Harare, Zimbabwe Report of what it's like to live there - 05/21/21
Personal Experiences from Harare, Zimbabwe
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
Yes, first time living long-term.
2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?
Southern United States, about 23-25 hours. If you do not have pets, you can transit Johannesburg. If not, best route would be Harare to Addis Ababa to Washington, DC via Ethiopian/United codeshare.
3. What years did you live here?
4. How long have you lived here?
5. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Big, older housing. Housing is spread out among the city and each house is surrounded by a fence/wall with 24/7 guards. Yard size varied, but each house has green space and 95% of the houses have pools. Each house also has staff quarters. Commute times ranged from 10 to 35 minutes. They are trying to lease new houses that are closer to the new embassy.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Larger variety than expected. Fresh fruit, vegetables, and good selection of meat. Costs fluctuated with the unstable economy. Prices are still cheaper than D.C. for the most part.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Cake and brownie mixes, olive oil, cheese. You can find most things on the market.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Decent amount of restaurants and takeout options increased with COVID. Multiple grocery delivery options, including GoVeggie. American food chains consisted of Pizza Hut and KFC. Authentic Thai, Greek, and Indian restaurants were month the favorite options.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Spiders called flatties (Selenopidae) were abundant, but harmless. Small lizards often came into the house and cane rats visited the yard on occasion.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
Pouch, DHL and FedEx were also available.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Most families employed a housekeeper and gardener. Embassy reimbursed a percentage of the gardener cost. Salaries ranged from US$200-$400 per month.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Embassy has a small gym and others frequented a few gyms around town. Crossfit is also an option.
4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
Some grocery stores accepted international credit cards. At one point, the Embassy had the only working ATM in the city. Definitely a cash-based economy, in my opinion, the economy is one for the history books. Right now, USD is accepted at most places.
5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Shona is the local language, would be great to learn greetings and basic phrases.
6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Better than some cities as houses are single level. There aren't many sidewalks and driving is necessary.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
No, taxis are not allowed.
2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
SUV with high clearance, especially if you want to explore outside of Harare.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Internet was decent, but expensive. We paid $200/month.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Embassy provided SIM and phone.
1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?
Yes, great veterinarian care. No quarantine required. Beware of street dogs, many were trained to be aggressive for security purposes.
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
A few Embassy jobs available, working to get more opportunities.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Business casual for the most part.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Low crime even though the post is rated high crime. You have 24/7 guards. Don't get complacent, I heard there was a recent "smash and grab" while someone was driving at night.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Decent medical care, can treat most conditions. Any serious condition or incident will require a medevac to Pretoria or London. Take malarone if you leave Harare. Get tested for Bilharzia once a year.
3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?
Good, no big issues.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
Restaurants do not seem to pay much attention to food allergies
5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
The instability of the country and economy can be daunting and depressing. Zimbabweans are extremely resilient.
6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Perfect weather! Winter begins in May; it is colder at night (35-50 degrees), but is 70 degrees by the middle of the day. Rainy season begins in November and ends in March.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
Most children go to HIS or St. Johns. Pre-school children often go to Country Stables.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
There was not a large expat scene outside of the Embassy.
2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
You can go to the markets in the mornings on the weekend. Many also played tennis or soccer. Great post for horse lovers, there are many cheap riding opportunities.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
More of a family post.
4. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?
Zimbabweans are some of the most friendly people that you will ever meet.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Seems to be a bit better than it was in the past. We had a local friend who fled years ago to South Africa, as he was scared he was going to be arrested/beaten for being gay. He has since returned to Harare.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
There is still an underlying tension/divide between black and white Zimbabweans.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Definitely explore outside of Harare; visit Mana Pools, Hippo Pools, Nyanga, Victoria Falls, Hwange, Imire, and Matopos. Restaurant scene was great. Will definitely miss the weather and rural feel of the city!
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Go hiking, drive to the caves, visit the miniature golf course, play at the many golf clubs.
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Great place for Shona sculptures, a selection of markets.
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Weather, people, small town, big houses.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
We would have explored earlier rather than trying to settle first. Bring a solar pool cover in your HHE. Be sure to bring a jacket/blanket because it does get chilly in the winter in your stone house.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Heavy winter clothes, credit card (for the most part).
4. But don't forget your: