The struggle for independence, land and power runs throughout Zimbabwe’s modern history. Veteran President Robert Mugabe dominated the country’s political scene for almost four decades after independence from Britain in 1980.
Once the bread basket of the region, since 2000 Zimbabwe has struggled to feed its own people due to severe droughts and the effects of a land reform programme that saw white-owned farms redistributed to landless Zimbabweans, with sharp falls in production.
The fall of Robert Mugabe in 2017 freed up politics and the media, but the country remains cash-strapped and impoverished.
REPUBLIC OF ZIMBABWE: FACTS
- Capital: Harare
- Area: 390757 sq km
- Population: 15.17 million
- Languages: Chibarwe, English, Kalanga, Koisan, Nambya, Ndau, Ndebele, Shangani, Shona, Sotho, Tonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa, Chewa
- Life expectancy: 59 years (men) 62 years (women)
Currency & banking
Current exchange rate: $1USD = 322.00 Zimbabwe dollars
The Zimbabwean Dollar was the official currency of Zimbabwe from 1980 to April 12, 2009. The Zimbabwean Dollar was abandoned in early 2009, but was reintroduced in 2019. Zimbabwe Dollar (ZWD; symbol Z$) = 100 cents.
Notes in denominations of Z$200,000, 100,000, 50,000, 10,000, 5,000, 1,000, 500, 100, 50, 20, 10, 5 and 2. Coins are in denominations of Z$5, 2 and 1, and 50, 20, 10, 5 and 1 cents. Zimbabwe has adopted a multi-currency scheme; the US Dollar and South African Rand are accepted and can be used for domestic transactions, be it at an agreed exchange rate.
Banks in Zimbabwe are open for business Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 08h00 to 15h00, on Wednesdays from 08h00 to 13h00 and Saturdays from 08h00 to 11h30. They are closed on Sundays and Public Holidays.
Only VISA and MasterCard are accepted in Zimbabwe, however, it should be noted that very limited facilities will have credit card machines, and the connection is not always reliable so it is advisable to carry cash as a backup.
Taxis are safe and reliable and can be booked through your hotel front desk. Taxis in cities travel within a 40km radius of the city. Always take a taxi at night.
Major airlines fly into Victoria Falls, Harare and Bulawayo. Charter flights are available to most attractions and camps.
Zimbabwe has a good road infrastructure, by African standards, although potholed. Between major towns, there are frequent roadblocks. Traffic drives on the left side of the road.
If you are driving around Zimbabwe, be sure to check on fuel availability in advance. If you are covering long distances within the country, ensure you carry extra fuel in 5 or 10lt metal containers in case of emergency. Fuel is generally available, but supply can fluctuate. Fuel is only available for cash.
Food, Drink & Cuisine Advice
Zimbabwe’s native cuisine is based on sadza, a cooked porridge made from ground maize which is normally accompanied by some tasty relish, perhaps made of meat and tomatoes, or dried fish. Safari camps will often prepare sadza if requested, and it is almost always available in small restaurants in the towns.
Camps, hotels and lodges that cater to overseas typically serve a variety of international fare, and the quality of food prepared in the most remote bush camps is usually excellent.
If you are driving yourself around and plan to cook, then get most of your supplies in the main towns. There are a number of South African shopping chains operating in Zimbabwe which will generally have all that you will need.
Water in the main towns is usually purified. The locals drink it and are used to the relatively innocuous bugs that it may harbour. If you are in the country for a long time, then it may be worth acclimatising yourself to it. However, if you are in Zimbabwe for just a short period of time, then try to drink only bottled, boiled, or treated water available in towns and from all camps, lodges and hotels.
Only eat food that is cooked and served hot. Eat fruits and vegetables that you have personally washed in clean water or peeled yourself. Never eat food sold by street vendors. Only drink boiled water that is sealed and has been filtered and disinfected. Prefer carbonated drinks, hot coffee or tea, and pasteurized milk.
Internet & Wi-Fi
Internet availability is very limited, especially outside of the major cities.
Most holiday accommodation venues offer internet and/or WiFi (free or paid) to their guests but there are often disruptions in service.
The US Center For Disease Control maintains an updated list of medical advice for those travelling to Zimbabwe
The CDC recommends being up to date with all your regular shots. These vaccines include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine, and your yearly flu shot
They also suggest being vaccinated for hepatitis A. There is also some advice about protection for hepatitis B and rabies – but this depends to some degree on where you are heading and what you are doing.
Additionally, malaria, yellow fever, zika virus, chikungunya virus and dengue fever are a risk in Malawi so avoiding being bitten by mosquitos is advised. Also, ticks can carry diseases so when going through forested areas or long grass protect yourself by wearing long trousers and shirts. Tsetse flies carry diseases and there are no effective repellents so the same precautions as for ticks are the best prevention.
Malaria is a risk everywhere in Zimbabwe except in Harare and Bulawayo. Consider taking anti-malarial medication. Other parasitic and insect-borne diseases that occur include filariasis and schistosomiasis. Ensure your accommodation is insect-proof. Use insect repellent.
The rate of HIV/AIDS infection is very high. Take precautions if you’re engaging in activities that expose you to the risk of infection.
Outbreaks of foodborne, waterborne, and other infectious diseases also occur. These include typhoid, hepatitis, tuberculosis and cholera. Drink only boiled or bottled water. Avoid raw or undercooked food. Ensure your vaccinations are up-to-date. Don’t swim in lakes and rivers, due to the risk of waterborne diseases.
The standard of medical facilities is generally poor to average. Outside of Harare and Bulawayo, facilities are even more limited. Public hospitals, including in Harare, suffer from serious shortages. If you’re seriously ill or injured, you may need medical evacuation out of Zimbabwe. Ensure your travel insurance covers this.
The security situation can be volatile. Avoid political activity and protests. There can be shortages of food, water, medicine and fuel, sometimes at short notice. Basic services, such as electricity supply, are unreliable.
Violent crime, such as assault and armed robbery, occurs. The risk increases at night, in city centres and open areas such as parks and fields. Keep your accommodation locked, even when you’re in it. Don’t walk at night. Petty crime, such as mugging and bag snatching, is common. Don’t carry bags that are easy to snatch.
Land confiscation, wildlife poaching and violence against farmers have caused unrest. Get up-to-date security advice before you visit national parks, game farms, lodges or hunting areas.
Theft from vehicles is common. Thieves target cars stopped at intersections, especially on the way to Harare Airport. Minimise the amount of time you have to stop. Approach red lights slowly. Keep vehicle doors locked and windows up.
Flooding and extreme weather can occur during the rainy season (November to April). Infrastructure damaged by flooding and extreme weather can take many years to be repaired.
- Don’t leave items such as laptops and briefcases in unattended vehicles
- Don’t display jewellery or electronics when walking
- Remain vigilant when using public transportation or walking along deserted streets
- Taxi and minibus operators have robbed their passengers and stranded them far from their destinations. Avoid taking taxis or minibuses that have only one or two passengers, and ensure that your personal belongings are secure at all times when using public transportation.
- Always carry your ID, such as a copy of your passport. Police and immigration officials may ask to see it.
- Understand and follow local laws. For example, it’s illegal to kill, capture or trade a protected animal or its parts without a licence.
- Same-sex relations are illegal in Zimbabwe and can attract criminal penalties.
- Be careful when taking photos. It’s illegal to photograph airports, military establishments, government offices, the President’s residence and security forces.
- Avoid political activity and any activities that officials could view as political. These include discussions, commentary and protests.
- It’s illegal to criticise or insult the President or have material considered offensive to the President’s office.
- It is illegal to leave Zimbabwe with more than $US 2000 (or equivalent) in cash. This amount is subject to change with little notice.
Useful emergency numbers
All emergencies, 999
Emergency, +263 4 705905 / 771221 / 706034 / 0772 235461 / 0772 792800
Emergency, 112, Econet subscribers Toll free number
Emergency, 114, NetOne subscribers Toll free number
Emergency, 0800 3222 911, Toll free landline
EMRAS-Harare Mobile 0772 141 610 Landline 04-797479/ 04-911
EMRAS-Bulawayo Mobile 0772 141 611 Landline 09-62611; 62155
EMRAS-Gweru Mobile 0772 141 612 Landline 054-221214; 227256
EMRAS-Mutare Mobile 0772 141 613 Landline 020-62107
EMRAS-Masvingo Mobile 0772 141 615 Landline 039-262463
EMRAS-Kwekwe Mobile 0772 141 614 Landline 055-22664; 22778
EMRAS-Bindura Mobile 0772 190 381 Landline 0271-6141; 7239
EMRAS-Victoria Falls Mobile 0732 146 256 Landline 013-46052/53
Fire Department, 993
Fire Department, 04 720206, Harare
Police Stations/ Services
What To Wear
When in Zimbabwe the cardinal rule is to wear casual, comfortable clothes during the day as temperatures can get very hot. It is advisable to wear light loose-fitting clothing, such as cotton or linen, as they are cool and easy to wash.
Warmer clothes are advised for the evenings and rainwear for the wet season. A brimmed hat and sunglasses are a good idea year-round. Long-sleeved shirts and long trousers will also guard against the scorching sun rays. It is recommended you wear light shoes, especially if your itinerary entails a lot of walking.
For safaris, please remember to wear appropriate clothing and shoes. Earth colour clothes, such as browns, greensand tans are advisable.
The best time to visit Zimbabwe is between July and October, when game viewing is at its peak. The natural waterholes in the parks dry up and huge herds congregate at the lakes, man-made waterholes and rivers.
However, travel from November through to March rewards those wanting to get off the beaten track and explore the country’s rich cultural history. Birders, in particular, will be delighted by the presence of migratory birds.
Meanwhile, April to June provides great value, and fantastic views of Victoria Falls in full flow can be enjoyed.
Temperatures remain warm throughout the year, ranging from 21°C to 35°C.
Zimbabwe – Month-by-Month
The days are warm, with potential rain in the afternoons, but this can clear as fast as it arrives. The country will be quiet, and this is one of the best times to head out with expert guides to view the resident and migratory bird species — some lodges guarantee 50 species before breakfast.
Water levels at Victoria Falls are at the perfect level to see the gorges and geology of the area, and the famous spray rainbows are in evidence too. Combine this with the rocky outcrops in the Matopos region for an immersion into colonial and ancient culture.
April heralds the re-opening of Mana Pools, a World Heritage national park particularly famous for walking safaris. The days feel fresher and brighter throughout April and May as the seasonal rains end, and the landscape is looking lush and green..
The weather turns colder at night as the winter sets in — take plenty of layers as temperatures can get down to freezing. June marks the return of the wildlife to pumped waterholes in Hwange and this is the perfect time for photographers to explore the sunken hides for wildlife viewing from a different angle before the parks get busier over the holiday period
The days are bright and clear, with barely a cloud in the sky. Temperatures fall at night, and sightings are continuous. Though the camps are likely to be full, the majority are on private concessions so you still get exclusivity and no crowds.
The days are heating up, with temperatures reaching the late 30°Cs and early 40°Cs. Wildlife sightings are also at their peak as the dry season ends.
Zimbabwe has 3 visa categories:
- Category A: Countries whose nationals do NOT require a Visa. No action is required, you will be granted easy entry at any border post.
- Category B: Countries whose nationals are granted a Zimbabwe visa at the port of entry on payment of requisite visa fees. These visas are easiest to obtain on your arrival at the Airport or border post. We recommend that you do NOT pre-apply online via the Zimbabwe eVisa website if you are a category B National. The e-visa system is designed for Category C nationals, who HAVE to pre-apply. You do NOT save yourself any time on arrival, in fact, it can cost you more time as they need to verify your application. Applying online requires registering an account on the website and then supplying a whole lot of information that you do not need when you are in category B. Also, E-visa applications often go missing. The same thing applies to overseas companies offering visa services at exorbitant costs. Get your visa on arrival with minimal fuss.
- Category C: Countries whose nationals are required to apply for and obtain a Zimbabwe visa prior to travelling. You can apply for one through a Zimbabwe High Commission in your home or neighbouring country. Another way is to apply online – click on this link Zimbabwe e-visa for details. Please note that the online system, while convenient, is not always foolproof (we had trouble even getting it to load!)
Most European Countries, the United States and Canada are in Category B countries.Passport Requirements
• Passport valid for a least 6 months from your date of entry.
• Return ticket to your country (or enough money to buy one)
• Sufficient funds to cover your stay in Zimbabwe
• Enough blank pages in your passport to fit the required entry visa.
What are the Visa Types?
- Single Entry visa allows for entry into Zimbabwe one time. Once you exit Zimbabwe, the visa cannot be used again.
- Double Entry visa allows for up to two entries into Zimbabwe. Valid up to 90 days from the date of issue. Once you have used it for the two entries and two exits, the visa cannot be used again.
- Multiple Entry visas – CANNOT be obtained at the port of entry into Zimbabwe. You may enter Zimbabwe on a single entry visa and then obtain a Multiple Entry Visa from the town office – but this may take up to 7 working days to be issued and in many cases is declined – if you need to enter 3 or 4 times rather buy a single entry and then a double entry visa or two doubles, which is a perfectly accepted by immigration.
Children – As of June 2012 – Zimbabwe will now be charging FULL VISA fees for any individual who is required to have a VISA despite their age. This includes infants and children who were previously being exempted from this. This has been imposed with immediate effect.
How Much are the Visa Fees?
Visitors coming from Category B countries (listed below) can pay the fee for their visa when they arrive at the port of entry, whether it is at the land border or at the airport. We strongly advise visitors who wish to pay on arrival to have cash for their visas as credit card machines have become more and more unreliable when it comes to payments for visas. Category C nationals who applied for a visa online will pay for the visa during the online application.
Here is the fee structure for Category B – Zimbabwe visas:
ZIMBABWE VISA FEES
Single Entry US$ 30
Double Entry US$ 45
Multiple Entry – See notes above US$ 55
South Africa – gratis (FREE) visas issued at the point of entry
What are Zimbabwe Visa Fees for British, Irish and Canadian Citizens?
CATEGORY B: EXCEPTIONS
British and Irish
Single Entry US$ 55
Double Entry US$ 70
Single Entry US$ 75
Which power plugs and sockets in Zimbabwe?
In Zimbabwe, the power plugs and sockets are of type G. Check out the following pictures.
Type G: this type is of British origin. This socket only works with plug G.
Type D: this type is of South African origin. This socket only works with plug G.
|Type G: This socket has no alternative plugs||Type D: This socket has no alternative plugs|