Victoria Falls, the largest water fall in the world, is one of most iconic spots in all of Africa. The falls span across the Zimbabwe and Zambian borders. We visited in December of 2018 and here is our comprehensive guide to a Victoria Falls Visit.
Victoria Falls Visit: How Many Days to Stay?
As with most questions, the answer is “it depends.” If time is short and your only goal is to see Victoria Falls, it is possible to do this in one day. It requires 2-4 hours to explore the falls from each side (Zambia & Zimbabwe). Some do this through a day trip from Kasane, Botswana. Others opt to spend one to two night in Victoria Falls Zimbabwe or Livingstone, Zambia. The area is also known as an adventure sports capital. There are many tour operators that offer bungee jumping, zip lining, and white water rafting activities on or near the falls. We ended up staying two nights on the Zimbabwe side. Victoria Falls wasn’t quite our jam; it was too touristy for our taste. In retrospect we may have skipped this stop altogether or only stayed one night.
Where to Stay: Zimbabwe or Zambian Side?
Crossing the border is relatively easy. We did it on foot in less than an hour and without a guide. It is very possible to see Victoria Falls in both countries the same day regardless of where you stay. We chose to stay on the Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe side because our departure flight was the Victoria Falls Airport. Below are some other factors to consider when choosing which side to stay.
Quan standing on the bridge in both Zimbabwe and Zambia
Distance from Victoria Falls
On the Zimbabwe side, Victoria Falls is walking distance from the town. On the Zambia side, they are 10 km/6 miles from Livingstone the closest town to Victoria Falls. However most of the hotels on the Zimbabwe are spread out away from the town center. Most visitors take a taxi to visit Victoria Falls.
Victoria Falls Visit: Hotel Prices
Hotels are very expensive in Victoria Falls. We found that the rooms in Livingston were on average $20-30 less expensive per night. We stayed at Victoria Falls Backpackers Hostel because it was the cheapest option at $50/night and we HATED it. The rooms were dark, and the other guests were incredibly loud even at late hours of the night. As everyone has a different definition for “expensive” here is ours. On our around the world trip our average hotel cost is $25-30/night. When we pay $50 for a room it is a splurge and usually really nice accommodations. In Victoria Falls, our $50 room was one of the worst rooms we stayed during our whole trip.
Victoria Falls Visit: View of the Falls
We also chose the Zimbabwe side because we traveled during the dry season (December) and had read that Victoria Falls is very low on the Zambian side during dry season. The majority of the falls are on the Zimbabwe side. Inside the park there are paths that take you directly across from Victoria Falls. There is a nice bridge on the Zambia side that brings you very close to strong falls even during dry season.
Zimbabwe Cash Shortage
We traveled to the falls in December 2017. At this time, Zimbabwe had major cash issues that required advanced planning.
Zimbabwe’s currency is the most devalued currency in the world. People on the street were offering 1 billion Zimbabwe dollars for 1 US Dollar. The currency used in Victoria Falls is credit cards or US Dollars.
Beware: Do no withdraw cash in Zimbabwe, bring US Dollars including small change as well to pay for taxis and smaller purchases. If you don’t show up with money you will have difficulties. Most ATMS are out of cash and some are issuing bonds which can only be used in Zimbabwe.
Here’s a guide to planning how much cash you’ll need for you time in Zimbabwe:
- $50 for your visa
- $30 for entry to the Zimbabwe side of Victoria Falls
- $20 for entry to the Zambian side of the Victoria Falls
- Small bills for taxis
- We would recommend an additional $50 per person, per day (although you can likely get by on a lot less as most stores and restaurants take credit cards).
A tip to saving money: do not book taxis through the hotel, they take a large markup. We found a taxi driver named Pride, who became our Vic Falls Uber. We’d message him on WhatsApp and he would give us or arrange a ride on short notice anywhere in Victoria Falls for $3 USD. He drove us to the airport for $20 USD. This is compared to rates hotels charge of $5 around town and $30 to the airport. Pride’s Phone number on WhatsApp is +263 77 294 8507 just tell him you got his number from the Americans Jesse and Quan.
With our very reliable taxi driver Pride
Entering Zimbabwe for US citizens as well as from most other western countries requires a visa (Zambia does not). The Visa can be obtained at the port of entry. It’s $30 USD for a one time entry or $50 USD for multiple entries which is called the Kaza or Uni Visa. We would definitely recommend the Uni Visa in order to visit Zambia and renter Zimbabwe. You need to specifically ask for the Kaza or Uni Visa when you arrive or you will just be given the one time entry visa. We were able to pay for our visa with a credit card. However, we have heard that the credit card machine often doesn’t work and the only hard currency they will take is US Dollars.
While we appreciated the majesty of Victoria Falls, we will have to file this under our TLC “Don’t go chasing THIS waterfall.” The waterfalls are majestic, but the town is a bit stressful. You will get constantly approached by vendors asking “Do you want to be a billionaire.” We were not interested in the adventure sports offered despite the many vendors constantly asking us if we “like to bungee.” We do regret not booking the Livingston Island tour to swim on the lip of the waterfall. This books out months in advance, so do plan ahead! In retrospect we would most likely have skipped Victoria Falls visit.