Zimbabwe

The US, Japan and Germany have lifted their travel warnings to Zimbabwe in April 2009; an indication that the security risk for visitors is low. However, given the political and economic instability in the country, travellers to Zimbabwe should take care with their personal security and safety. Whilst many locals may be curious about you and your country, remember, most Zimbabweans are still very sensitive to foreigners' opinions of their country and its politicians. Therefore, it is always a wise idea to avoid political discussions or discussions pertaining to opinions of political leaders.

Lastly, don't forget to tip as times are tough for locals, and they depend enormously on your generosity.

In the current economic situation many medicines are in short supply or cannot be sourced, so you are strongly advised to take all medications with you. Medical attention will be very hard to get: many hospitals even in cities are completely closed or unable to offer substantial care. Some medical personnel may perform procedures for payment, in somewhat dangerous and underequipped surrounds. Medical supplies are severely restricted. Your travel insurance is very likely to be invalid if you travel to Zimbabwe and medical evacuations impossible to arrange.

HIV/AIDS infection rate in Zimbabwe is the 4th highest in the world at around 20% or 1 in 5 infected. Obviously you should never have unprotected sex. If you form a serious relationship, consider both getting an HIV test before taking things further.

There is at present a cholera outbreak throughout the country, including in Harare.

Malaria is prevalent, so unless you are going to stay entirely within Harare or Bulawayo, anti-malarials are advised. Drugs reduce the severity of the disease but don't prevent infection, so also consider precautions such as:

sleeping under a mosquito net lightweight travel nets are comparatively cool to use

using mosquito repellent on the skin or burning mosquito coils

wearing long sleeved clothing and long trousers, particularly in the evening

Bilharzia is present in some lakes. Ask locally before swimming.

Snakes are common in the bush, and most bites are on the foot or lower leg. If walking, particularly in long grass, wear proper boots and either long, loose trousers or thick, concertinaed hiking socks. Shake out boots and shoes in the morning, in case you have a guest. These precautions also reduce the chance of scorpion sting. If you do get bitten or stung, stay calm. Try to identify the exact culprit, but get to medical assistance as rapidly as you can without undue exertion. Many bites and stings are non-fatal even if not treated, but it is safer to seek treatment, which is very effective these days.

respect

Clapping twice is an accepted "thank you", especially when someone is handing you something food, a purchase. If one hand is full you can clap the free hand on your chest. Unlike in Asia, taking items passed to you with both hands is considered impolite, as it is seen as being greedy. Men should clap so that fingertips and wrists meet, but women should 'golf clap' with hands crossing. This is a society with deep gender divisions.

When shaking hands or handing anything valuable to someone, it is polite to support the right forearm with the left hand or vice versa, to signify the "weight" of the gift or honour. In practice this often means just touching the forearm, or even gesturing towards it.

When taking something from a local, it is strictly done with the right hand as it is seen as an insult if the left hand is used regardless of dexterousness. The same rule applies when passing something.

Be careful with your opinion as speaking out against the government is a crime.

contact
United States
American Embassy 172 Herbert Chitepo Avenue, Harare, Zimbabwe
(263-4) 250-593/4
talk

Zimbabwe's official languages are English, Shona, Sindebele/Ndebele. There are also numerous but minor tribal dialects. Shona is the most widely spoken language, even in the capital Harare.