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Victoria Falls - Which Side to Visit?

Both Zambia and Zimbabwe offer their own views of the Falls

The first question that most people ask, when wanting to visit the Victoria Falls, is "Which side is best to visit - the Zimbabwe side or the Zambia side?"

In an ideal world, we would suggest you stay on one side of the Falls then cross via the Victoria Falls Bridge for to visit the Falls from the other side during your stay. This is easy to arrange either before you travel or whilst you are away, and full day tours covering both sides of the falls are immensely popular.

There are a couple of things that you need to keep in mind when doing a tour that covers both sides of the Falls:  firstly, you will need your passport as you will be crossing an international border; and secondly you will need to plan ahead to avoid paying mutiple visa entry fees. As both Zimbabwe and Zambia charge a single entry visa fee of US$ 30 to US$ 75 for most international visitors, clearly arriving in, say, Zambia then leaving to visit Zimbabwe for a day before returning to Zambia again could potentially mean paying for three visas.  The solution to this is to get the combined Kaza UniVisa on your initial arrival into either Victora Falls Airport (Zimbabwe) or Livingstone Airport (Zambia).  This visa costs US$ 50 (subject to change) and allows visitors to cross between Zimbabwe and Zambia as many times as they wish to over a 30 day period. This visa is an excellent deal, although unfortunately you cannot pre-book it before you travel as it is only available on arrival.

If you are able to spend at least a couple of nights at the Falls and arrange to do a full day tour that covers both sides, then the choice of which one to base yourself at will come down to personal preference and what fits better with the rest of your itinerary.

Viewing the Falls from the Zimbabwe Side

The main airport on the Zimbabwean side is Victoria Falls Airport (code VFA), and this can be accessed by direct flights from Johannesburg, Cape Town, Windhoek and Nairobi.

75% of the Falls can be seen from this side, and a network of paths allows you to see more of the Falls from virtually every angle, and get a better perspective of their full width and power. Both the widest single part of the falls - the Main Falls - and the greatest drop - the Rainbow Falls at 108 meters - are on the Zimbabwean side, and this side never dries up completely even at the height of the dry season (October to December).

The town of Victoria Falls is very close to the Falls (less than 2 km), and as this is where the majority of the hotels are situated, your travelling time (and associated transfer costs) to get to the Falls is less than from hotels on the Zambia side.   Accommodation (and activity) rates also tend to be slightly lower on the Zimbabwean side due to lower government taxes and levies.

Viewing the Falls from the Zambia Side

The town of Livingstone and its airport (code LVI) are close to the Falls on the Zambian side.  In addition to flights from Johannesburg, Cape Town and Nairobi, Livingstone airport also has direct flights from Nelspruit's Kruger Mpumalanga Airport (code MQP), making this probably the preferred choice for anyone looking to combine a safari in Kruger with a visit to the Falls.

Zambia has a 25% view of the Falls - the Eastern Cataract - and there is a good network of paths and several viewpoints.  However, this section can dry up completely in the dry months (October to December) leaving just a rock face.

Livingstone Island, where David Livingstone famously first set eyes on the Falls, can only be visited from the Zambia side, and microlight flights and the Devils Pool swim can also only be done from this side too.

There are 2 hotels close to the entrance to the Falls on the Zambia side (the Royal Livingstone and Avani Victoria Falls), and residents here have their free entrance to the Zambian section of the Falls via a private entrance gate.  The majority of other hotels and lodges are set along the banks of the river 10 km to 15 km upstream of the Falls, and whilst this means a slightly longer journey to visit the Falls, the river is much less crowded with tour boats and guests may find that this gives them a more enjoyable experience for the boat-based activities.