Harare is the capital of Zimbabwe.
Harare is home to some two million people, with most in central Harare but some 500,000 in the surrounding districts of Rural Harare, Chintungwiza and Epworth. Once a city of modern buildings, wide thoroughfares, numerous parks and gardens, it suffered from increasing disrepair thanks to Zimbabwe's economic downward spiral. However, there have recently been a few signs of improvement as the decision of the country to adopt the US dollar as its currency has begun to facilitate some investments.
Harare's airport is the major gateway for flights into the country. Air Zimbabwe also operated a small network of domestic flights before ceasing operations. However, an increasing number of foreign airlines are flying into Harare these days. They include South African Airways with direct flights from Johannesburg. Ethiopian Airlines from Addis Ababa, Kenya Airways from Nairobi, TAAG Angola Airlines from Luanda and Egypt Air from Cairo via Dar es Salaam and KLM from Amsterdam.
Taxis from the airport to the main hotels cost $25. This exhorbitant fixed price, given the relatively short distance and great age of the taxis, is attributed by the drivers to the high fees that they have to pay to the airport authority.
Bulawayo sees departures three times a week at 8PM, arriving next morning around 8AM. $12 for a sleeper and $10 for a seat. Trains from Mutare at the border with Mozambique runs three times a week departing Mutare also at 9PM, arrival time in Harare is early morning at 6AM. $7 for 1st class sleeper. $5 for 2nd class sleeper. There are currently no international trains to Harare except occasional cruise trains.
A good road from Johannesburg allows easy access. However, be careful of the sometimes frightening drops at the side of the roads, at the edge of the tarmac, particularly with oncoming trucks at night. In fact, night driving is not advised.
Buses from Johannesburg are easily available ranging from Eagle Liner (for R330). Greyhound (for R450) and Intercape (R420). The bus takes between 16-24 hours. Delays at the border are very common and typically range 3-8 h, but they can be as much as 20 h at Christmas time.
Most ordinary long-distance bus services arrive at the Mbare Terminal, located 3 km southwest of the Central district. The terminal itself is giant, hectic, confusing, and dangerous. There are several disconnected regions of the terminal, and finding something as simple as a taxi can require walking over 500 m through markets and alleys. Although minibuses to Mbare depart from the 4th Street Terminal in Central (located at 4th and Mugabe), it may be worth taking a taxi, which will be able to find a bus to your destination for you.
"Luxury" buses (including Eagle Liner/Greyhound/Intercape) arrive and depart from the modern Roadport terminal at 5th & Mugabe.
Harare is very spread out. The best option to get around is by car, which is easier now that dollarization has made fuel shortages a thing of the past. Fuel is freely available at most outlets for cash or through a coupon system. Most operators now import fuel by themselves and prices are independently set. Most service stations close at around p.m. although there are a number that offer 24-hour service.
Taxis: in 4+1 style taxis, it is very common to fit as many as 8 people inside. Rides around town should cost about $5 for the entire cab at night, typically $2 or $3 during the day, unless you are going to the suburbs. Make sure you negotiate the price before you get inside the car
Minibus taxis are readily available with frequent services between central and all suburbs. Ask around for the terminal for your destination. Typically the fare is about $0.50c.
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.
- National Gallery of Zimbabwe. 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.
- National Archives. Houses a priceless collection of Rhodesiana and Africana in the form of diaries, notebooks and reports of various origins. Some of the original works of some of the greatest names in African exploration and missionary can be viewed.
- The Kopje. A granite hill rising above the southwest corner of central Harare, is a great place to go for views of the city.
- Chapungu Sculpture Park. The vast number of rocks of black serpentine stone found around Zimbabwe, and noticeable even as you drive in from the airport, have encouraged the development of stone carvings by Zimbabwe's talented artists. This large area has exhibitions by numerous artists.
- Harare Botanical Gardens, Sandringham Dr. 68ha and hosts more than 900 species of wild trees and shrubs from all over the country.
- Mukuvisi Woodlands, Hillside Rd, ☎ +263 4 747 111. 277 hectares of remarkably preserved natural woodland that straddles 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 Book Cafe has a wide variety of live music throughout the week, and there is another club that plays Afro-jazz right next door.
All purchases in larger stores are made with US dollars, which is the national currency.
Anything made locally is inexpensive. Packets of Zimbabwe cigarettes cost $0.50 (as of April 2010). Everything that is imported is relatively expensive compared to South Africa. Cans of Coca-cola typically cost $1, for example.
If you want to experience shopping the way it is traditionally done in many African countries, you could stroll around at the open flea-market at Mbare. Here tourists could feast their eyes on a colourful array of baskets, food, clothing and other items. However, in September 2005, the government bulldozed Mbare flea market along with every other informal market in the country. Tens of thousands of people were left homeless and without an income.
The government's policy to try to cut down on informal trading was disastrous in a country with one of the highest unemployment rates in the world. In time, markets began to spring up again.
ATMs give US dollars. The ATMs at Ecobank, Stanbic, Standard Charted will accept most international Visa or Master cards'
- Spar Supermarkets. there are 64 Spar stores all over Zimbabwe.
- TM-Pick N Pay Supermarkers. there are over 50 TM-Pick N Pay stores all over Zimbabwe.
- OK Supermarkets. there are over 50 OK stores in Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe's staple food is Sadza: a thick white porridge (a bit like mashed potato), that's made from corn (maize) 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 outdoor cafes:
- Cafe espresso on Cork Road, Avondale, Harare has a brilliantly landscaped garden and a wifi spot - excellent coffees
- 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.
- Amanzi Restaurant, 158 Enterprise Road, Highlands, ☎ +263 4 497768, +263 912 336 224, e-mail: email@example.com. Generally considered Harare's best restaurant, Amanzi is a long ($10-15 each way) drive out of town into the upmarket suburbs but worth it. A booking is essential, or you probably will not get past the gatekeeper.
- Coimbra, 61 Selous Avenue, corner 7th St ($5 taxi ride from the main hotels), ☎ +263-4-700237, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. This Portuguese restaurant has invested little in the decor but that is no problem. You go for the food, not the wall decorations, and the food is very good. Quick Service - Half a Chicken and Chips only $10 $25.
Try Chibuku, a popular local beer. It comes in "scuds" - large 2 litre brown plastic containers. The beer is lumpy and opaque beige, but is good and painfully cheap.
Shake-shake is prepackaged sorghum beer (brewed in the traditional African style) and is very thick and filling, and comes in milk cartons.
The locally brewed Castle, Lion, Zambesi and Bohlingers are definitely worth trying.
Harare has a vibrant club scene that goes on until the early hours.
- Stars, located next to the Rainbow hotel, is a high class bar/club/lounge that plays hip hop and house music. It can be expensive but a lot of fun.
- Symphony is a hip hop club/lounge very similar to Stars.
- Globe Trotters, also known as GT, is a much less expensive club.
- Balcony is very similar to Globe Trotters.
- Beverlino Restaurant, 100 Nelson Mandela Corner Fourth/Nelson Mandela (Opposite Quality International Hotel), ☎ +263 4 704741. Beverlino Restaurant, well known for its baskets, offered a wide range of food and beverages prepared to your taste. Wherever, you are in town, the warm savoury food will be brought to your door step. Place an order for food now.
The city boasts an internationally recognized 5 star hotel (The Meikles Hotel), but also has a significant number of three to four star hotels that offer affordable accommodation without compromising on quality. These include The Crowne Plaza Monomotapa, The Cresta Lodge and The Holiday Inn. There is now only one cheap backpackers lodge. Harare also has quite a number of bed and breakfast/guest houses, mostly set in former residential houses with extensive gardens.
- Small World Backpackers Lodge, five avenue and Ninth street in down town Harare. and At the corner of Ridge and Argyle in Avondale. It costs $12 per person in the dorm and $7 per person camping. some private rooms are available. the only backpacker hostel in Harare. $7/$12.
- Bowood Lodge, est House, 8, ☎ +263 430 4613, e-mail: email@example.com. Gu Bowood Road, Mount Pleasant, North Harare, has 4 double rooms. It is set in beautiful grounds and has internet and a pool. Very peaceful. Costs are around $75 per night for bed & breakfast. Evening meals are also available.
- Cresta Oasis, Nelson Mandela Way, ☎ +263 1 790861, fax: +263 1 790865. Three-star hotel just to the east of the Central Business District (walkable during the day, not advisable at night). Around $100.
- Simba Harare, est House, 522, ☎ +263 77 4647549, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Gu Westgate, New Adyllin, North Harare, has 8 double rooms, and a large swimming pool. Own water supply (borehole) and el (Solar energy). Internet. Safe. Costs are from $20 per night (cabin) to $ 50(Main House) for bed & breakfast.Larger groups have been accommodated. Airport pickup arranged per request.
- Crowne Plaza Monomotapa, 54 Park Ln (Northwest corner of the Central Business District), ☎ +263 4 70451230, fax: 263-4-791920. Backing onto the Harare Gardens park, this moon-shaped hotel provides comfortable accommodation. $120+.
- Meikles Hotel, Jason Moyo Avenue (Next to Africa Unity Square), ☎ +263 4 7077219, e-mail: email@example.com. Despite the problems experienced in Zimbabwe in recent years Meikles has managed to maintain its standards as one of Africa's best hotels. All the usual amenities and excellent service. Prices start at $200 per night.
- Internet is available in hotels and at one or two internet cafes, but the service is slow and irregular.
- Cell phone coverage around Harare is good. SIM cards can be easily purchased at a low price. Problems can be experienced with international calls, however. International landline calls are also still unreliable.
Walking around the town after dark should be avoided. If you leave your hotel to visit restaurants, take a taxi.
- Epworth Balacing Rocks are located on Chiremba Road, 10km Southwest of Central. Looks for the signs on the left. 4th Street Terminal has frequent minibus services to the Balacing Rocks--the driver will know where to let you out. Be careful of your personal safety inside the park. The cost is between $2 and $10 per person depending on the situation.
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 all right 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.