Difference between revisions of "Zimbabwe"
Revision as of 17:42, 25 October 2011
Zimbabwe  is a country in Southern Africa. It is landlocked and is surrounded by South Africa to the south, Botswana to the southwest, Zambia to the northwest, and Mozambique to the east and north.
The Zambezi river forms the natural boundary with Zambia and when in full flood (February-April) the massive Victoria Falls on the river forms the world's largest curtain of falling water. The Victoria Falls are a major tourist attraction.
Once known as the Breadbasket of Africa, since 2000 Zimbabwe has undergone an economic collapse and the rule of law has gradually but largely broken down.
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Harare International Airport has a number of international flights, mainly to other African countries. When coming from Europe you can fly directly with Air Zimbabwe from London. Air Zimbabwe also operates to Dubai, Beijing, Guangzhou and Kuala Lumpur in Asia. However, a good option is to fly with South African Airways  or Airlink http://www.saairlink.co.za/ via Johannesburg.
SAA operates to quite a few European airports and has many flights to South Africa and other African destinations. When coming from South Africa you can also use the no-frills airline Kulula.com . KLM offer flights from Amsterdam via Nairobi which continue on to Lusaka from Harare. 
British Airways now stopped nonstop flights between Harare and Heathrow.
Victoria Falls airport has daily services by South African Airways, South African Airlink http://www.saairlink.co.za and British Airways from and to Johannesburg. Air Namibia has flight to Victoria Falls from Windhoek/Nambia.
Bulawayo also has an international airport, with flights from Johannesburg operated by SAA and Air Zimbabwe.
For domestic flights inside Zimbabwe, linking international flights to domestic tourism and business destinations, Solenta Aviation has introduced domestic flights in Zimbabwe catering for the Charter and Scheduled market, linking all major tourist hubs and safari lodges along the Zambezi River, Lake Kariba, Victoria Falls and Hwange.
Zimbabwe is accessible by road from the countries that surround it. Contrary to past scenarios, the fuel situation has improved with prices now being quoted in US dollars. As fuel has to be imported from either Mozambique or South Africa, you can expect to pay more per litre than you would in most other Southern African countries.
It should also be noted that roads in Zimbabwe are now in a very dilapidated state, and due caution should be taken when driving, especially at night, and in particular, during the November to March rainy season. Potholes are a very common occurrence and a serious threat to any vehicle that hits one.
Regular deluxe bus services operate from Johannesburg to Harare. A number of buses also travel from Johannesburg to Bulawayo. Greyhound drives to both destinations. Tickets can be obtained directly from Greyhound or through the Computicket website.
The more adventurous tourists could travel by train from Bulawayo to the Victoria Falls (). The train also passes through Hwange National Park, one of the biggest national parks in Africa.
Between the cities, buses still run but are bad even by African standards. The only exception is with buses from the RoadPort in Harare which run to Johannesburg, Lusaka, Lilongwe (not Blantyre) amongst other destinations.
Minibus taxis are available for intra-city transport, and are relatively inexpensive by European standards. They provide a cheap, though a not necessarily safe way of seeing the true Zimbabwe.
Hitchhiking is also a viable option, but tourists need to take care with whom they accept lifts from; hijackings and robberies of hitchhikers, especially within Harare, have been on the increase in the last few years. Be sure to bring some money along, as drivers very often expect some sort of fee to be paid up front.
Zimbabwe legalised the use of foreign currencies as legal tender, thus negating the need for the inflation-ravaged Zimbabwe Dollar, which has now been withdrawn from circulation.
The US dollar is now the de facto currency in Zimbabwe, although the South African rand and the euro are also widely accepted. Do not expect to be given change if the value is less than $1 as there are no coins in circulation, in supermarkets, you may be given change in chewing gum or sweets!
The use of credit cards is still very limited, with only a few service providers accepting VISA or MasterCards cards in Zimbabwe. Also, ATM use can be very limited for non-citizens, so please do yourself a favor and come with plenty of cash on hand.
As for costs, non-imported things are very cheap (especially labour intensive things), however for a tourist drinking coke and eating pizza, prices are not that much lower than in South Africa. Petrol (gasoline) supplies are improving, so are food supplies in supermarkets.
Haggling for a better price is common, but keep in mind that most people are very poor.
For a sample of what Zimbabweans eat (in some form, nearly every day), ask for "sadza and stew." The stew part will be familiar, served over a large portion of sadza - a thick ground corn paste (vaguely like polenta and the consistency of thick mashed potatoes) that locals eat at virtually every meal. It's inexpensive, quite tasty and very filling.
If you want to really impress your African hosts, eat it how they do: take a golfball-sized portion of the sadza in one hand and kneed it into a ball, then use your thumb to push a small indentation into it and use that to scoop up a bit of stew before popping it into your mouth. Don't 'double dunk'.
For extra credit, clap your hands together twice gently when it (or anything else for that matter) is served to say, "Thank you." Believe it or not, they'll be very impressed.
A variety of domestic brews are made in Zimbabwe, mainly European-style lagers with a few milk stouts mixed in for good measure. If you're feeling very adventurous, you may want to try the unusual "beer" that most locals drink, a thick, milky beverage known as Chibuku: guaranteed to be unlike anything you've ever tasted outside of Africa. It is generally sold in a 2 litre plastic bottle called a 'skud' but is often decanted into a plastic bucket after a good shake. Beware, however: it's definitely an acquired taste!
Imported drinks and locally made franchises are available as well as local soft drinks. Mazoe, the local orange squash (or other fruit flavour), is generally available in most eateries. Bottled water is also available. Tap water, as a source of potable water, in general, should be avoided. If no other source of water is available for drinking, then it is best boiled prior to consumption.
Zimbabwe has a great numer of tourist facilities, and offers a variety of accomodation options, from international hotels to guest houses, lodges, and safari camps for all budgets.
There are various hotels and motels in Harare. Several hotels have international partnerships, such a Meikles Hotel, Crown Monomotapa Hotel, Holiday Inn in Harare and Bulawayo.
In Bulawayo inner city, you may stay at the Bulawayo Club  - a charming old building you may also visit for lunch or dinner - choose Bulawayo Rainbow Hotel , Holiday Inn, or one of numerous lodges and backpacker's places.
The Eastern Highlands has much to offer. The Leopard Rock Hotel in the Bvumba is said to be beautiful, having been described as so by HRH Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, who said, "Where is there a more beautiful place in Africa? It is surely one of the most special places in the world." Another pleasant resort in the area is Troutbeck Resort 
If you are on a safari tour there are tented camps, chalets and camping sites in most of the safaris areas.
The US, Japan and Germany have lifted their travel warnings to Zimbabwe in April 2009; an indication that the security risk for visitors is low. However, given the political and economic instability in the country, travellers to Zimbabwe should take care with their personal security and safety. Whilst many locals may be curious about you and your country, remember, most Zimbabweans are still very sensitive to foreigners' opinions of their country and its politicians. Therefore, it is always a wise idea to avoid political discussions or discussions pertaining to opinions of political leaders.
Lastly, don't forget to tip as times are tough for locals, and they depend enormously on your generosity.
In the current economic situation many medicines are in short supply or cannot be sourced, so you are strongly advised to take all medications with you. Medical attention will be very hard to get: many hospitals even in cities are completely closed or unable to offer substantial care. Some medical personnel may perform procedures for payment, in somewhat dangerous and underequipped surrounds. Medical supplies are severely restricted. Your travel insurance is very likely to be invalid if you travel to Zimbabwe and medical evacuations impossible to arrange.
HIV/AIDS infection rate in Zimbabwe is the 4th highest in the world at around 20% or 1 in 5 infected. Obviously you should never have unprotected sex. If you form a serious relationship, consider both getting an HIV test before taking things further.
There is at present a cholera outbreak throughout the country, including in Harare.
Malaria is prevalent, so unless you are going to stay entirely within Harare or Bulawayo, anti-malarials are advised. Drugs reduce the severity of the disease but don't prevent infection, so also consider precautions such as:
Bilharzia is present in some lakes. Ask locally before swimming.
Snakes are common in the bush, and most bites are on the foot or lower leg. If walking, particularly in long grass, wear proper boots and either long, loose trousers or thick, concertinaed hiking socks. Shake out boots and shoes in the morning, in case you have a guest. These precautions also reduce the chance of scorpion sting. If you do get bitten or stung, stay calm. Try to identify the exact culprit, but get to medical assistance as rapidly as you can without undue exertion. Many bites and stings are non-fatal even if not treated, but it is safer to seek treatment, which is very effective these days.
Clapping twice is an accepted "thank you", especially when someone is handing you something (food, a purchase). If one hand is full you can clap the free hand on your chest. Unlike in Asia, taking items passed to you with both hands is considered impolite, as it is seen as being greedy. Men should clap so that fingertips and wrists meet, but women should 'golf clap' with hands crossing. This is a society with deep gender divisions.
When shaking hands or handing anything valuable to someone, it is polite to support the right forearm with the left hand (or vice versa), to signify the "weight" of the gift or honour. In practice this often means just touching the forearm, or even gesturing towards it.
When taking something from a local, it is strictly done with the right hand as it is seen as an insult if the left hand is used regardless of dexterousness. The same rule applies when passing something.
Be careful with your opinion as speaking out against the government is a crime.