Zimbabwe Travel Guide

Travel & Tourism

Zimbabwe may be one of the most beautiful countries in Africa, but it is perhaps better known as one of the more troubled nations on the continent. From its independence, in 1980, through Robert Mugabe’s ongoing reign, many tourists have left Zimbabwe off their itineraries. Despite the country’s reputation in the West, however, it has much to be proud of, and Zimbabwe has an astonishing array to offer tourists. It boasts one of the highest literacy rates in Africa, impressive natural attractions (such as Victoria Falls, the largest waterfall in the world), and some of the most diverse wildlife on the continent.

In 2009, Zimbabwe’s longtime single-party rule ended, and the nation established a power-sharing government. Although Mugabe has yet to agree to the terms of theGlobal Political Agreement, economic revival has begun, signaling a fresh beginning and a brighter future for this African nation.

What to Do in Zimbabwe

1. Victoria Falls: These great cascades, located near the Zimbabwe–Zambia border in the Zambezi River, are undoubtedly one of the most impressive natural wonders in the world. An average of 550,000 cubic meters (19,420 cubic feet) rush through them every day. The falls and surrounding area are not only a national park but also a UNESCO World Heritage Site; they have awed and inspired visitors for hundreds of years. A large number of water sports and extreme sports are available to tourists around the falls, from bungee jumping to white-water rafting. The town of Victoria Falls, on the southern bank of the Zambezi River, is easily accessible by bus and car and has a small international airport with daily domestic flights, as well as service to cities in South Africa and Namibia.

2. Chinhoyi Caves: These dolomite and limestone caves are located near the town of Chinhoyi, a couple of hours from Harare. Within the caves is a large, deep blue pool, known as the Silent Pool. It is believed that the caves were once the hideout of the bandit Nyamakwere, who threw his victims into the pool to drown them. The pools in the caves offer super diving with great visibility and exciting underwater tunnels and caves to explore.

3. Kariba: This inland sea, nestled in Zimbabwe’s breathtaking mountains, is surrounded by game reserves and a prime fishing and water sports area. Kariba is one of the largest manmade lakes in history, having once been a river. It is a lovely watering hole, feeding ground, and home to a myriad of mammals, birds, and fish, and it is dotted with small islands teeming with life. We highly recommend putting Kariba at the top of your itinerary.

4. Mbare Market: Need to do some souvenir shopping? Or do you simply want to experience the buzz of African market life? If you are in Harare, visit the Mbare Market, where vendors sell everything you might wish for. Prices are almost never fixed, so be prepared to bargain.

5. Hwange National Park: The largest national park in Zimbabwe, Hwange is located between Bulawayo and Victoria Falls and boasts one of the densest concentrations of wildlife in Africa, including elephants, buffalo, zebras, and giraffes. Some of Africa’s most obscure and unusual mammals, such as the gemsbok, can be found here. Walking, driving, and horseback safaris in this massive park make for unforgettable experiences.

6. Bulawayo: Zimbabwe’s second-largest city, located in the southwestern part of the country, is known for its vibrant art and music scene, colonial buildings, and tree-lined streets. Home to a large number of the nation’s museums, Bulawayo is a great city to spend some down time in before or after a tour in one of Zimbabwe’s national parks.

7. Matobos National Park: A short drive from Bulawayo, this national park is one of Zimbabwe’s greatest tourist attractions, with its impressive granite outcrops and a large variety of birds. The greatest concentration of ancient San rock art can also be found in the Matobo hills. There is a small game park where visitors can see white and black rhinoceroses.

8. Great Zimbabwe Ruins: Near the southern town of Masvingo reside the most impressive medieval ruins in sub-Saharan Africa. Dating between A.D. 1250 and 1450, the ruins possess the craftsmanship, size, and timelessness to make them one of the most impressive tourist destinations on the continent, a testament to the intelligence and skills of the ancestors of today’s Zimbabwean people. The ruins consist of two large stone enclosures and a conical tower, built from granite and soapstone. Similar ruins exist throughout the rest of Zimbabwe and in surrounding countries, but none can match Great Zimbabwe in magnitude.

When to Go

Zimbabwe enjoys a moderate climate year-round. Temperatures are higher and rain is more frequent between November and April. It is cooler between May and October.

Getting In and Around

Visas: To enter Zimbabwe most foreigners require a visa, which can be obtained in advance from an embassy or a consulate or, in some cases, at the airport. All foreigners must have proof of vaccination against yellow fever and cholera. For complete visa details and requirements, check the website of the Embassy of Zimbabwe in Washington, D.C.

Transportation: There are a number of international flights to Harare International Airport, but in recent years many big airline companies have been cutting service to Zimbabwe. It is best to fly to a neighboring country and catch a connecting flight. Several domestic flights run between many of Zimbabwe’s larger cities and to Victoria Falls.

The most common form of transportation in Zimbabwe is car. A number of bus companies within Zimbabwe service domestic destinations, as do buses that enter the country from neighboring nations. Local buses tend to depart when full and do not operate on a particular timetable, whereas express buses operate on a schedule. Express buses usually offer the fastest way to reach your destination, but they are more expensive.

Safety and Security

Concerned about your safety as you plan travel to Zimbabwe? We at Africa.com, together with our friends, family and colleagues, travel extensively throughout the continent. Here are the resources we consult when thinking of our safety in Zimbabwe:

• UK Government Zimbabwe Travel Advice Guidance

Africa.com comment: Very timely and frequently updated. Perspective assumes that you ARE going to travel to Zimbabwe, and seeks to give you good guidance so that you understand the risks and are well informed.

• U.S. State Department Travel Advisory on Zimbabwe

Africa.com comment: Can sometimes be considered as overly conservative and discourage travel altogether to destinations that many reasonable people find acceptably secure. On the other hand, they have the resources of the CIA to inform them, so they know things that the rest of us don’t know. See what they have to say about Zimbabwe.

Local Advice

1. Zimbabwe is a landlocked country located in southern Africa. It sits between South Africa and Zambia and is bordered to the west by Botswana and to the east by Mozambique. It is slightly larger than Montana and is divided into ten provinces. The climate is usually tropical, depending on altitude.

2. The population of Zimbabwe is roughly 11.6 million. About 82 percent of that population is ethnically Shona and 14 percent Ndebele. Roughly 75 percent of Zimbabweans practice some form of Christianity, and 24 percent practice indigenous religions.

3. English is the official language of Zimbabwe, and Shona and Sindabele are both widely spoken.

4. The currency in Zimbabwe is the Zimbabwe dollar (the symbol is ZWD). Because of hyperinflation, several other currencies, like the euro and the American dollar, are in use. Visitors to Zimbabwe should have no problem using American greenbacks. Debit and credit cards are rarely accepted, so cash is essential.

5. Owing to the sometimes volatile political situation in Zimbabwe, visitors should be very mindful of expressing in public their opinions concerning Zimbabwean politics and the economy.

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