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Country Info > Zimbabwe> Visa Info > Travel Tips > Govt & Economy >Zimbabwe National Parks >History & People

ZIMBABWE TRAVEL TIPS

The scenery only lacks a seashore! Zimbabwe has almost every type of attraction - The Victoria Falls, Great Zimbabwe Ruins, Lake Kariba, not to mention the mighty Zambezi River! The country boasts well stocked game parks in a variety of natural settings, in which the variety of wildlife rivals most African countries. Elephants in particular, seem to thrive! Distances are not to great, so it is possible to see quite a lot of the country in a relatively short time and without too much discomfort.

The People
Predominantly Shona and Ndebele, but English being the official language, is spoken throughout the country.

Safety
Like in all major African cities, crime is slowly on the increase. Don't walk around with things you can't do without, like your passport or airline tickets. Carry minimum amounts of cash and keep it hidden or in a money belt and if possible, don't leave your car unattended. This is less of a problem in the rural areas.It is advisable to adhere to the following:

  • Don't walk alone in apparently deserted areas, especially in and around the cities. It is preferable and usually more enjoyable to walk with company or in groups.
  • Don't carry large sums of cash in your purse or pocket or display expensive jewelry. Be aware of the possibility of pick-pockets and bag snatchers in crowded areas.
  • Make photocopies of the first few pages of your passport, air ticket and other important travel documents. Keep this separate from the originals. Don't leave money or valuables in a hotel room. Most hotels offer safety deposit box service, and ensure that you have adequate insurance coverage before leaving home.
  • Always remember that while some animals have become accustomed to the presence of people they are still wild animals. Keep your distance. It is illegal to feed any animal, make excessive noise to attract their attention, or deviate from designated roads for that closer photograph. Never get out of your vehicle except at designated points.
  • Close all windows and zippers when you leave your room or tent and spray it with insect repellant.

The best way to get the most out of your safari is to take an active interest in everything going on around you, not just the number of species you can see in the shortest possible time. Ask all the questions you can think of and take reference books on not only wildlife but birds, insects and trees and read up about everything you see.

Health
It is advisable to take out emergency medical insurance prior to entering Zimbabwe
A yellow fever certificate is mandatory if you are traveling from an infected area. Vaccinations for cholera, tetanus and yellow fever are advised. Malaria is virulent in the low lying areas of the country which include most of the good wildlife destinations. Take prophylactics two weeks before arrival and continue two weeks after leaving. Your chemist or doctor can advise you of the most suitable drug available as certain drugs lose their effectiveness.

Tap water in the major towns is purified and perfectly safe to drink. In the more remote areas always boil it first, except if you're staying at a lodge or hotel where drinking water is perfectly safe. Bottled water is readily available in the bigger towns. Swimming should be confined to swimming pools. Swimming in still waters can be a problem - not only due to bilharzia, but crocodiles!

Chemists / Pharmacies
Travelers should carry an adequate supply of medicines and first aid accessories with them as supplies are limited in Zimbabwe. Most chemists in the major towns are open from 08h30 to 12h30 and 14h00 to 17h00. Monday to Friday and 08h00 to 13h00 on Saturdays. There are no emergency chemists open after hours or Sundays.

Accommodation
Zimbabwe offers a wide range of fine accommodation - from five star hotels and first class luxury lodges, to rustic bush camps, guesthouses and campsites. National Parks accommodation offers a relaxed atmosphere that is perfect for those on a tight budget. Foreigners must pay for accommodation in foreign currency. Not all of the small town hotels are equipped to take travelers checks or credit cards.

Electricity
Power supply is 220/240 volt 50 cycle. Plugs are usually 13-amp 3 pin square (British type)

Banks
There are numerous banks in the major towns as well as many bureau de change. Hours of business vary from bank to bank, but most are open from 9h00 to 14h30, Mondays to Fridays, and 9h00 - 11h30 on Saturdays.

Currency
The Zimbabwe dollar is divided into 100 cents. Notes are in denominations of Z$20, Z$10, Z$5 and Z$2; coins in 1c, 5c, 20c, 50c and Z$1. There is no limit to the importation of foreign currency, provided it is declared on arrival through a currency declaration form. It's best to come into the country with either Travelers checks or dollars or pounds which can be exchanged at any of the many Bureau de Change in the main owns or larger hotels. All moneys brought in should be declared on a forex form in order to guarantee its re-export.

Credit Cards, Cash and Traveler's Checks
International credit cards are accepted by most restaurants, stores, hotels, lodges, camps, car rental firms, etc. However, many small shops in rural areas will not accept them. American Express, Thomas Cook, Visa and MasterCard Traveler's Checks are widely accepted.

Tipping
Tips are normally not included. At restaurants between 10-15% is adequate. Hotel, airport and railway porters are normally given Z$2. At the private game lodges it is customary to tip the game ranger and tracker separately. A communal tip is contributed for the other staff involved in providing hospitality and services. In this, as in any other case, the ultimate yardstick is good service. When in doubt, 10% will do just fine.

Communications
Postal services are fairly well organized in Zimbabwe and you should have no problem sending or receiving letters. Public telephones are in a bad state of repair and you could wait hours for a line. Rather make international calls from a private home or large hotel.
All major hotels have fax machines at the disposal of their guests as well as telex services. Telephone directories will list all the international dialing codes. Both local and long-distance calls are metered on a time basis. (Note the surcharge at hotels is quite high, but it will cost less in frustration).

When to go
The best time to visit Zimbabwe is between May and September. Game viewing is excellent during this time of year and nature is out in its full splendor.

Climate
Because of the altitude, the climate is somewhat like that of Southern California's - warm during the day and cool at night. The rainy season occurs during the summer months, between December to March.

Clothing
Zimbabwe has mild winters and the summer days can get quite hot. Lightweight casual clothes can be worn all year round, with a jacket or sweater for early winter mornings and evenings. On safari keep clothes to a minimum and mostly of neutral coloring - khakis, browns and greens. A sunhat, sunglasses, sunscreen and insect repellant are a must. Bring a hat, good walking shoes and sun screen. Don't forget swim wear and binoculars. Some city restaurants have dress codes - casual jacket and tie for men, informal dresses for women.

Laundry
Most hotels and lodges will offer a laundry service. In most places one could hire someone to do your washing.

Photography
Zimbabwe is an extremely photogenic country. From panoramic scenery, wildlife and birds to people and vibrant ceremonies. Rich color and good low lighting conditions abound. It is considered rude to take pictures of people without asking them first. Always bring plenty of film and video cassettes if you're bringing a camcorder as well as batteries - as these items are difficult to get in Zimbabwe. Keep your cameras in a dust resistant, padded case and out of the midday sun. A 200mm (or longer) telephoto lens will prove very useful on safari, and an ultra violet filter and lens cap are strongly recommended. Please note that taking pictures of government and military personnel and installations is not advised.

Driving
Driving is done on the left side of the road. Zimbabwe requires a valid license that must include a picture of the holder. The country has an excellent road network, making it possible to drive to most areas. Long distance rural buses are only for the hardier travelers.

Be very careful in towns and villages not to leave your vehicle open and unattended. People with little are easily tempted. You should have no problem sleeping outdoors in designated camping areas or remote places along the way, but get into the habit of locking things away before you go to sleep.

Car Hire
Most international car rental companies are represented at major airports, and in the larger cities. Taxi service is available in most cities.

Transportation by Air
Harare Airport is only 11 miles outside of town. It is serviced by carriers from South Africa, Europe, Australia and a variety of African nations. Victoria Falls may be reached by air, with flights from Bulawayo, Harare, Johannesburg and Namibia.

Departure Tax
An airport departure tax of U.S. $20 is levied when leaving Zimbabwe.

Customs Requirements
All visitors require a passport that is valid for at least six months. Very few visitors require visas - check with the Zimbabwean diplomatic mission in your country to see if you do.
Personal effects, including cameras, binoculars and film are allowed into the country duty free. All moneys brought into Zimbabwe should be declared on a forex form in order to guarantee its re-export.

Time Differences
Throughout the year, Standard Time in Zimbabwe is two hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time, one hour ahead of Central European Winter Time, and seven hours ahead of Eastern Standard Winter Time in the U.S.

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