I travelled to Great Zimbabwe from the second largest city in Zimbabwe – Bulawayo.
If you are taking public transport then you need to get a combi from Masvingo which is the closest town.
This blog looks specifically at Bulawayo / Harare to Masvingo.
You can jump straight to the Masvingo to Great Zimbabwe section if needed.
Bulawayo to Masvingo
You can catch a bus from Bulawayo to Masvingo, we used a Inter Africa bus. To find the bus stop, follow the road that the history museum is on towards town. (We were coming from the suburbs which is out of the town centre). Pass the history museum, the park and then Bulawayo theatre. You then cross a small bridge and the bus stopping area will be ahead of you. The bus stop is on the right just before you get to the junction. When you get there you can ask someone if the bus to Masvingo will stop there. Every time I have walked past there have been lots of people standing around in that area.
We got to the bus stop for about 6.45 am as we were told the bus went on the hour, it actually left at 7.30am. For Africa time this is pretty good! We realised that it may have left town at 7am and then taken some time to get to our stop.
We arrived in Masvingo at about 12.
The bus cost 40 bond which is roughly 4 US dollars depending on the exchange rate.
The ride was fairly drama free, there was music on the bus but it wasn’t deafening. There were numerous stops to let people off and had a couple of longer stops where people came on to sale bananas, crisp, ice cream etc. At no point did I feel able to get off the bus to use a bathroom, so make sure you go before you get on the bus!
Where to Stay
We stayed at Backackers Rest which is literally a 3 minute walk from the bus stop. When you get off the bus cross the road and head right (into town). There is a block of shops and the entrance is around the side of the shops.
When we stayed a dorm cost 4 US dollars, a twin 7 US dollars and a double 8 US dollars.
There was a male and female dorm with about 6 beds in. The dorm rooms had defiantly seen better days and the beds weren’t great. They did have a kitchen we could use but we chose to go out (see where to eat section).
The shower at the girls dorm didn’t work but there were buckets of water in the bathroom I assume to wash with.
We did see a double room the next day and that was much nicer so I would suggest if there is 2 of you ask for a twin or double as it may work out cheaper and with a nicer room.
Staff were friendly but not overly knowledgeable about the area.
For one night this hostel met our needs.
There is also the Great Zimbabwe hotel which you have to walk through to get to the ruins. If budget allows this looked like a nice place to stay.
Masvingo to Great Zimbabwe
To get to the ruins you will need to get a combi or a taxi. We got a combi as it was significantly cheaper. The combi cost us 5 bond each way, the locals seemed to be paying 4 but we didn’t argue over 1 bond. That works out at about 50 cents, but again this depends on the exchange rate. This was still cheaper then sharing a taxi as we were being quoted 10 US dollars.
Opposite the hostel there is an OK super market, walk past the OK and at the next road turn right walk down that road and on the left there will be a Pick and Pay. Outside the entrance to the Pick and Pay is where the taxis and combis wait.
We had an argument with one combi as he tried to tell us it would be 10 bond as there was no petrol and pointed at the que for petrol. We pointed out that if there was no petrol this was a pointless conversation as the combi would not be going anywhere. I did get a bit annoyed with him and reminded him that there is never any petrol and there is always a que! We walked away crossed the road and got a combi no problem.
Be warned they cram a lot of people into combi’s, they often look unsafe and can drive quite fast. We even had a guy hanging off of the back of our combi!
But our driver was very nice and instead of dropping us at the junction he dropped us to the hotel gate.
We got dropped off at the hotel entrance. If you get dropped off at the junction where the combi should stop just carry on down the road until you reach the hotel entrance. Walk into the hotel grounds, past the restaurant and reception and you will see a gate ahead of you. Head through there and follow the path to the ticket office. When we went the tickets were 15 USD or 18 USD with a guide. (The day we went the government banned the use of all foreign currency).
We paid for a guide, I am glad we did as he was able to explain the history and what we were looking at.
The scenery is stunning, it is worth visiting just for the views.
See my facebook page – travelasorous for photos.
I was shocked to hear that the king had 200 wives, what I didn’t ask was how many children!
Great Zimbabwe back to Masvingo
To get back you need to walk back through the hotel and at the end of the hotel drive turn left. You then walk along the road to the next turning, and just after this turning wait for a combi. This is where we should have got off of the combi but as I said they dropped us all the way to the hotel.
Just get the combi back to Pick and Pay.
Getting off of the combi for the boys I was with was a mission in itself. As there aren’t enough combis for everyone, so people were climbing into the combi before the guys had time to get off. Which was quite amusing when watching from outside the combi.
Return / Onward Journey
I returned to Bulawayo. One of the guys I was with went to Harare.
The bus stop is the same place where you get off when you arrive.
The return bus journeys seemed a bit more hard work.
I got on a bus to Bulawayo and it took an hour and a half before it left. It made a lot of false starts moving one metre up the road before it actually left.
My friend going to Harare had the same issue and we both ended up leaving at about the same time.
I travelled with a different bus service this time and the music was way to loud. I had my own head phones in at full volume and I could still hear the bus music!
The rest of the journey was fairly similar with some longer stops but again I didn’t attempt to get off to find a bathroom / bush!
Be warned the bus stopped in a different place in Bulawayo which meant I had further to walk to my hostel.
Places to eat
The hostel hostel staff told us that we would need to go to the OK supermarket and use their hot food counter. We pushed them for more options and they said there was a place called Delicious Delight and a Chicken Inn. After checking out both places we decided to eat at Delicious Delight. The food was okay and none of us was ill which I always think is a positive!
When we looked on the map and wandered around in the morning there did seem to be other places to eat.
In the morning we went to Studio 52 for breakfast which was really nice and reasonably priced. Next door is a cafe called Blue Bird cafe. To get to the cafes, come out of the backpackers and walk up the road (away from town), the cafes are on opposite side of the road. My friend put Studio 52 on maps.me.
Things to do
So there ins’t a lot to do in Masvingo! We arrived went to Great Zimbabwe, spent the night and left the next morning.
Before we left we went to EAG art gallery which cost 2 bond to go in. It was a small gallery but had some interesting pieces. If your not in a rush I would recommend going. Again my friend marked it on maps.me. It is on the way out of town heading to Great Zimbabwe. On the left hand side of the road, by the train track.
There’s not much else to do! There is an Italian Chapel, I read about this a number of times but transport was needed to get to it. There is also a national park and lake but again this is easier with a car.
One of the trickiest subjects in Zimbabwe!
If you are coming to Zimbabwe bring foreign currency with you to change as it is virtually impossible to get any money whilst in the country. I would recommend bringing US dollars.
Whilst in Zimbabwe the government announced it was no longer going to accept any foreign currency. Before this you could quite easily use, USD, Botswana Pula, SA Rand.
The tickets were sold in USD for non residents, payment was only in cash. I am unsure what has happened after the announcement.
WE used bond to pay our bus, combi and food both in the shop and eating out.
You can find people on the street to change money, you can also ask in your hostels if they know someone. It is a good idea to ask someone you trust what the rate is that day so you don’t get ripped off. Since the government announcement the exchange has gone down and the money changers are saying they don’t have any bond. This can literally change daily.
Should You Go
Defiantly. Yes without a car it’s a bit of a mission to get to but most things in Africa are!
When Zimbabwe got it’s independence Great Zimbabwe is where it got it name from. Along with Vic Falls it’s the most important site in Zimbabwe.
The area is stunning, the views are amazing and I am definitely glad that I went.