This guide explains, step-by-step, how to travel from Victoria Falls to Bulawayo or Harare by train. This overnight ride is comfortable and easy to make. I highly recommend it if you have the opportunity. If you are traveling between Victoria Falls and Harare, you will have to stop in Bulawayo to change trains. There is no direct connection.
Why Travel by Train in Zimbabwe?
I love trains and ride them every chance I get. There a number of reasons why this trip, in particular, is special.
- It’s historic- You will ride in some classic British coaches from the 50s. Experience African travel like it was in colonial times.
- The train is comfortable- While the coaches may have seen better days, this ride is much more comfortable than the bus. You are free to get up and stretch your lets at any time. You get to sleep laying down flat rather than sitting up in a rigid bus seat.
- This trip may be one of your only chances to see Africa by train- Many train routes are unpredictable and stop running often when there is a breakdown. Rail infrastructure is pretty limited in Africa. Zimbabwe trains are fairly reliable and are a great way to see the country.
- It’s cheap- Tickets prices are fair. I’ll talk about buying tickets and pricing in the next section.
- You’ll meet some interesting people- I have found that train passengers and employees are much more friendly than their bus counterparts.
How to Buy Zimbabwe Train Tickets
To buy tickets for this route, you’ll have to make your way to the station ticket office in Victoria Falls, Bulawayo, or Harare depending on the direction you are traveling.
You can find the exact location of the station by clicking or imputing the following plus codes into Google Maps. Because standard addresses aren’t used in Zimbabwe, this is the easiest way to find the locations.
- Victoria Falls Railway Station is located at 3R8R+26 Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.
- Bulawayo Railway Station is located at RHQF+P4 Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.
- Harare Railway Station is located at 5382+2M Harare, Zimbabwe.
Tickets are not available online and must be purchased on the day of travel. I tried to buy tickets a day in advance but was told to come back the following day. Evidently, they don’t have the system computerized.
Don’t worry about tickets being sold out. The train was pretty empty when I made this trip. My friend and I had a compartment to ourselves. There didn’t seem to be very many passengers on the whole train. Even when walking back to the bar car, we saw very few people.
Navigating the train stations in Zimbabwe is easy as there is only one line running between the three cities. Ticketing offices are located at the train stations.
Getting to and From the Train Stations
In Victoria Falls and Bulawayo, it is possible to simply walk between your accommodation and the train stations because the cities are fairly small and walkable. Bulawayo is a bit bigger so you may wish to take a taxi if you have a lot of luggage. Harare is a big city so depending on where you are staying, you’ll need to take a taxi or minibus from your hotel to the train station.
Types of Train Tickets
There are three classes available for this route:
- Economy- Bench style seating. These do not convert into beds. Tickets
- 2nd class- Compartments designed for 4-6 people. The seats fold down into beds.
- 1st class- Compartments designed for 2 people. These compartments are the same size as 2nd class but they only accommodate 2 people.
I have heard that bedding is available for a small extra charge but it was not offered to me. Maybe ask about it if you’re interested. If you are a solo traveler, I recommend 2nd class.
How Much do Zimbabwe Train Tickets Cost?
The cost of tickets going either direction is the same.
Tickets between Victoria Falls and Bulawayo:
- Economy class tickets cost $10
- 2nd class tickets cost $12
- 1st class tickets cost $15
Tickets between Bulawayo and Harare
- Economy class tickets cost $10
- 2nd class tickets cost $12
- 1st class tickets cost $15
A Note about Money in Zimbabwe
When you travel to Zimbabwe, be sure to bring enough cash for the duration of your trip. Surprisingly, cash is extremely difficult to come by. Pretty much all of the ATMs are empty. If you do find an ATM with some cash, you’ll only be allowed to withdraw a small amount of money. Credit cards are commonly accepted. Luckily, my friend had an extra $100 and my credit card company doesn’t charge a foreign transaction fee so we were able to just get by.
When buying train tickets, be sure to bring enough cash. They have a credit card machine but often times, it doesn’t work or the internet is down and the transaction can’t be processed.
Zimbabwe Train Schedule
Between Victoria Falls and Bulawayo
- Victoria Falls to Bulawayo- The train departs Victoria Falls at 19:00 and arrives in Bulawayo the following morning at around 5:00.
- Bulawayo to Victoria Falls- The Train departs Bulawayo at 19:30 and arrives in Victoria Falls the following morning at around 8:00.
This route operates every day
Between Bulawayo and Harare
- Bulawayo to Harare- The train departs Bulawayo at 20:00 and arrives in Harare the following morning at around 9:30.
- Harare to Bulawayo- The train departs Harare at 20:00 and arrives in Bulawayo the following morning at around 7:00.
This route operates 3 times per week.
Note: These trains often run late and can be a bit unpredictable. For example, the train I was on from Victoria Falls to Bulawayo left right on time but ended up stopping for around 2 hours in the middle of the night because of a mechanical problem. We arrived around 3-4 hours behind schedule.
Traveling between Victoria Falls and Harare by Train
If you are traveling from Victoria Falls to Harare, the trip will take a day and a half.
- Leave Victoria Fall at 19:00 on night one
- Arrive in Bulawayo the following morning at around 5:00 am.
- Now you have a full day to kill in Bulawayo.
- That night, leave Bulawayo at 20:00.
- Arrive the following morning at 9:30 in Harare.
Because the train between Bulawayo and Harare only operates three times per week, you will have to time it so that your train to Harare is running the day that you arrive in Bulawayo.
If you are traveling in the opposite direction, from Harare to Victoria Falls, you don’t have to worry about timing because the train from Bulawayo to Victoria Falls operates every day.
Food and Drink on the Train
Because this is an overnight train leaving around 7 pm and arriving early in the morning, it is not necessary to pack any meals. You can just have an early dinner before boarding and eat breakfast when you arrive the following day. You may want to stop at a supermarket before boarding the train and buy some snacks and drinks. The options at the bar car are limited. They just sell beer and some chips and cookies if I remember correctly.
Before I caught the train, I just stopped in the supermarket and stocked up on some snacks for the ride. I bought some bread, tuna, bananas, and cookies in case I got hungry in the night. I also bought a few beers to drink on the train.
Stops Along the Way
The train makes just a couple of short stops to pick up and drop off passengers along the way. There is no time to stop for dinner after you board the train. Don’t get off or you’ll risk being left behind.
The Train Ride
The ride was comfortable. There were no security checkpoints or random inspections. After the tickets were checked, no one disturbed us for the remainder of the ride. My friend and I had bought some beers to keep us occupied while we rode across Zimbabwe. When we ran out, we bought more beers from the bar car in the back of the train. Snacks were also available.
Maybe it was coincidental, but everyone in our train car was foreign. I have a feeling that they try to lump all of the tourists into one car. We booked second class and were the only two people in our 6 person compartment. In the compartments next door, we met an older South African/ Canadian couple. On the other side of us was a young German couple. We shared a few beers together and chatted before going to bed.
Tip: Before you hit the sack, be sure to look out the window to enjoy the starry sky. There is very little light pollution in rural Zimbabwe. If you are lucky and the sky is clear, you should be able to see the milky way and southern cross from the train. One of my favorite things about traveling in Africa was seeing all of the stars. Light pollution is bad back home. I had never seen the milky way before traveling to Africa.
Sleeping on the train was a bit rough. It’s a loud and bumpy ride at some points. We arrived about 3 hours later than scheduled the following morning.
Final Thoughts on Traveling Between Victoria Falls, Bulawayo and Harare by Train
Riding a train in Africa is a worthwhile experience. Rail infrastructure is limited on the continent and many lines only run intermittently due to frequent mechanical problems.
Some other popular African train routes include:
- The iron ore train in Mauritania- This train runs between Zouérat to Nouâdhibou. It is considered the longest train in the world. This is the one that I’m most looking forward to riding. For more information on this train ride, check out this interesting article from One Step 4 Ward.
- The new Nairobi to Mombasa train in Kenya- This new railway is a fast and easy way to get from Nairobi to the Kenyan coast
- The Alexandria to Aswan train in Egypt- Train line running the length of Egypt.
Have you taken any African train trips? Share your recommendations in the comments!
For more step-by-step Africa transprotation guides, check out my Ultimate Africa Bus Guide.