You might have heard various stories of people dying in safari in Zimbabwe, which might worry you about your visit to this country. In 2015, a safari guide was mauled to death in Zimbabwe by a lion. And what about a 71 year old man who was killed by elephants in a safari tour? After listening to all these stories, it’s completely legit to ask if Zimbabwe is safe for American tourists.
American tourists to Zimbabwe must exercise increased caution due to the high level of crime in the country. If they follow the state department’s latest advisory about Zimbabwe travel and comply with the general safety guidelines, Zimbabwe is a safe country to visit.
Is Zimbabwe a Safe Country For Americans?
Let’s see what various safety parameters in Zimbabwe have to tell us here.
Crime and Safety
Zimbabwe, like many other countries, experiences various forms of crime, both opportunistic and violent.
Here are the famous forms of crimes in Zimbabwe:
- Car break-ins with the intent to steal are common occurrences
- Home invasion with foreigners and individuals suspected of carrying large sums of cash being targeted.
|Danger present||Danger intensity||What can American tourists do?|
|Worries home broken and things stolen||High||If you are living in private homes, rest assured not to leave important things especially travel documents. If the area you are living in has security or is present at a crowded place, you are likely to be safe.|
|Worries being mugged or robbed||High||Travel in groups and avoid traveling in the dark. Avoid public exhibition of wealth|
|Worries car stolen||Moderate||No need to worry if you don’t have your own car. If you do have it, park at safe places|
|Worries things from car stolen||High||Don’t leave important things in the car, and avoid parking in unsafe places.|
|Worries attacked||Moderate||Try to travel in groups whenever possible.|
|Worries being insulted||Moderate||Try not to take it seriously if it happens. It can be due to cultural shock|
|Worries being subject to a physical attack due to demographics||Low||Nothing to do, you are safe|
|Problem people using or dealing drugs||Moderate||Don’t take anything from individuals you don’t know|
Security Situation in Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe’s security situation can be volatile. Unemployment is high, the economy is unstable, and crime rates are elevated.
Shortages of food, water, medicine, and fuel can occur suddenly. Basic services like electricity supply are unreliable, and violent crime, such as assault and armed robbery, is a concern. The risk of crime increases at night, especially in city centers, parks, and open areas. It is advised to keep accommodations locked, avoid walking at night, and be cautious of petty crimes like bag-snatching.
Land Confiscation and Wildlife Poaching
Unrest in Zimbabwe has been fueled by issues such as land confiscation, wildlife poaching, and violence against farmers. When planning visits to national parks, game farms, lodges, or hunting areas, it is crucial to obtain up-to-date security advice. This is especially true for Americans who are visiting the country for safari trips.
Theft and Safety on the Roads
Theft from vehicles is a common occurrence in Zimbabwe. Thieves often target cars stopped at intersections, which results in theft. To minimize risks, it is recommended to keep vehicle doors locked and windows up, approach red lights slowly, and reduce the amount of time spent at intersections.
Zimbabwe is prone to flooding and extreme weather during the rainy season, which typically occurs from November to April. Infrastructure damage caused by such events can take a significant amount of time to repair. So American tourists are advised to exercise increased caution in such situations.
Recommendations for American Tourists Visiting Zimbabwe
Here are Security Awareness measures for American tourists visiting Zimbabwe
- Avoid openly displaying cash and valuables.
- Carry a copy of your passport and visa, leaving the originals in a hotel safe.
- Stay away from political rallies, demonstrations, and crowds.
- Monitor local media for any breaking events and be prepared to adjust your plans accordingly.
- Keep your travel documents up to date and easily accessible.
- Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive alerts and facilitate emergency communication.
- Stay informed by following the Department of State on Facebook and Twitter.
- Review the Country Security Report for Zimbabwe and prepare a contingency plan for emergencies.
- Stay updated on travel health information by visiting the CDC’s website.
Security Measures to Take While Visiting Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe
Many American tourists visit Zimbabwe for Victoria falls. Here are specific tips to take care of while you are visiting Victoria Falls.
Avoid Displaying Valuables
To prevent attracting unnecessary attention, avoid openly displaying expensive jewelry, electronics, or large sums of cash. Keep your valuables concealed and securely stored.
Carry a Waterproof Bag for Your Passport
To prevent any damage to your passport, it’s recommended to carry it in a waterproof bag. Authorities may not accept a damaged passport as a valid identification document.
Victoria Falls has a significant number of street vendors who can be persistent in their sales approaches. While they may be eager to make a sale due to the decline in tourism, it’s essential to bear this in mind when interacting with them. Although generally harmless, they can be a nuisance. They are usually willing to assist you if needed.
Tourism Police Officers
Throughout the town, you’ll find Tourism Police Officers who patrol the area and help maintain order among the street vendors. If you feel hassled or overwhelmed by the vendors, don’t hesitate to approach one of these officers and request an escort. They can be easily identified by their bright yellow bibs.
Guard Against Pickpockets
Be cautious of pickpockets in crowded areas, such as markets and tourist sites. Ensure that you secure your belongings and keep your camera strap around your neck to prevent anyone from making a quick snatch.
Hotel Room Security
Reports of stolen valuables from hotel rooms, possibly by hotel staff, have been received recently. To mitigate this risk, always lock your valuables away, preferably in the hotel’s safe or your own lockable suitcases. Avoid leaving temptation in plain sight, as locals may face economic challenges, and safeguarding your belongings is essential.
Be Mindful of Wildlife
Victoria Falls is surrounded by wildlife, and caution should be exercised when encountering animals. Do not feed them and keep a safe distance. Monkeys and baboons can be aggressive and attempt to steal food, so be cautious around them.
Travel with Accredited Guides
If engaging in activities like walking safaris or canoeing, ensure that your guide is accredited and follow their instructions diligently. They will provide important safety guidelines to protect you from potential dangers, especially when encountering aggressive animals.
Stay Updated on Local Conditions
Keep yourself informed about the current security situation in Victoria Falls and Zimbabwe. Stay updated through reliable sources, including local authorities, news outlets, and your embassy or consulate.
Malaria Risk In Zimbabwe
In the western half of Zimbabwe, including the Zambezi Valley, Victoria Falls, National Park Mana Pools, Hwange, Chizarira, Matobo, and Bulawayo, there is a seasonal risk of malaria. This high malaria risk period occurs from September to May.
It’s important for American tourists planning to visit these areas to take precautionary measures to prevent contracting malaria. Here are some recommendations:
Consult a Healthcare Professional
Before traveling to these regions, it is advisable to consult a healthcare professional or a travel medicine specialist. They can provide up-to-date information on the malaria situation and prescribe appropriate antimalarial medications based on your specific health condition and travel itinerary.
Take Antimalarial Medication
As advised by your healthcare professional, take the prescribed antimalarial medication consistently and according to the recommended dosage.
Use Mosquito Repellent
Apply a mosquito repellent or a similar effective ingredient to exposed skin and clothing. Reapply as necessary, following the instructions on the product label.
Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and socks to minimize exposed skin and reduce the risk of mosquito bites, particularly during the evening and nighttime when mosquitoes that transmit malaria are most active.
Sleep in Protected Areas
Sleep in accommodations that are properly screened or air-conditioned, or use bed nets treated with insecticide, especially during the high-risk period from September to May. Ensure that the bed net is intact and properly tucked in to create a protective barrier.
Avoid Mosquito Bites
Take additional measures to avoid mosquito bites, such as staying indoors during peak mosquito activity times, using fans or air conditioning to keep mosquitoes away, and avoiding stagnant water where mosquitoes breed.
Seek Medical Attention
If you experience flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, and fatigue, both during your trip or after returning home, seek medical attention promptly. Inform the healthcare provider about your travel history to enable them to consider malaria testing as part of the evaluation.
As long as you are following the state department’s guide and enrolling in a STEP program, you are safe in Zimbabwe. It’s important not to ignore general safety instructions during your travel as they can save you from big trouble. Many tourists who visit Zimbabwe also visit its bordering country, Namibia, right away to enjoy exceptional safari trips out there.
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Bariki was born and raised in Tanzania, the land of the magnificent Serengeti, Ngorongoro, and Manyara wildlife parks. He grew up surrounded by Africa’s natural beauty. Visiting his grandpa in Moshi Kilimanjaro, at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro, provided him with early exposure to wildlife and the natural world.
As a technology and human rights blogger, he has always been passionate about writing. With many relatives working in the tourism industry, he has stayed abreast of the industry’s successes and challenges, which led him to write about African safaris.
Now residing in the USA, Bariki is using his firsthand knowledge to help foreigners plan their dream safari in Africa. At Posire, he shares his expertise on everything you need to know about planning a safari, from choosing the right destination to the best time to go and what to expect during your adventure.