A few days ago I received an email from my friend, Victor Sibanda, who lives in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. There is so much bad news coming out of Zimbabwe these days that it surprised me to learn Victor has started his own tour hosting business. I was encouraged by his news; it indicates there is still some small sense of normalcy in this devastated country.
I met Victor last year when I backpacked around the world for six months. I spent about a month and a half in Africa and realized my childhood dream of going on safari. The other destination I had always dreamed of seeing was Victoria Falls, so when I planned my safari, I also booked a side trip to Zimbabwe.
All the arrangements had to be made prior to leaving the U.S. because the tour operators and hotels will no longer accept the local currency, as it is virtually worthless. Consider the following:
- The regime is surviving by printing money. The German firm Giesecke & Devrient holds the contract for printing Zimbabwe’s currency and they have been delivering bank notes at a rate of Z$170 trillion each week. Last month Giesecke & Devrient decided they would no longer print bank notes for Zimbabwe, bowing to pressure from the German government.
- John Robertson, a respected Zimbabwean economist, estimated inflation in July 2008 to be forty to fifty million percent.
- An egg costs $50 billion Zimbabwean dollars and withdrawals from ATM’s are limited to a maximum of Z$100, about the cost of a loaf of bread.
- On August 1, 2008, the government devalued the Zimbabwean dollar, making Z$10 billion worth ZW$1
- Shops can only cash checks if the customer writes double the amount, because the cost will go up by the time the check has cleared.
- Most credit card companies will instantly cancel any card used in Zimbabwe
At the time I booked and paid for my trip, the situation in Zim was not yet dangerous, but by the time I was scheduled to to visit, the situation had deteriorated. I contacted the company that had handled my reservations and asked their advice, explaining that I would rather lose my money than put my life at risk. The tour operator assured me Continue reading