Zimbabwe is a landlocked country in Southern Africa. 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. Its 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.
- — the capital and the largest city in Zimbabwe, Harare is a vibrant city in a larger metropolitan province
- — the second largest city, both by population and economic activity
- - Eastern Highlands
- - the capital of the Midlands Province
- — a lakeshore holiday resort on border with Zambia
- — named (meaning "ruins") after the nearby Great Zimbabwe National Monument
- - the major city closest to the scenic Eastern Highlands
- 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.
- - 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.
- - The formidable Lake Kariba on the northern border of Zimbabwe 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.
- (formerly Matopos) - This area southwest of Bulawayo in Matabeleland 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.
HistoryStone 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 free elections and independence (as Zimbabwe) in 1980.
Robert Mugabe became the first black leader of Zimbabwe. 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 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 US$20-50/day or US$150/week. In November 2016 another toy currency ("bond notes") was introduced at par with the US dollar. US cash is king, however, and the bond notes often trade at a discount if they're accepted at all. 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 Rhodesia turned against Mugabe, with his own ZANU-PF party forcing his resignation by calling a vote in the legislature to impeach him. Mugabe was subsequently replaced by Emmerson Mnangagwa, the vice president who he had sacked.
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. However, the current government appears to have begun rolling back some the excesses of Mugabe, with compensation being proposed for the white farmers whose land had been confiscated, as well as a proposal to re-join the Commonwealth.
ClimateZimbabwe 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.
TerrainMostly 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
EconomyOnce 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% per year before the currency shortages of 2016) and uncertain.
- 1 January: New Year's Day
- 21 February : National Youth Day or Robert Mugabe Youth Day
- 18 April: Independence Day
- 1 May - Workers Day
- 25 May - Africa Day
- 22 December - Unity Day
- 25 December - Christmas
- 26 December - Boxing Day
Category A - no visa required
Passport holders of the following countries do not need a visa to enter Zimbabwe for up to 3 months (unless otherwise noted): Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Botswana, Cayman Islands, Cyprus, DR Congo, Eswatini, Fiji, Ghana, Grenada, Hong Kong (6 months), Jamaica, Kenya, Kiribati, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malaysia, Malawi, Maldives, Malta, Mauritius, Montserrat, Mozambique (30 days), Namibia, Nauru, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Seychelles, Singapore, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Tanzania, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos Islands, Tuvalu, Uganda, Vanuatu and Zambia.
Category B - visa on arrival
Passport holders of the following are eligible to get a visa on arrival to enter Zimbabwe for up to 3 months (for purpose of tourism) or for up to 30 days (for purpose of business): Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Belarus, Belgium, Bermuda, Bhutan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, British Virgin Islands, Brunei, Bulgaria, Burundi, Canada, Cape Verde, Chile, Comoros, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macao, Marshall Islands, Mexico, Micronesia, Moldova, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Palau, Palestine, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Rwanda, San Marino, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vatican City and Venezuela.
Visa fees as of July 2019 at the port of entry for Category B nationals are as follows: US$30 (single entry), US$45 (double entry), US$55 (multiple entry). Cash only. A valid passport, travel itinerary, and return or onward journey ticket 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).
Category C - visa before arrival
Passport holders of other countries must get a visa prior to arrival to Zimbabwe.
Category C citizens may apply for a visa (for business, holiday, conferencing or transit) online through the eVisa system of the Zimbabwe Department of Immigration. Visa fee can be paid online or on arrival. It takes an average of two working days to obtain an e-Visa, however the period may vary due to a number of factors. The e-Visa is valid for three months from the date of issue.
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.
KAZA universal visa
Zimbabwe and Zambia introduced a universal visa on 28 November 2014 called KAZA Visa. This visa can be obtained on arrival and is valid for both countries for visits up to 30 days while remaining within Zambia and Zimbabwe (including day trips to Chobe National Park in Botswana at Kazungula). The fee is US$50 and is available at the following border crossings in Zambia: Livingstone Airport, Lusaka Airport, Kazungula Land Border (border with Botswana) and Victoria Falls Land Border; in Zimbabwe: Victoria Falls Airport, Harare Airport, Kazungula Land Border (border with Botswana) and Victoria Falls Land Border.
Eligible countries are: Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Brunei, Burundi, Canada, Cape Verde, Comoros, Croatia, Cuba, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Haiti, Hungary, Iceland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Marshall Islands, Moldova, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Rwanda, Samoa, Sao Tome and Principe, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States and Uruguay.
When coming from Europe, you can fly via Johannesburg, Nairobi, Dubai, Addis Ababa, Cairo.
From South Africa you can fly with South African Airways, Airlink, British Airways, or 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 Harare, Bulawayo, 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 has have flights from Harare via Johannesburg to Heathrow.
Victoria Falls airport has daily service by South African Airways, South African Airlink 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 Zimbabwe, Harare 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 has one-way domestic fares from US$20, and international fares from US$50. Fastjet fly from Harare to Victoria Falls, Bulawayo. Johannesburg, Cape Town, Lusaka, Nairobi, and Dar es Salaam.
There is also low-cost airline Fly Africa which goes from Victoria Falls to Johannesburg, Harare to Johannesburg, and Victoria Falls to Harare.
By carZimbabwe 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.
Roads in Zimbabwe are 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 busRegular 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.
As of 2018, National Railways of Zimbabwe runs one international passenger service, a twice-weekly overnight train from Francistown, Botswana to Bulawayo. Additionally, the private company Rovos Rail runs an luxurious excursion train from Pretoria, South Africa to Victoria Falls several times per month. Matching the luxury, prices are extravagant with journeys costing thousand of dollars.
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 Bulawayo, Bulawayo 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) is being resurfaced.
Almost no fuel station in Zimbabwe takes credit cards. Also road blocks are common but usually police just want to see your driver's licence 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.
The taxi app in Zimbabwe is called Vaya, but you will need a Zimbabwean phone number to use it. Its exchange rate is fixed at Z$1 to US$1, so you will want to pay in Zimbabwean dollars (RTGS).
The more adventurous tourists could travel by train around Zimbabwe. National Railways of Zimbabwe runs services between most major cities at least three times per week. However, due to ongoing economic difficulties and dilapidated tracks, there are often delays and cancellations. The most popular route is the daily overnight train between Bulawayo and Victoria Falls. This train passes through Hwange National Park, one of the biggest national parks in Africa, and there are plenty of opportunities to see wild animals along the route. There is an tri-weekly overnight service between Bulawayo and the capital Harare as well.
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 lingua franca between Zimbabweans of different ethnicities.
Hwange National ParkBetween Victoria Falls and Bulawayo, this 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 National ParkAlso 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 ParkMana 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 RuinsIn 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).
Bungee jumping at Victoria FallsAn 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 horseand enjoy other game activities at Antelope Park near Gweru, between Harare and Bulawayo.
An Authentic African SafariWalking, 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.
- Diving: The only site accessible to recreational divers is Mutoroshanga Ethel Mine, a flooded asbestos quarry 120 km by road from Harare. Good visibility and beautiful surroundings. You need technical cave-diving skills to venture into Chinhoyi Caves, 120 km from Harare. The caves are mostly water-filled, and are more than 120 m deep. The full cave system has not yet been explored. No diving infrastructure, this is an expedition where you take everything.
However, there is a shortage of Zimbabwe dollar notes, and it’s not possible to make cash withdrawals using an international bank card. So it's basically impossible for foreigners to obtain cash in the country; you will need to bring plenty of cash with you.
Prior to the introduction of the new Zimbabwe dollar, U.S. dollars and South African rand were widely used. Wikivoyage articles generally quote prices in U.S. dollars.
There are many ATMs which take Visa and MasterCard, including those of Eco Bank. However, you will not be able to withdraw money from any ATMs, so bring plenty of cash. Try to obtain Zimbabwean dollars before you arrive, otherwise you will have to change your US dollars after you arrive. If bringing US dollars, bring smaller denomination notes, e.g. US$20 and below. Anything larger is unlikely to be accepted. Change will be given in Zimbabwean dollars.
Many banks do not have enough bank notes due to a shortage of paper, so will only change US dollars for Ecocash. It is thus thoroughly recommended to register for Ecocash. You will need your ID to buy an EcoNet SIM card at EcoNet shops or other small phone shops. You can then register for EcoCash, but you will need to produce your ID again to activate your account. You can then load your account at a bank, and spend money in most shops using your PIN.
A growing number of businesses accept Visa and MasterCard in Zimbabwe, however shop workers are often resistant to use them. Be careful what currency your card is charged in, otherwise you may get charged US$10 instead of Z$10!
Zimbabwe has its own coins, in 10c 25c and 50c denominations.
CostsDomestically 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.
The restaurant and coffee-shop scene in Harare is great, with a wide variety of places to choose from.
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.
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 US$10 a night.
Travellers 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.
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.
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.
Tap water, as a source of potable water, in general, should be boiled prior to consumption. Bottled water is also available.
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.