With the Area of 390,757 sq. km (150,872 sq. miles) and Population of 13.8 million (2014), Zimbabwe offers some of the best wildlife in southern Africa. From the forested mountains of the Eastern Highlands to the sun-washed grasslands of Hwange National Park, the country is teeming with flora and fauna, including the Big 5 (elephant, rhino, leopard, buffalo and lion).
It is estimated that about 11% of Zimbabwe’s land has been set aside for parks and wildlife estates, but it can do big cities too. The two most populous are Harare and Bulawayo, which serve up an impressive selection of cultural attractions, hip bars and fine dining restaurants. Between these two urban hubs lie the astonishing late Iron Age stone ruins at Great Zimbabwe, which shoot down theories that sub-Saharan Africa had no great civilizations.
220 volts AC, 50Hz. South African-style plugs (three round pins) and British-style plugs (three square pins) are used.
Operational hours are 08:30 to 4:30 hours Mondays through to Fridays and 08:15 to 12:00 hours on Saturdays.
Most hotels, restaurants, travel agencies and the bigger shops will take credit cards. Most of the bigger banks will advance local currency against a credit card. Most banks have ATM’s which accept Visa cards for cash. Visa is more readily accepted than MasterCard or American Express.
It’s best to come into the country with either Dollars, Pounds or Euros which can be exchanged at any of the many Bureaus de Change in the main towns. If you are offered an exchange on the black market at the borders, exercise extreme caution as they are notorious for cheating you without you even realizing it.
ATMs are available within major towns in Zimbabwe. Bigger banks have ATMs which accept Visa but not MasterCard.
Travelers’ Cheques are not widely accepted, and not commonly used. To avoid additional exchange rate charges, travelers’ are advised to take travelers’ Cheques in US dollars, Euros or Pounds.
Exchange of foreign currency is carried out at authorized banks and bureau de change. There are many bureau at the central shopping areas in the main towns.
Third party insurance must be purchased at the border or airport for a nominal fee.
Medical insurance should be purchased before you leave your own country and should include emergency air evacuation coverage if you’re spending any time in remote parts of the country.
If one is not a citizen of a country that is exempted from having to apply for a visa, then one must obtain a visa either at the port of entry or at a Zimbabwe Mission abroad. Please note that the countries do change and we advise that you visit Zimbabwe Immigration for up to date Visa information.
Health and Medical
A yellow fever certificate is mandatory if you are travelling from an infected area. Malaria is virulent in the low lying areas of the country which include most of the good wildlife destinations. Doctors advise taking prophylactics two weeks before arrival and continuing two weeks after leaving. Your chemist or doctor can advise you of the most suitable drug available as certain drugs lose their effectiveness.
Tap water in the major towns is purified but we don’t recommend to drink, drink bottled water within the hotel or in the cooler box available in the car with your guide.
Chemists / Pharmacies
Travelers should carry an adequate supply of their prescribed medicines with them although chemists in the major centers carry a wide range of medicines and first aid accessories. It may be hard to find your very prescribed medicines.
Medical services are underdeveloped. In bigger towns, you can find anything resembling western standards but may not give the best and the clinics in the rural areas usually only have the basics.
Safety and Security
Petty theft is as common as any major city where unemployment is high. Be very vigilant when walking around with your valuables. Never leave your vehicle unlocked and never change money on the streets. However people are very friendly and helpful.
In line with personal safety, you can hitchhike alone throughout the country and you are not likely to get any problem. Theft however is possible in the bigger towns and cities as it is the world over. But always move with your passport, airline tickets and some minimum amounts of cash and keep it hidden.
There is a moderate level of crime, including occasional armed robberies targeting foreign residents. Make sure your accommodation is secure at all times. Mugging, pick pocketing and Jewellery theft are common in city centers, especially after dark. Be particularly careful at Harare airport, and when leaving banks and cash points. Don’t carry large amounts of cash. People travelling around alone may be more vulnerable to crime.
Carry your Zimbabwean Resident ID or a photocopy of your passport. If you lose your passport, you will need to get a police report and contact the British Embassy in Harare for a replacement travel document.
There have been thefts and smash-and-grab robberies from vehicles, especially at main intersections along the route to Harare Airport and on the Masvingo-Beitbridge road. You should be particularly vigilant when using these routes. Keep vehicle doors locked and windows closed. Be particularly careful at night and at filling stations. Don’t leave your vehicle unattended in unguarded areas in towns.
Zimbabwe has many safari lodges and game reserves. Safety standards vary, and you should check whether operators are trained and licensed. There have been a number of incidents in which animals have attacked visitors resulting in injuries and, in some cases, death. Some activities, such as walking or canoe safaris, could pose risks to personal safety. You should treat wild animals with caution and respect, and keep a safe distance from them at all times.
Flash flooding during the rainy season (November to February) can make some roads impassable.
There are frequent power cuts that affect the whole country, sometimes for days at a time, as well as occasional fuel and water shortages. The Zimbabwean mobile phone network and land lines are unreliable.
Public transport and services are unreliable. Buses are often overcrowded, inadequately maintained, uninsured and recklessly driven. You should avoid them if possible.
The rail system is underdeveloped and very poorly maintained. Level crossings are poorly marked, resulting in numerous accidents.
In 2010 an audit of Zimbabwe’s Civil Aviation Authority by the International Civil Aviation Organization found that the level of implementation of the critical elements of safety oversight in Zimbabwe was around the global average. A list of recent incidents and accidents can be found on the website of the Aviation Safety network.
We can’t offer advice on the safety of individual airlines. However, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) publishes a list of registered airlines that have been audited and found to meet a number of operational safety standards and recommended practices. This list is not exhaustive and the absence of an airline from this list does not necessarily mean that it is unsafe.
Zimbabwe’s airports suffer electricity cuts. Harare International Airport relies on a generator during cuts. This has an impact on the airport’s ability to light the runway and provide air traffic control facilities. This can result in considerable delays, especially at night.
Zimbabwe held elections on 31 July 2013 and President Mugabe was inaugurated as President on 22 August 2013. You should avoid associating with any activity that could be construed as political. You should avoid all demonstrations and rallies. In the past the authorities have used force to suppress demonstrations.
You should avoid political activity, or activities which could be construed as such, including political discussions in public places, or criticism of the President. It is an offence to make derogatory or insulting comments about President Mugabe or to carry material considered to be offensive to the President’s office. An open hand is the political symbol of the opposition, MDC-Tsvangirai, and a friendly wave may therefore be misinterpreted.