Zimbabwe General Information
Up to 50% of the population is Christian but this is really a mix of traditional and Christian beliefs. The other 50% belong in some way to the Mwari cult, where ancestral worship and spiritual proxy and intercession are part of the belief system.
English is the official language of Zimbabwe, however, it is the first language of only 2% of the population. The majority of the people speak a dialect of the Bantu language - with about 76% speaking Shona and 18% speaking Ndebele. In many cities English is spoken and understood but in the rural areas it may be helpful to know a few basic words and phrases.
Area (sq. km):
390,580 square meters
When To Travel
Although Zimbabwe lies in the tropic zone, the climate of some areas is moderated by high elevation. The average maximum temperature is 16ºC in July (winter) and 21ºC in January (summer). The average annual rainfall is about 890 mm in the Highveld and less than 610 mm in most parts of the middle veld. Most rainfall occurs from November to March. This seldom brings constant rain, but can lead to thundery build-up and showers from time to time. Some game parks are closed during this period; others are little affected by the weather. During this time, conditions are often hot and humid. A rain jacket should be considered for departures early or late in the year. In winter, temperatures during the day are usually in the mid 20s; at night, however, and in the early morning and late afternoon it is possible for them to drop to zero, and you will need to bring adequate warm clothing. This is particularly so when travelling on game drives in open vehicle. In particular, Hwange National Park can be very cold at night during winter months. By September, day temperatures will be back into the mid-30s with mild to warm nights. The Kariba area and lower Zambezi valley can be very hot in October.
Although Zimbabwe lies in the tropics, parts of the country are well above sea-level and this moderates the climate quite considerably, with average temperatures of 16°C in July (winter), and 21°C in January (summer). Most rainfall occurs from November to March. It is seldom a constant rain, but you can expect violent showers from time to time. Hwange National Park can be affected by rain during this period and daytime conditions are often hot and humid. We recommend a rain jacket during this period, and even for trips running into April. From Jun-Sep temperatures during the day are usually in the mid 20s°C. Temperatures in the early morning, in the late afternoon and evening can drop to zero, so you will need to bring adequate warm clothing. This is particularly so when travelling on game drives in open vehicles. Hwange can be very cold at night during winter months. By September, day temperatures will be back into the mid-thirties with mild to warm nights. In summer (Oct-Jan) the Kariba area, and the lower Zambezi can be very hot. Likewise the temperature at the Victoria Falls is often 5 – 10 degrees warmer than elsewhere in the country. Anytime of year has its benefits for travel in Zimbabwe. If you go during the wetter summer season you will see the lush, green landscapes and some amazing afternoon storms. If you decide to travel in the drier winter months, the going will be more comfortable, and there will be more opportunity for animal sightings as they gather to the waterholes at this dry time of year.
Useful Travel Facts
Victoria Falls airport is 20 kilometres south of Vic Falls town. A taxi should cost about US$10.
The international dialling code for Zimbabwe is +263. Telephone calls, especially international ones, can be expensive when made from a hotel. We suggest you check the price first. If you have a mobile phone it should be a relatively simple procedure to arrange ‘global roaming’ with your service provider; however, charges are generally very high so be sure to check this option thoroughly. You should also check with your service provider to see if your mobile phone is compatible with the networks used in Africa. Phone calls made from public telephone offices are generally your cheapest option.
The electricity supply in Africa is rated at 220 volts/50 cycles, and appliances requiring 240 volts will work normally. If you bring electrical appliances you should also bring an international adaptor. Round three pin plugs are the most common types in southern Africa.
Zimbabwean food reflects the agricultural products of the country. Superb meat products including beef, lamb and venison feature prominently. Harare and to a lesser extent Bulawayo, boast a wide variety of restaurants featuring most of the prominent cuisine varieties of the world. The staple of the Zimbabwean diet is sadza, a white maize meal porridge. Biltong is also a popular cheap snack, it come in the forms of beef or kudu and it is dried, salted meat. Vegetarians will have a fairly restricted diet in Zimbabwe.
Most roads in Zimbabwe are surfaced and are in decent condition and distances are fair. There is a rail system in Zimbabwe as well as buses/minibuses that operate between all major cities. Taxis are available in the main centers but agree on a fare with the driver before starting the journey. Be aware of your safety before using any form of public transport.
Curios abound in Zimbabwe, from soapstone hippos to wooden carved African masks to Nyaminyami (the Zambezi River God) neck pendants. Roadside stalls are everywhere selling curios and bargaining is a must.
Australians, Americans, Canadians, British and New Zealanders currently require a visa for Zimbabwe. For all other nationalities please reconfirm your visa requirements with your travel agent. For trips to Zimbabwe you may require either a single or double entry visa. Both single and double entry visas are obtainable on arrival currently costing between US$30 and US$60 (depending on nationality).
If you choose to travel to the Zambian side of Victoria Falls your Zimbabwe visa will not expire as long as you do not spend the night out of Zimbabwe.
Useful Words & Phrases
Zimbabwe Lonely Planet
Travel & Adventure in South East Africa-F.C. Selous
Birds of Southern Africa-Newman
The Mammals of Zimbabwe, Zambia & Malawi Smithers