Bulawayo is a relaxed, elegant industrial city with wide tree-lined boulevards, in western Zimbabwe. Several World Heritage sites, including historic monuments from the precolonial era and national parks, are within an hour's drive from Bulawayo, making it a great tourist destination.
Bulawayo was founded by Lobengula, the last Ndebele king, who settled in what is now Zimbabwe around the 1840s along with a large number of fellow Ndebele who had trekked there all the way from Zululand. In 1893, the British South Africa Company invaded the area in a conflict known as the First Matabele War. The British troops destroyed the city and forced the king to flee. They then built modern Bulawayo over the ruins of the former royal Ndebele city.
|Climate chart (explanation)|
Although by latitude, Bulawayo is in the tropics, by virtue of its fairly high elevation, its climate is subtropical. Bulawayo is cooled by a prevailing southeasterly airflow most of the year, and experiences three seasons.
With little rain and cool, refreshing temperatures during the day, the winter season from May to August is ideal for a visit.
Temperatures soar in the hot dry period from September to November, so it is advised to book accommodation with air conditioning if you plan to visit during those months.
Rains that moderate the temperature fall from December to March, mainly as relatively brief afternoon thunderstorms.
The main airport is Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo International Airport.
Visas available on arrival are US$30 for single entry, US$45 for double entry. For UK and Irish citizens, it is US$55 or double entry US$70. For Canadians, single entry is US$75.
If you're going to Victoria Falls and you plan to visit Zambia or Botswana, buy a double-entry visa. But if you plan to go to Botswana and Zambia, buy a single-entry visa. Then obtain a Kaza Univisa for US$50 at the Zambian border. This is then valid for daytrips to Botswana but only obtainable at the Zambian border.
A taxi from the airport into town should be US$10 as of July 2019 (price on Vaya app is Z$85).
The ATM in the airport does not work.
National Railways of Zimbabwe runs a daily train to and from Victoria Falls to Bulawayo. It departs Bulawayo at 19:30. From Victoria Falls it departs 19:00. The trip takes about 15 hr and is sometimes delayed. It costs Z$20 for first class sleeper and Z$9 for bedding as of July 2019. First class cabins have 2 or 4 bunks per compartment, second class generally has 6, although there are special "half compartments" with 2 and 3 bunks respectively. Economy class is also available. Electric lights are available and sometimes shaver sockets, but no normal plug sockets, running water or toilet paper. This train is sometimes without electricity, so take a torch just in case.
There is also a night sleeper train from the capital Harare three times a week. Sleeper class $12, seat $10. Cross-border trains from Botswana have resumed after a long hiatus, with one daily morning departure from Francistown.
- 1 Bulawayo railway station (South of city centre, just off Anthony Taylor Ave.).
Minibus taxis run from the township outside Victoria Falls to Bulawayo in the very early morning and takes approximately 7 hours.
The five most commonly recommended bus companies running daily services from Johannesburg to Bulawayo are Intercape, Greyhound, Intercity, Citiliner, Eagle Liner. Tickets can be booked online. The journey costs R330–R470 (South African rand) on high quality luxury coaches. Eagle Liner buses depart Bulawayo for Johannesburg everyday at 14:30. the ticket cost R330. The Eagle liner booking office is at 5th Ave and G Silundika street.
Intercape also has buses from Bulawayo to Vic Falls, Harare. Intercape has the Largest intercity route network in southern Africa. Extra City also have buses going to/from Harare and Vic falls.
The city is fairly walkable.
Local transport is mainly by 18 seater minibuses called "kombis". The cost from the CBD to the suburbs is usually 50 cents.
Taxis do not have a particular colour but are clearly marked. A taxi trip within the CBD costs US$2 and outside the city center limits it costs US$1 per km.
- 1 Natural History Museum of Zimbabwe, Corner of Park Road & Leopold Takawira Avenue, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Daily 08:30-17:00. It has a large selection of stuffed and pinned animals, and an array of live constrictors and venomous snakes. It also has a section on the history of Zimbabwe. Photography not permitted. US$0.06/10 (residents/non-residents).
- 2 National Art Gallery, Corner of J.M. Nkomo Street & Leopold Takawira Avenue, ☏ . Tu-Sa 09:00-17:00; closed public holidays. Many works are for sale. There are artists studios on-site; the artists are happy to chat about their work. They often invite visitors to local events and showcases. Craft shop and cafe as well. Z$43.
- 3 Bulawayo Railway Museum, Prospect Ave. and Crew Rd, ☏ . 08:00-16:00 daily. The historical exhibits are great. This includes Cecil Rhodes' private carriage, plus a range of decaying steam engines and other locomotives. Access is free to the innards of most exhibits. Z$2.
- 4 Khami Ruins, ☏ . Daily 8AM-5PM. Ruins of capital of former Butua State civilization that existed from around 1450 to 1644 AD. Can wander around and visit small exhibit center on site.
- 1 Swimming pool, Samuel Parnenyatwa Street & 9th Avenue. The city's outdoor swimming pool is like something out of a 1920s movie, with its ranks of brightly painted changing booths. Lie on the grass and watch the cranes roost in the towering trees of the neighbouring botanic gardens.
- Explore the streets
- 2 Hillside Dams, ☏ . Hilly area on the south side of Bulawayo that used to be the city's water supply but now is a park with walking and mountain biking trails along with fishing and bird watching.
- Amakhosi Theatre, cnr of Old Falls Rd. and Lady Stanley St. Try this for local performing arts events.
- Jairos Jiri Craftshop. Selling craft from the network of disabled people - great place to go for baskets.
Shopping & supermarkets
- The Bulawayo Centre. A modern shopping centre with chic clothes shops, an internet cafe and a cinema.
- Ascot shopping center. Has 1 TM supermarket & other general convenience shops, a restaurant and bar, and curios.
- Zonkizizwe Shopping Complex (Bradfield Shopping Centre), Hillside Road (approx 300m after the Trade Fair along Hillside Road). The complex, opened in 2016, has a supermarket, bar, gift shop, boutiques, nursery and several other interesting shops.
- Haddon and Sly Supermarket, Fife Street, 8th and 9th Avenue (opposite the Small City Hall entrance).
- TM - Pick N Pay Supermaket, Herbert chitepo street. TM - Pick N Pay supermarkets has well over 50 outlets around Zimbabwe.
- Choppies supermakets, Fife street and 4th Avenue. Choppies Supermarkets, a Botswana-owned supermarket, has 14 stores around Bulawayo.
- OK supermarket. There are 59 OK stores nationwide.
- Spar supermarkets there are many Spar supermarkets all over Bulawayao.
- Zapalala Supermarkets. 09:00-19:00. A super low price Zimbabwe supermarket with many stores around Zimbabwe. low price.
Banks & ATMs
As of July 2019, all ATMs in town have been disconnected from the international network and foreign cards do not work. You will not be able to withdraw any cash, so bring plenty of US dollars. In Bulawayo, shop assistants are not used to foreigners. You can pay for things by credit card but you will be charged 8 times too much, i.e. instead of Z$10 you will be charged US$10!
Some shops may accept US dollars in cash but will give change in Zimbabwean dollars.
Banks will not change US dollars into Zimbabwean dollars due to a shortage of paper notes, but they will change US dollars into EcoCash (you will need to get an EcoNet SIM card first).
- Stanbic Bank, Cnr Main street & 8th avenue. Has a MasterCard/Visa ATM.
- Ecobank, Cnr of Fife street & 9th Avenue (5 Parkade Center), ☏ . Has a MasterCard/Visa ATM.
- Standard Chartered Bank. Has a MasterCard/Visa ATM.
- New Orleans Restaurant, Banff Road, Hillside. Classy, for Bulawayo. Excellent staff and reasonable prices.
- Haefelli's Bakery, On Fife Street in Town: ask anyone for directions. Haefli's (pronounced hay-flees) offers a strange mix of food services. It is a bakery (offering various breads and pastries), it is a pizza shop (Pizza Inn), it offers ice cream (Dairy Inn), and sandwiches, mostly pre-made. A popular hang-out with the younger crowd and is open until 22:00 There are security guards at all hours. Alcoholic beverages are not served.
- Cubana Bulawayo, 105 Robert Mugabe Way, ☏ . Here they do cocktails and Portuguese chicken.
- Bulawayo Club (corner of 4th Street and 8th Avenue). Old fashioned club with a wood-panelled bar and an open-air atrium. Dinner is around $11, including a soup course. Must book in advance, visit during the day or call 648689. Lunch is around $9 and does not require a reservation. Also a lovely place to go for a drink throughout the day.
- River Cafe (on 12th Avenue after Bulawayo Athletic Club). Chill out in the garden, great witrth kids, and nice curio shop attached
- La Plaza (on 12th Avenue after Bulawayo Athletic Club). A fdeli and coffee shop where you will find Mediterranean speciallties
- The Coffee Shoppe. Located in the National Gallery, a limited menu offers sandwiches, pasta dishes and salads. The food is freshly prepared and very good by the standards of Bulawayo. A wireless internet is available, but can only be accessed with local internet services offering with a pay as you go feature. The patio offers a pleasant spot for lunch and a number of local artists and ex-pats can be found there. It is only open for breakfast and lunch.
- Indaba Book Cafe (Indaba). A place to meet for coffee, food and meet writers and poets.
- The Cattleman, Cnr J.Tongogara Street, Twelfth Ave, ☏ . The restaurant is a long-time local favourite. Its slogan, "our reputation is at steak", says it all. It's a nice place serving beef, chicken and occasionally fish. It is the best steakhouse in Bulawayo, but don't expect the food to match first world standards.
- 1 Tin Cup Pub And Grill (First St, east of town, next to Lions Golf Driving Range), ☏ . Charcuterie boards and drinks.
- Roosters Pub & Grill (in Zonkizizwe Shopping Center), ☏ . Quaint garden-like setting with outdoor seating.
- Cafe Baku, In the Bulawayo Centre. Once a pleasant place for lunch and a drink, it is now mainly a late night disco with a noisy crowd in a fairly small space.
- Walkers Pub. Nice pub where you can relax and have a drink or two with friends. Situated on the first floor on Bulawayo Centre shopping mall, the pub boasts of a conducive environment for relaxation. If beer is your drink, then this is the place to be in Bulawayo
- Bulawayo Athletic Club (12th Avenue / 3rd street). Now has a great bar on the back, with light meals, live music and drinks in a warm local atmosphere.
- Berkeley Place, 71 Josiah Tongogara Street between 6th Ave & L. Takawira Ave, ☏ . Close to Evelyn High Street and Central Police Station Twin room with a shower and sink. Friendly staff and close to the town centre. From US$25.
- 1 Bulawayo City Lodge, 14th Ave/Fife St, ☏ , email@example.com. Rooms are spacious with ensuites and close to the city centre railway station and International Trade Fair. From US$60 per night.
- Bulawayo Club, Corner Main Street and 8th Avenue, ☏ . The Bulawayo Club has been completely renovated and reopened with accommodations. The current building was built in 1935 and the complete renovation has brought out the elegant grandeur of the building's interior. Every detail of the previous club has been renovated and maintained. The interior is the epitome of gentility and was the pride of Bulawayo for several generations. Among its previous members, for example, was Governor Sir Humphrey Vicary Gibbs, long time Bulawayo resident. The staff are attentive and kind, and the food is excellent. From US$105 a night..
- 2 Burkes' Backpackers Paradise, 11 Inverleith Drive, Burnside (about 6 km from the city centre, easily accessibly by minibus/kombi for 0.50c), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Affordable clean backpackers hostel. Dorm bed is US$15 per person per night, single room US$25 per night, double room or twin room US$30/night, and camping US$7 per person per night. Self-catering kitchen available. Fast Wi-Fi access US$3 per 24 hours. It has a nice garden with a swimming pool, and is run by a very nice family. Dorm bed US$15 per person.
- Holiday Inn, Milnerton Drive, Ascot, ☏ . Next to Ascot Shopping Center, has a tennis and gym. From US$88 a night.
- Lilys Backpackers Lodge, 3 Masefield Road Malindela. Dorm beds and single/double rooms. has a facebook page. no wifi. Dorm bed from US$10 per person, single/double room US$15/20.
- Nesbitt Castle, Percy Avenue, Hillside, ☏ . This is a castle built in Victorian style by a local industrial figure. It is a Bulawayo favourite for venues and marriages, and also can be visited on request. From US$150 a night.
- Zak's Place, 129 Robert Mugabe Way (Between 13th and 14th streets.). Check-in: 12:00, check-out: 11:00. Single/double rooms with own bathroom. Single room from US$40.
- Y W C A, 35 Lobengula street crn 9th Avenue, ☏ . Single/double rooms. Accepts men and women. Breakfast US$4. It looks very run down. Single US$25, double US$35.
- Royal Hotel, Sibandika Street and Sixth avenue (near the Blue arrow bus terminal). Check-in: 12:00, check-out: 10:00. Double room with own bathroom. US$25 a night.
- Bulawayo City Campsite (near city center). From US$9 per person.
- Travellers Guest House, 2 Banff Road, Hillside (from town, use Burnside road and turn left on Cecil avenue, proceed till you get to Banff road and then turn right; travellers is the second property on your right), ☏ , email@example.com. Check-out: 10:00. The room décor is clean and simplistic. Offers free Wi-Fi, self-catering facilities, power & water backup, pool and 24-hr security. Suites and family rooms are large and have full DSTV, bath, and tea/coffee station. US$45.
- 3 The Greys Inn Hotel, Robert Mugabe Way & Leopold Takawira Avenue (next to Cape to Cairo). The hotel may have seen better days, but maybe not. Bathrooms are especially dilapidated. Shaky Wi-Fi is included in the price. From US$35.
- Choice Backpackers Hostel, 4 Housman Road Malindela. Check-in: 12:00, check-out: 12:00. A bed in a four-bed dorm, free Wi-Fi. US$15 per person.
- Choice Guest House, 7 Heyman Road Eight Street Junction. Check-in: 12:00, check-out: 12:00. 6-bed dorm & double rooms, free Wi-Fi. US$15 per person.
- 4 Motsamai Guest Lodge, 17 Tennyson Ave, ☏ . Mansion with an outdoor pool and restaurant and lush grounds. Pet-friendly and has wifi. $52.
- 5 Selborne Hotel, 134 Leopold Takawira Ave, ☏ . Colonial-style hotel located downtown with nice ambiance and appealing restaurant and outdoor pool. Has wifi and a/c, airport shuttle and bar. $83.
There was an outbreak of cholera in 2008. Check on current conditions before you go, and make sure to avoid obvious possible sources of contagion, such as unboiled water that is not from a sealed bottle and raw fruits or vegetables, especially if they can't be peeled. Also, strongly consider washing toothbrushes only with water that has either been boiled or come out of a sealed bottle. Unfortunately, water shortages are also a strong possibility in Bulawayo and the rest of Zimbabwe.
- to Chipangali Wildlife Orphanage. a home to orphaned, abandoned and sick wild animals, great to visit with children.
- to Khami Ruins. less than an hour out of town
- to Matopos. Located 1h from the city, Matobo Hills National Park features amazing landscapes, interesting game (including the rare white rhino), and a historical site with Cecil Rhodes grave. You can book a tour from town or just go self-drive on a picnic, or book a stay.
- to Hwange National Park. For great safaris.