Zimbabwe is a landlocked country in Southern Africa. South Africa borders Zimbabwe to the south, Botswana to the southwest, Zambia to the northwest, and Mozambique to the east and north. Zimbabwe was a very busy tourist destination until the 1990s. Since then, it has started losing visitors.
Zimbabwe is home to the giant Victoria Falls, which is the major tourist attraction in the country. Wildlife abounds in Zimbabwe, which means you must take a safari ride. Enough said! You can also take a cruise on Lake Kariba that will showcase the stunning wildlife.
The northern part of the country is home to Lake Kariba, Lower Zambezi, and Mashonaland. Harare, the capital city, is also in the northern region of the country. Matabeleland, home of Victoria Falls, is in the west. The southeastern part of the country is full of natural beauty. In addition to the natural beauty, you can also explore the remains of ancient Zimbabwe in the eastern regions of the country. You must visit a handful of cities including Binga, Gweru, Kariba, Bulawayo (commercial capital), Mutare, Marondera, and Masvingo. If rock formations are your thing, then you should add Motobo to that list.
Places to See in Zimbabwe
Nyanga National Park
Tucked in the Eastern Highlands, Nyanga National Park offers its visitors fields of tall grass, forests of evergreen trees, waterfalls, rock cliffs and small lovely cottages on the lakeside. The popular activity in Nyanga is trout fishing. You can also hike or watch birds, whichever suits you best.
Zambezi National Park
Situated just a few miles away from the town of Victoria Falls, this scenic reserve has been surprisingly unpopular with tourists in recent years. However, the reserve is starting to recover from invisibility. The riverine and wildlife sections are distinctly picturesque and the park is also a great spot for a canoeing safari.
Bulawayo is home to the National Museum and numerous other historical sites. In addition, you can enter the Rhodes Matopos National Park from the city. Huge granite boulders are one of the defining characteristics of the park. The ruins of Khami, excellent fishing opportunities, caves with rock paintings, and Cecil Rhodes’ grave are all popular tourist attractions in Bulawayo.
Great Zimbabwe Monument
The largest complex of ruins in Africa, excluding the Egyptian pyramids, will complete your trip to this country. These marvelous stone remains are left from the powerful gold-trading city-state of the 13th–15th centuries. The closest city, and gateway, to the monument is Masvingo.
Harare is not only the capital of Zimbabwe but also its industrial and commercial center. Most tourists visiting the country start their trip from this spot. Colorful parks, flowering trees, numerous museums, art galleries, craft markets, and contemporary architecture are the features that make the city attractive to travelers. Also, due to its pleasant climate, Harare is often called the “Sunshine City.”
Hikers and trekkers particularly like Zimbabwe’s Eastern Highlands. Getting to the top of the highest mountain, Mount Nyangani, takes around 1.5 hours. The World’s View offers incredible panoramas across northern Zimbabwe.
Situated in the northwestern part of the country, Lake Kariba has the world’s largest manmade dam. Numerous waterfront lodges offer views of both the wild game and the breathtaking sunsets.
Right on the border of Zimbabwe and Zambia, the Victoria Falls are one of Africa’s most famous natural wonders and one of the world’s most impressive waterfalls. Check out Victoria Falls, the city, where you can book various activities in and around the falls.
When to Visit
This country is in the tropics. The hot and dry weather prevails from August to October. The rainy season is from November to March. Thus, the best months to visit are April-May and August-September.
What to Wear
You will need light and medium-weight clothes. However, keep in mind, night temperatures can be freezing, so you may need warmer clothes as well. Don’t forget rainwear if you are traveling during the rainy season.
There are many dialects that are spoken by the locals, but almost the entire population uses English. Not surprisingly, English is also the official language here. You will easily communicate with the natives.
The country abandoned its own currency, the Zimbabwean Dollar, in 2009. Now, U.S. Dollars and South African Rands are the currencies in use. The currency exchange is available at bureaux de change, banks, and major hotels at the official exchange rate. Most credit cards are widely accepted, often excluding MasterCard. Also, only some ATMs accept foreign credit cards so be mindful.
Local SIM Card & Free WiFi
The best way to stay connected, while in Zimbabwe, is to buy a prepaid SIM card. They are available at the airport upon arrival, reasonably priced and not hard to get. The main mobile companies are Econet and Telecel, which have outlets throughout the country, as well as in the airport.
Mobile connection coverage is limited to urban areas. Although Econet provides a great phone and data coverage across the country, in national parks you won’t get the good network. Credit or “airtime” is easily available from vendors in the street. Keep in mind, you will have to unlock your phone to activate the SIM card.
In large cities, you can find free Wi-Fi connection in most hotels, restaurants, and cafes. If you buy a local SIM card, you can use data on your phone to access the Internet. Or visit one of the Internet cafes, which are multiple in big cities. In general, they charge approximately US$2 per hour.
Urban areas of the country are now strongly influenced by Western culture. However, in rural regions, traditions and crafts are still valued highly. The customary form of greeting is shaking hands. Also, European courtesies and codes of practice are observed when visiting someone’s home. Return invitations are appreciated. Keep in mind, it is an offense to make insulting comments about President Mugabe.
Be aware that an open hand is the political symbol of the main oppositional political party. That’s why a friendly wave may often be interpreted as a provocative political gesture. Smoking is common in the country but prohibited on public transport and in public buildings. There are also laws against indecency, which equates to the prohibition of homosexual activities. Keep in mind that in order to take pictures of the official buildings, such as governmental, presidential buildings and embassies, you need to get official permission.
The predominant religion is Christianity. In rural areas, traditional beliefs are common. There are also some Hindu, Muslim, and Jewish minorities.
Zimbabwe’s food culture was greatly influenced by British colonization. Meat is common in the country. Also, the local diet includes delicious peanut-based stews, wild mushroom soup, and starchy staples. Other local specialties include sadza, nhedzi, wild game meat, whawha, bota, dovi, mapopo candy, mopane worms, mupotohayi, and biltong. Markets are usually full with fruit, especially papayas, and vegetables. Beer is a common drink. Mainly, it is a European-style lager or the opaque maize beer that is favored by locals. The legal drinking age is 18. In restaurants, a 10-15% tip is common.
Air Zimbabwe provides domestic flights to Bulawayo, Harare and Victoria Falls. There are also special light-aircraft services at Kariba and Victoria Falls offering sightseeing and game-viewing flights. The rail system is underdeveloped and poorly maintained. There are, however, trains to Bulawayo, Chiredzi, Harare, Lobatse, Mutare, Plumtree, Triangle and Victoria Falls. Also, ferries run on Lake Kariba from Kariba to Binga and Mlibizi.
Roads are not in good conditions. Thus, driving across the country is not a comfortable option. Taxis are a cheap mode of travel. Also, you can hitchhike. However, the primary concern with hitchhiking is safety. Car hire is available at airports and main hotels. However, there are often fuel shortages, even in the main cities, and therefore it’s wise to drive with a full tank of petrol, when possible. Cars drive on the left side of the road here.
Zimbabwe Trip Cost
The prices of imported goods can be high. Thus, you need to shop wisely. Fuel prices are low if you are thinking of renting a car. The standard expenses for eating and lodging are affordable. The daily cost of traveling in Zimbabwe depends on your budget. A bed in a dormitory starts from $8-$12, a room in a guesthouse will cost you $15-$60, while a double room in a hotel will be $60-$275 per night. The local meal will cost $5 and a beer will be $2. National parks entrance fees are $10-$20. Similarly, the prices of long-distance bus rides is between $10-$20. Taxi hire is around $50-$100, depending on the distance. Car hire with a driver is $150 per day. An all-inclusive safari will cost you $250-$1000.
Electricity & Plug Type
As for electricity, Zimbabwe uses types D and G sockets. You need to bring a travel adapter to fit the proper socket type. Check out the above-linked page to see the photos and other useful information. The standard voltage is 220 V. Many of your devices will need a step-up transformer to match the electrical voltage.
How to Arrive
The quickest way to get to Zimbabwe from the USA will be via Johannesburg, with South African Airways. It will take 18.5 hours from New York. The major airports are the Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo Airport in Bulawayo, Harare International Airport, and Victoria Falls Airport.
There is a train from Francistown in Botswana to Bulawayo, which runs three times a week. There are no trains from South Africa or Zambia running to Zimbabwe.
Where to Stay
There are hotels and lodges throughout the country. A list of authorized facilities is available through the Zimbabwe Tourism Authorities. Non-residents can’t pay in local currency, even with an exchange receipt. You will have to pay in U.S. Dollars or by a credit card.
Most tourist areas offer caravan parks and campsites for visitors.
How Safe is Zimbabwe
There is a moderate level of crime in the country. You should be aware when traveling alone. Pickpocketing, mugging and jewelry theft are common in the cities, especially after dark, as the street light is usually quite poor. Don’t carry large amounts of cash on you and make sure your accommodation has reliable security.
Medical facilities are good in major cities and towns, although medical costs can be high, so make sure to have travel insurance. Before the trip, you need to get shots for Diphtheria, Hepatitis A, Malaria, Tetanus, and Typhoid. Sometimes, Vaccination against Tuberculosis and Hepatitis B is also advised.
All water in Zimbabwe should be considered as being a potential health risk. It should be boiled or sterilized, before using it for drinking, cooking or brushing your teeth. Avoid swimming in fresh water. Also, HIV is a high risk in Zimbabwe, so take precautions.
Zimbabwe will not only offer you wildlife experiences like safari rides and swimming, but you can also enjoy the International Festival of Arts organized in Harare. Plus, the people love to play Cricket here. When you visit, make sure to try your hand at the beloved game.
May 10, 2016 12:00 am Leave your thoughts