Essentials in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

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Essentials

Money Matters

Zimbabwe's currency used to be the Zimbabwe dollar, but now foreign currency is the only acceptable method of payment. Carry U.S. dollars in small denominations and stick to U.S. dollars for all activity payments to Zimbabwe-based operators (all activities are quoted in U.S. dollars). Credit card facilities aren't readily available and MasterCard can only be used across the border in Zambia. (You'll also find Western Union banks in Victoria Falls and Livingstone, should you need to do cash transfers.)

Passports and Visas

It's possible to buy point-of-entry visas for Zimbabwe for US$30 for a single entry. If you leave Zimbabwe for more than 24 hours, you'll need to buy another to reenter (unless you bought a double-entry visa for US$45). Visas can be purchased from a Zimbabwean embassy before departure (application for multiple-entry visas can only be lodged here), but it'll almost certainly be more trouble and generally cost more than buying them at the border.

Safety and Precautions

The political situation in Zimbabwe is currently fairly stable, but the damage from the lengthy dictatorship and internal strife is still very apparent. Prices have stabilized and basic goods have reappeared on the shelves, but the tourist capital of Victoria Falls has by no means regained its status as a prime international destination. All the activities, shopping, and dining options on offer on the Zimbabwean side can also be enjoyed across the border in Zambia—without any of the uncertainty and potential for sudden political and economical upheavals that could result in cancellations or threats to visitors' safety. The Victoria Falls town and tourism industry has managed to build itself up in a remarkably short time. The political situation is still not 100% resolved, but for now, Zimbabwean lodges offer good value and service.

MARS (Medical Air Rescue Services) is on standby for all emergencies. Dr. Nyoni is a trauma specialist and operates a hospital opposite the Shoestring Lodge. Go to Victoria Falls Pharmacy for prescriptions.

Male homosexuality is illegal in Zimbabwe—female homosexuality isn't mentioned in law—and same-sex relationships receive no recognition. Attitudes are improving, but it's advisable to be extremely circumspect.

It's always a good idea to leave ample space in your luggage for common sense when traveling to Victoria Falls. Wild animals abound throughout this area (even in the center of town) and must be given a lot of physical space and respect. You must also remember that Zimbabwe is relatively poor. There are tourism police, but opportunistic thieving still happens occasionally. Although crime in this area is generally nonviolent, losing your money, belongings, or passport will result in spending the remainder of your trip with various officials in stuffy, badly decorated offices instead of sitting back on the deck of your sunset cruise with drink in hand.

As for the water, it's always advisable to drink bottled water. Should you develop any stomach upset, be sure to contact a physician, especially if you're running a fever, in order to rule out malaria or a communicable disease. Do remember to mention your visit to a malaria area to your doctor in the event of illness within a year of leaving Africa.

Embassies

U.S. Embassy (172 Herbert Chitepo Ave., Box 4010, Harare. 04/25–0593. harare.usembassy.gov.)

Emergency Services

MARS (West Dr., opposite Shoestring, Victoria Falls. 013/4–4646. www.mars.co.zw.)

Police (013/4–4206 or 013/4–4681.)

Telephone

The country code for Zimbabwe is 263. When dialing from abroad, drop the initial 0 from local area codes. Ask a hotel or restaurant manager for exact telephone numbers and costs, should you wish to make any telephone calls from within Zimbabwe.

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