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Travel Warning & Consular Information Sheet for Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe - Consular Information Sheet
August 1, 2001

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Zimbabwe is a developing landlocked country in southern Africa. The capital city is Harare. Facilities for tourism are available in various price ranges and levels of quality.

ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: A passport, return ticket, and adequate funds are required. U.S. citizens traveling to Zimbabwe for tourism, business and transit can obtain a visa at the airports and border points of entry or in advance by contacting the Embassy of Zimbabwe in Washington, D.C. U.S. citizens who intend to work in Zimbabwe as journalists must apply for accreditation at least one month in advance of planned travel with the Zimbabwean Embassy. It is no longer possible to seek accreditation within Zimbabwe at the Ministry of Information. Journalists attempting to enter Zimbabwe without proper advance accreditation may be denied admission or deported.

There is an airport departure tax of 20 U.S. dollars which all U.S. citizens must pay, including holders of official and diplomatic passports. Travelers should obtain the latest travel and visa information from the Embassy of Zimbabwe, 1608 New Hampshire, NW, Washington, D.C. 20009, telephone (202) 332-7100. Overseas inquiries should be made to the nearest Zimbabwean Embassy or Consulate. Upon arrival in Zimbabwe, travelers should keep all travel documents readily available, as well as a list of residences or hotels where they will be staying while in Zimbabwe.

In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.

SAFETY AND SECURITY: Land mines along the Mozambique border, situated beyond the main tourist areas, make travel to that border area potentially hazardous.

U.S. citizens residing in or traveling to Zimbabwe should be aware of continuing conditions in the country that could affect their safety. These conditions include the outbreak of sporadic demonstrations driven by deteriorating economic conditions. Demonstrations occur in both urban and rural areas. Clashes between police and demonstrators have sometimes resulted in injuries to demonstrators as well as innocent bystanders. Political activity in the country can also result in serious violence, and U.S. citizens are urged to avoid political rallies and exercise caution prior to and during elections.

Other ongoing conditions include the occupation of commercial farms by the National War Veterans' Association and others, fuel shortages and increased street crime and carjackings. The war veterans have also briefly occupied or otherwise disrupted operations at numerous factories and businesses in Harare and other urban areas. U.S.-owned businesses and farms have been affected by these activities.

The war veterans have not specifically targeted U.S. citizens for violence; however, American visitors and residents should stay away from any occupied commercial farm. In addition, travelers are advised to re-confirm their lodging immediately prior to departure for Zimbabwe, as numerous game reserves and lodges around the country have closed due to the presence of war veterans on or near their properties, or they have suffered bankruptcy.

Zimbabwe has been experiencing serious nationwide fuel shortages, especially diesel, since January 2000, and most service stations around the country still have limited supplies. Travelers should carefully assess the fuel situation before setting out on long-distance journeys, and should keep their tanks topped off as much as possible.

U.S. citizens participating in nature and rafting excursions in Zimbabwe should be aware that even with an organized tour group, safety standards are not as strict as in the United States. Tourists are often allowed to participate in activities that may pose great risks to personal safety.

CRIME INFORMATION: Carjacking, street crime, rape and credit card fraud are on the increase due to high rates of unemployment and deteriorating economic conditions. Americans and other foreigners are perceived to be wealthy and therefore could be targeted by criminals who operate in the vicinity of hotels, restaurants and shopping malls in Harare and in the major tourist areas, such as Victoria Falls. Visitors should be watchful of their luggage at airports, railway and bus stations, and when making calls from public phones. Visitors may wish to take the preventive measure of leaving all valuables such as passports, money, jewelry and credit cards in the hotel safety deposit boxes when not being used. Safes located in hotel rooms can be easily compromised and are not considered secure for the storage of valuables. Travelers should not carry large sums of money or multiple credit cards while shopping. Visitors should also be cautious when leaving banks and Automatic Teller Machines.

Travelers who suspect that their vehicle is being followed should drive to the nearest police or service station, or some other public area for assistance. Drivers should also be alert to "smash and grabs," in which thieves break car windows at stop lights and grab items from the car seats. These incidents are becoming more common in the greater Harare metropolitan area. Car doors should be kept locked and windows rolled up at all times. Handbags, wallets and other items should be stored on the floor of the vehicle, or in the trunk. In the event of a flat tire, drive to a service station for assistance. Drivers should be cautious of anyone offering to assist in the changing of a flat tire, as it may have been deliberately punctured.

Travelers are also encouraged to make two photocopies of the biographic page of their passport; leave one copy at home with friends or relatives and carry the second copy for identification and sightseeing purposes.

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to local police and to the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. The pamphlets A Safe Trip Abroad and Tips for Travelers to Sub-Saharan Africa provide useful information on personal security while traveling abroad and on travel in the region in general. Both are available by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government printing office, Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs, .

MEDICAL FACILITIES: Medical facilities outside of Harare and Bulawayo are limited and some types of medicine are in short supply.

MEDICAL INSURANCE: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. U.S. medical insurance plans seldom cover health costs incurred outside the United States unless supplemental coverage is purchased. Further, U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. However, many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas including emergency services such as medical evacuations.

When making a decision regarding health insurance, Americans should consider that many foreign doctors and hospitals require payment in cash prior to providing service and that a medical evacuation to the U.S. may cost well in excess of $50,000. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas often face extreme difficulties. When consulting with your insurer prior to your trip, ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas healthcare provider or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.

Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure, Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page or autofax: (202) 647-3000.

OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: Information on vaccinations and other health precautions may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's International Travelers Hotline at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (877-394-8747), fax: 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions, which differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Zimbabwe is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Safety of Public Transportation: Poor
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Good
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Fair
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Fair

The main roads throughout Zimbabwe are generally well-maintained and access to service stations is good. Inter-city commuter bus travel, except by "luxury coaches," is dangerous due to overcrowding, inadequate maintenance and drivers who fail to adhere to local speed limits or obey traffic rules or regulations. The drivers are frequently fatigued after driving for long periods of time without mandatory rest stops. Travelers should exercise caution when driving at night as there are pedestrians (in dark clothing) and animals walking in the roads, which are poorly lit. Motor vehicles on the road at night often have no headlights or taillights. Traffic moves on the left, and most persons drive over the speed limits. The passing lanes are not always clearly marked, and road visibility at times can be restricted. Few roads outside the urban areas have shoulders or a breakdown lane. Drivers are not required to wear seat belts or helmets if driving motorcycles, and car seats are not required for small children. Provincial hospitals in rural areas are not equipped to provide medical care in case of a serious accident. Travelers should consider packing several pairs of latex gloves should they wish to help victims of a road accident involving serious injuries or bleeding, as Zimbabwe has one of the highest rates of HIV/AIDS infection in southern Africa.

The Ministry of Transport is the government authority responsible for road safety in Zimbabwe. There is no national established network of roadside emergency service. However, the Automobile Association of Zimbabwe, similar to the American Automobile Association, is willing to provide roadside emergency service to non-members for a fee. Travelers interested in contacting the service during their stay in Zimbabwe may contact AA Zimbabwe at 263-4-752-779. AA Zimbabwe's 24-hour emergency roadside helpline is 263-4-707-959.

For additional general information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov/road_safety.html.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Zimbabwe's Civil Aviation Authority as Category 2--not in compliance with international aviation safety standards for oversight of Zimbabwe's air carrier operations. While consultations to correct the deficiencies are ongoing, any of Zimbabwe's air carriers with existing routes to the U.S. will be permitted to conduct limited operations to the U.S. subject to heightened FAA surveillance. No additional flights or new service to the U.S. by Zimbabwe's air carriers will be permitted unless they arrange to have the flights conducted by an air carrier from a country meeting international safety standards.

For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at
1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet website at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. In addition, DOD does not permit its personnel to use air carriers from Category 2 countries for official business except for flights originating from or terminating in the U.S. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact the DOD at 1-618-229-4801.

FIREARMS AND PENALTIES: U.S. citizens who are bringing weapons and ammunition into Zimbabwe for purposes of hunting should contact the Embassy of Zimbabwe in Washington, D.C. to find out what permits are required. (Please check the Entry Requirements section for the address and telephone number for the Embassy of Zimbabwe.) Some Americans traveling in Zimbabwe have come under added scrutiny from immigration and police officials in the wake of the March 1999 arrest of three American citizens at Harare International Airport, who were allegedly in possession of undeclared assault weapons. Travelers are advised to make sure that all of the necessary documentation is in order before departing the United States. The weapons also must be cleared through U.S. Customs to ensure their expeditious re-entry into the United States at the conclusion of one's trip.

CURRENCY REGULATIONS: Travelers to Zimbabwe are usually required to pay for all lodging with credit cards or internationally convertible currency such as U.S. dollars or British pounds. Zimbabwean currency, even if obtained by exchanging foreign cash or travelers checks in Zimbabwe, may not be accepted for payment of hotel bills.

It is illegal to exchange foreign currency for local currency with anyone other than a Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe-approved authorized currency dealer. Government-authorized currency dealers are generally the major banks, such as Standard Chartered and Barclays, and Exchange Bureaus de Change, such as Thomas Cook and FX Money Corporation. Street vendors and private individuals may also offer this service, but should be avoided. Travelers engaged in illegal money transactions and observed by the police will be immediately arrested and jailed pending a hearing before a Magistrate Court.

PHOTOGRAPHY RESTRICTIONS: Zimbabwean authorities are extremely sensitive about the photographing of certain locations and buildings, including government offices, airports, military installations, official residences and embassies. Prior written permission must be obtained from the appropriate government office.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Zimbabwean law, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Zimbabwe are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.

CONSULAR ACCESS: The U.S. Embassy does not always receive timely notification of the arrest of American citizens by the Zimbabwean police. U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry a copy of their U.S. passports with them at all times, so that, if questioned by local officials, proof of identity and U.S. citizenship are readily available. If arrested, American citizens should ask to be allowed to contact the American Embassy. (Please see the REGISTRATION/EMBASSY LOCATION section below for the American Embassy's telephone numbers.)

CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, please refer to our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html or telephone (202) 736-7000.

REGISTRATION/EMBASSY LOCATION: Americans living in or visiting Zimbabwe are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Zimbabwe and obtain updated information on travel and security within Zimbabwe. The U.S. Embassy is located at 172 Herbert Chitepo Avenue, Harare, telephone (263-4) 250-593/4, after hours telephone (263-4) 250-595, fax (263-4) 722-618 and 796-488. The mailing address is P.O. Box 3340, Harare.


This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated February 13, 2001, to update the sections on Entry Requirements, Safety and Security, and Crime Information.


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