Zimbabwe Travel Guide

General Information

Zimbabwe, having been established on April 18, 1980, has been called many things; right now it has the name, “A World of Wonders”! Many may be skeptical about coming to visit and explore, but as a local and fellow traveler, let me assure you that it is safe. This unique destination will blow your mind away.

Zimbabwe is a landlocked country located between the Limpopo and Zambezi rivers. It shares its borders with 5 countries – Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, Mozambique, and South Africa.

The name ‘Zimbabwe’ originates from the famous Great Zimbabwe Ruins. Zimbabwe means, “House of Stone”. These ruins are the largest in Sub-Saharan Africa and second-largest to the Pyramids in Egypt. Zimbabwe is also known for a few other things – Victoria Falls, Lake Kariba, vast mineral reserves, agriculture, as well as bountiful wildlife and birdlife.

The previous president, Robert Gabriel Mugabe, had been in power from the mark of independence in April, 1980, until November, 2017, and was the oldest head of state in the world.

The main languages spoken in Zimbabwe are English, Shona, and Ndebele. These are found in official documents. English is more widely spoken in the major urban areas, although only 2% of the population consider it their native language—mainly the white and colored (mixed race) minorities. The rest of the Zimbabwean population speak Bantu languages; Shona is spoken by the Mashona people and Ndebele is spoken by the Matabele people.

However, there officially are 16 languages recognized in Zimbabwe and they are as follows:

English - UK English
Shona - spoken by the Mashona in several dialects, but also spoken by other ethnic groups
Ndebele - spoken by the Matebele, but also spoken by other ethnic groups
Kalanga - the western branch of the Shona group spoken by the Kalanga people of western Zimbabwe and northeastern Botswana
Nambya - spoken in western Zimbabwe particularly in Hwange, related to Kalanga (above)
Ndau - spoken by over a million people in Mozambique and eastern Zimbabwe, related to Manyika and Karanga
Shangani - like the Tsonga language in South Africa
Sotho - originally from Lesotho
Tonga - it is spoken both in Zimbabwe and Zambia by people who reside along and near the Zambezi River in northern Zimbabwe and southern and eastern Zambia
Tswana - spoken by about 5 million people in Zimbabwe, Botswana, Zambia, and South Africa
Venda - spoken by the Lemba people of southern Zimbabwe and the Venda people of South Africa
Xhosa - spoken by a small population of about 35,000 people in Zimbabwe based in Mbembeswana near Bulawayo. It is native to the Cape and Lesotho regions
Koisan (Tsoa) - spoken by several thousand people in both Zimbabwe and Botswana
Chewa - also called Nyanja, spoken in former Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland, now Zambia and Malawi, as well as parts of Zimbabwe where is it possibly the third most widely used native language
Chibarwe - Sena, of central Mozambique and Malawi, is known as Chibarwe in Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe Sign Language - without much clarification it is different for each school in Zimbabwe, whilst American Sign Language is also used.

Other unofficial languages spoken in Zimbabwe include Dombe, Fanagalo, Kunda, Lozi, Manyika, and Tswa, along with several Shona dialects.

Zimbabwe Visa Information

Category A and B passport holders staying for short term holiday purposes can enter Zimbabwe with a minimum of formalities.

A Visa to enter Zimbabwe is required by several nationalities, please read the full details listed below.

There are 3 categories:

Category A: Countries whose nationals do NOT require a Visa, no action required. You will be granted easy entry at any border post or airport.

Category B: Countries whose nationals are granted a Zimbabwe visa at the port of entry on payment of requisite visa fees. These visas are easily obtained on your arrival at the border post or airport. If you get them done via an agency in your home country, they will often cost you quite a bit more and be a hassle.
If you are intending to visit Zambia as well then the Kaza / UniVisa is your most economical choice Read More

Category C: Countries whose nationals are required to apply for and obtain a Zimbabwe visa prior to travelling. You can apply through a Zimbabwe High Commission in your home, or neighboring country, or an easier way is to apply online - click on this link Zimbabwe e-visa for details.

Find out the Category of your country in the tables below.

All Categories need:

• Passport valid for a least 6 months from your date of entry
• Return ticket to your country (or enough money to buy one)
• Sufficient funds to cover your stay in Zimbabwe
• Enough blank pages in your passport to fit the required entry visa

Only Chinese tourists traveling as a group cleared by Tour Operators and Travel Agencies in the People's Republic of China qualify. Chinese business persons and other citizens of the People's Republic of China as approved by their government need to apply for visas online.

Category C nationals can apply for a single or double entry Zimbabwe visa.

NB - Multiple Entry Visas - CANNOT be obtained at the port of entry into Zimbabwe.  You may enter Zimbabwe on a single entry visa and then obtain a Multiple Entry Visa from the town office - but this may take up to 7 working days to be issued and in many cases is declined. If you need to enter 3 or 4 times, rather buy a single entry, and then a double entry visa or two doubles, which is a perfectly accepted by immigration.

Children - As of June 2012 - Zimbabwe will now be charging FULL VISA fees for any individual who is required to have a VISA, despite their age. This includes infants and children, who were previously being exempted from this. This has been imposed with immediate effect.

British Passports Holders

You need a Zimbabwe visa to visit Zimbabwe. This can be obtained from the Zimbabwe Embassy in London or on arrival in Zimbabwe.  To be honest it is easier and in most cases cheaper just to get one at the port of entry.

The current charge for a single entry Zimbabwe visa issued on arrival is US$ 55 and US$ 70 for a Double Entry Zimbabwe visa, although this could change at any stage. If you have not obtained a Zimbabwe visa before travelling, you should bring enough cash with you to pay for your visa on arrival - (no credit/debit cards or cheques).

Visitors are currently being given entry permission for anything up to 90 days but you are strongly advised to check that the number of days given at the port of entry covers your intended period of stay, although you can apply to have this period renewed and extended if required.

USA Passport Holders

You need a Zimbabwe visa to visit Zimbabwe, this can be obtained from the Zimbabwe Embassy in the United States or on arrival in Zimbabwe.  To be honest it is easier and in most cases cheaper just to get one at the port of entry.

The current charge for a single entry Zimbabwe visa issued on arrival is US$ 30 and US$ 45 for a Double Entry Zimbabwe visa, although this could change at any stage. If you have not obtained a Zimbabwe visa before travelling, you should bring enough cash with you to pay for your visa on arrival - (no credit/debit cards or cheques).

Zimbabwe Currency & Banking

There are no restrictions on foreign currency to be imported into Zimbabwe. However, a maximum of $ 10 000 or its equivalent can be exported out of the country. Tourists are entitled to duty-free importation of their goods which they intend to take out of the country, for instance laptops, cameras, vehicles, binoculars, fishery rods and trailers; as well as duty-free importation of goods for personal use (not commercial) worth US$200.00 for consumption in Zimbabwe. A CDI form is required for exports whose value exceeds US$1 000.00.

The use of (Zimbabwean dollar) as local currency, is common the rate is now 2:1 to the USD. Make sure you have cash with you when you arrive especially small denominations. Meanwhile the country has resorted to the use of multiple currencies as legal tender which comprise of US dollar, British pound, European euros, South African rand and Botswana Pula. However, all these currencies are easily convertible in most banks using the inter-bank rate which gives access to use of the common and mostly used currency the US dollar and South African rand as method of payment.

Zimbabwe Airports & Ports of Entry

If you are not staying for longer than six months, you enter Zimbabwe with a minimum of formalities. All you need is a valid passport with a valid visa depending on which category of the visa regime you fall under, a return ticket to your country (or enough money to buy one), and sufficient funds to cover your stay in Zimbabwe. Entry points are categorized into three groups which comprise of:
AIR - Harare International Airport, Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo Airport, Victoria Falls International Airport,
Kariba Airport, Charles Prince Airport, Masvingo Airport, Buffalo Range.
ROAD - Chirundu, Nyamapanda, Beitbridge, Victoria Falls, Forbes, Kazungula, Plumtree, Kariba,
Kanyemba, Mukumbura, Cashel, Mt Selinda, Sango, Pandamatenga, Maitengwe, Mphoengs.
RAIL - Beitbridge, Plumtree

Zimbabwe has a number of airports located in the various towns and provinces.
Harare International Airport –The biggest and busiest airport in Zimbabwe situated in Harare. The airport’s runway, at 4,725 metres (15,500 ft), is one of the longest in Africa.

Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo International Airport situated some 20km out of Bulawayo the city of kings.
Victoria Falls Airport – An International Airport that is located 21 km out of Victoria Falls town the hub for tourism in Zimbabwe.
Charles Prince Airport – formerly named Mount Hampden and renamed after former airport manager Charles Prince (who was a Royal Air Force officer during World War II), is located approximately 8 km northwest of Harare, Zimbabwe.1973 the airport was converted to civilian use.

Departure taxes – A departure tax of US $35 is levied on all foreign investors (non-residents) at all Zimbabwe airports on International flights and this tax often incorporated in the ticket fare. When flying within Zimbabwe a departure tax of $10 is charged. The revenue stamp can be bought at the airport or pre-purchased at any commercial bank. A total of US $5 is payable for each domestic ticket. However, this tax is often incorporated in the ticket fare. Always verify with the issuing agent.

Zimbabwe Maps

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Zimbabwe Climate

Zimbabwe, lying north of the Tropic of Capricorn, is completely within the tropics but enjoys subtropical conditions because of its high average elevation. Toward the end of the hot, dry months, which last from August to October, monsoon winds that have crossed the Indian Ocean and Mozambique result in intense orographic rainfall when they meet the rampart formed by the eastern highlands. The eastern regions consequently receive the country’s heaviest rainfall and have a more prolonged rainy season (lasting from October into April) than the rest of Zimbabwe. The high altitude of the broad plateau of western Zimbabwe helps to guarantee fine weather there during the cool, dry winter months from May to August. In winter the days are generally dry and sunny with cold frosty nights in the Highveld.

June is generally the coolest month and October the warmest; temperature variations correspond closely to altitude.

Nyanga, at about 5,500 feet in the eastern highlands, varies in temperature from a mean of 52° F (11° C) in July to one of 65° F (18° C) in October.

Harare, at about 4,800 feet, has seasonal temperatures varying from 57° F (14° C) to 70° F (21° C).

Bulawayo, at 4,400 feet, varies from 57° F (14° C) to 70° F (21° C).

Daily variations about these means are some 13° F (7° C) warmer in the afternoon and 13° F (7° C) cooler at night. Harare and Bulawayo each average about eight hours of sunlight per day, and this average does not drop below six hours during the rainy season. During the rainy season (November to March), a light jacket may be needed in the evenings. Most hotels expect men to wear a collar, jacket and tie in bars and restaurants after 1830hrs, except in the warmer parts of the country.

The seasons are the reverse of those in the northern hemisphere, with midsummer at Christmas and winter lasting from May to August.