Zimbabwe travel guide
After a difficult decade or so, stability is returning to Zimbabwe and pioneering tourists are gradually trickling back to the country. They are richly rewarded for their endeavours: with its abundance of natural wonders, welcoming locals, fascinating heritage and good climate, Zimbabwe is one of the most remarkable countries in Africa.
The jewel in its glistening crown is Victoria Falls. Straddling the border between Zimbabwe and neighbouring Zambia, this waterfall is officially the largest on the planet and hearing the roar of all that cascading water makes for an unforgettable experience.
As well as awe-inspiring natural spectacles, Zimbabwe offers some of the best wildlife in southern Africa. From the forested mountains of the Eastern Highlands to the sun-washed grasslands of Hwange National Park, the country is teeming with flora and fauna, including the Big 5 (elephant, rhino, leopard, buffalo and lion).
Roughly 11% of Zimbabwe's land has been set aside for parks and wildlife estates, but it can do big cities too. The two most populous are Harare and Bulawayo, which serve up an impressive selection of cultural attractions, hip bars and fine dining restaurants. Between these two urban hubs lie the astonishing late Iron Age stone ruins at Great Zimbabwe, which shoot down theories that sub-Saharan Africa had no great civilizations.
It’s not all smooth sailing, though. Whilst Zimbabwe’s fragile economy is slowly improving, there is still widespread poverty and the government lacks the resources to deal with the ravages of the HIV pandemic, which affects an estimated one in four people here. Corruption is rife too, and roadblocks manned by officials looking for any excuse to fleece you can hinder cross-country travel.
But for the most part Zimbabwe remains a peaceful place full of peaceful people, who desperately need tourism to help build a better future for this incredible corner of Africa.
390,757 sq km (150,872 sq miles).
15,966,810 (UN estimate 2016).
36.4 per sq km.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa since November 2017.
The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) provides advice about risks of travel to help British nationals make informed decisions. Find out more about FCDO travel advice.
Before you travel
No travel can be guaranteed safe. Read all the advice in this guide as well as support for British nationals abroad which includes:
- advice on preparing for travel abroad and reducing risks
- information for women, LGBT+ and disabled travellers
If you choose to travel, research your destinations and get appropriate travel insurance. Insurance should cover your itinerary, planned activities and expenses in an emergency.
This advice reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a full ‘British citizen’ passport from the UK, for the most common types of travel.
The authorities in Zimbabwe set and enforce entry rules. If you’re not sure how these requirements apply to you, contact the Zimbabwean Embassy in the UK.
There are no COVID-19 testing or vaccination requirements for travellers entering Zimbabwe.
You may be asked to complete an arrival form, including the addresses of where you are staying.
Travel within Zimbabwe
There are some COVID-19 measures in place, including the requirement to:
- wear face masks on public transport, inside workplaces and in public inside spaces
- socially distance
- sanitise hands in some settings
Enforcement is inconsistent.
There is an official curfew between midnight and 5:30am.
Passport validity requirements
To enter Zimbabwe, your passport must:
- be valid for at least 6 months from the date of your arrival
- have 3 blank pages, in case you need to enter Zimbabwe and exit through one of the neighbouring countries or if you need to leave at short notice
Check with your travel provider that your passport and any other travel documents meet their requirements. Renew your passport if you need to.
You will be denied entry if you do not have a valid travel document or try to use a passport that has been reported lost or stolen.
You must have a visa to visit Zimbabwe.
Applying for a visa
Most visitors apply for a visa on arrival in Zimbabwe. Take enough US dollars with you in small notes to pay for your visa – see information on visa fees from the Zimbabwean Embassy.
You can also apply for an e-visa before you travel.
It is no longer possible to get a visa from the Zimbabwean Embassy in London.
Zimbabwe usually grants 30-day visas. Check the number of days on your visa covers your intended period of stay.
To extend or renew visas or permits, go in person to the Government of Zimbabwe Immigration Department.
To stay longer (to work or study, for business travel or for other reasons), you must meet the Zimbabwe government’s entry requirements. Check which type of visa or work permit you need with the Official Government of Zimbabwe web portal.
You must have a temporary work permit if you’re volunteering or doing missionary work.
Zimbabwean temporary travel documents
Zimbabwean temporary travel documents (TTDs) are not valid for re-entry to the UK. You could be stranded in Zimbabwe if you travel using this document.
The KAZA Univisa is valid for travel between Zimbabwe and Zambia and day trips into Botswana. It’s available at Harare, Bulawayo and Victoria Falls airports and at the land borders at Victoria Falls (Zambian border) and Kazungula (Botswana border). It costs 50 US dollars and is valid for 30 days.
At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the vaccinations and certificates you need in TravelHealthPro’s Zimbabwe guide.
Depending on your circumstances, this may include a yellow fever certificate.
There are strict rules about goods that can be brought into and taken out of Zimbabwe. You must declare anything that may be prohibited or subject to tax or duty.
There is a UK arms embargo against Zimbabwe. It is an offence in UK law to take firearms into Zimbabwe, even if you plan to bring them back to the UK.
Taking money into and out of Zimbabwe
It is illegal to leave Zimbabwe with more than 10,000 US dollars cash (or the same amount in other currencies), unless it is left over from funds you brought with you and declared on arrival. Keep the proof of declaration to avoid problems with officials when you leave.
If you’re working as a journalist (for example, as a reporter or news photographer), you must get accreditation before you travel from the Zimbabwean Embassy in the UK. If you do not have proper accreditation, you are at risk of arrest, detention in difficult conditions, a fine and deportation.
The Zimbabwe government uses a broad definition of journalism. This may include any form of interview, filming or photography. Consider carefully the risks associated with engaging in social media activities such as posting comments, blogging or sharing photographs, which can be seen as journalism.
There is a high threat of terrorist attack globally affecting UK interests and British nationals, including from groups and individuals who view the UK and British nationals as targets. You should remain vigilant at all times.
UK Counter Terrorism Policing has information and advice on staying safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Find out how to reduce your risk from terrorism while abroad.
Terrorism in Zimbabwe
Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in Zimbabwe, attacks cannot be ruled out.
Demonstrations and rallies can be unpredictable and may turn violent. Authorities have in the past used force to suppress them, including after post-election protests in August 2018 and fuel demonstrations in January 2019. Avoid political activity, or activities which could be considered political, including political discussions in public places or online.
It is illegal to make derogatory or insulting comments about the President or to carry material considered to be offensive to the President’s office.
Blackouts and water rationing
There are long power blackouts because of electricity shortages. During blackouts, traffic lights may not work. There is also water rationing in parts of the country. Contact your tour operator or hotel for the latest updates.
Mobile network and landlines
The Zimbabwean mobile phone network and landlines are unreliable.
Protecting your belongings
There is a moderate level of crime in Zimbabwe. People travelling alone may be more vulnerable. Mugging, pickpocketing and jewellery theft are common in city centres, especially after dark. Street lighting can be poor. Be vigilant when leaving banks and cash points. Do not carry or display large amounts of cash in public places.
There have been occasional armed robberies targeting foreign residents. Make sure your accommodation is always secure.
There have been thefts and smash-and-grab robberies from vehicles, including:
- at the main intersections along the route to Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport
- along Liberation Legacy Way (Borrowdale Road) and Churchill Road in Harare
- on the Masvingo-Beitbridge road
Be particularly vigilant when using these routes. Keep vehicle doors locked and windows closed. Be careful at night and at petrol stations. Do not leave your vehicle unattended in unguarded areas in towns.
Laws and cultural differences
Carry a photocopy of your passport or your Zimbabwean resident ID at all times. Leave your original passport somewhere safe. If you lose your UK passport, get a police report. You may need to show this to immigration to explain why you have no proof of entry when you depart.
Illegal drugs and prison sentences
Zimbabwean laws on the possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs are strict and carry heavy fines or prison sentences.
Zimbabwe’s economic situation remains unpredictable. People use Zimbabwean and US dollars. This may change without notice. It is illegal to exchange foreign currency anywhere other than officially licensed dealers such as banks or bureaux de change. Bureaux de change will accept and change foreign currency, particularly US dollars.
There is a shortage of physical cash, so it’s not always possible make withdrawals using an international debit or credit card. Change is rarely available, so carry small denomination notes.
Check in advance what payment methods a restaurant, hotel or tour operator will accept. Some businesses, including some medical providers, may not accept credit or debit cards. Most suppliers prefer US dollars in cash.
Check before making a transaction whether the price quoted is in Zimbabwean or US dollars, as the symbol for both is $. Check exchange rates before any transaction, as they are unpredictable.
To avoid being overcharged, make sure to say you’re using an international bank card when paying in shops and restaurants. Also, make sure they charge you in the correct currency.
There are also some challenges with international transfers from outside of Zimbabwe.
Using cameras and binoculars in secure areas
It is illegal to take photographs of government offices, airports, military establishments, official residences, embassies and other sensitive places without special permission from the Ministry of Information. It is also illegal to photograph police and armed forces personnel, demonstrations and protests. Laws are strictly enforced.
State House in Harare
Armed members of the Presidential Guard patrol the area around State House in Harare (the President’s official residence). They do not allow loitering by motorists, cyclists or pedestrians, and it is illegal to take photographs. The roads in this area are closed from 6pm to 6am. Do not use GPS navigation systems around the President’s residence and, if possible, avoid the area altogether.
Since 1984 it has been illegal to hold dual nationality. The Constitutional Court recently ruled that some categories of dual nationality are legal, and it is now possible for Zimbabwean citizens by birth to hold dual nationality. However, the legislation remains inconsistent, and the Zimbabwean authorities may obstruct, detain or even seek to prosecute someone they consider an offender. The British Embassy is not able to provide the full range of consular services to people with dual British and Zimbabwean nationality.
It is illegal to possess or import pornographic material.
Do not carry any precious or semi-precious stones without the correct paperwork.
Wildlife, animal products and souvenirs
It is illegal to buy, sell, kill or capture any protected wild animal or trade its parts without a licence. Buying or trafficking such goods risks prosecution and prison sentences of up to 9 years.
It is illegal for civilians to wear any form of clothing made from camouflage material.
Sex between men and same-sex marriage are illegal in Zimbabwe. Zimbabwean society remains conservative towards same-sex relations, especially between men. However, there is a small but active underground LGBT+ scene in Harare and prosecutions are rare. Be aware that showing affection in public could result in unwanted attention.
Outdoor activities and adventure tourism
Safari lodges and game reserves
Safety standards in Zimbabwe’s safari lodges and game reserves vary. Check with the Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe whether operators are trained and licensed. Animal attacks have injured and killed visitors. Treat wild animals with caution and respect and always keep a safe distance from them. Some activities, such as walking or canoe safaris, could pose risks to personal safety. Make sure your travel insurance covers all the activities you plan on doing in Zimbabwe.
If you are planning to drive in Zimbabwe, see information on driving abroad.
You need either a 1968 international driving permit (IDP) or a UK driving licence to drive in Zimbabwe. The 1949 IDP is not accepted any more. You cannot buy an IDP outside the UK, so get one before you travel. You can buy an IDP in person from some UK post offices – find your nearest post office branch that offers this service.
You can drive in Zimbabwe with a UK driving licence for up to 12 months. Make sure you have copies of your passport’s photo page and visa with you in the car at all times. Be ready to show ID if asked and keep the originals in a safe place where you can get them easily.
Obey police signals, stop at roadblocks and tollgates. Make sure you get a receipt if you are asked to pay any fine.
The standard of driving is very poor in Zimbabwe. Traffic accidents are a common cause of death and injury. Hazards include:
- deep potholes
- broken traffic lights
- poorly lit vehicles (including heavy good vehicles and cyclists)
- poorly lit roads
- badly marked roads
- stray livestock
Emergency services may provide very limited help in the event of an accident, and ambulances are often delayed.
- always wear a seatbelt
- lock car doors
- avoid driving outside main towns at night
- travel carefully on roads between cities
- carry a comprehensive medical kit
- be careful about stopping at laybys
Plan carefully before setting out on long-distance journeys. Get local advice about any places you plan to visit. Fuel is sometimes unavailable and there may be queues. Carry extra fuel or top up your tank whenever possible. Before you pay for fuel, check if you can pay with an international card.
It is illegal to continue driving when the President’s motorcade goes past, no matter which side of the road you’re on. If you see the motorcade, pull off the road or on to the side of the road if this is not possible. The security forces have assaulted people for stopping in the wrong place or for not stopping soon enough.
If you’re resident in Zimbabwe, you may want to get a Zimbabwean licence to minimise the chance of problems at roadblocks.
If you’re bringing a vehicle not registered in Zimbabwe into the country, you must have a police vehicle clearance certificate (temporary import permit).
Commuter buses (‘combis’) are often overcrowded, inadequately maintained, uninsured and recklessly driven. Avoid them if possible. Larger intercity buses may also be poorly driven. There have been serious road accidents involving long-distance buses travelling at night.
Taxis recommended by hotels are usually reliable and in good condition. Major hotels usually have their own taxis.
The UK Air Safety List (ASL) lists all known airlines in Zimbabwe that do not meet international safety standards and are banned from operating commercial air services to and from the UK. Check the UK Air Safety List when considering which airlines to fly with. The list is maintained by the Department for Transport, based on advice from the UK Civil Aviation Authority.
British government employees travelling to and within Zimbabwe have been advised to use carriers that are not on the UK ASL.
The rail system in Zimbabwe is underdeveloped and very poorly maintained. Level crossings are poorly marked, resulting in many accidents. Passenger services are currently suspended. Check with National Railways of Zimbabwe for updates.
Extreme weather and natural disasters
The rainy season runs from November to April. Heavy rainfall can make roads harder to pass and some areas impassable.
This section has safety advice for regions of Zimbabwe. It only covers regions where FCDO has specific advice.
There continue to be invasions of commercial farms, sometimes accompanied by violence and threats. Take care when visiting farming areas that you are not familiar with.
The diamond mining area in Marange is a restricted area. Turn back if you are stopped and told that you are not allowed to access a particular area. There have been car robberies and attacks on car occupants in the Beitbridge area.
Before you travel check that:
- your destination can provide the healthcare you may need
- you have appropriate travel insurance for local treatment or unexpected medical evacuation
This is particularly important if you have a health condition or are pregnant.
Emergency medical number
Dial 112 from a mobile phone and ask for an ambulance.
The Official Government of Zimbabwe web portal has a full list of emergency numbers.
Contact your insurance company promptly if you’re referred to a medical facility for treatment.
Vaccinations and health risks
At least 8 weeks before your trip check:
- the latest information on vaccinations and health risks in TravelHealthPro’s Zimbabwe guide
- where to get vaccines and whether you have to pay on the NHS travel vaccinations page
Parts of Zimbabwe are currently experiencing a cholera outbreak which is spreading across the country. See information on cholera from TravelHealthPro.
In October 2023, the government declared a polio outbreak in Zimbabwe. Ensure you are fully vaccinated and see information on polio from TravelHealthPro.
The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or bought in the UK can be different in other countries.
The NHS has information on whether you can take your medicine abroad.
Healthcare facilities in Zimbabwe
Healthcare provision and quality in Zimbabwe is variable and can be very poor outside of the major cities.
There are shortages of drugs and trained medical staff in hospitals, making it difficult for hospitals to treat some illnesses and trauma cases.
Fuel shortages have reduced emergency response capabilities.
Private clinics will not treat patients until they pay and often require large amounts of cash before they will admit emergency cases, even if you have travel insurance. Many businesses in Zimbabwe will only accept US dollars in cash, rather than credit or debit cards. This includes some medical providers. Medical costs, particularly for evacuation, can be high. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.
FCDO has a list of English-speaking doctors in Zimbabwe.
Travel and mental health
The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) cannot provide tailored advice for individual trips. Read this travel advice and carry out your own research before deciding whether to travel.
Emergency services in Zimbabwe
Telephone: 112 (ambulance, fire, police)
Econet (mobile service provider) subscribers: 112
NetOne (mobile service provider) subscribers: 114
Landline: 0800 3222 911
The Official Government of Zimbabwe web portal has a full list of emergency numbers.
Contact your travel provider and insurer
Contact your travel provider and your insurer if you are involved in a serious incident or emergency abroad. They will tell you if they can help and what you need to do.
Refunds and changes to travel
For refunds or changes to travel, contact your travel provider. You may also be able to make a claim through insurance. However, insurers usually require you to talk to your travel provider first.
Find out more about changing or cancelling travel plans, including:
- where to get advice if you are in a dispute with a provider
- how to access previous versions of travel advice to support a claim
Support from FCDO
FCDO has guidance on staying safe and what to do if you need help or support abroad, including:
- finding English-speaking lawyers and funeral directors
- finding help and services in Zimbabwe
- dealing with a death in Zimbabwe
- being arrested in Zimbabwe
- getting help if you’re a victim of crime
- what to do if you’re in hospital
- if you’re affected by a crisis, such as a terrorist attack
Help abroad in an emergency
If you are in Zimbabwe and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the British Embassy in Harare.
You can also contact FCDO online.
FCDO in London
You can call FCDO in London if you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad.
Telephone: 020 7008 5000 (24 hours)
Risk information for British companies
The Overseas Business Risk service offers information and advice for British companies operating overseas on how to manage political, economic, and business security-related risks.