The Female Packing Guide To Everest Base Camp

I was really freaking out before I arrived in Kathmandu about what I needed to buy and was afraid I wouldn’t find everything in Nepal, so I vastly overpaid for things that I realistically only used for two months (I was hiking in Nepal from November to January).

Here is my most important piece of advice: Besides the clothes that need to fit properly (leggings, underwear, bras, etc), BUY IN KATHMANDU. Shona’s Trekking Shop is legendary and incredibly cheap. You can rent your down sleeping bag for a US dollar a day, and your down jacket for USD $0.60 per day. Although they might be a bit bulkier than a new one, its a lot more affordable. My second piece of advice would be to ditch the sleeping bag as well, unless you are trekking in October. I was there from November to December and they are plenty of blankets that were more than warm enough. But if you plan to be there in October, there might not be any blankets due to the crowds.

CLOTHES

2 pairs of leggings (one for 0-15 degrees Celsius, and one for 15-30 degrees Celsius)

Both pairs must be extremely moisture wicking, and comfortable. A lot of the other bloggers I saw kept trying to recommend really expensive name brands, but I ended up buying both of mine on Amazon and was really happy. For the leggings for extreme warmth (0-15 degrees), I can recommend Sugoi Midzero Tights for women. They also have a subzero style, but these were plenty warm for the passes in December for me.

2 longsleeve shirts

This is completely a personal preference, because I didn’t want to put on sunblock every day (especially because you get about 3 showers the entire time you’re up there). It also doubles as warm shirts. Both of my long sleeves were very moisture wicking and tight fitting, with high necks. One should be for extreme cold, like merino wool.

1 sleeping shirt

This should definitely be long-sleeved and fleece, if you can manage.

1 pair of sleeping pants

The warmer the better.

3 pairs of socks

I can only strongly suggest Darntough. Make sure you get the ones with the most cushion – this will help you prevent blisters and keep your feet happy. You need two pairs for trekking, and one pair for the lodge at night.

6 pairs of underwear

I’m partial to Exofficio, to the point that they are actually the only kind of underwear I own. Fast drying and cute, what else do you need?

2 sports bras

When it’s really cold out, this is also good for insulating. I don’t normally wear bras, but I brought two and I’m glad I did.

Buff

You can get them in a bunch of colors, and I carried two – one for the day and one for the night. I strongly recommend this, because if you wear one at night while you’re sleeping, you create humidity and prevent the dreaded “Khumbu cough”. I didn’t get sick once in my two months trekking and I owe it all to my buff!

Hiking boots

Self explanatory. Don’t skimp out on these. Pay what your feet are worth. I use Lowa and I love them. Furthermore, the boot part is important. It should lace up beyond your ankle. I saw a lot of people trekking in tennis shoes and that’s pure madness. Take care of your ankles!

Fleece

Your midlayer. Please buy this at Shona’s or elsewhere in Kathmandu, for about 6 USD. There is just no need to spend ten times that on one from Patagonia, or wherever else, unless you already own one.

Downjacket

Again, please rent this from Shona’s for 0.60 USD. They are incredibly large and fluffy and will keep you plenty warm. They come with a pack sack, so don’t worry about that. Also, if you’re applying this list to the Annapurna Region, please don’t think you can rent downjackets in Pokhara – you can, but not nearly as cheap or the same quality as Shona’s in Kathmandu.

Synthetic Rainjacket

You can buy a really smart one at Shona’s for about 10 USD. They are plenty breathable, and I actually still use it.

Windproof pants

Nobody needs waterproof pants, because your moisture wicking leggings should do the job – but if you get cold easily, you’ll need a pair windproof pants for the passes. Like I said, I used my Sugoi by themselves and was just fine in November and December, but that’s just me. You can some hilarious Gwen Stefani-esque windproofs in Kathmandu for about 10 USD.

Hat

You need a baseball cap for the sun, and a beanie that should be the definition of fuzzy. I only wore mine at night and on the passes. They sell them everywhere in Kathmandu for less than a dollar.

Gloves

You need two pairs, a windproof pair, and a lining pair that can fit inside your windproofs. I needed both pairs nearly every day from after 4000m. You can buy both pairs in Kathmandu for less than 10 USD.

TOILETRIES

Babywipes

This shall be your salvation. You need many, as any shower on the trail is at least 5 USD, and is not as hot as you’d want it to be. It 22 days, I took 3. So, babywipes. They are obviously a lot cheaper in Kathmandu, but you can find them in Namche Bazaar (packs of 60 for about 8 USD), and that might be the better option, rather than carrying the extra kilos for days.

Sunscreen

If you’re going in winter, remember to pack a stick, because at high altitudes the lotion will freeze. This is no joke, you need 50 SPF and you need it every single day, multiple times a day. Keep your face cute! I also used Heliocare pills every single day, and I can recommend them as well. Bring your sunscreen from home.

First Aid

This means a lot of different things to different people, but I packed:

  • ibuprofen with codeine
  • diarrhea medication
  • vomiting and nausea medication
  • Diamox, for altitude sickness
  • two knee braces, which I wore every day going down hill, just in case (I have perfectly healthy knees)
  • plastering tape, a lot of people prefer blister plasters, but for me they always rub off, so I just use tape and call it a day
  • electrohydrate sachets, because you never know when you’ll need to be rehydrated

*some people insist on probiotics, which I brought but never used. If you have a sensitive tummy, though, bring them.

Travel soap/shampoo and conditioner

I use bar soap from the markets in Nepal that can double as shampoo. It’s important to get in bar form so that you can use this to wash your shirts and underwear occasionally. The conditioner is for when you finally make it to those sought after showers.

Feminine Products

I used my Thinx (period panties), which in hindsight was kind of gross, I admit, just because cleaning them was such a task. However, as an eco-defender, my choice was those or the cup, and I still can’t bring myself to the cup. Trash is a huge issue in Nepal, and even though Everest Region is quite wealthy, there is no official trash deposit, which means everything you dump stays there. So, do not come with tampons or pads, please, ladies.

Hand Sanitizer

I didn’t use this, which I don’t regret. Nothing is really ate with your hands, unless you want to, and there is enough sinks with soap around. If you find comfort in it, though, take it.

Tissues

All of the tissues! At least 15 packets of them. Your nose will be running because of the cold, and you’ll need them to wipe.

Toothbrush/Toothpaste

Duh.

Earplugs

Please bring them, you won’t regret it.

Towel

I didn’t bring a towel, because if you’re going to shower, often the lodge has one you can borrow.

Shewee

I read this in a blog and got one before I left and never used it. Most of the lodges have bathrooms inside now, and this is never necessary.

GEAR

Steripen

Water purifier by UV light. I saw a lot of people use purifying tablets that tasted gross, and I saw a lot of people buying water bottles. DON’T! Steripen is about 60 USD and I don’t know why it isn’t more popular. If you buy the Classic 3, you need to 4 AA batteries (that last approximately one week with the cold). You can buy the batteries in Kathmandu, but the Steripen must be bought online. Honestly, my Steripen made my trip!

2 Trekking Poles

So before Nepal, even though I’ve always hiked, I always thought people with trekking poles were incredibly lame. I shamefully admit my ignorance. My trekking poles saved my life more than once, and I am a complete convert. You can get them in Kathmandu for 5 USD.

Headtorch and batteries

Bring this from home, but it wasn’t very necessary. Most bathrooms are inside and have lights.

Sunglasses

Unless you’re planning on being in snow consistently, don’t worry about snow blindness. Just your regular sunnies will do.

Sleeping bag liner

For extra warmth, and hygiene, because I rented my sleeping bag. I bought from Sea to Summit.

Sleeping bag

Rented from Shona’s for 1 USD, as previously mentioned. Most nights I was hot and used it like a blanket instead. If you’re going any month except October, I would skip the bag altogether. I was there in November and December and had plenty of blankets provided by the lodges to keep me warm. In October, there is a lot more guides on the trail, because its the peak season, so if you plan to go then, you can’t rely on the blankets (as they are for the guides).

Stuff Sack

I bought two from Sea to Summit to increase space, and I used both of them. The downjacket and the sleeping bag come with their own, if rented.

Backpack

Okay, so it’s probably obvious by now that my list is a lot more minimal than everyone else’s, but I really didn’t want to carry not even an extra kilo if I could manage it. So everything fit inside 50 liters. That was more than enough for me, but most people like a bit more stuff and a bit more space. I didn’t carry a daypack, either, because it’s not necessary.

Gaiters

Are really not necessary unless you’ll be there during wet season.

Portable Bluetooth Speaker

Not only will this make hiking more fun, but you’ll be an insistent hit with all the porters, who also carry their own. I had many a mountain dance party.

Solar Charger

For the speaker and your phone.

Hot Water Bottle

Okay, this is the real take away from my post. If you read nothing else, fine – this is the important part. Bring a kid’s hot water bottle made of rubber, and get boiling water poured into this bad boy every night. It will completely change your trip, warm your toes, keep you happy. You can use the cooled water in the morning to drink.

Book

I brought a hiking Nepal Lonely Planet, which I was happy about, as well as a secondary book that I exchanged along the way at all the different lodges that had books also left behind.

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How To Backpack Malawi On A Budget

PRO TIPS
*Hitchhike! It is so safe and easy, and I am a solo female! The longest I waited to get anywhere was 2 hours, and I always got to my destination before dark.
*Taxis pretty much always cost 2000mk, but you should take the minibuses, it can be as little as 200mk instead.
*The ATMs max out at 40,000 ($60) so it’s better to have money when you arrive and exchange it.
*You can find a Standard Bank (foreign Visa, MasterCard, Maestro) in Lilongwe, Blantyre, Zomba, Mongochi, Salima, Mzuzu, Karonga.
*If nothing else, go to Mt. Mulanje, Zomba Plateau, Malambe at Cape Maclear, Joy’s Place in Mzuzu, and Mushroom Farm in Livingstonia.

FROM ZAMBIA
The bus company Zambia-Malawi costs $22 for the 12 hour bus drive, and includes a snack and drink, from Lusaka to Lilongwe. Make sure you have exactly $75 for the visa at the border, they don’t have change.

LILONGWE
Mabuya Camp is the only backpackers and by default, is the place to be. It has nice facilities, but for Malawi it’s quite expensive: $7 camping or $12 dorm. Breakfast is also insanely good, but I spent 4000mk for breakfast and 400mk for a Coke. A normal breakfast should cost 1000mk and on the street a Coke costs 200-250mk. They have a book exchange and you can pay to use the wifi 100mb of Internet (600mk).
Instead, I recommend walking 300 meters next door to “Welcome Lodge”, where you can pay 3000mk for your own room. There is no food though, but just head over to Mabuya if you need food or want backpacker company.
For the more adventurous, I recommend couchsurfing, it was very easy to do and my host was amazing and well traveled!

BLANTYRE
From Lilongwe, a coach bus costs 8000mk and a smaller bus costs 4000mk. It can be anywhere between 4-8 hours, and again, hitchhiking is safe.

Lonely Planet recommends staying at Doogles, which is basically directly at the bus station (really 50m, you can’t miss the signs). Doogles has since taken advantage of the fame and raised their price to 10,000km ($15) a night for a dorm and ruled out camping entirely. It has a swimming pool and great food, and you can pay for Internet. But if you’re on a budget, walk to the next street and camp at Wanela Lodge for 2500mk a night which includes breakfast in the morning (omelet, fruit, coffee or tea), and return to Doogles for food or fun. Wanela Lodge has food for local prices, though (Nsima, fried chicken and greens for 1500mk).
Check out the Blantyre market, you can even walk (20 minutes), and I recommend it. A lot of people make handmade clothes which are beautiful.
To Limbe Bus Station (which is where you need to go to get to Mulanje, pay only 200mk in the minibus)

MULANJE/LIKHUBULA
For those wanting to hike Mt. Mulanje, make sure you stock up on food before you get to Mulanje. Although Mulanje is a proper sized town with a People’s supermarket, you won’t find much. From Mulanje, they will try to charge you 1000mk down the dirt road to the village of Likhubula which is at the foot of the mountain. You can haggle to 500mk. The mountain itself is incredibly impressive, with multiple peaks, the highest being 3001m, the highest in Malawi and the second highest in Southern Africa (after the Drakensberg in South Africa).
At Likhubula, I settled on CCAP because it was the cheapest – 2500mk for camping, and it had a shady yard and excellent facilities (clean and hot water!). The breakfast and dinner is expensive though, so I recommend hiking back into the village (1km) and eating at Hikers Rest, which has great food for 1500mk.

MT. MULANJE
*You have to register at the Forestry Office and they will demand you take a guide for $25 a day. If you are an experienced hiker, with an offline map, and it is not rainy season, sign the register and tell them you changed your mind, and hike it alone anyways. I had no issues.
I recommend the Skyline path up, because it’s quite steep. It should take 2-4 hours, depending on your fitness. It is direct sunlight all day though, so get an early start or you will regret it. I think Likhubula is somewhere near 800 meters, and you head up Skyline to 1900m. From there, you enter the mountain valley. Chombe peak is 2500m, and can be done in one day (3-4 more hours), if you want. If you want to hike any other peak, though, I recommend staying at least two nights. It’s beautiful and cool in the valley. The huts have mattresses, bucket showers, and the village women will light fires for you, so long as you pay them a small tip (700mk is fine).
I recommend the Chapaluka path on the way back to Likhubula, because it’s very shady and fun (crossing logs across water, climbing stones). It also runs into La Nkhalamba Waterfall, so you can have a nice swim and relax. It should take a total of 5 hours, and the falls are 1 hour from the village.
I hitchhiked out the village, but had to pay 500mk to get to Phalombe, about an hour away on the dirt road.

ZOMBA
Not in Lonely Planet, but Pakachere Backpackers is new and truly a backpacker oasis. It has free wifi, cheap food, nice facilities, good chill locations, and a book exchange (mostly German and Dutch). I pitched my tent for $5 or 3000mk, the dorm is $10.
BE CAREFUL OF THE FOOD. It was cheap and good, but everyone had tummy problems. Just ask the other people before you eat.
I recommend Tasty Bites, which has great chicken sandwiches for 1500 (add cheese, because… They have cheese!)

ZOMBA PLATEAU
Bring up some food, but don’t panic, because you can have evening meals at the hotel (Ku Chawe Inn) (2000-5000mk), for lazy people who don’t want to carry or cook their food.
The potato path takes about 3 hours.
Ku Chawe Trout Farm costs 2000mk a night for camping, but it also has chalets.
I recommend walking up, making camp, then walking to the Emperor’s View and then a bit further to Queen’s View. Relax and walk back, head to the Inn for dinner – this could easily be a half day. Wake up early the next day, head to Williams Falls, and Chingwe Hole, and do some exploring. Easily managed alone (with an offline map).
Don’t miss this, it’s beautiful and one of my highlights.

MONKEY BAY
I think the price from Zomba to MB is something around 3000mk. But from Mongochi, it’s 700mk in the back of a pickup truck. Make sure you get your money in Mongochi, because the ATM is MB is never working.
Mufasa charges 2500mk for camping, and 6000mk for a dorm. It’s about 1km to town.
Blue Ginger’s in town has nice and cheap food.

CAPE MACLEAR
To Cape Maclear, the minibus shouldn’t charge you more than 700mk for the 20-30 minute ride. A motorbike might be faster and will cost 1000mk.
Malambe Backpackers is directly on the water and the cheapest in Cape Maclear (Fat Monkeys is nice but it’s a lot more expensive). Malambe charges 1500mk for camping, 2600mk for a dorm, and 4000mk for a hut. It also has amazing and reasonably priced food, and the staff is cool.
The market is a bit far, 15 minutes, and hard to find, but if you go, you can find a local meal for 500mk. Thomas’ restaurant is also good, but a bit expensive.

NKHATA BAY
From Cape Maclear to Nkhata Bay, it is a really long trip. Apparently there is a big bus from Nkhata Bay to Monkey Bay on certain days (6am-4pm), so I assume something similar goes in the opposite direction. If you try to make the trip on minibuses, break it up, because I think it’s impossible to manage in one day.
Once you arrive at Nkhata Bay, you can take a taxi to either Butterfly Space or Mayoka Village (both with pay for the taxi).
I stayed at Butterfly Space but I can’t recommend it. It was 1500mk for camping or 3000mk for a dorm. They had a nice outdoor shower and the compost toilets were very clean. However, the common areas are not water proof, and there isn’t a lot of common areas anyways. If you want to volunteer, it’s great and the staff is friendly, but it’s very family oriented and not many backpackers go through. The wifi is also a router that is carried around in the pocket of the owner, which means it’s from 10-8pm, more or less, and often not in the common area but instead at the “Media center”, and they charge 1000mk for it. It also has a big ant problem, and as a permaculture lodge I understand they don’t spray, but for me it was really ridiculous (when I unrolled my tent at the end place I had 500 ants inside, half dead and half alive, not exaggerating).
Mayoka Village is next door with the same prices, and they give free upgrades for campers to chalets during rainy season. Also free snorkeling equipment and boat rides.

MZUZU
About one hour from a Nkhata Bay, Mzuzu has a brand new mall with a brand new massive, proper Western style supermarket, “Shoprite”. Immediately after Shoprite, turn left and go 300 meters down the dirt road until you get to “Joy’s Place”. Joy is an amazing Korean woman who runs a brand new backpackers with brand new facilities. It’s the best wifi in Malawi, with the best mattresses and the best cakes and brownies.
She also chases mosquitos through the house with an electrified tennis racket, and has a washing machine. She doesn’t allow camping though and it’s $8 a night for a dorm. The food is also expensive, 3000-3500mk a meal, but delicious and worth it (try the spicy chicken jumuluk). The entire menu is Korean and is a well needed rest from the regular fare.
The market is also a really great place to get whatever you need.

LIVINGSTONIA
From Mzuzu it’s at least 3 hours to Chitimba (the backpackers Hakuna Matata is highly recommend but I didn’t stay). From Chitimba expect to pay 1500mk in a pickup truck and go 40 minutes-1 hour up the mountain until you reach Mushroom Farm.
Make sure you arrive to Mushroom Farm before 4pm, because it’s the last chance to order dinner and the kitchen closes at 4pm (dinner is one vegetarian meal, with a main, salad and bread for 3600mk, served promptly every night at 7pm). The food here was the best on my trip. It’s all local and delicious, I was happy (try the open face breakfast sandwich). Should you arrive late and want to camp, Bishop will probably upgrade you for free. Camping is 3000mk ($5) a night, and a dorm is $10. It has an amazingly beautiful view.
Hiking is a bit of a disappointment because all of the hikes happen mainly on the road. But Chombe Peak is beautiful, even though I wouldn’t return to Livingstonia.

KARONGA/TANZANIAN BORDER
Heading down from Livingstonia, you can negotiate 1200mk instead of 1500mk. From Chitimba to Karonga is 1500mk, about two hours, and from Karona to the border, it’s 700mk and about 30km.
If you’re heading to Tanzania, take out money at the Standard Bank in Karonga because there is no Standard Bank ATM on either side of the border.

I spent $13.5 a day, but I didn’t really budget. I hitchhiked and camped pretty much the whole time, but Joys Place and Mushroom Farm are quite expensive (more than the rest), so you could easily manage on $9 a day if you skipped this entirely. The cost is exclusive of the visa.

How To Backpack Zimbabwe On A Budget

*This post is calculated from when Zimbabwe was still using American dollars.

FROM SOUTH AFRICA
Take the greyhound bus (445 rand if you buy online – 10% discount), and cross at Beitbridge. Expect about 4 hours at the border (they will process your visa there – don’t listen to the rumors that say anything otherwise). Greyhound is worth it purely for the AC. It was 38 degrees during the day.

MASVINGO
With the bus, you’ll arrive around 13-1400. The taxi drivers at the bus stop will try to screw you, but don’t give them anymore than $4.
Norma Jean’s hotel is pricy – 13$ camping, $22 dinner ($13 for main course only, $16 for 2 courses), $8 breakfast which is two cereals, one fruit salad and an orange juice “buffet”. The Internet is also expensive $5 for 100mb. Advice? Skip it altogether. There is a hostel in town, called Backpackers Rest, but I heard terrible things. Tell the taxi driver to drop you off at a restaurant in town, eat, then grab a lot of fruit. Head directly into the great Zimbabwe national park, where it is $5 camping, $7 dorms. Set up camp, sleep for the night. Wake up with the sun and beat the heat. It’s $15 adult entry. If you’re solo, they will make you pay $6 for the guide, or $3 per person if you aren’t. You can buy a $10 book, but for sustainable tourism, it’s good to give the guides some work.
You really only need the morning (maximum 3 hours) unless you want to check out the dam as well ($1 ride to and from the NP). Not much is happening in the town, but there is food places. Instead pay $1.5 and head into town from the NP, and take a bus (!!!) not a kombi to:

CHIMANIMANI
Leave as early as possible! The bus will cost $12 but you can also hitch a lift for free, but you have to specify that you can’t pay before you get in. Don’t take a kombi* or you’ll get there 10 hours later (for $2 cheaper).
Stay at Heaven Lodge. It’s $5 camping or $10 for a newly renovated 4 person dorm. The lodge is massive and truly is wonderful. The staff are the sweetest – Nancy, Eddie and Jackie are looking out for you. Food is priced reasonably starting at $3 breakfasts and even $1 chocolate cake (don’t miss it!)
If you need Internet though, you might prefer Frog and Fern ($15 camping, $20 dorm).
Spend the money and check out Bridal Veil Falls and Tessa’s Pool.
If you want to hike the mountains, it’s 16km from Heaven to Base Camp (the starting point of the national park). Walk the 2km into town and prearrange a ride at the National Park’s Office. They will organize a Land Rover for you just for the price of gas (so $20 there and back), rather than organizing a lift which will be $20 there and $20 back (or $10 per person). Once at base camp, sign in with the Rangers but plan your route before (the Rangers there are totally useless and the map they offer isn’t to scale). They charge $9 per night for camping for foreigners, plus $3 entrance fee for foreigners that somehow is not an entrance fee but is a daily fee. I spent two nights in the park, so my total was $24. You don’t have to worry about water, there are tons of rivers and are totally drinkable. If you’re up for a nice trekking adventure, I would recommend staying in Terry’s Cave, but it’s very difficult to find.
On the way home, stop in the village and get your plate of sadsa, meat and veggies for $1.

MUTARE
Take the 5am bus (not kombi) out of town and head to Mutare for $5 (takes about 3 hours) and walk the length of the town to Fourth Street and Sixth Avenue (otherwise a $2 taxi ride) to Ann Bruce Backpackers. Ann, Emma and Takunda are amazing. It costs $15 to dorm and $10 to camp. The best internet connection in the country and fully stocked kitchen. Ann treats her workers like family and they all live in her home. Takunda does day tours to Bvumba Mountains for $35 for the driver plus whatever you want to tip him and I strongly recommend this. Pro tip: make sure you get the $11 cake at Tony’s coffee shop – it sounds ridiculous but it’s delicious and you need two people to finish a slice. The day tour includes: Nyachowa Waterfalls, where you can climb old tree roots to the top; the view point for Prince of Wales, where you can see the border post of Mozambique; a hike up to Bvumba Heights and then hike down from Hivu Backpackers (an amazing view in the Bvumba mountains); Leopard Rock Hotel for lunch and a tour of the estate; tea and cake at Tony’s Coffee Shop and don’t miss the clothes market in the Sakubva township.

NYANGA
Getting to Nyanga National Park is quite difficult but if you wait around at Ann’s long enough, maybe you can hitch. I managed to on the back of a motorbike.
Camp at M’tarazi Falls or Nyangombi Falls, but bypass the campsite just by the park entrance and Rhodes Hotel all together. This area, along with World’s View, is highly commercialized and I can’t recommend it. It is a short distance to Nyangombi swimming pool, which is very nice though. M’tarazi Falls is stunning and is situated within “Wild Nyanga” or the east side of the park, where there is no view of the industrialized valley like there is at World’s View, so you will likely be the only one there. It’s located on Far and Wide property ($10 a night to camp, plus one time $10 park entrance fee that covers all the other sights except for World’s View), and they have made their own trails that are much better than any within the park. For those stuck without a vehicle, take a kombi to the park entrance and pay $20, and Far and Wide will come and fetch you.
As said, skip World’s View but definitely hike up Mount Nyangani (impossible without your own vehicle). Apparently, they will try to change you $50 for a guide for the group (the hike is about 3 hours total). We took an “off road” track from Far and Wide and totally missed the Mt. Nyangani entrance though, so we weren’t made to pay the fee for the guide. However, I can’t recommend this – Mount Nyangani is very sacred to local people, and people have been known to go missing on the mountain.

BULAWAYO
I skipped Harare (but if you go stay at “It’s a Small World Avondale” – there are two locations and the downtown one is mainly for prostitutes) and went back to Mutare and hitched a ride to Masvingo ($8 in a kombi), and from Masvingo I hitched a ride to Bulawayo ($7 in a kombi). It took me from 830am-530pm.
In Bulawayo, I couchsurfed. But if unable, Burkes Paradise Backpackers offers the cheapest camping ($5) or $10 dorm. Definitely check out the Natural History Museum (the entrance fee will set you back $10). Ginge’s has the best sadsa in town, but they also do other small bites as well. If you can manage it, high tea at Nesbit Castle is strongly recommended ($13 for tea and two cakes), their garden is beautiful and you might even see some animals.
Take a full day to spend in Matopos. It is a $15 entrance fee but so worth it. I’m not keen on safaris, but this park is absolutely amazing. It has a stark landscape of red rock and greenery. World’s View is lovely, but do it last and catch the sunset. Instead, go caving first, and stop at at least 3 of them. You will have to pay $5 for entrance to all the attractions (including World’s View). In one of the caves, we stumbled across a tour group and managed to get a 40 minute lecture about the San people (who did the original rock paintings in Matopos) that completely blew my mind. If your budget can afford it, I would take a tour. It’s also possible to camp in Matopos, which I would recommend as well, but you definitely need your own vehicle.
If you aren’t as lucky or are pressed for time, stay at The Farmhouse which is very close to Matopos and is accessible by kombi. They can organize tours and trips for you there.

VIC FALLS
From Bulawayo either hitch or take the night train ($8-15 depending on your class, $8 is economy). The train leaves at 1930 sharp (shocking, I know), and arrives in Vic Falls around 10am.
I crossed the border directly into Livingstone, but Shoestrings Backpackers has dorms and a campsite for $10 and $5, respectively.

Amount of days spent: 19
Money spent: $420
Average a day: $22

Nearly every town had options to Couchsurf, and hitchhiking was very do-able throughout the whole country – and entirely safe, I should add.

This included my visa, camping fees, dorm upgrades, and occasional meal out, in addition to my groceries, sadsa, Internet, transport, and attraction fees. I did hitchhike most of the way, and I stayed for free in Bulawayo. But I drank a lot of Coca Cola and had cake and took taxi rides when I didn’t want to walk, so my budget really wasn’t that extreme.
Therefore, I reckon that those on a stricter budget would have no problems at all. However, I didn’t bother with Kariba or Mana Pools, and if you’re dead set on safaris, I think your budget will be a bit higher.

Don’t miss any of the Eastern Highlands. Chimanimani, Bvumba and Nyanga are all stunning. Chimanimani is the easiest to organize independently. Don’t miss Matopos either! I also recommend the train from Bulawayo to Vic Falls.