How to Enjoy Victoria Falls from Both Sides (Zimbabwe and Zambia)
As we started our descent into the town of Victoria Falls, the pilot told us to look out the window on the left of the plane. From there, we could see miles and miles of lush green plains, extending as far as our eyes could see. In the middle of all that was a large cloud of what seemed like smoke.
But it quickly dawned on us that this was in fact what we’d all come to see, the mighty Victoria Falls. What we first thought was smoke was, in fact, a whole heap of mist, created by what is said to be the largest waterfall in the world. That made us super excited. If it looked that great from so far away, what would it look like right up close?
Victoria falls, or Mosi Oa Tunya (the Smoke That Thunders) as the locals call it, is one destination that you shouldn’t miss when visiting Southern Africa. Here, the water from the mighty Zambezi River pours over the edge of a 1.7 km wide cliff, plunging down into the basalt gorges below. It hits the river at the bottom of those gorges with such force that the resulting mist can be seen up to twenty kilometres away.
This makes Victoria Falls the world’s largest sheet of falling water. It also makes it a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
Where is Victoria Falls?
Victoria Falls spans the border between two countries, Zimbabwe and Zambia. You can reach the falls by either flying into the town of Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe or the town of Livingstone in Zambia. Both towns sit just across the Zambezi river from each other. Victoria Falls is much smaller than Livingstone, making it quite easy to wander around the town centre.
Which side of Victoria Falls is better?
This is actually a tough question to answer! If you visit the falls when the water is fully flowing then it’s a moot question; they both will be an incredible sight.
Most people say that the Zimbabwean side is the best because three-quarters of Victoria Falls lies within Zimbabwe. From the Zimbabwean side, you can stand right across from the falls to get the best view. But that doesn’t mean that the views from the Zambian side are any less impressive. We saw some pretty crazy rainbows on the Zambian side and they made it even more breathtaking for us. If you have time, I’d suggest visiting both sides. After all, if you’ve come all that way to see the waterfall, why not see it from as many angles as possible?
However, if you visit during the dry season, there is a chance that there will be little water at all on the Zambian side! If that’s the case, the Zimbabwean side is your only option.
Which visa should you get to visit both sides?
If you plan on visiting both sides of the falls, you should get the KAZA Univisa. This visa gives you dual entry access to both Zimbabwe and Zambia. It even lets you take a one-day wildlife safari to Chobe National Park in Botswana. The KAZA Univisa costs US$50 per person and is available to over 40 nationalities, including Australians, British and Americans.
You can purchase the KAZA Univisa upon entry or online. We purchased ours on entry to Victoria Falls, which was quite straight forward. This visa will not only save you some money, but you won’t have to wait in line to cross to the other side of the falls.
How do you visit Victoria Falls from the Zimbabwean side?
Visiting the Zimbabwean side of the falls is extremely easy. Once you pay the entrance fee and enter the park, you turn left and follow a path that leads you to 16 different viewpoints. You can choose to hire a guide or simply walk it on your own. We chose the latter and it was quite straight forward.
You’ll need up to 2 hours to visit all of the viewpoints, depending on how many photos you take. Bear in mind that if you visit when the falls are in full flow, you will get very wet! If you want to stay dry, you will need to wear a poncho.
If you’re going to take photos (and you really should), it’s a good idea to bring a waterproof camera. I ended up using my waterproof iPhone because it was so wet that I couldn’t get my camera out. The spray from the falls was so heavy that on some parts of the walk, (especially near the Main Falls viewpoint) it felt like we were walking through torrential rain.
A taxi from the Victoria Falls town centre to the Victoria Falls National Park will cost you around $5 to $10 depending on the location of your hotel.
How much is the entry to Victoria Falls National Park?
Entrance to Victoria Falls on the Zimbabwean side is US$30 for international visitors. Unfortunately, this is a single entry fee, so if you choose to leave the park and return later, you will have to pay again. So, if you want to visit in the morning and then return for sunset, you will pay two separate entrance fees. Yikes! We’d initially hoped to visit twice but at US$30 a person, buying two tickets each was just too expensive.
Winter opening hours : 6.30 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Summer opening hours : 6 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Some tips for the Zimbabwean side of the falls
If you plan on visiting the Zimbabwean side, make sure you carry some American dollars with you and have access to a credit or debit card. Due to Zimbabwe’s current cash crisis, you won’t be able to get any money out from their cash machines.
Before arriving in Zimbabwe, make a list of all the activities you want to do at Victoria Falls and then make sure you bring sufficient funds to pay for them. Alternatively, contact the various tour companies you’ll be using to make sure they accept cards. The good news is that many businesses in Victoria Falls accept cards (out of necessity!). The currently accepted currency in Zimbabwe is the US dollar.
Where to stay in Victoria Falls
The White House
If you are looking for friendly staff, comfort and a good breakfast at an affordable price, look no further. This beautiful house located in Victoria Falls is a great find. The staff are extremely helpful and will make sure your stay is much better than you’d expect. They organised everything for us, such as day tours, taxis and transfers from the airport and on to Zambia. They have a pool to cool off in after a busy day of exploring and they have great wifi. Find their latest prices here.
If you fancy something a little bit more upmarket, we heard great things about the Nguni Lodge. They have friendly staff and a beautiful location. Find their latest prices here.
Other accommodation in Victoria Falls
Use the search box below to find other accommodation in Victoria Falls:
How do you visit Victoria Falls from the Zambian side?
As with the Zimbabwean side, it’s quite easy to visit the Zambian side. Once you enter the park (called the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park ) you simply follow a path leading you to the four viewpoints.
There is a footbridge called the Knife’s Edge bridge. This bridge spans a deep gorge to give you access to the western-most viewing point on the Zambian side. From this bridge (which gets really wet and a bit slippery – take care!), you can see the full view of the Eastern Cataract. We had some incredible views of the Victoria Falls from Livingstone Island. While there, we were also lucky to see some really nice looking rainbows.
Tip: Beware of the cheeky baboons! Do not carry food with you unless you want to lose it to them. As with the Zimbabwean side, bring a poncho to wear and a waterproof camera!
A taxi from Livingstone town centre to the falls should cost K100 (around US$10).
How much is the entry to Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park Zambian side?
The entrance fee for the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park is $20 per international visitor. It’s open daily at 6 am and closes at 6 pm (all year round).
Where to stay in Livingstone?
Green Tree Lodge
The Green Tree Lodge is a good value option. It’s located on the outskirts of town, only 10 minutes from Victoria Falls and a three-minute drive from the town centre. They offer free airport and bus transfers on request. Find the latest prices here.
Sanctuary Sussi and Chuma
This is not your cheapest option for sure but wow, this place is incredible. It was the first resort of our 10 years wedding anniversary trip and we were certainly not disappointed.
The resort is located twelve kilometres upstream from the falls, on the shores of the Zambezi river. The rooms at Sussi and Chuma are stunning tree houses. Prices are inclusive of all meals, drinks, laundry and activities (sundowner cruises, game drives, village tours, walking safaris and fishing). Taking a dip in the infinity pool overlooking the river before a sunset game drive was absolute bliss! Find their latest prices here.
Other accommodation in Livingstone
Use the search box below to find other accommodation in Livingstone:
How do you get from one side to the next?
It’s actually pretty easy to get from Zimbabwe into Zambia, even though you’ll need to go through customs. Plenty of people make the trip daily. You can either choose to go with an organised tour to visit both sides or you can do it by yourself by heading to the Zimbabwean border at the start of the Victoria Falls bridge. Clear customs, telling them that you are coming back (unless you are staying in Zambia afterwards as we were). They will give you a stamped ticket that will get you back into Zimbabwe when you’re done.
You can then walk across to the Zambian customs checkpoint. After clearing Zambian customs, you can then catch a taxi to the falls. If you’re staying in Zambia and doing this trip in reverse, it will be a similar story.
Important: Remember to take your passport with you!
What to do at Victoria Falls?
Looking for a thrill?
Vic Falls offers more than just a visit to the famous waterfall. If you’re a bit of a thrill seeker, you’ve found the right place! There are plenty of options to get your heart racing such as white water rafting down the Zambezi, bungee jumping off the Victoria Falls bridge, zip lining, gorge swinging, and microlight flights (on the Zambian side).
Take a Boat ride on the Zambezi River
A boat ride down the Zambezi river is a must! You can choose to do it at sunrise, in the middle of the day or at sunset. We chose the sunset ride and we had an amazing time. This boat ride is a great way to experience the local wildlife and we saw crocodiles, elephants, hippos and many species of birds. The best part was when an elephant decided to swim across from the Zimbabwean side to the Zambian side. Who knew those guys were such great swimmers?!
View the falls from the air
Helicopter rides are never the cheapest activity you can do but in some places they are 100% worth the cost. That’s definitely the case at Victoria Falls. There are flights available on either side of the falls. We took ours from the Zambian side because it was included in our package. Our flight lasted 15 minutes, during which we flew over both sides of the falls a few times, saw incredible rainbows and even saw some hippos and elephants swimming in the river.
Our Helicopter Ride
Check out our video of our helicopter ride:
Splash out in the Devil’s Pool
During the dry season, head to the Devil’s Pool for a dip! The Devil’s Pool is located on Livingstone Island on the Zambian side of the falls. Here, adrenaline seekers can pretty much hang over the edge of the falls, looking down the hundred and three metres drop to the rocks below. Because it can be quite dangerous, access to the Devil’s Pool is limited to certain months of the year (when water levels are low) and visitors are restricted to twelve at a time.
If you visit in the wet season don’t worry, you can still visit Angel’s Pool. It offers the same experience but it’s a little less dangerous.
Take a safari!
The Lower Zambezi National Park (Zambian side) or Upper Zambezi National Park (Zimbabwean side) are great places for game drives and both are easily accessible from both Livingstone and Victoria Falls. If you purchased the KAZA Visa, be sure to take a day trip to the Chobe National Park in Botswana. Chobe is our favourite park in Africa so far. The game drives there were incredible and you are almost guaranteed to see an elephant there. It’s an elephant haven!
Let’s talk animal welfare
While in Victoria Falls, we saw numerous billboards advertising experiences with wild animals. There were walks with lions, elephant rides etc.. Those places are advertised as sanctuaries but really those so-called sanctuaries are not doing anything in the interests of the animals themselves.
Save your money and invest it in a game drive instead. You might not get up as close and personal with the animals but they are in the wild where they belong and no-one is making money out of their misery. It’s always best to think of the animals first.
When is the best time of year to visit Victoria Falls National Park?
This is tough to answer because it really depends on what type of experience you want.
The Rainy Season (November to March)
During the rainy season, the falls will be full of water and therefore at their most dramatic. However, you won’t be able to visit the Devil’s Pool (it’s closed because it’s way too dangerous). The rainy season is also not a great time if you want to do river-based activities such as white water rafting.
The Dry Season (April – October)
This is the perfect time of year to splash around in the Devil’s Pool, do any of the water activities and if you want to combine your visit to the falls with a safari in nearby Chobe National Park. However, towards the end of the dry season, the falls can be underwhelming, especially on the Zambian side where they might even be completely dry.
We don’t recommend visiting the falls from October through to November. During that period, the water level is at its lowest and the weather is very hot and humid.