1. Is it safe to visit Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe?
Zimbabwe as a whole has received a great deal of bad press in recent years due to its political instability. Therefore the question “Is It Safe” to visit is well justified. Victoria Falls has however always been its own entity and should be viewed separately from the rest of Zimbabwe with regards to crime and safety.
To understand this clearly you need to be aware of the tribal structure of the local people of Zimbabwe. Supporters of Robert Mugabe are the Mashona people from the Mashonaland Province. The Victoria Falls region is in the Matabeleland Province and is the stronghold of the Matebele people, their dominance here is so strong that Mashona supporters don’t dare venture here. For this reason Victoria Falls has been free from the Political unrest that the rest of Zimbabwe has been subjected to.
As I write this I would confidently state that Victoria Falls is a perfectly safe tourist destination. Reviews on all the travel forums will endorse this.
Petty crime does exist as with anywhere in the world but this is a tourist town and the people know that their livelihood depends on visitors coming in. On the whole they will not do anything to jeopardize this. Be aware and be sensible as you would traveling to any destination worldwide.
Recently the United States removed travel warnings to all its citizens wanting to travel to Zimbabwe showing their confidence in Zimbabwe’s recovery. Other countries have also followed suit. Japan excluded Victoria Falls from its travel warnings in April 2009.
2. Is the Zimbabwe dollar still in use?
No – The Zimbabwe dollar is obsolete for the foreseeable future. Goods and services are now priced and paid for in United Sates Dollars. Although the Rand, Pula and British pounds will also be accepted at the exchange rate of the day.
3. Can I use Credit Cards?
The banking system of Zimbabwe does not facilitate the use of credit cards. Therefore, only companies who have external bank accounts or sister companies outside the country are able to accept credit cards. Although the larger Hotels groups have this facility, some of them charge levies and some battle to get authorization through quick enough, so it can be a very frustrating experience. The small shops and restaurants will not accept cards and neither will most of the tour operators. Therefore it is highly unwise to depend on using your credit card within Zimbabwe. ATM machines are definitely not operational and no cash can be withdrawn. The best advice is to pre book and pay for your accommodation and activities as much as you can, then take some cash with you for spending money and extras.
4. How do I pay for my accommodation and activities?
Paying for your accommodation should be done prior to arriving in Zimbabwe, through your travel agent. Package deals including flights and accommodation are by far the most economical way to do this and they can be paid for prior to departure. Travellers cheques are accepted at some hotels and not at others.
Cash is of course accepted everywhere, but carrying large amounts is never advisable.
All activities like white water rafting and bungee jumping etc. can also be pre booked and paid for through reputable websites prior to travel as most of the tour operators do not accept credit cards when you are there.
5. What type of accommodation is available in Victoria Falls?
Victoria Falls a small tourist town situated only one kilometre from the mighty Victoria Falls. This town has developed for one reason and one reason only – Tourists.
As a result there is a wide range of hotels and lodges, bed and breakfasts, self catering and camping. From the most luxurious accommodation to backpacking hostels, whatever your budget there will certainly be something to suit you.
6. What Activities can I do in Victoria Falls?
Victoria Falls is the undisputed Adventure capital of Africa. There is an incredibly wide variety of activities that will satisfy just about everyone’s needs. For the adrenaline junkies there is the wildest one day white water rafting trip in the world, the 111 meter high bungee jump, river surfing, kayaking, helicopter and micro light flights, heart stopping gorge swings, zip wires and many more.
For the more sedate there is River cruises, elephant rides, rich local arts, crafts and cultural experiences, fishing, golf and game viewing and the list goes on and on.
7. How do I get to Victoria Falls?
Victoria Falls is accessible by Air, Rail and Road.
By Air – Both British Airways and South African Airways operate daily flights to Victoria Falls direct from Johannesburg. Air Namibia operates four flights per week from Windhoek via Maun to the Falls and Air Zimbabwe operates daily flights from Harare, on three days of the week these flights go via Bulawayo.
By Road– The roads in Zimbabwe are all still in very good condition and are probably some of the best in Africa and they are beautifully quiet to travel on. Fuel supply is unpredictable so ensure that you carry enough to travel the whole distance. Fuel is normally available in Victoria Falls at the hefty price of US$1.50 per litre.
By Rail – The Luxury Rovos Rail service travels between Pretoria and Victoria Falls and is a 2 night 3 day trip. Botswana Rail have trains that run between Francistown and Bulawayo and Zimbabwe railways have an overnight train from Bulawayo to Victoria Falls, this is an option but it is certainly not luxurious. The trains are a bit run down and I have heard reports on some of the carriages not having lights – but it is a unique African experience if you are up for it!
The train station in Victoria Falls is right next to Victoria Falls Hotel and the Kingdom Hotel and less than a kilometer from the town centre.
8. Do I need a Visa for Zimbabwe and How do I get one?
If you are staying for less than six months, you can enter Zimbabwe with minimal formalities. You will need to check whether your country of origin requires you to obtain a visa. See the Victoria Falls Travel Guide website.
Your passport needs to be valid for at least 6 months from date of entry, a return ticket to your country (or enough money to buy one) and sufficient funds to cover your stay in Zimbabwe are required.
Visas for British passport holders cost $55 single entry and $70 for a double entry visa. United States passport holders pay $30 for a single entry and $45 for a double entry visa. South Africans are issued with Gratis (Free) visas at the port of entry.
Citizens of many countries can obtain entry Visas very easily at the port of entry, and therefore it is not necessary to arrange this prior to you traveling, however some countries do require that their citizens apply prior to travel so please check this out and all other visa details at the Victoria Falls Travel Guide Website
9. When is it the best time of the year to visit Victoria Falls?
There is never a best time; each season has its own magic. From December through to May the water levels are at their highest and there is a huge volume of water plummeting over the falls which is quite spectacular. As the water level drops, from May through to December there is less water plunging over the Falls so there is less spray and the Falls become more visible. In late October and Early November before the rains arrive, parts of the Falls actually stop flowing particularly the Eastern cataract in Zambia.
As the water levels recede so the white water rafting gets wilder. The birds and wild congregate at the river for the essential water of life.
There is always plenty of sunshine, but the winter months of June and July do get extremely cold in the evenings. The months of December and January normally experience heavy rainfall.
10. Is there malaria in Victoria Falls?
Yes – Malaria does occur in Victoria Falls and travelers would be advised to take a suitable prophylactic. Please ask your travel agent or doctor for advice before you travel. Other precautions such as mosquito nets and insect repellent are advisable.
More advice can be found at the Victoria Falls Travel Guide website.
11. Is it true that there are food shortages in Victoria Falls?
In the past there have been a shortages of food but things are now improving and you will find most things that you need – although it is very expensive.
If you are staying in a hotel, you will not have any idea that there are any shortages the menus are full and exquisite.
12. Are there fuel shortages?
Tour operators all provide their own fuel, so as a visitor this will not have any impact on your trip what so ever.
If you are a self drive tourist fuel is now normally always available in Victoria Falls, although this is not guaranteed as some weeks it is available and some weeks it is not. It is always very expensive. And I would advise filling up all fuel tanks prior to entering Zimbabwe.
13. What will happen if I get sick whilst at Victoria Falls?
Whilst it is standard practice to advise all tourists to purchase the necessary medical and evacuation cover when traveling to foreign countries, we are pleased to advise that there is an excellent private clinic in Victoria Falls manned by qualified and experienced staff.
They also have a Medical Air Rescue Service (MARS) base in Victoria Falls in the event that an emergency evacuation is required. Most activity operators and some hoteliers include MARS evacuation cover in their charges.
14. Can I drink the water in Victoria Falls?
Yes – Most, if not all locals, drink happily from municipal supplies. However, if you suspect you may have a sensitive stomach, then bottled water is recommended and is readily available.
15. What is the difference between staying on the Zimbabwean side as opposed to the Zambian side?
The most fundamental difference between staying in these two different countries is that the geographic layout means that Zimbabwe has 85% of the Victoria Falls on its side of the border. So any visitor traveling to see the Mighty Falls and then only seeing them from Zambia would have been seriously deprived.
Although wildlife conservation is now much more controlled in Zambia, much of the wild life in the past has been depleted, unlike Zimbabwe where the Zambezi National Park and surrounding wildlife conservancies are prolific with game.