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Cycling around Zanzibar, is bicycle theft a concern?

edited October 2010 in - East Africa
My fiance and I will be cycling around Zanzibar, we're worried about safety and theft concerns, are these real issues?
We plan to cycle around the whole island in about 3 weeks, starting in Stone Town and ending back there. Will we be safe on our bikes with all our luggage with us on panniers and in day packs? We really don't want to end up with our bicycles being stolen.
Has anyone done a trip like this before?


  • edited 9:51AM
    hi we are a group of 6 people who would also like to cycle around the island and would like to know if you have done it and if you have any suggestions regarding this trip. we plan to only stay for about 10 days
  • edited 9:51AM
    Hi Rory and Jomarie,

    My parents did a cycle round Zanzibar in 1996 and absolutely loved it. I'm sure the island has changed a lot since then, but they found the locals to be really friendly and accommodating and they did a lot of the cycling on the beaches. Jomarie 10 days ought to be fine to cycle the island. But you should definitely allow yourselves some time to explore Stone Town as the markets and little alleyways and beautifully carved doors are worth taking some time to visit and wander about.
  • GidGid
    edited 9:51AM
    Hi Rory / Jomarie,

    Zanzibar is generally pretty safe. There is a few incidents of theft here and there once in a while but nothing so serious. Key thing to put in mind is:
    Always lock your bike when its not in your sight
    At night, lock it in a shade or tied to something..Tree/pole etc indoors is better
    How ever safe it is, do not go cycling after dark.
    If you're staying in stone town, keep away from the fish market area in malindi.
    Other than that, Zanzibar is a great experience and go out and enjoy..
  • edited 9:51AM
    hi all ,thanks for the insight. we went to zanzi and it was fantastic. I highly reccomend this magic place.
  • edited 9:51AM
  • edited 9:51AM
    You know Zanzibar its stilling safe till now,everywhere sometime problem can happen!.
    Just tell your friends,they are so welcome-may be they can meet me while they are in Stone Town!
  • edited 9:51AM
    It is not my intention to put anyone off but having seen the subject of this thread it would be irresponsible of me to not recount my experience. I am a seasoned traveller in my mid thirties and have travelled to many countries across the globe including the continent of Africa for both work and pleasure. Before I recount what happened I would like to say that the British Embassy were incredibly supportive and that it was a very unusual incident for Zanzibar. Crime is a much more frequent occurrence on main land Tanzania than on the Island. The islanders are helpful, friendly, welcoming, good-natured people that were as shocked as we were by what happened.
    My partner and I visited Zanzibar in late November 2011 for a holiday. We were looking for a romantic retreat where we could partake in some reef diving in a paradise environment.
    We had already been on the South East of the Island for a week before deciding to move up to the North East of the island. We booked into accommodation (which I will not name) that was listed in guidebooks including Rough Guide & Lonely Planet. The staff were very friendly and the location was beautiful. On the second night at 3am, two men broke into our room using a crow bar to break the Yale lock and were armed with Machetes, they woke us up by shining torches in our eyes and then slashed down the mosquito net around our bed they told us they would kill us if we made a sound and to give them all our money and belongings. One of the men held a machete to my throat whilst I kept my girlfriend behind me. I obviously told them to take everything they wanted. They remained in our room for about 10 minutes as they went through all our things. Including our wash bags, clothes & rucksacks. They turned the furniture upside down and wrapped us both together in a sheet from the bed so that they could look under the mattress (this was the most traumatic part of the ordeal). Shortly afterwards they left the room. As soon as we realised they had gone we barricaded the door with the bed and shouted for help until local villagers gathered outside our room. It turned out that there were seven men in all. The other five had tied up the hotel staff including the security guards. One of the guards was beaten so badly that he was rushed to hospital.
    On reflection we were lucky to escape unharmed. I can only speculate that it was their intention to intimidate us and extreme violence was to be used as a last resort.
    The police weren’t particularly helpful. They showed an interest and came to visit the scene of the crime but in a country rife with corruption (the Islanders tend to not have much confidence in the police) and without a developed infrastructure (there is no concept of finger printing or forensics) it was clear that there was little they could do. In fact they seemed more interested by my religious beliefs being agnostic on my report than anything else. All questions were directed at me being the ‘man’ in the couple and my partner wasn’t asked a single question but then one must remember that we were the guests in their country and we mustn’t criticise a culture for being different to your own.
    We managed to get back to England safely and again we are grateful to the British Embassy and our booking agents who were very sympathetic and processed everything with a sense of urgency.

    We thought twice about posting this online but various authorities including the Zanzibar police speculated that it was an attack organised by pirates diversifying in different forms of crime (the incident occurred at high tide and they escaped via the beach). I would be very interested to know whether anyone else has heard of such a thing in Zanzibar as it is possible that these attacks may become more frequent and unfortunately if Zanzibar wants to retain it’s reputation as a tropical paradise holiday destination they will need to ensure that their tourists are well protected.
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