Is it safe in Zimbabwe?

(Last updated June 2024)

Safety in Zimbabwe AfricaA question that sometimes pops up in forums is: Is it safe in Zimbabwe? As someone who was born and raised in Zimbabwe, and now visits as often as possible, I’d like to reassure anyone asking this question.

Zimbabwe is one of the safest countries in Africa for tourists. The biggest risk is from car accidents, just like in developed countries. Zimbabwean people have a wonderful reputation for being easy-going and generous, and we will go out of our way to help rather than hinder you.

In my opinion, I think that Zimbabweans are among the friendliest in the world, and in particular, we have a great sense of humour and love a good joke. We couldn’t have made it through Zimbabwe’s ups and downs without being able to laugh. For anyone asking “Is it safe in Zimbabwe?” I hope this post will alleviate some of your worries or at the very least, give you a more rounded view.Rural area Zimbabwe

One of the drawcards of Zimbabwe (in my opinion) is that nothing is bubble-wrapped – you won’t be babied or nannied. However, with a little common sense and awareness of your surroundings, risks can be minimised. I’m the type of person who gets nervous if I drive faster than 60 miles an hour – I’m hardly an adrenalin-seeker. But I’ve never dwelt on the risks of being in Zimbabwe, in the same way that most people in big European cities don’t dwell on the risks of driving or cycling. I have never thought of it as being a dangerous place for a holiday.

News reports sometimes talk about political volatility, but bear in mind that you are not a political activist and therefore are highly unlikely to be targeted.

There’s been a misconception in the media that black Zimbabweans don’t like white people. This was part of a political propaganda tool used by recent governments, and it is focused towards the white people who hold power within Zimbabwe: those who previously displaced or discriminated against black people. Although it’s a complex issue, most Zimbabweans are hugely welcoming, open and appreciative of tourists, whether they be black or white. When you visit Zimbabwe, you will probably see more white people than you expected! White Zimbabweans are still living and working in Zimbabwe alongside black Zimbabweans, many of them with congeniality and warmth.

The people of Zimbabwe have a well-deserved reputation for being among the most easy-going, welcoming and hospitable in Africa (and, in our biased opinion, the world).

Although political oppression is still an issue in Zimbabwe, this is completely out of sight of tourist areas. You can also read about the Ethics of visiting Zimbabwe here.

Victoria Falls waterfall-1-9

Tourists are welcomed with open arms and most Zimbabweans will do their best to make sure you have a safe and enjoyable visit. Crime is much lower than in countries like South Africa, although as in all countries, you should be aware of your surroundings and use your common sense.

Tips on staying safe in Zimbabwe

  • Keep a good hold of bags/briefcases when walking around, preferably using an over-the-shoulder strap.
  • Don’t walk around with too much cash and don’t make a show of your possessions. Stealing is highly disapproved of by most Zimbabweans, but don’t tempt poverty-stricken people by flaunting your comparative wealth!
  • Keep all valuables where they belong – somewhere safe and out of sight. This means putting bags under car seats or in foot-wells, for example.
  • Don’t take photos of government buildings, army/police vehicles, airports, embassies or military sites.
  • Don’t wear clothes that look like army uniform.
  • It is illegal to make derogatory or insulting remarks about the President.
  • Homosexuality is effectively illegal in Zimbabwe.
  • Never try to feed or touch wild animals in the National Parks.
  • Don’t drive off the marked roads in the National Parks.
  • If a cavalcade of police cars and motorbikes approach, this probably means the president is travelling in the convoy. Pull off the road completely and wait for the vehicles to pass. 
  • When driving late at night, approach traffic lights slowly, and if all looks clear, proceed carefully across the junction, even if the light is red. Night car hijacks do sometimes happen, usually at traffic lights.
  • Do not stop at a police roadblock unless it’s manned by at least 3 policemen. 
  • Political demonstrations sometimes occur in Harare’s city centre. These are not a direct threat to tourists, but to avoid possible disturbance, choose routes that go through the northern and eastern suburbs of Harare rather than directly through the city centre.

There are wild animals – but only in clearly signed wildlife reserves, not in the main cities. If walking on foot within wildlife reserves, make sure you have a professional with you. Zimbabwe’s trained guides are famed for being the best in the world due to their rigorous training – listen to their instructions. As always, treat wild animals with respect and do not get too close.Mana Pools Zimbabwe

Be aware that many lakes in Zimbabwe have crocodiles, hippos, or both – do not walk/swim in them unless there is clearly no risk. Do not walk in standing water as it may have bilharzia.

There are spiders, insects, and small (usually harmless) ‘creepy-crawlies’ in the cities. The general rule is that if you stay away from them, they will stay away from you. If you have been bitten by something and are in pain, visit your nearest pharmacy or tell your lodge manager. If you are staying in a lodge or hotel, staff will be equipped to deal with emergencies.

The telephone number for MARS private ambulance medical rescue is 0800 3222 911.

See the Practical info page and Health advice page for more FAQs. Also read my article on Driving in Zimbabwe for road advice.

Read about specific locations in Zimbabwe:

Victoria Falls travel guide

Harare travel guide

Bulawayo travel guide

Great Zimbabwe monument travel guide

Safety greatzimbabweguide

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

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Great Zimbabwe Guide gives travel tips, information and inspiration about Zimbabwe, Africa. We share stories of Zimbabwe’s talented people, world-class wilderness & wildlife safari experiences, all wrapped up in an unmatched climate. 

Do you have a question about visiting Zimbabwe? Start with the Quick-reference list of travel advice. 

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Go2AFRICA ZIMBABWE GAME DRIVE SAFARIIf you’re planning your Zimbabwe holiday (hooray!), I can recommend Go2Africa, Africa’s Leading Safari Company (and one of our affiliates). Go2Africa has been tailor-making safari holidays for thousands of clients from across the globe since 1998. You can research African destinations, accommodation, and more. Even better, you can directly contact their safari specialists who can help you get the African experience that’s perfect for you. 

Check out the Go2Africa website, or see their Zimbabwe tours here.

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Beth is the founder of Great Zimbabwe Guide Travel Blog: Zimbabwe’s first and longest-running independent online travel guide, created in 2010.

3 Responses

  1. Berni

    This is interesting because I’m a native Zimbo (Shona) born and raised here. But as many of us did, I took off for “greener pastures” after high school and was away for close to 15 years. Recently returned and have been feeling slightly disoriented. As I’m reading this it’s kind of serving me as a reminder like “oh yes, this is how we are by the way, this is how we do things here…” Hahaha!

    • Great Zimbabwe Guide

      Hey Berni, thanks for your comment! Glad it was interesting! I’m always open-eared to hear more tips that may help anyone visiting Zimbabwe, whether they are ex-locals or completely new! – Beth

  2. Vanessa

    It is interesting to read all this advice I lived married & had children in the old “Rhodesia” visited my parents in “Zimbabwe” but that was nearly 20 years ago many things have changed we plan a visit next year to look up old friends and my old home s both in Bulawayo and Vic Falls

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