Taking the train around Zim...

Trains link Victoria Falls, Bulawayo and Harare, and various other centres.  Not just a way to get around, they're an adventure - and a travel bargain too.

  Bulawayo to Victoria Falls by train

  Harare to Bulawayo by train

  Other domestic train routes in Zimbabwe

  South Africa to Zimbabwe by train

  Botswana to Zimbabwe by train

  Zambia to Zimbabwe by train

  Namibia to Zimbabwe by bus

  Things to do & see in Vic Falls & Bulawayo  

  Hotels in Vic Falls, Bulawayo & Zimbabwe

 

  Train travel in South Africa

  Train travel in Zambia & Tanzania

  Train travel in Botswana

  Train travel in Kenya

  Click for train route map


Useful country information

Train operator:

National Railways of Zimbabwe - www.nrz.co.zw.

Bulawayo-Botswana trains

Vic Falls-Zambia-Tanzania trains

 

 

Time zone:

GMT+2.

Dialling code:

 

+263

Currency:

Zim dollars no longer used, US$ now the general currency.  Currency converter

Tourist information:

www.zimbabwetourism.net    Tripadvisor Zimbabwe page    Health & vaccinations

Visas:

UK citizens now need a visa to visit Zimbabwe, but this can be obtained at the point of entry for about £35 / $55.

Page last updated:

16 October 2017


The Bulawayo - Victoria Falls train

The classic way to the Falls...

This classic overnight train is the way to reach Vic Falls from Bulawayo, even though (given Zim's economic situation) it's now getting very down-at-heel.  But don't be put off, ignore anyone telling you to spend a night in a cramped bus seat (or worse, fly), don't miss this amazing rail travel adventure, a classic piece of history with British-built coaches, some with wood-panelled interiors, dating from 1952 & 1958.  Don't just take my word for it, see the travellers' reports below.  If you have any updates about this train, please email me.

 Bulawayo ► Victoria Falls  

 

 Victoria Falls  ► Bulawayo  

 Sleeper train

Every day

 Sleeper train

Every day

1st, 2nd, economy

1st, 2nd, economy

 Bulawayo

Depart

19:30

 Victoria Falls

Depart

19:00

 Dete

Arr/dep.

02:00

 Hwange

Arr/dep.

23:03

 Hwange

Arr/dep.

03:47

 Dete

Arr/dep.

01:10

 Victoria Falls

Arrive

08:00*

 Bulawayo

Arrive

 05:08*

* Expect an actual arrival around 09:00-09:45.

You can check times at www.nrz.co.zw.  Bulawayo to Vic Falls is 472 km.

Fares...

How to buy tickets...

2-bed sleeper   The Bulawayo to Vic Falls train, seen at Victoria falls

2-berth sleeper...

 

The train from Bulawayo arrived at Victoria Falls.

The Bulawayo to Vic Falls train at Victoria falls   2-bed sleeper

The train from Bulawayo at Victoria Falls.  This is one of the later 1958 British-built sleepers.  Photos in this section courtesy of Angus Wheeler, taken in 2017.

 

2-bed sleeper.  Note the drop down sink!

Sleeper sink   Locomotive of the Bulawayo to Vic Falls train

Drop down sink...

 

Business end of the overnight train arrived at Victoria Falls.

What is the train like?

There are three classes on the Bulawayo - Victoria Falls train:

In 1st class, 2 passengers travelling together will normally be booked into a 2-berth coupé, whereas a solo traveller will be booked into a 4-berth compartment with passengers of the same sex.  If you pay for two tickets (perfectly affordable, given the fare) you can have sole occupancy of a coupé.  The sleeping-cars are all British-built, the ones with wood-panelled interiors in Gloucester in 1952, the ones with the less attractive formica interiors in Birmingham in 1958.  Although they now carry National Railways of Zimbabwe insignia, they are still painted in the original 'Rhodesia Railways' colours, and windows and mirrors are etched with the 'RR' logo.  The coaches were in OK condition when I travelled myself in 2001, but admittedly have been let go a bit lately and are now fairly decrepit, given Zim's economic circumstances.  I'm not clear if the wood-panelled 1952 cars are still used, most recent reports have included photos of the 1958 cars.

See a short video taken on the journey.

Bulawayo to Vic Falls train - sleeper compartment   First class sleeper corridor, Bulawayo to Vic Falls train   Monkeys on the roof of Victoria Falls to Bulawayo train

These lovely wood-panelled 1952-built sleeping-cars were still in service in the early 2000s, but they may no longer be used, only the later1958 Formica-panelled cars.  Let me know if you see one.

 

Monkeys on the train!

Photos in this section are courtesy of Jesse Karp

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Travellers' reports...

Traveller Erik Pierson rode the train in late 2017: "We bought first class tickets around lunchtime and got a 2 bed compartment. Everything worked, linen was delivered and very clean, the train was maybe not so clean, but we could watch the staff disinfecting and cleaning in the morning, so it was acceptable standard. The linen man made the beds after departure and followed the train all night, and took back the linen at arrival in Victoria Falls, all this for 2 customers and 4 USD each! There was a generator car, as well as some water to flush the toilet and a lock inside the compartment. Some problems climbing into the upper bed, since there was no ladder, but it worked.  Nice staff and a wonderful trip, we could see giraffes, antelopes and monkeys from the train.  Felt safe, with nice staff.  Arrived maybe an hour late to Victoria falls due to heavy load, but we would not mind more delays, since the trip was so fascinating."

Traveller James Stephenson rode the Bulawayo to Vic Falls train in 2017:  "I have just travelled through Zimbabwe and Zambia with my wife and two young children aged 9 and 7. We took the overnight train from Bulawayo to Victoria Falls. It was brilliant. The children loved it. The alternative is a bus through the day. We have done a few of these. If you have a choice then you must take the train. The train cost was $10 for the adults and $5 for children. That's cheaper than the bus and infinitely better. We paid $4 more each for the sheets and pillow. The were as clean as a top hotel. A man even made our beds for us before the train left. We were very nice to all those helping us in the lead up! It seemed they hadn't a white family on the train for a very long time. I went in to the station early in the day to book. It was very quiet and the booking man was very nice. I did stress that the children needed to be comfortable. The train left on time at 7.30pm. The train stops a lot. Our train unfortunately hit an elephant in Hwange so was slowed down. We still arrived at Victoria falls station at 10am. The station was quiet and peaceful - like stepping back in time. The train is old and not perfectly clean but it really is fine. We had a cabin to ourselves as there are four beds. We kept the windows open during the night even though it was cold (July). We watched the beautiful countryside go by in the morning. This is the only time I have written on social media about travel and we have travelled a lot around the world with our children. I vowed I would write because we had such a good time. Use some of the money you save on accommodation to treat yourself to afternoon tea at the Victoria falls hotel!"

Traveller Angus Wheeler travelled from Bulawayo to Vic Falls in 2017:  "When I arrived at Bulawayo station I had no problem buying two first class tickets in a coupe for $12 per ticket.  There was a train for Harare on Platform 1 and the Victoria Falls train on Platform 4.  Travellers should allow plenty of time to get to the train as the platforms are very long and the Victoria Falls train was at the far end of its platform.  The train was comprised of a baggage car, a generator car, a single first class sleeper, an operational second class sleeper, what appeared to be a semi derelict second class sleeper, a “diner” carriage and a couple of economy seated carriages. The first class carriage was painted in NRZ colours but was the 1958 stock, still with Rhodesian Railways logos. It was fairly grubby and a bit worse for wear with no water in the sink but there was light throughout the journey (there was even a shaver socket in the cabin but I don’t know whether this was functional or not). The toilet was perfectly functional and, I think, was cleaned in the morning. The blind in my cabin did not work but the windows in the cabin and in the corridor easily opened for taking photographs/taking in the scenery.  I note a recent correspondent managed to getting bedding – this was not available on my train so I wonder whether if it depends on the crew or which of the two trains you are on.  I had the feeling that the crew on my train were a bit more “relaxed and casual” about things compared to another train, where I saw the crew smartly dressed in uniforms.

Lack of bedding didn’t matter to me as I had a sleeping bag. The train was reasonably busy as it was the start of the school holidays. There was a backpacking couple in the cabin next to me with the rest of the train comprising locals and families visiting home from South Africa.  The train left pretty promptly at 19.35.  Security in my cabin was fine, with a working lock and a door chain. When moving about the train you had to be very careful as quite a lot of the carriage doors were banging open and shut – including by the toilet.  The bunk was perfectly comfortable and I had a reasonable night’s sleep, waking up briefly when we passed the southbound sleeper at around 2am.  I awoke in the morning at Thomson junction at around 6.30am.  I had hoped for a cup of tea in the diner but the guard told me it was shut. Instead I had a breakfast of items I had bought in the well-stocked Pick and Pay supermarket in the centre of Bulawayo. The scenery was breath taking travelling through the bush, particularly with the mist in the valley bottoms. We had occasional stops at passing loops and these functioned as stations with many people boarding at these stops.  We drew into Victoria Falls at around 09.40, later than the time table on the ZRW website but only 35 minutes late compared to the arrivals time board at Victoria Falls, which suggested that 09.05 was the expected arrival time. For the next two days I was in Victoria Falls the train did arrive around 09.05 so it seems pretty punctual.  A journey time of 14 hours is comparable to the current length of time that it takes to carry by road, which is currently subject to numerous police check points. 

So would I do this trip again?  The answer is a definite yes, the train was very grubby and basic but this is more than outweighed by the experience of travelling through the bush with its spectacular views. In addition, you may also strike lucky and get a better cared for train."

Traveller Katherine Maughan rode the train in 2017:  "My husband and I rode the train in March 2017, without any real issue, and it was a wonderful experience. Certainly a chance to see a bit more the countryside and meet people. We were easily able to book tickets day-of at the Bulawayo train station. $12 per berth for the first class tickets. I'd recommend getting a 4-berth, for a bit of extra room. Our train was one of the old Beresford trains (1950s?) built in Birmingham, England. We boarded the train shortly before 7:30 and it departed about 9:00 p.m. We arrived in Vic Falls at 11:30 a.m. - so not bad at all. Boarding was a bit chaotic and the train was quite full for us at departure. We did have a squatter in our compartment who we had to help relocate, and attracted a bit of attention when we boarded, but it all settled down within an hour of departure. We learned that the prior day's train had been cancelled, which probably contributed to the crowds on our train - perhaps good for other travellers to know so they can have a back-up plan just in case. Since we had 12 hours in Bulawayo, we dropped our backpacks at the Bulawayo Club for the day. They also let us store a bit of food + water from the Pick N' Pay. They were really lovely, and have rooms available - so if you did find yourself stuck for a night that's a solid option. After the train departed, we had some periods where the electricity was working (impressive!) but needed our headlamps/torches for most of the ride. We brought our own sheets for the berths, as there's no longer any service providing bedding. Breakfast also doesn't appear to be served anymore. Door locked and we slept well. Once the sun came up we happily opened the door and had a chance to chat with passengers, enjoy the views, etc. While old, the train is surprisingly clean - bathroom was actually cleaned once in the morning! The sinks in the compartments no longer have running water and do smell quite strongly now (I suspect they may be experiencing a second-life as a convenient urinal for some travellers), so plan to open the window or toss a coin for the bottom bunk. The train makes many additional stops in the countryside, particularly between Hwange and Vic Falls. Anytime local people gathered at the tracks the train would stop, and operated more as a hop-on/hop-off throughout the countryside. (Not a huge surprise, but the Zimbabweans we spoke to indicated this is a distinct change from a few years ago.) We had a few curious people pop into our compartment in the morning after noticing the two westerners through the window, etc. I really recommend it to anyone who loves a good train ride. And, if you've got some time in Bulawayo a trip to the Railroad Museum (right near the station) is pretty fantastic, too!"

Traveller Douglas Tam used the Bulawayo to Vic Falls train in 2017:  "I travelled alone in Zimbabwe last week and took the train from Bulawayo to Victoria Falls on 7th August. It was still impossible to purchase tickets before the day of travel. Tickets can be purchased up till half an hour before departure time on weekdays and up till the ticket office closes at 18:00 on Saturdays and Sundays. I bought two first-class tickets, each of which cost US$12, and was given my own coupé as per my request. The ticket seller also wrote down the carriage number and the compartment number on the back of one of my tickets. In the train, there were 3 economy-class carriages at the front, followed by 3 first-class carriages, and one baggage carriage at the end. The carriage numbers were clearly displayed on the carriages. All 3 first-class carriages were 1958 British-made Beresford carriages. The economy-class carriages had an odour which would linger throughout the journey to Victoria Falls. There was no restaurant car in the train, so passengers had to bring their own food. The supermarket closest to the railway station is the Pick n Pay on Fort Street, at the street corner of Fort Street and Khami Road. With as little as US$1, you can buy a delicious and filling sandwich there for dinner.  All first-class passengers are allowed to sit in the waiting lounge inside the railway station, where you can relax on comfortable sofas while charging your mobile phone with the sockets inside and stay away from the hustle and bustle on the platforms. Clean toilets can be found inside the waiting lounge. I boarded the train at around 19:00 and the train departed at 19:30 sharp. It was half-full when it left Bulawayo that night. The whole train showed signs of wear: totally understandable given Zimbabwe's economic situation. There were two lights inside my compartment, but only one of them worked. The compartment door could be locked but could not be fully closed: there was a tiny, not-so-noticeable, gap through which I could see a small part of my compartment from the corridor, but passers-by would not be able to see the bed – the more 'private' part of the compartment. I gave the bed and the seat a good scrub with fifteen anti-bacterial wipes and all of them turned grey after use. The washbasin inside the compartment and the toilets at the two ends of the carriage were dirty and did not have running water. One of the carriage doors could not be shut and kept bouncing open throughout the journey. The original 1950s train carriage, with its original Rhodesia Railways décor intact, is a charming piece of artefact: its problems pale beside the allure of a by-gone era. There is a trick to folding the lower bunk away and turning it into a seat – a trick not even the conductor on my train knew at first. Sometimes, if you simply push the lower bunk up, it will fall down immediately. The trick to keeping the lower bunk upright is pulling it out towards yourself first before pushing it up. After I had discovered the trick, I went back to the conductor and told him about my discovery: he was amazed and asked me to show him how I did it. As at the time I took the train, bedding was still not available for purchase on the train, so I will advise everyone taking the train during winter to bring a sleeping bag or, like I did, put on extra layers. It was cold inside the train that night. By the following morning, the train was deep inside Hwange National Park where the scenery is beautiful. After Hwange National Park, the train would also go through Zambezi National Park, where the scenery is equally beautiful, before arriving at Victoria Falls. Wild animals roam these two national parks and you are bound to see more than one type of animals. This section of the railway also boasts a number of platformless rural railway stations: each of these stations is the end point of a footpath as wide as a 4-by-4 coming out of the forest and ending right at the railway track, where passengers stand patiently to wait for the train. There is no station building, not even a sign stating the station name. The spray of Victoria Falls came into view on the right-hand side when the train was 15 minutes away from Victoria Falls Station. National Railways of Zimbabwe's Web site states that the journey is a 12-hour one. However, it has since been stretched to a 14-hour journey. My train left Bulawayo at 19:30 and arrived at Victoria Falls at 09:30 the next morning. At Victoria Falls Station, the official scheduled arrival time of the train from Bulawayo was also given as 09:30. Victoria Falls Station is a small and quaint railway station built in the early 20th century.  A taxi ride from the station to any hotel in the town costs around US$10. Despite the poor condition of the carriages, travelling in an original 1950s train carriage while enjoying the beautiful natural scenery is a one-of-its-kind experience. I strongly recommend everyone travelling to Victoria Falls to take the train.

Travellers David Thom & Allison Ozero used the train in October 2015:  "We recently took the train from Bulawayo to Vic Falls. It was an awesome experience. My wife and I got a 1st class 2-berth coupé at $12 each. The door was able to lock, window went up and down so we were happy! We arrived at the Bulawayo train station at 16:15 on a Saturday and were able to book the tickets for the 19:30 train no problem. Before hand we sat in the 'first class lounge' - make sure you ask to sit there, they won't necessarily offer it unless you need the toilet!  The train was really quiet, I don't know if it's just the season but not all the berths were full (second class was though). We were amazed when the train left on time, at 19:32... I don't know if I have ever experienced that before, anywhere in Africa. It arrived about 2-3 hours later than expected, which is a pretty good show for an old train like that.  There was no bedding provided and when we asked why we were told that the company or person that provided the bedding was dismissed- not sure if that means it is temporary, but it kind of sounded final, maybe there isn't enough train traffic to warrant providing the bedding. So we suggest to all future travellers to ask when they book if there is bedding, and be prepared with a sheet or sleeping bag or something, as the mattresses are plastic so not so nice to lie on, and of course they are dirty - but that is to be expected.  There is still no water on the train, 5L jugs can be bought at the pick 'n pay in Bulawayo before the train journey (about a 10 minute walk from the train station).  In the morning, to my surprise, I ordered two cups of tea and got 2 fried egg sandwiches and 2 huge milky cups of tea for only $2 total - great deal (especially for Zimbabwean prices!). Everyone should take the train, it's an awesome experience and definitely worth it as well as being more comfortable than the bus. We saw giraffes, impalas, boks, lots of baboons and a beautiful sunrise in the national park on the way."

Traveller Mike Watson used the train to Vic Falls in 2013:  "We turned up at the Bulawayo booking office at about 1300 and it was open. I was travelling with my brother and we booked a four berth first class compartment for the two of us. There seemed to be plenty of availability, there was no queue and the tickets were purchased in a couple of minutes. We were told the train would leave at 19:30 but we could board from 18:00. Also advised there would be no buffet car / we would not like the food. We had booked a car and driver for the afternoon and we went to the neighbouring NRZ Railway Museum. This is brilliant. Lots of exhibits including Rhodes’ personal carriage and lots of steam engines. Very friendly, very empty at a cost of $1 each. We stocked up with lots of water (having read about the rumoured delays) biscuits, beer and Biltong. We got to the station at 18:15 but the train was not ready so we were invited to sit in the NRZ security office. We spent some time here with a variety of very friendly people – playing cards with the head of security and being introduced to the train’s own security guard. The inbound train had arrived at 17:30 (very late) and there was much talk about checking the train. Eventually we boarded the train around 90 minutes late and it left about 2 hours late. The train consisted of an engine, two box cars, lots of coal trucks, four seated coaches, four sleepers and a baggage car. Our carriage was actually built in South Africa in the seventies and had a few rusty holes in it. The compartment was dirty, but big and airy. I chased down the bedding man and had to be quite pushy to get anything to happen. He made a really comfortable bed for us both. You can’t beat waking up looking out in to the bush and seeing baboons monkeying about. In the morning we saw Giraffe, Elephant, Zebra, Big Antelope (not sure which sort) and Baboons. At one point the engine was uncoupled so it could go and assist a broken down train ahead – leaving our train engineless in the bush. After being recovered we carried on and at Hwange we dumped the coal trucks and the train got considerably faster. We eventually got into Vic Falls five hours late. Wouldn’t have missed it for the world."

Traveller Stevan Wasiura took the Bulawayo to Vic Falls train in 2013:  "Despite being discouraged from doing so by a Zimbabwean friend, we took the train from Victoria Falls to Bulawayo.  Buying tickets the day of travel at Vic Falls station was exceptionally easy, no line at all and the fare was only $12 each in 1st class, bedding onboard an extra $4 per bed.  We left Vic Falls exactly on time at 7:30pm but lost quite a bit of time during the night and the following day, finally arriving in Bulawayo around 2:00 the next afternoon, some six hours late.  Several coal cars were added somewhere during the night, probably at Hwange, which apparently isn't uncommon but seems to cause considerable delay.

The train itself was clean though obviously very tired, with torn upholstery and missing fittings.  The lights worked well throughout but there was no water in any of the bathrooms or room sinks.  It also carried a dining car, but not expecting this we had brought our own food along and so didn't make use of it.  The staff, like virtually all Zimbabweans we met, were very friendly.  The other passengers were mostly Zimbabweans, though there were at least 3 other foreign tourists on the train.  We felt perfectly safe the entire time.

On the return from Vic Falls, we tried the bus.  The Pathfinder bus makes the trip in around 6 hours and, while very nice, is just another bus.  The train is a real experience not to be missed."

Traveller Julian Glover also took the Bulawayo to Vic Falls train in 2013:  "We took the Bulawayo-Victoria Falls train last Saturday (June 2013). It is, as you say on the site, a wonderful experience and not to be missed by anyone who goes to Zimbabwe. Ignore the sceptical guide books which suggest getting the bus: this is the way to arrive at the Falls, waking to dawn over the bush and seeing the smoke-like spray of the river in the distance as you near the Falls. It's as good an experience as it ever was (I did the journey in 1994 too). Given the huge pressures on NRZ it's a real credit that the service still runs as well as it does.  You can only buy tickets on the day. We got there when the reservations office opened at 4pm (Saturdays now not open in the morning) and there was a small, fast moving queue for most of the time until the train left. The economy seats were full; the sleeper berths almost full, but we were the only non-Zimbabweans on the train. If you want a 4-berth cabin for 2 people, as we did, it's no problem buying four berths and only using two, and worth the small extra cost.  Some passengers were using the Harare train, which also left that night with one sleeping car and the rest seats. The Vic Falls train was due to leave at 19.30 and after a lot of shunting to attach a generator car it was loading by 18.45. There's a 'Rail Leisure' restaurant at the front of the station which is a good place to wait in the meantime, serving tea from Rhodesian Railways teapots (though no beer). You can pay a porter to wheel bags around from there the (at least) 1/4mile walk to Platform Four, from which the Vic Falls train seems to leave most days.  The peeling train showed its age (and NRZ's lack of money) and the very friendly guard apologised for it's condition and the decline in NRZ since he started working for it 30 years before. However it was tidy (if in need of a deep clean), there were lights, water in some of the toilets and even (briefly) in the sinks in our cabins and it left more or less on time (it arrived at 9.30am the next day, a bit late - but the day after we saw the train at Vic Falls before 9am). It does now run everyday.
On board, it's worth making sure the guard knows you want to pay for bedding ($4) which was crisp, clean and beautifully made. If you don't ask they assume you don't want it.  It's a brilliant journey, hooting out of Bulawayo into the night and stopping at lots of small halts along the way. Our train had a very lively and friendly bar car, which also seemed to do food in the evening, and sold cold Castle beer for $1. In the morning, rather quieter, it managed excellent fried egg sandwiches and coffee (at, no surprise, $1).  Arriving in Vic Falls we had to climb down onto the track as a South African touring train had taken up the only platform - but the station still looks extremely smart and you emerge among tourists who all seem to have flown directly into the Falls airport and don't know what they missed by avoiding the train.  Finally, in Bulawayo there is only one place to stay before the train (or to head to for breakfast after it) - the magnificent Bulawayo Club. www.bulawayoclub.com - a magnificent imperial palace, now in great shape as a small hotel with an astonishing bar and billiard room, both open to guests.

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Things to do in Victoria Falls...

  Victoria Falls (seen from the Zambian side)

Victoria Falls...

  Matobo, Zimbabwe:  "Here lie the remains of Cecil John Rhodes"

Cecil Rhodes grave, in a breath-taking spot in Matobo, on a rocky outcrop known as 'the view of the world'.

...and in Bulawayo

Bulawayo is a pleasant town, well spread out with wide open streets and relatively little traffic.  There is an excellent railway museum, which features Cecil Rhodes' private railway coach.  You should not miss a day trip to the Matobo National Park, some 25 miles South of Bulawayo, where Cecil Rhodes is buried (see photo, right).  Day tours generally visit the Whovi game reserve in the morning (famous for its rhinos), then the haunting hills of the main park in the afternoon. 

Sponsored links...

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The Bulawayo - Harare train...

 Bulawayo ► Harare  

 

 Harare ► Bulawayo  

486 km, runs Mon, Thur, Sat  

486 km, runs Tue, Fri, Sun 

 Bulawayo

Depart

20:00

 Harare

Depart

20:00

 Harare

Arrive

09:30

 Bulawayo

Arrive

07:00

This train used to run daily, but was reduced to 3 times a week from May 2009.

Fares:  Sleeper class $15, Standard class seat $12, Economy seat $10.

You can check times at www.nrz.co.zw.

How to buy tickets...

The only way to buy tickets is at Bulawayo and Harare station reservation offices, up to 30 days before departure.  Reservations are not fully computerised, and can only be made for trains leaving from that station -  reservations for your return journey will need to be made when you reach your destination.   In Bulawayo, the reservations office is open 07:00-10:00 & 15:30-18:45 on Mondays-Fridays, 09:00-10:00 & 16:30-18:45 on Saturdays & Sundays, times at Harare are not known.  It's best to get to the booking office early in the day, as there is one sleeping-car on this train which can get fully-booked.  Fares are not expensive - in the region of £20/$35 or less one way in Sleeper class.

The Bulawayo-Harare overnight train, Zimbabwe   Sleeper class on the Bulawayo-Harare train

The Bulawayo-Harare night train...

2-berth sleeper class...

What's the Bulawayo-Harare train like?

New coaches have been introduced on the Bulawayo-Harare overnight train.  There are 3 classes of accommodation on this train:

In sleeper class, two passengers travelling together will normally be booked into a 2-berth coupé, whereas a solo traveller will be booked into a 4-berth compartment with passengers of the same sex.  If you pay for two tickets you can have sole occupancy of a coupé.

Standard class on the Bulawayo-Harare overnight train   Economy class on the Bulawayo-Harare overnight train

Standard class

Economy class

Traveller's reports...

Traveller Ivor Ines reports from a Bulawayo-Harare trip in 2010:  "The carriages for this train were introduced in 1998, but they are now much the worse for wear.  Bedding was provided, though the attendant apologised profusely that there were no sheets, only blankets and pillows. Bedding was issued after departure, although as I didn’t realise this, I ran around before departure to check we wouldn’t be left blanket-less throughout a cold night. It seemed that quite a few passengers had brought their own bedding, even first class. The compartment window and screen still worked, in other words, opened, closed and locked in position.  Although the main compartment lock was broken, there was still a security chain which I then padlocked closed, and we felt quite safe and secure during the journey.  In standard class, although the TVs were still there, there was no sign of them working which is probably a positive, in terms of actually being able to sleep... The train had a great, wood panelled buffet car complete with bar area, restaurant area and full kitchen. Unfortunately, it was only serving drinks (sodas and beer, no hot drinks) and a few snacks like biscuits and strange-looking crisps, no substantive food.  The train left Harare punctually at 9pm, but NRZ seem to have given up on any attempt at predicting arrival times. We arrived in Bulawayo around 10am, which I suspect is ‘normal’, although the staff said that sometimes freight wagons are attached to the passenger train, and so it runs even slower."

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Other trains within Zimbabwe

Harare to Mutare...

 Harare ► Mutare  

 

 Mutare  ► Harare  

Runs Wed, Fri, Sun

Runs Mon, Thur, Sat

Harare

Depart

21:30 day 1

Mutare

Depart

21:00 day 1

Mutare

Arrive

05:25 day 2

Harare

Arrive

05:20 day 2

The train has 1st & 2nd class sleepers and Economy seats.  Distance 273km.

Fares:  1st class sleeper $7, 2nd class sleeper $5, Economy seat $4.

Bulawayo to Chiredzi...

 Bulawayo ► Chiredzi  

 

 Chiredzi   ► Bulawayo  

Runs on Sundays only

Runs on Mondays only

Bulawayo

Depart

17:30 day 1

Chiredzi

Depart

15:20 day 1

Rutenga

Arr/dep

08:43 day 2

Rutenga

Depart

20:05 day 1

Chiredzi

Arrive

12:30 day 2

Bulawayo

Arrive

07:45 day 2

The train has 1st & 2nd class sleepers & Economy seats.  Distance 523km.

Fares:  1st class sleeper $14, 2nd class sleeper $10, Economy seat $8.

Bulawayo to Beitbridge (on the border with South Africa)...

IMPORTANT:  Bulawayo-Beitbridge service cancelled July 2014 until further notice. Still not running in 2017.

 Bulawayo ► Beitbridge  

 

 Beitbridge ► Bulawayo  

Runs on Thursdays & Sundays

Runs on Mondays & Fridays

Bulawayo

Depart

-

Beitbridge

Depart

-

Beitbridge

Arrive

-

Bulawayo

Arrive

-

The train has 1st, 2nd & Economy class.  Distance not known.

You can take local transport across the Beitbridge-Messina border and take the Shosholoza Meyl train from Messina to Pretoria & Johannesburg, see the South Africa page for times and days of running (Update: This train is also now suspended)

Bulawayo to Chicualacuala & Maputo (Mozambique)...

 Bulawayo ► Chicualacuala

 

 Chicualacuala ► Bulawayo  

Runs weekly on Wednesdays

Runs weekly on Wednesdays

Bulawayo

Depart

12:15 Wednesdays

Maputo

Depart

13:00 Wednesdays

Chicualacuala

(change trains)

Arrive

??:??   Thursdays

Chicualacuala

(change trains)

Arrive

03:42 Thursdays

Depart

13:00 Thursdays

Depart

??:??    Thursdays

Maputo

Arrive

05:49 Fridays

Bulawayo

Arrive

03:52  Fridays

The Zimbabwean train has 1st, 2nd & Economy class, with 1st & 2nd being sleeper berths.  The Mozambique train has 2nd & 3rd class.

Bulawayo to Chicualacuala is 500 km.  Chicualacuala to Maputo is 534km.  fares not known, but likely to be very cheap.

Other trains...

There are also twice weekly 'mixed' trains (meaning freight wagons and passenger car) from Harare to Shamva and from Harare to Lion's Den.

Fares & how to buy tickets...

Expect the first class sleeper fare for all these overnight trains to be around US$10.  Reservations cannot be made in advance, only on the day of travel, but outside peak holiday times it's no problem to get a place on the day.

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International links from Zimbabwe

South Africa - Zimbabwe by train or bus...

Whatever you may read in your guidebook, there are now no direct scheduled trains from South Africa to Zimbabwe, and have not been for years.  If your guidebook is some years old, it may mention weekly trains from Johannesburg to Harare and Bulawayo, but for political reasons (in fact, exorbitant haulage charges imposed by the National Railways of Zimbabwe) these were suspended in 1999.  Similarly, the daily train that used to link Mafeking and Bulawayo via Gaborone was first (1999) cut back to run purely within Botswana, and was then (2009) completely withdrawn.  In 2007, National Railways of Zimbabwe allegedly considered re-instating a Harare-Johannesburg train some time before 2010, but there's no sign of this happening.  So there are now several less-than-brilliant choices for overland travel from SA to Zimbabwe:

Botswana - Zimbabwe by train...

The daily Mafeking-Gaborone-Francistown-Bulawayo train was cut back to running purely within Botswana in 1999.  A Francistown-Bulawayo train service started in June 2006, running 3 times weekly with modern coaches (complete with TV entertainment!), see the Train travel in Botswana page for current status, train times and days of running. 

Zambia - Zimbabwe by train...

There are now no scheduled passenger trains across the famous Zambesi bridge from Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe) to Livingstone (Zambia).  But you can walk across the bridge from Vic Falls to the Zambian border post and take a taxi the few miles on to Livingstone.  Trains run from Livingstone to Lusaka and Kapiri Mposhi, where you can change trains onto the Tazara line to Dar es Salaam.  See the Train travel in Tanzania & Zambia page for train times, fares & days of running.

Namibia - Zimbabwe by bus...

A bus links Victoria Falls with Windhoek 3 times a week, see the Namibia page or www.intercape.co.za.

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Find hotels in Zimbabwe

    

◄◄ Hotel search & price comparison.

www.hotelscombined.com checks all the main hotel booking sites at once to find the widest choice of hotels & the cheapest seller.  It has been named as the World's Leading Hotel Comparison Site in the World Travel Awards and I highly recommend it, both to find hotels in even the smallest places and to check that another retailer isn't selling the same hotel at a cheaper rate.

►► My recommended booking site:  www.booking.com

www.booking.com is my favourite hotel booking site, and unless HotelsCombined throws up major price differences I prefer doing my bookings in one place here. 

You can usually book with free cancellation - this allows you to confirm your accommodation at no risk before train booking opens.  It also means you can hold accommodation while you finalise your itinerary, and alter your plans as they evolve - a great feature I use all the time when putting a trip together.

Other hotel sites worth trying...

Backpacker hostels...

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Recommended guidebooks

To get the most from a trip to Southern Africa, you'll need a good guidebook - and I think the Lonely Planet guides are about the best ones out there for independent travel.

Click the images to buy at Amazon.co.uk...

The Southern Africa guidebook is less detailed than the Zimbabwe one, but it covers South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, and several other countries in Southern Africa as well as Zimbabwe.

Click to buy online   Lonely Planet Southern Africa

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Travel insurance

 

 

Columbus direct travel insurance

Take out decent travel insurance, it's essential...

Never travel overseas without travel insurance from a reliable insurer, with at least £1m or preferably £5m medical cover.  It should also cover cancellation and loss of cash and belongings, up to a sensible limit.  An annual multi-trip policy is usually cheaper than several single-trip policies even for just 2 or 3 trips a year, I have an annual policy myself.  Here are some suggested insurers.  Seat61 gets a small commission if you buy through these links.

In the UK, try Columbus Direct or use Confused.com to compare prices & policies from many different insurers.

If you have a pre-existing medical condition or are over 65, see www.JustTravelCover.com - 10% discount with code seat61.

        If you live in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland or the EU, try Columbus Direct's other websites.

  If you live in the USA try Travel Guard USA.

Get a spare credit card, designed for travel with no currency exchange loading & low or no ATM fees...

It costs nothing to take out an extra credit card.  If you keep it in a different part of your luggage so you're not left stranded if your wallet gets stolen, this is a form of extra travel insurance in itself.  In addition, some credit cards are significantly better for overseas travel than others.  Martin Lewis's www.moneysavingexpert.com/travel/cheap-travel-money explains which UK credit cards have the lowest currency exchange commission loadings when you buy something overseas, and the lowest cash withdrawal fees when you use an ATM abroad.  Taking this advice can save you quite a lot on each trip compared to using your normal high-street bank credit card!

 


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