Victoria Falls had been on my bucket list for years. When I eventually had the chance to visit this Natural Wonder of the World, I jumped at the opportunity. Whilst planning my trip, the hours of reading and research left me with more questions than answers.
Below is a complete travel guide to Victoria Falls and things you need to know when planning your trip.
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- How to get to Victoria Falls from Johannesburg?
- Which side is better? Zambia or Zimbabwe side?
- The best time of year to visit Victoria Falls?
- Do I need a visa for Victoria Falls?
- Health: Yellow fever and malaria in Victoria Falls
- Victoria Falls currency
- Travel insurance
- How long should you stay in Victoria Falls?
- Budget accommodation in Victoria Falls
- TIA – This is Africa
1) How to get to Victoria Falls from Johannesburg?
Victoria Falls is located on the Zambezi River which forms a natural border between Zimbabwe and Zambia. The falls can be seen from either Livingstone on the Zambian side or Victoria Falls on the Zimbabwean side.
South African Airways and British Airways offer daily flights to both destinations from Johannesburg.
You could also catch a bus from anywhere around Zambia or Zimbabwe to Victoria Falls. This is far cheaper, but depending on your patience and time, it may not be the best option.
There is an abundance of taxis in both Livingstone and Vic Falls, so getting around won’t be a problem. Crossing the Victoria Falls bridge from Zambia to Zimbabwe is also very simple and I recommend taking a walk to the Victoria Falls Bridge for additional views of the falls.
2) Which side is better? Zambia or Zimbabwe side?
This is one of the big questions many people ask when planning their trip to Victoria Falls.
Zambia or Zimbabwe side?
I didn’t have a time limit, so I chose to visit both countries to decide which one I prefer. Both offer exquisite views of the falls, however, I feel that Zimbabwe has so much more to offer.
Victoria Falls town is a small, tourist village on the border of Zimbabwe. However, Livingstone is a much bigger and busier town on the Zambian side. I enjoyed the feel of Victoria Falls and being able to walk almost everywhere as there are only 2 main roads. Also, you may be lucky enough to see wild animals running through Victoria Falls. I spotted a few elephants just outside the craft market and the town is home to many warthogs.
It’s no doubt that Zimbabwe has the lion’s share of viewpoints of the falls, with 75% of them being in the county. The breathtaking walk along the cliffs lead to many of these viewpoints, with some of the best photo opportunities in Victoria Falls. Here, I share my personal experience of visiting Victoria Falls National Park, the costs to enter the park, and why I’m so happy I decided to see Vic Falls from the Zimbabwean side.
3) The best time of year to visit Victoria Falls?
November to March are the summer months where it is hot and humid, and May to July are the cool, dry Winter months. However, the weather shouldn’t be the big factor in deciding whens the best time of year to visit Victoria Falls.
More importantly is to choose if you want to see Victoria Falls in the dry or wet season.
July – December is the dry season. The falls gradually empty out from July onward and are at their lowest in October/November. Although you may not view the falls in all their might at this time, you are able to visit Devil’s Pool as well as experience the water rafting, which is closed during the wet season.
January – June is the wet season. From January the falls begin to fill up and by June you really understand how the Victoria Falls became known as “The smoke that thunders”.
I visited Victoria Falls in May and they were almost at their fullest. It was a spectacular sight and well worth getting soaked for. There is a lot of spray and mist which may hamper your views of the falls, but you can feel the power and might of this beautiful piece of nature, and it will leave you in awe of its magnitude. However, we were unable to do the rafting or visit Devil’s Pool due to the high water levels which made these activities more dangerous.
4) Do I need a visa for Victoria Falls?
Finally, the “Green Mamba” (South African passport) came in handy! South Africa is part of the SADC, and therefore I didn’t need a visa to enter either Zimbabwe or Zambia.
Most tourists are able to get a visa upon arrival after landing at either Livingstone or Victoria Falls airport. If you want to travel between the two countries you will need to get a multiple-entry visa (KASA UniVisa) when you arrive. This visa costs $50 and allows you to cross the border as many times as you like, given that you stay within Zambia and Zimbabwe. This visa is not required if you’re part of the SADC.
5) Health: Yellow fever and malaria in Victoria Falls
Do I need to take any Malaria tablets for my trip to Victoria Falls?
Mosquitoes are more prevalent during the rainy season (December to April) and although Malaria tablets aren’t required, they are recommended. However, I traveled to Victoria Falls in May (beginning of Winter) and didn’t take any medication. Remember to pack a good mosquito repellent as there may not be malaria-carrying mosquitoes, but there are hunderds of mosquitoes in the area.
Do I need to have a yellow fever vaccination for Vic Falls?
Zimbabwe and Zambia don’t fall under the yellow fever zone and so it is not necessary to have the injection. I read a lot of mixed advice online, as it was previously a requirement, however, this was lifted in 2015. So no, you do not need a yellow fever vaccination when entering Zambia or Zimbabwe.
6) Victoria Falls currency
Ensure you have local currency on you before your visit to Victoria Falls. The country is experiencing a financial crisis, and the banks have put a restriction on withdrawals from ATMs. I was unable to withdraw cash from any banks in Victoria Falls, and had a few issues in Livingstone as well.
Credit or debit cards are accepted at better lodges and restaurants. However, don’t expect to use them at local shops or bars as none of their card facilities work. I discovered this the hard way and it nearly ruined my holiday as I had no local currency on hand.
The Zambian Kwacha is the currency used in Zambia, however, US Dollars are also accepted.
The Zim dollar is the currency used in Victoria Falls, but it can be difficult to get your hands on this currency and so US Dollars, along with the Kwacha and SA Rand are accepted in Victoria Falls.
7) Travel insurance
Travel insurance is a must, especially if you are planning on taking part in any extreme activities in Victoria Falls. A fun fact for South Africans on Discovery Medical aid, you are able to travel out of the country for up to 3 months and still be covered by your medical aid. All you need to do is contact Discovery and they’ll send you a document to take with on your travels.
FNB also offer FREE (yes FREE) travel insurance to their clients. The only catch with this is that you need to show proof of return flights. Check out FNB Travel Insurance for more details.
8) How long should you stay in Victoria Falls?
Victoria Falls has so many activities on offer, however, these can be quite costly. If you’d like to see both the Zimbabwean and Zambian side, I would recommend 3 nights in Victoria Falls and 2 nights in Livingstone. If you chose to only visit Victoria Falls from the Zimbabwean side, then 4 nights is enough time to see everything, yet still have enough downtime. Any longer will leave you broke!
9) Budget accommodation in Victoria Falls
Victoria Falls is expensive (well, if you compare it to South Africa). There are many hotels as well as backpackers in both Livingstone and Victoria Falls. These range from ultimate luxury to budget-friendly. Considering the tight budget I was on, my accommodation choices were easy on the pocket yet centrally located and great value for money.
10) TIA – This is Africa
Africa is beautiful, the sights are incredible, the locals are friendly, the beer is good. However, everything and everyone operates at a slightly slower pace than you may be used to. And so should you. This is a great opportunity to unwind, and switch off from the stresses and routine of your life back home.
When planning your trip to Victoria Falls, don’t jam-pack your itinerary with activities. This will leave you with little time to relax and really embrace the beauty Victoria Falls has to offer.