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Victoria Falls

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Africa : Southern Africa : Zimbabwe : Matabeleland : Victoria Falls
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Victoria Falls is a town in the western portion of Zimbabwe, across the border from Livingstone, Zambia, and near Botswana. The town lies immediately next to the falls, and they are the major attraction, but this popular tourist destination offers both adventure seekers and sightseers plenty of opportunities for a longer stay.

Get in

By plane

  • British Airways and South African Airways offer daily flights between Johannesburg (JNB) and Victoria Falls Airport (VFA). Air Zimbabwe also offers flights between Victoria Falls Airport and other destinations within Zimbabwe.

Cheaper flights from South Africa are often available to neighbouring Livingstone.

By road

  • The roads within Zimbabwe are relatively good. The most direct way to Victoria Falls overland is from Bulawayo.
  • It's possible to drive in through Livingstone. Crossing an international border with a vehicle, however, will incur extra costs like carbon tax and insurance. Very annoying is the time consuming and disorganised procedure of obtaining a 'temporary import permit' for the car at the Zambian boarder posts. Once at the Zimbabwe boarder post, the whole procedure is to be repeated, though it is a bit faster but also expensive.
  • If you travel from Namibia or Botswana. the best road is from Kasane in Botswana using the Kazungula border post. Distance to Vic Falls is 70 km.
The Vic Falls train station. This is the train headed to Bulawayo.

By train

  • There is a direct train route, running every night [Note: fuel shortages puportedly have reduced runs], between Vic Falls and Bulawayo. The cost for a first class ticket is $12, but do not expext expect first class first world standards. This is a memorable way to travel (the cars were built in 1950s England, but sleeping on the train does not lend itself to a deep, restful sleep. On the other hand, arriving in Bulawayo or Victoria Falls in the morning, with the day ahead of you, is a real treat. (A tip to make the ride more pleasant is to buy a bottle of wine in the local grocery store and enjoy it as you view the countryside.) Watch out for spectacular wildlife over the last few hours of the trip to Vic Falls, on your left if you come from Bulawayo.

Get around

If you stay in the swanky hotels downtown, or even some of the budget accommodation options just outside the downtown area, walking is manageable. Most of places are no more than 3 km away from Victoria Falls.

Some of the hotels in Victoria Falls are not really in Vic Falls, but most of these have their own transfer services.

Cabs are plentiful, and should not cost more than $6 for a ride; bargain.

See

  • Perhaps you have seen postcards, holiday snaps, or film footage of the seventh wonder of the world, Victoria Falls. But have you actually been fortunate enough to stand beside the ‘smoke that thunders’? Watching and listening as the roar of 546 m³ of water, minute by minute, plunge down into a 100 m deep gorge below.
  • Do not miss the Zambezi River, which is beautiful above the falls. Best seen on a cruise, especially at sunset.

For a memorable afternoon tea pop in to the Victoria Falls Hotel for a 3 tiered sandwich platter and cup of tea: expect to pay $30 for the experience. A first class hotel still seemingly untouched by the country's woes though having lost the shine.

Whitewater rafting day trips sell for about $110. The price includes a full day of shooting some of the best rapids in the world (including some Class V rapids!); lunch, eaten on the water and all the beer you can chug after the climb out.

  • Visit the grand Victoria Falls Hotel for high tea. For about $30, you get tea, scones, and a magnificent view of the Falls.
  • From wherever you stay you can easily arrange for a safari (prices vary), a sunset cruise (around $45), or a helicopter ride (for about $115 plus $5 National Park fee, well worth the price) over the falls.
  • The Victoria Falls Safari Lodge has a no knock-out casino on site.
  • For a casino, The Kingdom Hotel does have something to offer.
  • For something different try an elephant ride, or a horse-back safari offered by a variety of tour operators in town.

Buy

There is substantial opportunity to shop in Victoria Falls, and you can find a good deal. The curio markets are just behind the post office and has dozens of tourist shops from which you may select wood and stone carvings, jewelry, t-shirts, curios, books, postcards, artwork, etc. (For fun, see if you can find the shop with the pictures of Senator and Chelsea Clinton, from their visit.)

Traders in the sculpture markets are prepared to barter trade: hats, your shoes, T-shirts, pens, batteries are in demand. But think twice before you reduce people to the level of beggars. Just negotiate what you think is a fair price.

Eat

The downtown area features a few coffee shops, sandwich shops, and fast food options. For a few US dollars, you can feed an entire family.

All of the hotels have restaurants, and it is common to sample a new one each night. One place not to miss for a sundowner: The Victoria Falls Safari Lodge offers a la carte dinner, and The Boma offers a buffet 'eat as much as you can' buffet dinner with authentic African dancing. The Ilala Lodge has a nice a la carte restaurant (a bit overpriced for the portions served; and the In-da-Belly Restaurant located in the camp site is a nice place to have simple meal and hang out at the pool and meet overland travellers from around the world.

There are a Spar and a Seven-Elevengrocery store in town. Drinks and Food, snacks, camping supplies, are available at almost acceptable prices now that businesses are allowed to charge in US dollars.

  • The Boma
  • Makuwa-Kuwa at the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge
  • Palm Restaurant at Ilala Lodge
  • Livingstone Room at the Victoria Falls Hotel
  • Jungle Junction at the Victoria Falls Hotel
  • The Blue Baboon - Great pizzas (when they have cheese ) at Shoestring Backpackers Lodge
  • The restaurant at the Camp Site serves Crocodile burgers and Warthog steak!

There is no food available within the park so bring it in yourself if you need something. Also, the monkeys within Victoria Falls will try to snatch your food if you are not paying attention to it.

Drink

Victoria Falls is not known anymore for its tremendous nightlife. There are a few small bars near the downtown area, but they are not well-lit. It might be fun to stop in, but be careful.

Alternatively, all the hotels feature huge, well-stocked bars. However, the prices will be higher, and you might not feel that you are in Africa anymore.

Sleep

Note that price ranges quoted are in US dollars.

This guide uses the following price ranges for a standard double room:
Budget under US$10
Mid-range US$10 to US$200
Splurge more than US$200

There are many types of accommodation in Victoria Falls. You can certainly find what you are looking for. Some of the accommodation options are not really in Victoria Falls so be careful, if booking in advance.

Budget

  • Shoestrings Backpackers Lodge has a great atmosphere with friendly staff and a selfcatering kitchen, cafe as well for when you are too tired
  • Victoria Falls Backpackers offers budget prices.
  • Reynard Cottages, owned by a Zimbabwean, provides very simple rooms at affordable prices.
  • Lorrie's B&Bowned by a Zimbabwean, run by single mom and her sidekick "George." Most rooms are ensuite and meals are quite affordable. Most rooms are about $50 a night depending on season. Lovely pool and gardens with nice "sports bar" on site.
  • Savanna Lodge offers dorms and private rooms for under $30/night.

Mid-range

  • Amadeus Garden owner managed lodging B&B style two kilometers from the Victoria Falls. Eleven en-suite rooms, pool and cool garden to relax. Rates per person sharing around $70 per night incl breakfast depending on season.
  • Teak Lodge located within the residential area of Vic Falls less than three kilometers to the Victoria Falls. Prices at $30-50/person per night, coupled with impeccable service and completely furnished in teak wood.
  • The Sprayview Hotel motel like accommodation is only 2 km from the Falls for about US$100/night.
  • The Kingdom Hotel Victoria Falls. This resort is constructed in Disney-esque jungle style. Four-star themed resort, swimming pool, close to falls, from US$150/pp. Family rooms available.
  • Drifter Inn Victoria Falls [1] - only 20 min by foot from the falls, this simple but quiet inn offers rooms from $50.

Splurge

  • Ilala Lodge offers quiet elegance close in to town and the Falls. Adjoins national park. Colonial veranda for dining.
  • Victoria Falls Hotel, where the Queen Mother stayed when she visited, is one of the most romantic places in Africa.
  • Victoria Falls Safari Lodge [2], located very close to the Falls, offers safari-themed elegance, a great casino, and an excellent (and reasonably-priced) buffet dinner.

Farther afield

  • Imbabala Zambezi Safari Lodge is carefully situated on a riverside fringe of the mighty Zambezi River where Zimbabwe, Botswana, Zambia and Namibia converge. Located 80 km west of Victoria Falls, access is by transfer from Victoria Falls, Livingstone or Kasane. Imbabala offers not only the chance to unwind but also some of the most amazing game viewing and bird watching in the region, in the seclusion of a private National Parks concession. The 12,000 ha concession has 14 km of private Zambezi river frontage and borders the Chobe Forest Reserve, which is renowned for its massive Elephant population. Herds of up to 1500 elephants have been seen on the floodplains below the Lodge.

Stay safe

There is no reason to use black-market money-changers as US dollars, South African rand, Botswana pula and euros are widely accepted. Be careful walking around at night, especially if you've been drinking.

Get out

Victoria Falls is located within 100 km of the four corners of Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana and Namibia and thus provides access to all of the countries, but the only point of any note within a reasonable distance to the park is Chobe National Park in Botswana. It is a common destination, and most hotels will be able to book journey on a day safari of one or two days.

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