Visitors to Vic Falls in recent years have been used to very slim pickings on the grocery front - at the height of the economic crisis in 2008/09, things were so bad that most of the hotels and lodges were actually doing their grocery shopping in Botswana!
The good news is that a new TM opened in Vic Falls in March 2010. It is brand spanking new supermarket, with a good range of food, drink, toiletries and household goods and is a must for self catering travellers looking to stock up (as well as those just looking for affordable snacks or drinks).
What to buy: Sadly the stock appears to be almost exclusively sourced from South Africa, which is good for quality, but reflects the fact that many of the iconic Rhodesian/Zimbabwean brands seem to have bitten the dust (possibly due to farm seizures or the farmers simply retiring). However, I was ecstatic to find that tinned Colcom ham is still available (US$4.50 for a 1kg tin) - for anyone who has not yet experienced this delicacy, then you have a delight ahead of you!
The increasing numbers of groceries in Jays Spar supermarket is a sign of better times to come. The situation in Zimbabwe is presumable better now than in 2008. I have red about stores in Victoria Falls without groceries, and believe the pictures here will improve the reputation.
Curio Market is the local Craft Village in Victoria Falls. The building is dilapidated with flat corrugated roof. Guided tours to the Curio Market can be booket at some hotels. But it's a waste of money to go there on a guided tour when you can go there at anytime.
Note that handcrafted items can be bought in the streets by street sellers. The prices in the Curio Market are higher than on the street. The reason for that is because they pay a rent to have a stall in the market. The choice is yours if you want the cheapest price in the street or want a safe trade in the market.
What to buy: You can buy masks handcrafted from wood or animal bones. Batik Paintings and wall hangings, tribal African jewelry like necklase, bracelets and pendants.
What to pay: Remember to bargain, and the price will be very cheap.
The street sellers in Victoria falls are young men, mostly without any other work. They sell "flimflams" and Zimbabwe dollar as souvenirs. In some cases they fool tourists to exchange worthless money. The street sellers sponges on the markets, and sell the same handcrafted items to a cheaper price. The police try to chase them away. But they are parasitic and won't give up.
At the beginning I thought they were annoying. They didn't take no for an answer. They hassled and followed me all the way. But after I while I got better contact with one of them. They can really fix everything you ask for. Like cheap guided tours, find wild animals, snakes, give insider tips and find party places for locals.
They have nick-names. Ask for Christopher Colombus in the town. Or Mr.Jacaranda from the rainforrest and Mr.Discount in front of the market near the main entrance of Victoria Falls.
What to buy: Handcrafted items, "flimflams" and Zimbabwe dollar.
It's a small market with shopping stalls right before the main entrance of Victoria Falls. This market can offer the same handcrafts like Curio Market, but in smaller scale. The stalls are inside a rectangular African cottage.
Handcrafted items can be bought in the streets by street sellers. The street sellers sponges on the markets, and the police try to chase them away. But they are parasitic and won't give up.
What to buy: You can buy masks handcrafted from wood or animal bones. Batik Paintings and wall hangings, tribal African jewelry like necklase, bracelets and pendants. And of course "Victoria Falls this and that" ;-)
What to pay: The traders pay a rent to have their stall right outside the main entrance to the falls. And prices will be higher here. The choice is yours if you want the cheapest price in the street or want a safe trade in the market. Remember to bargain, and the price will be cheap anyway.
Victoria Falls Pharmacy is in the town centre. It's apparently a pharmacy with OK assortment to be a poor African country.
What to buy: You need prescription for medicines. I bought moisture cream and suntan lotion, and both were maybe the worst brand I have tried. I didn't see imported items in the pharmacy. I strongly recommend to bring your own.
What to buy: Zimbabwe dollar is no longer the currency in Zimbabwe, so it doesn't matter if you buy it on the streets as a souvenir. It was forbidden before.... The Zimbabwe dollar are in hundred trillion notes. Most people have heard of the economic mismanagement in Zimbabwe and the inflation. The currency is now USD. I bought some notes for fun. Paid 5 USD for the notes on the picture.
A 7eleven store in the town centre was, as far as I could see, the only place in Victoria Falls where you could buy groceries in evenings and week-ends.
What to buy: Some food, soft drinks, chocolate and biscuits. The assortment was not too good.
Do try and visit this market. Although every shop owner wants you to buy from them, first take a good look around before engaging in bargaining for anything. The market here offers a very good variety of goods, like wood carved animals, masks, other wood products, some local jewellery etc.
Prices vary a lot and to bargain very hard to get to the price you are comfortable paying.
The market is located on the eastern end of the town.
What to buy: Wood Carved Animals
What to pay: You have to bargain very hard!
There are many craft shops and markets all over town. The SPAR is the only supermarket. There are many empty shops which closed down.
Local craft are mainly wood carved animals and soapstone sculptures, but if you look around a bit, you will find a bigger variety of locally made crafts.
There is a CD shop in the main road, as well as a shop selling locally made clothing (leisure wear).
What to buy: Arts and Crafts
With the complete collapse of the Zimbabwe economy through incompetence – Coca Cola has all but disappeared. You can find some inferior local brands of soda. Bizarrely you can find and buy ice cold Coca Cola just inside the entrance of the Victoria Falls National Park. Even better is that it is cheaper than the inferior stuff in other shops! The really nice guy who runs this place gets his supplies from just over the border in Zambia. It was so good on a very hot day I had 3.
This group of corrugated tin shops in a U shape is to your left off the main road just past the train tracks if you are heading from the Airport to the Falls. (See Specific Directions below). This market has everything you want and they will find it if you need it. I got a Noah's Ark carved from Teak wood that is about 2 feet 2 inches long for $35 US. It did not come with the animals but they had plenty for purchase. We bargained them down form $120 US. They asked us for $10 for a little musical toy that they gave us for $2 US (Still a bit high in my book). They are hard bargainers but smile and shake your hand after completing a bargain.
I also acquired a Kudu Horn Shofar that they found and made for me and took to my lodging place since it had to be finished. I paid $45 US for the horn--BTW US Dept of Fish and Wildlife said Kudu is not endangered or protected so I was okay. USDA only cares that the product is finished--that is why I asked the person I purchased it from to sand it and coat it. I did not pay for it until it was dropped off since I had no guarantee that I would ever receive it.
They seemed to prefer South African Rand to US Dollars but wanted to say that there are only 6 rand to the US Dollar since I paid some in Rand and some in US Dollars--I told them no--that 6 rand to the Dollar was last years exchange rate and that it is currently 7.19 rand or so to the dollar.
Coming from Victoria Falls airport you pass Wimpy's Restaurant on the left in Vic Falls and then cross train tracks and there is a strip mall on your left with a phone card shop and the ILALA Lodge at the far end. At the beginning of the strip mall there is an entrance/little access road that leads you to this market behind the strip mall--you follow the little access road as it winds behind the strip mall and curves to the left and then you will see the U shaped tin roofed shanty market on your right
What to buy: They will make any wood item you want--if you bring a picture, they will carve it and deliver it. They even found my kudu horn. I bought a creche set, carved bread baskets, beaded necklaces, etc. Anything wood--they can make if you want more than the carved animals, the drums, the other wood items like masks, etc.
What to pay: On average, I paid 20-35% of their initial asking prices--just because you might pay more for the item in the USA doesn't mean it would cost anywhere near that price in Zimbabwe.
If you want to buy little knick knacks or inexpensive souvenirs, there are plenty of places to buy from, but a lot of them are very overpriced. I found one shop in particular that had very fair prices and a fairly good selection. Creations. If you are walking away from the Falls, it is on the left hand side right after you cross the railroad tracks.
Wooden carvings are sold alongside the road "everywhere" in Zimbabwe. In Victoria Falls there is an outdoor market which makes it easy to compare the work of several craftsmen. The quality varies, in fact some of the work we saw along the road was much better than much of what we found at this market. It seems like the high demand in a touristy place like Vicfalls tempts the craftsmen to deliver scamped work. But take a good look, you can pick up a good bargain!
What to buy: Carved animals of hard wood or soapstone.
What to pay: From a couple of USD and up. I was ashamed to bargain, since the asking price was very low compared to what I would have paid back home. But bargaining is the system, you are expected to do so.
I love shopping on the road side stands. You can find the coolest stuff at a very low price.
What to buy: The people are excellent wood craftsman around the Victoria Falls area.
They make very intricate wood carved baskets that are beautiful. This is the only place that I have seen such skill in this type of craft.
What to pay: They start high if they know you are a tourist. Expect to pay between 1/2 or 1/3 of their asking price.