All the facts you need to know about the country itself.
Full Country Name Republic of Zimbabwe
Area 390,580 sq km
Population 15.764 million (UN 2015)
Capital and largest City Harare
Borders South Africa, Botswana, Zambia and Mozambique
Religion Christian and indigenous beliefs
Time Zone Standard time is two hours in advance of Greenwich Mean Time
Languages English is widely spoken and one of the official languages, together with Shona and Ndebele being the most popular. The 16 official languages also include Kalanga, Nambya, Venda, Suthu and Tonga.
Country Dialling Code +263
Zimbabwe is a landlocked country in Southern Africa which 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 Matopo Hills and the verdant mountains of the Eastern Highlands, from National Parks teeming with wildlife, to the Great Zimbabwe ancient ruins.
Victoria Falls is Zimbabwe’s most popular tourist destination and one of the greatest natural wonders of the world. Their two-kilometre wide curtain of water plunges deep into the Zambezi Gorge creating a cloud of mist that can be seen up to 32 kms 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 111 metre bungee jump into the Zambezi River gorge from the bridge linking Zimbabwe to Zambia.
When to Travel
When to Travel
There is no right time to travel to Zimbabwe, just the right time for you! Here we go through the benefits and downsides of each season.
- The optimum time to witness Victoria Falls in full flood is between the months of June to September when visibility is at its best.
Dry season: June to October
This is the country’s green season and is arguably the optimal time of year to experience a safari in Zimbabwe, as Wildlife is plentiful nearby permanent water sources, which are few and far between.
Benefits to visiting Zimbabwe in the dry season:
- Temperatures are pleasant although it is important to mention that the evenings in May and June can be lower so it is advisable to pack accordingly. Towards the end of the dry season the climate can be hot and humid.
- Unlike some safari destinations Zimbabwe doesn’t get crowded in the peak season.
- In May and June game viewing can be hindered by long grass.
- There are fewer mosquitos at this time of year.
Downsides of visiting Zimbabwe in the dry season:
- As with all safari destinations prices are higher in the dry season, so the budget conscious may wish to visit during the green season.
Green season: June to October
You can expect heavy rainfall. Plains are covered with tall grass and heavy foliage. Temperatures are higher and in between the showers of rain the days are less dusty.
Benefits to visiting Zimbabwe in the green season:
- This time of year is a photographer’s dream!
- Landscapes are emerald green and scenic.
- Baby animals are in abundance at this time of year.
- Prices are significantly reduced making it a much more affordable option.
- Visitors are fewer so it makes for a much more private safari experience.
- Victoria Falls is in full flow.
- There is an abundance of birdlife.
Downsides of visiting Zimbabwe in the green season:
- In December through to February you can expect persistent rainfall.
- Some of the dirt roads can be blocked off if they become flooded.
- Long grass can make it trickier to spot wildlife.
Here is the “need to know” information about visas for Zimbabwe.
Do I need a Visa to Travel to Zimbabwe?
- At the time of writing, a visa for Zimbabwe is required for all Australian Passport Holders.
How much does a Zimbabwe visa cost
- Single Entry Visa: USD 30 per person on an Australian Passport (subject to change).
- Double Entry Visa: USD 45 per person on an Australian Passport (subject to change).
- These fees can only be paid in cash and change may not be available so please have the correct money available.
- The visa can either be obtained prior to departure in Australia from the Zimbabwe Embassy in Canberra, or on arrival at the airport or border post.
- It is important to have two blank pages side by side in your passport for the entry and exit stamps to be issued. If there is insufficient space, entry into the country may be denied.
- Visitors must also be in possession of onward travel documents and have sufficient funds for the duration of their stay.
Please double check this with Bench Africa or your travel agent as this may change at any time
What you need to know about your finances for your holiday in Zimbabwe.
- The major currency is the US Dollar
- The South African Rand and the British Pound are also acceptable.
- Please make sure you bring with you all the US Dollars that you need as it is impossible to get any when you are in Zimbabwe.
- We would advise that you bring double what you think you are going to need for your trip – just in case.
- Make sure that you have smaller denominations of money as change is hard to come by here too.
- For larger purchases in your hotel you can use your card but for your visa, market souvenirs, tips and small meals or purchases you will need to pay in cash so BE PREPARED.
Is Zimbabwe the right choice for you and your family? Here’s what you need to know about travelling with children.
CONSIDERATIONS WHEN TRAVELLING WITH CHILDREN
- We would not recommend travelling to Zimbabwe with children under the age of 6 as it is not malaria-free.
WHY CHOOSE ZIMBABWE FOR YOUR FAMILY HOLIDAY?
- Zimbabwe can be an affordable option for families that want their children to experience the magic of an African safari.
- At the falls there are numerous activities, suitable for older, thrill-seeking teenagers. Activities here include white water rafting, helicopter flights, bungee jumping, micro lighting and horse riding.
- Otherwise, the thrill of seeing the falls is enough for some and younger families may want to experience this magnificent view on a river cruise.
Although electricity in Africa is a lot more reliable than it used to be, here’s what you need to be aware of.
VOLTAGE & FREQUENCY
- In Zimbabwe the general voltage is 220 and the frequency is 50 Hz.
- The British three rectangular blade plugs are commonly used.
- Electricity in most bush camps is provided by generators.
- Batteries may be recharged in the camp during the day but it is wise to double check with the camp manager.
- As the sockets can vary a ‘Travellers Adaptor Set’ is recommended.
- Voltage sometimes fluctuates and whilst power cuts are rare, they are not unknown. It is useful to carry a torch.
Travelling by road in Africa may seem daunting to some so we have put together some information so that you know what you can expect.
- Please note that road surfaces vary from tarmac, gravel, sand and occasionally vehicles may travel “off road”.
- Additionally, if visiting remote areas or National Parks and Reserves, the roads may well be rough, bumpy and in a poor condition and may be affected by adverse weather conditions.
- Road travel in Africa can be a risky business. We cannot stress enough how important it is that you travel with a reputable ground operator, who has strictly enforced guidelines regarding speed and road safety.
- We have spent the best part of 50 years assessing the ground operators in each country that we sell.
- In booking through Bench you know that you will be the safest that you can be!
Here are our recommendations to thumb through either before you leave for your trip to Zimbabwe, or whilst on safari.
- When a Crocodile eats the Sun – A Memoir of Africa: Peter Goodwin
- Dinner with Mugabe : Heidi Holland
- 101 Things to Know When You Go on Safari in Africa: Patrick Brakspear
- African Thunder: The Victoria Falls – Jan & Fiona Teede
Tipping is a delicate and sensitive issue and many people ask us for tipping guidelines, here is all the information you should require.
Tipping is usually considered customary in Africa although not as widespread as the United States or Europe. It is always at your discretion. If you feel that someone has gone the extra mile to make your stay more enjoyable, a tip would be considered a nice way of saying thank you.
To help you budget for your trip, the following is given as a guideline only (shown in US Dollars):
Driver (per person per full day): $5.00
Guide (per person per full day): $10.00
Camp Staff (per person per day): $5.00
Hotel Porter (per bag): $1.00
Restaurant (per person per meal): $1.00
A la Carte dining (% of the bill): 10%
- Useful Numbers
- National Park Fees
At Bench Africa we carefully select the properties that we use, and one size certainly does not fit all. Here is a list of all the different types of accommodation awaiting you in Africa.
We recommend this for the more intrepid travellers who want to get their hands dirty! Guests will put up their own tents and may be required to help around the campsite. The basics are catered for, as well as two-man tents and sleeping mats and campsites preselected to stay at along the journey. The amenities at these campsites can vary quite drastically depending where you are in Africa and what you pay. For example in the Serengeti there is no running water at the campsites, however in other parts of Africa the campsite may have a swimming pool.
Fully Serviced Camping
For those that want to experience a traditional safari, under canvas but would still like the chance to relax and take time to enjoy their environment we would recommend fully serviced camping. On arrival the mobile camp is set up and ready to go. The tents are spacious and can be really quite luxurious, often with camp beds and en-suite bathrooms, as well as a full staff of chefs, waiters and other helping hands. Here you will have lighting, hot water and cold drinks but you still have that amazing feeling of being at one with nature!
Luxury Tented Camping
Luxury tented camps are a very popular choice on safari because these camps are very intimate, usually with no more than 20 tents on site. These luxury tents offer spacious rooms with electricity, proper beds, as well as en-suite bathrooms with running hot and cold water. The cuisine and service is of a very high standard and you will eat like a king, with 3 decadent meals a day, as well as snacks. All luxury tented camps offer an all-inclusive package to incorporate meals, local drinks and game viewing activities. At night you can still go to sleep, under canvas with the sounds of the African wilderness around you. This is how you do safari in style!
Safari Lodges vary considerably in size and architectural design but essentially these are much more permanent structures, often with many more rooms than luxury tented camps. They will often have a swimming pool and conferencing facilities. A lodge will celebrate the nature surrounding it and will usually blend in with its surrounds and built making natural, locally sourced materials.
This would commonly be the largest of all the accommodation types but again can vary quite dramatically in style, size and the amenities that it offers. There is typically a reception area, with rooms opening directly onto a hallway. They would be less exclusive that the aforementioned accommodation types, with restaurants and other facilities open to the public.
A boutique hotel is a 5-star establishment providing all the features and facilities of a standard hotel but is always unique and very stylish. These properties are usually smaller and more intimate than a hotel and offer a very high-end service.
Hotels, lodges and tented camps in Africa range from good tourist standard to award- winning deluxe properties. On occasions it may be necessary to change a hotel, lodge or camp due to various reasons, which would be out of the control of Bench Africa. In this situation we will make every effort to give you as much advance warning as possible. In the event of this happening we may not be able to send out up-to-date information on this substitute property.
For more information on the individual hotels, lodges or tented camps where you will be staying please refer to your itinerary or speak to one of our Africa experts.
Here are some guidelines for travelling by light aircraft in Zimbabwe.
- Please ask the local operator at your hotel/lodge to reconfirm all onward flights prior to departure to ensure the flight timings are still correct.
- Most departure taxes (domestic and international) are included on tickets, however some regional and private airports have taxes to be paid for locally.
What to Pack
What to Pack
Here we have listed our recommendations of what you should pack for your travels through Zimbabwe.
- Formal clothing is generally not needed throughout most of Africa. We recommend that you limit your luggage to the basics. More formal attire is usually only required when staying in the more prestigious city hotel establishments and on luxury rail journeys such as Rovos Rail or the Blue Train, in South Africa.
- On a wildlife safari, casual cotton clothing is the most practical. Calm neutral colours such as tan or khaki are a good idea although a bush outfit is not essential. Some form of headgear is recommended, and sunglasses are essential. A warm fleece or jacket is advisable for colder evenings and early mornings. A lightweight raincoat may be useful as some seasonal rains can occur.
- Heavy footwear is not required, but sturdy, comfortable walking shoes or boots are recommended for nature walks, with a change of shoes (such as trainers) for the camp.
- The dress code is informal at all of the camps and it is advisable to bring long sleeved shirts and trousers for the evenings to minimise insect bites.
- Good laundry facilities are readily available at many hotels, game lodges and camps, and often on a complimentary service where the amount of luggage is restricted. However, on a busy itinerary it is advisable to check that your clothes will be ready before your departure. If your trip contains any light aircraft flights, then you may be subject to some very strict baggage restrictions. You will be limited to a certain weight, often between 15–20 KG. Bags also have to be soft-sided cases so that they can fit in the hold. These restrictions cannot be avoided, as there simply is not the capacity on these small planes so bear this in mind when you are packing for your Africa trip.
- It is always a good idea to dress in layers on activities to accommodate the early morning and late afternoon change of temperature. Winter months will definitely require a warm jacket and perhaps a beanie, gloves and a scarf.
- Hat for protection from the sun
- Good quality sunglasses preferably polarized
- Camera, charger and adaptor
- If you wear contact lenses, we recommend that you bring along a pair of glasses in case of dust irritation.
- Good walking shoes, trainers as well as sandals
- Socks (long socks, if you are doing a gorilla trek)
- Long trousers/slacks
- T-shirts/long-sleeved cotton shirt for cooler evenings
- Sweater/fleece/raincoat. These may be required for early morning and late afternoon game activities throughout the year.
- Lip balm
- Sports bra – ladies, you may need this for bumpy game drive
- Swimming costume
- Basic medical kit (aspirins, elastoplasts, Imodium, antiseptic cream etc
- Malaria tablets AND anti-histamine cream
- Insect repellent (many lodges do supply sprays)
- Protective suntan lotion particularly for pale and sensitive skins
- Tissues or ‘wet wipes’
Food & Drink
Food & Drink
What you can expect from food and drink in Botswana.
- Most lodges and safari camps have restaurants and licensed bars, and the food offered ranges from good basic meals to gourmet style. The standard of food in lodges and camps is generally very good.
- Bottled water is available in all tourist centres. It is advisable to drink at least 2-3 litres of water per day whilst on safari as dehydration can occur quickly, especially in the summer months.
- It is best to assume that water is NOT safe to drink unless it has been boiled. It is always wise to double check locally if in any doubt.
Wine tends to be imported and may be expensive; however, local beer and local spirits are reasonably priced and easily available as are soft drinks (Pepsi, Coca Cola etc) and bottled water.
It is vital that you visit your doctor at least 6 weeks prior to travel.
- We are not health professionals and as such we recommend you speak to your GP or local Travel Doctor for up-to-date information and advice.
- Malaria: It is recommended that precautions against malaria be taken for travel to most regions in Zimbabwe. We suggest you contact your doctor for advice on which prophylactic is recommended.
Make sure that you are covered from the moment you place your booking with us!
Our Tips for Choosing Insurance
- We strongly recommend you take out Comprehensive Travel Insurance at the time of booking your trip.
- Note, it is essential that you are fully aware of the Terms and Conditions of your travel insurance policy therefore we recommend that you read your policy wording carefully and contact your insurer should you have any questions.
Here is some “need-to-know” information about taking photos in Africa.
- Photographing of airports, Government buildings, etc is prohibited.
- Some local people strongly object to photographs being taken without permission, but will sometimes agree upon payment of a small tip. Please check with your guide.
- Film and memory cards are generally available, but stocks can be limited and could be expensive, so we suggest you carry with you adequate supplies.
- Telephoto lenses for game viewing, lens hood and ultra violet filters will be useful – bring your dust cover.
- Batteries can be recharged at most lodges and hotels, but it is advisable to bring spares.7 Easy-to-Follow-Tips to take Mesmerising Wildlife Photos
Safety and Security
Safety and Security
Although Africa is now safer to travel than it ever has been it is important to take note of the following information.
- Doors should be locked when driving after dark.
- Don’t walk alone at night in city streets, isolated beaches or remote areas.
- Travellers should not display unnecessary signs of wealth (e.g. mobile phones, money, and expensive jewellery) on the streets.
- Leave all your valuables including passports locked in the room safe where available.
Safety on Safari
- The wild animals are not like those found in theme parks – they aren’t tame.
- Most of the safari camps are unfenced and dangerous animals can (and do!) wander through the camps. Many of the animals and reptiles you will see are potentially dangerous. Attacks by wild animals are rare, however, there are no guarantees that such incidents will not occur. Bench Africa, our staff members, associates, agents, or their suppliers cannot be held liable for any injuries caused during an incident involving the behavior of wild animals.
- Please listen to the camp staff and guides. The safety precautions need to be taken seriously, and strictly adhered to.
- Do not go wandering off on your own without a guide – even to your rooms. After retiring to your rooms at night, do not leave them.
- Observe animals silently and with a minimum of disturbance to their natural activities. Loud talking on game drives can frighten the animals away.
- Never attempt to attract an animal’s attention. Do not imitate animal sounds, clap your hands, pound the vehicle or throw objects.
- Please respect your driver/guide’s judgment about proximity to lions, cheetahs and leopards. Don’t insist that he/she takes the vehicle closer so you can get a better photograph. A vehicle driven too close can hinder a hunt or cause animals to abandon a hard-earned meal.
- Litter tossed on the ground can choke or poison animals and birds and is unsightly.
- Never attempt to feed or approach any wild animal on foot. This is especially important near lodges or in campsites where animals may have become accustomed to human visitors.
Refrain from smoking on game drives. The dry African bush ignites very easily, and a flash fire can kill animals.
A little handy advice to get the best out of your shopping in Africa!
- There is an abundance of wonderful souvenirs and crafts to buy. Look for colourful materials, sisal bags, wood or stone carvings, unusual artwork, handcrafted jewellery, woven goods and attractive basketry are recommended.
- Bargaining is expected at markets and roadside stalls, but not in shops. The locals may start off with highly inflated “tourist prices” and you will need to bargain until you feel you are paying what the product is worth.
- Cash in local currency is accepted, as well as US Dollars, while credit cards may only be accepted in larger shops.
- Do not purchase ivory, rhino horn, animal furs/hides, tortoise shell, coral, game skin, trophies or elephant hair bracelets. These items are prohibited as hunting was banned in 1976.