Harare Travel Guide

Zimbabwe’s capital city Harare used to be a very modern and quite a pleasant city. Harare has a few museums worth spending time in, there are some parks and markets where it is nice to stroll around, but in the end the real charm of the city stems from its laid back atmosphere. Near Harare there are some parks where you can see wildlife; other nice daytrips can be made to Chapungu Kraal and Kopoje.

Harare's airport is the major gateway for flights into the country. Air Zimbabwe also operates a small network of domestic flights. International flights are easily available, with Air Zimbabwe with flights direct to London and Johannesburg. In recent times Air Zimbabwe flights often had to be cancelled due to a lack of spare parts and fuel. Flights are however more frequent now foreign airliners include South African Airways and low-fare Kulula.com, both flying from South Africa's Johannesburg International Airport.

Get Around
Since Zimbabwe redistributed farms, there have been limited exports, meaning there is no foreign currency available to import fuel into Zimbabwe. All gas stations in the country have been closed since about 2004, and the only way to buy fuel is on the black market from someone who has brought it in bottles in the back of his or her car from a neighbouring country. Buying and selling fuel is illegal in Zimbabwe, so be discreet. Prices are about 30-40% higher than those in South Africa (where the bulk of smuggled fuel comes from)

Roads:
The condition of the roads in Zimbabwe has deteriorated dramatically in recent years since the government has failed to maintain them. Most of the country is now without street lights. The main highways are still in a good state of repair outside of the cities - traffic is so light now that damage from trucks is minimal. You should be OK without a 4x4 unless you head into rural areas and game parks. If you enter from South Africa, be sure that your insurance waiver is valid for travel in Zimbabwe.

What to See
There is a strong appreciation for the city's cultural and historical heritage and a number of the older buildings have been preserved. The Mining Pension Fund Building at Central Avenue and Second Street is one example and many more are to be found along Robert Mugabe Road between Second Street and Julius Nyerere Way.
 

The National Gallery houses not only a valuable and interesting national collection but also hosts travelling international exhibitions and has a permanent display of some outstanding Shona soft-stone carvings.
The priceless collection of Rhodesiana and Africana in the form of diaries, notebooks and reports of various origins, are housed in the National Archives. Some of the original works of some of the greatest names in African exploration and missionary can be viewed.
Other institutions which are well worth visiting include the Queen Victoria Museum and the Queen Victoria National Library, both at the Civic Centre; in Rotten Row.
The city was laid out with large open spaces like the 68ha National Botanic Garden with more than 900 species of wild trees and shrubs from all over the country. The Mukuvisi Woodlands is 277 hectares of remarkably preserved natural woodland that stances astride the banks of the small Mukuvisi stream. A variety of bird and of wild animal species such as giraffe, zebra, impala, tsessche, wildebeest, bushbuck, steenbuck, reed buck and eland can be viewed.
The Kopje, a granite hill rising above the south-west corner of central Harare, is a great place to go for views of the city.

Where to Buy
If you want to experience shopping the way it is traditionally done in many African countries, you need to stroll around at the open flea-market at Mbare. Here tourists can feast their eyes on a colourful array of baskets, food, clothing and other items. In September 2005, the government bulldozed Mbare flea market along with every other informal market in the country. Tens of thousands of people have been left homeless and without an income. The government's policy to try and cut down on informal trading has been disasterous in a country with one of the highest unemployment rates in the world. By October 2006 many markets have sprung up again - includin in Mbare - although this area isn't particularly pleasant for the visitor.

Eat & Drink
Zimbabwe's Staple food is Sadza: a thick white porridge (a bit like mashed potato), that's made from corn meal. It's eaten at every meal, accompanied by vegetables or meat in some form.

In Harare there are many westernised restaurants serving European or American style food - but far more exciting are the (surprisingly cosmopolitan) outdoor cafes:

-40 Cork Road, Avondale, Harare is an outdoor cafe, art gallery, and sculpture garden. Very much the place to be seen. -167 Enterprise Road, Chisipite, Harare - an old house converted into a restaurant with a huge garden with a pool, an art shop, gallery etc...

Try Chibuku, a popular local beer. It comes in "scuds" - large 2litre brown plastic containers. The beer is lumpy and opaque beige, but is surprisingly good, and painfully cheap.

Sleep
The city boasts an internationally recognised 5 star hotel (The Meikles Hotel), but also has a signficant number of three to four star hotels that offer affordable accomodation without compromising on quality. These include The Crowne Plaza Monomotapa, The Cresta Lodge and The Holiday Inn. There are several cheap backpackers guesthouses, particularly in Selous Avenue. But be wary when walking alone at night in the Selous Ave area.

Palm Villa Lodge 39 Selous Ave, dorms from Zim$ 5000.00 (USD 2), friendly and centrally located.
Mundawanga lodge 94 Selous Ave
Hillside lodge 71 Hillside Street
Small World Lodge Avondale - clean and pleasant - It was still operating in October 2006 and should still be going.

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