ZIMBABWE TRAVEL GUIDE
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
I absolutely loved visiting Zimbabwe! The Zimbabwean people warm and welcoming. The police corruption and horrible economic situation are very real, but normally that will not affect you as a tourist. I felt very close to a lot of the people I met during my time there, and my heart goes out to them during this difficult economic time.
I decided to compile a little Zimbabwe travel guide here on this page, and from here you can also navigate to all of my other Zimbabwe related posts- they are listed at the bottom of this page.
For the record, I went backpacking in Zimbabwe independently and alone.
Many nationalities require visas to enter Zimbabwe. I was able to get a single entry visa at the border for $30 no problem. I didn’t need a passport photo or anything.
Check out the government visa page here to see what applies to you!
Zimbabwe apparently has 16 official languages, but the three major ones are Shona, Ndebele, and English. In my experience everybody I met spoke English fluently. It’s worth learning a few Shona and Ndebele words though! You will get lots of encouragement and people most likely will burst out laughing. Ndebele was difficult for me because it uses a lot of click sounds that were difficult for me to do!
No Zimbabwe travel guide would be complete without some important words…I realized that the Zimbabweans I met were so open and happy to share their languages with me. I swear, if I lived there I would be speaking Shona fluently in six months!
Harare has a Shona speaking majority while Bulawayo has a Ndebele speaking majority.
Thank you in Shona is Maita Basa and in Ndebele it is Ngiyabonga.
I am so in love with Zimbabwean music. Try not to get this song out of your head!
Other more classic Zimbabwean singers include Leonard Dembo and Thomas Mapfumo. Check them out!
The Mbira is a traditional musical instrument that comes from Zimbabwe. I had seen many before arriving in Zimbabwe, but I never realized that they were actually from there!
Zimbabwe uses the US Dollar right now. They also mix their own government bonds in with the money. If you’re from the USA, you will find the money there to be very interesting because they use a lot of $2 bills and old editions of other bills. I have never seen so many $2 in my life! They are such a rarity in the USA!
I will address forms of public transportation in this Zimbabwe travel guide. I never tried to rent a car but that is totally possible and the roads are in pretty good shape on the major highways.
Intercape, South Africa’s luxury bus company, operates between some cities in Zimbabwe and the buses are very comfortable.
You can also take shared taxis called kombis around cheaply and easily. You will be amazed to see how many people can fit into one of them! You hop on and pay once the kombi starts moving. If you don’t have exact change some of your neighbors will give your their fare and you can pay for them with your larger bill. As a tourist I was never ripped off in a kombi. Just know that in the bigger cities there will be several kombi stations depending on where you need to go.
Zimbabwe also has an extensive rail network and taking trains is a really adventurous and fun way to see the country! Check out my posts about my train experiences in Zimbabwe below!
MY TOP EXPERIENCES
There are so many things to see and do in Zimbabwe. Instead of extensively writing about every little thing, which I know you will just look up on the Zimbabwe TripAdvisor anyway, in my Zimbabwe travel guide I will address my favorite experiences.
What can I say? It was the perfect adventure for me, and cheap too!
2. Eating Sadza
Sadza is the staple food of Zimbabwe. It is made using ground corn meal that is called Mealie Meal in Zimbabwe. It is like a very thick mashed potatoes, and you use it to eat your meal with your hands. I was horrible at eating with my hands but I really enjoyed the moments I shared eating sadza in the homes of my Zimbabwean friends. So maybe it wasn’t the sadza itself that I loved…it was definitely the fun events involving sadza!
3. Victoria Falls
Ok fine. I hated the town of Victoria Falls compared to the rest of Zimbabwe, but the falls themselves were simply incredible.
Some other things to do:
Hwange National Park
Great Zimbabwe Ruins
Matobo Hills National Park
The gorgeous Eastern Highlands (this is the top thing I will be doing when I go back!)
Lake Kariba in the North
MY TOP TRAVEL TIPS FOR ZIMBABWE
Here are some miscellaneous tips for my Zimbabwe travel guide:
1. ATMs may not always work with foreign bank cards
Don’t panic if an ATM doesn’t take your debit card. Just keep calm and find another one. I was able to find one in all the major cities, but sometimes it took extra effort.
2. Don’t badmouth the government or ask locals to talk about the govenrment
One young American woman was put in jail recently for Tweeting negative things about Mugabe. You can get locals into a lot of trouble if you solicit their opinions. Appreciate your own country’s freedom of speech (if your country has it) and keep your mouth shut, or wait for them to bring up the subject.
This got longer and longer as I wrote out more tips, so I decided to make a post separate from this Zimbabwe travel guide that you can check out here or in the list of posts below!