very common in some parts of the islands, so you can look into that as well (see Facebook groups or contact businesses beforehand).
I have mentioned in a previous post about getting lucky or help when traveling as a solo female traveller (read it here). This is one of those times. I was offered a house to stay at for free for three weeks (previously used by kitesurfers in Paje – ding ding), which obviously cut my costs. I then also met a Portuguese and he also got lucky.
If you do on the other hand want to splurge and are keen to put in some extra dough, I would highly recommend Coral Rock Hotel, which I later frequented quite a bit because of aforementioned Portuguese guy (now boyfriend – story for another time). Safe to say this place was nicer than the house I was offered in Paje.
Since Zanzibar is quite touristic, you can find a wide range of food – from European to local – pretty easily, so fear not. But when in Rome, I like to fucking roam. So local street food it is. You can get mishkaki (chicken skewers) for 500 tzs each, that’s less than 25 cents, on the road. Fruits and veggies you’ll find in abundance for about 2000 tzs a kilo. You can also go for a hot meal – including wali (rice), maharage (beans), mchicha (spinach), and nyama (meat) – for a whopping 2000 tzs. That is less than one us dollar. I repeat: less than $1. ‘well, fuck me sideways,’ you might say. ‘how about from behind?’ I might reply. Actually, it’s probably better for us to save this for another time,’ I might add. Moving on.
Getting here from Dar
Dorm bed: $15-25 (roughly including tourist tax during low season). In high season they can range from $20-30
Dala dala: < $1
Food: $5 (eating in all the time, which is unlikely, but humour me)
Total: < $31
Accommodation is the biggest expense here. You can stretch your dollar further if you move a couple of minutes away from the beach. Everything is still just minutes away but much more fairly priced – whether it’s high or low season. This also doesn’t include activities, which, depending on what you’re doing, can really add up, so keep that in mind.
You can easily be spending $35 a day in Zanzibar if you’re on a budget but still want to travel to some damn fine places. You just need to time it right and do a bit of planning ahead!
ALL PHOTOS FROM ZANZIBAR SHOT BY ALEXXA WALKER UNLESS OTHERWISE INDICATED.