Kisiwa House is a Swahili-style home that has been converted into a hotel. It is small, with only about 10 rooms or so. The rooms vary in size from the regular room to the Senior Suite, which we had. The hotel has only been open for about a year, so everything is still in good shape. It's not a fancy place or lavishly decorated, but it is clean, spacious, authentic for the area and conveniently located.
LOCATION - Kisiwa House is located in the old center of Stone Town, just a few minutes walk from anywhere. The beach is about 5 minutes walk, so is the market. It is next to the Dhow Palace, half a block from the main shopping street and quite close to restaurants. Just be sure to ask directions because it's so easy to get lost in Stone Town. The ride from the airport takes about 15 minutes and they'll set you up with a nice air-conditioned transfer for $20.00.
ROOMS - We had the Senior Suite, which was very spacious. It had concrete floors which felt kind of cold, could have used some carpets, but was very clean. There is air-conditioning in the room (a nice surprise because it was REALLY humid during our stay) and a ceiling fan. The bed was quite comfortable, equipped with mosquito netting, but I found out that one blanket is not sufficient if you're going to use the A/C (I got cold and slept restlessly), so plan on sleeping with the windows open at night without the A/C for maximum comfort. The Muslim Prayer times start at 5:00 AM and are echoed throughout the city, so don't expect to sleep late here. Next door is a school where kids are singing and yelling all day, so it's not too quiet during the day either, but then you're in town so what do you expect.
Bathroom was clean with double sinks and a tub/shower without a curtain (six-footers practice your limbo moves, the shower head is about chest high). There is a small desk for working and a nice flat-screen tv. The room has minimal lighting, but there are quite a few windows which if you open it lights up pretty good. There is plenty of room to move around comfortably. The A/C worked well. There are no irons or ironing boards. The only thing that we didn't care for was the toiletries, which were just single-use packets that you had to tear open each time you use them - seems a dispenser would be a much nicer and more efficient way of handling that.
SERVICE - The service was excellent throughout, kind and courteous. One time we asked for a taxi to go to a restaurant at night that was really close but we were afraid we'd get lost in the dark and winding alleyways. Instead of calling a taxi, he offered to walk us to our restaurant and show us the way. Very nice of him. The manager is also very nice and helpful, as is all of the staff at the hotel that we met. English is somewhat limited with the staff, but they always seem to have a smile and a "jambo" for you. We didn't get turn-down the first night for some reason, but otherwise the housekeeping was excellent.
BUSINESS - While not really a business hotel, a business traveler can make do with a bit of effort. There is a small desk that works for one person, but nowhere for the second person to sit if you have two computers like us. There is one computer to use to check your email, but no printer that I saw. There is good cell phone coverage and some mobile broadband, though mostly EDGE which is pretty slow. The hotel has free wireless internet throughout the hotel, which is great, except it didn't work very well for us. The first day it was fine - 3 bars and slow but steady speed. The second and third days it was horribly slow and barely usable, though the connection stayed solid and didn't drop. There were some weather systems passing through, maybe that had something to do with it. There is no conference room or business facilities, but you could use the restaurant I suppose.
FOOD - The rooftop restaurant was always empty when we went there, so we were cautious, but decided to give it a shot because we were tired the first night. We were glad we did - it was really nice. The waitress was very sweet, and the food was delicious - a variety of Swahili treats and some Western dishes, plenty of seafood options. No view really at night because it's dark, but during the day you can look over much of Stone Town and see a sliver of the ocean as well. It's mostly run-down buildings, but better than no view, and the open air is always nice.
Breakfast was buffet the first day, extremely small with only a few types of bread, cereal and fruit, plus they'll make you eggs. No bacon or sausage for obvious reasons (it's a muslim community). It was enough though. The second day they served it to us, the same food just served. For some reason it seemed better that time though. Lots of food, you won't go hungry as long as you like fruit and bread. Everything was tasty though, and we were full.
CHECK-OUT - The only downer we had with this hotel was the payment policies. They charge you a 6% surcharge to use a credit card. As if that isn't bad enough, they can only charge you in USD if you're using a credit card, but they charge for the incidentals in Tanzanian Shillings, so they force you to use an exchange rate that is another 6% out of your pocket. All told, you get hit for a 12% surcharge on top of your bill if you don't want to pay in cash or in advance with a wire transfer. Of course, they don't reveal the exchange rate to you unless you ask, so most people probably don't even realize they're losing the second 6%. So plan to bring cash (USD for the room and transfers, TZ Shillings for everything else like the restaurant) if you want to avoid getting gouged.
Very nice hotel, simple but clean and well staffed and in a great location. We will recommend it to others.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- A luxurious Boutique hotel in Stone Town, Kisiwa House is noted for its elegant blend of Zanzibar décor and gracious Swahili hospitality.Superbly located on a quiet street in the heart of Zanzibar historical centre within easy walking distance of famous landmarks, museums, antique shops and restaurants. Kisiwa House provides every modern convenience to the business or leisure traveller, promising an unforgettable experience of professional service, superb comfort and unmatched elegance.Get inspired, discover the new and unusual. Enjoy the charm of an old and typical Zanzibar town house. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Kisiwa House Hotel Stone Town
- Kisiwa House Zanzibar Island/Stone Town