30.06.2012

Easy Driving in Zimbabwe


Driving in Zimbabwe is extremely easy: we averaged around 90 to 100 km/h on excellent roads linking major cities and our GPS found even tracks within National Parks. Traffic in rural areas is minimal and even in cities like Bulawayo or Harare, traffic jams are unknown. Only the roads leading directly towards border crossings with Zambia and South Africa are busy with trucks, very modern ones though, none of the puffing, diesel-spewing wrecks often seen in many African countries. Gasoline is available in all major cities, although you still can see the old signs saying Gasoline: “Yes” or “No”, but those days are gone. Price for a liter is around 1.3 USD.

Within minutes after crossing the border we were stopped at a police check point. As it turned out often every few kilometers a small group of policemen busied themselves with checking cars and trucks. Tourists are not their target: usually they waved us through, but sometimes they asked about our holiday and if we like the country. At such occasions we raved about and praised Zimbabwe and were rewarded with proud, wide smiles. It truly helps to be extremely respectful, friendly and humorous (always take off your sunglasses!). Some of the more talkative cops even suggested we tell our folks back home what a great country it is.

Only a few times we had to show our driver’s license (a French and an Austrian one) and most important the fire extinguisher. This is a must-have and we kept it ready to present in the pouch of the front seat. Other little things to be observed: 2 white reflecting stickers in the front, 2 red ones in the back, 2 red reflecting warning triangles, 1 signal vests, 1 spare wheel and of course, your Temporary Import Permit (TIP). Such equipped, nothing can go wrong!

We drove approx. 4.000 km in Zimbabwe and were only fined twice. Once 10 USD, for buying tomatoes in a “no stopping zone”. We simply had overlooked the sign. It was handled very professionally and in a friendly manner, we had to sign an “Admission of Guilt” and a receipt was issued. The other was a 10 USD speeding ticket (plus signing another “Admission of Guilt” note) for driving 75 instead of 60 km/h in the middle of nowhere. Yes, the police have very modern radars equipment and they do use it!

Equally smoothly went a minor accident. Sugar cane falling from a passing truck smashed our windshield. We followed them to the next police check point and were then directed to the nearest police station. From there we left with a hand written note for the police authorities in Mutare, explaining that the post had no more forms to provide us with the proper statement. In Mutare, the provincial capital, we entered an office with a huge banner saying “You are entering a corruption free zone”. Fifteen minutes later, we left with the necessary papers. As it turned out, it did not help with our insurance, but it protected us from being fined for the damaged windshield at check points to come.