Zimbabwe

Latest update

This Advice was last issued on Wednesday, 17 September 2014.   This advice contains new information in the Summary and under Entry and exit and Health (the outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in west Africa is the most serious in recorded history. In an effort to prevent the spread of the disease into Zimbabwe, passengers from EVD-affected countries are being identified and interviewed at airports and land borders. Travellers from west Africa are reportedly subject to a 21 day health surveillance). We continue to advise Australians to exercise a high degree of caution in Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe overall

Summary

  • We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in Zimbabwe at this time due to the risk of crime and potential for civil unrest and political violence. Pay close attention to your personal security at all times and monitor the media and other local sources of information about possible new safety or security risks.
  • The situation in Zimbabwe is generally calm, although incidents of political violence continue to occur in some urban and rural areas. There is potential for the security situation to deteriorate quickly. You should remain vigilant in high-density (lower-income) urban areas because of the potential for the security situation to deteriorate.
  • You should ensure your travel documentation is valid and remains up-to-date. You are encouraged to register your presence in Zimbabwe with the Australian Embassy in Harare and to update your contact details when they change.
  • You should avoid demonstrations, street rallies and any political gatherings as they may turn violent. Police and security forces are likely to respond violently and may not distinguish between demonstrators and bystanders.
  • The outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in west Africa is the most serious in recorded history. In an effort to prevent the spread of the disease into Zimbabwe, passengers from EVD-affected countries are being identified and interviewed at airports and land borders. Travellers from west Africa are reportedly subject to a 21 day health surveillance. For more information on the outbreak and other travel restrictions and preventative measures, see the Ebola outbreak in West Africa travel bulletin.
  • Health services in Zimbabwe are poor and travellers should ensure that they have comprehensive travel insurance that will enable them to access adequate healthcare services.
  • The level of HIV/AIDS infection in Zimbabwe is very high.
  • Typhoid outbreaks have been reported in some high density areas in Harare. You should ensure your typhoid vaccinations are up to date.
  • Because of the potential for security to deteriorate in Zimbabwe, we strongly recommend that you register your travel and contact details, so we can contact you in an emergency.
    • Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
    • organise comprehensive travel insurance and check what circumstances and activities are not covered by your policy
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Entry and exit

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) change regularly. Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Zimbabwe for the most up to date information.

Australian citizens entering Zimbabwe for tourism purposes are required to pay for a single entry, 30-day visa on point of entry. Extensions are possible, and require a personal visit to the Zimbabwe Department of Immigration or the nearest Immigration Office. Allow sufficient time for an extension review. Foreign nationals have been imprisoned for remaining in the country beyond the authorised dates of stay. If you intend to reside or work in Zimbabwe, you must obtain a work permit approved by the Zimbabwe Chief Immigration Officer before entering the country. Work permit applications should be submitted by the person’s sponsor at any Zimbabwe Immigration Office.

Australians should exercise caution in obtaining visas and work permits from local migration agents and should instead seek to obtain these directly from the relevant Zimbabwean authorities.

Journalists working without proper accreditation are liable to arrest, detention and possible deportation.

A valid yellow fever vaccination certificate is required for all passengers over one year of age who arrive from an infected yellow fever area/country. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides a list of yellow fever countries.

The outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in west Africa is the most serious in recorded history. In an effort to prevent the spread of the disease into Zimbabwe, passengers from EVD-affected countries are being identified and interviewed at airports and land borders. Travellers from west Africa are reportedly subject to a 21 day health surveillance. For more information on the outbreak and other travel restrictions and preventative measures, see the Ebola outbreak in West Africa travel bulletin.

Make sure your passport has at least six months' validity from your planned date of return to Australia and at least three blank pages for exit and entry stamps. You should carry copies of a recent passport photo with you in case you need a replacement passport while overseas. Provisional travel documents are no longer accepted for travelling or transiting through South Africa.

Safety and security

Terrorism

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. You can find more information about this threat in our General advice to Australian travellers.

Civil unrest/political tension

We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in Zimbabwe at this time due to the potential for civil unrest and political violence.

You should avoid political activity, or activities which could be construed as political, including political discussions in public places and criticism of the President. It is an offence to make derogatory or insulting comments about President Mugabe or to carry material considered to be offensive to the President’s office.

You should avoid all demonstrations and rallies, remain vigilant at all times and avoid high-density (lower-income) urban areas because of the potential for the security situation to deteriorate.

Residents and visitors can be arbitrarily detained or arrested.

Visitors should avoid taking photographs of security or government buildings. The President’s official residence (State House, Chancellor Avenue, The Avenues, Harare) is particularly sensitive, and visitors should avoid taking photographs, looking through the gates or lingering outside the walls. The roads around the residence are closed between 6pm and 6am daily.

Departure options if general security deteriorates quickly may be very restricted. You should ensure that your documentation remains up-to-date. Valid passports, visas and vehicle police clearances are essential should you need to depart Zimbabwe.

Monitor the media and other local information sources for information about possible new safety or security risks.

Unemployment, economic instability, shortages of medical supplies and fuel, as well as the unreliable provision of services such as power, water and transport combine to make an unpredictable security situation.

Land confiscation, forced displacement, looting of crops, theft of cattle, poaching of game and violent acts against farmers, their families and workers continue to occur in some areas of the country.

Crime

Muggings, bag snatching, carjacking and pickpocketing occur in Zimbabwe, particularly in urban centres and tourist areas. Armed robberies, assaults and other violent crime also occur. Security risks are heightened at night, especially on city streets, around parks and in city centres.

Police resources, such as vehicles and fuel, are scarce and help can be difficult to obtain. Police sometimes ask to be picked up at their police station and taken to the crime scene. There can be considerable delays and complications in pursuing the recovery of property and prosecution of offenders.

Theft from vehicles is common. You should drive with doors locked and windows up, and keep all valuables out of sight as thieves are known to target cars stopped at intersections especially along the route to Harare Airport and the Masvingo-Beitbridge road. Thieves are also known to slash the tyres of cars either stopped in traffic or parked, with the intention of robbing the occupants while they change the tyre. Drivers should be aware of people in the vicinity of their vehicle, approach intersections slowly to minimise vehicle stopping time and leave enough space in front of the vehicle to move away if necessary. Particular attention is necessary at night when many locals avoid stopping at red traffic lights by proceeding slowly after checking the road is clear.

Tourists have been robbed while visiting national parks. A comprehensive indemnity is often required by safari operators before they accept clients. To help minimise the security risks we suggest that you travel in groups, preferably with an organised tour group, and check the security situation before visiting national parks and farms, including game farms, lodges and hunting areas.

Due to the very high prevalence of HIV/AIDS, victims of violent crime, especially rape, are strongly encouraged to seek immediate medical assistance.

Commercial fraud, money transfer and job and employment scams are increasing in Zimbabwe. If you receive a message that sounds too good to be true, don't be fooled - it probably is. Our international scams page provides more detail on these types of scams.

Money and valuables

Before you go, organise a variety of ways to access your money overseas, such as credit cards, travellers' cheques, cash, debit cards or cash cards. Australian currency and travellers' cheques are not accepted in many countries. Consult with your bank to find out which is the most appropriate currency to carry and whether your ATM card will work overseas.

If you decide to travel to Zimbabwe, be prepared to bring in sufficient cash to cover all your costs during your visit. You may have difficulty withdrawing cash from an ATM or bank. Travellers’ cheques and credit/debit cards are not widely accepted. The US Dollar is the main currency accepted in Zimbabwe. South African Rand, Botswanan Pula and Great British Pound are also accepted. Although rarely used, in January 2014, Zimbabwe added further currencies (Chinese Yuan, Australian Dollar, Indian Rupee and the Japanese Yen) to those officially accepted. In practice most transactions are conducted in US Dollars and South African Rand and these currencies are universally accepted. Other currencies may not be accepted in smaller or more remote locations. You will need to bring in notes in small denominations (i.e. US $1, $5, $10), as small change is sometimes not available.

Make two photocopies of valuable documents such as your passport, tickets, visas and travellers' cheques. Keep one copy with you in a separate place to the original and leave another copy with someone at home.

While travelling, don't carry too much cash and remember that expensive watches, jewellery, mobile telephones and cameras may be tempting targets for thieves.

As a sensible precaution against luggage tampering, including theft, lock your luggage. Information on luggage safety is available from Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

When visiting Victoria Falls, you should take care to protect your passport from exposure to water. You may face difficulties if you try to travel using a damaged passport and you may have to pay for a replacement.

Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport. If your passport is lost or stolen overseas, report it online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.

You are required to pay an additional fee to have a lost or stolen passport replaced. In some cases, the Government may also restrict the length of validity or type of replacement passports.

Local travel

If you intend to drive to Mozambique, please check our travel advice for Mozambique for the latest on the security situation in provinces close to Zimbabwe. See our Mozambique travel advice for more information.

Roadblocks are common throughout Zimbabwe, and can appear with little warning. Identification documents, including car registration and ownership papers, must be shown when requested by police. Drivers are often subjected to bribery demands. Roadblocks have also been used to prevent access mining areas. If you are stopped at a roadblock and told not to go further, we strongly advise you to turn back.

There have been reports of police intimidating foreigners over minor vehicle violations in an attempt to solicit money. Care should be taken, particularly at night, but it is recommended that you comply with police instructions.

If driving in Zimbabwe it is recommended that you always carry a mobile phone or other means of communication as an extra precaution. However, it should be noted that it is illegal to use a phone without a hands free device when driving.

The safety standards Australians might expect from tour operators are not always met, especially for activities such as adventure sports. Sufficient life jackets and adequate safety equipment may not be provided. Recommended maintenance standards and safety precautions may not be observed. Particular care should be taken when rafting or bungee jumping near Victoria Falls.

Fuel shortages can occur and you are advised to inquire locally as to fuel availability before embarking on longer journeys to remote areas. Power outages and water cuts, sometimes lasting for weeks, are common everywhere, including the cities.

Zimbabwe applies vehicle charges (payable in some foreign currencies) for short-term foreign motorists. These charges include a new carbon tax, parking fees, road tolls and increased border tolls.

If hiring a motor vehicle, you should ensure it is equipped with a fire extinguisher and two metallic emergency triangles with white reflective stickers on the front and red reflective stickers on the back, a spare wheel, wheel spanner and a jack. Drivers may face fines for non-compliance.

Driving at night is very hazardous. Roads, even in major cities, as they have potholes, are poorly lit, and vehicles sometimes operate without using lights. Animals roaming onto roads are a potential hazard at any time. Dangerous driving habits contribute to the high rate of traffic accidents. For further advice, see our road travel page.

Public transport systems, including trains and commuter buses, can be dangerous due to overcrowding, poor maintenance and reckless driving and should be avoided.

Swimming in lakes and rivers is unsafe because of the possibility of being attacked by wildlife and the risk of catching water-borne diseases such as bilharzia (schistosomiasis).

Unexploded landmines are found in parts of the border area with Mozambique.

Airline safety

Due to concerns about safety and reliability, Australian government officials in Zimbabwe are required to seek approval before undertaking official travel on Air Zimbabwe flights. Air Zimbabwe is the only airline regularly operating on some internal routes.

You should be aware that safety standards and procedures of individual airlines in Zimbabwe may not meet international standards.

For further information about aviation safety and security, please refer to our air travel page.

Laws

When you are in Zimbabwe, be aware that local laws and penalties, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards, do apply to you.

Australians intending to conduct business in Zimbabwe should familiarise themselves with local laws and regulations, including as they relate to land and business ownership.

If you are arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you but we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.

Information on what Australian consular officers can and cannot do to help Australians in trouble overseas is available from the Consular Services Charter.

Zimbabwean authorities do not always advise the Australian Embassy when an Australian citizen is detained or arrested. If you are detained you have the right to contact an Australian Embassy consular officer.

You should always carry identity documentation or a copy of your passport in case you are stopped by Police or Immigration officials.

The penalties for possession, manufacture or trafficking of illegal drugs, including marijuana, are severe and include lengthy imprisonment and heavy fines.

You should ensure you have appropriate paperwork, including evidence of purchase, for any precious or semi-precious stones in your possession.

Murder, treason, banditry, sabotage and terrorism are punishable by the death penalty. Juvenile male offenders may be subject to corporal punishment.

Sodomy and homosexual acts between men are illegal in Zimbabwe. Penalties include fines up to or exceeding US$5000 and up to one year imprisonment. See our LGBTI travellers page.

It is against the law for civilians to wear any form of clothing made from camouflage material.

Purchasing or distributing counterfeit or pirated goods and pornographic material is illegal.

You should avoid engaging in any political activity, or in activities which could be construed as such, including political discussions in public places. An open hand is the political symbol of one of the main political parties and a friendly wave may therefore be misinterpreted as a provocative gesture. It is also a criminal offence in Zimbabwe to make any derogatory or insulting comments about President Mugabe. Any person making such comments is liable to arrest and prosecution. Distributing or displaying books published by banned authors or displaying any form of political allegiance, slogans or images from Zimbabwean political parties may attract strict penalties including arrest, detention or deportation.

It is illegal to photograph around military establishments, government offices, the President's Residence (State House) and airports without special permission of the Ministry of Information.

It is an offence to continue driving when the President's motorcade goes past, no matter which side of the road you are on. You should stop your car even if you are travelling in the opposite direction on a dual carriageway. Security forces have been known to intimidate and assault motorists who fail to stop in time. Drivers are advised to pull over as soon as they see the motorcade which begins with a single police motor cycle with flashing lights.

Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, child pornography, and child sex tourism, apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.

Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian child sex tourism and child pornography laws. These laws provide severe penalties of up to 25 years imprisonment for Australians who engage in child sexual exploitation while outside of Australia.

Information for dual nationals

Zimbabwe does not recognise dual nationality. This may limit the ability of Australian officials to provide consular assistance to Australian/Zimbabwean dual nationals who have been arrested or detained.

For persons over the age of 18, holding a Zimbabwean and a second nationality passport is prohibited. Heavy penalties may apply if caught.

Our Dual nationals page provides further information for dual nationals.

Health

We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.

It is important to consider your physical and mental health before travelling overseas. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations before you travel. At least eight weeks before you depart, make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and any implications for your health, particularly if you have an existing medical condition. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our health page also provides useful information for travellers on staying healthy.

Health services in Zimbabwe are poor. Public hospitals in Harare and other towns are experiencing shortages of staff, water, power, medicines and equipment. They are unlikely to offer treatment of certain illnesses or offer assistance in an accident or emergency. The few private hospitals in Harare are also suffering from staff and resources limitations and are likely to require payments up front before a patient is admitted.

Medical facilities outside Harare and Bulawayo are limited. Medical supplies throughout Zimbabwe are limited and some prescription medicines may not be available. In the event of a serious accident or illness, a medical evacuation to South Africa would be necessary, costing up to $A25,000.

Essential public services, including medical services, have been disrupted due to the state of the economy.

Outbreaks of cholera and other enteric diseases, such as typhoid, have occurred and may break out again with little warning.

There has been an outbreak of typhoid in parts of Harare, with over 1,500 cases reported since October 2011. While the majority of reported cases are in high-density, low-income areas, we recommend that if you are living in Harare or planning to travel to Harare ensure your typhoid vaccinations are up to date. Paying careful attention to personal and food hygiene limits the risk of contracting the disease. For more information see the WHO website.

A severe cholera outbreak affected most of Zimbabwe between August 2008 and July 2009. The disease may break out again with little warning. We advise you to drink water only from known safe sources (eg bottled, chlorinated or boiled water) and to maintain strict hygiene standards while travelling in Zimbabwe.

Malaria is a risk in all areas except Harare and Bulawayo. Other mosquito-borne diseases (including filariasis) are also prevalent in Zimbabwe. We encourage you to take prophylaxis against malaria and take precautions to avoid being bitten by insects, including using an insect repellent at all times, wearing light coloured, loose-fitting clothing and ensuring your accommodation is mosquito proof.

Water-borne, food-borne and other infectious diseases (including hepatitis, tuberculosis, measles, typhoid and rabies) are prevalent, with more serious outbreaks occurring from time to time. We advise you to boil all drinking water or drink bottled water, and avoid ice cubes and raw and undercooked food. Do not swim in fresh water to avoid exposure to diseases such as schistosomiasis (bilharzia). Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering from diarrhoea.

The rate of HIV/AIDS infection in Zimbabwe is very high. You should exercise appropriate precautions if engaging in activities that expose you to risk of infection.

The outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in west Africa is the most serious in recorded history. In an effort to prevent the spread of the disease into Zimbabwe, passengers from EVD-affected countries are being identified and interviewed at airports and land borders. Travellers from west Africa are reportedly subject to a 21 day health surveillance. For more information on the outbreak and other travel restrictions and preventative measures, see the Ebola outbreak in West Africa travel bulletin.

Where to get help

In Zimbabwe, you can obtain consular assistance from the:

Australian Embassy, Harare

1 Green Close
Borrowdale, Harare, Zimbabwe
Telephone: (263 4) 853 235 55
Facsimile: (263 4) 870 566
E-mail address: zimbabwe.embassy@dfat.gov.au
Website: http://www.zimbabwe.embassy.gov.au

If you are travelling to Zimbabwe, whatever the reason and however long you'll be there, we encourage you to register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register online or in person at any Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. The information you provide will help us to contact you in an emergency - whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or a family issue.

In a consular emergency if you are unable to contact the Embassy you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

In Australia, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra may be contacted on (02) 6261 3305.

Additional information

Natural disasters, severe weather and climate

The rainy season is November to April when flooding may occur.

Information on natural disasters can be obtained from the Humanitarian Early Warning Service. If a natural disaster occurs, follow the advice of local authorities.

Wildlife

Australians contemplating undertaking guided hunting in Zimbabwe should ensure they engage a legitimate operator with a valid hunting licence.

For parents

For general information and tips on travelling with children see our Travelling with children page.



While every care has been taken in preparing this information, neither the Australian Government nor its agents or employees, including any member of Australia's diplomatic and consular staff abroad, can accept liability for any injury, loss or damage arising in respect of any statement contained herein.

Maps are presented for information only. The department accepts no responsibility for errors or omission of any geographic feature. Nomenclature and territorial boundaries may not necessarily reflect Australian Government policy.