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Although the information below applies to Zimbabwe as a whole, it is more focused on what is happening in Victoria Falls. Centres like Harare and Bulawayo will have certain differences because they are not as forex based.
Zimbabwe Currency Update
23rd December 2019
This page is as accurate as possible, given the difficult circumstances. We will update it as changes take place.
As of 24th June 2019 the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe issued a new monetary policy, which has created some confusion. Although there are still some grey areas and there inevitably will be more changes (hopefully) as the policy is fully implemented, we have slightly better clarity now on how it works.
I have tried below to detail the major points and the ramifications this has on tourists coming to Zimbabwe, from my experience here on the ground. It's quite confusing, haphazard and fluid at the moment.
• This is exactly the same as almost every other country in the world. The USA uses the US$, Britain uses the Pound, South Africa uses the ZAR etc.
• When you are in one of these countries, prices displayed are in their own currency and if you are buying something you go to a bank or bureau de change and exchange your home currency for the visiting country's currency and pay in cash. Or you use your credit/debit card and then your card provider automatically does the exchange for you at the prevailing exchange rate on the day. Your credit card statement will reflect the debit amount in your home currency.
• Now where Zimbabwe presently differs to the above, is that there are very few Zimbabwe Dollars in physical cash in circulation. So you cannot just go into a bank and exchange as much as you like of your home currency for Zimbabwe dollars. Another big difference is that the exchange rate is not stable and the ZWL is also not yet recognised, by the rest of the world as an official currency, which makes paying for anything with a foreign card unclear.
So what does all this mean to you on the ground and how do you cope.
• Shops are obliged to display prices in Zimbabwe Dollars (ZWL) countrywide.
• The approximate interbank exchange rate on the day of writing is US$1 to ZWL$23. You can see the up-to-date exchange rate on this website Zimbabwe market watch - Look for the USD/ZWL$ (interbank) rate
• Therefore you divide the displayed ZWL prices by the prevailing exchange rate to get the US$ equivalent.
• When you use your foreign credit/debit card which you are allowed to do, your card will be debited with the foreign currency equivalent. In some places you can still pay with US$ cash - I will cover these below.
• Please note that it is completely legal to carry foreign cash that you have brought in with you.
• Small amounts of Zimbabwe Dollars ZWL (Bond Notes) are available from a very few banks, definitely not all. Limited to US$50 equivalent per person per day.
• ZWL (bond notes) and foreign cash are exchanged on the streets. This is NOT advisable, as it is illegal and creates the problems that got the economy into this mess in the first place.
• ATMs and Banks do NOT have any US$ or foreign cash. You MUST bring it with you.
Different rules apply to different sectors in the market.
• Supermarkets, and all general trading stores. Priced in ZWL - can be paid for using foreign credit/debit card or ZWL cash or ZWL credit /debit card - NO foreign cash. At the checkout counter, state you are paying with a foreign card and they will tell you what the exchange rate of the day is and how much US$ you will be charged.
• Garages - Priced in ZWL - paid for using ZWL cash or ZWL credit /debit card - NO foreign cash. Theoretically no foreign cards either but I did find one garage that would accept foreign cards. As ZWL cash is not readily available and visitors don't have ZWL cards, I would advise speaking to the management and they should be able to "Make a Plan" (as we say in Zimbabwe) for you.
• Restaurants - In Victoria Falls (not other centres) Prices displayed in US$ and can be paid for using foreign cards and foreign cash.
• Hotel accommodation and activities - These are still all currently priced in US$ and can be paid for using foreign cards or US$ cash.
• Taxis - Priced in US$ - paid for with US$ cash or ZWL cash equivalent.
A lot to take in - So in brief, as a tourist visiting Zimbabwe:
• Bring with you a foreign credit/debit card (MasterCard and Visa are best, not American Express), with these you can pay for most things.
• Book and pay for accommodation and activities in advance, to save any hassles on the ground.
If you do these, you will not have any problems.
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Money/ Helicopter flights
10 Trillion notes
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What denominations of US currency are best to bring
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How much USD to bring
where do you go to get your forign credit/debit card?
How much US currency am i allowed to bring in to Zimbabwe and leave.
How can I buy my train ticket from Bulawayo to Victoria Falls
Paying for hotels in local currency.
*Please Note* The information below is now outdated and no longer applies it is kept here merely as a record. The information above this line is current.
24 June 2019
As of 24th June the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe has issued a new monetary policy. The full details and implications are not yet completely clear, so it is pointless yet for me to update this page. Suffice to say that the information below is outdated and no longer correct.
The immediate implications for a foreign tourist are nil. Nothing has changed. You can still book and pay for your holiday in US$. When you arrive in Zimbabwe you can still use the US$ cash that you have brought with you. You can still use your credit cards. Prices at restaurants are still currently in US$.
Changes as they happen will be reported here.
10 June 2019
The money situation in Zimbabwe has become very confusing, so I thought I would try and explain it as best I can, so foreign tourists visiting centres like Victoria Falls don’t get caught out. The situation is fluid so we will try to keep this page updated as and when changes happen.
Zimbabwe has two main currencies. The US$ and our local currency which is referred to as a RTGS$ which is Bond notes and coins or local currency transfers. Currently the official exchange rate between the two is 1:5.8 but in reality the rate is around US$1 to RTGS$8.50 or more and this is where the big problems and confusion lie.
If you are staying at a Hotel; food, drinks and shop purchases are most likely priced in US$ – no problem, that is quite clear and easy. But if you go out to a restaurant the prices could be in US$ or RTGS$. In Victoria Falls it will mostly be US$, in Harare it will mostly be in RTGS$ - so it’s important that you ask and are clear.
If the menu is priced in RTGS$ it will appear very expensive, but if you are paying with a foreign card or US$ cash you will get a discount. For example a Burger might be on the menu at $30 which is exorbitant but with a 50% discount for forex it is $15 which is a reasonable price.
Main thing is to be aware of these disparities and confirm with the restaurant.
If you are buying curios from shops or the market you need to ask whether it is a US$ or a Bond price. Because Victoria Falls is a tourist town most prices will be in US$, but in the capital Harare most shops still price in local RTGS$ at the inflated amount.
Some shops in Victoria Falls are hybrids where you have prices in both US$ and RTGS$. The US$ prices are for imported products and the RTGS$ for locally produced products. Again rather confusing unless you are aware of it, if in doubt ask.
Most tourists don’t need to go to the supermarket as they have everything they need at their hotel or restaurant but if you are self-catering, then you NEED to READ this. The prices in the large supermarkets are in RTGS$ Bond, so essentially three or more times higher than what they should be in US$.
If you are paying with a foreign card or even US$ cash, the amount does NOT change. There is no discount or two tier pricing system in this instance. For example, a standard bottle of wine on the supermarket shelf is priced at $96. This of course is a ludicrous price in US$ but its value is derived from the parallel market rate of 8 to 1, meaning the bottle really costs US$12.
But if you swipe your foreign card, US$96 is going to be debited from your account, making it a very expensive bottle of wine. The one solution to this currently, is for you to trade your foreign currency with a local Zimbabwean for Bond notes. At present you will get anywhere between 5.5 to 5.8 to 1, then take these notes into the supermarket and buy your goods.
Another solution is to find the smaller shops and liquor stores who price in and accept US$.
Petrol prices have increased for a second time this year from RTGS$3.41 to RTGS$5.8. The US$ price has gone up to US$1.48.
So if you are purchasing fuel with a foreign card or cash you MUST ensure that you are charged the US$ price of +/- US$1.48, otherwise you will pay US$5.8, which would make it the most expensive fuel in the world.
Fuel supply is still a bit erratic, so the above only applies when you can get it.
Victoria Falls Activities for internationals are all priced in US$ and have not changed much for several years now.
I hope that makes some sense in this bizarre situation we find ourselves in. It can’t stay like this forever and the sooner the currency situation is resolved the sooner our economy can get back on track, but at the moment it’s complicated.
End of Update
Zimbabwe Money Matters
As a nation Zimbabwe is one of the poorest countries in the world, the economy is in tatters and basically the country is bankrupt but in tourist centres like Victoria Falls, you are not like to be aware of this. It looks like boom town, which in effect it is as tourism is flourishing. However it is critical that you are aware of some important factors detailed below that will ensure that you don't have any problems when visiting.
The Zimbabwe Dollar
The US dollar is now the official currency of Zimbabwe. However there is also a local currency, known as a Bond Note or Zollar, in a local bank account it is called RTGS. Bond notes can be used for some purchases in Zimbabwe but are worthless outside the country. So if you are given a bond note as change make sure you spend it whilst in the country.
Credit CardsAlmost all hotels, shops, restaurants and activity operators now accepts credits cards; MasterCard and Visa only - NOT American Express. However as with everywhere occasionally a card machine won't work so it's always best to have a reserve of cash in these instances.
Best advice is to book and pay for as much as you can in advance so that you don’t have any problems whilst here.
Entry Visas at the ports of entry can be paid for by card but again occasionally the machine or your card won't go through so a reserve is advisable. The exact same applies to entrance fees for the Victoria Falls rainforest.
Cash and ATM machinesAll banks have ATM machines however there is a CRITICAL shortage of hard cash within the country. You must bring enough cash with you, as there is none available in the ATM's.
You will need cash for National Park fees if you are doing any activities like helicopter flights, sunset cruises, rafting, game drives etc please check with your booking agent for details. Also for curio purchases, or any purchases of a small amount that don’t warrant a credit card fee transaction.
Plus you must have a cash reserve for when a credit card transaction fails as mentioned in the credit card section above.
Are NOT accepted.
South African Rand, Sterling, Euro and Botswana Pula
You can pay for things in Sterling, Euro, Rand or Pula but some places when converting to US$ will give you shocking exchange rates. So it is always best to have US$ cash.
Overall Advice:** BE AWARE OF THE DISPARITY BETWEEN THE US$ AND THE LOCAL BOND NOTE**
** VISA AND MASTERCARD WIDELY ACCEPTED**
** BRING ENOUGH CASH RESERVE WITH YOU **
** DON’T RELY ON ATM MACHINES TO WITHDRAW CASH **
** DO NOT USE TRAVELLERS CHEQUES**
** PAY FOR ACCOMMODATION AND ACTIVITIES BEFORE YOU GO **
* Carry mostly small denominations of currency. This makes paying for small purchases like curios easier, as change is not always available.
20th January 2009
Zimbabwe Currency In Brief
Zimbabwe’s economy as you probably already know is rated as the worst in the world, with inflation in the millions of percent. It is extremely difficult for anyone from a stable economy to actually comprehend the scale of this.
So before travelling it is absolutely vital that you have a clear understanding of how things work. My best rule of advice here is **Don't deal in Zimbabwe Money**, that way you avoid the risk of getting conned at the wrong exchange rate.
The rate of exchange changes vastly every day, often doubling in one day. It is impossible to keep up.
Almost everything is now priced in US Dollars, but make sure that you carry enough small denominations. Rand, Pula and Euros are readily accepted at the relevant exchange rate to the USD. There are no US cents so items are priced $1, $2, $3, $10 etc
**Don’t rely on Credit Cards** most places won’t accept them and you cannot access cash via ATM machines or the Banks. Zimbabwe Dollar Credit card transactions will be billed to you at the official rate which will end up making your holiday an extremely expensive one.
** TAKE CASH WITH YOU ** US$-Rand-Pula-Euros are readily accepted
Zimbabwe Currency in Detail. - *Please Note* The information below is now outdated and no longer applies it is kept here merely as a record.
* Most organisations have now bought a US Dollar Licence from the Zimbabwe government. This allows them to legally trade in US Dollars (not sure that the US government is happy with this) but anyway this is why prices are now allowed to be displayed and charged in USD
* There are two exchange rates in Zimbabwe. The official and the black market rate. The differential between these is sometimes vast. The government controls the official rate. The black market rate is the rate used on the streets and is the more realistic value of the Zimbabwe currency.
* It is illegal to exchange money on the black market and if you get caught you could face criminal charges. We do not condone this exchanging of money but the official rate is so often out of touch that paying in this way would make things too expensive. That is why I suggest avoiding exchanging money and pay for everything in international currency.
* You will be approached many times over by local traders on the streets to exchange into Zimbabwe dollars. Be extremely cautious and only do very small amounts at a time, these guys are very streetwise and the chances are that unless you are completely savvy with the current rate you will get taken for a ride. They also have numerous tricks such as fake notes stuck in the middle of a bundle notes, or asking if they can recount the bundle, then they exchange it for another bundle. Be warned!!!
* If you are ever quoted a price in Zimbabwe currency make sure that they relate that back to you in a currency you can understand. Dealing in billions of dollars is too mind boggling for most people.
* MasterCard does not operate in Zimbabwe and Visa is set to withdraw. Some hotels do have this facility; however it is important to check with them first. As a foreigner you will be billed in international currency so using your card in this instance would be fine. Using a credit card for an item priced in Zimbabwe currency however will be converted back to hard currency at the official rate, which means that this will cost you a lot of money.
* Try a much as you can to pay for your accommodation and activities in advance through your booking agent. If you want to pay on arrival, a good idea is Traveller Cheques these will be accepted by all the major hotels. Drinks and meals at your hotel will be charged in international currency and will need to be settled on departure so again have cash or travellers cheques.
* Paying for everything in advance is not always possible, there might be some activities that you’re not sure whether you want to do at this stage. So make sure you take enough international cash with you. I have seen too many disappointed people who have come all this way and then can’t do what they want because they can’t pay for it. Remember no ATMs and no Banks just yet.
* Carry mostly small denominations of currency. This makes paying for restaurant bills and curios easier. If you only have large denominations your change will often be given to you in Zimbabwe dollars, you don’t want this. Carry larger denominations only for activities and accommodation that are not booked and paid for in advance.
These are only guide lines which we will endeavour to keep up to date as possible, but we cannot be held responsible for any changes. If you have any queries please send us a contact us form for the latest update on the Zimbabwe currency situation. Zimbabwe currency
Please read these reviews from travellers who have just been to Victoria Falls.
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