Beach Boys (also called ‘ticks’) are men wanting to act as your guide in Stone Town, organize trips and take you to shops where they get commission. In Stone Town they can actually become quite a nuisance and difficult to get rid of. I have tried my best to stay polite, but some of them are really very pushy. They were totally different to the beach boys we came across on the eastern coast, where they were friendly and not pushy at all.
See my Zanzibar Island page for more detail
Street Touts are often called ‘Beach Boys’ even when they are 40-50 years old. The local name for them is ‘Papasi’ the Swahili word for ticks. So what do they want? Most are friendly, definitely persistent and can be downright helpful sometimes. They will approach you just about anywhere. If you truly do not want any service of any kind, then be prepared. Here is what services they provide:
• Tour of Stone Town
• Other tours (Jozani Forrest, Spice Tour, Prison Island, etc.)
• Souvenir shops/crafts
• Help with bags
• Directions to a specific place (they walk you there)
Be polite. If you tell them ‘I already have’ and list several of the items above, they start to realise that you know how things work. I ‘hired’ one, or he hired me and I paid $7 for a 2 hour tour of Stone Town. I was shown everything and had a fascinating explanation of local life. They work on a commission. So if you go to ‘my brother’s shop’ and you buy something they get paid a small amount by the shop owner later. Always keep some small coins on hand. If you get lost or really need help you be able to give them a small reward for their assistance.
If you are here for a short period of time or just off a cruise ship, seize them up first. Persistent, but polite is ok
On the other hand.
I did have an older one who kept talking to me in a bar. I am pretty sure he had a substance and/or mental health issue. The next day he saw me and was convinced that I had agreed to pay him for a tour of Stone Town. I had done this with another Beach Boy 2 days before. I even tried to hide in a shop who told me the obvious problem with our little friend. I ended up having to have a security guard running him away. Other than that episode I had good relations with these guys and they would always shout ‘Jambo’ at me when I was out and about.
Please note: This tip is also on the ‘Cultural Tips’ as I found most of these guys were OK
It's so annoying - you have to bargain about everything, from taxis and shops to tours and accomodation. It's just so silly - one day I bargained for 20 minutes with a taxi driver, next day I had to bargain again with the same guy for the same service, same story repeated again after a week. Oh, and those souvenir shops - show no mercy when bargaining, initial prices are usually horrendously inflated.
A friend I met in Stone Town took the overnight ferry to Pemba in first class. Several 'gentlemen' sat next to him and ignored other empty seats. When he asked to see their first class tickets, they just laughed. And when he fell asleep they tried to steal his bags. Luckily they were prevented by other tourists. Apparently this happens often. Watch your bags!
Although there's no apparent danger in Stone Town, it's imperative not to offend people with your behaviour or the way you dress. You may even be given leaflets telling you all do's and don'ts. Being Tanzania a muslim country it's obviously recommended to avoid shorts and miniskirts as well as tank tops. Basically, be modest. Public display of affection and kissing is considered irrespectful, so do avoid it
A tale from the past: when my father visited some three decades ago, men were not allowed out of the airport if they were wearing shorts. Those who had flown in with him as a day drip in shorts were given some sorts of long fabrics to wrap around (like a long skirt) so their legs would not be shown.
In spite of the narrow lonely alleys everywhere I always felt sure and comfortable walking alone at night in the old Stone Town