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A landlocked country in Southern Africa, Zimbabwe is bordered by South Africa to the south, Botswana to the southwest, Zambia to the northwest, and Mozambique to the east and north. The border with Zambezi 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.
Forms the western part of the country with Bulawayo, the second largest city, the stunning Victoria Falls and Hwange National Park.
|Lake Kariba and the Lower Zambezi
Located at the eastern end of Lake Kariba is a popular vacation area for Zimbabweans. Many national parks, such as Mana Pools National Park, are situated on the shores of the Zambezi River and provide good opportunities for game viewing.
Includes the capital city, Harare, and surrounding areas, including the northern part of the Midlands Province.
The mountainous area of the country tucked up along the eastern border where the countries peak, Moutn Inyangani is located. The main city is Mutare.
A mixed area with the southern part of the midlands in the north and the Lowveld in the south. Nature is more of the attraction here, with many national parks and the Great Zimbabwe ruins.
Zimbabwe has 3 large cities and several smaller ones.
- Harare — the capital and the largest city in Zimbabwe, Harare is a vibrant city in a larger metropolitan province
- Bulawayo — the second largest city, both by population and economic activity
- Chimanimani - Eastern Highlands
- Gweru - the capital of the Midlands Province
- Kariba — a lakeshore holiday resort on border with Zambia
- Masvingo — named (meaning "ruins") after the nearby Great Zimbabwe National Monument
- Mutare - the major city closest to the scenic Eastern Highlands
- Victoria Falls 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.
- Great Zimbabwe - 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.
- Kariba - Located on the northern border of Zimbabwe the formidable Lake Kariba 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.
- Matobo (formerly Matopos) - Located south west of Bulawayo in Matabeleland, this area 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.
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.
Stone 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 guerrilla struggle finally led to both free elections and independence (as Zimbabwe) in 1980.
Robert Mugabe became the first black leader of Zimbabwe. Unfortunately, he turned into a dictator and has remained in power since 1980 (1980-1987 as Prime Minister, and thereafter as President). Starting in 2000, the government unilaterally 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. Following widespread protests, a power-sharing agreement was signed between President Mugabe and the leader of the main opposition party, Morgan Tsvangirai, in 2008. Since then, the situation has stabilized, though Mr. Mugabe remains President and has been accused of further vote-rigging to stay in power.
Zimbabwe 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.
Mostly 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
Zimbabwe has many different cultures with their own beliefs and ceremonies, including the Shona, Zimbabwe's largest ethnic group. The Shona people have many sculptures and carvings which are made with the finest materials available. Shona music is also deservedly famous. Probably the best-known Shona instrument is the mbira dzavadzimu, sometimes misleadingly called the "thumb piano" by non-Africans but actually meaning "voice of the ancestors". Mbira music contains harmony and can be a kind of shifting kaleidoscope of counterpoint and lively polyrhythms. It is very tuneful, and the mbiras are often accompanied by a rattle called a hosho. Mbira music is central to Shona culture and identity and is traditionally considered a form of worship of the ancestors.
Once 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. Any recovery has been slow at best. 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. With no easier way of redistributing the land fairly in 2014 the local farmers broke all the records of output in most major crops including Maize and Tobacco which the white farmers never met.
For a stay of up to 6 months: Hong Kong SAR
For a stay of up to 3 months: Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Botswana, Congo (DRC), Cyprus, Fiji, Grenada, Jamaica, Kenya, Kiribati, Lesotho, Malaysia, Malawi, Maldives, Malta, Mauritius, Namibia, Nauru, Samoa, Singapore, Solomon Islands, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadies, Swaziland, Tanzania, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu, Uganda, Vanuatu and Zambia
Category B (countries whose nationals are granted visas at the port of entry on payment of the requisite visa fees):
Argentina, Austria, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana (Gratis), Greece, Hungary, Indonesia, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Palau Island, Palestine (State of), Papua New Guinea, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Seychelles, Slovak Republic, South Africa (Gratis), South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, Uruguay, United Kingdom, United States, Vatican City and Virgin Islands
Visa fees at the port of entry for Category B nationals are as follows: US$30 (single entry), US$45 (double entry), US$55 (multiple entry) - a valid passport, travel itinerary, return/onward journey ticket and cash payment 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).
For Canadian, British, Irish passports it would be better to get the USD $50 30-day Univisa which is good for both Zimbabwe and Zambia. The Univisa is available only at Harare Airport, Victoria Falls Airport, Victoria Falls Border Post and Kazangula Botswana Border Post.
Category C (countries whose nationals are required to apply for and obtain visas prior to travelling):
Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Benin, Bermuda, Bhutan, Bolivia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Brazzaville, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Cape Verde Islands, Cayman Islands, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, China, Colombia, Comoros Islands, Congo (Brazzaville), Costa Rica, Conakry, Côte d'Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Djibouti Republic, El Salvador, Ecuador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, French Guiana, French Polynesia, French West Indies, Gabon, Gambia, Georgia, Gibraltar, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, India, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Krygyzstan, Laos, Latvia, Lebanon, Liberia, Libya, Lithuania, Macao SAR, Madagascar, Mali, Marshall Islands, Macedonia, Mauritania, Mexico, Micronesia, Moldova, Mongolia, Montserrat, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nepal, New Caledonia, Nicaragua, Niue, Niger, Nigeria, North Korea, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Qatar, Reunion, Romania, Russia, Rwanda, San Marino, São Tomé and Príncipe, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Slovenia, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Syria, Tajikistan, Taiwan, Thailand, Togo, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Turk and Caicos Islands, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Vietnam, Yemen, Yugoslavia
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.
Harare International Airport has a number of international flights, mainly to other African countries. When coming from Europe you can fly via Johannesburg, Nairobi, Dubai, Addis Ababa, Cairo. from South africa you can fly with South African Airways or Airlink British airways, 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 British airways now have Flights from Harare via Johannesburg to Heathrow.
Victoria Falls airport has daily service by South African Airways, South African Airlink http://www.saairlink.co.za 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 with one way domestic fares from $20. and International fares from $50. Fastjet fly from Harare to Victoria falls, Bulawayo. Johannesburg, Cape town, Lusaka, Nairobi, Dar es Salaam.
there is also Low cost airline fly Africa which goes from Victoria falls to Johannesburg. and Harare to Johannesburg. and Victoria falls to Harare.
Zimbabwe 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.
It should also be noted that roads in Zimbabwe are now 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.
Regular 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.
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.
Between cities, you travel using luxury coaches like Pathfinder and Citilink. You can also get decent buses from RoadPort in Harare to other major cities including those in neighboring countries like Johannesburg, Lusaka, Lilongwe.
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) in currently being resurfaced.
Note that almost no fuel station in Zimbabwe currently take credit cards. Also road blocks are common but usually police just want to see your drivers license 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 more adventurous tourists could travel by train around Zimbabwe. One train goes from Bulawayo to the Victoria Falls. The train passes through Hwange National Park, one of the biggest national parks in Africa. There are also trains from Bulawayo to Harare and from Harare to Mutare.
Zimbabwe's official languages are English, Shona, Sindebele/Ndebele. English besides being traditionally used for official business serves as a common language for most Zimbabweans.
- Hwange National Park. Located between Victoria Falls and Bulawayo, the 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 Hills National Park. Also 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 Park. Mana 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 Ruins. Located in 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 Falls. An 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 horse. and enjoy other game activities at Antelope Park, located by Gweru, between Harare and Bulawayo.
- An Authentic African Safari. walking, 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.
Zimbabwe legalised the use of foreign currencies as legal tender, thus negating the need for the inflation-ravaged Zimbabwe dollar, which has now been withdrawn from circulation.
The US dollar is now the de facto currency in Zimbabwe.
The use of credit cards continues to improve, with a growing number of service providers accepting Visa cards or MasterCards in Zimbabwe. It may be useful to come with lots of smaller bills (USD1, 5, 10) since they are often in shorter supply.
There are many ATMs which take Visa and MasterCard, including those of Eco Bank. All ATMs give out cash in US dollars.
Zimbabwe now has its own coins, in 10c 25c and 50c denominations.
As for costs, non-imported 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.
For a sample of what Zimbabweans eat (in some form, nearly every day), ask for "sadza and stew/relish." The stew part will be familiar, served over a large portion of sadza - a thick ground corn paste (vaguely like polenta and the consistency of thick mashed potatoes) that locals eat at for lunch and supper. It's inexpensive, quite tasty and very filling. There is a plethora of good Zimbabwean food- "Mbambaira" or sweet potatoes, "chibage" corn on the cob, for example. Fruits indigenous to the country like "masawu" for example. For foreigners, especially from the West, Zimbabwean meat is very tasty, especially the beef, because of the great way that animals are raised and fed and not pumped up with hormones etc.
The restaurant and coffee-shop scene in Harare is great, with a wide variety of places to choose from. A visit to "40 Cork Road" restaurant in Avondale is an absolute must for anyone visiting the city, since the place has really become an institution when it comes to dining and meeting places.
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. Tap water, as a source of potable water, in general, should be boiled prior to consumption.
Zimbabwe has a great number of tourist facilities, and offers a variety of accommodation options, from international hotels to guest houses, lodges, backpacker hostels and safari camps for all budgets.
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 $10/$15 a night.
Generally, Zimbabwe is a very safe country with way far less risk for crime than neighboring South Africa, and Zimbabweans are well known for their unrivaled hospitality. Travelers 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.
The US, Japan and Germany have lifted their travel warnings to Zimbabwe in April 2009; an indication that the security risk for visitors is low. 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.
Do your research about what is available. Take all medications that you need along with you. There are a number of private hospitals in the major cities that are very accessible.
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.
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.