Zimbabwe travel info

Electricity

Electrical current is 220 volts, 50Hz. Three-pin rectangular blade plugs are common.

Language

English is the official language in Zimbabwe, although it is only spoken as a first language by a tiny percentage of the population. Several indigenous languages are spoken including Shona and Ndebele.

Money

Though the primary legal tender is the Zimbabwean dollar (ZWL), travellers can transact using the US dollar at the official exchange rate, as it's widely accepted. The symbol for both is $, so travellers should check which currency is in use before making a transaction. They should also confirm in advance what payment method a restaurant, hotel or tour operator will accept. Some businesses, including medical providers, may not accept payment by credit or debit card. The country is currently experiencing a shortage of cash. Withdrawals are possible at some ATMs and bank branches with an international bank card, but the availability of cash is not always guaranteed.

Tipping

A service charge is usually included in the bill, and a 10 percent tip is customary for staff in restaurants, hotels and taxis. Some tour guides and game rangers depend largely on tips for their income.

Health

Travellers to Zimbabwe who arrive from infected countries must have a yellow fever vaccination certificate, and vaccinations against hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and typhoid are recommended. There is a year-round risk of malaria in most of the country, particularly in the Zambezi Valley, Victoria Falls, Hwange National Park and in the Eastern Highlands; the risk is very small in Harare and Bulawayo. Precautions against mosquito bites should be taken to avoid a number of mosquito-borne diseases. Cholera outbreaks usually occur during the rainy season, when flooding and contamination of water sources takes place. Rapidly declining health standards are also responsible for Zimbabwe having one of the lowest life expectancies in the world, according to the World Health Organization; visitors are advised to take food and hygiene precautions. The standard of tap water in urban areas is considered low, and bottled water is available. The current economic instability has led to shortages of medication in public hospitals, and striking is common; it is advisable to bring a supply of personal medication and travel health insurance is essential. Private clinics expect cash payment and medical costs can be high.

Safety

The level of crime is moderate and visitors who are travelling alone may be more vulnerable. Mugging as well as petty crimes such as pick pocketing are common in city centres, especially after dark. Travellers should be vigilant at Harare International Airport and when leaving banks and cash points, and should avoid carrying or displaying large amounts of cash in public places.

Travellers shouldn't use intercity bus and rail services, as they're dangerous. Buses are overcrowded and poorly maintained, and drivers are often reckless; the rail system is also inadequately maintained, and there are many accidents. Visitors are better off using taxis that are either owned or recommended by major hotels.

Wildlife viewing presents risks, especially for safari-goers who are on foot or at close range. Adventurers should always maintain a safe distance when observing wildlife, and only exit the tour vehicle when a professional guide or warden says it is safe to do so. They should also only use reputable guides or tour operators, and closely follow park regulations and their guide's advice.

Victoria Falls is considered the most safe and well-policed part of Zimbabwe and the majority of visits are hassle-free. The resort areas around Lake Kariba are also considered to be safe, especially on guided tours and package holidays.

Local customs

In Zimbabwe it's a sign of respect to stand up when greeting people who have recently entered a room, or to physically lower the head when meeting someone older or of higher status. It's important to greet elders or senior-ranking people first, and it's considered extremely rude to challenge an elder's opinion, even if they are incorrect. Locals will often communicate gratitude nonverbally with claps to show respect. For instance, people clap twice to say 'thank you' if someone is passing them something.

It is against the law to take photographs of public buildings or government institutions, and it is not advisable to take photographs anywhere in the vicinity of such buildings, or any roadblocks and illegally occupied farms, as this could lead to arrest. It is also illegal to photograph police and military personnel, as well as of demonstrations. Homosexuality is illegal; civilians are not permitted to wear camouflage clothing.

Doing business

Business in Zimbabwe is conducted in English, and is fairly informal, with drinking and socialising very much part of the business culture. Dress is fairly conservative, but lightweight suits or casual jackets are more suited to the hot climate than formal business wear. It is customary to shake hands with men and women at the beginning and end of a meeting. Business hours are generally Monday to Friday, 8am to 4.30pm, although hours vary considerably depending on the establishment; some businesses close at 11am on Wednesdays, and some are open on Saturday mornings.

Duty free

Travellers to Zimbabwe do not have to pay duty on items to the value of US$200 provided this allowance is not claimed more than once in a 30-day period. These include goods for personal consumption, including tobacco, and alcohol up to 5 litres with no more than 2 litres of this being spirits. Prohibited items include narcotic and amphetamine drugs, indecent or obscene reading material, toy firearms, and blade knives.

Communications

The international dialling code for Zimbabwe is +263. Travellers can purchase prepaid SIM cards for unlocked phones and top hotels offer WiFi.

Passport & Visa

All visitors require travel itineraries, tickets, and documents for return or onward journeys, as well as sufficient funds for the duration of their stay. Visa fees, where applicable, are payable in US dollars. Fees vary depending on nationality and type of visa. It is highly recommended that travellers' passports have at least six months' validity remaining after the intended date of departure from their travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.

Entry requirements

US passport holders must have a passport valid for at least the duration of their stay. A visa is required. A 90-day tourist visa or 30-day business visa can be obtained on arrival.

Passports must be valid for at least the period of intended stay. A visa is required. A 90-day tourist visa or 30-day business visa can be obtained on arrival. Passengers with a British passport with nationality "British Overseas Territories Citizen" issued by Anguilla, Cayman Isl., Montserrat and Turks and Caicos Isl. for a maximum stay of 3 months.

Passports must be valid for at least the period of stay in the country. A visa is required. A 90-day tourist visa or 30-day business visa can be obtained on arrival.

Australian passport holders must have a passport valid for at least the period of stay in the country. A visa is required. A 90-day tourist visa or 30-day business visa can be obtained on arrival.

South Africans must have a passport valid for at least the period of stay in the country. A visa is not required for stays of less than 90 days.

Irish nationals require a passport valid for at least the period of intended stay. A visa is required. A 90-day tourist visa or 30-day business visa can be obtained on arrival.

New Zealand nationals require a passport valid for the period of intended stay. A visa is required. A 90-day tourist visa or 30-day business visa can be obtained on arrival.

Useful contacts

Official tourism website of Zimbabwe: www.zimbabwetourism.net

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Embassies / consulates in other countries

Zimbabwe Embassy, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 332 7100.

Zimbabwe Embassy, London, United Kingdom (also responsible for Ireland): +44 (0)20 7836 7755.

Zimbabwe Embassy, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 421 2824/1242.

Zimbabwe Embassy, Canberra ACT, Australia (also responsible for New Zealand): +61 (0)2 6286 2281/2700.

Zimbabwe Embassy, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 (0)12 342 5125.

Embassies / consulates in Zimbabwe

United States Embassy, Harare: +263 (0)4 250 593.

British Embassy, Harare: +263 (0)4 338 800

Canadian Embassy, Harare: +263 (0)4 252 181/2/3/4/5.

Australian High Commission, Harare: +263 (0)4 853 23 555.

South African High Commission, Harare: +263 (0)4 760 404.

Honorary Consulate of Ireland, Harare +263 (0)4 771 949.

New Zealand High Commission, Pretoria (also responsible for Zimbabwe): +27 (0)12 435 9000.