Budget

Best Vacation Deals 2009

by Bob Payne

Zimbabwe

With hints of political and economic stabilization (one egg no longer costs as much as—no kidding, you can look it up—50 billion Zimbabwe dollars), now might be a good time to consider a visit to this African nation. True, it will still appeal most to travelers who appreciate the storytelling possibilities of discovering a restaurant that is out of everything or of having to explain yourself to an armed teenager at a roadblock. But the beauty of Zimbabwe, from the wildlife of Hwange National Park to the massive natural waterworks of Victoria Falls (pictured) will encourage more of us to become that kind of traveler. The irony is that in a land where there is almost no luxury, what luxury there is comes at a high price. So expect to pay plenty at Victoria Falls, though you can take comfort in the fact that the best accommodations are cheaper than across the Zambezi River in Zambia. Among the luxury hotels on the Zimbabwean side is the Victoria Falls Hotel, a favorite since Edwardian times and a still-bewitching grande dame that has had the face-lift necessary to keep her that way. With a four-days-for-three deal, rates start at $309 per night. The hotel's Livingstone Room restaurant has pretensions of Edwardian elegance, but more popular is the Mama Africa Eating House, with indoor and outdoor seating, local entertainment, and dishes from around Africa. An hour's drive away, but with a free shuttle to the falls, are the riverside suites of the Matetsi Private Game Reserve, where the viewing is especially good for elephant and antelope. The daily rate begins at $255 per person, which, without having to dress up in an animal suit yourself, is about as inexpensive as you'll find for a quality safari experience.

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Information may have changed since date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.

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