Saturday, 27 December 2014

Zimbabwe - Zambia tourism cooperation: Victoria Falls bridge open border policy a hoax?

The view of the globe was on Zimbabwe and Zambia in August of 2013. The focus was on having the global travel and tourism industry and government leaders attend and participate at the UNWTO General Assembly. This high-profile event was jointly hosted by both Zimbabwe and Zambia, and delegates attended events in both countries and stayed in hotels in both countries.
The short drive over the famous Victoria Falls bridge took 5 minutes. There was no border control, no customs - delegates hardly noticed they were changing countries many times during the assembly.
Both the presidents and vice presidents and both tourism ministers for both nations attended and spoke at this important United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) General Assembly.
The bridge connecting both countries was open. The president of Zimbabwe and the president of Zambia called the opening of the bridge an historic moment and pledged to work together to keep this bridge open to make travel and tourism between Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe and Livingston, Zambia easier in the future.
Tourists would be able to enjoy this wonder of the world without delay and experience it as one attraction.
This idea was echoed by the secretary General of UNWTO and many other tourism leaders.
A year and a half later this seems to have been wishful thinking.
Here is a report from a tourist that recently visited beautiful Victoria Falls.
While visiting Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, we walked across the Victoria Falls Bridge to Zambia. This sounds easy enough to do, but while planning the trip there was a lot of conflicting information about what visas and vaccinations are necessary in order to do this. This may not be the most exciting post, but I am trying to make a clarification for those who have the same questions we did.
We visited Victoria Falls in August 2014. We made this trip as a day trip from Kasane, Botswana, hiring a driver for the day. We chose not to drive into Zimbabwe from Botswana as we read from countless sources that taking a rental car into Zimbabwe is a hassle that is just not worth it.
Our family of six left Kasane at 8 am. The Kazungula border post is located just ten minutes from Kasane. This is the border crossing to take in order to get to Victoria Falls from Kasane.
The first step is to clear customs and immigration on the Botswana side, which is very quick and straightforward. This requires a quick visit into the border control office to get your passport stamped. From here you get back into your car, drive thirty seconds across the border, then clear customs and immigration on the Zimbabwe side. Here is where things slow down. In the morning there are usually large groups of tourists heading to Victoria Falls, so be prepared to wait a half hour or longer to get through this part. It took us one hour to clear customs in both countries.
In order to enter Zimbabwe, a visa will have to be purchased, and there is the option of a single entry or double entry visa. If you are planning on only walking across the Victoria Falls Bridge into Zambia without entering Livingstone, Zambia, only the single entry visa is necessary. If you plan on entering Livingstone, Zambia (going through customs in Zambia) and later re-entering Zimbabwe, then a double entry visa is necessary. We purchased the double entry visa just so we were covered, at a price of $45 USD per person. A single entry visa costs $30 USD. As it would turn out, only a single entry visa was necessary for what we wanted to do.
From the Botswana Zimbabwe border it is a one hour drive to Victoria Falls.
The Victoria Falls Bridge is located outside of Victoria Falls National Park. To walk across the bridge, park in the lot across from the main entrance to the park, make a right out of the parking lot, and walk ten minutes down the road toward the bridge.
Before being allowed to walk onto the bridge it is necessary to clear customs on the Zimbabwe side, since technically you will be entering Zambia halfway across the bridge. You will be given a piece of paper stamped with the Zimbabwe stamp. Keep this piece of paper because this gets you back into Zimbabwe.
From here, walk across the bridge, enjoy views of Victoria Falls and go bungee jumping if your heart desires. Halfway across the bridge is the Zambia border. It is a ten minute walk from the bridge into Zambia to reach their border post.
Once you are finished visiting the bridge, present the stamped piece of paper at border control to re-enter Zimbabwe and you are on your way.
In summary, to just stand on the Victoria Falls Bridge, only a single entry Zimbabwe visa ($30 USD) is necessary. Once at the Victoria Falls border post you will be given a piece of paper with a stamp on it that will get you back into Zimbabwe from the Victoria Falls Bridge.
If you choose to pass through border control in Zambia and later want to re-enter Zimbabwe, you must purchase a double entry visa ($45 USD) for Zimbabwe. Later in your trip, if you plan on entering South Africa, you must also have your Yellow Fever Vaccination. Without this vaccination, you will not be allowed to enter South Africa if you have been to Zambia.

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