From South Africa to Zimbabwe by public transport.

We visited Zimbabwe in January 2015, 
during a complete trip (8 months) around southern and eastern Africa.

We crossed from South Africa to Zimbabwe via Beitbridge Border,  the only border between these 2 countries, very busy point as it connects Johannesburg-Pretoria with Zimbabwe (Masvingo-Harare and Bulawayo- Victoria Falls) and further north Malawi. 

As there is a big population of Zimbabwe people working in South Africa there are plenty of buses and vans connecting the main cities of both countries, specially during holidays, with km of queues and many hours to cross the border.
This border is open 24h and it´s around 220 km north of Polokwane (South Africa), just passing Musina town (20 km).
We get the Visa on arrival at the Zimbabwe immigration. You can see details about visas here. 


To cross from South Africa to Zimbabwe by public transport, the biggest companies are Greyhound, Citiliner, Intercape, etc. From Polokwane, as these big companies buses come from Johannesburg-Pretoria, it´s better to book in advance (possible to buy a ticket in the big supermarkets in SA). But the schedule is very bad for Polokwane as they pass mainly in the middle of the night.

We prefered the direct transport from Polokwane, so there we have 2 options going to Masvingo (most continue to Harare):
Waiting for departure...

- By bus. 
Price: 350 R.  
Departure time starts from: 15:00
Departure point: near "6 to7" supermarket
It´s an old bus.
- By van. 
Price: 300 R 
Departure time starts from: 16:00 
Departure point: near Engen Garage (Dahl/ Grober streets). 
More or less new vans. 
Long night on the van.

Departure time: it´s approximately, depending on number of people and luggage (if you just have a small backpack, you shouldn´t pay an extra). All the vans and buses carry a luggage trailer. Somedays 2 vans a day. Just be patient. 
Arrival time: you have to cross the South Africa - Zimbabwe border of Beitbridge, it´s always very busy. You never know how long it can take...

Our experience: the real departure time was at  18:00 from Polokwane and Masvingo arrival was at 6:30 (more than 12h). Long border crossing...

Crossing Beitbridge border from South Africa to Zimbabwe

This border was very crowded when we crossed (january 3rd  2015), so we spent 4 hours in total. A lot of people, cars, buses, vans. 

Well organised on the South Africa side.
Still waiting at the border

At the Zimbabwe side, it´s quite chaos.
The police controls all the luggage. People carry many things because everything´s really cheaper in South Africa than in Zimbabwe.  Fridges, solar panels, mattresses...

The control of the van/bus can be quick or slow, depending on the officer, filling the papers, and the extra-commission... Some people in our van didn´t accept, so we spent more time waiting.

For us it was easy, no checking of our backpacks. Just queues and waiting time to pass the immigration controls.

If you have a European passport, you get your visa on arrival at the Zimbabwe immigration post


We just used the town to transfer to/from Great Zimbabwe. Kombs or public vans usually stop near the supermarket Pick´n Pay.

Many buses/vans going to Harare, Mutare, Bulawayo, etc. (from Crocos Motel area) and South Africa´s border (from a garage outside town).

Difficult to find budget accommodation so better to continue to Great Zimbabwe directly (only 25 km away).
Supermarkets, banks, etc. but nothing to really stop you here.