I thought I’d share a little more about my trip to Zimbabwe last weekend, and talk about more practical things… other than just pretty photos of flowers and the veld ;)… and include a few things about what I’ve learnt over the last few trips to do weddings in the country. I’m talking about Harare here, and no other part of Zimbabwe because I haven’t travelled anywhere else 😉
First up, I have to show you the money!
So you know that Zimbabwe no longer uses their own currency right? They use the US dollar. Sounds easy. Sounds fantastic as a tourist to the country because you know you won’t have a problem getting US dollars from the bank. In practice however there are a few things you need to consider…
1. Zimbabwe may have got the US dollar notes in the deal, but they didn’t get cents. So… if you buy something (like a doughnut) for $0.50 they can’t give you US change, instead you get South African money. So for $0.50 change, you’ll get a R5 coin. Quite easy for a South African to understand, but that cannot be easy for another country’s resident to understand.
2. The quality of notes, especially the lower denominations, are quite something to behold. Here’s a photo for you 😉 It’s not only the way that they look that’s a little appalling, it’s the way they feel. $1 bills are generally soft to touch, are torn, and sometimes even damp when you get them. That’s right, damp! LOL! When I showed the Forex team at work they actually couldn’t believe their eyes. On some bills you have to squint to see the value. In a normal country, the banks would remove these from circulation, but Zimbabwe cannot replace them with new notes because they don’t have them… oh and because most people don’t use banks because of the exhorbitant fee structures these notes will probably never even get to a bank anyway!
3. And if you think you can avoid this by using a credit/debit card instead, you’re sadly mistaken! I made that mistake when I went there the first time. VISA and Master Card are generally not accepted. Only cash is accepted. In fact, I did notice a MasterCard billboard along a road this time, so maybe it’s starting to change, but the only place I’ve found that accepts credit card is the hotel I stayed in this time… and only for accommodation… I had to pay cash for breakfast. So remember, if you’re planning a trip, make sure you get cash to take with you… in small denominations mind you, not big or else you’ll just get a wad of dirty $5 and $1 bills as change to fill up your wallet.
So that’s my story about the money… now what about spending it…
For this trip, I stayed in the Holiday Inn in Harare. It’s clean, the rooms are great and the service is brilliant. Loved the pool area with the bar. The inside bar was a lifesaver when we got back after the long wedding and they made an effort to find us coffee. Oh and LOVED the WiFi access!! My only gripe… was the price of breakfast! Holy crap!! It was $26 per person… and although it was a buffet it certainly wasn’t worth that kind of money. I suppose after writing this post, I’m going to get emails from the company asking me why I say that, so I’d better elaborate.
For $26 I’d expect…
… not just mixed fruit jam to put on a croissant and scone… I’d expect honey and a variety of jams and even marmalade
… freshly made scrambled eggs not some that have been in a dish for a few hours. The ability to make an omelette or a poached egg… not just a few pre-cooked hard fried eggs… although the chef did make me a soft fried egg when I asked him to make it.
I can’t think of more right now, I should’ve taken photos right… I did like the bacon though 😉 I was disappointed basically… especially considering the price we paid.
Needless to say, we didn’t do that on Sunday morning. We did want to try and get a cab and go to a coffee shop for breakfast, but after considering the time it would take to get there, and then eating, we would never have gotten back to the hotel before we had to check out. The thing is, most of Harare shuts down on a Sunday, so the closest coffee shop that was nice, was in Avondale… the place was recommended to us by my aunt as well as by one of the guests at the wedding, so it probably was very good! Hopefully we’ll get to eat there one day.
Instead, we walked across the road to a 24 hour take-away bakery called Baker’s Inn and we had a doughnut for $0.50 and a joghurt and and a juice! LOL! Not exactly my favourite kind of breakfast, but there was NO WAY I was going to spend that kind of money again! Loved the concept of the Baker’s Inn actually. I thought it was very clever to have a 24 bakery selling doughnuts and bread and rolls and rotisserie chicken next to a taxi rank!
I took the photo on Friday night, while crossing the road from the hotel to buy Nando’s! Again, settled on a South African known franchise… because the restaurants were too far away from the hotel!
My blog post was kind of sparked by the email I got yesterday telling me that my Twitter account has made it to the top 100 travel tweeters in South Africa… a list curated by TravelStart.