Contact your GP around 8 weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures. Country specific information and advice is published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre, and useful information about healthcare abroad, including a country-by-country guide of reciprocal health care agreements with the UK, is available from NHS Choices.
The provision of health care is unreliable. There is a shortage of drugs and trained medical staff in hospitals, making it difficult for hospitals to treat certain illnesses including accidents and trauma cases. The shortage of fuel has reduced emergency response capabilities. Private clinics will not treat patients until they pay and often require large amounts of cash before they will admit even emergency cases. Even if payment is available some of the best hospitals are often too full to admit patients. Medical costs, particularly for evacuation, can be high. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.
If you are on medication, bring sufficient supplies of your medication to cover the period of your stay. Pharmacies may not be able to provide you with the appropriate drug prescribed by your doctor.
There have been recent outbreaks of typhoid in Harare.
In the 2012 Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic the UNAIDS/WHO Working Group estimated that around 1,200,000 adults aged 15 or over in Zimbabwe were living with HIV; the prevalence percentage was estimated at around 14.9 of the adult population compared to the prevalence percentage rate in adults in the UK of around 0.25%. You should exercise normal precautions to avoid exposure to HIV/AIDS.
If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 999 and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.
The Zimbabwean dollar has been taken out of circulation indefinitely. The most widely used currencies are the US dollar and the South African rand. Credit and debit cards are not widely accepted. Although it is possible to withdraw cash from some ATMs, you should not rely on this service being available throughout Zimbabwe. It is illegal to exchange foreign currency anywhere other than at officially licensed dealers (eg banks). Carry small denomination notes as change is rarely available.
3. Local laws and customs
Always carry your identity documentation or a copy of your passport.
Photographing government offices, airports, military establishments, official residences, embassies and other sensitive places is illegal without special permission from the Ministry of Information. Taking photographs of members of police and armed forces personnel and of demonstrations and protests is not permitted. Laws are strictly enforced.
The area around State House in Harare (the President’s official residence) is patrolled by armed members of the Presidential Guard. They don’t allow loitering, by motorists, cyclists or pedestrians, and photography is strictly prohibited. Avoid using GPS navigation systems around the President’s Residence and if possible avoid the area altogether.
Holding a Zimbabwean and a foreign passport at the same time is prohibited. The Zimbabwean authorities may prosecute offenders. The British Embassy is not able to provide the full range of services to people with dual British and Zimbabwean nationality.
There are laws against indecency, which effectively make homosexuality illegal in Zimbabwe.
Penalties for possession, use or trafficking in illegal drugs are strict and offenders can expect heavy fines or jail sentences.
Don’t carry any precious or semi-precious stones without the correct paperwork.
It is against the law for civilians to wear any form of clothing made from camouflage material.
Safety and security
There is a moderate level of crime, including occasional armed robberies targeting foreign residents. Make sure your accommodation is secure at all times. Mugging, pick pocketing and jewellery theft are common in city centres, especially after dark. Be particularly careful at Harare airport, and when leaving banks and cash points. Don’t carry large amounts of cash. Avoid travelling around alone.
Carry your Zimbabwean Resident ID or a photocopy of your passport. If you lose your passport, inform the police and the British Embassy in Harare immediately.
There have been thefts and smash-and-grab robberies from vehicles, especially at main intersections along the route to Harare Airport and on the Masvingo-Beitbridge road. You should be particularly vigilant when using these routes. Keep vehicle doors locked and windows closed. Be particularly careful at night and at filling stations. Don’t leave your vehicle unattended in unguarded areas in towns.
Zimbabwe has many safari lodges and game reserves. Safety standards vary, and you should check whether operators are trained and licensed. There have been a number of incidents in which animals have attacked visitors resulting in injuries and, in some cases, deaths. Some activities, such as walking or canoe safaris, could pose risks to personal safety. You should treat wild animals with caution and respect, and keep a safe distance from them at all times.
Flash flooding during the rainy season (November to February) can make some roads impassable.
There are frequent power cuts that affect the whole country, sometimes for days at a time, as well as occasional fuel and water shortages. The Zimbabwean mobile phone network and land lines are unreliable.
Most of Zimbabwe’s commercial farms have been occupied or taken over by members of the National War Veterans’ Association and others. Farm invasions continue, often accompanied by violence and looting of property. Take care when visiting farming areas that you are not familiar with.
The diamond mining area in Marange is a restricted area. If you are stopped and told that you may not access a particular area, you should turn back.
You can drive in Zimbabwe using a full UK driving licence. If you are resident in Zimbabwe you should get a Zimbabwean license to minimise the potential for problems at road blocks.
You must obey police signals, stop at roadblocks and toll-gates and produce identification if asked to do so. Travel carefully on inter-city roads, always wear seatbelts, lock car doors, carry a comprehensive medical kit and avoid travelling after dark. Think carefully before setting out on long distance journeys, and either carry extra fuel or keep your tank topped up as much as possible. Seek up-to-date local advice about any places that you plan to visit.
Traffic accidents are a common cause of death and injury. There are often deep potholes in the roads. Traffic lights are often out of action. Avoid driving outside the main towns at night, as vehicles are often poorly lit and roads badly marked. Abandoned unlit heavy goods vehicles, cyclists without lights, pedestrians and stray livestock are particular hazards. Emergency services can provide only limited help in the event of an accident and ambulances are often severely delayed by a lack of fuel. Be careful about stopping in lay-bys, particularly in the Beitbridge area, as there have been incidents of cars being robbed and occupants attacked.
It is an offence to continue driving when the President’s motorcade goes past, no matter which side of the road you are on. If you see the motorcade, pull off the road or onto the side of the road if this is not possible. There have been a number of incidents where people have been assaulted by the security forces for stopping in the wrong place or for not stopping soon enough.
Public transport and services are unreliable. Buses are often overcrowded, inadequately maintained, uninsured, and recklessly driven. You should avoid them if possible. There have been incidents of assault on tourists hitch hiking and travelling in unlicensed buses.
Level crossings are poorly marked. Each year there are a number of fatal accidents.