Livingstone, Zambia, was home base during my recent visit to Victoria Falls. But one of the great things about visiting the Falls is that they border both Zimbabwe and Zambia and it’s easy (for most people) to cross between the two countries.
My two friends — Michelle #1 and Michelle #2 — and I hopped across the Zambia border into Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe (the town on the Zim side is called Victoria Falls), and spent the day there. Here are some do’s and don’ts for Zimbabwe daytrippers.
DO walk across the Livingstone Bridge into Zimbabwe. DON’T forget U.S. dollars.
Following some locals between the Zambia border post and the Livingstone Bridge.
The Zambia border post is a short taxi ride from Livingstone. The post was quiet when we arrived; we were through in five minutes. It is possible to get a taxi from the Zambia border post, across the bridge to the Zimbabwe border post, for a dollar or two. But it’s not far, so unless you’re really tired or in a hurry I suggest walking.
Michelle #2 crosses the bridge.
The view was amazing.
Looking down on the Boiling Pot, which I mentioned in my previous post.
Michelle #2’s travel book said guards will yell at you if you take photos from the bridge. But we took tons and no one cared.
After our leisurely walk across the bridge we passed through the Zimbabwe border post, which was a few minutes’ walk from the bridge.
NOTE ON VISAS: The amount of money you pay to get into Zimbabwe, and then back into Zambia, depends where you’re from, what kind of visa you’re traveling on (i.e. a single-entry, double-entry, multiple-entry), etc. I won’t explain all the scenarios because: 1) it would take too long; and 2) I never got it all straight myself. But just make sure you have plenty of U.S. dollars with you. Visas are paid in dollars and credit cards aren’t accepted. I screwed up and didn’t bring enough dollars. Michelle #1 bailed me out until I got to an ATM on the Zim side.
Depending on what country you’re from, you might not be able to get into Zim. I met some Venezuelans who weren’t able to get visas and couldn’t do the day trip. Bummer.
DO shop and eat in Victoria Falls.
Stone carvings in Zimbabwe.
Remember how I said the Livingstone curio market is depressing? Skip it. If you want to buy African crafts, go to Zimbabwe. There is a strip of lovely shops along the main road. The crafts are beautiful and the proprietors aren’t pushy.
I took a business card so I could remember the name of this gallery, but the card was either lost or destroyed later in the day at the Falls (more on that later). The gallery is right on the main road, in the cluster of buildings with green roofs.
Themba runs another shop in the green-roof cluster. I took his photo because: 1) he’s cute; and 2) he was wearing a shirt from Ithaca, New York, where my sister went to college.
We had lunch at Mama Africa’s, a restaurant at the back of the green-roof shopping cluster. It was my favorite meal of the trip.
I can’t remember the Shona name for this meal. But basically it’s chicken with peanut butter sauce, spinach and pumpkin, and peanut butter rice. So delicious.
NOTE ON CURRENCY: The U.S. dollar is Zimbabwe’s official currency, which makes things easy for Americans. However, I was surprised to find that unlike in Zambia, Zimbabwean businesses also accept South African rand. I had quite a few rand on me so that was great.
DO visit the Victoria Falls health clinic. (If you need medical care, that is. Otherwise you can skip it.)
Remember how I forgot my yellow fever vaccination certificate? After realizing the gravity of my mistake, I asked around in Livingstone and was told to go to the public hospital for a vaccination. This prospect filled me with dread — a public hospital was the last place I wanted to spend several precious hours of my short holiday.
Before we left for our Zim day trip, Michelle #2 saw in her guide book that there is a health clinic in the town of Victoria Falls. I figured it was worth a shot.
Turns out the health clinic in Vic Falls is a very pleasant place.
Waiting outside the Sister’s Room to get my shot. In Africa, nurses are called “sisters”. Even if they are men. (Photo: Michelle Stern)
I walked up to the reception desk at the clinic and asked the friendly lady if they they do yellow fever vaccines. They do! I went next door to the pharmacy, bought my vaccine and certificate (US$60), then went back to the clinic and paid the doctor $20 to stamp the certificate. (He back-dated the stamp by two weeks since the vaccine takes 10 days to become effective.) Then the sister on duty (who was actually a brother) gave me the shot, which was painless. I was on my way in 30 minutes. So professional and efficient. Try pulling this off in America.
If you need to visit a doctor while in Vic Falls, the Zim clinic is the place to go. Just ask directions when you get to town — the clinic is next to the grocery store.
DON’T visit the Big Tree if you’re short on time. DO allow plenty of time at Victoria Falls National Park.
After lunch we decided to walk to “the Big Tree”, a massive baobab near the Falls. We got lost and wound up a couple of kilometers down the road. Luckily one of the shop-owners we’d met earlier passed by and picked us up in his truck. “You are very lost!” he said. He dropped us back at the Big Tree and we walked from there to Vic Falls National Park.
I somehow failed to get a good photo of the Big Tree. (See Google pics here.) But this photo is better anyway. I call it “Walking With Elephant Poo”.
If I were doing this again, I would skip the walk to the Big Tree and go straight to Victoria Falls National Park.
My first view of the Falls from the Zim side.
Vic Falls National Park is one of the nicest parks I’ve ever been to. So clean and well maintained.
DO have a cappuccino at the Rain Forest Café.
I was blown away by the the café in the park, called the Rain Forest Café. The café offers free Wi-Fi and complimentary towels and blankets (which you will need after viewing the Falls). When you order a cappuccino, you get this:
Cappuccino, cookie, glass of ice water, and a shot of Amarula (!). All for the price of a regular coffee.
I could spend all day at this café, drinking Amarula-spiked cappuccino, listening to the roaring water, and posting Vic Falls Instagrams with free Wi-Fi.
DO rent a poncho before viewing the Falls.
Otherwise you will look like this at the end of your walk:
The “baby” under my jacket is my camera. Miraculously, it survived. (Photo: Michelle Stern)
Michelle #1 and I wore our own thin rain jackets to the Falls. We did the same thing on the Zambia side and were fine. Little did we know, it was wetter on the Zim side. We got drenched.
I didn’t take many photos on the Zim side because my camera was getting too wet. This was the last shot I took before wrapping the camera in my wool sweater and hiding it under my jacket. That’s when I lost the gallery business card (and some other things).
Michelle #2 rented a poncho. She had the right idea.
I loved our walk despite the soaking. And it gave us a great excuse to go back to the Rain Forest Café, wrap ourselves in towels and blankets, and post Instagrams.
Vic Falls Instagram.
DO take a taxi back across the bridge. Go back to your Livingstone guest house and sleep well.
We stayed at the park until it closed. The park entrance is right at the border. We had a nice chat with the immigration official and passed through quickly.
The Zimbabwe border post. Can you see Michelle #2 in there? (Photo: Michelle Stern)
We were too wet and tired to walk across the bridge and it didn’t feel safe in the dark. We piled into a taxi with about eight grannies (pictured above). Great end to the day.
CONCLUSION: The Zim side of Vic Falls is awesome. I liked Zimbabwe more than Zambia. I hope to visit again soon, for more than a day trip.
Thanks to Michelle #1 for supplying some great photos for this post.