For anyone planning to get around in Zimbabwe, you need to be aware of the fact that there is a serious cash shortage in the country. So if you’re coming into the country for holiday, don’t plan on getting cash on arrival! Below are a few suggestions to help you prepare for travelling in cashless Zimbabwe.
DO NOT change your foreign money on the black market
If you are a foreigner in Zimbabwe , it is expected that you pay in foreign currency. There is no cash in Zimbabwe, so banks and bureau de changes are not able to give you cash. Changing money in the “street” is illegal. Our businesses need your foreign currency to continue to provide the quality services that they do. So please do not engage in illegal money-exchanges in the street. Paying businesses in foreign currency directly helps them pay for the goods they import. Taking it into the black market doesn’t help us as a country, at all. If you don’t pay in foreign currency (or with a foreign Visa or Mastercard), you’ll be left stranded. It’s non-negotiable.
Bring small denominations of US Dollars or South African Rand
Whilst this is the most obvious solution, it’s obviously not the safest. If you’re planning a relatively long trip, then you can’t carry all the cash you need, because if it gets stolen or lost, then that’s the end of your trip. Consider bringing the petty cash you need in small denominations, so that you can get by if you really need cash. If you’re driving, you will need cash for toll gates in the event that the card machine is not working. Depending on your vehicle, toll gates start from USD2. Pre-pay for the expensive things for your trip so that you only need petty cash during your trip. Use your debit/credit card. Most outlets accept debit/credit cards, so you can pay for most things this way. It’s worth mentioning, however, that American Express and Diners Club cards aren’t widely accepted. The rest should be fine. Again, you need to be careful with this option, because in the event that the card machines are not working, you need to pay cash.
Let Hwindi drive you around
As far as transport is concerned, you should make use of services like Hwindi, which is the Zimbabwean equivalent of Uber. The app is available on both IOS and Android, and they take card payments. They also accept Paypal, which could give you another payment option when travelling in cashless Zimbabwe. This can save you a lot of trouble when trying to get from one point to the next. So for any inter-city travel, this is your best bet!
Book and pay for accommodation online
You can settle all your accommodation costs before arrival thanks to online booking platforms. Online travel companies like Thingu help ensure all things are paid for before you travel.
Though some might find it difficult to imagine living without cash, there are many countries around the world going cashless. So while Zimbabwe’s cashless transition might not have been voluntary, it’s what the future is going to be like for many other countries.