Money, Shopping, and Eating Out

by WildZambezi.com

MONEY

After many years of using a multi-currency system (mainly the US$ and the South African Rand), the Zimbabwe government re-introduced the Zimbabwe Dollar as its main currency on 24th June 2019. 

The sudden announcement caused some confusion, but the situation now returns to the same as elsewhere in the world, where visitors wanting to make local purchases will need to exchange their foreign money for local currency at a bank or bureau de change.  Card transactions are also possible.

The Zimbabwe Tourism Authority was quick to reassure visitors that the new regulations  “…will not negatively affect the travelling public, specifically foreign visitors. The regulations are meant for any transactions carried out within Zimbabwe, where it is now illegal to use foreign hard cash, leaving the Zimbabwe Dollar as the only legal tender in the country.”

Below are the payment methods still applicable in Zimbabwe, according to the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority:

1. Credit cards are readily acceptable everywhere in Zimbabwe, where the relevant arrangements have been made with international credit card companies such as VISA, MasterCard and others issued by different banks in the countries of origin of the travellers. Service providers do have international credit card-enabled point-of-sale (POS) machines.

2. Visitors may also withdraw local cash from international credit card-enabled Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) of the different banks. These will be clearly marked as international and will have the logos of the accepted credit card companies.

3. Foreign cash may be exchanged at the bank, bureau-de-change or at any other authorised foreign currency dealers at the prevailing bank rates. Visitors are however encouraged to use plastic money and only exchange amounts of money in cash that they anticipate using. However, visitors may convert their money back to their foreign currency subject to prevailing terms and conditions.

4. Online payments and telegraphic transfers remain acceptable forms of payment in Zimbabwe.

5. Visa fees, where applicable, are payable in foreign currency and may be paid in cash at any port of entry. The Government of Zimbabwe has an e-visa system and intending travellers may apply and pay for their visas online.

6. Tipping is not a commercial transaction and hence visitors are at liberty to tip as they wish. It becomes incumbent upon the recipient to ensure adherence to the foreign exchange regulations.

NOTE:  Visitors entering Zimbabwe are advised to declare any foreign cash funds that they are bringing into the country on a Customs Declaration Form (Form 47) at their initial point of entry. Keep this declaration safe with your passport for when you leave Zimbabwe. This will enable you to export  any currency that has not been exchanged without risking having it forfeited to the State. 

 

FOOD, SHOPPING & EATING OUT

Food supplies in Zimbabwe are usually readily available. Supermarkets are plentiful in the main centres and are relatively well stocked, but, as many goods are imported, prices can be high.  

Shop opening hours are generally: Weekdays: 8.30 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. Saturdays: 8.30 a.m. - 12.30 p.m. Closed on Sundays and Public Holidays. Some supermarket chains have longer hours and remain open every day including Sundays.

Restaurants offer a wide variety of food choices. Be aware that in the evening people eat fairly early: between 6.30 p.m. and 8.45 p.m. If you arrive later, you may find the kitchen has closed.

Note that apart from in Victoria Falls (above) and Kariba town, there are no modern shopping facilities or restaurants in the middle Zambezi valley at all.

TIPPING

If you want to show your appreciation for good service, a modest tip is customary, and much appreciated. Some restaurants add a 10% service charge to the bill, and some lodges or camps have a sensible tipping facility at the reception desk which is shared among all staff. Please do NOT tip if your service has been bad. It will be more helpful to the future of tourism if you politely inform the management.

SOUVENIRS & CRAFTS

You will find an abundance of up-market boutiques and more informal craft stalls selling curios, souvenirs, carvings and other artefacts to suit every pocket in and around Victoria Falls.  Quality and prices vary.  The trick is to find something unique and hand-crafted at a fair price, that will be a lasting reminder of your trip.  

Vendors plying their wares at the side of the road or along pathways towards the Falls themselves can be a bit over-zealous.  If you are not interested in their wares, be courteously firm and move swiftly on.  Be aware that if you show interest, you may be swamped with a bewildering choice of even more products and more over-zealous salespeople.  It is probably best to make purchases in the more formal atmosphere of one of the shopping "villages" in Victoria Falls town or the central craft market specially designed for such a purpose.

Be wary of informal currency-exchangers on the streets or of vendors selling large-denomination notes of the old Zimbabwe dollar currency as "curios".  You may find that you become a victim of extortion or have paid over the odds for something worthless.

Kariba town has a more informal system of craft-sellers who display their wares along the main road and at various visitor spots including on top of the town's highest hill, The Heights: 

and at the Dam Wall Observation Point.

In the Zambezi valley, crafts are more difficult to find unless your lodge or camp has some arrangement with a local community.  In Binga, at the western end of Lake Kariba, there is a thriving co-operative crafts industry (ask locally).

Bargaining is standard. A high price will be demanded at first. Some negotiation is expected, but be fair. Many craftspeople are skilled and deserve a fair price for their handiwork. Remember, their cost of living in Zimbabwe is now comparable with the rest of the world.

ICE

Cold drinks are a must in the Zambezi Valley. If you are self-catering, ice for your coolbox can be bought in blocks from the larger garages and supermarkets and from most of the harbours in Kariba. Cuts in electricity supplies make ice availability a bit erratic in some smaller towns, so it is advisable to collect ice in Harare or Kariba at the start of your journey, if you are going straight through into the remote Zambezi Valley.

FISHING WORMS

No fisherman can embark on a trip to Lake Kariba or the Zambezi River without a box full of fishing worms for those delectable bream! There are side-of-the-road worm sellers all along the main road between Harare and Karoi, en route to the Zambezi, the most enterprising being those selling "Anaconda Worms" just south of the town of Banket.

Prices are negotiable and bargaining is standard. Make sure you keep your precious worms regularly watered, fed with vegetable peelings and kept cool out of the hot sun. If you don't have a smart wooden bait-box, get the kids to make one out of a cardboard shoebox! It will be just as effective. Reinforce the bottom with a layer of corrugated cardboard from a supermarket box and punch some small breathe-holes in the lid. HAPPY FISHING!

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