Random musings about my experience travelling to Zimbabwe
Welcome….Welcome……Welcome to 2019.
Gosh! I have been away from here for so long. I experienced a strong writer’s block which was worsened with my workload at the office in the last quarter of 2018. During the long silence here, I visited a few countries but the most recent was my trip to Zimbabwe for a friend’s wedding, and as usual it was an opportunity to explore.
Where do I start?!…………………The truth is that there are so many in-between stories but let me not bore you with details here like I did on Instagram, so straight to the point. This article covers general reflections about my trip and what I encountered while I will share places I visited separately.
This was the first headwind I experienced. I had applied online but for strange reasons whilst the visa fees of US$30 was debited from my account, my application didn’t submit. I sent the Zimbabwe authorities emails which were never acknowledged. Eventually, I got my friend to intervene as my departure date drew closer and I was sorted.
Visa is issued on arrival but you need to apply online and submit all the necessary documents after which a visa approval letter is sent to you. Without that letter, you won’t get the visa on arrival. The requirements are as follows:
Address at Zimbabwe: Confirmed hotel reservation or a letter of invitation from the host. I had both but used the latter
Proof of Residence in Country of Origin: Typically this should be your utility bill, tenancy agreement etc. I used my bank statement
Bio page of your International passport
A passport photograph
US$30 visa fee.
This was the biggest shocker and headwind in all my travelling around Africa. I typically look forward to currency arbitrage on my trips but I was very disappointed this time. We all know (in theory) about the currency crisis and hyperinflation in Zimbabwe but I never knew to what extend considering there is a Reserve Bank whose function is to manage currency stability. I was informed that the official exchange rate is pegged at US$1:1 Zollar (ZWD) bond note but the reality is different when trying to transact.
It was quite frustrating trying to buy goods and/or services. Everything is dollarised and if you insist on paying with the local currency, you either get denied your purchase or you are given a ridiculous rate. e.g A taxi fare is US$10, but the driver will ask for 30 Zollar if you insist on paying with the local currency. My GTB Mastercard worked but needless to say that I was causing myself more harm than good. For instance, if the price is quoted in Zollar, there is no conversion that takes place when processing your card. The merchant treats it as a dollar transaction; one for one.
No gainsaying that it is most painful if you earn in Naira. So brethren, like I always preach, I guess you now see reasons to get a dollar paying job. It makes travel easier but until then, keep saving or venture into a business that enables you earn in dollar. Phew!.
When I got the invitation to attend Fari’s wedding, I was super excited and thankfully it was a country I had never visited. Hence, accepted the invite but soon hit the roadblock of finding cheap flight tickets. The cheapest ticket I found at the time was N420,000 for RwandAir. There was no way I would buy a ticket that expensive. So, I explained my predicament to Fari in an attempt to turn down the invitation. To cut the chase, she got the ticket for US$400 from SA on the same airline. It was a shocker and I was more that glad. I then faced the challenge of wiring her the cash to purchase the ticket immediately but my dear friend, Stanley, came to my rescue and this was the beginning of my Zimbabwe trip planning.
FUN FACTS ABOUT ZIMBABWE
Marijuana is legal. Zimbabwe is the second African country to legalise marijuana farming for medicinal purposes.
Trophy hunting appears to have remained a business. Remember Cecil the Lion who was killed with a bow and arrow for $65,000 by an American hunter?!.
By my recollection, there are seven official legal currencies. The United States dollar (USD), South African rand (ZAR), Euro (EUR), Indian rupee (INR), Pound sterling (GBP), Chinese yuan/ Renminbi (CNY), Botswanan pula (BWP). It is safe to say Zimbabwe doesn’t have a national currency as it has abandoned it for others. Wonderful!
Zimbabwe is home to the largest waterfall in the world….apparently. I discovered after visiting. Yes, I visited Victoria Falls (the smoke that thunders). I initially thought it was just one of the seven natural wonders of the world
It is also home to the fourth longest river in Africa, River Zambezi, after the Nile, Congo and Niger, in that order
Lagos, in terms of population, is bigger than Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe, which is a Southern African Country is a landlocked country of circa 16 million people.
Zimbabweans are upbeat and friendly albeit suffering. Zimbabwe was actually once the richest country in Africa. Amazing. Infact, it was considered African’s most stable country, and dubbed “The bread basket of Africa” until Mugabe nationalized everything.
It’s major trade is manufacturing, mining and farming. Perhaps we should talk about lessons for Nigeria.
Zimbabwe was a British colony and gained independence in 1980. There are three main languages in Zimbabwe are English, Shona and Ndebele.
In 2013, Zimbabwe withdrew from the Commonwealth which greatly impacted the tourism sector. However, in 2017 they showed the willingness to rejoin
“Zimbabwe” comes from a local language meaning “a great house of stone”.
LESSONS FOR NIGERIA
I remember ranting about Zimbabwe on Instagram and a friend sent me a message to say “There’s nothing to learn”. Hmmm…..I responded saying “I disagree because as long as day and night exist, there will always be something to learn”.
The hyperinflation in Zimbabwe which crippled the economy was caused by a combination of poor economic policies (including nationalizing everything), deep corruption and the sporadic printing of money in an attempt to boost the economy. The spiral effect was unemployment, currency devaluation and poverty.
Nigerian must continuously fight for democracy and retain the right to ‘hire and fire’. We must hold people in power accountable at all times including the CBN governor who should implement FX policies that ensure a less volatile and stable currency.
People in power should seek to diversify the economy and boost export related trades that contribute to improving the reserve position and reduce budget deficit. This is a long term strategy that I very much believe is achievable. Also, the airport and select nationalized assets should be considered for privatization.
Oh and by the way, and by African standard, the roads were good and safe to travel at night. I mean, I dare not take a night bus in my country but I conveniently took it in Zimbabwe (Harare to Victoria Falls). I guess Zimbabwe ranks higher than Nigeria (& any other country in Africa) in terms of globally preferred Africa tourist destination (if any such ranking exist). Are we still asking if there is something to learn??!.
Travel is not just about the places you visit or explore,
but how each experience improves your living. TAB
FINAL TRAVEL TIPS FOR TRAVELLING TO ZIMBABWE
Apply via eVisa Zimbabwe alone. Employing the services of an agent isn’t necessary, just apply far ahead of your travel date.
Hold both dollars (cash) and zollars. It appears cheaper to transact in Zollar, the Zimbabwe bond notes currency, in instances where the price is quoted on zollars. Remember that it is difficult to find a reliable ATM anywhere in Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe is not the cheapest travel destination but you can save on accommodation if you avoid hotels.
Zimbabweans are so nice, helpful and hopeful. It felt so much like home. So, go with a cheerful disposition as applicable to any trip.
You will be able to get by fine with speaking English in Zimbabwe
My heart was made to love, my head to dream, and my feet to travel. #NaijaKidsTravelToo