Zimbabwe Country Guide

More than a million travellers head to Zimbabwe each year and make their way to famous sights like the Victoria Falls as well as to lesser known wonders like the rocky National Park or the Zimbabwe Ruins that date back to the medieval times. Nature lovers, however, must not leave without visiting the Hwange (Wankie) Game Reserve. The city of Bulawayo is Zimbabwe's second largest and is a pleasing mix of the old and the new. The people are friendly and the city welcomes visitors to its verdant avenues that are dotted with cafes. Old shops jostle for space alongside modern structures, making the city a traveller's delight.

The romantics will be mesmerized by the lush greenery that drapes the slopes of the Eastern Highlands while animal lovers will be wonderstruck by the sheer variety of wildlife they can get up close with on a holiday to Zimbabwe. For a spot of history and culture, there are several ancient ruins to be explored, and the vibrant capital city of Harare, with its urban delights, is not to be missed.

This Zimbabwe Country Guide gives some useful background information about this wonderful country. A great way to see the local highlights of Zimbabwe and experience the local culture is by taking a Zimbabwe tour.

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Zimbabwe Country Guide

Useful information on this page includes:

Climate/Weather Top

Check out our Zimbabwe weather page for some handy information regarding the climate and weather in Zimbabwe. Our six-day Victoria Falls weather forecast will help in planning the upcoming weeks activities.

Communication Top

Domestic: The internet is available in the capital city of Harare, but access in other towns and cities remains largely a dream, though plans are in the pipeline to network the country. Phone systems include fairly reasonable mobile cellular network coverage as well as open wire lines, microwave radio relay links, fixed wireless local loop installations and radiotelephone communication stations.

Currency Top

The local currency is called the Zimbabwe dollar and is marked as Z$ or ZWD in signage. It was once called the Rhodesian dollar or R$. The Rhodesian dollar came into force in 1970 to replace the Pound.

Electricity Top

220/230 volts AC, 50Hz.

Embassy Locations Top

For a list of Zimbabwe embassies around the world and foreign embassies within Zimbabwe, check out http://www.embassy-worldwide.com/.

General Information Top

Population: 12.9 million people
Total Area: 390,757 sq km (150,872 sq miles).
Capital: Harare (1.5 million people)
Time Zone: GMT + 2.

For current time in Harare, click on this link to TimeAndDate.com.

Geography Top

The High Veld plateau region of the country runs a length of 400 miles and is 50 miles in width. This dramatic landscape cuts across the breadth of the country from the southwest to the northeast and is as high as 1676 m or 5500 ft at places. To the northeast are the Inyanga and the Udizi mountains, with Zimbabwe's tallest peak, Mt. Inyangani, measuring a significant 2596 m or 8517 ft.

The Middle Veld plateau region with its deep river valleys is shorter, at between 610 m and 1220 m, while the lowest part of the plateau or the Low Veld measures under 610 m at its highest point. Other low lying regions include the sandy plains that surround the Limpopo and Zambezi basins.

The eastern plains bordering the Indian Ocean are separated from Zimbabwe by steep mountains. Much of the country's water supply owes its origin to the High Veld, which feeds streams that flow into the Sabi and Limpopo as well as the Zambezi. Many rivers here have waterfalls and rapids, and the bigger ones have a flow of water all year round.

History Top

Tools and implements dating back to the Stone Age have been found in numerous locations across the country, indicating a long and rich history in the area. Early civilizations built stone buildings, the ruins of which can be seen even today. The archaeological site known as the Great Zimbabwe ruins are a must visit. These structures can be found close to Masvingo and are said to have been constructed anywhere between the 9th and the 13th century A.D. by locals, with trade links to south eastern coastal Africa.

The first Europeans to make an attempt to colonize the south central African region were the Portuguese in the 16th century. However, much of the heartland of the country remained free of European influence until explorers, ivory hunters, traders and missionaries arrived almost 300 years afterwards.

Language Top

Though all records say English is the official language of the country, there are not more than 2% of people who actually count it as their native tongue. English is spoken mainly by the mixed race locals and white minorities. Most people actually speak local Bantu languages, including Ndebele (18 %) and the more popular Shona (76 %). Shona is largely an oral language but is well represented in the very first novel in Shona called Feso, written by Solomon Mutswairo in 1957. Travellers will find that while people in cities may be familiar with English, in rural areas hardly anyone speaks it.

Location Top

Zimbabwe is located in Southern Africa. To view a map of Zimbabwe, click on this link to WorldAtlas.com.

Passport / Visas Top

Note: To apply for a visa, all visitors must necessarily hold a passport that is valid for at least six months past the proposed departure date from Zimbabwe. Travellers must also hold return tickets or sufficient funds to pay for their return ticket as well as funds to sustain them during their stay. Do remember, a visa does not assure you entry into the country.

Visas
Visas must be obtained by all foreign nationals visiting Zimbabwe unless one of the following applies:
You plan to only transit in the country for 6 hours and will catch the same or a connecting flight to a third country after that. During this time, you will not be allowed to leave the transit lounge of the airport and must have valid documents and confirmed reservations for your onward journey.

If you are a national of one of the countries listed below, then you can apply for a visa upon arrival in Zimbabwe: UK, USA, Switzerland, Spain, Sweden, Portugal, Poland, Netherlands, Malta, Luxembourg, Italy, Ireland, Greece, Germany, France, Finland, Denmark, Cyprus, Canada, Belgium, Austria and Australia.

This visa will allow you to stay for up to 90 days in the country, but you must possess tickets and documents for your onward or return journey and adequate funds to support you during your visit.

Types of Visa and Cost
The cost of your visa to Zimbabwe depends on your nationality as well as where you get your visa from. For instance, a British national will have to pay £40 for a single entry visa and £50 for a double entry visa if obtained at an embassy in their country. If the same visas are obtained on arrival at the port of entry, then they would cost £35 and £45, respectively.

Validity

All visas are valid for up to six months from the date of issue.

People/Culture  Top

Locals here are polite, friendly and cheerful and it can be great experience to get to know them. However, remember that this good cheer is often restricted to people they know and does not extend to a stranger. Wait to be introduced by someone you know or you may embarrass them. Family ties are at the core of their beliefs.

Christianity is the dominant religion but people have mixed beliefs that include ancestor worship and spiritual doctors. Many also use totems in their worship. Roman Catholicism is the main religion, while 1% of the population is Muslim.

Public Holidays Top

Follow the link  to view a current list of public holidays in Zimbabwe.

Religion Top

Owing to its colonial past, 40 to 50 % of all locals attend a Christian church. As with other erstwhile European colonies, here too, Christianity is practised in conjunction with local traditions, incorporating certain rituals from local beliefs.

Aside from Christianity, the Mwari cult has a huge following. This non Christian religion involves the interplay of spirits and the worship of ancestors. The Mwari is said to be a higher power that interacts with human followers via an oracle called the Voice of Mwari, who lives in a cave.