Any independent traveller researching the prospect of a self-drive to Zimbabwe, will be aware of negative reviews, warning of dangers ranging from potholes to roadblocks.
However, with a sensible and practical approach, as well as good preparation (the same as for any rural or lesser developed part of the world) the journey can be an amazing discovery of memorable experiences.
Zimbabwe Self-drive Travel Tips
The Vehicle: The car hire company and Jenman Safaris representatives will ensure that the vehicle is properly equipped with safety gear and the necessary documentation and maps. The driver should acquaint himself with the equipment as well as with the rules, regulations and requirements of the road to avoid any problems with the local traffic officials. The Automobile Association (AA) can provide useful, current information on the necessary documents and safety gear, as well as on the condition of the roads.
The Roads: The condition of the roads in Zimbabwe varies enormously, from well-maintained tar roads on major routes to poor and unpredictable dirt roads in rural areas. Potholes are a reality that can occur on any road, requiring the driver to be mindful and vigilant and to drive with care.
Fuel: The availability of fuel is often unreliable, especially in rural areas. It is always advisable to refuel before venturing into the countryside and to fill up whenever there is an opportunity to do so (not only when the fuel gauge is nearing empty). If travelling long distances between major towns, it is advisable to carry additional fuel in containers.
Maps: A GPS loaded with Garmin maps is a very useful navigational tool, as the Garmin maps are regularly updated and accurate, with good detail for rural areas. (Google maps are not sufficiently detailed and mobile phone reception is poor to non-existent in rural areas.) Often local directions obtained from hotel staff, petrol attendants or local shopkeepers are the most useful. English is widely spoken in Zimbabwe and the local people are obliging and helpful.
Drinking Water: Although drinking water is usually safe to drink in the cities and towns, it is recommended to drink bottled water to avoid illness. Bottled water is widely available, but it is a useful practice to travel through the countryside with an additional supply (minimum of 5 litres) of drinking water.
Medical: The larger towns and cities have pharmacies and hospitals, but these may not stock a wide variety of medication. It is always advisable to carry sufficient supplies of personal medication, as well as a simple first aid kit containing disinfectant, plasters, pain tablets, anti-nausea, anti-diarrhea medication etc. Travellers to Zimbabwe are strongly advised to take anti-malaria medication and to take sensible precautions to avoid mosquito bites.
Our Personal “Must do” list for the most popular areas:
Victoria Falls | Hwange | Bulawayo | Matobo National Park | Great Zimbabwe
When in Victoria Falls, a day drive into the Zambezi Park, including a visit to the famous giant baobab tree and lunch at Zambezi House , situated on the river upstream from the Falls.
Also in Vic Falls, a visit to Zambezi Island Lodge – located on Msuna Island provides wonderful opportunities for fishing, boat cruising and bird watching.
Self-drive game viewing, visiting the different lookout points and pans (waterholes), armed with binoculars, camera and sunscreen. A map of the park is available from the office.
Hubbard’s Historical Tours offers unique tours and activities, based on the rich history of Zimbabwe’s second largest city, including the Railway Museum and the Natural History Museum, which is the fourth largest museum in Africa and arguably the best museum in Southern Africa.
Bulawayo has many popular restaurants, well worth a visit: Earth Café, Hillside Dams Conservancy (onsite restaurant/café Dams Pizza, Pub n Grill), Brooks Café & Deli located in the Zonkisizwe shopping centre (where there are also two grocery stores), Roosters Pub and Grill and the very popular ice cream parlour Eskimo Hut or ‘Eskies’ as it is locally known.
Matobo National Par, known for its balancing boulders, beautiful views and the grave of Cecil John Rhodes, the Matopos are also rich in cultural history, with numerous caves and cave paintings. A map of the hiking routes and cave paintings in the park is available at the gate. Exploring the park on foot is a wonderful way to experience this unique area.
A self-drive holiday is great for the independent adventurer who wants to maintain a sense of freedom while being fully in control of their journey.
However, JENMAN Safaris are there to help facilitate the trip by providing the ultimate in support and advice, vehicle and necessary documents, collection and drop off arrangements, detailed directions and maps, recommendations for local activities and restaurants, bookings and reservations, and/or any other custom requirements.
Happy driving in Zimbabwe.