Crime and Scams in Zimbabwe: Tips for Travelers

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Southern Africa is relatively safe compared to other areas of the continent, but Zimbabwe has experienced trouble over the last few decades, and the turmoil isn't over.

Matobo National Park, Zimbabwe Photo © Getty Images/Westend61

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.

Travel to Zimbabwe is generally safe, but solo travelers need to be cautious of petty crime and scams.

Lack of police presence has created a hotbed of crime, which for travelers can be dangerous and at times unnerving. Here's what you need to know about common travel scams and crime in Zimbabwe.

What types of crime to look out for in Zimbabwe

Poor economic conditions have put much of Zimbabwe's society in a tough situation.

Many have turned to a life of crime to survive, and tourists can be targets of this crime. So it's important to be aware of your surroundings, in both city and rural areas.

Muggings, bag snatching, carjacking and pickpocketing occur frequently, particularly in urban centers and tourist areas. These are easy crimes for locals, but ones that can ruin a traveler's trip, and could turn extremely dangerous.

There has recently been an increase in armed robberies, assaults and other violent crime. This is due to a more desperate society that it feeling the impact of bad economic conditions, a direct result of Zimbabwe's increasingly fragile government.

Security risks are heightened at night, especially on city streets, and in or near parks and the city centers.

Like most parts of Africa, don't travel at night - it's a bad idea if you are unfamiliar with your surroundings. Criminals will target you if you move about after dark alone.

How to stay safe in Zimbabwe

Here are a few handy tips to stay safe in Zimbabwe.

  • Travelers should always secure their luggage, particularly in public areas such as airports, railways, and bus stations
  • 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
  • Be aware of your surroundings and keep an eye on anyone lurking near you, or following you for extended periods of time
  • Try to know where you are going at all times – avoid being the lost looking tourist
  • If you are aware and confident, petty criminals won't be as keen to approach you.

Corruption and police problems

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.

Don't get too angry, it's better to stay calm and work with the police. Things will normally run smoother.

Crime on Zimbabwe's roads

Lots of Zimbabwean crime happens on roadways. If you do decide to travel by yourself, then you need to be careful. Here are a few things you should know before you hit the road:

  • 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
  • Thieves are also known to slash the tires of cars either stopped in traffic or parked, with the intention of robbing the occupants while they change the tire
  • Drivers should be aware of people in the vicinity of their vehicle, approach intersections slowly to minimize 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.

National parks dangers

Tourists have been robbed and injured while visiting Zimbabwe's national parks.

To help minimize the security risks we suggest that you travel in groups, preferably with an organized tour group, and check the security situation before visiting national parks and farms, including game farms, lodges and hunting areas.

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.

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11 Comments

  • Vanessa said

    Hello,
    Interesting article ! However, I find that it's a big shame that this appears in the top list of Google results. Indeed, the situation in Zimbabwe has very much improved & I have never heard of many things mentioned in the article, most of them are apparently & actually very rare !
    This is the 6th time I've traveled to Zimbabwe and it's by far the safest of the 16 African countries I have visited.
    Lonely Planet has ranked Zimbabwe as 3rd country to visit in 2019, and I highly encourage people to visit ! It's amazing, still wild, safe and has one of the nicest population I've met.
    Regards from France

  • Appalled/Concerned Zimbo said

    I have to agree with Vanessa , i implore the author and World Nomad to take this down. I have lived in Zimbabwe most of my life and most of these criminal acts and warnings are not justified. I found South Africa by far to have the worst incidents of crimes than Zimbabwe. It is very unfortunate that this article is likely being relied on by unwitting and potential tourists to our great country. We have had dark times and the times are still bleak economy wise but i can without a doubt always recommend Zim as a safe and friendly place to visit.
    Please revisit your article and update /correct your "facts" we need to change the narrative and all do our part to see Zim flourish once more

    Regards,

  • Tessa said

    Having read the articles and taken on board the issues, I am returning to Zimbabwe for a wonderfully planned safari holiday - after spending over 30 years away! Having been born in the bush, Mangula, I am looking forward to being there with my family for all the best the country can give.

  • Sarah said

    As a Zimbabwean, I might have to agree with the author. Zimbabweans are peace-loving people but indeed, poverty is driving the youths to criminal activities. Though it's not as bad as compared to South Africa, crime levels have significantly increased especially in isolated areas and the highways. I would advise any would-be traveller to be vigilant at all times. I have heard cases of people's suitcases being snatched at the airport where the perpetrators quickly drive in a getaway car leaving the victim confused and in shock. If possible keep your travel document close to you or have small bags that you clip under your clothes. Mind you this must not be visible as the criminals might take it to mean you are hiding large sums of money making you a target.

  • Brittany said

    This isn't true, I live in Zimbabwe and it is completely safe for tourists, like every country there are pick pockets, but you would never be going into the center of town where all of this stuff happens, tourist destinations are friendly and the people, hearing that you are a foreigner would be even more accommodating to you! Trust a Zimbabwean and don't trust these people who are telling you to buy insurance so that you will be safe! In fact, if any of you reading this would like help or info I would be more than happy to give you UPDATED, REAL information, from someone who actually knows, from a Zimbabwean. Email me on [email protected] and I will let you know what the real facts are. Websites like these give our country a bad name, and I am not happy about that. We need tourism, we have amazing wildlife, one of the 7 natural wonders of the world, friendly people and sure there are long ass queues to get fuel, but that is something that we are dealing with as best we can. Come and visit us, it is SO worth it!

  • N'Kosi Bulawayo said

    Zimbabwe is one of the most dangerous places on earth for white europeans to visit. The country has disintegrated since Mugabe was overthrown, if you drive in from Botswana you need to take plenty of fuel with you because you may have to wait 4 days at a petrol station.
    You run the risk of being robbed at army checkpoints, while asleep in your hotel, while stopped at the robots and in the toilets.
    The police are afraid of the populace and spend most of their time hiding in their stations

  • Simon said

    To be honest seeing this in June 2020, is deplorable. I have lived in Zimbabwe, moved with money, walked the streets but never have I encountered most of these thinga. Even when friends and relatives visit from Canada, they live with a happy and safe feeling than portrayed here. You should a poll of people's experiences not of one author. Political instability is of course apparent but lately,(other than last year, when there was the coup) has ther been any serious violent clashes. Also the country is in financial woes, but still brazen crime is mostly unheard of. So I think this article should be revised

  • Maryam said

    Hi
    Can anyone help me exchange Zimbabwe dollars to USD?

  • Chris chamboko said

    I have lived in zimbabwe for more than 20 years and i never encounter such things . Pick pockects are every but armed robbery those incident happens once in a decade .....Zimbabwe is a place where are i recommended to visit with community full of sparkling personalities, crime is not a style there. I think the author is trying to markert traveling insurance and tarnish most lovely people with things that don't exits

  • James said

    Question/advice sought from people currently living in Zim please:

    Is it still possible to buy the expired uncirculated 50 and 100 Trillion dollar bank notes from a bank or from locals? I emailed the reserve bank a few times but they do not reply.

    Any ideas as to price of buying these notes in bulk eg 100-1000 notes?

  • Fred said

    For Exchange rates there is a site that gives you an idea https://www.marketwatch.co.zw/

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