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The main languages spoken in Zimbabwe are Shona, Ndebele and English, with everyone in the tourism industry speaking good English. The largest language is Northern Ndebele which is spoken by roughly 1.5 million people. Ndebele has its roots in the Zulu culture and is a clicking language. It can be interesting to attempt to speak Ndebele, but in all honesty, even if you successfully enunciate a couple of words, chances are you would struggle to understand the response! That said, it is well worth learning a few key phrases as your efforts will be well received.
Tipping is always something we are asked about and it is always a difficult question to answer. We have come up with the following advice:
1) If you would like to tip your guide we would recommend around US$10- US$15 a day which is usually given at the end of the safari, do check with the management of your lodge if the protocol is not obvious.
2) If you would like to tip the general camp/lodge staff we would recommend around US$10 per guest per day. This should be placed in the communal tipping box.
3) It is useful to have a stack of US$1 to tip porters.
4) Where restaurant meals are involved, the tipping standard is usually 10% of the bill.
5) It is useful to have some blank envelopes for putting tips in.
Do ask locally though what is appropriate if you are unsure, and if you believe that the service has not been worthy of a tip then feel free not to, it is at your discretion.
The Zimbabwean dollar has been suspended indefinitely. The most widely used currencies are the US dollar and the South African rand. Credit and debit cards are useful although not everywhere has the technology to accept them, please check with your consultant regarding the properties you are visiting and whether they will accept payment by card. It is possible to withdraw cash from some ATMs, in particular with Visa cards from Barclays bank ATM’s. It is illegal to exchange foreign currency in Zimbabwe anywhere other than at officially licensed dealers (e.g. banks), who may not have sufficient currency to accommodate your request. The message to take from this is to have a fair amount of US$ cash stored as safely as possible, split into separate packages of smaller denomination notes if possible, to also have credit/ debit cards and to ask in each destination what payment they will accept so that you can plan accordingly.
Our country specialists can advise on any safety concerns you may have. For current information, please refer to the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office website.
When to go to Zimbabwe
You'll find temperature and rainfall information, together with a month-by-month guide on visiting, on our guide for when to go to Zimbabwe.