Health information for visitors to Zimbabwe

Health Information for Zimbabwe

1. Don’t underestimate the sun

  • Sunstroke and heatstroke are common conditions for new, over-ambitious visitors to Africa.
  • As Zimbabwe’s heat is not as humid as in sea-level countries, the temperature is much more tolerable than in other tropical countries. This means it can be easy to forget how long you’ve been out in the direct sunlight.
  • Avoid getting ill by staying well hydrated throughout the day (with water, not G&Ts!), wearing a hat, and by making use of shade where available.

2. Drink water from boreholes or bottles

  • Municipal tap water is treated and theoretically safe to drink, but due to the cash-strapped state of affairs, it’s safer to drink from borehole-sourced tap water, or bottled water, in Zimbabwe.
  • Your accommodation will let you know whether their tap water comes from a municipal supply or borehole (most reputable companies have borehole).
  • Bottled water is widely available in supermarkets in towns and cities (not in remote locations such as game reserves).
  • If you’re going somewhere remote as part of a packaged holiday, your lodge or tour company will provide drinking water for you.
  • If you’re self-driving independently and staying in a government-run lodge, take lots of bottled drinking water with you in your car (purchased from local supermarkets in towns and cities), as there is unlikely to be much drinking water in the game reserves.

3. Take precautions against malaria

  • Malaria is present in particular areas of Zimbabwe at certain times of the year, so visit your doctor or travel clinic to request prophylactics (prevention drugs), ideally 2 months before you go. Prevention drugs have been used by visitors for many years to protect against malaria.
  • Tell the doctor/nurse that you are specifically going to Zimbabwe – this is important because Zimbabwe has a species of mosquito (Plasmodium falciparum) that is resistant to certain antimalarial drugs such as chloroquine and pyrimethamine/sulfadoxine, so you will need to ensure you take the correct type of medication.
  • Antimalarial medication for Zimbabwe: Malarone (atovaquone-proguanil) is the most widely recommended anti-malarial medication for Zimbabwe, because it doesn’t have many side-effects, and it has a simple dosing regimen. It is also effective against the drug-resistant species P. falciparum. There are adult and paediatric doses for children over 11kg.

Top tip: The branded Malarone is more expensive than other antimalarials – but the generic equivalent is available for around £1-£2 per tablet from big superstore pharmacies such as Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Asda in the UK. We recommend you visit an in-store pharmacy around 4 weeks in advance of your trip to Zimbabwe to order the generic version of Malarone (atovaquone-proguanil).

  • Some pharmacies in Zimbabwe’s main cities (Harare, Victoria Falls and Bulawayo) will have the generic version of Malarone for a reasonable price, but it’s more reliable to buy your antimalarials before your trip. You can read more about antimalarial medications on the NHS website.
  • One of the most important aspects of malaria prevention is remembering to take the full course of pills. Why not download an app such as Pill Monitor to remind you about the schedule, or set up an alarm on your phone.
  • Malaria safety tips: Use a mosquito net when you sleep (this is usually provided by your accommodation) because mosquitoes predominantly bite between dawn and dusk. Apply DEET-based mosquito repellent (for adults) in the evenings, and wear long sleeves & trousers after sundown. You can read more malaria information on the NHS website.
  • See our list of What to pack for a Zimbabwe holiday for info on good mosquito repellent brands (including products for kids).
  • Malaria transmission areas and seasons: Central regions of Zimbabwe such as Harare and Bulawayo have low malaria transmission rates. This means that if you are only visiting Harare or Bulawayo, the likelihood of contracting malaria is very low. In Victoria Falls, Nyanga, Kariba, Gonarezhou and Mana Pools, malaria transmission rates are higher.
  • The malaria transmission season lasts for about 4 months each year. The normal Zimbabwe malaria transmission months are between December and April each year. Most tourists visit Zimbabwe between June and August which are lower transmission months.

4. Pack a small first-aid kit

  • Take basic medical items such as plasters, ibuprofen, paracetamol, Immodium, tweezers, after-sun cream, cream to relieve insect bites and stings, antiseptic cream, eyecare essentials, etc. If you’re prone to hayfever, remember to take antihistamines, too.
  • Make sure you take enough prescribed medication to last the duration of your holiday, as local pharmacies may not be able to provide certain drugs without ordering them in advance.

5. The good news: Zimbabwe is not a yellow fever zone

  • Zimbabwe is not a yellow fever zone, as you can see from the WHO map below. This means you do not need a yellow fever vaccination to visit Zimbabwe.
  • However, if you are travelling into Zimbabwe from a country that does have yellow fever, you will need to display a vaccination certificate when you enter Zimbabwe.

WHO Yellow Fever Map Zimbabwe

 

6. Be aware of the ways in which HIV/AIDS are transmitted

  • Roughly 15% of people in Zimbabwe have HIV/AIDS. It is a serious problem for Zimbabweans, but is not a specific threat for tourists.
  • Do be aware of the ways in which HIV/AIDS is transmitted, and take precautionary measures as appropriate.

7. Note the info about medical services in Zimbabwe

  • If you need medical assistance during your stay in Zimbabwe, there are excellent, high-quality, private facilities in the main cities. However, state-run medical facilities are ill-equipped, so private healthcare is a must for visitors.
  • Safari lodges and hotels in remote areas often have medically-trained staff on site, as well as some level of medical facilities. They also have the details of air ambulances to transport patients to top-quality regional medical facilities if required.
  • Two private airlift/ambulance services in Zimbabwe are Ace Air & Ambulance and MARS. If serious injury does occur, either you or your accommodation can contact them to request emergency medical assistance. They are highly trained, and offer excellent service. Take extra US Dollar cash and an/or international debit card with you to cover shortfalls in case of emergency. It is highly recommended to purchase their membership in addition to travel insurance (see Number 8 below).
  • Information on local medical facilities are in each city guide article, so please see the City/place Guide list for specific locations.
Ace air ambulance Zimbabwe
Ace Air & Ambulance Zimbabwe

8. Buy travel insurance

  • Buy travel insurance as soon as you book your holiday, and choose options that cover medical emergencies. Carry printouts of your medical insurance in your car and handbag. If anything happens that requires you to go to hospital in Harare, or to be airlifted to Johannesburg, your medical insurance certificate will be required.
  • Highly recommended: Consider also purchasing membership from one of the excellent private evacuation services in Zimbabwe: Ace Air & Ambulance and MARS. They are on call 24/7 and can travel to anywhere in Zimbabwe. Membership with them means that if an emergency does occur, you won’t have to wait hours for authorization from the insurance companies, and you won’t have to pay the up front ad hoc fees that non-members would.
  • Protection from Global Rescue is another option which provides field rescue and evacuation (and more) to its members worldwide.

9. Check the vaccination requirements

  • If you haven’t been vaccinated against hepatitis A and typhoid, your travel doctor is likely to recommend that you get these before your trip to Zimbabwe. They are quick and almost painless, and you will be covered for 25 years.
  • Diseases like meningitis, pertussis (whooping cough), measles and polio are serious no matter where you are in the world, and vaccination is the best way of preventing them. Ensure you are up to date with your national immunisation schedule before you travel. In 2015, the WHO estimated that the general immunisation coverage in Zimbabwe was at 87%. This means that unvaccinated individuals may be more at risk (where less than 92% of the population is immunised, this means there is lower herd immunity).
  • Zimbabwe has been working hard to vaccinate its population against Covid-19, and China has sent many vaccines to the country. Many people in the cities have been vaccinated (especially in Victoria Falls), but fewer people in the rural areas have been vaccinated. The vast majority of people working in the travel industry in Zimbabwe have been double vaccinated.

Useful websites for more health information on Zimbabwe

  • Read the WHO health overview on Zimbabwe here
  • CDC travel guidance on Zimbabwe here.
  • UK GOV health advice on Zimbabwe here
  • IATA travel centre website supplies visa guidance and health information for Zimbabwe, tailored to your own nationality and travel details.
(Last updated July 2021)

See the Practical info page for more FAQs, as well as the page on Staying safe in Zimbabwe.

Also see:

Check out the Zimbabwe travel quick reference guide for more articles.

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Beth is the founder and chief writer of Great Zimbabwe Guide Travel Blog. Practical Zimbabwe travel advice since 2010.

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