Bulawayo’s international airport was renamed in 2001 after Joshua Nkomo, the leader of the Zimbabwe African People’s Union. The Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo International Airport (IATA code: BUQ) was originally built in 1959, but has been expanded significantly. A new terminal opened in November 2013, and the airport can now handle around 1.2m passengers each year.
The J.M. Nkomo International Airport is one of three airports in Zimbabwe which handles international flights as well as domestic routes. The other two are Harare International Airport and Victoria Falls International Airport. As with Harare and Vic Falls, at the time of writing (August 2017), international flights into Joshua Nkomo are largely restricted to other African cities, primarily Johannesburg’s O.R. Tambo International Airport.
Joshua Nkomo Airport is around 20km to the north of Bulawayo. To reach the airport from the city centre, drive north on Robert Mugabe Way.
A full range of car hire is available at the airport from a number of suppliers. At the time of writing (August 2017) I was able to obtain quotes from the following companies:
Car sizes including mini, economy and intermediate were on offer. Double cab pickup models were also offered by at least one company — a 4×4 is probably a sensible if not necessary choice for travellers planning to venture into rural areas.
Driving in Zimbabwe
Drive on the left in Zimbabwe. Give way to the right at roundabouts.
Police road blocks are said to be frequent and although not usually troublesome, it’s important to make sure that your hire car contains all legally-required safety equipment, and that you carry all necessary papers and identification documents.
In rural areas and national parks, a 4×4 may be necessary. Aim to fill up with fuel and use restroom facilities, etc, when in towns. Try not to stop in highway lay bys, as these are not always the most salubrious or safe places.
Try to avoid driving at night. In urban areas, robbery and hijacking are a risk. In rural areas, wildlife, potholes and other obstructions could be dangerous in the dark.
Several traveller accounts mention the importance of moving out of the way if you spot the President’s motorcade on the road. Regardless of which direction you are travelling in, stop as soon as you see it and pull as far off the road as possible.
Internet reports seem to suggest that for tourists, driving in Zimbabwe was relatively trouble-free until late in 2016. However, during 2017, reports have suggested that road blocks and spurious fines have become far more of a nuisance.
For information about airport car hire at other locations in Zimbabwe, click here.