Zimbabwe student travel guide
Travel guides: The mass media would have us believe that the only thing of interest in Zimbabwe is dictator Bob Mugabe. What about elephant swimming and how to make a lion run away? Our Zimbabwe travel guide gives you the real skinny.
Zimbabwe 2008 was in a state of mass media frenzy due to the tyranny of old Bob (that’ll be the dictator Robert Mugabe, people, and in no way a reference to the Live Aid work of Sir Bob Geldof). It was during this period of unrest that I paid my boyfriend and his family in Zimbabwe a visit to celebrate New Year. Understandably, I was pretty nervous because of the media hype – and my own family were definitely wary – but seeing as my guy was born and raised in Zimbabwe, surely he would know what he was doing? He wrote out a rather unusual checklist for me in order to prepare for my trip as I was flying alone. It included giving a fake address but I felt it necessary to share with you my own Zimbabwe traveller tips that I picked up along the way!
Preparing your Zimbabwe trip
Get a journal – not only as a diary to remember your fantastic experiences (if you actually have time to write any of them down) but also to make a note of contacts beforehand. Include telephone numbers for your National Embassy (for the British Embassy in my case), addresses of where you’re staying (keep the real and fake’ address separate) and the contact information for any other relatives residing nearby. Also, keep a log of how much money you’re spending during your stay.
Make photocopies of your passport – about 2 or 3.
Medication! Malaria and Cholera tablets
Take out American dollars; they are the most accepted currency worldwide
Take cash, as credit cards and traveller’s cheques aren’t really accepted in Zimbabwe.
Get travel insurance.
Get a cheap mobile phone with an international SIM card.
English is the predominant language in Zimbabwe but it’s nice to learn a couple of phrases in Shona.
The Joy of Packing
If you are travelling through Johannesburg, never ever put any valuables in your luggage. Seriously. Put them in your personal carrier bag, as I can pretty much guarantee you your luggage will be opened – padlock and all! So no CDs, cameras, jewellery, money, music players, laptops etc. Keep it on your person, not in your luggage.
Zimbabwe has an ideal climate, year round. Although I was going in December and January (the rainy season) it was wet but still warm. Bring clothes that are practical. You only really need one pair of jeans, but bring plenty of shorts, strappy tops and a couple of good hoodies or jumpers. For shoes bring a good pair of trainers and flip flops known in Zimbabwe as ‘slops’.
Along with your clothes, fill your case with snack foods like juice boxes, pringles, sweets, biscuits and nuts. Think about food that will keep for a long time and not crush – pringles have their own case, nuts and energy bars are ideal. We went to a pretty large supermarket in Zimbabwe and all there was on the shelves was orange juice and soap. Imagine – this was all people had to live off.
Bring lots of pens to give out to the local kids. They really enjoy pens.
Bring a camera!
Pack insect cream/spray.
Don’t forget sun cream, even in the rainy season. And get really powerful 50+ sun cream. Do now underestimate the power of the African sun!
Bring a torch, as blackouts are frequent and often last for days.
Bring tissues to cover all tissue-related emergencies.
Arriving and travelling in Zimbabwe
Don’t keep your money all in one place – if it gets nicked you’ll be stuck. I hid various dollars in my socks, pants, bras and even in my medicine packets.
Be open to new experiences. What I found in Zimbabwe was that everyone was so positive and relaxed despite all the commotion with the elections. It’s a very happy go lucky attitude; everyone makes the most of things, when everything is limited.
Have a braai! It’s the African equivalent of a BBQ but much better, bigger and more impressive.
Be wary of cholera. Even if you’re taking medication make sure you are drinking clean water and that any fruit or vegetables are washed before you eat them. Take care with ice cubes, which may well be standard local water in ice form.
See the wildlife. We went to Antelope Park, one of the only places in the world you can go on