Victoria Falls is not the widest waterfall in the world, it’s not the highest either, but as a combination of both, it’s the largest waterfall in the world. Located in Southern Africa on the border of two African countries, is it worth a trip? Should you go out of your way to see it? How easy is the Victoria Falls to visit? Is it safe? How long do you need? What else is there to do in the area?
The Victoria Falls is known as the World’s largest waterfall.
The falls are on the border of Zimbabwe and Zambia. Each of these countries have their own entrance and completely different view of the falls. There are two small tourist towns in each country on either side of the falls. On the Zimbabwean side the town is called Victoria Falls and on the Zambian side the town is called Livingstone. Both these towns have airports and basic necessities like grocery shops, restaurants and hotels.
Victoria Falls is located in Southern Africa on the border of 2 African countries
How to get to the Victoria Falls?
For 99% of people, you will have to take a flight into one of the towns on either side. The airports are quite small on either side and do not have many long haul flights, but there are many direct flights from a lot of the major regional cities in Southern Africa. (Lusaka, Johannesburg etc)
You could book flights and hotels by yourself, or organise a tour from Johannesburg with hotels, flights and transfers.
Which country do you go to?
I will recommend the Zambian side. Although you probably won’t have a problem on the Zimbabwean side, the issue is that the Zimbabwean currency is literally non-existent at the moment with the collapse of the Zimbabwean dollar. They use US Dollars as the form of payment, but it’s not as simple as that. The government issues bond notes for its citizens to use as currency at the moment. Do not accept those notes at all! They have zero value. On the bright side, there are lots of places on the Zimbabwean side that accept Visa and MasterCard, although I have come across people telling me that ATM’s on the Zimbabwean side are also not functioning or are out of cash at times.
On the Zambian side, the currency is the Kwacha, which is not a problem. There are ATM’s at the Livingstone airport and tons of different ATM options in the town. All payments are done in Kwacha as well. Do not pay in US Dollars for anything from souvenir shops etc on the Zambian side as it is a common scam to give you escalated figures in when you use US Dollars.
Livingstone is the town located on the Zambian side and Victoria Falls town is on the Zimbabwean side.
The Livingstone town is a bit further away from the falls compared to the Zimbabwean side.
Which side of the falls are better?
It’s a matter of opinion, although I feel the Zimbabwean side of the falls are much better, I would strongly advise that you to visit both the sides. The Zimbabwean side also has a much higher area to view the falls.
There’s a huge difference in the experience depending on what time of the year you visit. The falls has a dry and wet season. The wet season being peak around April, and the dry being peak around November.
The Zimbabwean side of the Victoria Falls
The Zambian side of the Victoria Falls
IMPORTANT: It would seem like common sense to want to see the falls when the water flow is the highest in the peak of the wet season, but this may NOT be the best idea. Because of the amount of water in the falls at that time, it makes it extremely difficult to see anything from most angles. There’s two reasons for this. The force of the water pounding on the bottom causes a huge spray that blurs out everything from most/all of the falls. Also even in the driest month, any form of wind will cause water from the falls to hit you and any camera equipment you have at certain times.
IMPORTANT: During the dry season, most of the falls on the Zambian side are dried up, so you won’t see much of the falls, except from a distance. This may sound off putting, but it comes with a huge benefit, the devil’s pool!
At times, even in the dry season, the sheer power of the waterfall makes it difficult to see anything. This is much worse when the flow of water is the most at the peak of the wet season.
The devils pool:
If you want to visit the world’s largest waterfall, why not swim on the edge of it as well? The devils pool is a pool on the very edge of the falls, accessible only in the dry season and from the Zambian side of the falls only.
Depends on the flow of water, if you are fortunate you will be able to swim right at the edge of the world’s largest waterfall.
How to do the Devils pool?
There are a few operators which sell tickets for the Devil’s pool. Either way, they all will leave from a hotel on the Zambian side of the falls, very close to the waterfall where you will be taken by boat to the Livingstone island. From there you will swim through fairly shallow water accompanied by your guide throughout the way to the Devil’s pool and back after you are done.
How do you get to each side of falls?
The Zambian side of the falls are located a bit further away from the town (Livingstone) compared to the Zimbabwean side, of which it is possible to walk from the town to the entrance of the falls. Check up on your specific Visa requirements, as some countries have a Visa on arrival system which has to be paid for at the entrance of each country.
This is how it works: This is the same from both sides, but I will use the Zambian side as an example because it’s the method that I prefer. Once you reach the falls area, a few hundred meters further is the Zambia border crossing, where you will stamp your passport out. After that there will be an area of roughly 1km of “no man’s land” of which the bridge is located. At the end of that is the Zimbabwe Victoria Falls border post, where you will stamp your passport into Zimbabwe. N.b: You will have to fill out an immigration form at the entry points for each of these countries regardless of your passport type. After that, you will be in Zimbabwe. About a hundred meters after the Zimbabwean border crossing, the entry point of the falls on the Zimbabwean side will be on your right.
The Zimbabwean side has a much wider area of the falls to view, and there is also a stretch of “no man’s land” between both the border posts which is an easy walking distance from each other.
What else is there to do in the area?
For those wanting to relax, there are lots of hotel options on both the sides that are on the river and have sundecks and pool areas, although in my opinion most of them are overpriced and not worth the value that you get out of it. There’s also a scenic train that departs from Livingstone in Zambia over a very short distance which provides meals and views from the bridge near the falls. There are also safari options to see animals.
For those wanting a bit of adventure, there’s bungee jumping and a gorge swing off the bridge near the falls. Helicopter rides, River rafting etc.
How much time do you need for everything?
I say as much as you can with a minimum of 2 full days. One for each side of the falls, which you can also add on any activities that you think would suit you best. Each of the sides of the falls have entry and exit points, with opening and closing times as follows:
In summer (1st September to 14 May)
Opening time: 06:00 Closing time: 18:00.
In the winter (15 May to 1st 31st August)
Opening time: 06:30 Closing time: 18:00.
Zimbabwe on the right and Zambia on the left
On the way to the Devils pool. It can only be accessed from the Zambian side.
When is the ideal time of the year to visit?
The area varies quite greatly in terms of temperature. The summers are quite hot with fairly long days, and vice versa for the winter.
If you are visiting in the summer there’s a bit of a trick to maximise your time on the Zimbabwean side, and also have the falls all to yourself. With the sunset in the summer being later than the closing time of 18:00, this gives you a bit of time before it actually turns dark. The trick is that although it closes at 18:00, they stop selling tickets at 18:00 and there is a turnstile which only moves in one direction for everyone who leaves after that, meaning there’s no gate that closed, and it is not possible for you to get locked in. It’s simple, relax and have the whole area of the falls to yourself! There will be a few locals who know this and will be around as well, but most people will be out by then.
How do you get transport in the area?
There is little or no public transport of benefit at all. So your options are to use taxis which are always at the airport and entrances of the falls, or you can use a private car and driver guide for the day.
Things to do in the town area:
Another factor is that because the towns on both the sides are tourist towns, and the focus is mainly on tourism, the locals are very used to seeing foreigners around, and I think that’s a good thing. There’s not much to see in the towns, apart from a few museums and a church. There will be a few beggars around, but they won’t hassle you. It’s also perfectly safe to walk around in daylight.
In the dry season part of the falls are separated from each other.
In my opinion, seeing the Victoria Falls is MUST for everyone at least once in your life. It’s also a great way to spend a few days as a combination with a trip to South Africa. There are so many points to view the falls, from so many different angles and over such a large area. It’s more of a destination than just a waterfall, which you cannot possibly dislike 😉