How NOT to get stuck in Zimbabwe
By Katie De Vos
Currently (August, 2010) the country of Zimbabwe is in a major economic crisis as a result of Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe who has taken away agricultural land from experienced farmers and given it to people who do not have farming experience. Justifying his actions by noting that he was taking rights away from the white men and giving them back to the black Zimbabweans. Mugabe went as far as to kick white people out of the country. This shift in farming power creates major issues. Without the proper training to perform these jobs, the economy has effectively crumbled. There is no money and no consumerism left in Zimbabwe. Of course, Zimbabwe still desperately needs tourism to survive. Before entering the country, there are a few things a tourist should know, to avoid problems there when traveling.
Know your money. Zimbabwean money is untradeable; worth little in the foreign trade markets. The money that is used in Zimbabwe is predominantly US dollars. On occasion they will accept Zambian Kwacha depending on the location. One difficult thing to note about deciding how much money to bring is to remember that there is no money in the bank machines. Before entering the country you need to make sure you have ALL the money you will need for your entire trip.
Calculate your expenses beforehand. This is obviously not a science but the basics can be calculated. Do a little research on your point of entry. For instance, upon arrival at the airport in Victoria Falls, Americans pay about USD20, and Canadians pay USD75. Once you have your visa, make sure you have enough extra money for food, accommodation (which is very cheap in Zimbabwe) and transport.
Plan your trip route. You will need to plan ahead to where you are going next so you can account for the cost of the visa in THAT country as well. The Visa to get into Zambia is USD50, for Canadians and Americans. With no way of taking out cash from a bank machine it is really important to have more than enough money so as not to be detained at the border.
Learn to effectively barter. The Zimbabwean people are suffering, and tourism is mediocre at best. Stores are closed and bare necessities are unaffordable for many people. Being a tourist, the people seem to think you have endless money you can give to them. Make sure to be smart about your shopping and get a fair price. Consider bringing extra shoes or clothing that you are not really wearing and make exchanges for souvenirs with the people. Money buys food, but with no stores or products available, money is useless for many important essentials.
(*Photos courtesy of Katherine Kumpulas)