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Travel Security Advice for Zimbabwe

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zimbabwe_mapZimbabwe_Overview


 

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:

Zimbabwe is a landlocked country in southern Africa, bordered by the Zambezi and Limpopo rivers. The official language is English; however, the majority of the population speaks Shona. Despite a new unity government that was formed in February 2009 amid renewed optimism for change, and although the country offers popular tourist facilities in Victoria Falls, Great Zimbabwe, and selected game parks, much of country's infrastructure has collapsed, and Americans should carefully evaluate the decision to travel to Zimbabwe at this time. Read the Department of State Background Notes on Zimbabwe for additional information.

 

Registration/Embassy Location:

U.S. citizens living or traveling in Zimbabwe are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate at the Department of State travel registration page, so that they can obtain updated information on local travel and security.  U.S. citizens without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.  Registration is important; it allows the State Department to assist U.S. citizens in an emergency. 

Local embassy information is available below and at the
Department of State list of embassies and consulates .

 

 

 

172 Herbert Chitepo Avenue
Harare, Zimbabwe
Telephone: (263-4) 250-593/4; Emergency After-hours telephone: (263-4) 250-595
Facsimile: (263-4) 250-343

 

American citizen service hours are from 1:30 pm to 3:30 pm Monday through Thursday and from 8:00 am to 11:30 am on Fridays, except U.S. and Zimbabwean holidays. The mailing address is PO Box 3340, Harare. The Embassy can be contacted by e-mail at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .



Entry/Exit requirements:

 

A passport, visa, return ticket, and adequate funds are required. U.S. citizens traveling to Zimbabwe for tourism, business, or transit can obtain a visa at the airports and border ports-of-entry, or in advance by contacting the Embassy of Zimbabwe at 1608 New Hampshire Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20009; telephone (202) 332-7100.  American citizens considering travel to Zimbabwe to visit tourist destinations, including eco-tourist sites or hunting safaris, or for business purposes, are advised that the Government of Zimbabwe has declared that American visitors with proper documentation will be allowed entry without difficulty.  However, the Government of Zimbabwe has also signaled an intention to refuse entry to Americans who are believed to have a bias against the Zimbabwean government.  Visit the Embassy of Zimbabwe web site for the most current visa information.

Americans entering Zimbabwe for tourism can expect to pay $30 for a single-entry, 30-day duration of stay visa upon entering the country.  Extensions are possible, but normally require a personal visit to the Zimbabwe Immigration Office's public window, located in the center of Harare.

Americans intending to reside or work in Zimbabwe must obtain prior approval by the Zimbabwean Chief Immigration Officer.  Such applications typically take a minimum of six weeks and should be made through the Embassy of Zimbabwe in Washington, DC.  Since January 2008, several American citizens applying for or renewing residency or work permits have had their applications denied without explanation and been forced to depart the country.

Upon arrival in Zimbabwe, travelers should keep all travel documents readily available, as well as a list of residences or hotels where they will stay while in Zimbabwe. Travelers to Zimbabwe must carry some form of identification at all times.  Americans traveling to Zimbabwe to work in aid and development projects should insure they have proper permission and documentation from the Zimbabwean government before entering the country.

U.S. citizens who intend to work in Zimbabwe as journalists must apply for accreditation with the Zimbabwean Embassy at least one month in advance of planned travel.  The Government of Zimbabwe uses an extremely expansive definition of journalism, and any formal interviews, filming, or photography may be considered “presenting oneself as an accredited journalist,” a crime punishable by arrest or detention.  If you are in doubt about whether your purpose of travel constitutes journalism, please seek clarification from the Zimbabwean Embassy in Washington BEFORE you travel.  It is no longer possible to seek accreditation after arrival in Zimbabwe. Journalists attempting to enter Zimbabwe without proper advance accreditation may be denied admission, detained for questioning, arrested, or deported. Journalists seeking to file stories from Zimbabwe must comply with the regulations for media registration and accreditation, which require that journalists seek accreditation by paying a $500 (U.S.) application fee and, if accredited, a $1,000 (U.S.) accreditation fee.

U.S. citizen students and faculty at educational and other institutions who wish to do research in Zimbabwe should contact a host educational or research institution for affiliation prior to applying for a visa.  Despite fulfilling all such requirements and receiving appropriate permission, legitimate researchers have been detained in the past by the police because the subject of their research was believed to be sensitive.

Zimbabwe has become a cash society, with very few establishments accepting international credit or debit cards.  All ATMs in the country are incompatible with international networks and are unreliable.  Check cashing facilities are effectively nonexistent.  Travelers must bring adequate cash for their planned visit or wire money through Western Union.  Visitors are required to declare the amount of currency that they are bringing into and out of the country.  While there is no set legal limit on the amount of foreign currency that a person can carry into Zimbabwe, the maximum foreign currency that can be taken out of the country is U.S. $5,000.

Travelers transiting South Africa should ensure that their passports contain at least two completely blank (unstamped) visa pages each time entry is sought.  These pages are in addition to the endorsement/amendment pages at the back of the passport.  While South African statutes require one completely blank visa page, this rule has been applied inconsistently by South African immigration officials.  South African immigration authorities routinely turn away travelers who do not have enough blank visa pages in their passports.

The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Zimbabwe.

Information about
dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our web site. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information page.



Threats to Safety and Security:

The political, social, economic, and security situations in Zimbabwe are unpredictable and could deteriorate quickly without warning.  During the presidential elections in 2008, the Zimbabwe government authorized its security forces to suppress all dissent by whatever means it deemed necessary.  In the past year, political leaders at the highest levels of the Zimbabwean government have condoned the security forces’ use of violence against opponents of the government.  The government has defended its right to treat individuals roughly, including those in custody, and has warned of more such actions.

The political situation in Zimbabwe remains fluid.  American citizens should carefully evaluate the need to travel to Zimbabwe at this time.  Although the situation now appears stable, in late 2008, the political, humanitarian, and economic crisis in Zimbabwe resulted in civil demonstrations that were violently dispersed by security forces, as well as riots by military personnel, and a general deterioration of government services and infrastructure, including the collapse of the country's public health system.  Americans traveling to Zimbabwe should avoid crowds.  Zimbabwean authorities may forcefully disband demonstrations by labor unions and other civil groups.  American citizens should avoid all public demonstrations and protests.

Communications infrastructure in Zimbabwe is very unreliable. Telephone and cell phone outages are common.

Although there are no recent incidents, resident and visiting Americans have been arrested, detained, and threatened with expulsion for activities that would not be considered crimes in the U.S., including the expression of opinions regarding the current political regime in Zimbabwe.  Americans should carefully evaluate the need to travel around Zimbabwe by road, and make alternate plans when possible.  If traveling by road, U.S. citizens should make sure they have working communication devices, and evidence of their citizenship and valid visa.  Such evidence should include photocopies of the face page of their passport and their Zimbabwe visa approval stamp.  Americans should also notify a trusted friend or family member of their itinerary and expected departure and arrival times.

The streets around State House, the official residence of the President, and the Botanical Gardens are particularly sensitive and a number of pedestrians and motorists, including Americans, have been assaulted by local security forces when walking or driving in that area.  President Mugabe and other senior government officials travel around Harare accompanied by large and aggressive motorcades that have been known to run motorists off the road, and by security personnel who occasionally beat and harass drivers who fail to pull out of the way quickly enough.  American citizens are advised to be aware of police vehicles and police motorcycles flashing lights and sirens, and should move quickly off the road if overtaken by a motorcade.

American visitors have been detained in the past under suspicion of operating as journalists without accreditation for photographing cultural sites and areas that may not immediately appear to be sensitive.  Tourists may also be subject to harassment or arrest for photographing police, roadblocks, occupied commercial farms, and government buildings or military installations, official residences or embassies, including the president’s palace.  Prior written permission must be obtained from the appropriate government office before taking such photographs.  It is not always immediately apparent what the police deem sensitive and American citizens have been detained for hours for photographing such seemingly innocuous subjects as fruit carts and religious buildings such as churches, mosques, and synagogues.  American citizens are encouraged to be very aware of their surroundings before taking any pictures outside game parks and known tourist areas.
The government frequently uses marked and unmarked (ad hoc) road blocks to enforce order, particularly in urban centers.  Even though these road blocks are manned by uniformed police officers, caution should be used when approaching them, particularly at night.  When instructed by police or other security officials to stop at a roadblock, comply with these instructions.  If possible, carry a mobile phone or other means of communication.  In November 2002, Zimbabwean police outside of Mutare killed an American citizen who failed to yield at a roadblock. 

Other ongoing security conditions that could affect the safety of tourists in Zimbabwe include rising crime (see below) and the occupation of commercial farms by members of the National War Veterans' Association and others.  The so-called war veterans have seized American-owned property, and residents and tourists alike should avoid areas where war veterans are active.

Visitors should be prepared for fuel shortages.  Travelers should carefully assess their fuel situation, keep their tanks full, and consider carrying extra fuel in sealed containers specifically designed for such purpose before making any long-distance journeys.

Americans who travel to Zimbabwe should closely monitor the situation, keep travel documents up to date, and make their own contingency plans.  Americans overseas are advised to make or update complete inventories of their household effects and to maintain an adequate supply of food, water and necessary medications in their home.  See the State Department’s information on emergency and crisis planning.

For the latest security information, U.S. citizens traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State's
Bureau of Consular Affairs' website

Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free within the U.S. and Canada, or by calling a regular toll line, 1-202-501-4444, from other countries.   These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas.  For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s extensive tips and advice on
traveling safely abroad .



Crime:

Crime is a serious problem in Zimbabwe, and is driven by the country's deteriorating economy.  Street crime in Zimbabwe is a serious problem.  Americans and other foreigners are perceived to be wealthy and are frequently targeted by criminals who operate in the vicinity of hotels, restaurants, and shopping areas of the major cities and tourist areas such as Victoria Falls.  Although the majority of crimes in Zimbabwe are non-violent, perpetrators are generally armed with weapons, which can include firearms.  The downtown sector of Harare and its high density residential suburbs are particularly high-crime areas and a number of American visitors have been assaulted or robbed.  Reports of armed, residential burglaries in upscale residential areas have increased.

Travelers should secure their luggage at airports, railway and bus stations, and when making calls from public telephones.  Purse-snatchers will often work in teams of two, with one person acting as a diversion.  A typical mugging involves a group of young males who surround and overwhelm their victim in a public area.  Avoid displaying or carrying unnecessary valuables, such as expensive jewelry, and do not carry large sums of money.  Cell phones are of particular interest to local thieves.   Always secure items such as passports, money, jewelry, and credit cards in hotel safety deposit boxes or safes when not being used.  

Travelers should avoid driving at night outside the low-density suburban areas.  Drivers should be alert for “smash and grabs,” where thieves break the windows of cars stopped at intersections and take visible items from inside the car.  Car doors should always be locked and the windows rolled up.  Handbags, wallets, and other items should be placed out of sight under car seats or in the trunk of the car.  While stopped in traffic, drivers should always be aware and look around to identify potential trouble.  Drivers should always leave sufficient maneuver room between their vehicle and the one in front so they can drive away from danger.  Travelers who suspect that their vehicle is being followed should drive to the nearest police station or other protected public area for assistance.  Reducing even the shortest amount of idle times at traffic lights at night by slowing in advance to anticipate the changing of the light is an effective deterrent.  Drivers should also be cautious of people using ploys to lure them out of their cars.  In one ploy, an assailant will slash a tire and then offer to help with the flat, particularly on the road to Harare International Airport.  Beware of drivers in vehicles without license plates who stop to render aid or who cause minor accidents.  Always drive to a well-lit and populated area before making repairs or exchanging information.

Travelers are encouraged to make two photocopies of the biographic/identification page of their passport.  They should leave one copy at home with friends or relatives and carry the second copy with them for identification purposes.

Victims of Crime: If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, you should contact the local police, and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate (see end of this sheet or see the
Department of State list of embassies and consulates ). This includes the loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport.  The embassy/consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred.  Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Zimbabwe for the police is the Harare Central Police Station at 777-777; for fire fighters 993 or 783-983; and for ambulance 994 or MARS at 771-221.

Please see our
information on victims of crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.



Criminal Penalties:

While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law.  Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses.  Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crimeprosecutable in the United States .

Persons violating Zimbabwe’s laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.  Penalties for possessing, using, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Zimbabwe are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.



Special Circumstances:

The U.S. Embassy does not receive notification of the arrest of American citizens by the Zimbabwean police.  Further, the Government of Zimbabwe does not always grant immediate or repeated visits to detained or incarcerated Americans by Embassy consular officers.  Individuals may be detained for up to 48 working hours without due process, and detainees accused or suspected of political offenses have been repeatedly remanded in 14-day increments.  U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry a copy of their U.S. passports with them at all times so that, if questioned by local officials, proof of identity and U.S. citizenship is readily available.  U.S. citizens arrested or detained in Zimbabwe are advised to demand immediate contact with a U.S. consular official from the U.S. Embassy in Harare.

Under Executive Order 13288 of March 7, 2003, the United States placed sanctions on the property and economic assets of certain Zimbabwean government officials deemed most responsible for undermining Zimbabwe’s democratic institutions.  Under U.S. law, it is illegal for American citizens or residents to engage in any transaction or dealing with the targeted individuals or other entities designated by the Secretary of the Treasury under this sanctions program.  It is not otherwise illegal for American citizens to transact business with Zimbabwean firms. U.S. citizens intending to engage in business or financial transactions in Zimbabwe are advised to consult the
Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control website for up-to-date information on these sanctions.

Zimbabwe has become a cash society.  The U.S. dollar, South African rand, and Botswanan pula (near the Botswana border) are the main means of cash payment for all goods and services.  Traveler’s checks are generally not accepted. 

Zimbabwe offers opportunities for observation of wildlife in its natural habitat and many tour operators still offer structured, safe excursions into parks and other wildlife viewing areas for close observation of flora and fauna.  However, safety standards and training have declined markedly and it is a good idea to ascertain whether operators are trained and licensed.  Even animals marketed as “tame” should be respected as wild and extremely dangerous.  Two foreign visitors were killed by an elephant on a “safari walk” in Hwange National Park in March 2007.  A foreign tourist died in August 2005 after an attack during a “lion walk” at The Lion and Cheetah Park, a game preserve near Harare.  In February 2007, another foreign visitor was seriously injured during a “lion walk” with young lions at the same park.  In 2004, an American tourist was killed by a crocodile while in a canoe at Mana Pools on the Zambezi River.  U.S. citizens participating in nature excursions in Zimbabwe should be aware that even organized and licensed tour operators may encourage or allow tourists to participate in activities, such as walking or canoe safaris, which could pose great risks to personal safety.  Travelers should keep a safe distance from animals at all times, remaining in vehicles or other protected enclosures when venturing into game parks.

There have been a few instances in which tourists have faced last-minute cancellations or have had to leave a game park earlier than planned as a result of labor unrest and/or ownership disputes.  Visitors to Nyanga should avoid Pungwe Falls, Mterazi Falls, and the Honde Falls, as there have been numerous incidents of armed robbery, theft, assaults, and attempted rapes reported at these sites.  Land mines along the Mozambique border, situated beyond the main tourist areas, make travel to that border area potentially hazardous.

Tourists who wish to hunt in Zimbabwe must be accompanied by a licensed operator, who is required to be registered and licensed by the Zimbabwe Ministry of Environment and Tourism.  Travelers to Zimbabwe should ask for the operator’s license number when booking a hunt, and should check the authenticity of the license by contacting the
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it (ZATSO) or at the This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

U.S. citizens who are temporarily carrying firearms and ammunition into Zimbabwe for purposes of hunting, and who cannot qualify for an exemption under the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), may need an approved temporary export license (DSP73) from Department of State's Office of Defense Trade Controls.  U.S. citizens should also contact the Embassy of Zimbabwe in Washington, D.C. to find out what permits are required by the government of Zimbabwe for importing weapons into the country.  Travelers are advised to make sure that all of the necessary documentation is in order before departing the United States.  The weapons also must be cleared through U.S. Customs when leaving the United States and upon reentry at the conclusion of one's trip.   All firearms must be packed and transported in an approved firearm case.  Ammunition must be packed in a lockable box with key and placed in the checked luggage.  Please see our Customs Information.



Medical Facilities and Health Information:

The public medical infrastructure is depressed and medical facilities are extremely limited.  There have been several instances where American citizens facing life-threatening illnesses or injuries have been turned away from hospitals because there were not sufficient beds or medical supplies available.  Most serious illnesses or accidents require medical evacuation to South Africa.  All travelers are strongly urged to obtain medical evacuation insurance coverage prior to arriving in Zimbabwe.  Doctors, hospitals, and air ambulance medical evacuation services often expect immediate cash payment for health services.  Travelers are urged to carry an ample supply of prescription and other medications, as they will not likely be available in Zimbabwe.  Provincial hospitals in rural areas, if still operating, have rudimentary staffing, equipment, and supplies, and are not equipped to provide medical care in case of a serious accident.  The fuel shortage further diminishes emergency response capabilities.  Emergency patients often must arrange their own transportation to medical facilities. 

In late 2008, the deterioration of the health system impaired the government's ability to respond to a dangerous cholera outbreak which killed over 4,000 people.  Cholera is a potentially fatal bacterial infection of the intestine that causes severe diarrhea and dehydration.  The disease is spread through untreated sewage and contaminated drinking water.  The latest outbreak in Zimbabwe exposed a shortage of potable water throughout the country and overwhelmed medical resources.  Travelers to Zimbabwe should drink boiled or bottled water, use boiled or bottled water in food preparation, and regularly wash their hands with a sanitizer.  For more information, American citizens may refer to the
CDC’s web page on cholera .

Malaria is also prevalent throughout Zimbabwe, except in Harare, due to the capital’s high altitude.  The CDC strongly recommends that malaria prophylaxis and preventive measures be taken when traveling outside of Harare.
Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the
CDC website For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization (WHO) website. The WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information .

Tuberculosis is an increasingly serious health concern in Zimbabwe.  For further information, please consult the CDC's information on TB .



Medical Insurance:

The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.  Even with proof of medical insurance, most medical facilities require cash payment before administering any care.  For more information, please see our medical insurance overseas page .



Traffic Safety and Road Conditions:

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States.  The information below concerning Zimbabwe is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Zimbabweans drive on the left side of the road and many people drive over the speed limit.  The main roads throughout Zimbabwe are generally in fair but deteriorating condition.  Most lack passing lanes, shoulders, breakdown lanes, lighting, reflectors, and similar safety features.  DUI enforcement does not generally exist, resulting in high rates of impaired drivers, especially at night.

Service stations sometimes lack fuel or repair parts.  Inter-city commuter bus travel, except by “luxury coaches,” is dangerous due to overcrowding, inadequate maintenance, and unsafe drivers.  Public bus drivers are often fatigued, fail to adhere to local speed limits, and often fail to obey traffic rules or regulations.  Travelers are advised to avoid driving at night due to pedestrians (in dark clothing) and animals walking in the poorly lit roads.  Motor vehicles often have no headlights or taillights and are difficult to see at night.  Passing lanes are not always clearly marked, and road visibility at times can be restricted.  In urban areas, lane markers are often faded, with both streetlights and traffic lights inoperative.  Potholes are numerous on most roads.

It is illegal to operate a cellular telephone while driving in Zimbabwe.  Drivers are required to wear seat belts or helmets if driving motorcycles.  Car seats are not legally required for small children.  Travelers should pack several pairs of latex gloves in the event of a road accident involving serious injuries or bleeding, as Zimbabwe has one of the highest rates of HIV/AIDS infection in southern Africa.

The high cost of fuel severely restricts the response capability of police and other emergency services.  The Ministry of Transport is the government authority responsible for road safety in Zimbabwe.  There is no national established network of roadside emergency service.  However, the Automobile Association of Zimbabwe, similar to the American Automobile Association, is willing to provide roadside emergency service to nonmembers for a fee.  Travelers interested in contacting the service during their stay in Zimbabwe may contact AA Zimbabwe at 263-4-752-779.  AA Zimbabwe’s 24-hour emergency roadside helpline is 263-4-707-959.


Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.  Also, we suggest that you visit the website of Zimbabwe’s national tourist office responsible for road safety.



Aviation Safety Oversight:

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Zimbabwe’s Civil Aviation Authority as not being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Zimbabwe’s air carrier operations.  Further information may be found on the FAA safety assessment page .



Children’s Issues:

Please see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.

This replaces the Country Specific Information dated April 1, 2009 to update sections on Country Description, Registration/ Embassy Location, Entry/Exit Requirements, Threats to Safety and Security, Special Circumstances, Medical Facilities and Health Information, Traffic Safety and Road Conditions, Aviation Safety Oversight, Children’s Issues.

 


The UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office also has information regarding travel to Zimbabwe HERE.....

Looking for an Embassy ?, You can also check out our World Wide Embassies Listings Section HERE (For US Citizens) or HERE (For UK Citizens).........

There is a Malaria Warning for Zimbabwe, find out more HERE.....

Regards

The SW Team................

 

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