Zimbabwe's Transport - Tips on Getting Around Safely

Fuel shortages and poorly maintained public transport can make getting around Zimbabwe difficult

UPDATE: Zimbabwe is currently experiencing shortages of food, fuel and money plus outbreaks of cholera and typhoid. For more information, visit our Travel Alerts page.

Zimbabwe in African terms is a paradise. It's a country of abundant wildlife and amazing environments, although getting around the country to see all these amazing areas can be quite difficult and frustrating.

But this is Zimbabwe, it's not an easy place to travel through, so travellers should be prepared before booking a trip there.

Road Warriors - Prepare for Battle

Roadblocks are common throughout Zimbabwe, and can appear with little warning. So as a tip keep your identification documents, including car registration and ownership papers, nearby. They must be shown when requested by police.

Roadblocks have also been used to prevent access to ZANU-PF "no go" areas by the opposition. If you are stopped at a roadblock and told not to go further, you are strongly advised to turn back.

Golden rule of African travel, don't ignore good advice.

Drivers are often subjected to bribery demands. This is a common situation, so don't be surprised and don't be aggressive.

Public Transport - If You Dare

African public transport is always an experience, so get prepared for a wild ride.

Because of the state of the economy the government refuses to (can't?) put money where its needed, so public transport can be dangerous, and should be avoided.

Inter-city commuter bus travel, except by luxury coaches, is over-crowded with poorly maintained vehicles and the drivers are often fatigued, don't stick to speed limits, and have little regard for traffic rules or regulations.

Other Annoyances

Shortage of basic commodities can occur from time to time throughout Zimbabwe.

Fuel shortages, sometimes severe, are common. Power outages and water cuts, sometimes lasting for weeks, are common everywhere, including the cities.

Zimbabwe can also apply vehicle charges (payable in foreign currency) for short-term foreign motorists. These charges include a new carbon tax, road tolls and increased border tolls.

Political Intrigue on the Road

In Zimbabwe, its leaders get their own way. President Robert Mugabe and his political party have ruled for decades and it is increasingly obvious when you travel around.

The streets around State House, the official residence of the President, and the Botanical Gardens are particularly sensitive. A number of pedestrians and motorists 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.

Stay alert for police vehicles and police motorcycles flashing lights and sirens, and move quickly off the road if overtaken by a motorcade.

Quick Tip

When travelling around Zimbabwe, take a pair of latex gloves.

Make that several pairs actually.

These are in case you are involved in, or stop to help, a road accident involving serious injuries or bleeding, as Zimbabwe has one of the highest rates of HIV/AIDS infection in southern Africa.

Couple eating food with chopsticks and smiling

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2 Comments

  • Tee said

    Be fair!!! we might be going through financial crisis but in safety Zimbabwe is the best people walk freely without any insecurities of spontaneous terrorism. Above all we are a God fearing Nation we trust God for everything. One day we will be resuscitated from this painful situation

  • Julie L said

    There are a couple of luxury coach lines in Zimbabwe, the most well-known is Pathfinder. The quality of a Pathfinder bus is equivalent to that of a coach in a first world country - well maintained, comfy seats, air conditioning, big windows and excellent drivers that stick to the speed limit and obey road rules. They even provide a prayer at the beginning and end of your journey. These luxury coaches travel to most places that a traveller would like to visit, and it's possible to hire a taxi or car and driver to take you to any out-of-the-way places. Roads in Zimbabwe are in good condition by African standards. There is no need to travel by local chicken bus (what is referred to above as "public transport") - for a westerner the cost difference isn't huge, and the luxury coaches are quite cheap.

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