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Budget Guide To Zimbabwe

Grand Escapades’ Budget Guide To Zimbabwe – Just As Expensive As It Can Get…

Road crossing Matopos or Matobo National Park, Zimbabwe, Africa

Road crossing Matopos or Matobo National Park, Zimbabwe, Africa

Type Of Travel

We did a 3 week Self-Drive Safari through Zimbabwe’s National Parks. It was an expensive trip, no beating around the bush!

Itinerary & Time Of The Visit

In July 2012, after traveling 5.700 kilometers in three weeks in cars, boats and even a canoe, we got a bit of a feel what Zimbabwe is like, at least from a tourist’s perspective…

  • Starting in Johannesburg in a rented car, driving straight to Beitbridge & crossing into Zimbabwe,
  • Bulawayo & Matobo National Park,
  • Hwange National Park (Main Camp & Sinamatella Camp),
  • Victoria Falls (only Zimbabwe),
  • Ferry from Mlibizi to Kariba on Lake Kariba,
  • Canoe Safari in Mana Pools National Park,
  • Harare (as a stop-over),
  • Gweru & Antelope Park,
  • Masvingo & Great Zimbabwe,
  • Gonarezhou National Park (Chilojo Cliffs),
  • And last but not least driving up north to Mutare to drop Heidi & Jason at the Mozambique Border,
  • Back to Johannesburg via Beitbridge.

Global 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.

First Time Camping... Mlibizi Zambezi Resort, on the Shores of Lake Kariba, Zimbabwe, Africa

First Time Camping… Mlibizi Zambezi Resort, on the Shores of Lake Kariba, Zimbabwe, Africa

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

Costs per Person per Day in €
Long Distances’ Transport €  70,70
Short Distances’ Transport €   0,00
Total Transport €  70,70
Hotels €  20,60
Restaurants & Food €  12,40
Drinks & Going Out €   0,00
Every Day Life (& Souvenirs) €   7,50
Visa €   2,80
Total Living €  43,30
Visits & Tours €  51,30
Activities €     0,00
Total Tours & Activities €  51,30
Total Country: € 165,30

Hostels & Hotels

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.

City Name Type of Accommodation Type ofRoom Price per Night (€) Evaluation(1 to 5 Stars)
Musina Limpopo River Lodge Hotel Double Room 50,00
Bulawayo Grey’s Inn Hotel Double Room 40,00
Matopo National Park Lodge Maleme Rest Camp Lodge Double Room 65,22
Hwange National Park Lodge Main Camp Lodge Double Room 65,22
Hwange National Park Lodge Sinamatella Camp Lodge Double Room 86,96
Victoria Falls Shoestrings Backpackers Hostel Double Room 25,00
Mlibizi Camping: Mlibizi Resorts Camping Rooftop Tent 11,67
Mana Pools Camping Canoe Safari Camping Tent 33,33
Chinhoyi Chinhoyi Caves Inn Motel Hotel Double Room 50,00
Harare It’s A Small World Hostel Hostel Double Room 33,33
Gweru Camping: Antelope Park Camping Rooftop Tent 13,33
Masvingo Great Zimbabwe Lodge Hotel Double Room 50,00
Gonarezhou Chilojo Cliff 1 Camping Camping Rooftop Tent 41,67
Mutare Anne Bruce’s Backpackers Hostel Double Room 25,00
Polokwane Tuscan Lodge Hotel Double Room 55,00

Restaurants & Food

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) features European / American price levels, with a regular Cheeseburger selling for 3.5 USD!

Market in Bulawayo...

Market in Bulawayo…

Drinks & Going Out

We have no detailed information on this, since we certainly did not party. Drinks are included in our Restaurants & Food Budget.


Of course the 4WD was the main budget killer, but there is no public transport to and inside the national parks. A smaller / cheaper 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 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, we were lucky, since only very few people travel to Zimbabwe.

From To Type of Transport Distance (km) Duration (hours)
Johannesburg Bulawayo Car 850 09:40
Bulawayo Hwange (Dete) Car 300 05:00
Hwange (Dete) Victoria Falls Car 175 03:00
Victoria Falls Mlibizi Car 230 03:50
Mlibizi Kariba Ferry 240 22:00
Kariba Mana Pools Car 170 02:40
Mana Pools Mutare Car 650 09:50
Mutare Gonarezhou Car 330 04:20
Gonarezhou Masvingo Car 240 03:10
Masvingo Beitbridge Car 290 03:40
Beitbridge Johannesburg Car 530 06:50

Tours & Activities

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!

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.

Reduce Costs?

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, but on the other hand gain.

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4 Responses to Budget Guide To Zimbabwe

  1. ruvimbo 7. January 2015 at 9:37 #

    Zimbabwe is not the poorest nation in the world.Get it right

    • Gilles Barbier 8. January 2015 at 1:46 #

      Thank you for your message!
      We wrote: “How come one of the poorest nations on this planet…”
      Let’s look at facts: Zimbabwe is, based on GDP per Capita, the second poorest nation on earth (source: Global Finance Magazine – 428,91 USD)
      Zimbabwe is as well the country with the lowest life expectancy with only 37 years!
      So we got it right… I am surprised by your harsh tone…
      Zimbabwe was indeed a rich country, but Mugabe simply annihilated the economy
      Cheers, Gilles

  2. David from 24. September 2018 at 12:43 #

    Great article, thanks for the tips!

    Indeed, as one of the premier safari and adventure destinations of the world, a trip to Zimbabwe is one not to be missed. However, crime is rife here. Although not targeted at tourists, it still pays to be careful.

    Do be wary of pickpockets, snatch thefts, street touts, carjacking, highway robberies, corrupt traffic police, currency exchange scams, card skimmers and more!

    • Gilles Barbier 24. September 2018 at 13:05 #

      Thanks David for your feedback.
      It is always advisable to be careful.
      Nonetheless, I experienced Zimbabwe as a safe place to travel – Maybe it changed over the las few years ?
      Cheers, Gilles