Eco-friendly travel guide to Zimbabwe advises how to be a responsible tourist. Learn how to travel in a sustainable way and how to respect the local people and culture. Make your trip green by supporting locally owned hotels, organic restaurants and other businesses. Read more on how to protect the environment by making conscientious choices and how to travel green in Zimbabwe, Africa.
- Air quality: 3 / 5
- Bus connections: 4.5 / 5
- Train connections: 2 / 5
- Hitchhiking: 2.5 / 5
- National parks: 5 / 5
- Outdoor activities: 4.5 / 5
- Locals' English level: 4.5 / 5
- Safety: 3 / 5
- Accommodation: US$20- $1000
- Budget per day: US$ 70 - $XX 2000
- 1 Responsible Travel
- 2 Air Quality and Pollution
- 3 Respect the Culture
- 4 Top 10 Places to Visit
- 5 Explore
- 6 Eat
- 7 Drink
- 8 Activities
- 9 Accommodation
- 10 Regions
- 11 Cities
- 12 Getting There and Moving Around
- 13 Sustainable Shopping
- 14 Recycling
- 15 Work and Study Abroad
- 16 See Also
Zimbabwe is a landlocked country in southern Africa, located between the Zambezi and Limpopo Rivers, bordered by South Africa, Botswana, Zambia Mozambique. The country is a popular tourist destination known as the majestic Victoria Falls for its dramatic landscape and diverse wildlife and the many national parks, reserves, and safari areas. The capital and largest city is Harare. The second-largest city is Bulawayo. Victoria Falls is the most visited city in the country. Some ways to ensure responsible travel include:
- Choosing to stay in an eco-friendly hotel
- Ensure that you support local businesses. Several local souvenir shops, restaurants where the locals eat, and many other shops that sell local goods. By supporting these shops, you ensure that your money goes a long way in the country.
- You can also use public transport to make sure that you reduce your carbon emissions footprint. Instead of taking a taxi, grab a bus ticket, and travel with the locals, this is a great and cheap way to see the city. You can also stick to bicycles.
- Respect the local culture. Before traveling to a country that you are unfamiliar with, you can read up on their culture and beliefs to ensure that you do not offend the locals.
- Avoid overly packaged goods. Most vendors and open markets tend to cover goods with too many plastics. You can refuse these plastics to reduce the amount of waste or litter in the environment.
Air Quality and Pollution
The air quality in Zimbabwe is moderate as there is a significant amount of pollutants in it. The pollutants are mainly from traffic emissions, energy production, and industry. The levels of air pollution tend to be higher during winter. Zimbabwe's mining industry is also a major contributor to air pollution, particularly the cement and steel industries. The air quality is generally acceptable for most individuals. However, sensitive groups may experience minor to moderate symptoms from long-term exposure.
The land pollution levels in most Zimbabwean cities are relatively high, especially in downtown areas. The waste collection process has been a bit ineffective, leading to uncollected rubbish piles in some parts of the city. These not only make the country less beautiful, but at times they pose health hazards to city residents.
Water pollution is also a problem in the country, with the major causes coming from waste material released by mining and industry. Also, farming through runoff and the seepage of water containing fertilizers, insecticides, herbicides, and other toxic substances. These waste materials have resulted in a steady deterioration of the country's rivers and reservoirs.
Respect the Culture
The culture in Zimbabwe is exceptionally diverse due to the many indigenous groups that call the city home. There are a few cultural beliefs that these various groups share. When greeting people, it is essential to use your right hand to consider disrespectful using the left hand. Public display of affection is fronded upon and may even get you a fine. It is also important to note that homosexuality is illegal, and dressing provocatively is one sign of that, so better to dress modestly. Music is also a large part of the Zimbabwean culture, especially in Victoria Falls. Live entertainment is found all over the city, and this music is rooted in culture through the use of traditional stories and instruments such as the mbira, or thumb piano.
Top 10 Places to Visit
Zimbabwe is a beautiful country that is rich in natural resources and history. The country is a rewarding tourist destination, as there are numerous places for tourists to see. A greater part of the tourism industry revolves around its incredible natural beauty as most tourist destinations are outdoors. Below are the top 10 places to visit in the country:
- Victoria Falls is a waterfall on the Zambezi River in southern Africa, located on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. This waterfall is considered one of the world's largest waterfalls due to its width of 1,708 m. Victoria Falls is one of the seven natural wonders and is home to several unique plants and animals. The Falls offer a fantastic experience when there is a lot of water as you can see the booming smoke from a distance. The mighty Victoria Falls is a great spectacle to see as there is lovely vegetation, and the waters are lovely. The best time of the year to visit is between March and June when the water level is high. The falls offer breath-taking views, and there are plenty of tour activities taking place at all times. The tour activities can either be done on foot or by helicopter; if you can afford it. The Victoria Falls also provides a habitat for several unique species of plants and animals.
- The Kariba Dam is a double curvature concrete arch dam in the Kariba Gorge of the Zambezi river basin between Zambia and Zimbabwe. The dam is 128 meters tall and 579 meters long and forms Lake Kariba, a man-made lake, which extends for 280 kilometers and holds 185 cubic kilometers of water. The dam is a display of engineering expertise. There is a valley below the dam wall, which has a spectacular view. Kariba is home to the famous tigerfish and Kariba bream, and there is a lot of wildlife. There are several boat cruises available across the lake. The dam is also the primary source of power in the country.
- Great Zimbabwe is an ancient city in the south-eastern hills of Zimbabwe near Lake Mutirikwe and Masvingo's town. According to history, this was the capital of one of the great Shona kingdoms during the Late Iron Age. The stone city covers 7.22 square kilometers and could have housed an estimate of 18,000 people. It is recognized as a World Heritage site by UNESCO. The walls are tall, and some are up to eleven meters high and constructed without mortar. The city was abandoned, and with time it has fallen into ruins. To get the full experience and all the historical information, you should opt for the guided tour.
- The Chinhoyi Caves are a group of limestone and dolomite caves in north-central Zimbabwe. The area is a great historical site with mysterious sleeping pools; mysterious due to their blue color, tunnels, and views. There are many types of fish living in the pools. The climbs are sometimes used for fitness training sessions with groups. There is also a lion enclosure near the caves, where you get to see majestic lions. Also, there is a lot of superstition surrounding the caves, and the guides will tell you to be as silent as possible.
- Mount Nyangani is the highest mountain in Zimbabwe, with a height of 2,592 m. The mountain is located within Nyanga National Park in Nyanga District, about 110 km northwest of Mutare. The vegetation on the mountain vegetation is evergreen, mostly the forest along the wetter eastern slopes and grassland to the western side. The hike is steep and quite tiresome, but it is worth it as there are stunning views of the Nyanga National Park and surrounding mountainous areas at the top.
- Lake Chivero is a reservoir on the Manyame River in southwest Harare. It is a man-made lake that provides the city's main water supply for irrigation purposes and commercial fishing. There are various types of fish in the lake, including common grass carp, tigerfish, black bream, Clarias gariepinus, yellowfish, and green-headed bream. The lake and hinterland are protected as part of Lake Chivero Recreational Park. There is also wildlife such as rhinos and bears. There are barbeque stands by the lakeside where people can enjoy a braai, but it is best to bring your meat and drinks. They also have a boat ride for those who are up for it.
- The Balancing Rocks are geomorphological features of igneous rocks found in many parts of Zimbabwe. These rocks have been standing on top of each other for a long time. The particularly noteworthy ones are Matopos National Park and near the township of Epworth, to the southeast of Harare. The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe featured the Chiremba Balancing Rocks on the outskirts of Epworth on Zimbabwean banknotes. In Matopo there are scenic views with lots of wildlife. You can drive past the rocks, but to fully enjoy the experience, you can park by the roadside and climb up the rocks to take beautiful photos.
- The Natural History Museum of Zimbabwe is located in Bulawayo and contains exhibits illustrating the history, mineral wealth, and Zimbabwe wildlife. The show includes the second-largest mounted elephant in the world. The museum is huge, and it has nine public display galleries, a lecture hall, a cafeteria, and eight research departments. The museum is an excellent place to take the kids and is an ideal center for recreation and education. They also have life-size animals and birds and reptiles, all sorts of vertebra. There are also live snakes, which are quite thrilling and scary.
- Zambezi River is a usually calm river that offers the perfect place for many beautiful cruises with great food, an open bar, and a lovely atmosphere, all for 40 USD. The sunset view on one of these cruises is to die for, and the general experience is relaxing, especially after a long day in the scorching heat. There are many photo opportunities to add to your memory collection. On some cruises, locals are playing traditional music. There are many animals along the cruise route, and if you are lucky, you might see elephants cross the river, hippos, and crocodiles.
- National Botanic Garden of Zimbabwe is situated about 4 km North of Harare City Centre, and it houses the National Herbarium of Zimbabwe. The garden covers almost 7 square kilometers and was initially established as a recreation area in 1902. Half of the gardens contain indigenous plants from Zimbabwe's woodlands and include most of the 750 species found in the country, and the rest of the garden contains plants from the rest of Africa; including rare and endangered species, as well as exotics from South America, India, Australia, and the Far East. The Botanical gardens are lovely to spend a few hours relaxing and getting away from the city noise. There are statues of zebras and an oryx near the pool. The gardens also provide a lot of information on the country as a whole. Entrance is affordable at US$5.
Zimbabwe is an incredible tourist destination with most of the experiences in the outside. One of the most popular places to explore in the country is Victoria Falls, which is home to one of the World's Seven Wonders, which goes by the same name. There are many other sites such as The Devil's Pool; a natural infinity pool is on the edge of a sheer drop. The capital city Harare has many places to see as well, both historical and natural. The country has numerous National parks such as Hwange and Mana Pools, which are teeming with wildlife, making Zimbabwe one of the continent's top destinations. The choice to visit Zimbabwe is, without a doubt, a great one, and it will be worth your time and every cent spent. Keep reading to be able to find out more about this fantastic tourist destination.
- Harare Gardens is a beautiful sight to see, especially in the summer, with green lawns and beautiful flowers. The park is quite busy as there are always people milling around or just sitting and relaxing. The park is in the city center, and its environment is quiet and calm. The park has many trees, and there is enough shade for the many people who enjoy being in the park. There is also a theater in the park that hosts live entertainment, which you can enjoy as an art lover. There is a small waterfall in the corner of the park. The combinations of the aspects of the park make it a great area to take photos. Entry is free.
- Centenary Park is a gorgeous and evergreen park in Bulawayo that offers an excellent place to relax, whether alone or with company. Teenagers have abused the park as they are usually there in compromising positions, so there is a bit of security to reduce that. Besides this, the park is serene, beautiful, quiet, and perfect for meditation. There is a large gorgeous fountain in the center of the park, which adds to the park's beauty. People enjoy taking photos at the park, and you might even come across people taking wedding photos. Around Christmas time, the park is decorated with Christmas lights, and there is a nativity scene that people love to visit.
- The Victoria Falls Park is the only notable city park. There are lush green grass, beautiful flowers, and several park benches where people can relax and enjoy the fresh air. The park is commonplace for those who want to relax and have picnics or hang out with families or friends. There is enough space for children to play and run around. Also, fitness fanatics sometimes use the park for boot camps.
- Victoria Falls National Park in north-western Zimbabwe protects the south and east bank of the Zambezi River in the world-famous Victoria Falls. The national park extends along the Zambezi River from the larger Zambezi National Park about 6 km above the falls to about 12 km below the falls. There is a breath-taking helicopter tour to see the falls from above. A notable feature of the park is the rainforest, which grows in the spray of the falls and has ferns, palms, liana vines, and many trees such as mahogany that are not found anywhere else in the region. The park has several animals in the park, including elephants, Cape buffalo, southern white rhinoceros, hippopotamus, eland, etc., during game drives and walking safaris.
- Hwange National Park is the largest natural reserve in Zimbabwe on the west of the main road between Bulawayo and the Victoria Falls and near Dete. The park is impressive, with many wild animals, birds, and incredible landscapes. The large variety of wildlife includes all the big five and other small animals. There are elephants everywhere, and at times you might come across them crossing the road. Hwange is the best place to experience a safari trip as it is the best place in Southern Africa to watch animals in their natural inhabitants. The park is away from civilization and is in an area with beautiful scenery. There are many accommodation options, and the park staff is friendly and accommodating.
- The Matobo National Park is at the center of Matobo or Matopos Hills, an area of granite kopjes and wooded valleys about 35 kilometers south of Bulawayo, southern Zimbabwe. The hills were formed over 2 billion years ago, with granite being forced to the surface. This has eroded to produce smooth "whaleback dwalas" and broken kopjes. The Hills span an area of about 3100 km², of which 424 km² is National Park, the remainder being mostly communal land and a small proportion of commercial farmland. The park extends along the Thuli, Mtshelele, Maleme, and Mpopoma river valleys. A section of the national park is a game park that is home to many animals, including the white rhinoceros, kudus, zebras, and lots of monkeys.
- Mana Pools National Park is a 219,600 ha wildlife conservation area and national park in northern Zimbabwe. It is in the lower Zambezi River in Zimbabwe, where the flood plain turns into a broad expanse of lakes after each rainy season. The region attracts many large animals searching for water, making it one of Africa's most renowned game-viewing regions. Mana Pools National Park is a World Heritage Site that is home to a wide range of mammals, over 350 bird species, and aquatic wildlife. They offer many safari tours to see the many animals, including the endangered wild dogs and elephants. There are also many impala, lions, and baboons, as well as other antelope. There are campsites and lodges available, but it is challenging to get bookings due to the high demand.
Zimbabwe is a land-locked country, and as such, there are no official beaches. Some lakes have gorgeous lakesides with seating areas, which is as close to a beach as there is in the country.
- The David Livingstone Statue is a monument along the trail around Victoria Falls erected to commemorate David Livingstone. He was a real champion of the ordinary person, and the locals speak of him with great respect. David Livingstone is the one who named the Victoria Waterfall after Queen Victoria. The statue has an inscription which says that David Livingstone visited the falls in 1851, and he wrote his first impression on the beauty of the waterfalls on that particular visit.
- National Heroes Acre or Heroes Acre is a burial ground and national monument in Harare, Zimbabwe. The main purpose is to commemorate Patriotic Front guerrillas killed during the Rhodesian Bush War and contemporary Zimbabweans. Their dedication or commitment to their country justify their burial at the shrine. The actual monument itself is modeled after two AK-47s lying back-to-back, and the graves are meant to resemble their magazines. To get a full appreciation of the memorial and Zimbabwe's history, you will need a tour guide as there are no pamphlets or booklets that provide details about the monument. The area has pleasant woodland because it is protected.
- Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo Statue is an excellent monument of a beloved leader and visionary for all generations. The beautiful, well-maintained statue is a historical landmark that celebrates the iconic liberator Joshua Mqabuko Nyongolo Nkomo. Nkomo was an unapologetic freedom fighter and champion for racial and tribal justice. The complementary life-sized status is under some brass, and golden hues stands in the middle of a street named after him. There is a sunny view from all angles, and you can watch traffic flowing on both sides of Joshua's Statue. Unfortunately, the area lacks a clear historical account and a guide to understanding the statue's significance. There are always photographers waiting to take your picture near the statue.
- The Zimbabwe Museum of Human Sciences, formerly the Queen Victoria Museum, is a museum in Harare containing the seven-hundred-year-old Lemba artifact Ngoma lungundu, which some believe to be a replica of the Ark of the Covenant. The museum is simple and offers a refreshing place to go alone or take the kids and learn some of Zimbabwe's heritage. This museum is probably the best place to learn about the history of Zimbabwe. The best way to appreciate the museum is after you have done all your other activities in Harare or visit Great Zimbabwe, as a guided tour of the museum will reinforce everything you learned in those areas. The place has some exciting pieces that will open your eyes to the human sciences world.
- Bulawayo Railway Museum is a railway museum located at Bulawayo railway station that houses several exhibitions on the history of Zimbabwe's railway system. The museum is home to many exhibits, including Cecil Rhodes' personal railway coach. The museum is owned by the National Railways of Zimbabwe. They also have all kinds of train gear on display. The museum is fun for train lovers, and you are even allowed to climb into the locomotives. Entry is cheap, and you can spend as much time there as you want to roam around and climbing in/on the various exhibits. There is even a hand-powered trolley and 100m of track you can operate yourself. They charge $5 for a guide book but will let you use one and return it if you don't wish to buy it.
- Mutare Museum is one of the four national museums in Zimbabwe, and it was initially established as a society in 1954 before becoming a national museum in 1959. The museum has a variety of themes, which make it worth visiting for anyone. There is a well-presented section and a terrifying live snakes section. The museum also has an array of vintage cars, traditional artifacts, and war artillery used in the first world war. The museum is a few minutes' walk away from the city center and has good secure parking. Kids will love the exhibitions there, especially the classic cars collection.
Food is an essential aspect of the Zimbabwean culture and eating with friends and family is very important. Zimbabwe's staple is maize/ corn and is used in a variety of dishes, namely Sadza and porridge. Many western-inspired dishes were left by the British, such as bread, sugar, and tea, and these are part of Zimbabwe's daily life. People enjoy traditional food, but eating out in Zimbabwe is popular, and local and international cuisines are available.
Zimbabwe is mostly hot and so staying hydrated is important. The most common drink, after water, is Mazoe Orange crush, which is a local drink made of all fruit and no chemicals.
Zimbabwe's legal drinking age is 18, and beer is the most popular alcoholic drink in the country. The national beers of Zimbabwe are Zambezi lager and Hwa Hwa. Other major beers include Bohlingers, Lion, Eagle, and South African Carling Black Label and Castle. Imported wine, spirits, and liqueurs are available in hotel bars.
The tap water in some areas of Zimbabwe is acceptable to drink, and in others, it is not. The water in Harare particularly is not safe to drink.
There are several activities that you can enjoy while in Zimbabwe. The activities are designed to ensure that no one is left out, and people of different interests can still enjoy and have a great time. Some of the most popular activities include hikes, bike riding, white water rafting, game drives, and bungee jumping, to name a few. Most of the activities are centered around the bigger cities in the country. It is essential to carefully plan your itinerary to ensure that you get the best out of what the country offers. Generally, the best time to visit Zimbabwe is during the dry season (April through October), when the weather is most pleasant. This time is best as the lack of available water this time of year forces animals to congregate around rivers, lakes, and waterholes, making them easier to spot while on safari.
There is a vast range of accommodation options available in Zimbabwe. The different accommodation types range from charming little bush camps in most of the National park areas to world-class luxury hotels. There is accommodation to suit every taste and budget.
Green hotels or Eco hotels are certified green hotels that follow and practice green living in every sphere and activity. There are many green hotels in Zimbabwe's major cities, but it might not be easy to find an eco-hotel in the small villages. In such cases, tourists can opt for hotels that have at least some eco-friendly credentials. The main aim of eco-friendly hotels is to sustain the environment. These hotels tend to offer safe, non-toxic, and energy-efficient accommodation. Other characteristics include using renewable energy, organic soaps, energy-efficient light fixtures, and recycling programs. Also, the furniture in green hotels is usually made from eco-friendly or sustainably sourced materials. It is vital to confirm if the hotel you are booking is genuinely green as some hotels may practice false advertising.
Hostels and Guest Houses
Hostels in Zimbabwe are quite common as they are there in almost every city. They offer some of the best accommodation in the country, especially for those who are traveling alone. Dormitories are few, and most hotels only rent double rooms, so you should be comfortable with the idea of sharing a room with a stranger. Most of the hostels charge similar prices and have similar amenities. Generally, the rental of linen and towels are not included in the price of a room or bed; and in most cases, breakfast is provided surcharge.
Apartments are available for rent to people who want to stay in ZImbabwe for extended periods. Some several flats and apartments are available for rent for at least one-month lease. These are more affordable as they charge a flat rate and buy your food, which lowers costs. Those traveling as a group will find these most convenient as it is possible to share the flat rate cost instead of paying per head or room in hotels and motels. Rent prices differ according to which part of the country you are in; it gets cheaper as you go deeper into the small towns.
Some families rent out a part of their home to tourists, known as couch surfing. This trend is very rare in Zimbabwe, as many people are not comfortable with the idea of opening their home up to a stranger. It offers the host family an opportunity to make extra money and the tourist a chance to experience Zimbabwean culture through family life. Several websites connect tourists with people who are willing to open up their homes. It is important to note that couch surfing was not designed to provide long term housing, and most people tend to stay between three and four days; a week maximum. Also, when couch surfing, you need to take responsibility for your safety.
There are numerous campsites for those tourists who want to rough it, which offers a sense of adventure by giving people the full outdoor experience, including the fresh night air and the magnificent night skies. There is at least one campsite in every town or village, and they are generally of a high standard. Most National Parks have glorious campsites that offer visitors the fantastic experience of sleeping under the stars and hearing the lively sounds of animals as they go about their night activities. Many campsites also have cabins for those who are not comfortable sleeping in a tent surrounded by wildlife. These cabins can either be self-catering or catered.
It is important to note that most Zimbabwe areas are infested with malaria-carrying mosquitoes and tsetse flies, which can cause adverse reactions to you if they bite you. So, if you want to go camping, you should invest in insect repellent.
Getting There and Moving Around
Traveling to and moving around Zimbabwe is relatively easy. Several modes of transport can be used to travel to the country, with the most convenient for you being dictated by where you are coming from, be it a local or international area. People from surrounding nearby areas usually travel the country by bus or other forms of public transport. While those coming from further away commonly use aeroplanes. Locals tend to prefer minibusses or their cars.
There are a few airlines that fly directly to Zimbabwe. The main airports are in Harare, Victoria Falls, and Bulawayo, and people can catch same-day flights to any of these cities from Johannesburg, South Africa on the same day. You can continue from these airports to your destination using road transport or charter planes if you can afford them.
There are luxury coaches from most surrounding countries that connect to almost every major city in Zimbabwe. In most cases, these buses are comfortable, with onboard toilets and entertainment. They are also reliable as they stick to a stick timetable and pickup schedule. Also, they do not stop at every stop, which reduces the duration compared to ordinary buses. Buses are the preferred mode of transport as they are cheaper than flying.
There is a train from Francistown Botswana to Bulawayo three times a week.
Hitchhiking is relatively easy, and you can catch a ride to almost any part of the country. Private cars are open to carrying passengers as long as they pay. You can stop cars and trucks yourself by using an up-and-down waving of the arm. It is wise to avoid hitchhiking on your own as you never know what could happen.
Hired cars and private cars are common in getting to Zimbabwe as the major roads are suitable for driving.
Sustainable shopping is a type of shopping that recognizes that everything we buy has health, environmental, and social impact. Therefore, this type of shopping is your chance to support what is important to you and avoid products and services that do not align with your beliefs. There are many shopping centers in Zimbabwe whereby tourists and locals alike can go shopping. It is more sustainable to shop in local shops and ensure that you stick to one shop and spread the wealth by visiting different shops.
The recycling sector of Zimbabwe is a bit weak, but it has slowly started to improve as local initiatives to recycle plastic bottles are creating jobs and removing stubborn waste from the streets. People are paid to collect brown plastic waste. The recycling industry then recycles this into plastic strapping.
The waste collection industry of Zimbabwe is effective mainly in the central parts of cities. They use standard bins, cardboard boxes, plastic bags, and open dumping as solid waste receptacles. Usually, the landfills are incinerated to reduce the amount of waste collected.
Work and Study Abroad
The unemployment rates in Zimbabwe are high, and almost all unskilled work is done by locals, meaning they are very few opportunities in this sector for foreigners. To work legally in Zimbabwe, you will need to apply for a work permit. These are hard to get if you are an unskilled professional. Those who get jobs in industries lacking skilled workers are the most likely to obtain a work permit.
There are sixteen universities in the country and many other higher learning institutions, and they are open to applications from international students. The language of instruction in all institutions is English.
There are several exchange student programs in Zimbabwe. These are open to all students interested in studying in a different country and have the necessary qualifications. Some of these programs are affiliated with partner schools. More information about these is found on the different University websites.
An au pair is a young foreign person who helps with housework or childcare in exchange for food, a room, and pocket money. The concept of Au pairs is rising in popularity. There are several vacancies across the city with requirements that vary according to the family. Several agencies and websites connect potential Au pairs with families that need them. One of these websites is "great au pair." Being an au pair can be a great way to learn about the Zimbabwean language and culture. The concept of au pairs is more dominant in cities and not villages and small towns.
Zimbabwe is open to volunteers' assistance as there are many volunteer opportunities in the country, particularly in the big cities like Harare and Bulawayo. These opportunities are available to international volunteers and offer them the chance to contribute to the local community's empowerment. There are also volunteer opportunities deep in the country where there are many wildlife reserves, where people can work with endangered animals or the environment. Besides the obvious volunteering to work with animals and in the agricultural sector, some of the other most popular volunteer programs include girl empowerment and teaching, and community development.