U.S. Department of State
Bureau of Consular Affairs
Washington, DC 20520
Consular Information Sheet
Americans planning travel to Zimbabwe should read Intercountry Adoption Zimbabwe , Avian Flu Fact Sheet, Zimbabwe Public Announcement and Worldwide Caution Public Announcement available on the Department of State web site at http://travel.state.gov
October 29, 2007
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:Zimbabwe is a developing landlocked country in southern Africa. Tourist facilities are available in Victoria Falls, Great Zimbabwe, major cities, and selected game parks. Read the Department of State Background Notes on Zimbabwe for additional information.
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. In some instances, Zimbabwean immigration officials have used materials found in searches of travelers and their luggage as an explanation to refuse entry. Travelers should obtain the latest travel and visa information from the Embassy of Zimbabwe (contact details listed above).
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.
Since January 2007, several American citizens applying for or renewing residency or work permits have had their applications denied without explanation and been asked to depart the country, sometimes despite having lived and worked in Zimbabwe for many months or years.
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; any formal interviews, filming or photography may be considered “practicing journalism.” If you are in doubt about whether or not 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 within Zimbabwe at the Ministry of Information. 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 requirements of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, which requires that journalists seek accreditation by paying a $100 (U.S.) application fee and, if accredited, a $500 (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.
While there is no set legal limit on the amount of foreign currency that a person can carry into Zimbabwe, it is illegal to take more than $1,000 U.S. dollars or more than $5,000,000 Zimbabwean dollars out of the country, whether departing by road or air. Travelers seeking to depart with greater amounts of local currency risk having the money confiscated and/or being prevented from leaving pending a court appearance.
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 sheet.
SAFETY AND SECURITY: The political, social, economic, and security situations in Zimbabwe are deteriorating. Incidents of political violence have increased sharply. U.S. citizens residing in or traveling to Zimbabwe should be aware of conditions that could affect their safety, including government-sanctioned violence. Government security forces are increasingly acting with impunity. They have attacked peaceful demonstrations protesting against political repression and a deteriorating economic situation. U.S. citizens are strongly urged to avoid all political rallies and demonstrations, or large gatherings of any kind anywhere in Zimbabwe. During the past year, political demonstrations, which occur in both urban and rural areas, have resulted in injuries. One member of the opposition political party, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), was killed on March 11, 2007 by Zimbabwean police who broke up a prayer rally in Highfields, a low-income suburb of Harare. In the weeks following, numerous opposition members were kidnapped from their homes and public places and beaten and tortured. The government’s security forces have also directed violence at common citizens, indiscriminately beating individuals on the street and in private establishments.
Zimbabwean media outlets, particularly those affiliated with the Government of Zimbabwe, publish incendiary reports accusing the United States, Australian and British governments of funding terrorism and advocating regime change in Zimbabwe. On April 1, 2007, a government sponsored newspaper, The Herald, charged that a UK Embassy employee was “meddling” in Zimbabwean affairs and threatened that if she didn’t cease her conduct, she might next arrive in London in a body bag.
Resident and visiting Americans have been arrested, detained, or 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. 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 flashing lights and sirens and 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 a license 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.
There may be increased roadblocks and police presence across Zimbabwe, particularly in urban centers. 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 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.
Sharp price cuts on local goods have caused widespread shortages of bread, milk, meat, poultry and gasoline, and other basic goods, resulting in occasional outbreaks of violence as security agents seek to enforce the price cuts and citizens rush to buy available goods. Visitors should be prepared for food shortages and avoid large gatherings, particularly around shopping areas and in the high-density suburbs of Harare and Bulawayo.
Zimbabwe is currently experiencing a significant nationwide fuel shortage. Drivers can spend days parked in lines at gas stations waiting for fuel. Emotions in these lines can run quite high and have sparked isolated protests. 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.
For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs’ web site, where the current Travel Warnings and Public Announcements including the Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, can be found.
Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S. and Canada, or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444. 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 pamphlet A Safe Trip 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. A number of American visitors have been assaulted or robbed while walking in the town of Victoria Falls, especially after dark.
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. The use of credit cards is not recommended unless the exchange rate can be determined before their use.
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 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 idle times at traffic lights 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.
INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. 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.
See our information on Victims of Crime.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Medical facilities, particularly outside of Harare and Bulawayo, are extremely limited. Many 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 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 have sometimes had to arrange their own transportation to the hospital.
The water supply is not always potable; use bottled or distilled water for drinking.
Malaria is prevalent throughout Zimbabwe, except in Harare, due to the capital’s high altitude. The CDC strongly recommends that malaria prophylaxis and preventive measures are taken when traveling outside of Harare.
In early 2006, the World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed a limited outbreak of cholera in Harare, Chikomba and Buhera districts. Cases of cholera were also confirmed in Harare in January and February 2007.
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’s internet site at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/default.aspx. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) website at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.
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. Please see our information on medical insurance overseas.
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.
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.
Service stations frequently lack fuel or repair parts. Inter-city commuter bus travel, except by “luxury coaches,” is dangerous due to overcrowding, inadequate maintenance, and drivers who are fatigued and who fail to adhere to local speed limits and 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. Traffic moves on the left and many people drive over the speed limit. The passing lanes are not always clearly marked, and road visibility at times can be restricted. In urban areas, lane markers are often faded and traffic, streetlights are often inoperable and large potholes are cropping up in previously well-maintained 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.
A nationwide fuel shortage makes internal travel difficult and unreliable, and 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.
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 the oversight of Zimbabwe’s air carrier operations. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s internet web site at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa.
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. In April 2007, two Americans were detained by Zimbabwean police in Harare. They were not charged with any crime, they were not asked if they would like legal representation, and they were not arraigned before a magistrate. The the police failed to give consular notification, failed to grant consular visitation, and refused to provide Embassy staff any information about their whereabouts, despite repeated inquiries. In this case, the police officer in charge made comments which suggested that their refusal to provide information or consular access was at least partially motivated by political considerations and the strained state of U.S.-Zimbabwe relations. In August 2007, two more Americans arrested under similar circumstances were detained for two days and deported. Zimbabwean officials failed to notify U.S. consular officials of the arrests; after U.S. officials became aware of the detentions they were refused visitation.
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. If arrested, American citizens should ask to contact the American Embassy.
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 web site at http://www.treas.gov/offices/enforcement/ofac/ for up-to-date information on these sanctions.
It is illegal to exchange foreign currency for local currency with anyone other than an authorized currency dealer affiliated with the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe. Authorized currency dealers include the major banks, such as Standard Chartered and Barclays. Street vendors and private individuals may also offer this service, but they should be avoided. Travelers observed by the police engaging in illegal money transactions will be immediately arrested and jailed pending a hearing before a magistrate court.
Travelers to Zimbabwe should carefully consider the method of payment used for lodging and other expenses. Due to high rates of inflation, prices may fluctuate dramatically. Internationally convertible currency such as U.S. dollars or British pounds may be required for certain travel-related expenses such as hotel bills and airfare, but is illegal to use for most other expenses. Even in instances where use of foreign exchange is required or permitted, traveler’s checks may not be accepted. Similarly, many banks and foreign exchange windows refuse to accept traveler’s checks for conversion to local currency, and virtually none will cash them for foreign exchange. There have been recent instances in which Zimbabwean authorities seized foreign currency from tourists/visitors who were unable to present documentation that they declared these funds when entering the country. Using a credit card could significantly increase the cost of purchases, as credit card companies calculate the U.S. dollar equivalent using the official government rate, which may be significantly lower than that used by local shopkeepers and vendors. Visitors are encouraged to assess the currency situation in Zimbabwe at the actual time of travel.
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, 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 Zimbabwe Association of Tour and Safari Operators (ZATSO) at: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
U.S. citizens who are temporarily carrying firearms and ammunition into Zimbabwe for purposes of hunting 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.
Please see our Customs Information.
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. Persons violating Zimbabwe’s laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Zimbabwe are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States. Please see our information on Criminal Penalties.
REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION: Americans living or traveling in Zimbabwe are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department’s travel registration web site so that they can obtain updated information on travel and security within Zimbabwe. Americans withoutInternet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy is located at 172 Herbert Chitepo Avenue, Harare, telephone (263-4) 250-593/4, after-hours telephone (263-4) 250-595; fax (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 P.O. Box 3340, Harare. The e-mail address is ConsularHarare@state.gov.
* * *
This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated May 9, 2007 to update sections on Entry/Exit Requirements, Safety and Security, Crime, Medical Facilities and Health Information, Traffic Safety and Road Conditions, and Special Circumstances.