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Zimbabwe Travel Information

The Basics

Time

GMT +2

Electricity

Electrical current in Zimbabwe 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.

Travel Health

Travellers to Zimbabwe who are coming from infected countries require a yellow fever vaccination certificate. Precautions against Hepatitis A, and rabies are also recommended. Other risks include typhoid, polio and bilharzia; a high prevalence of AIDS/HIV exists. There is a risk of malaria all year 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. Mosquitoes are chloroquine resistant. Precautions against mosquito bites should be taken to avoid any number of mosquito-borne diseases. Cholera outbreaks occur usually during the rainy season when flooding and contamination of water sources takes place. Rapidly declining health standards are also responsible for the world's lowest life expectancy according to WHO, and a breakdown in the water distribution system, especially in Harare. 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 many staff are on strike; it is advisable to bring a supply of personal medication. Medical insurance is essential. Private clinics expect cash payment and medical costs can be high.

Tipping

A service charge is usually included in the bill in Zimbabwe, otherwise a 10% tip is customary for restaurants, hotels and taxis. In general tipping for good service is discretionary. Some tour guides and game rangers depend largely on tips for their income.

Safety Information

Zimbabwe has a less-than-glowing safety report according to most governments. Continued political unrest and vigilante action by members of the National War Veterans' Association have left most farm and rural areas unsafe for travel due to the high chance of crime.

Even within cities like Harare there are indiscriminate outbreaks of violence and looting. The government is widely acknowledged to be dysfunctional. Although Zimbabwe is unstable, there have been no reports of violence targeted at foreign tourists; nonetheless it is wise to use taxis and hire cars to avoid walking the city streets alone at night.

While there are travel advisories in place for much of the country, Victoria Falls is considered safe and well-policed 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 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 take photographs of police and military, as well as of demonstrations. It is a criminal offence to make insulting comments about President Mugabe and his government. It is also an offence to continue driving when the President's motorcade goes past, no matter which side of the road you are on. Visitors should be aware that an open hand is the political symbol of the main opposition political party, the Movement for Democratic Change, and a friendly wave may therefore be misinterpreted as a provocative gesture. Homosexuality is illegal. Civilians are not permitted to wear camouflage clothing.

Business

Business in Zimbabwe is conducted in English, and is fairly informal, with drinking and socialising very much part of the business scene. 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.

Communications

The international dialling code for Zimbabwe is +263. The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0027 for South Africa). International Direct Dialling is available. City/area codes are in use, e.g. (0)4 for Harare. Local operators provide GSM 900 network mobile phone coverage in most cities, towns and tourist areas throughout the country. Internet facilities are available in most towns and cities, but internet cafes are often crowded.

Duty Free

Travellers to Zimbabwe do not have to pay duty on items to the value of US$250 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, honey, indecent or obscene reading material, toy firearms, and blade knives.

Become our Zimbabwe Travel Expert

We are looking for contributors for our Zimbabwe travel guide. If you are a local, a regular traveller to Zimbabwe or a travel professional with time to contribute and answer occasional forum questions, please contact us.

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