Zimbabwe :: Four Nations
:: Victoria Falls
Category: Places :: Town
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After David Livingstone recorded the existence of the Victoria Falls in 1855, people settled around the area called Old Drift, 10 km west of the Falls, a place where it was possible to cross the Zambezi River in a canoe or pontoon. When Cecil John Rhodes became the prime minister of the Cape Colony in 1890, he had a vision of a railway line from Cape Town to Cairo, connecting all British property in Africa. This meant crossing the mighty Zambezi River and Rhodes insisted that a railway bridge be built where the spray of the falls would fall on the trains crossing the bridge. In 1900 the building of the Victoria Falls Bridge began and the inhabitants of Old Drift moved nearer to the falls where the bridge was being erected. The bridge was completed in 1905 and with easy access by train, the falls became a popular tourist attraction. Victoria Falls were declared a World Heritage Site in 1989, and is one of the New Seven Natural Wonders of the World.
When Zambia won its independence in 1964, Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) declared independence as well, but this wasn’t internationally recognized. A war erupted in Rhodesia, and due to that conflict, Zambia closed the Victoria Falls border post in 1966, reopening it again when Zimbabwe gained its independence in 1980. Tourism increased in the 2000s and then tourists began visiting the falls from the Zambian side in response to Zimbabwe’s political instability. During this time Livingstone has grown tremendously, and today is a tourism hub in its own right.
It has to be said that Victoria Falls remains a little island of excellence in Zimbabwe, offering world class accommodation, modern restaurants, and travel services. It also has a nearby international airport which lands a steady stream of international visitors. The town remains uniquely prosperous in Zimbabwe, probably because it’s so easy to replenish stock from nearby Kasane.Traveller Description
The Victoria Falls Railway Bridge is 198 m long and a 128 m high (low water level). From here you can participate in the second highest bungee jump in the world, 111 m. (Ed: I’ve done it, it’s memorable!) If that’s not enough excitement for your day, you can tack on the gorge swing or white-water rafting on the Zambezi. Gentler alternatives include a guided walk of the Victoria Falls Bridge or a helicopter flight over the Falls.
Completed in 1904 the Victoria Falls Hotel was the first hotel in the area and it was erected on the best position closest to the Falls. Renovated and refurbished a few years ago, its décor is still very much colonial. If staying in such upmarket accommodation doesn’t fit into your budget, a lunch or a high tea from the Stanley Terrace will afford you magnificent views over the Victoria Falls Bridge and the gorge below.
Seeing the Victoria Falls up close is the reason why most people visit this small touristy town. For a description of how the Falls were formed, please see the information on Livingstone on page (((TBC))).
Probably the most frequent question about the Victoria Falls is which side to see it from: the Zimbabwean side, or the Zambian side. While the best view of the Falls is undoubtedly from the Zimbabwean side, if you want to see all of the Falls, you need to visit both sides as the Eastern Cataract is only visible from Zambia. From this point you also get a lovely view down the length of the falls as the sun sets.
On the Zimbabwean side there are 16 viewpoints over the falls, starting with the Devils Cataract in the West, and ending at the Victoria Falls Bridge in the east. Each point gives you a view of a section of the falls, and depending on water levels, you may get soaked by spray and mist at some of them.
If your time is limited, you may only want to visit the falls from the Zimbabwean side, but if you intend to continue on to Livingstone, please read more about the activities on offer in Livingstone on page (((TBC))). The following activities can only be done on the Zambian side: a visit to Livingstone Island, a swim in Devil’s Pool, and a microlight flight over the falls.
When is the best time to go? There’s no simple answer to that one. Weatherwise, the summers (October to March) are hot and humid, with mosquitoes about, while winters (May to August) are pleasantly mild. But it’s the Zambezi River water levels which really influence the activities on offer at the falls.
White-water rafting usually takes place from July to May but the best white-water rafting is usually from August to December, when the water level is low and the rapids pretty exciting. With high water levels, the rocks are deeper underwater and rapids are virtually non-existent.
Similarly, a visit to Livingstone Island is only possible from July until March, with lower water levels, and a swim in Devil’s Pool is only possible from around August until December, when the water is low enough not to get swept over the edge! Both these activities are accessed from Zambia only.
If viewing the falls during low water level periods not all the cataracts will be flowing. However, during high water level periods, such as March & April, the volume of the spray from the falls may make it almost impossible to see them from the viewpoints; the flipside to that is this might be a great time to sign up for a scenic flip.
During times of high water, the spray from the falls reaches many of the viewpoints so you’re advised to take a raincoat and protective gear for your cameras, phones and other electronic equipment. It is possible to ‘rent’ a raincoat from the market in the car park; this should cost you US$3 - 5. Negotiate, there are lots of raincoat vendors.
A sunset cruise on the Zambezi River is a great way to end off a day. But be prepared: there aren’t many animals to be seen, nothing like you’d see on the Chobe River. On the Zambezi you might spot a few hippo popping their heads out the water and there are quite a few waterbirds around. If you’re lucky you may see a giraffe or elephant on the shores of the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park but don't expect much more. Note, you’ll be sharing the vessel with large groups of people so there’s a possibility it could become crowded and noisy if you’re unlucky enough to board at the same time as a large group of backpackers.
|Tourist Information Centre, 412 Parkway / Livingstone Way, Zimbabwe
|Victoria Falls Tourism Office
|+263(0)77 698 2356
|Host Website :
|Cellphone Reception :
|Main Cellular Network :
|Econet. Telecel & Netone
|Police Station :
|Police Telephone :
|+263(0)83 284 4206
|Hospital Telephone :
|+263(0)83 284 4262
|Doctor Telephone :
|+263(0)83 284 6634
|Tourist Information :
|Tourist Information Telephone :
|+263(0)77 698 2356
|Petrol Type :
|Diesel Type :
|Towing Service :
|Towing Service Telephone :
|+263(0)83 284 7022 / +263(0)71 663 2941 / +263(0)77 875 0122 (Auto Towing)
|Gas Refill, Shopping Mall, Shopping Centre, Shops, General Dealer, Bank, ATM, Foreign Exchange, Internet Cafe, Tour Services, Lodging, Camping, Butchery, Bakery, Liquor, Restaurant, Pharmacy, Airport, Airstrip, Car Rental, Tyre Repair, Tyre Sales, Mechanical Repair
|Other Facilities :
|Government Services. Veterinarian/Animal Hospital. School/s. Amusement Park/Game Centre. Fast Food. Bar/s. Spa.
|Game Viewing, Game Drives, Night Drives, Quad Bikes, Tours and Excursions, Picnics, Hiking Trails, Guided Walks, Horse Trails, Golf, Fishing, Swimming, Diving, Snorkelling, Surfing, Water Skiing, Canoeing, Sea_Kayaking, Sailing, Boat Trips, White Water Rafting, Bird Watching, Scenic Flights, Stargazing, Photography
|Notes on Activities :
|(Some activities may be offered nearby).
Hotels, lodges, guest house and camping is available for stay.
Camping facilities are offered at various backpackers, as well as at the Victoria Falls Restcamp. Note, this last mentioned is frequented by overland trucks carrying large groups of tourists so the ablutions may not always be clean or the water hot. The best campsite by far is at the N1 Hotel Campsite, they also offer reasonable rates on their hotel rooms.
There are car rental services in town like Hertz, Zimbabwe Car Hire etc.
There are internet cafes around town.
Between 2009 and 2019, Zimbabwe made use of the US dollar as their domestic currency; euros and South African rands were also accepted. In February 2019, Zimbabwe introduced the RTGS$ (real-time gross settlement dollar), also known as bond notes, and this is considered (by the authorities) to be the only legal tender within the country’s borders. In large tourist hubs like Victoria Falls, the US$ was still readily accepted at the time of writing, especially in hotels and associated restaurants and curio shops.
While restaurants and shops will display the RTGS$ price, many will display both RTGS$ and US$ prices. It’s usually cheaper to pay in US$ as the exchange rate with the RTGS$ fluctuates a great deal. Offering to pay in US$ or with your international credit or debit card, usually results in a large discount on the display prices. Fuel prices are displayed in RTGS$ and fluctuate according to the exchange rate, but the US$ price remains the same, approximately US$1.32 / litre (April 2019). But if you don’t ask, you may be charged the RTGS$ rate, in US$. Always ask before you buy, paying by card or US$ may get you a favourable price.
There are still a lot of the previous Zimbabwean dollars, the ones that were discontinued in 2009, floating around. Many locals still have them and may try to sell these to you on the street. Please be aware that these have no value whatsoever, besides a souvenir value (a complete set of old Zimbabwean Dollar notes should cost you about US$10 - 15). Do not be scammed into buying these old notes instead of RTGS$! Please note, foreign visitors are allowed to pay for fuel & border fees using US dollars and rands.
Victory Falls opening hours:
Summer (1 Sep - 14 May) 06h00 - 18h00
Winter (15 May - 1 Sep) 06h30 - 18h00
The Health Bridge Private Hospital situated along West Drive open 24hrs daily. There is also Chinotimba Medical Center also open 24hrs daily; try: +263(0)213 284 3144.
There is a clinic, and Victoria Falls Pharmacy.
Victoria Falls Police station.
Besides being hassled to buy some souvenirs, walking in Victoria Falls is fairly safe from a crime perspective. But, be sensible and don’t carry expensive jewelry or equipment out in the open. Elephant still visit the area and are frequently encountered in the woody section near the Falls. It’s not uncommon for them to wander into town, especially at night, so please take care when walking.
SHOPS & SERVICES:
Victoria Falls is much smaller than Livingstone and more geared towards tourism. Hotels, restaurants and curio shops are everywhere and it’s impossible to walk a few hundred meters without a peddler trying to sell you their wares. There are a few fuel stations in town but depending on the economic situation, they may not have fuel or you may have to queue for hours to refuel, so it’s best to arrive with a full tank. This is a small town so you can walk from your accommodation to most places. If you’re participating in a guided activity, most operators will transfer you from your hotel to the start of the activity, so you should not need to use your vehicle much at all.
There are various grocery stores including a Pick ‘n Pay supermarket and liquor store at the new Sawanga Mall, together with a large bakery and butchery section. If you require a major restock, it may be cheaper to do this in neighbouring Zambia or Botswana.
Tiger Wheel & Tyre Victoria Falls situated along Clarke Road open Mon-Fri: 08h00-17h00; Sat from 08h00-13h00 and Sunday Closed, try: +263(0)867 700 8268.
There is also the Fluid Tyres & Services situated along Holland Rd, Dabula Complex, Industrial Site.
Weather is pleasant in June & July. Nov-Dec are the hottest months, with most rain and low water flow. Feb-May are the best time to visit.
“We went to Victoria Falls during October 2008. It was very hot, approximately 40 degrees celsius everyday. The evenings were a bit cooler. This town has alot of potential as being a typical little tourist town, but is very rundown. It's quite safe to walk around, but be prepared to be harassed by street vendors, trying to sell their crafts to you. It's also extremely expensive. A alcholic drink will cost you about 10US$, a light lunch about 20US$. So be sure to take enough cash with. Only South African rands and US dollars are accepted, Zimbabwean dollars are not accepted. We swopped a one US$ note for a 100 billion Zimbabwean dollar note! Also take note that the bureau exchanges there cannot exchange money for you in SA rands or US$. Credit cards (Visa) are accepted at the hotels. There are waterfalls to see at the Falls, but it is the dry season, so not all the falls are falling. We were advised that the best time to go there is during July/August, to see the falls flowing in full. You can go earlier in the year, but there is alot of spray from the falls, so you don't get to see that much.” - Janine Reyneke, 2008/10/18
“Travel medication required for tourists visiting Vic Falls for 3-4 days: this can be obtained from your pharamacy. Malanil tablets, which are taken daily, starting on the day before departure, then taken during your stay there, and then for a week after. More information on MALARIA PROPHYLAXIS (prevention of malaria) see: http://www.travelclinic.co.za/live/content.php?Category_ID=1988.” - Janine Reyneke, 2008/09/09