Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe) – How to DIY from Livingstone
The Falls are 1.7 km wide with a vertical drop of 100 metres. The spray of the Falls can be clearly seen from a distance of 30km the locals call it “Mosi-oa-Tunya” means “The smoke that thunders”. It is a super cool name if you ask me, would want to name my kid something like that in the future.
There are many other activities to do in Livingstone, or in Victoria Falls (like rappelling, kayaking, bungee jumping etc). However, this post is focused on just exploring the Victoria Falls Zimbabwe side from Livingstone.
*Do note that this trip was done in Dec 2017 so some things might have changed (but i highly doubt it!)*
Livingstone is quite a small city and the main thing for there is basically the Victoria Falls. It is quite a safe city, even though there are not many street lights at night but it felt pretty alright to walk through the city centre at night.
We stayed at Livingstone in Zambia and made going to Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe) a day trip instead.
This suited our itinerary as it was cheaper to stay in Livingstone, cheaper to fly into Livingstone and easier for us to get to Botswana from Livingstone. Currency wise, it was also a lot more stable.
On hindsight, it might have been more comfortable to stay in Victoria Falls city instead as it was within walking distance (~1km) to both waterfalls. This would have saved us the need for a taxi to visit Victoria Falls on both sides. Additionally, Victoria Falls city is actually more touristy albeit more expensive (which was why we didn’t want to stay there initially), but Livingstone wasn’t that easy to walk around.
If you wish to know more about Livingstone, you can read more on it in my post on the Zambia Victoria Falls.
We stayed at this backpackers called Fawlty Backpackers. It was a pretty decent place. We booked the basic rooms and they were not exceptional but that was all we needed.
The great thing about the accommodation was that we had a pick up from the airport by Fawlty backpackers.
We were afraid of it being really hot but surprisingly it was okay at night. There were mosquito nets around the beds which meant that lots of mosquitoes around.
It can’t be helped but it was a pity because there was a beautiful garden and pool outside but it wasn’t that nice to chill around especially at night due to the mosquitoes. However, they had a nice area around the reception for beer and to hang around while waiting for transport or to escape the heat.
Zimbabwe and Zambia has different visa requirements depending upon your nationality. Luckily for us Singaporeans, both Zambia and Zimbabwe is visa-free!! This is extremely important cost-wise!
Woohoo!! It also saves us on the complication of worrying about single-entry or multi-entry visa.
As we start from Livingstone, it means exiting Zambia and entering Zimbabwe (1 X Zimbabwe Visa), and exiting Zimbabwe and entering Zambia (1 X Zambia Visa) to get back to Livingstone.. So if one would need to pay for visa, it can be quite a costly activity as you would need to pay for 2 visas on top of the entrance fee in 1 day.
Zimbabwe Visa: I realised the official website is usually down. So this is a reasonable list: https://www.victoriafalls-guide.net/zimbabwe-visa.html
Most of the big countries fall into Category B, the visa on arrival category which includes countries like the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the UK, most European countries, Japan, and more
There is an option to purchase a single or double entry visa.
If your itinerary is similar to ours but you need to get a visa, you would only require a single entry to Zimbabwe, and to Zambia (when you exit back to stay in Livingstone).
Single Entry: US$ 30
Double Entry: US$ 45
Multiple Entry: Not applicable and too complicated most of the time
Zambia Visa: https://www.zambiaimmigration.gov.zm/nationals-who-dont-require-visa/
Pricing for Zambia Visa: https://www.zambiaimmigration.gov.zm/for-residents/pricing-page/
Single Entry: US$ 50
Double Entry: US$ 80
Taxi to Victoria Falls border (1 way) from Fawlty: 60 ZK (Zambian Kwacha)
Taxi back to Fawlty from border (1 way): 60 ZK
So its 60 ZK per vehicle, as it was just 2 of us, the total cost for the day was 60 ZK per pax (~4.5 USD).
Zimbabwe Victoria Falls Entrance Fees: 30 USD per pax
Accommodation: ~20 USD per pax
Map & Directions
How to get to Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe Side)
The moment we reached, we went straight to check in, thinking of what we should do. We decided to make the most of our day and head to Victoria Falls. After-all, in our crazy itinerary, we only had 1.5 days here before we had to go back down to Johannesburg by land (bus).
Zimbabwe Border Crossing
For Victoria Falls, you might come across many articles or people telling you that you will need a taxi to cross the border.
Yes, if you are a vampire and afraid of the sun.
Other than that, you wouldn’t need a taxi across the border, however, you would need to get transport to the border. It takes around 20-30 minutes to get from Livingstone to the Zambia Border Post. It is quite a simple process to cross the border to Victoria Falls from Livingstone so I’ll lay out the steps.
1) Get a transport or taxi to the Zambia Border Post
2) Get your passport chopped at the Zambia customs
3) Walk across the Victoria Falls Bridge at the customs
4) Walk across no-man’s land for around 15 minutes to reach the Zimbabwe Customs
5) Get your passport chopped at the Zimbabwe Customs
6) Walk another 5 minutes to the Zimbabwe Victoria Falls Entrance
In the meantime, avoid all the people selling scams and transport and money changers. Do not buy tickets from anyone other than at the Entrance!
There is a money changer changing small notes at a bad rate, but for larger quantities such as 50 USD and above, it was a decent rate. Of course, that was in the past, but it might have changed. Having said that, I have noticed that in Africa, the money changer at the customs/border is the more reliable one. It is the one inside the customs, not outside.
When I was doing my research, I was quite afraid of heading to the wrong area because there wasn’t really much information about this area. So I’ll try to put in some pictures along the way to get a sense of the area.
Zambia Immigration Office: Victoria Falls Border Post
Honestly, the building is really nondescript. I took the images from google. The building is quite like heaven because it is a nice respite from the heat due to the air-condition. It is just the brown building with blue coloured walls inside.
Victoria Falls Bridge
After getting your passport stamped, you just need to head across the Victoria Falls bridge. There are some loitering guards who will check your passports. Once that is done, you have officially left Zambia!
Crossing the bridge, you’ll have a nice sneak preview of Victoria Falls as well as a bungee jump area. The Bungee Jump service seems….untouched. I guess it just isn’t as popular as the rest of the attractions. Would I want to use it? Not really, I have some vivid imagination of how I would die on a bungee and I am extremely wary of such bungee places (lesser visited). My fears might be unfounded, but I generally choose to only bungee at more established places (Like New-Zealand etc).
No Man’s Land
After the bridge, there is another 10-15 minutes of walking across an unsheltered path and this area is considered “No Man’s Land”.
There were lots of trucks piling up in the afternoon and very few people walking, which made me doubt myself whether I was walking the right way.
The only shade was a big tree in the middle. It serves as a good marker to know that you are on the right track.
Just keep the faith and walk along the road until a gate as well as the blue sign which marks the entrance to Zimbabwe!
Once you’ve reached the Victoria Falls Zimbabwe Border Post, keep to the left of the blue sign. The process is simple enough, just enter the pink building, get your passport chopped and off you go. The Zimbabwe immigration building is even more inconspicuous. It is the slightly pink building and there is just a small entrance, a single counter or 2 just for tourists.
I believe the customs officials are used to many people crossing the border (like Singapore – Malaysia if you think about it) that there is very little reason to make it difficult for you, especially if you are a tourist. There were some cursory questions asked, like for how long, why are we here etc.
Once you have exited the customs, it is just 3 minutes to Victoria Falls along the road. Just keep on walking ahead and soon you’ll reach the Victoria Falls entrance!
Victoria Falls Zimbabwe
General Tourists: US$ 30
SADC visitors: US$ 20
Entrance Fees are quite steep, at 30 USD per pax but I assure you it was definitely worth it!
You have certain discounts such as for SADC citizens (SADC (Southern African Development Community), basically for citizens from the 14 Member Countries (Angola, Botswana, Congo (DR), Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe).
*All children between 6 and 12 years old pay 50% of the adult fee, and children under 6 enter free of charge
* These fees are for a single entry, if you exit you have to pay again. Your day ticket does not cover your night entry fee
There are 2 types of opening hours for Zimbabwe Victoria Falls. Apparently there is a night entry for some full moon tour but I’ve never done it before. In general, they are open from 6am to 6pm.
Summer (1st Sept to 30th April): 6:00 – 18:00, 19:00 – 22:00
Winter (1st May to 31st August): 6:30 – 18:00, 19:00 – 22:00
Apparently the best time for the views are in the afternoon as you can see lots of rainbows! That was exactly (coincidentally) the time we went and you can see from our pictures. So I would say from 2-6pm is a good time, and you won’t get to see the rainbows from 5pm onwards.
How long do you need?
If I had a free whole day, I would seriously have bought some snacks, a picnic mat and a book and sat there the whole day.
You should spend a minimum of 2 hours to give the place justice. 4 hours would be good. I would suggest from 2pm to 6pm, as it gives one ample time to enjoy the view and the rainbows without feeling too rushed.
Map & Directions
I found this picture from this website: https://www.victoriafalls-guide.net/victoria-falls-entrance.html
The pictures are quite indicative of the way to walk. Basically, from Zimbabwe Border Post, you will enter via the rainforest entrance.
There are 2 main pathways to explore Victoria Falls Zimbabwe the moment you enter. One to turn left, and the other is to turn right. They connect together either way.
My suggestion is to turn left first to see Livingstone Statue and the devil’s cataract waterfall first, then turn to the right to explore all the way to Danger Point and u-turn back. This is because the Devil’s Cataract gives you a sneak preview of what might come first. If you do the opposite, you would most likely be disappointed by what you see at the Devil’s Cataract.
Additionally, the earlier areas are fenced until point 13 or Livingstone island onwards. Then the fencing stops, and you can literally peer over the edge. In fact, the fencing isn’t really a fence, more of a deterrent as it is a very short wooden barrier.
One other thing to note is that at the Devil’s Cataract, the waterfall spray will actually hit where you are at. So it might be wise to keep your cameras or steer clear off the edge.
The entrance is also the exit for it so you would have to walk back.
Victoria Falls Zimbabwe Sights
The sun was extremely scorching in the afternoon, but on hindsight, we made the right choice to visit at that timing because it was the best time to see the rainbows with the waterfall.
Upon entering, I was extremely fearful that it would be a massive cluster of people. I detest crowds and it seemed like there were many groups entering.
Once we had turned to the right and walked along the main falls viewpoint towards Danger Point, I realised the place was actually pretty huge. It was a nice walk, where we had many pockets of alone time to enjoy the view. SY told me that it wasn’t as crowded as Iguazu Falls in Brazil/Argentina.
Livingstone Statue/Devil’s Cataract
First, we headed left towards the Livingstone statue and Devil’s Cataract. Not a fan of statues, but David Livingstone is an extremely interesting figure especially his influence in this region. Well, he even has a city named after him where we are staying! His influence expands to even Malawi where I travelled to later. If you think about it, it is similar to the influence of Raffles to Singapore.
The path in the Victoria Falls park is sheltered by nice big green trees, making it a much pleasant walk as compared to crossing the bridge to get to Victoria Falls.
Seeing even a portion of the Victoria Falls for the first time got me really excited. I’ve never been a fan of waterfalls, but this really blew my mind. Of course, the rainbow was the real catch. From the first time we looked at the waterfall, we could already see a rainbow.
Victoria Falls Viewpoints
The fencing is made up of little wooden stumps and some wires that can easily be crossed if you actually made the effort to jump. The funny or great thing was that as you headed towards Danger Point, the fences slowly disappeared.
Victoria Falls Zimbabwe is structured simply by having protruding viewpoints overlooking the magnificent and imposing Victoria Falls on the opposite side of the chasm. You will walk across the different viewpoints as you head to the right. At first, the trees shrouded the views, before giving us a glimpse of what it was like.
Once we reached the first viewpoint, we were already overawed at the sight of Victoria Falls. The viewpoints give an unobstructed view of the waterfalls! At this point, I realized that the Victoria Falls were actually made up of many waterfalls along the chasm and it was only the beginning.
We spent some time at the viewpoint taking our selfies and jumpshots before heading towards Danger Point.
Horseshoe Falls/Danger Point
As we headed past Livingstone Island, the fences stop and it actually becomes quite a nice park for a picnic alongside the roaring waterfalls.
I was jealous at that moment. The people living nearby could be gathering friends and family every weekend to just hang out, have a picnic, or play some music and chill out overlooking Victoria Falls. I pictured myself out there to read a book and spend sometime with my thoughts or chit chat with my friends and having snacks.
It was times like these that I wish Singapore, was a lot bigger with more spectacular natural beauty.
But well, you live with what you have, and there was a lot of benefits to being Singaporean (cue passport).
The pictures honestly cannot describe the majesty of Victoria Falls. It is an understated experience, just being there. You could sit along the edge and peer down the chasm. I literally sat there just staring at the rush of the waterfalls, the flow full of fury and purpose. There was something mesmerising and therapeutic staring at it.
By then, it was close to 6pm and we didn’t want to leave the park in the dark. After-all, we had to make our way back across the customs and back to Livingstone.
More people were congregating along Danger Point during that time because it was cooler in the evening. You could also see people on the Zambia side of the Victoria Falls.
By the time we left at 6, the entrance booth was empty. I realised that out of everyone who went to Victoria Falls, we were the only ones who went there by foot from Zambia border. Most people either drive in, or stayed in Victoria Falls area. I guess most tourists were there for a more relaxing trip.
I was pleasantly surprised that they had potable drinking water dispenser in the park. It helped on a hot day and I didn’t need to buy more bottled water.
We returned the same way to Zambia but it felt quicker, perhaps because the sun has set so it made a much more pleasant walk this time. There were more people walking across the border in the evenings and it was also easy to get transport back to Livingstone city. It is a very safe city, so even though we took a taxi at night it was safe. That concludes our trip to Victoria Falls Zimbabwe side!
Victoria Falls Face-Off: Zimbabwe or Zambia?
Of course, having flown all the way there, it is no brainer to visit both sites.
However, if I had to choose 1, I would choose the Zimbabwe side.
In all honesty, I enjoyed the Zimbabwe side of the Victoria Falls more as compared to the Zambia side.
This is because I feel the Zambia side was more curated and structured and the Zimbabwe side felt more raw. Maybe it was the “rustic” looking fencing that tilted the scales and inclined me towards Zimbabwe ha! Just kidding.
“75% of the Falls are seen from the Zimbabwean side, with a variety of 16 viewpoints bisecting the rainforest. A network of paths allows you to thoroughly see the Falls from every angle.”
I guess the question to ask is, should you stay in Livingstone or Victoria Falls City?