What to Wear in Zanzibar & Other Cultural Considerations?

What to Wear in Zanzibar

There’s been lots of discussion on social media lately from Zanzibar locals who are dissatisfied over how tourists dress on their island.

I’ve started to see images of tourists who are disrespectful appearing in Facebook groups. Don’t allow that to happen to you!

Zanzibar is a Muslim majority Island and is highly traditional. Although it’s a destination for beach lovers, however, Zanzibar is not Spain nor France. You can’t wander through Stone Town in a bikini top and hot pants – however, people will wear them.

Therefore, I’d like to provide you with the rules for how to dress in Zanzibar to ensure that you don’t offend the locals, and you can take advantage of your vacation to the fullest!

What to wear in Zanzibar:

Maxi Clothing

Maxi dresses are perfect for Zanzibar. There are plenty of reasonably priced models available on the internet at sites like ASOS and H&M. Make sure that your clothes for the day don’t have massive splits!

As shown in the image below, I have a few of the long dresses, and they’re great to wander around in. If you don’t already have one, they are available from Stone Town. I’m always greeted with compliments “You are like you’re a Zanzibari lady!”

Sometimes, I dress it up by wearing a belt or let it loose for a more casual style.

If you’re concerned about chafing, put on a set of them underneath your dress (oh, it’s nice to have the thigh gap).

Kimonos

I live in kimonos. They are the most stunning piece of clothing that I have ever owned. I have about seven of them, in different colors.

They’re ideal for protecting your skin from the sun and covering up when appropriate to do so, staying warm in colder weather and dress up a boring dress.

A light cotton shirt is a good choice also. They are suitable for safari wear to shield yourself from the sun and mosquitoes.

Scarves

I typically wear a scarf for my shoulders when I’m out and about within Stone Town and don’t want to dress in something heavy.

Sarong

Sarongs are great to throw on while strolling along the beach. They are also excellent to protect yourself from sun damage too.

Harem Pants

Harem pants are fantastic to wear also. They’re loose and typically trendy to put on.

Many local stores offer these items. So if you’d like to contribute to our local economy, check out Gizenga and Hurumzi Street.

Leggings

Leggings are a great option to make an unsuitable dress more suitable.

For example, the dress I’m wearing is a little beach dress. But when I added leggings and a vest underneath. It was acceptable to wear (although this photo wasn’t taken in Zanzibar; however, it was born in the continent)!

Our Recommendation What to Wear in Zanzibar

  • While it’s generally acceptable to dress as you please on the beach or in the hotel pool. It is recommended to wear a hoodie when you visit Stone Town and, in the villages, – even if you want to the shops.
  • Take your thongs and tiny Bikinis to the ladies at home. Bikinis can be worn in the water or at the beach. However, the more areas they cover, the more, the better.
  • Women should not show shoulders and cleavage (a tiny amount is okay, however not too much). The midriff, and legs covered (at minimum, about the level of knees) while walking through Stone Town and in villages especially.
  • Men can wear shorts. However, they shouldn’t be walking around shirtless or on the beach. They must be sure to cover their shoulders when they visit Stone Town and the villages.
  • It’s also quite humid and hot often. Therefore, light clothing is the best choice (jeans tend to be too hot).
  • When it comes to Ramadan especially. It’s appropriate to keep your legs covered (for both genders). Women must take care to cover their shoulders and cleavages.
  • A dress that is see-through or crocheted doesn’t count as being covered. Nobody wants to be able to see your underwear.

The public is comfortable with tourists nowadays. That means that you’re not likely to be harassed when you expose a little of your shoulder or knees. But it’s considered to be respectful to cover it up.

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