We entered Zimbabwe via the Kariba Dam, which was not only interesting, but a very relaxed border, much better than going directly from Chirundu, as we had heard from other travellers.
We left to Botswana at a very small border north of Hwange NP at Pandamatenga, which was the quickest border crossing in all of Africa up to know.
We got a 1 month visa for 30 US$ pp, which we could extend for free for another month. We did the extension at the Immigration Office in Harare, which was easy, fast and free of charges.
Toll and Insurance:
We paid for Carbon tax and road tax 20 USD at the border. If that was only for one month, we didn’t pay anything for the second month. When leaving the country in Pandamatenga, nobody asked about that.
During travelling in the country, you reach a toll booth at all the main roads, where they charge you between 2 and 5 US Dollars. We found, the best way to pay only 2.- $ (the price of a normal car), was handing them the exact amount, usually they didn’t argue. Only once we had to pay 4.- $ as we are a big car.
Concerning insurance: We asked some locals and they were confident, that our European Insurance which includes Zimbabwe would be sufficient. We were never asked about it while travelling.
That is a specific topic in Zimbabwe. As the inflation is still very high, you pay everything in US$. We had some with us, but also could withdraw them at ATMs at the First National Bank. To pay with credit card is not possible in most places. If they have a machine, it often is not for International credit cards.
There are enough filling stations in all parts of the country. All the filling stations where we went had Diesel. Usually we had to pay cash.
The water from the boreholes normally is drinking quality. We had no problems filling up our tank, water is available nearly everywhere. For drinking we bought 5l bottles at the supermarkets.
The main roads were mostly quite good, with only few potholes. Minor roads were either with numerous potholes or the tar was crumbling away on both sides leaving only a small strip, which made driving a nightmare. Gravel roads were mostly either corrugated or bumpy, which allowed us a travelling speed between 20 and 40 km/h.
We didn’t look for a possibility to fill up our gas tank (LPG), but we got the impression, that LPG is available.
We use an Alpine Navigation in the car, for which we could buy maps of Southern Africa, which includes Zimbabwe, so we were back to using that again. It was not very accurate we found. To check, we mostly used the Tracks4Africa App or the IOverlander map, which is very good.
National Park fees are not as high as in East Africa, but they had increased the fees for camping before the elections. Hopefully that goes down again.
At the first supermarket we got a real shock, when we realised how high the prices are. We learned from the locals, that beside of very high import tax, the government dictates a money exchange rate to the local currency, which makes it very expensive to pay with US$. In the end, we avoided bigger supermarkets and bought at the general dealers in the villages, which had better prices.
We bought fresh fruits and vegetables along the road, where we got mostly tomatoes, potatoes and onions but also delicious avocados and bananas.
We had difficulties to buy beer in bottles: we would have needed empty bottles in exchange for new ones. Without them they were not prepared to sell us any beer, just the one in cans. Corona and Savanna was available though.
We got an Econet Sim card in Kariba just after the border, which we could easily recharge at their stores. We paid 38,- USD for 30 GB, plus 1,- for the SIM card.
The internet was the worst we had had in all of Africa so far. In many places you get no connection, and when you have internet, it often disappears and comes again hours later – not great, when you have meetings to attend.
We had heard all the stories about the Zimbabwe road blocks, there is even a song about them. It seems that it was very bad just a couple of years ago, when they wanted something from you every few kilometres. That has luckily changed. We had only few police controls, where they usually waved us through. Only a few times we had to talk and show the driving license.
But we had one scary experience, when we stopped at what looked like a lay-by. Immediately we were surrounded by police. We were a kilometre from the airport and apparently this was a no stopping area. They told us that they will have to confiscate our car and we will go to prison. In the end we paid 50 US$ and could leave. It turned out the president was on the way to the airport that moment, to pick up the president of Iran, another great leader, so they were very alert at that time on this route. But anyway: never stopp at a “clamping zone” and don’t drive the road past the presidents palace during night, also a very bad idea we had heard.
There are many nice campsites in Zimbabwe. We are back in an area, where braai and campfires are a ritual. One of the loveliest places we had was at The Farmhouse outside Matobo NP.
We will continue with Botswana – more soon!