How to Travel Safely in Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe is a beautiful country. Despite its touchy political situation and fragile economy, this landlocked jewel in Southern Africa is well worth a visit. While Zimbabwe is slowly making its comeback as a tourist destination, most Zimbabweans still live in poverty. Despite the economic situation and a depressed infrastructure, Zimbabwe’s people are still amazingly friendly and crime remains relatively low.
It is easy to see why Zimbabwe was once the breadbasket of Africa. Abundant wildlife, fertile land, hardworking people and some of the continent’s most beautiful landscapes made Zimbabwe an African Utopia. While the country is regaining stability, Zimbabwe’s wild and natural environment remains as attractive as ever. The mighty Victoria Falls, Hwange National Park, Mana Pools or Lake Kariba are still among the most rewarding destinations for nature lovers and safari enthusiasts.
Travelling in Zimbabwe might not be easy, but the country is relatively safe and inconveniences are made up for by friendly people, untouched wilderness areas and many natural and cultural attractions with Word Heritage Site status. Here are a few tips to prepare you for the adventure that is Zimbabwe.
General Safety Rules
When visiting Africa, you should always expect the unexpected and keep your wits about you. There are a few common sense rules that you should adhere to wherever you travel:
- Copy important documents and keep them separate from the originals
- Don’t show off large amounts of cash, expensive jewellery or other indicators of wealth
- There is safety in numbers
- Be wary of strangers who are too eager to offer help
- But take advice from locals that you trust
The Zimbabwean dollar has been discontinued as a currency. Credit cards and travellers’ cheques are not accepted. The most common currencies are US dollars and South African rand. Drawing cash from an ATM is possible, but this option is not always available. Try not to keep all your cash in one place and carry smaller denominations as change is not always available.
Make sure to keep valuables such as cameras or laptops in your hand luggage when flying into Zimbabwe. Padlocks for your big suitcase are also a worthwhile investment. When you leave the airport, make sure that your luggage goes into the boot where it is safe from smash and grabs.
Avoid driving at night when livestock, wild animals and cyclists become an unpredictable hazard. When you are driving in cities, keep your valuables in the boot or under a seat and keep the doors locked. Smash and grabs do occur, but this is opportunistic crime and can be prevented.
Zimbabwe’s wildlife is a natural attraction that should not be missed. However, always remember that these animals are wild and dangerous. Only exit your safari vehicle at designated areas. Close interactions with elephants, lions or baboons are not desirable and sometimes fatal.
Zimbabwe’s medical sector has suffered from the country’s poor economical state. Medical precautions should be taken before you enter the country. Make sure your typhoid vaccinations are up to date and pack a first aid kit including any medications you might need. The major cities of Harare and Bulawayo are free of Malaria, but when entering the game parks, you should take precautions.
Harare by night
Harare’s nightlife and music scene should not be missed, but make use of taxis at night as walking after dark is risky.
Smile and Wave
In conflicts with border officials, policemen and other officials, never lose your cool. It is Africa and things might take a while. Just don’t be intimidated and always remember to smile.