10 Traveller reviews from Holiday Watchdog
Be very careful when paying...
"Our evening drinks on the sunsst terrace with friends (nice view and breeze, pleasant bar area) were very much soured by the dishonest staff.
We'd been there a while, and racked up a bill of 50,000 Tanzanian Shillings between the four of us. The exchange rate in Stonetown was 1300 to USD $1.
We asked if we could pay in USD, and they said yes, absolutely. We gave a USD $50 bill, (approx 65,000 shillings) and waited for the 15,000 shillings in change. And waited. And waited...
When it was obvious that they were not going to bring change, we asked about this at the bar. Apparently the waiter had pocketed the USD $50, and handed 50,000 shillings of his own money to the bar, and decided to keep the difference. When we said that this was absolutely unacceptable, they then claimed that "the exchange rate in the bar is USD $1 to 1,000 shillings" - 30% lower than the real rate! We refused to accept this, demanded the USD $50 back, and paid the correct 50,000 in shillings.
The staff's dishonesty, and their underhand attempt to swindle us out of money left a sourer taste in our mouth than the vastly overpriced cocktails.
One to avoid."
- Travel date: Mon 5th of January 2009
Step back in time
"Don't expect too much of the Africa House. It does not have 21st century facilities and the staff are very 'African' at times but it is a unique place with a fabulous view at sunset. If you only go there for a 'sun-downer' on the Terrace then it is worth the effort - climb up the spiral staircase from the street below or go in by the main door and up to the first floor. If you choose to stay then don't bother with the sea-view rooms in the newer part, go for the old rooms on the top floor with a balcony over the street. The decor and the plumbing are by no means modern but it's all atmosphere! The Restaurant is nothing special but we found the staff helpful and obliging.
Just a warning about the room prices though; if you book in advance, make sure you agree the price and take a copy of the email with you. If they offer you an upgrade, make sure they don't try to upgrade the price as well.
In spite of this, I would still recommend it as it is unique."
- Travel date: Sun 4th of January 2009
We stayed at the Africa House in early January and it was not a pleasant experience. The room was pretty tired. The service at breakfast was abysmal- it took over 30 minutes for a juice and coffee to arrive.
The worst part was when we tried to book a spice tour and dolphin swimming. We used their recommended agents- On no account use Jotani travel. It was dreadful. The "guides" were basically taxi drivers and did not seem to know anything about what they were meant to be taking us to see, and the tours were very substandard for the extortionate prices. We would definietly not go there again, which is a shame as we are in Dar for a year.
The only good thing about the place is the bar, however they have sold out and at sunset coach loads of people come in and take over and then leave half an hour after it has set making it a very unchilled/ non relaxed atmosphere."
- Travel date: Sun 27th of January 2008
"I really regret staying in this hotel, I really do.... I choose this hotel because I wanted enjoy modern comfort at the end of my 2 weeks holiday in Africa. I saw bad reviews about the hotel here but last couple one's were positive.... so I decided to stay here. Bad it was wrong decision
When I checked in the hotel I was asked to pay in advance. I was a little bit surprise but handed in my credit card. I choose the ocean view room but the room they gave me was awful. It was located under the famouse sunset bar and above the hotel garage. And there were builders working in the connecting room. So it was super noisyand the room decor was bad too. In additiong to that the ocean view was very depressing. The room was facing the ocean, but, because the room was just above the grage it was very low. This meant I had an eye contact with people outside everytime I went near the window. And there were lots of people outside, locals, taxi drivers, bunch of people just doing nothing but killing their time.
I went out for a walk and came back around 5 pm but the work next door was still going on, so I called the reception and asked to change the room, and they agreed. The room they showed me was in the main part of the building and was much better. So I moved.
I knew the room rate of non-ocean view was cheaper, so I asked the receptionist to refund the balance. Her answer was very claer ' No, you already paid' I know I already paid but the room they gave me was $15 cheaper. When I pointed out again this price difference she replied as ' $15 is not a lot of money for our customer' I couldn't believe what I just heard. She was so definsive and unkind. I had enough of Africa house and I wanted to move to different hotel. So asked to cancel the original credit card payment. She looked at me as I was an idiot and lectured me how credit card payment works. It was so clear she had no intention of giving me money back. So, there was no choise but stay in Africa house. Next, I suggested ' How about the idea of giving me one or two drings at bar? or something on the house ' Her answer was ' our restaurant and bar's are different operation, so you can't have a free drink there'
Well I wasn't asking for free drink was I? all I wanted was to get something worth of $15.
To be honest $15 is not a lot of money ( well actually it is a lot of money in Afrca ) but I was more angry about her attitude and how she handled the situation.
It was really a bitter ending for my 2 weeks holiday in Africa."
- Travel date: Mon 1st of October 2007
Wonderful - sunset over the ocean from the terrace bar will live in my memories
"Africa House is wonderful - and even more so after a month on the road in Africa...
Originally a small palace it was for many years the Zanzibar British gentleman's club, and it still has the marble staircases, stained glass and sunset terrace bar facing the Indian Ocean [you can watch the passing dhows doing sunset cruises] to prove it. But its been totally renovated and today has great hot showers, air conditioning and really comfortable beds.
Nicest rooms have views of the ocean and the kids playing soccer on the beach - so maybe ask for one when booking
We'd been concerned by earlier reports about staff pushing tours and demanding tips [which is pretty common on Zanzibar] so we asked when booking - got a very fast reply saying they'd fired the manager and replaced many of the staff and there wouldn't be a problem. And they were right - there wasn't.
Service was great - friendly, helpful, and when we returned a day early from the truly dreadful Casa del Mar in Jambiani [review to follow], they welcomed us like long lost family and gave us our original room back right away so we could shower.
Internet is free, sunset terrace bar is a once in a lifetime experience, breakfast is good if a little disorganised and there's a great Italian/Swahili restaurant [La Felice] next door for dinner. [or there's Monsoon half a mile away across Stonetown if you prefer.
Pretty much my perfect African hotel..."
- Travel date: Sat 23rd of June 2007
"We stayed at the hotel in Feb 2007. The hotel has elegant surroundings that echo the colonial influence of the British in the 1920s/30s. The bar area provides outstanding sunset views and should be on any visitors itinerary whether you stay at the hotel or not. The roof restaurant was delightful if you could get an outside table where the benefit of the sea breeze could be felt. The food itself was above average and we found the service to be courteous at all times. The accommodation was comfortable and nicely appointed although as we found with all hotels in Zanzibar the bed was very firm. The en suite was equipped with good showers and western toilet (if that is really important to you). On the down side the air conditioning was a bit hit and miss which depending upon the time of year you visit can result in a hot and humid night's sleep. We paid $165 per night per room which was just about value for money although a little on the expensive side. The staff where particularly friendly and helpful. An enjoyable stay. Recommended."
- Travel date: Tue 5th of June 2007
"I had spent seven nights at BlueBay on the coast and was going to spend one night in Stonetown. I had checked into the Chavda Hotel but it was a disaster - don't worry I'll be reviewing it - and fled to Africa House. Wow - what a relief! Beautifully maintained, clean, air conditioned, really understanding front desk who didn't bat an eyelid when I burst into tears. Here's what I liked - informed and helpful staff, free internet access, good sized room with spacious bathrooms with a bathtub, cable TV, really relaxed vibe in the Sunset Bar, which has great views of the Indian Ocean and feels very cosmopolitan, a nice library with some big fat paperbacks, good food, plenty of places to hang out and chill out. My only problem? Breakfast was lame but round the corner from the hotel are some decent coffee shops and cafes so I would try these places out instead. I ate dinner in the hotel but again, there are five or six restaurants within spitting distance of Africa House - Livingstone is supposed to be very good - so you're spoiled for choice. Ask at the front desk and they might even walk you there if you're hopeless with directions."
- Travel date: Sun 27th of May 2007
Beautiful view pity about the poor service
"We stayed at Africa house over New Years and perhaps wrongly thought for the money we paying we could expect professional and honest service. Sadly this was not the case. The beautiful view and rooms were tarnished by staff overcharging for taxis, arranging poor trips through friends and conviently forgetting our 25% deposit.
If you stay enjoy the rooms, and the sunset bar (a mecca for most tourists on their first evening in stonetown) but plan your our trips through exteranl tour operators, and be prepared to relax for a couple of hours on for your food to arrive in the restaurant!"
- Travel date: Fri 12th of January 2007
Overpriced, poorly run, staff constantly on the make.
"Africa House has the potential to be great. The location is nice and central. The rooms are pretty. The building very cool. But...
...the rooms are poorly maintained, the service is incredibly slow (dinner always took hours), and staff are constantly reccomending tours etc that they organize and pocket the cash on. The effort to stay there and weather the storm on the awful service, constant selling, and lies on prices of anything not hotel is just not worth it. The price is too high for what you get."
- Travel date: Thu 11th of January 2007
Spoilt and underperforming jewel
"Africa House is an institution on the Stone Town scene, largely due to being the best place for some sundowner drinks each sunset. Housed in the former English Club it occupies a great historic building. However, timely and honest service is desperately lacking.
1. Beautiful, if compact, air con rooms.
2. Great views acrosss the sea at sunset from the bar and restaurant.
1. The hotel is in quite a noisy area
2. Plumbing and water flow irregular
3. Incredibly slow service. Not uncommon for an evening meal to take 1 - 2 hours to arrive (inspite of consistent chasing!).
4. Quality of food mixed.
5. Staff not trustworthy. We wasted 2 hours at checkout battling to have a deposit recognised which was paid 3 months prior. Post this we then sought a taxi to our next hotel which the receptionist offered for $90. The real price was $40.
Other staff also make out to advise you on other trips you could take. In our experience these trips were overpriced and poor, being normally run by one of their friends."
- Travel date: Sun 7th of January 2007