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Travel Info


Quick Facts
CapitalHarare
Governmentparliamentary democracy
CurrencyZimbabwean dollar (ZWD)
Areatotal: 390,580 sq km
water: 3,910 sq km
land: 386,670 sq km
Population11,376,676 (July 2002 est.)
LanguageEnglish (official), Shona, Sindebele (the language of the Ndebele, sometimes called Ndebele), numerous but minor tribal dialects
Religionsyncretic (part Christian, part indigenous beliefs) 50%, Christian 25%, indigenous beliefs 24%, Muslim and other 1%

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.

Although the country is landlocked, its great rivers are used for transport. The Zambezi forms the natural riverine 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 falls have been a major tourist attraction.

Once known as the Breadbasket of Africa, in recent times Zimbabwe has undergone a politically induced economic depression. Due to political activities many white farmers have fled the country as refugees and a lot of farm land has been taken out of production and redistributed to gangs who support the government. Press freedoms have been curtailed and law and order has been compromised by armed gangs.

Regions

Administrative divisions 
8 provinces:
  • Manicaland
  • Mashonaland Central
  • Mashonaland East
  • Mashonaland West
  • Masvingo
  • Matabeleland North
  • Matabeleland South
  • Midlands

Cities

  • Harare - Capital
  • Victoria Falls

Ports and harbors

  • Binga
  • Kariba

Other destinations

  • Victoria Falls is a popular tourist destination. For specific information on getting in, sleeping, dining, activities, etc., see either Livingstone (located in Zambia) or Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe).
  • Great Zimbabwe - the archeological remains of a Southern African ancient city, located in present-day Zimbabwe which was once the centre of a vast empire known as the Munhumutapa Empire (also called Monomotapa Empire) covering the modern states of Zimbabwe (which took its name from this city) and Mozambique.

Understand

History

The UK annexed Southern Rhodesia from the British South Africa Company in 1923. A 1961 constitution was formulated that favored whites in power. In 1965 the government unilaterally declared its independence, but the UK did not recognize the act and demanded more complete voting rights for the black African majority in the country (then called Rhodesia). UN sanctions and a guerrilla uprising finally led to free elections in 1979 and independence (as Zimbabwe) in 1980.

Following a guerrilla struggle in the late 1970s, the former Rhodesia changed its name to Zimbabwe with Robert Mugabe as its leader. From 2000 onwards, Mugabe has instituted a policy of land redistribution in favour of putative veterans of this struggle - the results of which have been widespread lawlessness, sanctions and a mass exodus of the remaining white population. The prospects of change seem remote at present.

Climate

Tropical; moderated by altitude; rainy season (November to March). Although there are recurring droughts, floods and severe storms are rare.

Terrain

Mostly high plateau with higher central plateau (high veld); mountains in east

Elevation extremes : lowest point: junction of the Runde and Save rivers 162 m highest point: Inyangani 2,592 m

Get in

By plane

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 or the better choice British Airways [1] (http://www.ba.com). However, a good option is to fly with South African Airways [2] (http://www.flysaa.com) 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 [3] (http://www.kulula.com).

By car

Zimbabwe is accessible by road from the countries that surround it.

From South Africa

The N1 highway from South Africa will take you from Cape Town via Bloemfontein and Johannesburg/Pretoria right to Harare. Please note that this is a Toll Road, meaning that you have to pay a certain fee to use it, especially when coming closer to Zimbabwe. You can reach the N1 from nearly anywhere in South Africa, as it goes straight through the country.

By bus

Regular deluxe bus services operate from Johannesburg to Harare.

Overlander tours have begun to avoid traversing the country since 2001, and may visit Victoria falls and then continue via Zambia or Botswana.

By boat

Because it is landlocked, there is no way you can get into Zimbabwe by boat. Along the Zambezi you have the Cabora Bassa Dam that blocks the Zambezi river route.

Get around

Talk

Languages 
English (official), Shona, Sindebele (the language of the Ndebele, sometimes called Ndebele), numerous but minor tribal dialects

Buy

The official currency is the Zimbabwean dollar. The official exchange rate is ever-increasing (check right before you go due to rampant inflation), at the moment 73,879.00 Zim dollars for 1 US dollar. Unofficial black market rates are always significantly higher and also fluctuate rapidly; at the time this was written (2005), it was closer to 120000:1. You may only legally exchange forex at official selling points (else you risk being arrested), but you can offer to pay for goods and services in foreign currency and will likely receive a much-better deal without any substantial risk. In such cases, US dollars are your best bet; bring lots of small bills as no one will be able to give you change in forex.

Haggling for a better price is common, but keep in mind that most people are very poor so don't try to abuse their desperation.

Eat

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.

For extra credit, clap your hands together twice gently when it (or anything else for that matter) is served to say "thank you." Trust me: they'll be very impressed!

Drink

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 and of course bottled water. Drinking the tap water, while not dangerous or deadly, can be a bit risky. However this all depends on whether there is water in the reservoirs, as there are sometimes water cuts in order to divert water to areas that are low.

Sleep

There are various hotels and motels in the town. If you are on a safari tour there are chalets and camping sites in most of the safaris areas. Several hotels have international partnerships, such a Meikles Hotel, Crown Monomotapa Hotel, Holiday Inn in Harare and Bulawayo.

You also have access to lodges in the towns.

Learn

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Stay safe

Given the political and economic instability in the country, travellers to Zimbabwe should take care with their personal security and safety. However, on the whole the country remains very safe for foreign visitors (certainly more so than Johannesburg, for example) and you are likely to find it very welcoming and quite inexpensive. Simply exercise the same caution and sensitivity you would as a relatively well-heeled tourist travelling in any very poor country. And don't forget to tip; times are tough for locals, and they depend your generosity.

Respect

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. As in Asia, taking items passed to you with both hands is polite.

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