When preparing for BoB’s Epic Adventure, Zimbabwe was probably one of the countries that intrigued me most. Its neighbours, Zambia and Botswana, always sounded ‘friendly, happy and green’, but this was not the case with Zimbabwe… Somehow, to me, Zimbabwe sounded adventurous, rough and even a bit dark.
However, even before getting to Zimbabwe, my views had already changed as I met many Zimbabweans in South Africa and Namibia. They worked as taxi drivers, tour guides or truck drivers. It was actually a Zimbabwean truck driver who offered me a ride during my first time hitchhiking ever and I quickly discovered that Zimbabweans are (street)smart, caring and very friendly. Backpacking in Zimbabwe turned out to be a breeze. It was indeed adventurous, but instead of rough and dark, it was pleasant and bright.
Due to bad trip planning, I ended up having only 10 days in Zimbabwe. Although, it was only a short backpacking trip, I would like to share my experiences anyway, as there is an absolute lack of Zimbabwe independent travel information on the internet.
Why should you go backpacking in Zimbabwe?
- Be amazed by the massive Victoria Falls, explore the greatest medieval city of Sub-Saharan Africa, enjoy vibrant Harare and much more!
- A chance to get away from the ‘crowds’!
- Friendly and welcoming people :)
My route through Zimbabwe
- Day 1-3: Stayed at Shoestrings Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. From here I went to Zambia.
- Traveled around in Zambia
- Day 4: Back in Zimbabwe. Crosssed the border from Siavonga (Zambia) to Kariba (back into Zimbabwe). At Lake Kariba, I relaxed at the Warthogs Bushcamp for a few hours. Here, I met a Zimbabwean couple who were willing to give me a ride to Harare
- Day 5: Took an Intercape bus from Harare to Bulawayo. Here, I stayed at Burke’s Paradise, and I cooked Dutch pancakes wit another Dutch traveler.
- Day 6: Matapos National Park including a visit to Rhodes memorial, the founder of Rhodesia.
- Day 7: Chilling in Bulawayo!
- Day 8: Traveled from Bulawayo to Masvingo by local buses. Visit to Greater Zimbabwe!
- Day 9: From Masvingo back to Harare.
- Day 10: Explored Harare and visited the tabacco auction.
- Day 11: Flight from Harare to Istanbul for my Silk Road adventure
Backpacking costs in Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe is expensive. In 2009, the government switched to US dollars and due to internal issues in the country they are largely dependent from import from surrounding countries. I spent about 60 USD per day. It’s recommended to bring enough USD’s for your entire trip.
Some example prices:
- Camping ‘Small World Backpackers Lodge’ in Harare 8 USD
- Camping Burke’s Paradise in Bulawayo 7 USD
- Camping at Greater Zimbabwe, near Masvingo 7 USD
- Camping at Shoestrings Backpacker & Bar in Victoria Falls 8 USD
- Simple meal 4-6 USD
- Entrance fee Matopos 15 USD
- Entrance fee caves Matopos 10 USD
- Entrance fee Great Zimbabwe Monument 15 USD
- Entrance Victoria Falls 30 USD
- Rent of taxi for a half day 40 USD
- Bottle of coke 0.9 USD
- Beer 2 USD
- Mini bus long-distance 7 USD
- Harare-Bulawayo Intercape Bus (luxury bus) 30 USD
Accommodation in Zimbabwe
As in most in African countries, it’s either camping OR expensive lodges, with little choice in between. There are only a handful of ‘hostels’ in Zimbabwe and to be honest, none of them are great. To save money (and because it’s fun), I’d highly recommend to bring a tent. Budget accommodation is quite popular with overland tours, so you might want to check availability beforehand.
Transportation in Zimbabwe
The public transportation network is limited. I used luxury buses like Intercape, local minibuses and a bit of hitchhiking. Some of the tourist sights are quite difficult to get to.
The backpacker scene in Zimbabwe
Although Southern Africa (find my Southern Africa backpacking overview here!) has become quite popular with backpackers, Zimbabwe remains relatively off the beaten path. At the Greater Zimbabwe camping field, there was one large overland company group with tents, but other than that I was the only one. The Small World Backpackers Lodge in Harare and Shoestrings in Victoria Falls were both quite busy when I was there and seemed to be the best places to meet other travelers in Zimbabwe. However, everyone there seemed to stick themselves.
Safety in Zimbabwe
Similar to surrounding countries. Try to avoid arriving after nightfall at a new destination. Don’t go out at night by yourself. If you do go out at night, make sure to use a (reliable) taxi driver (even for very short distances). Stick to a friendly local person. As I solo traveler, I haven’t felt unsafe in Zimbabwe.
General backpacking tips for Zimbabwe:
Backpacking highlights: Victoria Falls (Find tips for your visit to Victoria Falls here), the archeological sights of Greater Zimbabwe and vibrant Harare
If you need specific info, you might want to email the Shoestring Hostel in Harare or Burke’s Paradise in Bulawayo
Police bribes are quite common in Zimbabwe. It happened to me twice, I was in a car and we were stopped for no reason by the police. Both times we paid a bribe (one time this included a bottle of water).
Unfortunately, I didn’t have the time to do this, but these are some other tips:
- Sailing trip on Lake Kariba (150 USD for a boat which you can share with others)
- Catch the bus to Miombo Lodge to spent time at Hwange National Park
- The Antelope Park in Gweru was also recommended
- Exploring Mana Pools on foot
- Hiking and trekking in the Eastern Highlands
- For the dare devils there are plenty of activities around Victoria Falls (ziplining, swimming in Devil’s pool) or you can go kayaking the Zambezi river!
Dr Livingstone I presume? Victoria Falls, The Smoke That Thunders! 500.000L/second, 108 meter drop and 1.7 km wide! This is the moment where my DSLR got completely soaked, which is also the reason why I don't have DSLR photos from Zambia and Zimbabwe ;) Hope you enjoyed this top 25 of favorite Southern Africa pics. I'm currently in Johannesburg, on my way to London and final destination Istanbul for a new adventure: The Silk Road – Turkey, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and China! Although I look forward to this new chapter, I will miss Africa!!! Cheers from Jo'burg, Manouk
Obviously, Zimbabwe is not all bright and happy. When I traveled to Zimbabwe in 2016, the country was in a state of national emergency due to a massive drought. Also, there are also many internal issues, which I won’t discuss in this particular article. Still, like I already mentioned, I truly enjoyed getting to know Zimbabwe better. Read more about my vision on traveling to ‘controversial countries’ here.
Let me know if you have any specific questions about backpacking in Zimbabwe!
Recommended further reading for backpacking Zimbabwe