07/20/2012 09:35 am ET | Updated Sep 19, 2012

Zambia v. Zimbabwe: Travel Pros and Cons

So you're planning a trip to Southern Africa and know you want to see Victoria Falls, the biggest waterfall in the world! How could you miss it? But are you going to go to Zambia or Zimbabwe to see it?

Here are some tips to help you make the decision and give you some ideas of things to do and places to say on both sides of the Falls.

Both Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe (the Zim town closest to the Falls) and its sister town Livingstone, Zambia have their pros and cons.

  • Victoria Falls is in many ways a more pleasant town than Livingstone. There is a clear downtown full of local people and markets and many of the best places to stay in the center or town and are walking distance from the Falls. In Livingstone there is no distinct downtown and most of the hotels and lodges are on a strip of road heading away from town and Falls meaning that from most properties you have to use their shuttles or other transportation to get to the falls. On the up-side this means that properties in Zambia can feel more private and many are right at the shores of the Zambezi River and have water activities like canoeing and sunset cruises available through the hotel.
  • One important consideration when picking Zambia versus Zimbabwe is the time of year you want to travel. Between August and December water levels in the Zambezi are lower and may make Zimbabwe a better option because you are closer to the falls. However once water levels increase (May-July) the Zambia side is a better option because the spray and mist on the Zimbabwe side can be overwhelming.
  • Another consideration is where you are coming from or traveling to after seeing the Falls. For example if you are headed to or coming from a safari in Botswana the transfer from the border at Kasane by road is much easier from Victoria Falls than from Livingstone (where you have to cross a river and switch vehicles). On the other hand there are more direct flights between Livingstone and Kruger National Park in South Africa.
  • Most activities-white water rafting, helicopter tours, bungee jumping, etc-are available on both sides of the Falls. The notable exceptions are paragliding and swimming to Devils Pool which are available only in Livingstone. Find more about activities at the Falls here.
  • Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe does tend to be a little bit cheaper and can be great value for money.
  • It's important to note that no matter which side you decide to stay on visiting the other side of the Falls for a few hours or a full day is easy. There is a border crossing that connects each countries national park. Day pass visas are cheap and can be purchased at the border.

Elizabeth Gordon founded Extraordinary Journeys with her mother, Marcia Gordon. Together, they have been designing bespoke safari adventures to the most unique properties in Africa for first-time safari-goers and veterans alike. Extraordinary Journeys is committed to work only with camps and lodges that are pro active in conservation and work in partnership with local communities.

Elizabeth was born in Kenya to American parents who were already seasoned veterans in the African travel business. She travels to Africa two to three times a year and her parents still own a home in Kenya.