Harare, Zimbabwe Report of what it's like to live there - 04/16/16
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?
No, have lived in several other African, Middle Eastern and Asian countries
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?
Home base is London - it's an easy trip, best options are via Johannesburg on South African Airways, via Dubai on Emirates or via Addis Ababa on Ethiopian Airlines. All take at least 20 hours, more depending on stopovers.
3. How long have you lived here?
On and off for 18 years
4. 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?
There are some beautiful houses in Harare. There are also inner-city apartments available but they cost as much as house so they feel a bit pointless. Fully furnished houses also available, some come with a gardener/ caretaker who lives on the property. Lots of pleasant suburbs to choose from. Harare has issues with water cuts so it's advisable to rent a house with water tanks (quite common). There can be frequent power cuts as well, so it's a good idea to get a rechargeable inverter battery or set up solar panels (a generator is a convenient but a inexpensive, environmentally unfriendly and non-essential option). Commute time is reasonable wherever you are as Harare doesn't have serious traffic jams.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Most of what you need is available from supermarkets - Food Lover's Market, SPAR etc. Cost seems to be reasonable.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Books and movies
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Lots of options from traditional Zimbabwean food to excellent Thai. Local produce is amazing so in the hands of good chefs local food can be exciting. From US$10-15 for traditional restaurants to US$60 for fine dining, average probably US$25
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Not much. Harare is outside the malaria zone (though a few cases are reported each year) - generally malaria i not a problem except for when you travel to certain parts of the country.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
EMS is reliable, otherwise FedEx and DHL
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Widely available, costs are reasonable (from US$300 a month), there are agencies for full time and part time staff
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Quite a few available.
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?
ATMs work fine, cards increasingly accepted.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
Everything you can imagine. Every kind of church, mosques, Buddhist Centers, a Hindu Temple and even 3 synanogues
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Most people speak excellent English but any attempt to speak basic Shona will be appreciated
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Probably - a lot of buildings don't have facilities and elevators can often be broken.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Public transport consists of minibus shared taxis (kombis) - overcrowded and probably not that safe, but cheap and essential for feeling like a local. Taxis are good - no meters, fares around US$1 per km but negotiable. Get recommendations for 3-4 good taxi drivers and call them direct on the cell phones. They will give you better rats in return for your loyalty.
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?
4-wheel drive is best for the potholed roads and trips out of town.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Getting better. Starts from around $80 per month for a decent package. There is fibre-optic cable in many suburbs.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Bring an unlocked one and get a local sim card.
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?
Don't know about quarantine but many people have pets and speak highly of the pet care here
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?
Not really, hard to get a work permit when so many locals are without jobs
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
As much as you want. Lots of people in needs and organizations trying to help them
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
smart casual, though Zimbabweans like to dress up for business
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
The crime levels aren't that high - nowhere near South African levels. Still, it is not advisable to walk alone at night as many streetlights are broken and it can be very dark. There is some opportunistic crime - pickpocketing and phone snatching - but not that much. Some people have had house robberies, and many houses have alarms, high walls, razor or electric wire etc. It's possible to hire a night watchman for about US$500 a month - some people get one between several houses on one street to make it affordable. Overall though, Harare does not feel like a dangerous city, but with the economy in crisis there are some desperate people out there so caution is advised.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Decent but have good insurance
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?
Generally very good, except when people burn their trash.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
No special issues
5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Fairly consistent (though people notice the effects of climate change), there are 2 rainy seasons but sunshine almost year-round. Never gets cold enough for a heater, great place to spend time outdoors.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
Lots of good schools in Harare
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
Don't have first-hand knowledge
3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?
Lots of options for different budgets, although many people prefer hiring nannies
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
There are martial arts and soccer academies and other programs connected with schools.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Decent size and very diverse. If they make local friends and make an effort to discover Zimbabwean culture they love it, if they like to remain in an expat cocoon they hate it
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?
Live music, house parties, braais (barbecues), festivals, launches, openings at galleries etc
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
It's a good city for anyone. Families will appreciate that there are lots of fun activities to do with kids, singles and couple will enjoy socializing, going out and making friends here.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
It's ok. Officially it's illegal and the President has been known to speak out against homosexuality, but Zimbabweans tend to be accepting overall and I know a number of gay people who live here for years without any issues. There is a local organization called GALZ (Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe) which can be contacted for more info.
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
There is some stereotyping of white people but it's rare among educated people. As for gender prejudices, again they tend to exist more among poorer and/or less educated Zimbabweans. On the one hand there are many women in positions of authority and running businesses. On the other hand, there is domestic violence, many husbands have so-called "small houses" (secret second wives or families) and view women as their property. There are women's organizations and public figures who campaign and speak out against these things, so overall progress seems to be happening. I have not seen any religious prejudices in Zimbabwe. There are many religions and denominations practiced here and countless churches, and I have never heard of any of them having any problems.
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Traveling to Victoria Falls, the national parks and even day trips right outside Harare, discovering Zimbabwean music and culture and making wonderful friends.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
In the city there is theater, literature, modern art and live music, as well as good restaurants, film festivals, food festivals and lots of cultural events. Just a few minutes out of town are amazing places like Domboshawa and Ngomakurira. Lots of travel opportunities around Zimbabwe - the Great Zimbabwe ruins are recommended for history buffs. National parks of course and travel to neighboring countries such as Mozambique, Zambia and Namibia.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Art - especially modern art
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Perfect weather, amazing travel opportunities, rich culture and warm people.
10. Can you save money?
Not really if you travel and make the most of your experience
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
People are very friendly but do not speak directly, so often hard to know what they really mean.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Heater and prejudices
4. But don't forget your:
Curiosity, sense of adventure
5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:
sadly not much
6. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
Books by Chenjerai Hove, Dambudzo Marechera, Petina Gappah
7. Do you have any other comments?
People fall in love with this country, keep an open mind and explore!