Safety and security
The situation on the ground in Zimbabwe is calm and there are no reported tensions in tourist destinations such as Victoria Falls. However, the political and economic environment remains unpredictable and the situation could deteriorate quite quickly.
You should keep a low profile, exercise a high degree of caution, check local media and our website for any travel advice. Avoid areas where demonstrations may be held, or where there are large gatherings of people. If there is a demonstration, leave the area at once. Don’t stay to watch or try to photograph it, even from a distance.
Make sure that you’re happy with your own security arrangements and keep your travel documents up to date and readily available in case you need to leave the country at short notice. We recommend that you have your own contingency plan and that you review it regularly in the light of changing situations.
Don’t take part in any partisan political activity, or in anything that could be construed as such, including political discussions in public places or criticism of the President.
An open hand is the political symbol of the main opposition political party, the Movement for Democratic Change, and a friendly wave may therefore be misinterpreted as a provocative gesture.
The carrying of the main independent newspapers (the Financial Gazette, the Independent, the Standard or the Zimbabwean) and books by banned authors, or the wearing of T-shirts with slogans of the main political activist organisation, can provoke a hostile reaction from ZANU-PF (Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front) supporters.
Crime in Zimbabwe is high and a high proportion of the civil population is armed so you should always take sensible precautions:
- Don’t carry your credit card, travel tickets and money together - leave spare cash and valuables in a safe place
- Don’t carry your passport unless absolutely necessary and leave a copy of your passport (and travel and insurance documents) with family or friends at home
- Avoid showing large sums of money in public and don’t use ATMs after dark, especially if you’re alone. Check no one has followed you after conducting your business
- Avoid dark and unlit streets and stairways, and arrange to be picked up or dropped off as close to your hotel or apartment entrance as possible
- Keep a close eye on your personal belongings and hold on to them in public places such as internet cafés, train and bus stations
Avoid situations or areas where you feel unsafe. Make sure that your accommodation is secure at all times because armed robberies targeting foreign residents have increased.
The incidence of armed car-jacking has increased in major towns in recent years. Thefts and smash-and-grab robberies from vehicles are increasingly common. Keep your vehicle doors locked and windows closed, and exercise a high degree of caution when travelling, particularly at night and at filling stations.
Opportunistic theft, especially of visible jewellery, handbags, etc, is common and passports are at particular risk. You should take care with baggage in public places, and at reception desks when checking in/out of hotels. Particular care should be taken at Harare International Airport where there have been a number of such thefts.
If you’re a victim of a crime while in Zimbabwe, report it to the local police immediately. And you can contact us at the Irish Embassy in South Africa or the Honorary Consul if you need help.
If you’re planning to drive in Zimbabwe, you should be extremely careful. Think carefully before setting out on long-distance journeys and keep your tank topped up as much as possible. The frequent power cuts and shortage of drinking water and fuel affect the whole country.
Serious traffic accidents are common and traffic lights are increasingly out of order. Roads are poorly maintained and often have deep potholes. Driving at night is particularly dangerous. Parked unlit vehicles, pedestrians and other road users are difficult to see because street lighting is poor. Outside the towns, wildlife and livestock often stray across roads.
If you want to drive:
- Bring your full Irish driving licence and your international driving permit and make sure you have adequate and appropriate insurance
- Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is against the law and you risk being detained, fined or banned from driving if caught
- Keep your vehicle doors locked and your bags kept out of sight to prevent opportunistic bag-snatching if you’re stopped at traffic lights
Hiring a vehicle
If you’re hiring a vehicle, we advise you not to hand over your passport as a form of security. If you’re allowing your passport to be photocopied, keep it in your sight at all times.
Check that you have adequate insurance and read the small print of the vehicle hire contract (particularly any waiver that will come into effect if the vehicle is damaged).
Owing to the uncertain political and economic situation, we strongly advise against independent travel (particularly backpacking).
Public transport and services, including internal flights with Air Zimbabwe, may be cancelled or not run on schedule.
Avoid unnecessary travel, especially at night, and try to stay in built-up areas.
Tue, 03 May 2016 10:38:48 BST