Royal Livingstone Hotel is located close to the Victoria Falls.
Royal Livingstone Hotel: Our full report
Opened in 2001, the five-star Royal Livingstone Hotel sits in landscaped gardens in Zambia, on the banks of the Zambezi River, just a 15-minute walk from the Victoria Falls. The spray from the Falls is often visible from the grounds of the hotel.
The Royal Livingstone shares its sprawling property with its slightly larger sister hotel, the three-star Zambezi Sun. A shuttle operates between the two at regular intervals during the day, or it’s a straightforward ten-minute walk.
The Royal Livingstone has a total of 173 rooms and suites decorated in the hotel’s Victorian colonial style. Housed over 17 two-storey buildings, they all have air conditioning, as well as a veranda or balcony facing the Zambezi River. They are divided into three categories:
- 169 ‘luxury’ rooms have either twin or king-size beds and are modest in size, but well appointed. You can expect the usual mod cons such as a hairdryer, minibar, safe, satellite TV and tea/coffee making station. The en-suite bathroom is compact, but has a separate bath and walk-in shower. Shower gel, soap and shampoo are provided as standard.
- Three junior suites each of which is about double the size of the ‘luxury’ rooms. Their amenities are similar, but they also have a dressing area and a separate lounge.
- The Presidential suite at the Royal Livingstone is about 30% larger again than the junior suites.
In contrast to the relatively small rooms, the Royal Livingstone’s formal lounge and bar are rather grand and spacious. Wing-backed chairs, plump couches and wrought-iron chandeliers feature here, while a piano affords the opportunity for occasional live music.
No less opulent is the Royal Livingstone’s smart dining room, with its à la carte menu. Guests may alternatively dine al fresco on the veranda, but be aware that prices are quite steep and you can expect to pay upwards of around US$15 (about £10) for a sandwich or salad. In the dining room, as in the bar, note that the dress code is ‘smart casual’. As an alternative, a ten-minute stroll (or short shuttle transfer) brings you to the neighbouring Zambezi Sun, which offers a greater choice of restaurants and more informal dining.
Interesting to note that when we last visited, the restaurant prices in the Royal Livingstone were demarcated in Zambian Kwatcha, and those at the Zambezi Sun were written simply in US dollars. The numbers were obviously much large in Kwatcha – but once converted there really wasn’t much difference!
The grounds of the Royal Livingstone are particularly lovely, and make a perfect setting for the large swimming pool and surrounding sunloungers. A sundeck built on stilts over the Zambezi River makes a pleasant spot to enjoy a drink between 10.30am and 7.00pm, and when the spray from the Falls is visible, the view from here is spectacular. We recommend that you get there early to secure your table for sunset, when it’s particularly popular.
The Royal Livingstone’s modern, well-equipped gym opened in June 2013, while those in search of pampering should make for the riverside spa, where treatments are carried out under billowing white canvas with views of the Zambezi. A small, but smart, well-stocked curio shop completes the picture.
Many of the numerous activities available at the Victoria Falls can be booked and paid for prior to your arrival at the Royal Livingstone, but there is also an activity desk at the hotel reception where these can be arranged locally and added to your bill. For most visitors, however, the Falls themselves are the greatest draw, with a 15-minute walk bringing you to a private entrance gate that is open between 6.00am and 6.00pm daily. Entrance to the Falls is included for guests staying at the Royal Livingstone, and you can visit as many times as you like. There are also three nature trails on the property, where you could well come across zebras, giraffe or even impala. They're quite used to people, but do keep a respectful distance as they're still wild animals.
Also on the property, just a few minutes from the Zambezi Sun, is the Falls Entertainment Centre. Here you'll find an informal à la carte restaurant, a small café, a few craft and souvenir shops, and another activity centre – which is a regular pick-up point for activities such as white-water rafting.
Our viewThe rooms at the Royal Livingstone Hotel are smaller than we’d expect for a five-star hotel of this price, but its grounds are really beautiful and its convenient location near the Victoria Falls is what you’re really paying for. If your style is less formal, you may prefer the hotel’s three-star sibling next door – though even if you stay there, we’d recommend that you eat dinner at the Royal Livingstone!
Ideal length of stay: Two or three nights is a typical stay at the Royal Livingstone, though the ideal depends on how much or how little you wish to do while here. For those who want to fit in a lot of activities and still allow a bit of time for rest and relaxation, four or five nights might be better.
Directions: There are daily flights into Livingstone Airport from Lusaka and Johannesburg, then it's around 25 minutes by road to the Royal Livingstone Hotel. Alternatively, transfer overland from Kasane in Botswana, which takes around 1½–2 hours.
Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer
Owner: Sun International Hotels
Food & drink
Usual board basis: B&B
Food quality: The restaurant at the Royal Livingstone is open daily for breakfast (7.00–10.30am), lunch (12.30– 2.30pm) and dinner (6.30–10.30pm). Note that advance reservations are often essential for dinner.
High tea is served in the formal lounge and adjacent ‘Travellers Bar’ between 3.00 and 5.00pm, with an assortment of teas, coffees, cakes and savoury treats.
Dining style: Individual Tables
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Drinks included: No
Further dining info: Room service is available.
Attitude towards children: Children of all ages may stay at the Royal Livingstone.
Property’s age restrictions: None
Special activities & services: Babysitting services are available at extra cost.
Equipment: Cots are available for children under 2 years old, but children older than this will need to have their own room (though interleading rooms are available).
Generally recommended for children: The Royal Livingstone has a formal, adult atmosphere, whereas its sister hotel next door, the Zambezi Sun, has a much more welcoming atmosphere and is really geared towards families with young children.
Notes: Be aware that this is a malarial area. The pool is unfenced and there is some wildlife – including baboons, monkeys, giraffes and zebras – on the property. Children need to be under parental supervision at all times.
Power supply: Mains Electricity
Communications: The hotel has good communication facilities, including WiFi in all the rooms, which is available to guests at extra cost. There are telephones in each of the rooms.
TV & radio: There are televisions in the rooms, with limited satellite channels.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: The nearest doctor is in Livingstone, about 25 minutes’ drive away.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: The grounds of the Royal Livingstone are surrounded by an electric fence and there is a gate guard on duty at all times.
Disabled access: In Place
Laundry facilities: Full Laundry Service - Extra Charge
Money: There is a safe in each room at the Royal Livingstone.
Accepted payment on location: MasterCard and Visa credit cards are accepted. Because of new currency rules introduced in 2013, cash payments may be made only in Zambian kwacha, but there are currency exchange facilities on the property.