Zimbabwe today seems to be known more for its recent tumultuous events and politics than for the natural beauty of its vast highlands and parks and their exceptional biodiversity, its rich culture and history, and exhilarating Victoria Falls.
Known in colonial days as Southern Rhodesia, Zimbabwe gained its independence from Great Britain in 1980. The capital city is Harare. While nominally a parliamentary democracy, Zimbabwe’s government since independence has been under the uninterrupted control of President Robert Mugabe. Mugabe, who won election as Zimbabwe’s first prime minister in 1980, abolished that office and declared himself president in 1987, simultaneously abolishing seats that had been set aside for whites in Zimbabwe’s parliament. In ensuing decades, Mugabe’s government has repeatedly come under criticism for alleged corruption, vote-rigging, intimidation, and fraud, and his tenure has been marked by a prolonged economic downturn. Despite the challenges of daily life, Zimbabweans provide a warm welcome to visitors.
Zimbabwe’s official language is English. Shona and Sindebele (also called Ndebele) are also widely spoken throughout the country, along with a number of tribal dialects. Zimbabwe’s population of 14 million is made up of many ethnic groups and subgroups with diverse local traditions, of which the Bantu-speaking Shona people are a majority, with about 82 percent of the population; the Ndebele are the second-most populous group, at around 14 percent. About half of Zimbabwe’s people are syncretic (practicing a religion that contains some Christian and some indigenous beliefs), about a quarter are Christian, and just under a quarter practice indigenous beliefs. Muslims and other minority religious groups account for the remaining 1 percent.
As in many African countries, traditional cuisine in Zimbabwe relies on a few staple foods, the main one being “mealie meal” or cornmeal, served porridge-style, and for lunch and dinner accompanied by a savory vegetable, meat, or fish stew. However, on safari, guests enjoy a wide diversity of locally grown salads, vegetables, fruits, local fish, poultry, and beef . African lager-style beers are widely enjoyed along with fine wines from South Africa.
Zimbabwe is an ideal year-round destination. Despite its location in a tropical zone, its high altitudes result in a pleasant, moderate climate. Coolest months are May to October (winter) with average temperatures in the 70s F, and the hottest months are November through April (summer) with temperatures ranging from the 70s to the high 80s F. There is rainfall in summer, usually occurring in the later afternoon or evening, with sunshine prevailing the rest of the time.
Best months for viewing mammals: Sep–Oct; for white-water rafting: Aug–Dec; for botany: Dec–May.
U.S. citizens: Passports and visas are required, and visas (current fee $30 for a single-entry tourist visa) may be obtained by paying in cash at the port of entry. You will require a KAZA Visa (current fee $50) if you are considering a day visit to the Zambia side of Victoria Falls (not included in your tour, but optional). For most up-to-date visa information, see the Embassy of Zimbabwe website: https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/country/zimbabwe.html
For visa and passport assistance services, we recommend Travel Document Systems: www.traveldocs.com.
Zimbabwe does not have its own currency at this time; the U.S. dollar, South African rand, and British pound are among the foreign currencies widely accepted throughout the country, and prices are usually displayed in USD. Botswana’s pula is also accepted in the Victoria Falls area. Zimbabwe is a cash society, and credit cards and travelers checks are accepted at very few establishments. All departure taxes and many entrance fees must be paid in cash with U.S. dollars.
***IMPORTANT: Accessing cash through credit cards or debit cards can be a challenge. We recommend arriving with sufficient cash.There also tends to be a shortage of small currency notes in Zimbabwe so we also suggest arriving with smaller notes.
No immunizations are required to enter Zimbabwe, with the important exception that proof of yellow fever vaccination is required for all travelers traveling from, or transiting through, a country with yellow fever transmission.
Malaria medication, hepatitis, tetanus, typhoid, polio, measles, mumps, and rubella vaccinations are also generally recommended for all travelers. Requirements and recommendations change frequently, so always check directly with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC: www.cdc.gov/travel; 800-232-4636), a travel clinic, and/or your personal physician for the most current information. Plan ahead for immunizations, as some require administration several months prior to departure.
Alternating current of 220/240v and 50Hz is used in Zimbabwe. Plug types are typically the type D and the British G plug.
Zimbabwe country code: +263
International access code calling out of Zimbabwe: 001
- Cell-phone coverage throughout Zimbabwe cannot be guaranteed at all times, especially in remote areas.
- Internet access is also limited and is not guaranteed at all accommodations.
For more information about Zimbabwe, see the national tourism board website: www.zimbabwetourism.net.