Without a doubt, it must once have been a fascinating and glorious city. Today, it stands as a sad reminder of the effects of Robert Mugabe’s disastrous economic policies. Grand Victorian style buildings now stand delapidated, limited electricity at night, non-functioning street lights, streets in disrepair, and loss of almost all tourist-infrastructure are the result. Never the less, Zimbabwe’s second largest city is worth a stopover to catch the nightly train to Vic Falls. Don’t expect much accomodation here and don’t rely on your guidebook; even if printed yesterday, it may well be out of date already. Hostels and backpackers close faster than Mike Tyson goes bankrupt. Shaka’s Spear, once the premier backpackers rest, no longer stands. Try the Hotel Cecil, though bizarrely, it may also be known by another name by many. Don’t trust the porter who tells you that you can stow your stuff for free in the luggage room. You are unlikely to be reunited with your bags until you fork over a nice tip.
The grocery stores are filled to the brim with food, though the precarious political situation may change that at any time.
Safety is not to be taken lightly, but having said that, the traveller is relatively comfortable.
Political violence is not frequent, one must only watch out for thieves and robbers, just as any other African city. Don’t be stupid, lock yourself in your hotel room before nightfall.
You can take the nightly trains to Vic Falls, but beware of your belongings! Thieves are thick as flies at the train station and the moment you turn your back, your stuff will be gone. Find your compartment and lock yourself in as soon as possible. The train makes frequent stops at night and would-be thieves also have no qualms boarding the train and checking each compartment or waiting for you to fall asleep. It helps to have multiple people watch out for each other. Ideally, get the first class cabins, only about $13 per person (may be change), lock yourself in and spend the night in the comfortable beds. Don’t let anyone in and only open the door if you after making sure it is the conductor (visual check through peep-hole.)