While, for the most part, prices are set in Zimbabwe, if shopping at local markets for souvenirs or art pieces, then haggling is the expected practice. Aim for around 40% off the asking price, from where you an negotiate a happy medium. During the nonpeak periods you can often manage a discount rate at some of the lodges. Taxis rarely have meters, so be sure to negotiate a price before you take off.
Dangers & Annoyances
Zimbabwe is nowhere near as dangerous as foreign media makes out and all up it's a very safe country to visit. Although the number of incidents and degree of violence are a far cry from that in South Africa, like anywhere in the world the usual theft and crimes occurs. Don't walk around at night; best option is to take a taxi, which is generally safe. Drivers should take the following precautions: lock all doors, lock all valuables in the boot, keep windows up and avoid stopping at traffic lights at night if it's safe to do so.
There are several things to keep in mind if you’re travelling to Zimbabwe while Robert Mugabe is still in power. It is illegal to criticise the government (best to avoid talking about the government at all, avoid antigovernment posts on social media and don't take photographs of ‘sensitive’ sites, such as government buildings).
Avoid any political gatherings and protests, where clashes with police can occasionally turn violent.
Embassies & Consulates
The following embassies and high commissions are based in Harare.
For any embassies or websites not listed here, go to www.embassiesabroad.com/embassies-in/Zimbabwe to find addresses and contact details.
Emergency & Important Numbers
|ZImbabwe's country code||+263|
|International access code||00|
|Ambulance||04-771221; 0712-600002; 999|
Entry & Exit Formalities
Visitors may import a maximum of US$350 in items not for trade, excluding personal effects. Travellers over 18 years of age can also import up to 5L of alcohol, including 2L of spirits.
While there's no limit on how much you can bring into the country, visitors aren't permitted to take out more than US$1000.
With a few exceptions, visas are required by nationals of all countries; they can be obtained at your point of entry.
Single-/double-entry visas cost US$30/45 (and can be issued upon arrival) and multiple-entry visas (valid for six months) cost US$55, but are only issued at Zimbabwean diplomatic missions. British and Irish citizens pay US$55/70 for single/double entry.
In December 2016, the KAZA visa was reintroduced, which allows most visitors to acquire a single 30-day visa (US$50) for both Zimbabwe and Zambia. As long as you remain within these two countries, you can cross the border multiple times (day trips to Botswana at Kazungula will not invalidate the visa). These visas are available at Harare airport, as well as at the Victoria Falls and Kazungula crossings.
For visa extensions, contact the Department of Immigration Control in Harare.
Zimbabwe doesn't have major cultural differences to most Western countries, however, there are a few local behavioral patterns. For instance when meeting someone it's normal to converse a bit about how their day is going and life in general, before proceeding with whatever question you may have. When photographing locals it's always important to ask their permission first.
Like many African nations, homosexual activities for men are illegal and officially punishable by up to five years in jail (although penalties are invariably not nearly as severe), yet lesbianism is not illegal.
Contact Gays & Lesbians of Zimbabwe for information about LGBT clubs and meeting places in Zimbabwe.
In the bigger cities, free wi-fi access is widely available in many hotels, restaurants and cafes. It's easy to arrange a local sim card to get data on your phone or a USB dongle for your laptop. Econet and Telecel both have branches at Harare's airport and about town.
Otherwise, there are internet centres in all the main cities and towns that charge around US$2 per hour.
There's no real reason for tourists to be detained in Zimbabwe (unless of course you are conducting illegal behaviour), but if you do find yourself on the wrong side of the law, the first basic step is to call your embassy for advice. To stay out of trouble, it's best to avoid criticising the government (on social media, included) and be aware it's illegal to photograph government buildings – particularly in Harare around Mugabe's residence. Avoid offering bribes, which can lead you further into deep water.
For self-drivers, at the ubiquitous roadblocks it's important to be courteous to police at all times and if you receive a fine you believe is unwarranted, request the ID of the police officer to follow up at a later point. Fines are usually around US$5 to US$10 and a maximum of US$20.
Though Zimbabweans are generally tolerant people, note that homosexuality is actually illegal in Zimbabwe, so it's best for LGBTQ travellers to be low-key on such matters.
Drinking and driving age limits are 18 years of age.
The government’s control over media has lessened since the power-sharing government agreement in 2009. Surviving dailies such as the Herald and the Standard are state-run, while DailyNews and NewsDay are the independent papers in the country. Overseas there are several online newspapers (including the Zimbabwean, which is produced in London), which offer the week’s only dose of propaganda-free political reporting.
The government controls most TV and radio channels, though most hotels and many lodges have great DSTV satellite TV.
In late 2016 the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe controversially released US$10 million worth of bond notes. The decision was made in response to major cash shortages whereby the nation effectively ran out of US dollars. Pegged to the US dollar, the currency was initially released in denominations of $2 and $5 notes. However, it's not accepted as legal tender outside the country, so bear this in mind before departure.
While it remains unclear whether these bond notes will remain long term or are a temporary solution, US dollars (the most commonly used currency in Zimbabwe since 2009) will likely remain the most viable currency to carry. South African rand, Botswana pula, pound sterling, euro and Chinese yuan (among a few others) are theoretically also accepted, though to a much lesser extent.
Due to issues in withdrawing cash from banks, as of 2016 it was recommended to carry enough US dollars to last the entirety of your stay; prepay any accommodation or tours to reduce the amount you need to bring in. While new bond coins introduced in 2014 have significantly reduced issues with receiving change at supermarkets, it's still best to take along plenty of small US dollar notes for tips etc.
Some restaurants automatically add a 10% service charge to the bill; if so, no tip is required. Otherwise, any tip is hugely appreciated.
As of result of the cash crisis, many foreign cards were limited to withdrawals of US$100 per day, if any – so it's best not to rely on ATMs and instead bring cash. Check the latest on the situation before departing. Otherwise, ATMs are aplenty across Zimbabwe, but the larger towns are the most reliable. Barclays, Standard Charter and Stanbic are the main banks accepting MasterCard, Visa and Cirrus.
Credit cards are accepted in top hotels and some upmarket restaurants and shops.
Shops and restaurants are generally open from 8am to 1pm and 2pm to 5pm Monday to Friday, and 8am to noon on Saturday. Very little is open on Sunday.
Most towns in Zimbabwe have post offices where you can send letters internationally to Europe, America and the rest of the world. For sizeable or more valuable items, it's highly advised to use international courier companies such as DHL or FedEx, found in Harare, Bulawayo and Victoria Falls.
Most government offices and other businesses are closed during public holidays.
New Year’s Day 1 January
Good Friday late March/April
Easter Monday late March/April
Independence Day 18 April
Workers’ Day 1 May
Africa Day 25 May
Heroes’ Day 11 August
Defence Forces’ Day 12 August
National Unity Day 22 December
Christmas Day 25 December
Boxing Day 26 December
Smoking is prohibited indoors at public places and can lead to fines of US$500 or a six-month prison sentence.
Taxes & Refunds
There is currently no Value-added Tax (VAT) for tourists, with service charges for upmarket establishments the only tax tourists will encounter.
If calling from overseas, the country code for Zimbabwe is 263, but drop the initial zero for area codes. The international access code from within Zimbabwe is 00. International calls can be made from your hotel or lodge.
Easily the best option for making calls is to purchase a prepaid SIM card (US$1), available on arrival at the airport; these are cheap and easy to arrange. Econet and Telecel are the main operators and have branches throughout the main towns, as well as at Harare airport. Econet has the best phone and data coverage across the country, but in national parks you won't get network. Be aware that your phone needs to be unlocked to activate the sim. Credit or 'airtime' is widely available from street vendors.
Mobile numbers are recognised by the 07 prefix.
Zimbabwe is two hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT/UTC). There is no daylight saving.
The vast majority of toilets that tourists will encounter in Zimbabwe are your standard flush, Western-style variety. Campsites in the national parks often have nonflushable, long-drop toilets. If you're bush camping you'll need to dig a hole with a shovel and then burn the toilet paper before filling in the hole – take extreme caution when doing so to avoid creating bushfires.
The Zimbabwe Tourism Authority has general tourist info. There are publicity associations in Harare, Bulawayo, Victoria Falls, Kariba, Masvingo and Nyanga. Some are very efficient, helpful and have useful information and advice, but others have little more to offer than a smile.
Travel with Children
Zimbabwe is a great place to travel with kids. Wildlife spotting in the national parks and kid-friendly activities in Victoria Falls, such as canoeing and elephant rides, are likely to be the most popular choices. Visitors should be aware that animal-welfare groups advocate against riding elephants due to health concerns for the animals. Take note that some lodges in the parks have age limits for safety reasons, so be sure to confirm before booking.
While many of Zimbabwe's highlights can be accessed by travellers with restricted mobility, it's definitely recommended to travel with the assistance of a companion. In the larger towns and national parks, there's usually a few hotels or lodges that can cater to travellers in wheelchairs.
Though safari vehicles in the parks aren't set up for wheelchair access, travellers can be hoisted into the car with help. The paths leading to outlooks of Victoria Falls are fairly navigable. For the most part, though, when getting around towns and rural areas you'll encounter some uneven surfaces.
There are several volunteering opportunities within the country requiring a broad range of skills and experience. Popular areas include fields working with conservation, teaching or humanitarian efforts.
Weights & Measures
Zimbabwe uses the metric system.
With unemployment at around the 90% mark, jobs aren't the easiest thing to come by in the country. Though with that said, there's likely to be opportunities for skilled overseas workers in the tourism industry.