My Zimbabwean adventure was coming to an end
Victoira Falls was the last stop of my Zimbabwe itinerary, and I admit it wasn’t the best way to say goodbye to this amazing country. There are a lot of things to do in Victoria Falls, but let’s just say I had enough frustrating experiences that ended up being more memorable than the falls themselves.
For example, take this situation where an older man had been following me on the street for some time:
“Hey, lady, do you want to buy something? Hey! Heyyyy!”
“Ah, no thank you!” I said.
“You want to see my penis? I can find you later…”
This happened more than once in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe’s tourist hot spot. Like my experience visiting Tofo, Mozambique, I knew my experience visiting Victoria Falls would be far different from the other places I visited in Zimbabwe.
see also: taking the train to Victoria Falls
I adored the people I met around the country, but the reality is that Zimbabwe is going through horrible economic troubles and some people are pretty desperate. It was frustrating to learn that a lot of the [expensive] tourist activities in the area weren’t necessarily benefiting the local population. I felt sad and conflicted with what I saw, experienced, and even how some interactions left me frustrated.
Just don’t be discouraged if Victoria Falls is the only place you visit in Zimbabwe. The young men who follow you through the streets trying to sell old banknotes or statues and don’t take no for an answer can become intimidating very quickly once they start talking about the size of their penises, but know if you go basically anywhere else in the country that will not happen.
Safety in Victoria Falls
In the tourist areas, there are plenty of security officers. If there is someone harassing you or you feel unsafe, you can just walk towards the security officers and he will leave you alone.
Be sure to check out my Zimbabwe travel tips page!
In contrast, there was virtually none of this harassment taking place across the river in Livingston, Zambia. The path from town to the falls can become a little isolated, and so when one of the guards noticed I was going alone he walked with me.
When I say I experienced harassment in Victoria Falls, I do not mean that everybody on the street will try to harass you.
There are plenty of vendors or people trying to sell things or services who are perfectly friendly and kind. Zimbabweans are also relatively social and friendly and will strike up conversations with strangers just to say hello. I don’t want to seem like a little privileged tourist girl complaining that locals were talking to me while I wanted to see their country’s natural wonders (and not them). That was not the case.
I am writing this post because I felt like several times people crossed a line, leaving me feeling very uncomfortable. I felt terrible losing my temper because I was the guest in their country, but I also had to stand up for myself.
Things to do in Victoria Falls (and why it is still worth a visit)
Have I scared you away from even considering going to Victoria Falls right now? I hope not! The street harassment was annoying but I am still very glad I went to Victoria Falls.
I admit, though, that after I saw the falls there wasn’t much more to do around town. The good thing is that you’re pretty close to some of the great National Parks of both Botswana and Zimbabwe and so you could easily book a safari expedition that departs from Victoria Falls.
The Falls themselves are as incredible as everyone says they are. I was there in September and so it was still the dry season, but from the Zimbabwe side you could still enjoy some great views and the falls were impressive.
Note that, from the Zambia side, in September, you probably won’t see much of anything so you may have to just throw in the towel and pay for the Zimbabwean visa to actually see the falls.
Other things to do in Victoria Falls
There are a lot of water-based adventure activities you can do around Victoria Falls. The prices are high, though. In fact, they were so high that I was left wondering where most of the money went.
I mean, I am happy to splurge if it was clear that the money would be going to the locals, but my couchsurfing host mentioned that it wasn’t always the case.
I’m honestly not so interested in adrenaline activities, and so I didn’t do any. If I had more money and had to choose an activity I would have definitely chosen to do a safari in Chobe, but I had plenty of other animal filled adventures in Botswana later on during the trip.
Where I stayed in Victoria Falls
I was lucky enough to stay with a local family and I had a great time learning about their daily lives in the residential areas of Victoria Falls. He and his wife were perfect friends for my final few days in Zimbabwe and they were happy to answer a lot of my lingering questions. I am thankful for my time with them.
My host took me to the Victoria Falls Hotel where you can go enjoy the beautiful view of the Victoria Falls Bridge from the hotel grounds for free. If you go in the evening be sure to bring LOTS of mosquito repellent.
The hotel is nice and grand and the walls are adorned with art depicting the UK’s Imperial conquests in every corner of the world. *eye roll*
If you have read anything else I have written in this blog I think you probably know by now that I’m not so into romanticizing colonialism in Africa.
Some final things to do in Victoria Falls
If you like nightlife, the backpackers’ bar and hostel Shoestrings is fun and has good pizza and a huge variety of people. I cannot explain how much I had been craving pizza by the time I reached the falls. They also have work by local artists on display everywhere that was fun to see.
If you have some local friends, it is worth asking them to take you to some of the non-tourist bars outside of town. I had a great time hanging out there.
There are plenty of grocery stores and ATMs in town. It took a few tries but I eventually found an ATM that took foreign bank cards by the Pick n’ Pay, sort of inside the mall area.
Sorry this post was a little negative. The falls themselves are magnificent and humbling to see. I guess it just depends on what you are looking for. Some travelers focus on seeing nature, others want to learn about the culture, or others just want to relax and get away. My Southern Africa trip was more about meeting and learning about the people who lived there.
It was sad to say goodbye to Zimbabwe. I met so many wonderful people there and learned so much about this country’s history, languages, and yummy food. But it was time to get going, and so I walked over the Victoria Falls Bridge to Zambia to see what awaited me there.