Difference between revisions of "Harare"
Revision as of 07:52, 15 March 2013
Harare is the capital of Zimbabwe.
Harare is home to some two million people, with most in central Harare but some 500,000 in the surrounding districts of Rural Harare, Chintungwiza and Epworth.
Once a city of modern buildings, wide thoroughfares, numerous parks and gardens, it suffered from increasing disrepair thanks to Zimbabwe's economic downward spiral. However, there have recently been a few signs of improvement as the decision of the country to adopt the US dollar as its currency has begun to facilitate some investments.
Harare's airport is the major gateway for flights into the country. Air Zimbabwe also operated a small network of domestic flights before ceasing operations. However, an increasing number of foreign airlines are flying into Harare these days. They include South African Airways with direct flights from Johannesburg . Ethiopian Airlines from Addis Ababa , Kenya Airways from Nairobi  TAAG Angola Airlines from Luanda.  and Egypt Air from Cairo via Dar es Salaam.
Taxis from the airport to the main hotels cost $25. This exhorbitant fixed price, given the relatively short distance and great age of the taxis, is attributed by the drivers to the high fees that they have to pay to the airport authority.
Train services have been badly hit by the economic troubles in Zimbabwe during recent years but most domestic trains are now running daily once agian. Bulawayo sees departures every night at 9PM, arriving next morning around 8AM. Trains from Mutare at the border with Mozambique runs three times a week departing Mutare also at 9PM, arrivial time in Harare is early morning at 5:20AM. There are currently no international trains to Harare except occasional cruise trains.
A good road from Johannesburg allows easy access. However, be careful of the sometimes frightening drops at the side of the roads, at the edge of the tarmac, particularly with oncoming trucks at night. In fact, night driving is not advised.
Buses from Johannesburg are easily available ranging from Greyhound (for R450 as of April 2010) and Intercape (R420) to the local ones (for R250 as of April 2010). The bus takes between 16-24 hours. Delays at the border are very common and typically range 3-8 h, but they can be as much as 20 h at Christmas time.
Most ordinary long-distance bus services arrive at the Mbare Terminal, located 3 km southwest of the Central district. The terminal itself is giant, hectic, confusing, and dangerous. There are several disconnected regions of the terminal, and finding something as simple as a taxi can require walking over 500 m through markets and alleys. Although minibuses to Mbare depart from the 4th Street Terminal in Central (located at 4th and Mugabe), it may be worth taking a taxi, which will be able to find a bus to your destination for you. "Luxury" buses (including Greyhound/Intercape) to Johannesburg and most other international destinations arrive and depart from the modern Roadport terminal at 5th & Mugabe.
Harare is very spread out. The best option to get around is by car, which is easier now that dollarization has made fuel shortages a thing of the past. Fuel is freely available at most outlets for cash or through a coupon system. Most operators now import fuel by themselves and prices are independently set. Most service stations close at around p.m. although there are a number that offer 24-hour service. Be prepared for frequent police road-blocks, in which the police will solicit a bribe for "something" that is wrong with your vehicle. Be prepared to negotiate on this.
Taxis: in 4+1 style taxis, it is very common to fit as many as 8 people inside. Rides around town should cost about $5 for the entire cab at night, typically $2 or $3 during the day, unless you are going to the suburbs. Make sure you negotiate the price before you get inside the car
Minibus taxis are readily available with frequent services between central and all suburbs. Ask around for the terminal for your destination. Typically the fare is about $1.
There is a strong appreciation for the city's cultural and historical heritage and a number of the older buildings have been preserved.
The Mining Pension Fund Building at Central Avenue and Second Street is one example and many more are to be found along Robert Mugabe Road between Second Street and Julius Nyerere Way.
The Book Cafe has a wide variety of live music throughout the week, and there is another club that plays Afro-jazz right next door.
Virtually all purchases in larger stores are made with US dollars, which is the national currency. Rands are accepted, but you should check the exchange rate at the place first. Many accept rands (or give them in change) at a R7 or R8 to $1 ratio less favourable than the official rate.
Anything made locally is inexpensive. Packets of Zimbabwe cigarettes cost $0.50 (as of April 2010). Everything that is imported is relatively expensive compared to South Africa. Cans of Coca-cola typically cost $1, for example.
If you wanted to experience shopping the way it is traditionally done in many African countries, you could stroll around at the open flea-market at Mbare.
Here tourists could feast their eyes on a colourful array of baskets, food, clothing and other items. However, in September 2005, the government bulldozed Mbare flea market along with every other informal market in the country. Tens of thousands of people were left homeless and without an income.
The government's policy to try to cut down on informal trading was disastrous in a country with one of the highest unemployment rates in the world. In time, markets began to spring up again.
ATMs give US dollars. The ATMs at Barclays will accept most international Visa cards; other banks generally take only local cards.
Zimbabwe's staple food is Sadza: a thick white porridge (a bit like mashed potato), that's made from corn (maize) meal. It's eaten at every meal, accompanied by vegetables or meat in some form.
In Harare there are many westernised restaurants serving European or American style food, but far more exciting are the outdoor cafes:
With the dollarisation of the economy, there has been a big increase in the number of restaurants and coffee shops in Harare.  The Zimbabwe Tourism website has also recently been upgraded.
Try Chibuku, a popular local beer. It comes in "scuds" - large 2 litre brown plastic containers. The beer is lumpy and opaque beige, but is good and painfully cheap.
Shake-shake is prepackaged sorghum beer (brewed in the traditional African style) and is very thick and filling, and comes in milk cartons.
The locally brewed Castle, Lion, Zambesi and Bohlingers are definitely worth trying.
Harare has a vibrant club scene that goes on until the early hours. Note that if you must walk around after dark, be prepared for the frequent blackouts that will occur without warning. Try to carry a working flashlight whenever possible (like from a phone), and be VERY careful where you step as many sidewalks have uncovered manholes and gaps that can be very dangerous if you step in the wrong place.
The city boasts an internationally recognized 5 star hotel (The Meikles Hotel), but also has a signficant number of three to four star hotels that offer affordable accommodation without compromising on quality. These include The Crowne Plaza Monomotapa, The Cresta Lodge and The Holiday Inn. There are several cheap backpackers guesthouses, particularly in Selous Avenue (doubles with shared bathrooms in the $20 range). But be wary when walking alone at night in the Selous Avenue area. Harare also has quite a number of bed and breakfast/guest houses, mostly set in former residential houses with extensive gardens.
Walking around the town after dark should be avoided. If you leave your hotel to visit restaurants, take a taxi. Also, it is illegal to walk on the sidewalks around the President's palace after 6PM. If you do so, you will be on the wrong end of a large gun, and threatened with a large fine and/or imprisonment by the guards. If this happens, keep calm. They will come up with a story explaining all the trouble they have to go through to erase all the evidence of your transgression and try to solicit a bribe from you, and they will "haggle" for whatever money you have. If you are able to, contact your embassy immediately. You may be let go with just a warning. Otherwise, stubbornly offer much less than you actually have, but beware: if you say a figure that is too low and they believe you are lying about how much you have, it could become very expensive very quickly. Better to avoid the situation in the first place.
The condition of the roads in Zimbabwe has deteriorated dramatically in recent years since the government has failed to maintain them. Most of the country is now without street lights. The main highways are still in a good state of repair outside of the cities: traffic is so light now that damage from trucks is minimal. You should be all right without a 4x4 unless you head into rural areas and game parks. If you enter from South Africa, be sure that your insurance waiver is valid for travel in Zimbabwe.