Zanzibar on the Cheap

I had the opportunity to visit Zanzibar, which is a semi-autonomous region in the country of Tanzania.  It is an archipelago in the Indian Ocean.  Stone Town is in Zanzibar city and it is a Unesco protected site.  Zanzibar is unique because it is so different from the mainland and because of its history of Persian influence.  It is also known as the “Spice Island”.  I went there because I wanted to have some rest and relaxation and some beach time.  Zanzibar is known for its turquoise water and white sand beaches in Tanzania.

Unfortunately, Zanzibar is not a cheap travel destination (not compared to South East Asia, anyway).  Most budget places cost at least $30 per person per night, even if you are in Stone Town or on the beach.

Here are some ways to visit Zanzibar on a budget, it is definitely worth a visit if you are in Africa.

Getting Around

We took the plane into Zanzibar so obviously not the most cheap option.  Many people arrive from Dar Es Salaam and take the ferry into town.

Car travel is expensive on the island, especially if you are on the beaches.  Expect to pay between $25 to $50 US dollars for transfer from the airport to the beach area (depending on if you are in the north, south or eastern part of the island).

The cheapest way to travel around is by Dalla-dalla and it costs around $1.50 US dollars per trip.  However, I didn’t try this out myself.

I found Stone Town very easily walkable once you are in Stone Town and no transportation is needed then.

Related: How To Get Cheap Airfare

Things to Do

House of Wonders

zanzhouse

The Lonely Planet recommended checking the House of Wonders out.  The cost was only $3 US dollars for admission.  The House of Wonders has what is thought to be the largest wooden doors in East Africa and was originally built as a palace for the sultan.  It was the first building in Stone Town to have water, electricity and an elevator.  It was built in the 1880’s.  I found it quite dusty but it was interesting to see the history of Zanzibar.  It is a museum now.

Spice Tours

The Spice Tour was great.  Zanzibar is one of the only places in the world to produce saffron (aka the world’s most expensive spice).  Everyone you talk to will offer a spice tour for cheap, some hotels/ lodges will offer cheap spice tour prices as well.  I paid $13 US dollars and it includes lunch. It was pretty interesting you can see what cardamom, ginger, cinammon, and cocoa beans look like as plants!

Prison Island

I personally didn’t go to this but it is an island off Zanzibar where there are 100+ year old giant tortoises given as a gift from the Seychelle islands.  And lots and lots of these tortoises too.  If I had more time I would have definitely gone, it is about $25 USD.Continue Reading

Overcontribution of TFSA Update

Ahh the Tax Free Savings Account.  So misunderstood, so lovely, and so useful.  Such a great creation since 2009 because you can contribute up to $31,000 cumulatively if you haven’t started contributing yet.  However, often with great power comes great responsibility because the Tax Free Savings Account can act like a dual edged sword if you are not careful using it properly.

How can one not use the Tax Free Savings Account properly you might ask?

Well, as you know a few months ago I wrote a post (and I guess in a way personal finance blogger confession- you know, since personal finance bloggers never do wrong or make mistakes in the money/savings/tax savings realm haha) a few months ago about how I over contributed for my Tax Free Savings Account.  You can read the whole dramatic story here and read about what steps I took to try and alleviate my situation.  As mentioned in that post, I even nagged at people on my blog to make sure they do not over contribute to their TFSA because it is very easy to do.  Then I go ahead and act like a hypocrite by over contributing. :)

Over contributions yield a big penalty.  Lots of interest.

As a reminder, the Canada Revenue Agency charges 1% tax on over contributions of your Tax Free Savings Account.

Overcontribution of TFSA UpdateAnyway to recap, this is what I did when I found out I over contributed.  It took a bit of time on the phone and a lot of detective work.

1) Get that excess amount out of there as soon as possible (and Taxtips.ca concurs).  The longer you have it in there the more penalty you get.  Even if you have it in their for 3 days of that month, you are still dinged for that month.

2) Call the Canada Revenue Agency to Clarify 1-800-959-8281 and explain your situation (plead your case, whatever you want to call it)

3) Fill out that Over Contribution form, suck it up, and pay the amount (send a cheque) – you have to appease the Gods (CRA), they will reverse the amount if necessary.

4) Write a letter detailing your explanation and pleading your case.  Also include the history of the contribution amounts from your account (printed out)

5) Cross your fingers and hope for the best.  It will take at least 8 weeks for you to get a response from the Canada Revenue Agency

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November networth update: $343,130 (+0.9%)

I must admit when I do my NW updates I get a bit anxious these days since I set that goal for myself.

Just to recap, my goal for the end of the year was to break a net worth of $350,000.  I have just shy of $7000 to go before the end of the year, and perhaps this is achievable (just barely), provided the markets continue to be stable.  If I used my pension contributions, I have met my target of $380,000 net worth if I include my pension contributions.

This month’s update is not too bad considering I spent a lot of money on my trip and was away the entire month.

Okay, so here’s the breakdown for November 2014 ($343,130): +0.9% +$3300

ASSETS:

CASH: $38180(-4.5%)

Net Worth Update

Non-Registered: $105600 (+0.7%)

  • I bought a few stocks this month/ added some positions and two stocks got automatically sold due to my stop limit orders
  • These are stocks that capture the “moment in time”, including unrealized gains or losses in my BMO Investorline and Questrade accounts.Continue Reading