I have received several questions about our extended trip to Zimbabwe. It was certainly worth it and a highlight of the trip. Here’s the rest of my comments:
Regarding Zambia which is just across the bridge from Victoria Falls – we did not go there for several reasons. Zimbabwe charges Canadians $75 visa fees for each person for each entry into Zimbabwe. By the way, this is stated to be US funds only, no credit cards accepted. I believe they might also accept South African Rand, but can’t confirm that. We knew this ahead of time, so were prepared for it when we went on a day trip to Chobe Park in Botswana. But we did not want to pay another $150 returning to Zimbabwe from Zambia. So we missed swimming in the Victoria Falls Devil’s Pool which is on the Zambia side. The other potential issue is that on occasion, South Africa can be sticky about vaccination requirements if you go into Zambia. Guidance on this seems to be unclear, and for that matter the current government policy could change while you are in travel status. At present, South Africa may require proof of yellow fever vaccination if you enter Zambia, but they do not require it if you only visit Zimbabwe and Botswana.
American citizens get a break on visa costs. Their visa into Zimbabwe costs $30 for one entry, and $45 for a dual entry visa which allows them to go on the day trip to Chobe Park in Botswana. I guess the Americans have better negotiators or have provided more foreign aid money to get this deal.
The company that co-ordinated our Zimbabwe tours was Wild Horizons. The tours we took included a Sundowner Cruise on the Zambezi River (already in our travel package, I don’t know the separate cost) and optional tours to Chobe Park (including lunch) which was a river cruise in the morning and safari drive in the afternoon for $170 per person, walking with lions $130 pp, elephant ride $130 pp and a 15 min. helicopter Flight of Angels over Victoria Falls for $130 +$10 park fee pp. We thoroughly enjoyed Chobe, the lion walk, elephant ride and Flight of Angels. There is a longer Flight of Angels which takes you to look for animals from the air as well as viewing Victoria Falls, at $250 pp. If you are doing the Chobe day tour includingthe river cruise, then you don’t need to do the Sundowner river cruise. I understand there is a steam train dinner tour available in Victoria Falls but I have no info about that. There is also white water rafting, zip line and bungee jumping in the area.
Water. I drank tap water in all the hotels in South Africa without problem. We drank only bottled water in Zimbabwe. The safari lodge provided 2 bottles a day.
Money. Zimbabwe hotels, restaurants, shops only accept US$ and South African Rand. Don’t accept any change in Zimbabwe currency – it is worthless.
Credit cards. You have to be careful where you use your cards in Zimbabwe, and even some road side stops and gas stations in South Africa. The main hotels and lodges are ok including their restaurants and we were told that the local established tour companies are ok, but we were told to avoid using credit cards anywhere else, paying cash with USD or African Rand instead. I used my Visa to get a Rand cash advance at a bank ATM in South Africa without any problem, and used that money in Zimbabwe. When we went the conversion rate was about 11%, that is, 100R was about $11 US or Cdn.
Gifting or bartering. You can take along extra sneakers or clothes or even the shampoos and soaps from earlier in your trip and use them for trade, or to give away to local people. If you give something to a service worker in the hotel, you may have to provide a written letter indicating you have given it as a gift, thereby confirming that it has not been stolen. There were no reports of anything stolen from anyone in our group of 43 within any of the hotels during our trip.
Meal prices in Zimbabwe, in hotels are as follows: beer 4 USD, wine 3-5 USD, sandwiches or burgers 8-12, light lunch main course -14, soups -6, pasta dinner -16, main courses 18-24.