Zimbabwe - Abbey Travel, Ireland



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Welcome to Zimbabwe


For a small, landlocked country in southern Africa, Zimbabwe offers an astounding variety of natural beauty and spectacular scenery. The country holds great appeal for active adventurers, outdoor enthusiasts and those with an appreciative eye for exquisite beauty - from the majesty of the famous Victoria Falls, to the giant marble-like boulders of the Motopo Hills, the verdant mountains of the Eastern Highlands, the national parks teeming with wildlife and the Great Zimbabwe ancient ruins to the country's impressive capital city, Harare. It is a great tragedy that Robert Mugabe and his corrupt regime has reduced this great country to an impoverished, cholera-ridden failed state, where the neither the rule of law nor the economy functions to any meaningful degree. The Victoria Falls are Zimbabwe's most popular tourist destination and one of the greatest natural wonders of the world. Their mile-wide (2km) curtain of water plunges deep into the Zambezi Gorge creating a cloud of mist that can be seen up to 20 miles (32km) away. The area is renowned for being the 'adventure capital of Africa', offering a variety of high adrenaline activities, including one of the wildest days of white water rafting on earth, and a 364ft (111m) bungee jump into the Zambezi River gorge from the bridge linking Zimbabwe to Zambia. If relaxing is more to taste, there are scenic flights over the area, game viewing and tranquil sundowner cruises above the falls. Wildlife flourishes in the untamed wilderness of the Zambezi Valley, in national parks, and on the shores of Lake Kariba, where hippo, crocodiles, buffalo, rhino, elephant and lion roam freely. Remote and protected wildlife reserves line the banks of the Zambezi River and the region offers some of the finest canoe safaris in Southern Africa, particularly the World Heritage site at Mana Pools, which is renowned for its outstanding variety of game. The saltpans and grassy plains of Hwange National Park support one of the largest concentrations of animals in the world, and is the largest game reserve in the country. Lake Kariba is treasured as a source of hydro-electricity, as well as for its fishing resources. It is a beautiful stretch of water studded with islands and the sun-bleached branches of dead trees, surrounded by mountains and forests. Houseboats offer a wonderful opportunity to relax and take in the spectacular sunsets, enjoy a variety of water sports, and spot the vast quantities of game attracted to the lake, including huge Nile crocodiles and hippo. The ongoing social and political unrest in Zimbabwe, together with an economy near to total collapse, has deterred most potential travellers from visiting Zimbabwe and experiencing some of the most breathtaking scenery and first-class game viewing safaris in Africa. Although visitors to the country are urged to exercise caution at all times and to remain aware of recent developments, the main tourist areas, and national parks in particular, have been largely unaffected by the political situation, being far from the cities where much of the instability exists. In a desperate attempt to attract business, many game lodges are offering extremely competitive prices to travellers.

Information & Facts


Business in Zimbabwe is conducted in English, and is fairly informal, with drinking and socialising very much part of the business scene. Dress is fairly conservative, but lightweight suits or casual jackets are more suited to the hot climate than formal business wear. It is customary to shake hands with men and women at the beginning and end of a meeting. Business hours are generally Monday to Friday 8am to 4.30pm, although hours vary considerably depending on the establishment; some businesses close at 11am on Wednesdays, and some are open on Saturday mornings.


Zimbabwe has a sub-tropical climate with a summer season of about eight months (October to April), with hot, sunny days the norm. Summer daytime temperatures range around 86ºF (30ºC) in the main centres, though the low-lying areas such as the Zambezi Valley, Kariba and Victoria Falls tend to be hotter, and there is always a possibility of an afternoon thunderstorm. The Zimbabwean winter climate is pleasant, with warm, dry days from June to August (though temperatures do drop more extremely at night) and the average temperature is around 68ºF (20ºC). Rain occurs mostly between November and March (summer), though throughout most of the year, the Eastern Highlands experiences rain with an average precipitation of about 1,020 mm (40 inches). Best Game viewing time is during the months of August, September and October: this is the dry season when animals congregate at the waterholes. The best time of the year for white water rafting on the Zambezi is September, October and November.


The international dialling code for Zimbabwe is +263. The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0027 for South Africa). International Direct Dialling is available. City/area codes are in use, e.g. (0)4 for Harare. Telecel, Econet and Net*One operators provide GSM 900 network mobile phone coverage in most cities, towns and tourist areas throughout the country. Internet and email facilities are available in most towns and cities Harare, but internet cafes are generally crowded.


In Zimbabwe it is against the law to take photographs of public buildings or government institutions, and it is not advisable to take photographs anywhere in the vicinity of such buildings, or any roadblocks and illegally occupied farms, as this could lead to arrest. It is also illegal to take photographs of police and military, as well as of demonstrations. It is a criminal offence to make insulting comments about President Mugabe and his government. It is also an offence to continue driving when the President's motorcade goes past, no matter which side of the road you are on. Visitors should be aware that an open hand is the political symbol of the main opposition political party, the Movement for Democratic Change, and a friendly wave may therefore be misinterpreted as a provocative gesture. Homosexuality is illegal. Civilians are not permitted to wear camouflage clothing.

Duty Free

Travellers to Zimbabwe do not have to pay duty on items to the value of US$250 provided this allowance is not claimed more than once in a 30-day period. These include goods for personal consumption, including tobacco, and alcohol up to 5 litres with no more than 2 litres of this being spirits. Prohibited items include narcotic and amphetamine drugs, honey, indecent or obscene reading material, toy firearms, and blade knives.

Electrical current in Zimbabwe is 220 volts, 50Hz. Three rectangular blade plugs are common.

Travellers to Zimbabwe who are coming from infected countries require a yellow fever vaccination certificate. Precautions against Hepatitis A, and rabies are also recommended. Other risks include typhoid, polio and bilharzia; a high prevalence of AIDS/HIV exists. There is a risk of malaria all year in most of the country, particularly in the Zambezi Valley, Victoria Falls, Hwange National Park and in the Eastern Highlands; the risk is very small in Harare and Bulawayo. Mosquitoes are chloroquine resistant. Precautions against mosquito bites should be taken to avoid any number of mosquito-borne diseases. Cholera outbreaks occur usually during the rainy season when flooding and contamination of water sources takes place. Rapidly declining health standards are also responsible for the world's lowest life expectancy according to WHO, and a breakdown in the water distribution system, especially in Harare. Visitors are advised to take food and hygiene precautions. The standard of tap water in urban areas is considered low, and bottled water is available. The current economic instability has led to shortages of medication in public hospitals, and many staff are on strike; it is advisable to bring a supply of personal medication. Medical insurance is essential. Private clinics expect cash payment and medical costs can be high.

English is the official language in Zimbabwe, although it is only spoken as a first language by a tiny percentage of the population. Several indigenous languages are spoken including Shona and Ndebele.

The official currency is the US dollar (USD). The Zimbabwe dollar (ZWD) was effectively abandoned as the official curency in early 2009. Major credit cards, including Visa and MasterCard, are accepted in most of the larger hotels, restaurants and shops; Many smaller establishments still do not have credit card facilities; Diners Club and American Express are sometimes not accepted. ATM facilities, dispensing US$, are available in the cities.

Passport Visa

All visitors require tickets and documents for return or onward journeys, as well as sufficient funds for their duration of stay. Visa fees, where applicable, are payable in US dollars. It is highly recommended that passports have at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.


Safety in Zimbabwe remains unstable due to political and social unrest, heightened by an economic crisis which has resulted in high rates of unemployment and inflation, nationwide fuel shortages, power cuts and serious shortages of basic foodstuffs. Many hotels and restaurants are having difficulty finding food supplies, and fuel shortages are causing delays and cancellations for public transport and flights. There has been a dramatic increase in criminal activity and opportunistic theft, particularly from foreigners in Harare and in the main tourist centres, such as Victoria Falls, and it is not advised to travel outside of those areas unaccompanied. Tourists are advised to avoid displays of wealth and valuables and passports should be kept out of sight or preferably left in a hotel safe.

Local time in Zimbabwe is GMT +2.

A service charge is usually included in the bill in Zimbabwe, otherwise a 10% tip is customary. In general tipping for good service is discretionary. Tour guides and game rangers depend largely on tips for their income and ranges from US$5 to US$10 per person per day.

The capital of Zimbabwe during the Iron Age (1100 to 1450), Great Zimbabwe was home to the royal palace and some 18,000 people. At some point the city was abandoned, and now it stands empty and ruined, with its most prominent features being the mighty stone walls that reach 16 feet (5m) high, and the famous Zimbabwean Birds that were perched on top of eight monoliths around the city. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the ruins are majestic and impressive, and form the largest ancient structure south of the Sahara Desert.

The largest game reserve in Zimbabwe, Hwange National Park covers over 5,637 square miles (14,600 sq km) of land in the western tip of Zimbabwe, near the Kalahari Desert. The park contains large numbers of gemsbok, hyena, African wild dogs, and elephants, and safari lodges within Hwange offer a range of safaris on foot, 4x4, and horseback.

Mana Pools National Park has a split personality: its vast expanse of flat land is dry and arid land becomes a broad expanse of lakes after each rainy season, which lasts from November to April. Animals follow the pools in search of water, and as the lakes dry up it is one of the best places in the region to view game like elephants, hippos, crocodiles and buffalo. Manameans 'four' in Shona, and refers to four permanent pools in the middle Zambezi that make up the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Far from any human settlement, Mana Pools National park is a great place to experience a truly wild Zimbabwe.

The granite formations in Matobo National Park contain rock art and Bushmen artefacts that date back thousands of years. Surrounded by huge rock formations and delicately balanced boulders, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is a scenic place to see game like white and black rhinos, leopards, zebras, monkeys and much more. One of the strangest, but most fascinating attractions in Matobo Hills is the lizard feedings that take place three times daily at World's View, which is also where Cecil John Rhodes is buried.

The fourth-longest river in Africa, the Zambezi originates in Zambia and flows through Zimbabwe to the spectacular Victoria Falls. The Zambezi River offers many attractions for Zimbabwe tourists, including tiger fishing, river boarding, and some of the most exciting white water rafting in Africa. You can also take a more sedate river cruise and just enjoy the beautiful scenery and the animals that come to drink at the river's banks.

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