Zimbabwe - Budget

Zimbabwe is a very expensive African destination, if you decide to make the most of its highlights. The two biggest expenses were renting a 4WD and the 4 day canoe safari on the Zambezi. All the fun stuff around Victoria Falls or Antelope Park adds to the bill.

And it was a stiff one! In 22 days we spent in total 4.400 USD per person, not including the intercontinental flight.

How come one of the poorest nations on this planet, where the economy and the tourism industry collapsed in the last decade, can be that expensive for visitors? Well, all of the above expenses are not a must. Of course you could travel the country quite differently. The question is how long it would take you and especially what you would miss out.

Of course the 4WD was the main budget killer, but there is no public transport to and inside the national parks. A small car might do, but if you want to get to the more remote bits in Hwange and Matobo National Park, a 4WD is strongly advised. For Mana Pools and Gonarezhou National Park, it is simply a must. On the other hand renting the Toyota Hilux with a rooftop tent can help you seriously reducing your budget for sleeping and eating. To bring down costs even further, fill her up! The car can be equipped with two rooftop tents and easily seats four people. And this is what we partly did. Via the Lonely Planet ThornTree Forum, we found fellow travelers for the entire trip to share part of the 150 USD per day for the jeep. However, it was not that easy because actually only very few people travel to Zimbabwe in the first place.

The Canoe Safari in Mana Pools with was another big chunk, with 990 USD in total per person for 4 days / 3 nights. Actually our first choice in Mana Pools was the most secluded campsite in Chitake, but it was booked. Despite the hefty 200 USD a night! Nevertheless, we have no regrets, the canoe safari was one of the very special experiences we had in Zimbabwe and actually traveling in Africa.

There is good news, though… In all major cities, you can find excellent Backpacker Hostels offering dorms and cheap rooms, plus kitchen facilities and good communal areas. They are much better value and even more comfortable than mid-range hotels. Expect to pay 40 to 45 USD for a double room.

National park fees are also extremely moderate, at least compared to other African countries like Tanzania. Entrance fees are generally 20 USD per person plus 10 USD for the car, no matter how long you stay. Camping fees in the national parks range from 8 to 15 USD per person per night, but climb to 25 to 50 USD for the “Wilderness Campsites” and reach 200 USD in Chitake / Mana Pools. Indeed!

Restaurants in Zimbabwe are expensive as well: 6 to 12 USD for a breakfast, and 15 to 30 USD for a dinner in a midrange restaurant. Even the ubiquitous fast food (Chicken-Inn / Pizza Inn / Cream-Inn) feature European / American price levels, with a regular Cheeseburger selling for 3.5 USD!