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Zimbabwe

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A landlocked country in Southern Africa, Zimbabwe is bordered by South Africa to the south, Botswana to the southwest, Zambia to the northwest, and Mozambique to the east and north. The border with Zambia is formed by the Zambezi River which when in full flood drops as the world's largest curtain of falling water at the mighty Victoria Falls which is a major tourist attraction.

Regions

Cities

Zimbabwe has 3 large cities and several smaller ones.

  • Harare — the capital and the largest city in ZimbabweHarare is a vibrant city in a larger metropolitan province
  • Bulawayo — the second largest city, both by population and economic activity
  • Chimanimani - Eastern Highlands
  • Gweru - the capital of the Midlands Province
  • Kariba — a lakeshore holiday resort on border with Zambia
  • Masvingo — named (meaning "ruins") after the nearby Great Zimbabwe National Monument
  • Mutare - the major city closest to the scenic Eastern Highlands

Other destinations

  • Victoria Falls is a popular tourist destination located in the western corner of the country. It is one of the seven natural wonders of the world and the spray from waterfall waters a rainforest.
  • Great Zimbabwe - the archaeological remains of an ancient city built of stone (the largest in Southern Africa), that was the capital of a vast empire known as the Munhumutapa Empire (also called Monomotapa Empire) covering the modern states of Zimbabwe (which took its name from this city) and Mozambique. The word 'Zimbabwe' means 'house of stone.'
  • The Eastern Highlands include some of Zimbabwe's most beautiful views. The lush, cloud-hung mountains form the border with Mozambique. The regional capital is Mutare, and Chimanimani is a village popular with tourists and walkers.
  • Kariba - Located on the northern border of Zimbabwe the formidable Lake Kariba is the result of a large damming project along the Zambezi River. Kariba is a popular tourist destination and affords visitors the opportunity to watch African wildlife in its almost natural environment. It is the biggest source of hydro-electric power for Zimbabwe. If you are travelling with friends or family consider hiring a houseboat for a few days to really experience everything the lake and the wildlife have to offer.
  • Matobo (formerly Matopos) - Located south west of Bulawayo in Matabeleland, this area boasts exquisite rock formations, as if nature had been playing marbles. Rocks are found balancing in ways that defy logic, a situation created by the eroding winds blowing out the sand between. The rocks are home to the dassie, a small rodent-type animal known more formally as Rock Hyrax, the skins of which are used to make a blanket treasured amongst the local populace. Also present in great numbers are the brightly coloured lizards common to Zimbabwe. The area has two large dams and many smaller ones that become the scene of family picnics, and angling competitions on weekends. A game park is home to herds of sable antelope, an animal not seen further south. The National Park boasts self catering chalets with amazing views as well as camping sights.
  • Matobo is also the sight of Cecil John Rhodes' grave and some exquisite cave paintings.
  • Mutoroshanga Ethel Mine
  • Chinhoyi Caves

Understand

For those looking to travel in Africa, Zimbabwe is a great starting place. It is rich in fauna (being home to the big five) and flora and has numerous ancient stone cities including the largest in Africa south of the Sahara, Great Zimbabwe.

History

Stone cities were built in many locations in present-day Zimbabwe. The most impressive structures and the best known of these, Great Zimbabwe, were built in the 15th century, but people had been living on the site from about 400 AD. The Khami Ruins just outside Bulawayo are also a wonderful example.

The population was overwhelmingly made up of Shona speakers until the 19th century when the Nguni tribe (in 1839-40) of the Ndebele settled in what is now Matabeleland, and then in 1890, the territory came under the control of the British South Africa Company under charter from the British Government.

The United Kingdom annexed the land, then called Southern Rhodesia, from the British South Africa Company in 1923, when the country got its own government and Prime Minister. A 1961 constitution was formulated that favoured whites in power. In 1965, this white supremacist government unilaterally declared independence as Rhodesia, but the UK did not recognize the act and demanded voting rights for the black majority. UN sanctions and a guerilla struggle finally led to both free elections and independence (as Zimbabwe) in 1980.

Robert Mugabe became the first black leader of Zimbabwe. Unfortunately, he turned into a dictator and remained in power from 1980-1987 as Prime Minister, and 1987-2017 as President. Starting in 2000, the government unilaterally expropriated some very productive farms, which were in the hands of white Zimbabweans, and handed them over to members of Mugabe's ZANU Party who were inexperienced in farming, resulting in a drastic falloff in local food production. In 2005, he started a program which cleared slums, forcing hundreds of thousands of people onto the street. Rigged elections and human rights abuses led to the country's departure from the Commonwealth and international sanctions. Eventually, misrule and sanctions triggered massive, runaway inflation and an exodus from the country. Elections were routinely marred by violence, directed by the ruling ZANU-PF party against opposition supporters. Following widespread protests, a power-sharing agreement was signed between President Mugabe and the leader of the main opposition party, Morgan Tsvangirai, in 2008. This briefly stabilized the political situation, but continued inflation led to the withdrawal of the Zimbabwe dollar from circulation in 2009; at the end, 100 trillion Zimbabwe dollars would not buy a loaf of bread. The defunct Zimbabwe dollar was replaced by a basket of currencies and ultimately adoption of the US dollar. The coalition government ended with Tsvangirai's 2013 electoral defeat. By 2016 currency shortages were common, with the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe directing banks to limit withdrawals to $20-50/day or $150/week. In November 2016 another toy currency ("bond notes") was introduced, initially at par with the US dollar. De facto, US cash is king, the bond notes often trade at a discount if they're accepted at all and usability of credit cards is sporadic as businesses have trouble accessing hard currency to pay for imports.

Mr. Mugabe remained President until November 2017 when, at the age of 93 with serious unanswered questions about his health, he failed in a brazen attempt to continue the family stranglehold on power by sacking the country's vice president as a first step toward putting his wife Grace in the dictator's chair for the 2018 election cycle. This led to an enraged military taking control of the capital Harare; most of the original veterans of the 1980 uprising against British Rhodesia turned against Mugabe, with his own ZANU-PF party forcing his resignation by calling a vote in the legislature to impeach him.

While the impact of a successor remains uncertain, the military and the veterans of the 1980 uprising remain clearly in control of the ZANU-PF political party and the government.

Climate

Zimbabwe has a tropical climate that is moderated by altitude. The rainy season is in summer from November to March. Although there are recurring droughts, floods and severe storms are rare. Winter temperatures can drop below 5° Celsius whilst summers can be very hot, in excess of 35°C (95°F) in some places.

Terrain

Mostly high plateau with higher central plateau (high veld). There is a mountain range in east including the scenic Chimanimani mountains. The Lowveld is found in south eastern corner.

Elevation extremes : lowest point: junction of the Runde and Save rivers 162 meters highest point: Inyangani 2,592 m

Culture

Zimbabwe has many different cultures with their own beliefs and ceremonies, including the Shona, Zimbabwe's largest ethnic group. The Shona people have many sculptures and carvings which are made with the finest materials available. Shona music is also deservedly famous. Probably the best-known Shona instrument is the mbira dzavadzimu, sometimes misleadingly called the "thumb piano" by non-Africans but actually meaning "voice of the ancestors". Mbira music contains harmony and can be a kind of shifting kaleidoscope of counterpoint and lively polyrhythms. It is very tuneful, and the mbiras are often accompanied by a rattle called a hosho. Mbira music is central to Shona culture and identity and is traditionally considered a form of worship of the ancestors.

Economy

Once known as the Breadbasket of Africa, since 2000 Zimbabwe has undergone an economic collapse and the rule of law has gradually but largely broken down.

There had been a few signs of improvement since the formation of a unity Government in 2009, but the Zimbabwean economy remained plagued by hyperinflation (in Zimbabwe dollars - before they were abandoned - everyone was a multi-billionaire but prices rose daily or hourly). Food production had dropped when the Mugabe government took power, as the régime has taken agricultural land away from settlers (who worked the land as farmers) to give it to local partisans.

A rebound in mineral prices allowed GDP to grow by more than 5% in the year 2010 and 2011, but Zimbabwe remains a poor country with comparable levels of official corruption to other, similarly-poor nations. Gross domestic product has dropped by half since 2000; any recovery has been slow (about 1.7%/year before the currency shortages of 2016) and uncertain.

Holidays

  • 1 January: New Year's Day
  • 18 April: Independence Day
  • 1 May - Workers Day
  • 25 May - Africa Day
  • 22 December - Unity Day
  • 25 December - Christmas
  • 26 December - Boxing Day

In Zimbabwe, if a holiday falls on Sunday, the next day (Monday) will automatically be observed as public day. Hence, it will be a holiday.

Get in

Visa requirements

Category A (countries/territories whose nationals do not require visas):

For a stay of up to 6 months: Hong Kong SAR

For a stay of up to 3 months: Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Botswana, Congo (DRC), Cyprus, Fiji, Grenada, Jamaica, Kenya, Kiribati, Lesotho, Malaysia, Malawi, Maldives, Malta, Mauritius, Namibia, Nauru, Samoa, Singapore, Solomon Islands, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadies, Swaziland, Tanzania, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu, Uganda, Vanuatu and Zambia

Category B (countries whose nationals are granted visas at the port of entry on payment of the requisite visa fees):

Argentina, Austria, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana (Gratis), Greece, Hungary, Indonesia, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Macau SAR, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Palau Island, Palestine (State of), Papua New Guinea, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Seychelles, Slovak Republic, South Africa (Gratis), South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, Uruguay, United Kingdom, United States, Vatican City and Virgin Islands

Visa fees at the port of entry for Category B nationals are as follows: US$30 (single entry), US$45 (double entry), US$55 (multiple entry) - a valid passport, travel itinerary, return/onward journey ticket and cash payment must be presented. Note that Canadian citizens are only able to obtain single entry visas on arrival at a cost of US$75, whilst British and Irish citizens pay higher fees for a Zimbabwe visa on arrival (US$55 for single entry and US$70 for double entry).

For Canadian, British, Irish passports it would be better to get the USD $50 30-day Univisa which is good for both Zimbabwe and Zambia. The Univisa is available only at Harare Airport, Victoria Falls Airport, Victoria Falls Border Post and Kazangula Botswana Border Post.

Category C (countries whose nationals are required to apply for and obtain visas prior to travelling):

Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Benin, Bermuda, Bhutan, Bolivia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Brazzaville, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Cape Verde Islands, Cayman Islands, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, China, Colombia, Comoros Islands, Congo (Brazzaville), Costa Rica, Conakry, Côte d'Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Djibouti Republic, El Salvador, Ecuador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, French Guiana, French Polynesia, French West Indies, Gabon, Gambia, Georgia, Gibraltar, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, India, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Krygyzstan, Laos, Latvia, Lebanon, Liberia, Libya, Lithuania, Madagascar, Mali, Marshall Islands, Macedonia, Mauritania, Mexico, Micronesia, Moldova, Mongolia, Montserrat, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nepal, New Caledonia, Nicaragua, Niue, Niger, Nigeria, North Korea, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Qatar, Reunion, Romania, Russia, Rwanda, San Marino, São Tomé and Príncipe, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Slovenia, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Syria, Tajikistan, Taiwan, Thailand, Togo, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Turk and Caicos Islands, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Vietnam, Yemen, Yugoslavia

Visas can be obtained at Zimbabwean embassies/consulates. The fees for a visa vary between US$30 and 180 and depend on the applicant's nationality.

You might be able to apply for a Zimbabwean visa at a British embassy, high commission or consulate in the country where you legally reside if there is no Zimbabwean diplomatic post. For example, the British embassy in Amman accepts Zimbabwean visa applications (this list is not exhaustive). British diplomatic posts charge £50 to process a Zimbabwean visa application and an extra £70 if the authorities in Zimbabwe require the visa application to be referred to them. The authorities in Zimbabwe can also decide to charge an additional fee if they correspond with you directly.

By plane

Harare International Airport has a number of international flights, mainly to other African countries. When coming from Europe you can fly via Johannesburg, Nairobi, Dubai, Addis Ababa, Cairo. from South africa you can fly with South African Airways or Airlink British airways, Air Zimbabwe.

Emirates airlines, Ethiopian airlines, Kenya airways, Egypt air fly to Harare from europe.

SAA operates to quite a few European and African airports and has flights from HarareBulawayo, Victoria falls to Johannesburg South Africa. Air Botswana has flights from Harare and Victoria falls to Gaborone. Air Namibia has flights from Harare and Victoria falls to Windhoek. Malawian airlines has flights from Harare to Lilongwe.

British Airways has stopped non-stop flights between Harare and Heathrow. but British airways now have Flights from Harare via Johannesburg to Heathrow.

Victoria Falls airport has daily service by South African Airways, South African Airlink http://www.saairlink.co.za and British Airways to and from Johannesburg.

Bulawayo also has an international airport, with flights from Johannesburg operated by SAA and Air Zimbabwe.

For domestic flights inside ZimbabweHarare to Victoria Falls there is Air Zimbabwe and Fly Africa. Air Zimbabwe also fly from Harare to Bulawayo and Harare to Kariba.

  • Low cost airline Fastjet Zimbabwe with one way domestic fares from $20. and International fares from $50. Fastjet fly from Harare to Victoria falls, Bulawayo. Johannesburg, Cape town, Lusaka, Nairobi, Dar es Salaam.

there is also Low cost airline fly Africa which goes from Victoria falls to Johannesburg. and Harare to Johannesburg. and Victoria falls to Harare.

By car

Zimbabwe is accessible by road from the countries that surround it. Contrary to past scenarios, the fuel situation has improved with prices now being quoted in US dollars. As fuel has to be imported from either Mozambique or South Africa, you can expect to pay more per litre than you would in most other Southern African countries.

It should also be noted that roads in Zimbabwe are now in a very dilapidated state, and due caution should be taken when driving, especially at night, and in particular, during the November to March rainy season. Potholes are a very common occurrence and a serious threat to any vehicle that hits one.

By bus

Regular deluxe bus services operate from Johannesburg to Harare. A number of buses also travel from Johannesburg to Bulawayo. Greyhound drives to both destinations. Tickets can be obtained directly from Greyhound or through the Computicket website.

Several bus companies also operate direct buses from Harare to Blantyre, Malawi.

No public transport exists from Victoria Falls directly to Botswana - a taxi to the border will cost around USD40, or some hotels in Vic Falls can arrange transfers.

Get around

Between cities, you travel using luxury coaches like Pathfinder and Citilink. You can also get decent buses from RoadPort in Harare to other major cities including those in neighboring countries like Johannesburg, Lusaka, Lilongwe.

Minibus taxis are available for intra-city transport, and are relatively inexpensive by European standards. They provide a cheap, though a not necessarily comfortable way of seeing the true Zimbabwe.

Hitchhiking is also a viable option, but tourists need to take care with whom they accept lifts from; hijackings and robberies of hitchhikers, especially within Harare, have been on the increase in the last few years. Be sure to bring some money along, as drivers very often expect some sort of fee to be paid up front.

The condition of the roads in Zimbabwe seems to have improved considerably since the stabilisation of the economic. Roads between Victoria Falls and BulawayoBulawayo and Masvingo (Great Zimbabwe) and Masvingo and Mutare are all in relatively good condition. The highway between Plumtree and Mutare (passing through Bulawayo and Harare in between) in currently being resurfaced.

Note that almost no fuel station in Zimbabwe currently take credit cards. Also road blocks are common but usually police just want to see your drivers license and your Temporary Import Permit (TIP). Police can fine you if you do not have reflective reflectors on your car, red hazard triangles in your boot, a spare tire, or a fire extinguisher, so be sure to carry those items if you want to avoid a fine.

By train

The more adventurous tourists could travel by train around Zimbabwe. One train goes from Bulawayo to the Victoria Falls. The train passes through Hwange National Park, one of the biggest national parks in Africa. There are also trains from Bulawayo to Harare and from Harare to Mutare.

Talk

Zimbabwe has 16 official languages. English, Shona and Sindebele/Ndebele are the "big three" most popular. English, besides being traditionally used for official business, serves as a common language for most Zimbabweans.

See

  • Hwange National Park. Located between Victoria Falls and Bulawayo, the park boasts more than 100 different animal species and over 400 species of birds. It is one of the few great elephants sanctuaries in Africa with over 30,000 elephants.
  • Matobo Hills National Park. Also known as Matopos, this small park close to Bulawayo was awarded a UNESCO world heritage status in 2003 for its fascinating natural features and wildlife.
  • Mana Pools National Park. Mana Pools National Park, South of the Zambezi river in the North of Zimbabwe, is a UNESCO world heritage site. A remote location, it welcomes happy few safari lovers with an abundance of elephant, hippo, lions, antelope, giraffe and other animals, and over 350 bird species, in stunning landscapes.
  • Great Zimbabwe Ruins. Located in the vicinity of Masvingo, the 3rd Zimbabwean city, Great Zimbabwe ruins are the remains of one of greatest African civilizations after the Pharaohs: the Kingdom of Great Zimbabwe dominated the area from present Zimbabwe, East of Botswana and South East of Mozambique in the late Iron Age (between 1100 and 1450 AD). From the impressive granite stone complex that was once built, the ruins span 1,800 acres (7 km2) and cover a radius of 100 to 200 miles (160 to 320 km).

Do

  • Bungee jumping at Victoria Falls. An incredible experience off the Victoria Falls bridge over the mighty Zambezi - 111 metres of pure adrenaline.
  • Walk with the lions, Swim with the elephants, Ride a horse. and enjoy other game activities at Antelope Park, located by Gweru, between Harare and Bulawayo.
  • An Authentic African Safari. walking, canoeing or on a game drive in Hwange National Park or Mana Pools with African Bush Camps
  • Harare International Festival of Arts. (HIFA), every year in Harare (end of April) with some extension in Bulawayo. Music, Theater, and other shows sponsored by foreign embassies, it features top international and local artists,and also brings in town a great artcraft market.

Buy

Money

Zimbabwe legalised the use of foreign currencies as legal tender, thus negating the need for the inflation-ravaged Zimbabwe dollar, which has now been withdrawn from circulation.

The US dollar became the de facto currency in Zimbabwe in 2009, as the result of a currency collapse. In 2016 the Zimbabwe government introduced a new toy currency, "bond notes", in response to ongoing cash shortages. While the initial nominal value of these "bond notes" was intended to be equal to the US currency, their reintroduction has caused widespread concern of a return to hyperinflation.

The use of credit cards continues to improve, with a growing number of service providers accepting Visa cards or MasterCards in Zimbabwe. It may be useful to come with lots of smaller bills (USD1, 5, 10) since they are often in shorter supply.

There are many ATMs which take Visa and MasterCard, including those of Eco Bank. All ATMs give out cash in US dollars.

Zimbabwe now has its own coins, in 10c 25c and 50c denominations.

Costs

Domestically produced things are very cheap (especially labour-intensive things), and curios are especially well made. However, for a tourist drinking Coke and eating pizza, prices are not that much lower than in South Africa.

Eat

For a sample of what Zimbabweans eat (in some form, nearly every day), ask for "sadza and stew/relish." The stew part will be familiar, served over a large portion of sadza - a thick ground corn paste (vaguely like polenta and the consistency of thick mashed potatoes) that locals eat at for lunch and supper. It's inexpensive, quite tasty and very filling. There is a plethora of good Zimbabwean food- "Mbambaira" or sweet potatoes, "chibage" corn on the cob, for example. Fruits indigenous to the country like "masawu" for example. For foreigners, especially from the West, Zimbabwean meat is very tasty, especially the beef, because of the great way that animals are raised and fed and not pumped up with hormones etc.

The restaurant and coffee-shop scene in Harare is great, with a wide variety of places to choose from. A visit to "40 Cork Road" restaurant in Avondale is an absolute must for anyone visiting the city, since the place has really become an institution when it comes to dining and meeting places.

Drink

Mazoe, the local orange squash, is the quintessential Zimbabwean cordial.

A variety of domestic brews are made in Zimbabwe, mainly lagers with a few milk stouts. You may even want to try "Chibuku" a local brew popular among working class men that's based on a traditional beer recipe made from sorghum and/or maize (corn). It is generally sold in a 2 litre plastic bottle called a 'skud' or a more popular variety called "Chibuku Super" that comes in a disposable 1,25 litre plastic container and costs US$1. As with all alcohol, it's definitely an acquired taste! There is also a limited range of local wines, usually found within a much larger variety of imported wines. The South African creamy liqueur, Amarula, is a common delight.

Imported drinks and locally made franchises are available as well as local "soft drinks" (carbonated drinks/sodas). Bottled water is also available. Tap water, as a source of potable water, in general, should be boiled prior to consumption.

Sleep

Zimbabwe has a great number of tourist facilities, and offers a variety of accommodation options, from international hotels to guest houses, lodges, backpacker hostels and safari camps for all budgets.

If you are on a safari tour there are tented camps, chalets and camping sites in most of the safari areas.

most places have a Backpacker hostel with prices from $10/$15 a night.

Stay safe

Generally, Zimbabwe is a very safe country with way far less risk for crime than neighboring South Africa, and Zimbabweans are well known for their unrivaled hospitality. Travelers should take care with their personal security and safety. It really is just a matter of common sense- which you should exercise no matter where you are.

The US, Japan and Germany have lifted their travel warnings to Zimbabwe in April 2009; an indication that the security risk for visitors is low. Whilst many locals may be curious about you and your country, remember, most Zimbabweans are still very sensitive to foreigners' opinions of their country and its politicians. Therefore, it is always a wise idea to avoid political discussions or discussions pertaining to opinions of political leaders.

Stay healthy

Do your research about what is available. Take all medications that you need along with you. There are a number of private hospitals in the major cities that are very accessible.

HIV/AIDS infection rate in Zimbabwe is the 4th highest in the world at around 20% or 1 in 5 infected. Obviously you should never have unprotected sex. If you form a serious relationship, consider both getting an HIV test before taking things further.

Malaria is prevalent, so unless you are going to stay entirely within Harare or Bulawayo, anti-malarials are advised. Drugs reduce the severity of the disease but don't prevent infection, so also consider precautions such as:

  • sleeping under a mosquito net (lightweight travel nets are comparatively cool to use)
  • using mosquito repellent on the skin or burning mosquito coils
  • wearing long sleeved clothing and long trousers, particularly in the evening

Bilharzia is present in some lakes. Ask locally before swimming.

Snakes are common in the bush, and most bites are on the foot or lower leg. If walking, particularly in long grass, wear proper boots and either long, loose trousers or thick, concertinaed hiking socks. Shake out boots and shoes in the morning, in case you have a guest. These precautions also reduce the chance of scorpion sting. If you do get bitten or stung, stay calm. Try to identify the exact culprit, but get to medical assistance as rapidly as you can without undue exertion. Many bites and stings are non-fatal even if not treated, but it is safer to seek treatment, which is very effective these days.

Respect

Clapping twice is an accepted "thank you", especially when someone is handing you something (food, a purchase). If one hand is full you can clap the free hand on your chest. Unlike in Asia, taking items passed to you with both hands is considered impolite, as it is seen as being greedy. Men should clap so that fingertips and wrists meet, but women should 'golf clap' with hands crossing. This is a society with deep gender divisions.

When shaking hands or handing anything valuable to someone, it is polite to support the right forearm with the left hand (or vice versa), to signify the "weight" of the gift or honour. In practice this often means just touching the forearm, or even gesturing towards it.

When taking something from a local, it is strictly done with the right hand as it is seen as an insult if the left hand is used regardless of dexterousness. The same rule applies when passing something.

Be careful with your opinion as speaking out against the government is a crime.



Exercise a high degree of caution

The decision to travel is your responsibility. You are also responsible for your personal safety abroad. The purpose of this Travel Advice is to provide up-to-date information to enable you to make well-informed decisions.

Border with Mozambique

Do not stray from the main tourist areas near the border with Mozambique, since landmines and unexploded munitions still present a danger in this region.

Avoid large crowds and public gatherings. The situation could deteriorate on short notice.  

Crime

Crime, exacerbated by a very difficult economic situation, remains a serious problem for foreign visitors and residents alike.

Street crime, such as muggings, house robberies, passport theft, carjacking, pickpocketing and bag snatching is common. Ensure that your personal belongings and travel documents are secure, particularly in crowded places, and carry a photocopy of your passport. You should be particularly cautious when leaving banks and automated banking machines (ABMs).

Remain vigilant, avoid travelling alone at all times and avoid walking after dark, including in the larger cities such as Harare and Bulawayo, as well as at tourist sites such as Victoria Falls, Pungwe Falls, Mterazi Falls, and the Honde Falls.

Exercise a high degree of caution when travelling to rural areas where violence over forced farm redistribution may occur. Central and local authorities in some rural areas occasionally respond to outsiders with suspicion and hostility.

General situation in the country

Interruptions to the supply of water and electricity are frequent and lengthy in many areas, resulting in considerable hardship.

Food shortages remain a serious problem in rural areas. Keep stores of food, water, fuel and emergency supplies on hand in case disruptions were to strand you in your home for a few days.

Road travel

If you intend to drive to the ocean through Mozambique, be aware that we advise against non-essential travel to the Mozambican province of Sofala. Furthermore, we recommend that all overland outside of urban centres be avoided due to recent violent incidents. Consult the Mozambique Travel Advice page for more information.

Traffic drives on the left. Roads are not lit so driving after dark is not advised.  Due to electrical shortages, traffic lights frequently do not work.  In this case, the traffic does not behave as a four-way stop so pay close attention before proceeding through an intersection. Potholes are common and have caused many road accidents. Poorly serviced vehicles and dangerous driving habits also contribute to accidents. Cars may not have adequate lights at night.

Pedestrians often walk on the roads, even at night. Domestic and wild animals roam major roads, also posing a risk. Avoid driving outside of towns after dark, as cattle and broken-down vehicles on the road pose hazards. In the event of a flat tire, drive to a service station or residential area before stopping to make repairs, if possible,.

If you suspect that your vehicle is being followed, drive to the nearest police station. Do not leave personal belongings or travel documents unattended in vehicles.

Drive with your doors locked and windows shut at all times, and park in a guarded parking lot overnight.

Remain vigilant at all times when travelling through the Beitbridge area as highway robberies are common, particularly at night.

Roadblocks

As roadblocks can be erected anywhere without notice, drive carefully and be very cooperative at all times. You could be subject of arbitrary detention or arrest and should have your travel documents, such as passport, visas and vehicle police clearance certificate with you at all times. You and your vehicle may be searched at any time, as well as any person travelling with you. Whatever items are deemed suspicious during a search could be seized. You may be asked to pay a fine on the spot or to accompany a police officer to the police station. On-the-spot fines are illegal in Zimbabwe and you should ask for a ticket to be issued. You can then pay the ticket at the nearest police station.

Public transportation

Intercity bus and rail travel are dangerous and not recommended. Buses are overcrowded and inadequately maintained, and the drivers are often reckless. The rail system is underdeveloped and poorly maintained, resulting in numerous accidents. Major hotels usually have their own taxis, which can be used safely for intra-city travel. As well, taxis recommended by hotels are normally reliable and in good condition.  Taxi service is only available within major cities and taxis will normally not take you more than 20 km outside the city limits.

Consult our Transportation Safety page in order to verify if national airlines meet safety standards.

Safaris and organized tours

There are inherent risks to viewing wildlife (both marine and terrestrial), particularly on foot or at close range. Always maintain a safe distance when observing wildlife and avoid exiting the vehicle unless professional guides or wardens say it is safe to do so. Only use reputable and professional guides or tour operators and closely follow park regulations and wardens’ advice.

Fraud

There have been fraud attempts through email originating from Zimbabwe. Any unsolicited business proposal should be carefully scrutinized. See our Overseas Fraud page for more information on scams abroad.

Health

Related Travel Health Notices
Consult a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic preferably six weeks before you travel.
Vaccines

Routine Vaccines

Be sure that your routine vaccines are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.

Vaccines to Consider

You may be at risk for these vaccine-preventable diseases while travelling in this country. Talk to your travel health provider about which ones are right for you.

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a disease of the liver spread by contaminated food or water. All those travelling to regions with a risk of hepatitis A infection should get vaccinated.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver spread through blood or other bodily fluids. Travellers who may be exposed (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment or occupational exposure) should get vaccinated.

Influenza

Seasonal influenza occurs worldwide. The flu season usually runs from November to April in the northern hemisphere, between April and October in the southern hemisphere and year round in the tropics. Influenza (flu) is caused by a virus spread from person to person when they cough or sneeze or through personal contact with unwashed hands. Get the flu shot.

Measles

Measles occurs worldwide but is a common disease in developing countries, particularly in parts of Africa and Asia. Measles is a highly contagious disease. Be sure your vaccination against measles is up-to-date regardless of the travel destination.
 

Rabies

Rabies is a disease that attacks the central nervous system spread to humans through a bite, scratch or lick from a rabid animal. Vaccination should be considered for travellers going to areas where rabies exists and who have a high risk of exposure (i.e., close contact with animals, occupational risk, and children).

Typhoid

Typhoid is a bacterial infection spread by contaminated food or water. Risk is higher among travellers going to rural areas, visiting friends and relatives, or with weakened immune systems. Travellers visiting regions with typhoid risk, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation should consider getting vaccinated.

Yellow Fever Vaccination

Yellow fever is a disease caused by the bite of an infected mosquito.

Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.

* It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.
Risk
  • There is no risk of yellow fever in this country.
Country Entry Requirement*
  • Proof of yellow fever vaccination is required if you are coming from a country where yellow fever occurs.
Recommendation
  • Vaccination is not recommended.
  • Discuss travel plans, activities, and destinations with a health care provider.
Food/Water

Food and Water-borne Diseases

Travellers to any destination in the world can develop travellers' diarrhea from consuming contaminated water or food.

In some areas in Southern Africa, food and water can also carry diseases like cholera, hepatitis A, schistosomiasis and typhoid. Practise safe food and water precautions while travelling in Southern Africa. Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!

Cholera

There have been cases of cholera reported in this country in the last year. Cholera is a bacterial disease that typically causes diarrhea. In severe cases it can lead to dehydration and even death.

Most travellers are generally at low risk. Humanitarian workers and those visiting areas with limited access to safe food and water are at higher risk. Practise safe food and water precautions. Travellers at high risk should get vaccinated.

Schistosomiasis

Schistosomiasis is caused by blood flukes (tiny worms) spread to humans through contaminated water. The eggs of the worms can cause stomach illnesses like diarrhea and cramps or urinary problems. Risk is generally low for most travellers. Avoid swimming in contaminated water. There is no vaccine available for schistosomiasis.

Travellers' diarrhea
  • Travellers' diarrhea is the most common illness affecting travellers. It is spread from eating or drinking contaminated food or water.
  • Risk of developing travellers’ diarrhea increases when travelling in regions with poor sanitation. Practise safe food and water precautions.
  • The most important treatment for travellers' diarrhea is rehydration (drinking lots of fluids). Carry oral rehydration salts when travelling.

Insects

Insects and Illness

In some areas in Southern Africa, certain insects carry and spread diseases like African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness), Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, chikungunya, leishmaniasis, lymphatic filariasis, malaria, Rift Valley fever, and West Nile virus.

Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.


Malaria

Malaria

  • There is a risk of malaria in certain areas and/or during a certain time of year in this country.
  • Malaria is a serious and occasionally fatal disease that is spread by mosquitoes. There is no vaccine against malaria.
  • Protect yourself from mosquito bites. This includes covering up, using insect repellent and staying in well-screened, air-conditioned accommodations. You may also consider sleeping under an insecticide-treated bed net or pre-treating travel gear with insecticides.
  • Antimalarial medication may be recommended depending on your itinerary and the time of year you are travelling. See a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic, preferably six weeks before you travel to discuss your options.

Animals

Animals and Illness

Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, monkeys, snakes, rodents, birds, and bats. Some infections found in Southern Africa, like rabies, can be shared between humans and animals.


Person-to-Person

Person-to-Person Infections

Crowded conditions can increase your risk of certain illnesses. Remember to wash your hands often and practice proper cough and sneeze etiquette to avoid colds, the flu and other illnesses.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV are spread through blood and bodily fluids; practise safer sex.

HIV

HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that attacks and impairs the immune system, resulting in a chronic, progressive illness known as AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome). 

Practise safe sex while travelling, and don’t share needles, razors, or other objects which could transmit infection.

Remember that HIV can also be spread through the use of unsterile medical equipment during medical and dental procedures, tattooing, body piercing or acupuncture. Diseases can also be spread though blood transfusions and organ transplantation if the blood or organs are not screened for HIV or other blood-borne pathogens.

Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis is an infection caused by bacteria and usually affects the lungs.

For most travellers the risk of tuberculosis is low.

Travellers who may be at high risk while travelling in regions with risk of tuberculosis should discuss pre- and post-travel options with a health care provider.

High-risk travellers include those visiting or working in prisons, refugee camps, homeless shelters, or hospitals, or travellers visiting friends and relatives.


Medical services and facilities

Medical services and facilities

Medical facilities in Zimbabwe, as well as medical supplies, are very limited.

Travellers requiring medical assistance calling for a blood transfusion, or who suffer any serious illness, or who are involved in an accident may require medical evacuation to South Africa. Ensure that you have adequate travel insurance, including medical air evacuation, for the duration of your stay, and be sure to verify which circumstances and activities are excluded from your policy.

There is a significant shortage of prescription medication, so ensure that you bring your own supplies.

Almost all medical services, such as doctors, hospitals and air ambulance medical evacuation, must be paid for immediately in cash, as overseas medical insurance payments are rarely accepted.

Keep in Mind...

The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.

Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a travel health kit, especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.

You are subject to local laws. Consult our Arrest and Detention page for more information.

An International Driving Permit is recommended.

Illegal and restricted activities

Demonstrations and assemblies, even for private meetings, are illegal in Zimbabwe if not pre-approved by the Government.  Bystanders have been known to be taken into custody at such events.  Police officers may request to attend meetings.  Avoid large crowds or gatherings, particularly political meetings or rallies. 

Photography of government offices, airports, military establishments, official residences and embassies, in addition to other sensitive facilities, is prohibited unless permission is granted from the Zimbabwe Ministry of Information. Special permits may be needed for other photography. Laws are strictly enforced, and all restrictions should be observed. If in doubt, do not take a picture.

It is a criminal offence in Zimbabwe to make derogatory or insulting comments about President Mugabe, a member of his government, or the Zimbabwean government itself. Any person making such comments is liable to arrest and prosecution. Avoid participating in political discussions in public places or engaging in political activity. Note that an open hand is the symbol of the main opposition political party, and that therefore a friendly wave could be misinterpreted as a provocative gesture. Avoid carrying books by banned authors, and in rural areas, do not carry copies of the main independent newspapers, such as the Financial Gazette, the Independent and the Standard.

The use of a cellular telephone without using a hands-free device while driving is illegal and may result in a fine.

Homosexual activity is illegal.

Possession or importation of pornographic material is forbidden.

Currency

The payment of goods and services in Zimbabwe is now allowed in certain foreign currencies, including the U.S. dollar, South African rand and Botswana pula. The Zimbabwe dollar is no longer in use and is not accepted by stores.

Remain cautious, as counterfeit notes can be found in circulation.  For safety reasons, do not attempt to change currency at unregistered currency exchange offices or outlets.

Most hotel charges for foreigners are based on a U.S. dollar rate and must be paid in cash from internationally convertible currency (typically U.S. dollars or British pounds). Credit cards are not widely accepted but some large vendors, such as supermarkets, may accept payment by credit card.  Please note, not all Canadian credit cards are compatible with the local banking technology. Consult your travel agent or hotel in advance of your trip for details of your specific cards. Banks accept traveller’s cheques for conversion to cash in foreign currency. Passport photocopies are not accepted by banks for monetary transactions.  You will need to show your original piece of identification.

It is not possible to use ABMs to withdraw U.S. dollars with a Canadian debit card. Foreign debit cards are not accepted at points of sale.  Local cards which are part of the Zimswitch network may be accepted.

You can send and receive money via Western Union in Zimbabwe.  In addition, you can send and receive money using the local cellphone provider, Econet, by depositing money in an account at a local post office.  Travellers leaving the country can take out up to US$5,000 cash or the equivalent in other foreign currencies. If you wish to take out additional foreign currency, you are required to seek permission from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe. Presently, there are no traveller’s cheques in the country.

Climate

The rainy season extends from November to March. Keep informed of regional weather forecasts and plan accordingly.

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