For many, Zim remains the final frontier for Self-Drive. With Botswana and Namibia approaching capacity, Zimbabwe presents a diverse and wild alternative for the more adventurous. There are some specific challenges that remain. My view is that most self-drivers over-estimate the severity of these challenges and are put off far too easily.
FALLACY 1: Lets start with safety & security, a question I am often asked regards self-driving in Zim. In short, Zim does not have a problem with violent crime like some of our more-visited neighbours. Sure, there is petty theft (don’t leave cash or cellphones lying around) but hijackings and gun violence are rare. Despite (or maybe, because of) the economic challenges, the fabric of Zim society remains intact and most people have respect for each other and common human decency.
The cops were a problem 18 months ago when they were trying to raise fine revenue by enforcing ridiculous regulations. Under the new dispensation, they are back to directing traffic and giving public transport drivers a hard time about their un-roadworthy vehicles and reckless driving. Fact is, the average cop’s heart was never really in it when they were ordered to extort motorists in the past, the average Zimbo is much more happy solving problems than causing them.
Hard fact – Zimbabwe’s homicide rate is one sixth of South Africa’s and one third of Botswana & Namibia’s.
FALLACY 2: Let’s get this straight, FUEL DOES NOT COST US$6 PER LITRE! This is just inaccurate journalism. Either the writers do not understand mathematics, or they are just looking for sensationalist headlines. This fallacy was created by the original official insistence that government-issued local currency was 1:1 with the USD when in fact it trades around 9/USD on the market.
The resultant official Z$6.10 fuel price cannot be said to be equal to USD 6/l and is actually around USD 0.63/l, making it the cheapest in the region by some way. This naturally results in excess demand and some rather impressive fuel queues! Unless you are an under-employed amateur fuel arbitrage trader, don’t waste your time in a 2km fuel queue trying to buy a tank of the cheapest fuel in Africa. For people who have hard forex, fuel hovers between $1.20 and $1.40 per litre and you can buy coupons meaning you don’t have to stand in a long queue. If you are still not convinced, don’t worry, we can help you get coupons and fuel from Harare and Kariba and for goodness sake, don’t cancel your trip because of some financially illiterate journalist’s opinions.
FALLACY 3: Food is horrendously priced and the supermarket shelves are bare. Same cause as fallacy 2….imported food is approx 30% more expensive than neighboring South Africa but Supermarkets are still full of stuff you don’t need (my local Spar has about 10 types of cooking oil) and local brands remain affordable and more than good enough.
These 3 common misconceptions go a long way in explaining why Zim remains an undiscovered Self-Drive gem where you can have wild Africa to yourself in safety. There is however, one under-rated risk to visiting Zim in my opinion:
THE ONE HOME TRUTH ? : The standard of driving in Zim really is poor! The proliferation of cheap imported second hand vehicles and aforementioned cheap fuel means many people are first-time motorists who have never sat in the back of their parents car as children hearing critical analysis other motorists’ driving technique. These new drivers do not yet understand their own mortality. Speed, poor maintenance and no insurance are a potent combination. You need to be aware of this, maintain following distance and assume all other road users are Kamikaze pilots. Try think ahead for everyone else and take it easy on the speed.
Hopefully, this explanation of these 3 Fallacies and one home truth will help you better understand the true risks in Self-Driving unexplored beautiful Zimbabwe and make a quality decision.
Please do contact us if you need assistance planning your trip or with 4×4 Rentals and Campsite & Kariba Ferry Bookings.
Thanks for your update. We have been to Mana Pools every year for the last 20 odd years and have found the average Zimbo to be happy, hardworking and honest in spite of mugabes destructive reign The road blocks last year were no problem at all. Please visit wonderful Zim. to get the tourism industry and the economy going Enjoy life
Thanks for the true insight
You made it pretty clear and reduced the apprehension and anxiety.
Thanks so much for the update!!!
All true!! We did a self drive around Zimbabwe in october 2018 and we were enchanted by it’s lovely and welcome people and the amazing national parks and wild game.. After flying from Montréal to Johannesburgh, we drove north and crossed the Beitbridge border: (even that was made quite easy with the help of zimbabwe tourism Authority). The road from Beitbridge to Masvingo (Great Zim ruins) is in fairly poor state but not impracticable. Great Zim is a must see especially to get an introduction to the country. In Harare, we changes US 2 for 1 for bond notes and thus, paid everything half price. We even paid our reservations for Mana Pools and Hwange in bond notes at Zimpark head office in Harare (though we were told later that this was a luck because foreigners are bound to pay s in forex).
Over all it was a wonderful trip that took us through a country that, even though it’s facing formidable challenges, is very friendly to the traveler and very safe as well.
As my beloved girlfriend told me when we finally reached Mana Pools NP: once you get here by yourself, you can go everywhere in the world..
Experience Zimbabwe now while it’s still an out of the beaten tracks destination.. Mana Pools, Hwange, Matopos, donthem all as we did the experience is worth the challenges!!