Zimbabwe Essential Facts and Information

Victoria Falls
••• John Warburton-Lee/Photodisc/Getty Images

Zimbabwe is a beautiful country, rich in resources and hardworking people. Despite its recent political turmoil, it is emerging once more as a rewarding travel destination. Much of Zimbabwe's tourism industry revolves around its incredible natural beauty. It is a country of superlatives, thanks to Victoria Falls (the largest waterfall in the world) and Lake Kariba (the largest man-made lake in terms of volume).

National parks like Hwange and Mana Pools teem with wildlife, making this one of the continent's best places to go on safari

Fast Facts

Zimbabwe is a land-locked country in Southern Africa. It is bordered by South Africa to the south, Mozambique to the east, Botswana to the west and Zambia to the northwest. Zimbabwe has a total area of 150,872 square miles/ 390,757 square kilometers, making it comparable in size to the U.S. state of Montana. The capital of Zimbabwe is Harare. July 2016 estimates put Zimbabwe's population at approximately 14.5 million people. The average life expectancy is 58 years of age. 

Zimbabwe has no fewer than 16 official languages (the most of any country). Amongst these, Shona and Ndebele are the most widely spoken, in that order. Christianity is the predominant religion in Zimbabwe. The most common denomination is Protestant, which accounts for over 82% of the population.

   

The U.S. dollar was introduced as the official currency of Zimbabwe in 2009 in response to the hyperinflation of the Zimbabwean dollar. Although several other currencies (including the South African rand and the British pound) are considered legal tender, the U.S. dollar is still the most widely used.

 

In Zimbabwe, the summer months (November - March) are the hottest and also the wettest. The annual rains arrive earlier and leave later in the north of the country, while the south is generally drier. Winter (June - September) sees warm daytime temperatures and cool nights. The weather is generally dry during this time. 

Generally, the best time to visit Zimbabwe is during the dry season (April - October), when the weather is at its most pleasant. The lack of available water forces animals to congregate around rivers, lakes, and waterholes, making them easier to spot whilst on safari. 

Key Attractions

Victoria Falls: Known locally as the Smoke That Thunders, Victoria Falls is one of the most impressive natural sights on the African continent. Located on the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia, it is the world's largest waterfall. There are walkways and viewpoints on the Zimbabwean side, while adrenalin-fuelled activities like bungee jumping and whitewater rafting abound on the Zambezi River.

Great Zimbabwe: The capital of the Kingdom of Zimbabwe during the late Iron Age, the ruined city of Great Zimbabwe is now one of the most important archaeological sites in sub-Saharan Africa. It is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and comprises three connected complexes full of ruined towers, turrets and walls, all magnificently engineered and constructed from stone.

 

Hwange National Park: Located in western Zimbabwe, Hwange National Park is the largest and oldest game reserve in the country. It is home to the Big Five and is especially famous for its huge herds of elephant and buffalo. Hwange is also a haven for several rare or endangered species, including the South African cheetah, the brown hyena, and the African wild dog. 

Lake Kariba: On the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe lies Lake Kariba, the largest man-made lake in the world. It was created in 1959 by the damming of the Zambezi River and supports an incredible variety of bird and animal life. It is famous for houseboat vacations, and for its population of tiger fish (one of the most sought-after game fish in Africa). 

Getting There

Harare International Airport is the main gateway to Zimbabwe and the first port of call for most visitors.

It is serviced by several international airlines, including British Airways, South African Airways, and Emirates. Upon arrival in Harare, you can catch a domestic flight to several other areas of the country, including Victoria Falls and Bulawayo. Visitors to Zimbabwe will need to check whether or not they need to apply for a visa in advance. Visitors from the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Canada all require a visa, but can purchase one upon arrival. Please note that visa rules change frequently, so wherever you're from, it's a good idea to double check the latest regulations. 

Medical Requirements

Several vaccinations are recommended for safe travel to Zimbabwe. As well as your regular vaccines, Hepatitis A, Typhoid and Rabies vaccines are all strongly advised. Malaria is a problem in Zimbabwe, so you will need to take prophylactics. Ask your doctor which ones are best for you. For a full list of medical requirements, check the CDC website.