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 amongst landscaped gardens on the banks of the Zambezi River. Despite being a modern build, the hotel has an old-world, colonial style to it. Its location, with the Victoria Falls just 15 minutes’ walk away, is good, and during periods of high water, you can often see the spray of the Falls from the hotel grounds.
The Royal Livingstone shares its sprawling property with its slightly larger sister hotel, the three-star Avani Victoria Falls Resort. A shuttle operates between the two at regular intervals during the day, or it's a straightforward ten-minute walk.
The Royal Livingstone is a large, hotel with 173 rooms and suites decorated in a 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. The rooms 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 Avani Victoria Falls (formerly the Zambezi Sun), which offers a greater choice of restaurants and more informal dining.
The grounds of the Royal Livingstone are particularly lovely. In addition to being home to a few wandering zebra and giraffe, the manicured lawns next to the river make a perfect setting for the large swimming pool and surrounding sunloungers, as well as the Royal Spa’s row of white massage tents stretched along the riverbank. A sundeck built on stilts over the Zambezi makes a pleasant spot to enjoy a drink between 10.30am and 7.00pm, and when the spray from the Falls is visible (usually between December and July), the views are spectacular. The deck is a very popular spot for sundowners, so you may want to reserve a spot at reception (at the Royal Livingstone or Avani) if you fancy an evening cocktail here.
For the more active, the Royal Livingstone has a well-equipped, air-conditioned gym located quietly at the back of the hotel. 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 Avani, 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.
The Royal Livingstone is a beautiful hotel, with an old-world attention to detail and service. Despite its colonial design, though, it’s worth remembering that the hotel was constructed in 2001, and has many modern design elements to it. Although this works well for the most part, these different characteristics can sometimes clash. For example, the porters all wear pith helmets, but often drive you to your room in an electric buggy, which can spoil the ‘historical’ feeling of the property. If you are looking for a luxury hotel in the Victoria Falls area, but would prefer a property with a more authentic history, then it would be well worth looking at the Victoria Falls Hotel on the Zimbabwe side of the Falls.
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 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, or at least pop over for afternoon tea.
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
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: £25-30
Drinks included: No. Water from the taps is drinkable, and complimentary bottled water is supplied in the rooms.
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 two 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
Power supply notes: The property has a back-up generator that is automatically switched on during power outages.
Communications: The hotel has good communication facilities, including a telephone and WiFi in all the rooms. The first 250MB of data is free, and extra data can be paid for.
TV & radio: There are televisions in all the rooms, with limited satellite channels.
Water supply: Mains
Water supply notes: The water from the taps is from the main supply and is drinkable. However, there is also complimentary bottled water in the minibar of each room.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: The nearest doctor is in Livingstone, about 25 minutes’ drive away.
Dangerous animals: Moderate 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.
Fire safety: Fire extinguishers are dotted around the hotel, and there are well-demarcated fire assembly points in the area too.
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.