The Great Victoria Falls Debate: Zambia vs Zimbabwe

Victoria Falls is the largest sheet of falling water in the world! That alone makes the falls worth visiting, but seeing this thundering waterfall is just one of the many highlights of Victoria Falls holidays. Get so close to the falls that you’re soaked by its spray, then take your pick from all the activities on offer: scenic flights, horse-back safaris, peaceful river cruises on the upper Zambezi or thrilling white-water rafting running the rapids below the falls.

With so much to see and do you simply can’t skip the falls and the biggest decision you’re left with is which side of the Zambezi River to stay on. Victoria Falls is shared by two countries: Zambia (to the north) and Zimbabwe (to the south). Which is the right side for you? Here’s everything you need to know to make that decision.

NinaraThe Zimbabwe side of the falls - Ninara

Seeing Both Sides of Victoria Falls

Whether you stay in Zambia or Zimbabwe, I’d recommend seeing both sides of the falls. This is now even easier thanks to the introduction of the KAZA Univisa; a single visa that covers Zambia, Zimbabwe and day trips to Chobe National Park (in Botswana). The Univisa costs US$ 50 and is available to some 40 nationalities including Brits, Americans and Australians.

Crossing between countries takes you over the Victoria Falls Bridge. Make this part of the adventure by walking (you can always catch a taxi back). The walk takes around 20 minutes, but give yourself enough time to take in those waterfall views or watch the excited huddle of bungee jumpers waiting to earn instant bragging rights by throwing themselves 111 metres towards the river below.

In short:

  • Opt for a Univisa and see both sides of the falls

NinaraVic Falls Eastern Cataract (Zimbabwe) - Ninara

Best View of Vic Falls

While the first prize is viewing both sides of the falls, what if you’re short on time? For that classic view of the Main Falls, visit Zimbabwe. Around two-thirds of the falls lie in Zim. Here the Victoria Falls National Park (entrance fee US$ 30 per person) has neatly laid out paths opening onto viewpoints of the Devil's Cataract, Main Falls, Horseshoe Falls and well-named Rainbow Falls.

But while Zimbabwe certainly has more viewpoints, I really enjoy the wilder feel of the Zambian side. Here the slightly cheaper Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park (US$20 per person) gets you right up close to rushing water: find a quiet spot above the falls to sit for a while and walk across the Knife-Edge Bridge. If the Zambezi is in full flood prepare to get thoroughly soaked as the spray seems to come at you from all directions.

In short:

  • Zimbabwe has more viewpoints, including the Main Falls
  • A highlight of the Zambian side is the Knife-Edge Bridge

Global Water ForumZambian side of the falls in dry season - Global Water Forum

Time of Year

As I mentioned above, I love the Zambian side of the Victoria Falls but I’ve always travelled when water levels are high (February to June). At this time of year, vendors sell much-needed plastic ponchos, and your greatest challenge is capturing clear photos of the falls amongst all the mist and spray.

In the driest months (October and November) the falls on the Zambian side dry up completely, and you could find yourself staring at a rocky wall. This doesn’t happen on the Zimbabwe side, where the Main Falls flow all year round. Still, don’t discount Zambia completely in the dry season as low water levels allow for a dip in the Devil’s Pool - more about that in the next section.

In short:

  • On the Zimbabwe side, the falls flow all year round
  • Zambia’s falls dry up around October / November

Made up your mind already? Here are two affordable short tours, one on each side - Victoria Falls Adventure Tour Package (Zambia) and Victoria Falls Budget Tour Package (Zimbabwe).

Victoria Falls view -

Choice of Activities at Vic Falls

Victoria Falls is a destination that shouldn’t be rushed; give yourself a good three days to try some of the many things to do. You’ll find that most of these activities – sunset river cruises, bungee jumping, helicopter flips, white-water rafting and zip lining – are available in both Zimbabwe and Zambia.

The big exception is the Devil’s Pool, which you can only get to from the Zambian side of the falls. This activity starts gently enough with a boat trip out to Livingstone Island, famous as the spot where David Livingstone first saw the falls. Then it’s time to test your nerves as you’re guided through the running river to a rock pool right on the very lip of one of the tallest waterfalls in the world!

People swimming in devils pool, Zambia -

In short:

  • The Devil’s Pool is only accessible from Zambia
  • Elephant Hills Hotel in Zimbabwe has an 18-hole golf course

The Boma Restaurant (Zimbabwe) -

Markets, Shops & Eating Out - Zambia vs Zimbabwe

Victoria Falls town is an easily walkable 2km from Zimbabwe side of the falls. This is a definite tourist town with cafes and bars, a large outdoor market filled with soapstone sculptures and wooden carvings, and the popular Elephant’s Walk Shopping and Artist’s Village which sells higher-end carvings, silver jewellery and hand-painted fabrics.

On the Zambian side, the town of Livingstone lies around 10km from the falls. Livingstone is a larger town where you can get a better feel for local life. There’s decent infrastructure, a museum, and a handful of casual restaurants - although for eating out you’ll find more options across the river in Victoria Falls town.

In short:

  • Livingstone is a larger town and lies further from the falls
  • Victoria Falls is a tourist town a short walk from the falls
  • The Zimbabwe side is a better option for shopping and eating out

TongabeziTongabezi Tree House (Zambia) - Tongabezi

Accommodation in Victoria Falls vs Livingstone

Zimbabwe has a larger range of accommodation within walking distance of the falls since most of the lodges and hotels lie in or around Victoria Falls town.

There are two options a short walk from the Zambian side of the falls: a family-friendly resort and a luxury 5-star hotel. For more budget-friendly options, Livingstone has a choice of great backpackers and there’s also camping and chalets along the river. And if you want to splash out, Zambia is best known for its romantic riverside retreats upstream of the falls.

In short:

  • Zimbabwe has a great choice of accommodation close to the falls
  • Zambia has some incredible riverfront lodges along the Zambezi

Gary BembridgeLivingstone Airport (Zambia) - Gary Bembridge

Paperwork & Practical Travel Advice

You used to require a Yellow Fever vaccination (and certificate) for travel between Zambia and South Africa. This is no longer needed, but do check with a medical professional on which jabs are recommended or required for both countries.

As far as money is concerned, Zambia’s currency is the kwacha, while Zimbabwe has multiple currency systems and accepts dollars, euros, pounds and South African Rands.

Both Livingstone and Victoria Falls Town have international airports, but there are other practical considerations such as the cost of flights and how Victoria Falls fits into the rest of your itinerary. 

In short:

  • Yellow Fever Certificates are no longer required
  • In Zimbabwe, you can pay in dollars, euros, rands or pounds
  • Livingstone & Victoria Falls both have international airports

Either Side, Let's Take You to Victoria Falls!

Now that you are up to speed on the pros and cons of visiting Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe versus Zambia we can help you book an action-packed short tour on your preferred side. These 4-day Victoria Falls Tours are ideal as add-on packages for before or after your travels / longer safaris starting or ending at Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe or Zambia.

Vic Falls bridge view -

First, there is our Victoria Falls Adventure Tour Package (Zambia) which includes three nights of hotel accommodation close to Livingstone town on the Zambian side of Vic Falls. Then there is our slightly cheaper Victoria Falls Budget Tour Package (Zimbabwe) which includes hotel accommodation in Victoria Falls town, within walking distance of Victoria Falls waterfall.

Both of these Vic Falls Tours include a sunset cruise on the Zambezi River on day one and a day trip to Chobe National Park in Botswana on day two. On both of these excellent-value tours, you also enjoy a half-day canoeing trip on the Zambezi River, a helicopter flight over Vic Falls, a cultural village tour and, of course, a guided tour of Victoria Falls waterfall. As you can see both of these Vic Falls Tours include plenty of exciting activities and enough highlights to make them worthwhile standalone packages (short holidays on their own) or as add-on trips. 

Vic Falls helicopter flight -

If you would like to spend a bit more time out in the African bush viewing wildlife when you visit Victoria Falls this slightly longer Victoria Falls & Hwange Lodge Safari is perfect for you. The 6-day Vic Falls Hwange Package is similar to the shorter Vic Falls Tours, but in addition to the day trip to Chobe National Park in Botswana, you also spend two nights at Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. The Vic Falls & Hwange Safari includes 4x4 game drives in both the Big Five Hwange National Park and a private wildlife concession area bordering on Hwange.

Whichever side of the falls you pick, you’re sure to have an incredible holiday. Just think carefully about the best time to travel based on what you want to experience, and find out beforehand whether you’re eligible for a Univisa (which is available on arrival at the airport).

Need more guidance and expert advice? Talk to one of our African travel gurus. You can check out our calendar of upcoming tour departures leaving from Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe side) here, and leaving from Livingstone (Zambia) here

Vic Falls from above -

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