This postcard picture I'm using here shows a picture of Beit Bridge border post which is quite unlike any of my ten memories of going through it (I flew into Harare twice, a much easier border crossing than Beit Bridge). The first time we arrived at the border post we arrived just before it opened at 06:00 and we were already quite far behind the front vehicles in the queues. There were a lot of trucks in the queue and lots and lots of people. This empty border post is actually unimaginable as one deals with the crush of humanity and the frustration of paper work for the vehicle, for ourselves. Even the South African side can be a pain, but the Zimbabwean side is nightmare.
This tip is to ensure that you do NOT in any circumstances give your passport to anyone who offers to help you facilitate the paper work. The paper work is all free and if you need to pay anything to anyone you should get an official receipt. That will discourage them from asking. Taking Zimbabwean currency in and out of Zimbabwe is fraught with difficulties and you might have to pay something like customs duty for something (and the "regulations" change from day to day) in Zimbabwean currency which will be given to you in exchange for South African rands or dollars at a ridiculous legal rate. Think of it as feeding the official's family because otherwise it will annoy you.
As I said, the Zimbabwean side is more likely to be a problem, but the South African side may also try to rip foreign tourists off.
Once you cross Beit Bridge be aware that prices for locals and for tourists will be different. Very annoying, but part of the joys of visiting Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe is a dictatorship and a badly run one at that. Over the last couple of years the economy has been run into absolute ruin. Zimbabwe used to be a major EXPORTER of food. Now it relies on outside food aid to feed its people – when the government lets the aid in. What does this mean to you as a traveller? You cannot get petrol. Plan on that fact. Also meat is hard to find. Just look at the picture of the shelves in the grocery store in Victoria Falls. What meat you find is frozen and must be cooked within an inch of its life. That’s because electricity goes off in the afternoons. It may have thawed before. Vegetables and other items can still be found. If you have a car, take everything you need from another country. It’s a shame, but that’s the state of affairs.
Or in the street either. You are looking at 1 MILLION DOLLARS! Unfortunately its Zimbabwe Dollars. Yep, 5 notes shouldn’t make up 1 Million of any currency. So here is the trick – and it is a trick. At the time I was there I got between 750,000 and 800,000 Zim dollars for $1 US or a cool 1.6 Million for every £1 (UK). If I had gone to the bank and gotten the OFFICIAL rate I would have only gotten about 260,000. That’s just how crooked the government is. And if you change money on the streets it could cost you, or more likely the local person, some time in prison. So how do you win? Go by the Travel/Excursion Operators and ask around. They will sort it out. Don’t get too much; even locals don’t want this Monopoly Money. Besides, the grocery stores are empty and there’s no fuel!
Freedom House publishes some great facts on "freedom" and Zimbabwe is on the list of the
"Worst of the Worst: The World's Most Repressive Societies 2007"
Other "Winners": Belarus, Burma, Chechnya, China, Cuba, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Haiti, Laos, Libya, N Korea, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tibet, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Morocco
In 2006, Zimbabwe suffered...deterioration of political rights and civil liberties amid a near-total collapse of the country’s economy.
protests prompted the large-scale deployment of security forces, the use of excessive force, mass arrests & physical abuse of detainees.
crackdown on the country’s few remaining independent media outlets, employing new technologies to jam radio broadcasts...monitor and intercept internet-based communications.
inflation over 1,200%...put the price of basic goods—including food and fuel—out of the reach of most Zimbabweans.
The government’s seizures of white-owned farmland..precipitated the collapse of Zimbabwe’s economy...[once] the majority of the country’s exports, foreign exchange, and jobs. ...seized land went to officials & loyalists...w/o farming background....making Zimbabwe the world’s fastest-shrinking economy in a country without an active war or insurgency
Corruption is rampant....at the highest levels of government...lack of transparency in govt allows graft to thrive.
security and military forces...abuse citizens with impunity. ...ignore basic rights regarding detention, searches, and seizures....govt has taken no clear action to halt the rising incidence of torture and mistreatment of suspects... human rights abuses such as assault torture, rape, extralegal evictions, and extralegal executions without fear of punishment.
Prison conditions are harsh and life-threatening.
Women enjoy extensive legal protections, but de facto societal discrimination and domestic violence persist.
Homosexuality, decried as un-African by Mugabe, is illegal in Zimbabwe.
Although the Matetsi is a national park which means the animals aren't meant for hunting or game, but on the other side of the river, on the zambian side there is no national park or reserve, which means that hunters from villages and pochers illegale cross the river and kill animals in the national park. They then drag them over the river by small boats. This is very bad because some animals like elephants can become hostile against humans, and the herds are damaged when the killers come. This is beeing prevented by patrols driving around and keeping an eye out. The sentence for poachers is death, if they run the patrols have license to shoot on sight, so it is very serious. When I was there three men where shot on sight just few days before and we saw three men on the Zambian side running for it when they saw our tourboat. If you see anything suspicious, talk to your safariguide.
Usually I’m the kind of person to shrug off peoples “warnings” about traveling here and there, but Zim is different! This is a very dangerous place to explore on your own. I’ve driven myself through several African countries, and I won’t go here again unless accompanied by someone who knows exactly how to deal with the conditions there. Zimbabwe is a beautiful country, with a horribly repressive regime squeezing its people to death. Not surprisingly, many of the 80% who are unemployed and living under a 1000% inflation rate, turn to criminal means to survive. I’ve been assured by my friends there that things have only gone downhill since my visit 3 years ago.
Zimbabwe has got one of the highest HIV infection rates in the world, with estimation that one in three black Zimbabweans have the virus today. Hence use prevention; else you probably play Russian roulette with a fully loaded gun.
Due to isolation of the current regime, and a general shortage of foreign currency this airline is as cash strapped as the rest of the country. Also Robert Mugabe seems to be using "his" national airline at good will whenever he chooses to go on a trip. If the aircraft are flying it is dangerous enough, but at times you may arrive at the airport to find that Uncle Bob is one his way to Cuba or China and takes the aircraft away from under your nose.
On a lighter note the airline is in the Guiness Book of World Records for the scheduled flight with the least passengers - Dubai to Harare, one passenger boarded!
Do I need to say more?
As people might know, there have been shortages of petrol in Zimbabwe for some time. Whereas it is not as bad as it was a few years ago, there is still the possibilty of shortages. Each gas station will have a sign along the road that will tell you yes or no to the types of fuel they have.
If you are driving at night, be careful when your vehicle is stopped. People have been known to run up to cars and smash the window in order to try and grab something of value. Someone we know was driving and someone tossed a brick at their window. It bounced off. How does a brick bounce off glass anyways?
Do NOT exchange your money anywhere the government has set up. The best place for you to change money is on the black market. If you aren't getting $100,000 Zim for $1 US, you are getting ripped off. The charge for a half hour of parking at the airport was $350,000 Zim. Of course...you have to find the black market to exchange your money...
Be prepared to wait a long time in line when entering Zimbabwe! Be sure you have your visas if required, and some cash (US dollars work well). And btw: When they charge you something in dollars, be aware that their own currency is called dollar, too! Don't make the mistake of paying them in US dollars!!!
Particularly in markets people will crowd around you wanting you to buy things, whilst someone else slips there hand in you pocket. Be gracious but firm, and tell them to go away before they actually swarm you.
Be very careful when leaving an ATM machine, especially in Vic Falls and Harare, I have heard of people being mugged as they have just left. Also I have heard from locals, that the area near the Railway line in Vic. Falls is particularly dangerous to wander round on your own after dark, so it is best to go in a group, particularly if it is very late.
Zimbabwe continues to be in the midst of political, economic and humanitarian crises with serious implications for the security situation in the country. All U.S. citizens in Zimbabwe are urged to take those measures they deem appropriate to ensure their well-being.
The Zimbabwean economy is in precipitous decline, with extremely high rates of unemployment and inflation. The economic crisis has led to a serious increase in crime. Zimbabwe is still experiencing spot fuel shortages that can hinder in-country travel.
Zimbabwe’s food shortages are expected to continue, although, it is difficult to assess the severity of the situation given government secrecy surrounding agricultural production. The humanitarian crisis is expected to worsen in coming months and may lead to possible large-scale migration of Zimbabweans to urban or border areas, with further disruption and an increase in crime and instability.
Commercial farms should be avoided at all times, especially those occupied by settlers or so-called "war veterans," who are typically young government supporters acting with impunity outside the law. In 2002, U.S. Embassy staff members were detained and one was beaten by war veterans on a farm near Harare.
American citizens visiting or resident in Zimbabwe are urged to register with the U.S. Embassy in Harare, located at 172 Herbert Chipeto Ave., telephone: (263) 4-250-593/4/5.
Zambezi River, 80 km from Victoria Falls, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
Good for: Solo
Corner 3rd Street/Jason Moyo Avenue, Harare, Zimbabwe
Good for: Solo
service was allright rooms are very basic, clean but a little used the restaurant was a posivtive...more
More Regions in Zimbabwe