Zimbabwe Travel Guide
Intro Famously the home of the world’s greatest waterfalls – Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe is a medium sized landlocked African country north of South Africa. It enjoys warm tropical weather and sunny days year-round and boasts several excellent National Parks with safari camps, such as Hwange and Matopos. Lake Kariba, in the North, is a vast natural environment, good for cruises, fishing and game spotting. A colonial history has left the coutry with a fairly good, if aging, tourist infrastructure.
Zimbabwe had a thriving tourist industry based on the excellent colonial legacy infrastructure, but lately politics have killed it. This means you get the best rooms at the standard rates. Tourist areas do have some good western-styled restaurants, and the steaks are the cheapest in the world!
When to Go
Warm and sub-tropical year round.
Winter runs from May to September, pleasant by day, cool at night, no rain.
Summer runs from October to April, sometimes hot, occasional scattered afternoon showers.
Getting There & Away
Most international arrivals now are via Johannesburg, but there are direct flights from London to Harare. Several connections a day fly to Bulawayo and Victoria Falls. Hire car is the best option and the roads are safe and in good condition, but there are local buses covering most main routes – stick to the VIP ones though. Get around the city by metered taxi only, some areas are walkable.
Health & Safety
Despite all the negative publicity and poor governance under Robert Mugabe, tourists are safe and will encounter very little trouble. Some UK passport holders have had petty objections from immigration at the airport. Most Zimbabweans have become desperately unemployed in the past few years so pickpockets are on the rise. Hygiene in hotels and restaurants is good, the tap water is drinkable, but stock up on sun cream and malaria tablets. Oh, and don’t go for a stroll alone in the safari parks, you’ll become lion food!
Two days in Harare
Three days in Victoria Falls and Hwange
Two days in Bulawayo and the Matopos
Five days on Lake Kariba
Two days in the Eastern Highlands
Harare: a balmy, young African capital with a distinctive colonial character. Relaxing and un-hurried, with some good value hotels and plenty of African curio shops.
Victoria Falls and Hwange National Park: the world’s largest falls, stretching a mile wide and plunging into a 100m gorge. The white-water rafting and the safari trips are a must, Hwange national park nearby is guaranteed to please your camera.
Lake Kariba: once the world’s largest man-made lake, this 300km long expanse of water in the North is good for fishing, game spotting and a leisurely African escape.
Bulawayo and Matopos National Park: Zimbabwe’s second city is a quaint old colonial relic with wide, empty streets and a sleepy atmosphere. An hour’s drive away is the unique World Heritage site of the boulder-strewn Matopos.
Eastern Highlands: reminiscent of the Scottish Highlands, this lovely area on the Mozambique border has comforting lodges, trout-stocked dams and good views.
African cultural shows: put on at local hotels, these hi-energy warrior dancing spectacles, to the sound of a mariba band, are the pukka African experience.
Safaris: the main reason visitors come, take day-trips from Vic Falls, or stay in a safari camp for a few days.
White-water rafting: beneath Victoria Falls is some of the best in the world with 18 grade 4 and 5 rapids over a three mile length.
Golf: great courses in Harare, Bulawayo, Victoria Falls and the Eastern Highlands at unbeatable prices, but bring your own clubs.
Shopping: for cheap and charming African curios in the tourist areas.