Zimbabwe

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FACT FILE

Time zone: GMT+2
Plugs: Three-prong square
Dialling code: +263
Currency: US dollar
Language: English, Shona, Sindebele

Robert Mugabe has been Zimbabwe’s only ruler since 1987 and has dominated the country’s political landscape since independence. Under his rule, Zimbabwe has battled to survive a challenging economy, widespread shortages of basic commodities, sporadic violence and hyperinflation.

The economy of Zimbabwe is mostly dependent on agriculture and mineral resources, with the mining industry the largest driver, accounting for almost half of the country’s exports. Although the economy is slowly improving, mass unemployment is still rife, and policy inconsistency, as well as a lack of investment security, remain huge obstacles to promoting investment in Zimbabwe.

Saying this, tourism, led by the stunning Victoria Falls area, is seeing a revival. The big question is, who will succeed Mugabe, who is already in his 90s?

CITIES

The capital city Harare is the most populated city in Zimbabwe. Set in the natural garden of the Zimbabwe Highveld, 1500 metres above sea level, Harare is a friendly city of flowering trees and gardens and a temperate climate. Don’t miss the Harare gardens, Mbare market and museum on your visit.

Bulawayo is the second largest city located south-west of Harare. The Zimbabwe International Trade Fair is located here and is the largest intra-regional trade fair south of the Sahara, providing the largest, most convenient trade hub in the region.

Zimbabwe’s most popular tourist destination is Victoria Falls, home to the greatest curtain of falling water in the world.

But the country has so much more to offer. The Great Zimbabwe Ruins in Masvingo and the Khami Ruins in Bulawayo are among the world’s most well-preserved ancient cities. In addition, the Hwange Game Reserve is the country’s largest wildlife sanctuary and home to one of the largest elephant populations in Africa. Lake Kariba is also a popular destination for game viewing and fishing. 

AIRPORT

Harare’s airport is the largest in the country, situated 10 kilometres from the centre of town. There are shops and small restaurants in the airport. Most of the airlines, including Emirates, SAA, BA, Kenya Airways, Air Zimbabwe and Ethiopian do offer airside lounge facilities to their first and business class passengers. The airport security and customs x-ray systems are extremely thorough, though. Taxis, airport shuttles and transfers by car are the most popular forms of transport to and from the city.

Other airlines that land in Harare are Air Botswana from Gaborone, Air Namibia from Windhoek, Airlink from Johannesburg, fastjet, Flyafrica, Kenya Airways, Kulula from South Africa, and LAM from Mozambique.

As the country’s national carrier, Air Zimbabwe connects Harare, Bulawayo and Victoria Falls, as does Flyafrica. Kulula offers flights to Vic Falls from South Africa, while SAA reaches Bulawayo and Vic Falls in addition to Harare.

Harare hotels

The Meikles Hotel is a 5-star property set in a prime location in the centre of Harare. Local tourist attractions such as Eastgate Centre, African Unity Square and the National Art Gallery are not far from the hotel. Also nearby are the Harare Gardens, Queen Victoria Museum and National Museum. Dining facilities at Meikles include La Fontaine, a good restaurant worth trying. The hotel also offers transportation to/from the airport for an additional fee. Parking, however, is offered at no extra cost.

The Bronte Hotel is renowned for its beautiful gardens and collection of Shona sculptures. Centrally located in the Avenues, within walking distance of downtown Harare, the Bronte offers well-appointed rooms and executive suites in a garden setting. Suited to both the business and leisure traveller, the amenities include complimentary wi-fi, two swimming pools, a fitness centre, complimentary breakfast buffet, secure on-site parking and fine dining at Emmanuel’s Restaurant.

The 4-star Crowne Plaza Harare-Monomotapa overlooks the city. It offers a mix of twin rooms, king leisure rooms and suites, enjoying panoramic views of Harare, right on the doorstep of the city’s Central Park and Gardens. Zimbabwe’s National Gallery is a five-minute walk away and the renowned Botanical Gardens a short 10-minute drive. There is a variety of restaurants to choose from.

On Samora Machel Avenue, the Holiday Inn Harare is just 200 metres from the CBD and 12 kilometres from Harare International Airport. Mezzanine-floor meeting rooms can accommodate up to 250 guests. Dining is provided by the Silver Spur Steak Ranch restaurant, 24-hour room service, and the hotel restaurant.

Cresta Hotels has the most comprehensive offering of all the hotel groups, with three establishments in Harare. The centrally-located Cresta Jameson has a 24-hour front desk, business centre, conference facilities, wi-fi connectivity, and a health and beauty spa, whilst Cresta Lodge Harare, on the outskirts of the city centre, has a similar mid-market, yet solid offering, in a different setting. The group also operates the Cresta Oasis, which is a hotel that also offers serviced apartments for long-term stays. Cresta also has the Cresta Churchill in Bulawayo – a 50-room property that apparently “oozes Tudor charm”.

Rainbow Tourism Group is represented in Harare by two hotels. The Rainbow Towers Hotel and Conference Centre was refurbished in 2013 and has 304 rooms, wi-fi and 24-hour room service.  Dining is provided by four eateries – the Harvest Garden (buffet restaurant); the Kombahari Restaurant (Afro-Asian fusion); Teppan Yaki (Far East cuisine); and La Patiserrie, the hotel’s lobby coffee shop.

Rainbow’s second Harare property, the New Ambassador Hotel, is located in the CBD, and is walking distance from the main financial, commercial and government institutions, as well as a host of shops, cinemas, restaurants, the National Museum and Art Gallery. It offers 72 rooms, a business centre, wi-fi connectivity and three dining options. RTG also has the Rainbow Bulawayo Hotel – its only property in that city.

CARD ACCEPTANCE

The de facto official currency is the US dollar and it is very much a cash economy. The South African rand and British pound are also accepted, but you do not get a favourable exchange rate. Major international credit cards (Visa and MasterCard) are now accepted in most of the larger hotels, restaurants and shops, but many smaller establishments still do not have credit card facilities. Diners Club and American Express are often not accepted. The majority of ATM cash machines are now dispensing cash with a maximum daily withdrawal of $500.

VISAS

African countries whose nationals do not require visas: Botswana, DRC, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, and Zambia.

African countries whose nationals are granted visas at the port of entry on payment of the requisite visa fees ($30 – single entry): Egypt and Seychelles.

All other African passport holders need to apply in advance.

HEALTH

Malaria is prevalent in large parts of the country so do take the necessary precautions.

Private medical centres offer excellent healthcare, especially in Harare, where quality treatment is available 24/7. There are also several ambulance companies who can undertake medical evacuation where necessary – visitors are advised to have adequate medical aid cover.

There are also a number of emergency clinics offering good healthcare after hours, if you prefer avoiding a hospital.

Drinking tap water is not advisable, although Victoria Falls does have its own water purification plant.

CONTACTS
www.zimbabwetourism.net 
www.gotovictoriafalls.co.za

OPINION
Glenn Stutchbury
CEO: Cresta Hotels
Harare International doesn’t have that constant buzz, but that obviously relates to the number of flights. Unfortunately, check-in can be slow as the number of manned desks is often an issue. Online check-in solves this for me, because I can use the bag drop queue. The x-ray machines are set to ‘super sensitive’, so be prepared to remove absolutely everything but your threads! As lounges go, I prefer the SAA lounge – it has decent wi-fi and okay coffee, but the catering leaves a lot to be desired. This applies to all the lounges actually. In departures, free wi-fi is available – you just need to persevere! Coffee is available, but prepare yourself for UK-level pricing. A toasted sandwich will set you back $12! The arrivals hall appears disorganised, but it flows – just make sure you have your forms filled out before, know your visa requirements, and have exact change for your visa. Depending on which flight you arrive on, you’ll find customs varies – scanning on your way out often happens. Don’t stress, as it’s much easier than a whole plane unpacking in booths. Harare domestic is basic and simple, but again you get totally fleeced on food and coffee, and they hardly ever have change. In Bulawayo the new Joshua Nkomo International airport is very shiny. Right now it’s totally over spec, but if things increase frequency into Bulawayo, they are ready. Victoria Falls has a brand new airport which should open in the first quarter of 2016. Right now it’s tight and space is short, so be on time for check-in. Unfortunately, until the new airport opens there is a dreadful delay at immigration as two flights arrive within half an hour and the wait begins. The queue is boring, disorganised, hot and unwelcoming, which is so unfortunate when you’re arriving at one of the most amazing destinations in the world. There is no Uber in Zimbabwe and the prices of taxis can be cheeky, so agree in advance and if you’re not happy go to the next one. Better still, arrange something with your hotel. It’s a numbers game, so if you are travelling with people a taxi is cheaper than the per head charge of the transfer companies. In terms of wi-fi, coffee shops and hotels generally have, but speed is totally variable and like everything in Zimbabwe is totally overpriced, particularly if you are travelling from Europe or the US. Things to check before you travel to Zimbabwe: transfer to and from hotel; wi-fi and charges at hotel; back-up generator at hotel – there are serious power cuts and we all know what that can do to your productivity and personality! Best of all, Zimbabwe has smiling people who are friendly and highly educated, so expect good answers to your questions and don’t be afraid to ask. Steer clear of the politics and enjoy one of the best climates in the world.

Airlines
Air Botswana – airbotswana.co.bw
Air Zimbabwe – airzimbabwe.aero
Air Namibia – airnamibia.com.na
Airlink – flyairlink.com
BA – britishairways.com
Emirates – emirates.com
Ethiopian – ethiopianairlines.com
Fastjet – fastjet.com
Flyafrica – flyafrica.com
Kenya – kenya–airways.com
Kulula – kulula.com
LAM – lam.co.mz
Malawian – malawian-airlines.com
SAA – flysaa.com
SA Express – flyexpress.aero
TAAG – tag.com
Turkish – turkishairlines.com

Harare Hotels
Cresta Jameson – crestahotels.com
Cresta Lodge – crestahotels.com
Cresta Oasis – crestahotels.com
Crowne Plaza – ihg.com
Holiday Inn – holidayinn.com
Imba Matombo – imbahotels.co.zw
Meikles – meikles.com
New Ambassador – rtgafrica.com
Rainbow Towers – rtgafrica.com
The Bronte – brontehotel.com

Car Hire
Avis – avis.com
Budget – budget.com
Europcar – europcar.com
Hertz – hertz.co.za

TMCs
Amex – amextravel.co.za
CWT – carlsonwagonlit.com
Harvey World – harveyworld.co.za
HRG – hrgworldwide.com

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