African travel tips for visiting Zimbabwe
The biggest attraction in Zimbabwe is undoubtedly the majestic Victoria Falls, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. But the country also has other natural and historical advantages to lure travelers and keep them coming back. Wildlife, fish and birds including a number of unique, rare and endangered species abound making game watching, bird watching, fishing and hunting popular activities.
Home to four World Heritage Sites, Zimbabwe has a rich history of ancient civilizations that make its friendly people feel proud, despite the hardships. From the refreshing spray of waterfalls on your face, to sunsets on Lake Kariba, lush mountain escapes to a river rafting adventure on the Zambezi River, Zimbabwe is sure to leave you with memories as indelible as those of Livingston and Rhodes when they witnessed the country’s riches.
Climate: subtropical. The best time to visit is April-October when the weather is mild with little rain. Winter (May-August) is dry and sunny. Rainy weather is November-March/April.
Currency: 1 Zimbabwean dollar = 100 cents. You may take 15,000 Zimbabwean dollars out of the country. There are no restrictions on bringing foreign currency. If you do not declare the foreign money you bring in, you will only be able to get 500 USD. You may be asked to calculate the foreign currency exchanged/spent in the country. Hotel bills must be paid with credit cards or in foreign hard currencies such as US dollars.
Credit card users are subject to an additional fee of approximately 3 percent on the total value of merchandise purchased. Traveler’s checks in US dollars are recommended. Avoid street money changers who promise “no commission, best rates”, but then cheat on delivery. There are severe penalties for illegal forex trading. Many of the larger stores in the city do not accept American Express cards. Traveler’s checks are the most convenient form of payment.
Health: Yellow fever vaccination is essential if you have arrived from an endemic country or area. Visitors are also advised to take pre-arrival precautions against hepatitis A, polio, typhoid and malaria (depending on the area visited especially those outside the cities). Other health concerns include schistosomiasis (do not swim in rivers/dams or drink water from them as you may be infected), sunburn, limited medical facilities and supplies outside cities, and AIDS and influenza (the risk extends throughout the year).
Language: English is the official language. Chishona and Sindebele are widely spoken.
January 1 New Year’s Day
April 12 Easter Monday
April 18 Independence Day
May 1 Labor Day
May 25 Africa Day
August 11th is Heroes’ Day
August 12 Defense Forces Day
December 22 Unity Day
December 25-26 Christmas
Shop: Shona soft stone carvings; wood carvings; Pottery safari clothing t-shirt. leather goods Figurines Basket Tools. Textiles. Nail polish and old clothes can sometimes be replaced with patterns.
Social Norms: Christianity is the main religion, but in rural areas, people have traditional beliefs. Western/European compliments were taken into account. Return invitations are appreciated. A handshake is the common form of greeting. Dress code is casual, but most hotels require more formal attire, such as a tie and jacket; Business meetings require suits.
Time difference: GMT + 2
Tip: Ten to fifteen percent is common.
Description of the main attractions:
Locals call it “Mosi-oa-Tunya” – the smoke that trembles, Victoria Falls is a World Heritage Site and is undoubtedly the most majestic waterfall in the world; Popular activities include walks through the rainforest, white water rafting, hopping over waterfalls, river cruises, and much more.
Lake Kariba’s unique view of dead trees rising from the depths of this massive man-made lake is especially beautiful during sunset. A popular way to enjoy the lake is on a boat with friends to see the large numbers of crocodiles and hippos, go game watching in Matusadona National Park or catch a tiger – the largest tiger fish caught here weighed 15.5kg.
The capital offers sightseeing at the National Gallery; the national archives; Queen Victoria Museum; Queen Victoria National Library; the National Botanical Garden; match market Chabungo Village tobacco auction floors; Mucovisi Woodlands Museum of Human Sciences; Harare Gardens; Cecil House National Craft Centre; African Unity Square and The Residency.
Located 22 km west of Bulawayo, Kame Ruins is one of South Africa’s impressive Iron Age ruins and is now a World Heritage Site showing that the area was the seat of governments of past civilizations.
Great Zimbabwe National Monument:
The ruins of an ancient African city, believed to have flourished between the 13th and 15th centuries AD, are the only ones south of the Sahara and a World Heritage Site; The country takes its name from it and the famous Zimbabwean bird found on the site became the national bird and was incorporated into the flag; Visit the on-site museum, Kyle Amusement Park, and view the games by car or horseback nearby.
Hwange National Park:
the largest national park in the country, both in terms of size and diversity in wildlife and birdlife; It is also one of the few remaining elephant sanctuaries in Africa, where herds of up to 100 elephants have been seen; The only area in the country where the gemsbok and the brown hyena are found in reasonable numbers and where the wild dog population is believed to be the largest surviving in Africa today.
Mana Pools National Park:
Part of the Central Zambezi Valley, Mana Pools host some of the largest concentrations of large mammals to be seen in Zimbabwe; It is also known for its diverse and colorful birdlife and forms one of the last remaining strongholds of the black rhino; Game viewing, hunting and canoe safaris are popular.
Bulawayo and Matobo:
the second largest city in Zimbabwe which is located on the site of the royal craal of Lubengula, the last Ndebele king; View the Natural History Museum, Railway Museum, Mzilikazi Arts and Crafts Centre, Centenary Garden, Central Parks and National Art Gallery; Matobo National Park, 30 km from the city, is a unique area of about 2,000 square km of giant wind-sculpted rock formations. Cecil John Rhodes’ burial site and thousands of ancient rock paintings can also be found here.
This area features luxurious natural surroundings with mountains, grassy plains, streams, waterfalls, mountain flowers, rare birds, etc. which contribute to panoramic views of great beauty that attract nature lovers, hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts; Visit Nyanga National Park, Mutare and Mutarazi Falls, Bunga Botanical Reserve and Bvumba Botanical and Wilderness Gardens in Chimanimani National Park.
This park borders the Kruger National Park in South Africa and is home to some of Africa’s rarest birds and animals. Bat-eared fox, suni, Liechtenstein’s hartebeest, nyala, and roan antelope are found along the famous African elephants in this park, which are unparalleled anywhere else in the world.