Zimbabwe. Usefull information for independent travellers.

   ZIMBABWE AT A GLANCE   

Zimbabwe in 2014 is calm but doesn´t receive too many tourists except Victoria Falls.
The economic situation is quite bad but the country is safe and nice to visit.
People are really nice, very educated, you will feel it! We were really happy in Zimbabwe.

As we visited Zimbabwe on a complete trip with other neighbour countries, we just chose a few places on route between South Africa and Zambia: Great Zimbabwe, Bulawayo and Victoria Falls.

If visiting Zimbabwe more in detail, you will probably pass the capital city, Harare, head to Kariba Lake (lake resort destination of Zimbabwe and access to the remote Mana Pools National Park) and Mutare and the east mountains (near Mozambique).


Plan well, Zimbabwe is not that small, there´s public transport to move between towns but you will need a car or private taxi for the parks. And not always easy to find budget destinations and accommodation.


   WEATHER IN ZIMBABWE   

The rainy season is from november til april, with more rain in january and february, but in 2015 we had 10 days without rain, only sun, in January!
But the rainy season can be a bad period to visit the remote Mana Pools or places where roads aren´t so good.
Keep in mind that Victoria Falls change a lot: they are quite dry November and December (just a rocky wall) and that there´s too much water from March to May (difficult to see something).


   MONEY IN ZIMBABWE   

Zimbabwe has adopted the US $ from 2009, as currency, so everything is more expensive now. 

You will find banks and ATMs in the main towns, and the ATMs will withdraw US$ (some old bills and some new ones).
No extra charge for foreign cards. Good exchange rate, no extra commissions, good withdraw limit.

Payment by card is not commun (except some places in Victoria Falls), so bring always cash.

As $ coins don´t run in Zimbabwe, they use South Africa Rand coins (usually 1$:10R in the streets, but real rate is 1:11 in most of the supermarkets). Since December 2014, new local coins, but look like “monopoly money”.

   FOOD & DRINKS IN ZIMBABWE    

Similar food than in other Southern Africa countries. The main local dish is always “sadza” (pap in South Africa), a maize dish.
There are big supermarkets in the main Zimbabwe towns, most of them are South African brands (Spar and Pick´n Pay mainly), well supplied.
In the main rural towns, there a small supermarkets and shops and street markets.


Everything is more expensive in Zimbabwe than in South Africa, except meat. Remember the currency is in US$ and many imported things! But still affordable. Fruit and vegetables are quite expensive.

Example: bread 1$, beef 5.5 $/kg, cans 1.5-2 $.

Most of the important supermarkets and many small shops have prepared "take away" food. 

Also quite easy to find small and simple restaurants in big towns, but not too cheap. Prices for a dish vary between 3 $ (small) and 5 $ (big, complete). So it´s always cheaper to cook.

In Zimbabwe, we prepared our own food. Supermarkets are well supplied and most of the backpackers have kitchen or BBQ facilities.

Water is usually safe to drink (except in Harare) but ask first just in case.
Wines come from South Africa (much more expensive). Many local beers (Zambezi, Lion, Black Label…), usually sold at the bottle shops, near the supermarkets or inside them, for around 1$/33cl.
Also local alcoholic drinks, cheaper, like Chibuku (2 l bottle) and shake shake.


   NATIONAL PARKS IN ZIMBABWE   

National Parks in Zimbabwe still have a correct price, compared with other Africa countries like Kenya or Tanzania.
There are different categories, prices vary.
The entrance fees are:
  • The most famous and important parks for game viewing, Hwange and Mana Pools cost 20 $/pp for foreigners (locals and SADC cheaper). 
  • Other game parks like Matusadona and Matobos are 15 $
  • The rest is 10$.
There´s also an entrance fee for cars: 5$ if local, 10 $ if foreigner.

If booking a complete safari (transport, accommodation, food, fees, etc.) the price starts usually around 150 $/pp/day. Not really low-cost budget...

All the complete information about national parks and fees is on the website: www.zimparks.org


   NATIONAL MONUMENTS AND MUSEUMS IN ZIMBABWE   

In the website  http://www.nmmz.co.zw/  “services and products”, you can check the entrance fees.

The prices for the most important places are:
  • Victoria Falls: 30 $. 
  • Great Zimbabwe:15 $. 
  • Matobos monuments: 10 $.

   TELECOMS IN ZIMBABWE  

To buy a SIM card, you have to register (prices from 1 $, more if 3G, but 3G network is not always avalaible, at least now). You need a residence proof but some people also sell cards in the markets… and maybe for an extra $ you get the SIM easily without papers. Try!
Easy to find airtime (vouchers) everywhere (1$ usually). 
We did not buy a SIM card as staying short time in Zimbabwe. 
 Not too many wifi spots. A few internet shops in towns.


   LANGUAGE IN ZIMBABWE   

English is widely spoken, so no problem.
The two main languages in Zimbabwe (there are 16 official languages in total ) are Shona and Ndebele.
“Chap” and “chap chap” means “OK”.


   SAFETY IN ZIMBABWE   

We found the country really safe and the people nice, educated and polite.
After dark, towns get empty so it´s better to avoid going out.
Many police controls on the roads… just to get extra money…They mainly stop buses.


   HEALTH IN ZIMBABWE   

Most of Zimbabwe is malaria free zone. Just ask the local people.
Just some places, specially remote national parks can have malaria problems, more in the rainy season. So special precautions if going to Hwange or Mana Pools NP.

Easy to find repellent at the supermarkets, South African brands, like “Sleep Well” or “Tabard”, quite cheap (around 3 to 5 $, similar price or even cheaper than in SA).
Malaria controls are quickly done at the health centers, easy to get the medicine.
There´s a big problem in Zimbabwe now as many public hospitals have closed! So only private clinics. This is waht people told us...

Water is usually safe to drink.
Supermarkets are modern and clean.
Big AIDS rate.


   ELECTRIC PLUGS IN ZIMBABWE   

English type (like in UK), so you will need an adapter if coming from US, UE or South Africa.

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