Travel Etiquette - Rules To Note When Visiting Zimbabwe

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We have all heard the saying when in Rome do like the Romans do. A practical tip to live by and one which usually works in your favour; it enables you to make friends easily and have a fruitful experience when visiting new places. If you have never visited Zimbabwe and look forward to doing so in the future we have compiled some handy etiquette pointers to help you mind your manners as you go around our beautiful country. 

Tipping - There is no general rule for tipping when you are in Zimbabwe but it is a good culture to leave a tip when you visit restaurants, lodges, hotels etc. Some safari lodges will give you a guideline if you ask. 

Dress modestly - If you are visiting the urban areas, major travel resorts and high-end shopping centres you can dress freely. However, if you want to visit the villages or rural areas conservative clothing is preferred. Visitors may not be chided for short hemlines, but it is safer and polite for ladies to wear dresses/skirts that are at least knee-length and gentlemen to wear trousers or decent summer shorts. 

Mind your Speech - It is an offence to speak badly about the President so be careful what you say. Political sensitivities abound so refrain from making comments about political things. When you visit cultural or historical sites it is impolite to pass negative comments and in some places, it is deemed as sacrilegious to make comments as it angers the spirits of the land. Find out more here.  

Do not Litter - When you visit wildlife areas such as the National Parks animals roam freely (they are not in cages) so animals may stumble upon sweet wrappers and other types of packaging which may be toxic when consumed. So if you are visiting on a day trip, or staying in the campsites or lodges please do not litter. Make sure you carry your plastic bottles, food wrappers and packaging with you when you leave. A handy tip is to buy trash bags when you buy provisions for your trip. 

Avoid Public Displays of Affection - Zimbabweans are generally conservative people. You will notice this in the way locals dress and conduct themselves. It is polite to refrain from overt outward displays of affection, when in public.  Those who are part of the LGBTQ community, in particular, should avoid this especially when visiting the rural or remote areas (villages) community members will be very offended. 

Learn the Language – It is very helpful to learn a few words used by locals, words for Please, Thank you, Yes, Hello etc. Find out more about the language here

Learn how to Greet Locals properly - If you would like to participate in cultural tours (visit the local rural communities/villages for some insight into how the people live) it would help to learn some of the basic rules. Honour the elders by greeting them first especially the men, in some cases, you may be introduced to local area leaders the headman or chief. Pay attention to how the guide behaves and follow his/her cues. Culturally a handshake and verbal greeting will do, hugs are inappropriate. You may notice women genuflect when they greet visitors and may avoid direct eye contact.

When food is offered in such a setting remember declining is considered impolite. You may take very little and do not forget to say Thank you afterwards. Appreciation is often accompanied by a gesture of clapping hands. Clasp your hands under the chin as if you are about to pray and gently lower the palms to a 60 -70-degree angle and clap slowly 3 to 5 times. This same gesture is also used to mean excuse me. Find out about cultural tours.

Locals usually eat the staple food sadza/isitshwala with their hands. When you visit homes owned by locals even in urban areas this is still practised. You can wash your hands with soap and water and do the same, however, in hotels, you may use cutlery. Read more about local cuisine here.

Kindly observe Smoking Regulations - Some hotels, restaurants and lodges do not permit smoking within their premises and you may step outside for a smoke. 

You may freely join in for traditional dancing when called upon to do so. Tourists may find a welcoming party when they arrive at their lodge or hotel or it may be the evening’s entertainment and guests may be called upon to participate. The Boma Dinner and Drum Show is a case in point. 

Ask for permission when you want to take close up pictures of people in the market places, in the rural area etc. When you visit cultural monuments find out if you are allowed to freely take pictures.