Zimbabwe: Unspoiled & Untamed

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Zimbabwe

Despite the economic uncertainties of recent years, Zimbabwe continues to attract safari connoisseurs, which should come as no surprise, given its dramatic landscapes and abundant wildlife. Zimbabwe was one of the first countries to embrace eco-tourism, and has some of the best safari guides in the business. The Zimbabwean guide’s license is particularly hard to obtain, so it really does signify that you’re in the hands of an expert.

Spend time there, and it’s not hard to see what inspired them to spend their lives in the bush. Locals joke that, as a landlocked country, the only thing Zimbabwe lacks is a beach. Other than that, it really does have everything.

Zimbabwe can easily be combined with neighbouring countries in southern Africa (especially Botswana and Zambia) as part of a multi-destination itinerary, but it also deserves your full attention on a single-country trip.

Stories of economic distress meant that Zimbabwe lost some of its luster as a destination, but this was a case of perception rather than reality. Reduced visitor numbers meant that national parks and game reserves were even less crowded than usual, and Zimbabwe could offer exceptional value. The smart money is on Zimbabwe making a resurgence, and we predict that it will soon reclaim its rightful place among Africa’s leading safari nations.

Many people’s entry point into Zimbabwe is Victoria Falls – it would be almost unimaginable to visit the country without coming to admire what is one of the natural wonders of the world. Whether in full flow after the rains, or separated into individual ribbons of water in the dry season, the Falls remain just as breathtaking as when Livingstone first “discovered” them.

Visiting the Falls is just scratching the surface of Zimbabwe, however – beyond them lie some of Africa’s greatest national parks. You can choose to follow the course of the mighty Zambezi River through Mana Pools, or marvel at the herds of buffalo and elephant in Hwange.

Zimbabwe also has a fascinating history, with the stone ruins of Great Zimbabwe (at Masvingo) confounding historians who maintained that Africa was somehow undeveloped. Your lasting impression of Zimbabwe – and the reason you’ll want to return - is likely to be the warm smiles and genuine hospitality of the people.


Entry Requirements

U.S. citizens are required to obtain a visa for entry into Zimbabwe. Non U.S. citizens should consult with your local embassy.

There are several types of visas available for U.S. citizens traveling to Zimbabwe: single-entry visa, double-entry visa, multiple-entry visa and KAZA Visa (valid for entry into both Zambia and Zimbabwe). Please ask us which visa is most fitting for your trip.

Visa fees at the port of entry for US citizens are as follows: $30 USD single-entry, $45 USD double-entry, $55 USD multiple-entry. Change is often not provided and so the exact amounts payable are required. Traveler’s cheques and credit cards are not accepted for this purpose. Zimbabwe charges full visa fees for any individual who is required to obtain a visa for travel to Zimbabwe, irrespective of their age. This includes infants and children. Valid passport, itinerary, exit ticket and cash payment are required.

"Category C Nationals” can obtain visas prior to arrival through the Zimbabwe E-visa process. A list of the Category A, B and C Nationals can be found at the following website: https://www.evisa.gov.zw/Visa_Regime.aspx.

KAZA Visa for Zambia and Zimbabwe 
US citizens can now save time and money because they only have to obtain one visa to visit both countries.  The KAZA visa is $50 USD and lasts up to 30 days as long as you remain within Zambia and Zimbabwe. It also covers those who visit Botswana for day trips for the Kazungula borders.  The KAZA visa can be obtained at the following places:

Zambia:

  • Harry Mwaanga Airport (Livingstone)
  • Victoria Falls Land Border
  • Kazungula Land Border (border with Botswana)
  • Kenneth Kaunda Airport (Lusaka)

Zimbabwe:

  • Victoria Falls Airport
  • Victoria Falls Land Border
  • Kazungula Land Border (border with Botswana)
  • Harare Airport

Should the KAZA UNIVISA stickers be out of stock, you will need to purchase a regular single or double entry visa.


Banking and Currency

Currency

Zimbabwe uses US$ as well as its own unit of currency, the Zimbabwe Bond Dollar. It is advised to carry small denominations of change with you, however it is best to pay for as much as possible outside of the country. US$ work best and are widely accepted in supermarkets, and for curios, accommodation, activities and gratuities. South African Rand and Euros are only accepted in some places in Victoria Falls. Do not plan on being able to use cash machines in Zimbabwe to draw money. Before leaving home please exchange all the money that you will need for your trip, plus extra, into US$. Most of this should be in 1, 5, 10 and 20 denominations because change is not always available. In an emergency you can try Barclays Bank, Stanbic Bank or Standard Chartered Bank as they will infrequently accept foreign debit cards for withdrawing cash.

Credit Cards

Credit cards are sometimes accepted though there are some vendors who don't accept these (if you want to shop at the market then you will need cash for this - NOT travellers cheques or credit cards). Visa is usually accepted throughout Zimbabwe at the larger hotels but American Express and Diners Club are often not and MasterCard is not accepted at all (please note that the Wilderness Safaris Zimbabwe camps are unable to accept credit cards).

Banking

Banks in Zimbabwe are open for business Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 08h00 to 15h00, on Wednesdays from 08h00 to 13h00 and Saturdays from 08h00 to 11h30. They are closed on Sundays and Public Holidays.

Only VISA and MasterCard are accepted in Zimbabwe, however it should be noted that very limited facilities will have credit card machines, and the connection is not always reliable so it is advisable to carry cash as back up.


Travel, Transport and Getting Around

Major airlines fly into Victoria Falls, Harare and Bulawayo. Charter flights are available to most attractions and camps.

Zimbabwe has a good road infrastructure, by African standards, although potholed. Between major towns, there are frequent road blocks. Traffic drives on the left side of the road.

Taxis are safe and reliable, and can be booked through your hotel front desk. Taxis in cities travel within a 40km radius of the city. Always take a taxi at night.

If you are driving yourself around Zimbabwe, be sure to check on fuel availability in advance. If you are covering long distances within the country, ensure you carry extra fuel in 5 or 10lt metal containers in case of emergency. Fuel is generally available, but supply can fluctuate. Fuel is only available for cash.


Health and Medical Information

Please consult your health-care provider 4-6 weeks prior to travel to ensure you are receiving all required vaccinations and that the medication has enough time to take effect. We highly recommend the purchase of travel insurance with medical benefits and that you bring any personal medication with you. Please also check with your health department prior to departure for any changes in health regulations.

Required Immunizations/Vaccinations:

  • Yellow Fever - all travelers coming from a yellow fever infected country will be required to show a valid Yellow Fever certificate on arrival. It is otherwise not required or recommended. You should be vaccinated at least 10 days before you travel, as this will allow enough time for your body to develop protection against the yellow fever infection. Your proof of vaccination certificate will only become valid after this time.

Recommended Immunizations/Vaccinations:

  • Malaria prophylaxis - highly recommended for all travelers (even if you are only visiting malaria-free areas as there has been an increase in malaria in southern Africa)

Malaria

Expert opinion differs regarding the best approach to malaria prophylaxis. It is important to bear in mind that malaria may be contracted despite chemoprophylaxis, especially in areas where chloroquine resistance has been reported. Both chloroquine-resistant and normal strains of malaria are prevalent in Africa. 

Malaria is transmitted by a very small percentage of female Anopheles mosquitoes. They are mainly active in the early evening and throughout the night. Malaria transmission is at its highest during the warmer and wetter months of November through to April. From May through October the risks of acquiring malaria are reduced. There is also less prevalence in remote areas where our camps are situated; nonetheless, we strongly recommend you take the following preventative measures:

  • Use plenty of mosquito repellent. Some camps provide a locally made repellent but please bring your own as there may be skin sensitivity.
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and trousers/slacks in the evenings.
  • Please use the mosquito net over your bed where supplied/available.
  • If staying in a bungalow or tent, spray with a suitable insecticide to kill any mosquitoes that may have flown into your room.
  • Mosquito coils are also effective.

There is a six to seven day minimum incubation period before symptoms present themselves. If you become ill on your return, while still on prophylaxis or even once you have stopped taking them, ensure that your doctor does everything to establish that your illness is not malaria. Please remember the best precaution is the preventative kind. 

It is inadvisable for pregnant women to visit malarial areas as malaria infection during pregnancy can be detrimental to both mother and child.

Ticks

Ticks exist all over the world and are well known carriers of diseases that affect both animals and humans. In Southern Africa this is referred to as tick bite fever. Symptoms of this disease present after a 5-7 day incubation period and include fevers, headaches, malaise and even a skin rash, but effects can vary dramatically from person to person. A dark black mark usually results at the site of the infected bite and is a helpful diagnostic. The disease is easily treated with antibiotics although this is not always necessary. 

After walking in the bush it is best to brush your clothes down and to examine your body for ticks. If a tick is found, remove it entirely without leaving the biting mouth parts in your skin. Anti-tick sprays such as Bayticol can be very effective against ticks and wearing long pants will prevent many bites.

Tsetse Flies

Tsetse flies exist in large areas of sub-Saharan Africa including parts of Zimbabwe. They are best known as the carrier of trypanosomiases – causing sleeping sickness in humans which can be fatal but is easily treated and cured. In the unlikely event that symptoms are recorded after a visit to an area containing tsetse flies, we recommend that a doctor be consulted. These symptoms can present a few weeks to months after a visit and begin with fever, headaches and pains in the joints followed by dramatic swelling of the lymph nodes. If left untreated these symptoms can evolve to cause anaemia, cardiac and kidney disorders; alternate bouts of fatigue and insomnia can disrupt the sleep cycle.

Not all tsetse flies transmit all variations of the disease and in our areas of operation they are regarded more as an irritation (the bites are sharp) than as a serious threat.  Enormous efforts have been made to eradicate tsetse flies in various countries and sleeping sickness has now largely disappeared from Southern Africa. 


Food, Drink and Cuisine Advice

Water in the main towns is usually purified. The locals drink it, and are used to the relatively innocuous bugs that it may harbour. If you are in the country for a long time, then it may be worth acclimatising yourself to it. However, if you are in Zimbabwe for just a short period of time, then try to drink only bottled, boiled, or treated water available in towns and from all camps, lodges and hotels.

Zimbabwe's native cuisine is based on sadza, a cooked porridge made from ground maize which is normally be accompanied by some tasty relish, perhaps made of meat and tomatoes, or dried fish. Safari camps will often prepare sadza if requested, and it is almost always available in small restaurants in the towns.

Camps, hotels and lodges that cater to overseas typically serve a variety international fare, and the quality of food prepared in the most remote bush camps is usually excellent.

If you are driving yourself around and plan to cook, then get most of your supplies in main towns. There are a number of South African shopping chains operating in Zimbabwe which will generally have all that you will need.


Climate and Weather

In Zimbabwe, the rains come principally in December, January,February and March; the further north you are, the earlier the precipitation arrives and the later it leaves. Zimbabwe's higher eastern areas usually receive more rainfall than the lower-lying western ones.

By April and May most of the rain is gone, leaving a verdant setting, which is starting to dry out. Especially in more southerly and higher locations, the night-time temperatures start to drop.

The nights in June, July and August become much cooler, so don't forget to bring some warmer clothes, in case you want to spend an evening outside; the days are still clear and warm. For Zimbabwe, this is the start of the 'peak season'– days are often cloudless and game sightings continually increase.

Into September and October the temperatures rise once again: Zimbabwe's lower-lying rift valley – Mana Pools – can get very hot in October. During this time, you'll see some fantastic game, as the Zimbabwe's wildlife concentrates around the limited water sources.

November is unpredictable; it can be hot and dry, it can also see the season's first rainfalls – and in this respect it's a very interesting month, as on successive days, you can see both weather patterns.


Clothing and Dress Recommendations

When in Zimbabwe the cardinal rule is to wear casual, comfortable clothes during the day as temperatures can get very hot. It is advisable to wear light loose fitting clothing, such as cotton or linen, as they are cool and easy to wash. Warmer clothes are advised for the evenings and rainwear for the wet season.

A brimmed hat and sunglasses are a good idea year round. Long sleeved shirts and long trousers will also guard against the scourching sun rays. It is recommended you wear light shoes, especially if your itinerary entails a lot of walking.

For safaris, please remember to wear appropriate clothing and shoes. Earth colour clothes, such as browns, greens and tans are advisable.


Internet Availability

Internet availability is very limited especially outside of the major cities. 

Most holiday accommodation venues offer internet and/or WiFi (free or paid) to their guests but there are often disruptions in service.


Electricity and Plug Standards

Electricity in Zimbabwe is 220 Volts, alternating at 50 cycles per second. If you travel to Zimbabwe with a device that does not accept 220 Volts at 50 Hertz, you will need a voltage converter. Zimbabwe plugs are either 3 round pins or 2 flat pins with 1 vertical pin.


General Guidance

Language:
English is the official language. Other widely spoken languages are Shona and Sindebele, which also have various dialects and other minority languages.

National Emergency Numbers:
Emergency 999
Police 995
Ambulance 994
Fire Service 993

Public Holidays:
The dates of certain public holidays change from year to year – refer below. If a public holiday falls on a Sunday, then the Monday is also declared a public holiday.

Jan 01 - New Year’s Day
Varies - Good Friday
Varies - Easter Monday
Apr 18 - Independence Day
May 01 - Workers’ Day
May 25 - Africa Day
Aug 11 - Heroes’ Day
Aug 12 - Defense Force’s National Day
Dec 22 - National Unity Day
Dec 25 - Christmas Day
Dec 26 - Family Day

VAT:
There is a 15% VAT levied on most products which is not refundable to visitors.

Time Zone:
Zimbabwe is 2 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time.

US Embassy:
Address: U.S. Embassy Harare 172 Herbert Chitepo Avenue Harare, Zimbabwe
Telephone: +(263) (4) 250-593
Emergency After-Hours Telephone: +(263) (4) 250-593
Email: consularharare@state.gov


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