Victoria Falls for independent travellers. Zimbabwe side.


   Victoria Falls Town. Zimbabwe side

If you want to see how the local people from Zimbabwe live, you are in the wrong place. This town is 100% touristic, just 2 km away of the famous falls. It´s full of agencies, handicraft shops, restaurants, bars and specially many young boys around, quite sticky, selling crafts, old Zimbabwe $ bills, activities, etc.

The best thing is that the town is safe, you can walk alone, distances aren´t too big, the nature is not too far and for sure, the main reason, see the falls on your own. You find everything needed in Victoria Falls, and much more, don´t worry!

Here´s a map we´ve done to help you fix all the locations around. Easy to find everything in Google maps, complete information there.



   Transport in Victoria Falls  

There aren´t local buses or vans in Victoria Falls, only taxis (and prices always start minimum in 5 $). They are the only option if you don´t feel like walking to the falls (2 km) or border post/Zimbabwe-Zambia bridge (3 km). We walked!

No direct transport between Zimbabwe and Zambia, crossing the Victoria Falls bridge. Even taxis don´t cross. Transport (vans) to Livingstone are close to the Zambia immigration post (small vans station). To get to the vans station from Victoria Falls center (Zimbabwe), you will have to walk (around 4 km) or take a taxi to Zimbabwe border post (around 2 km from your lodge) and then walk between border posts (bridge) or take a small bicycle-taxi. We walked all the way... long but OK.

The long distance buses that go to Bulawayo, Harare or Kazangula (Botswana), leave from the township, south of the town´s center (3 km). There are big companies modern buses like Intercape and Pathfinder and cheaper smaller ones with buses and vans.  Like often in Zimbabwe, depends how much you want to pay...

The train station is central, walking to town is fast (less than 1 km to the center). 
Night train to Bulawayo departs everyday at 19:00.
Prices: 12 $ sleeper class (2, 4  or 6 beds; linen for 4 $ extra), 10 $ standart seat and 8 $ economy seat. Arrival time at Bulawayo around 10:00-11:00.
Only bookings on the same departure day. Booking office open from 8:00 till 19:00 and Saturdays/Sundays from 16:00 till 19:00.
More information in   www.nrz.co.zw
We travelled by night train (sleeper) from Bulawayo and was nice, recommended.

The international Victoria Falls airport is 20 km south of town. You need a taxi (try to share...).
More and more flights, specially with South Africa. Check online. But usually not specially cheap flights.

Walk. We walked, everywhere around (railway station, falls, bridge and Zambia, big tree) and it was fine. It´s hot, carry water!
Lodges, supermarkets, falls entrance, border are a bit spread out but walking is possible.

Rent a bike is expensive: negotiate, at the backpackers or agencies (more than 15 $ a day!).


   Cheap accommodation in Victoria Falls  

If you are on a tight budget and independent traveller, only one option in Victoria Falls town (at least in 2015), if you don´t want to walk too much and you are looking for a central place to sleep.

This place is Shoestrings backpackers: the only central ( a few minutes walk to the center, less than 1 km) and cheap option. 
Prices: camping 8$/pp, dorm 12-15 $/pp. Rooms are more expensive.
We camped. 
http://www.shoestringsvicfalls.com/

 
Kitchen and small lockers (free). BBQ. Correct, clean toilets (hot shower, no needed). The garden is more or less maintained. 
There´s a pool but the water was not clear, we never saw anybody swimming during 4 days there!
You can buy wifi time or PC time (not free).
The place is very noisy, with a bar and restaurant, music at night til 00:00 or more. Local rastas around. Also overlanders groups. Always many travellers around.
But, no more cheap and central choices.

No more cheap options in Victoria Falls town?

Victoria Falls Rest Camp: if you want a calm place, it´s also very central. Problem: not so cheap, at 16 $/pp for camping. www.vicfallsrestcamp.com
The Adventure Lodge: 14 $/pp for camping. 
Victoria Falls Backpackers: further northwest of town (2.5 km from the center), 10$/pp camping, 18$/pp dorm. http://victoriafallsbackpackers.com/
Warning: there´s a big event for New Year´s Eve in Victoria Falls as they celebrate a 3 days Carnival and parties. Very crowded and popular. So maybe better book a bed... and the campsites will be super full.


   Services and Cheap food in Victoria Falls  

2 supermarkets (the best one is OK Supermarket), just in the center of town. They have "take away" sections.
In the center, also a few take away shops, franchises and then tourist restaurants, but not too cheap.
The local market is in the township (a couple of km south), cheaper for fruits, vegetables.

Many banks, all grouped, on the main street. Gas stations, pharmacies. All you need.
Many travel and activities agencies.


   Visit of  the falls  

Price of the entrance fees: 
Zimbabwe side: 30 $, moonlight 40$.
(Zambia side: 20 $).
Prices for foreigners, less if SADC or resident.
In Zimbabwe side it´s possible to pay with a bank card (it worked).
Open from 6:00 to 18:00.
Lookouts: Zimbabwe 15, Zambia 4.
In January, the water levels were fine: some places a lot, others almost dry.

Important when planning your visit: the level of water in the falls.
- Maximum water level  in march-may, so too much water, shower, fog and less visibility.
- Minimum water level in november-december. The problem is you see a rocky wall more than a water fall, so it´s not so great time.
Things can vary depending on conditions of the rainy season. 

In January 2015, it was really fine, we could see how the Victoria Falls can look without water in some parts, and a lot of water in other parts with  fog, showers and rainbows. Very interesting. 
Some travellers told us that, a few weeks before, in mid december, the falls were almost dry.



The entrance to the falls is 2 km from the Victoria Falls Town center, just before the Zimbabwe border post and the international bridge Zimbabwe-Zambia(1 km). Passing the Zambia border post is the entrance to the falls in Zambia side.
You can walk from the center or your lodge, not too far.
The visit will take you around 3 hours, at least. A nice walk with many lookouts.


   Things to do around the Victoria Falls  

Walking down Victoria Falls Town... Any activities? Good question! The answer will depend on your budget and adventure spirit.

Many activities, too many options, companies, but they are not cheap. Rafting, bungee jumping, swing, zip, helicopter and light flights, walks with lions, crocodile farm, rides on elephants, sunset cruises, game safaris, etc, etc. even “crocodile cage diving” (new!) and sure new ideas coming. 
No shortage of activities, Victoria Falls- Livingstone is the Africa capital of activities! 

 Bungee jumping in Victoria Falls

Most of the activities are around 100-150 $/pp
Very easy to join, just ask around, backpackers, agencies.

We did nothing, not interested and too expensive for us … We just payed the entrance fee in the Zimbabwe side (already 30 $ each) and walk and enjoy the area in both sides (walking is free!).
We didn´t see too many animals around… just a few monkeys, antilopes and wartdogs.Something.

If you are an independent and low-cost traveller in Victoria Falls surroundings , you have things to do for free too, to keep you busy for a couple of days if you want.
  • Cross the Zimbabwe-Zambia bridge:
You can cross it, for free, you just need to ask for a “bridge pass” at the Zimbabwe or Zambia border post. It´s a paper to control the people. You need the passport to get the pass.

Nice views over the Zambezi Gorge and just a small and very limited vision of the falls.

The bungee-jumping is in the middle of the bridge, they also have a bridge swing and a bridge slide. You can book it here, directly. Expensive: 160$ for the jumping! The slide (zip) is 45 $ single or 65 $ tandem, more affordable. Complete information: www.victoriafallsbungee.com
No public transport aver the bridge or between Zimbabwe and Zambia, just walking or there´s a man with a slow taxi-bicycle.

Bridge Café is just after passing the bridge, on Zambia gorge side. Very limited views to the gorge and nothing to the falls. They have a small museum (fee).

  • See the Zambezi Batoka Gorge:

Gorge view, access via a path from the craft market in front of the Zimbabwe falls entrance or from Victoria Falls Hotel.
There´s a café-activities shop with a lookout (free) managed by Wild Horizons (it says Foofies Slide in google maps).You find the best views over the Zambezi Gorge and the bridge from here. It´s the place where you can swing or zip over the gorge on the Zimbabwe side. Prices are expensive (around 50-100 US$). Complete information at www.wildhorizons.co.za

  • Visit the Victoria Falls Hotel:
Free to visit this old colonial hotel (more than 100 years old), just close to the gorge, but no direct views over the Zambezi river or the falls! Just a beautiful garden over the Zambezi gorge, with views over the bridge (a bit far away).
Just a few minutes walk from the center and the falls entrance.

  • The Zambezi River Walk:
You can walk around the Zambezi River, there´s a tarred road, just before the falls entrance. From the road, you don´t see the river. There are a few paths  heading to the river. Nice views, small islands. Swimming is not advised, cause crocodiles maybe. No people there, just maybe a few locals. Signs that you are inside the Zambezi National Park, but it´s free and just a few animals around... No danger, you can walk! There are a few baobabs and the famous Big Tree (baobab). You can continue on the road, it´s a loop back to the town´s center (passing Rainbow Hotel and Rest Camp).
In total, it´s around 5 km, town to town (the Big Tree is around 2 km away from the center, many people take a taxi... you can walk...).

 Zambezi Batoka Gorge and Zambezi river

OTHER ACTIVITIES PAYING
  • Further north, ther´s a golf club and the cruises jetty (famous for sunset), and then the Zambezi Game National Park gate (around 6 km from town) and the crocodile farm… but we didn´t go. Expensive to join tours...
  • For views over the Zambezi game park, you can visit the Victoria Safari Lodge. There´s even a waterhole and a shuttle bus to get there. Even if you are not a resident, you can try to go and have a look, we didn´t finally…
  • Zambezi National Park. Following the Zambezi River til Botswana boundaries. It´s the closest park to Victoria Falls to see wild life.Entrance fee is 15 $. The entrance is west of town (around 6 km).
    Self drive or join a safari-drive. We didn´t go.

6 comentarios :

Unknown dijo...

You did a great job. This is a very detailed information. I am glad I came accross it. It will help me with my planning my Africa trip (Vic Falls to Nairobi) this winter. It looks like I will have to go alone as I did not book a truck tour in time. Would you do it alone as a woman? Or is it to risky compared to travel in Asia?
Kind Regards,
Anna

Sonia y Ainara dijo...

Hello Anna.
During our Africa trip (southern&eastern) we never felt unsafe. It´s fine. We didn´t go out at night. And avoid big cities as much as possible. Just like everywhere. Enjoy.

Anna dijo...

Dear Sonià, Dear Ainara,
Thank you for the information. I was to scared and booked an overland truck trip which will start tomorrow. I also spent three weeks in South Africa travelling on the Baz Bus. I never felt un safe.
Keep on travelling. I am following your posts.

Unknown dijo...

Thanks for the info. Will be traveling to Zimbabwe in April. Will land in Harare from JFK. Want to train to Bulawalo then on to Victoria Falls. Then fly back to Harare or directly to Johannesburg (extra, have roundtrip from Harare). First time to Africa, just want to be in the Motherland and feel the sun on my face. Thanks for all your information.

Kamau Kujichagulia dijo...

sorry, my name is Kamau

alina mark dijo...

Very interesting blog post, good job and thanks for sharing such a good blog. Solar geysers Harare

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